• caspases;
  • cerebellar granule neurones;
  • mitogen-activated protein kinase;
  • neuronal apoptosis;
  • tetanus toxin;
  • tyrosine kinase receptor


When cultured cerebellar granule neurones are transferred from a medium containing high extracellular potassium concentration ([K+]e) (25 mm) to one with lower [K+]e (5 mm), caspase-3 activity is induced and cells die apoptotically. In contrast, if cells in non-depolarizing conditions are treated with brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), caspase-3 activity, chromatin condensation and cell death are markedly diminished. In this study, we show that the C-terminal domain of the tetanus toxin heavy-chain (Hc-TeTx) is able to produce the same neuroprotective effect, as assessed by reduction of tetrazolium salts and by chromatin condensation. Hc-TeTx-conferred neuroprotection appears to depend on phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase, as is demonstrated by the selective inhibitors Wortmannin and PD98059, respectively. Hc-TeTx also induces phosphorylation of the tyrosine kinase BDNF receptor, activation of p21Ras in its GTP-bound form, and phosphorylation of the cascade including extracellular-signal-regulated kinases-1/2 (ERK-1/2), p90 ribosomal S6 kinase (p90rsk) and CREB (cAMP-response-element-binding protein). On the other hand, activation of the Akt pathway is also detected, as well as inhibition of the active form of caspase-3. These results point to an implication of both PI3K- and ERK-dependent pathways in the promotion of cerebellar granule cell survival by Hc-TeTx.