• Glutamate toxicity;
  • Protein kinase C;
  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor;
  • Cortical cultures

Abstract : Several lines of evidence indicate that a rapid loss of neuronal protein kinase C (PKC) activity is a characteristic feature of cerebral ischemia and is a necessary step in the NMDA-induced death of cultured neurons. Exposing embryonic day 18 primary rat cortical neurons to 50 μM NMDA or 50 μM glutamate for 10 min caused ~80% cell death over the next 24 h, but excitotoxic death was largely averted, i.e., by 70-80%, in cells pretreated with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). An 8-h preexposure to BDNF (50-100 ng/ml) maximally protected cortical cells from the effects of NMDA and glutamate, although the transient application of BDNF between 8 and 4 h before NMDA was equally protective. These effects of BDNF were abolished at supralethal, i.e., >100 μM, NMDA concentrations. It is significant that BDNF pretreatment prevented the inactivation of PKC in cortical cells normally seen 30 min to 2 h following lethal NMDA or glutamate exposure. This BDNF effect did not arise from changes in NMDA channel activity because neither whole-cell NMDA current amplitudes nor increases in intracellular free Ca2+ concentration were altered by the 8-h BDNF pretreatment. Furthermore, BDNF offered no neuroprotection to cells treated with the PKC inhibitors staurosporine (10-20 nM), calphostin C (1-2.5 μM), or GF-109203X (100 nM) at the time of NMDA addition. These results underscore the importance of PKC inactivation in glutamate-induced neuronal death. They also suggest that BDNF neuroprotection arises, at least in part, via its ability to block the mechanism by which pathophysiological Ca2+ influx through the NMDA receptor causes membrane PKC inactivation.