• AP-1;
  • c-Jun;
  • glutamate;
  • neuroprotection;
  • phylomer peptides;
  • TAT

J. Neurochem. (2010) 112, 258–270.


Neuronal cell death caused by glutamate excitotoxicity is prevalent in various neurological disorders and has been associated with the transcriptional activation of activator protein-1 (AP-1). In this study, we tested 19 recently isolated AP-1 inhibitory peptides, fused to the cell penetrating peptide TAT, for their efficacy in preventing cell death in cortical neuronal cultures following glutamate excitotoxicity. Five peptides (PYC19D-TAT, PYC35D-TAT, PYC36D-TAT, PYC38D-TAT, PYC41D-TAT) displayed neuroprotective activity in concentration responses in both l- and retro-inverso d-isoforms with increasing levels of neuroprotection peaking at 83%. Interestingly, the D-TAT peptide displayed a neuroprotective effect increasing neuronal survival to 25%. Using an AP-1 luciferase reporter assay, we confirmed that the AP-1 inhibitory peptides reduce AP-1 transcriptional activation, and that c-Jun and c-Fos mRNA following glutamate exposure is reduced. In addition, following glutamate exposure the AP-1 inhibitory peptides decreased calpain-mediated α-fodrin cleavage, but not neuronal calcium influx. Finally, as neuronal death following glutamate excitotoxicity was transcriptionally independent (actinomycin D insensitive), our data indicate that activation of AP-1 proteins can induce cell death via non-transcriptional pathways. Thus, these peptides have potential application as therapeutics directly or for the rational design of small molecule inhibitors in both apoptotic and necrotic neuronal death associated with AP-1 activation.