• apoptosis-inducing factor;
  • glutamate;
  • growth hormone secretagogues;
  • insulin-like growth factor I;
  • neuroprotection


Treatment of the fetal hypothalamic neuronal cell line RCA-6 with growth hormone-releasing peptide 6, an agonist of the ghrelin receptor, or insulin-like growth factor I activates intracellular signalling cascades associated with anti-apoptotic actions. Abnormally high concentrations of glutamate provoke over-excitation of neurons leading to cell damage and apoptosis. Thus, the aim of this study was to investigate whether the administration of growth hormone-releasing peptide 6 and insulin-like growth factor I attenuates monosodium glutamate-induced apoptosis in RCA-6 neurons and the mechanisms involved. Two different mechanisms are involved in glutamate-induced cell death, one by means of caspase activation and the second through activation of a caspase-independent pathway of apoptosis mediated by the translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor. Growth hormone-releasing peptide 6 partially reversed glutamate-induced cell death but not the activation of caspases, suggesting blockage of the caspase-independent cell death pathway, which included interference with the translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor to the nucleus associated with the induction of Bcl-2. In contrast, the addition of insulin-like growth factor I to RCA-6 neurons abolished glutamate-induced caspase activation and cell death. These data demonstrate for the first time a neuroprotective role for growth hormone secretagogues in the caspase-independent cell death pathway and indicate that these peptides have neuroprotective effects independent of its induction of insulin-like growth factor I.