• autophagy;
  • C-terminal domain of tetanus toxin;
  • ERK1/2;
  • glutamate excitotoxicity;
  • GSK3β;
  • motoneurons spinal cord organotypic cultures


The C-terminal domain of tetanus toxin (Hc-TeTx) has been suggested to act as a neuroprotective agent by activating signaling pathways related to neurotrophins and also to exert anti-apoptotic effects. Here, we show the beneficial properties of the recombinant protein Hc-TeTx to protect spinal motoneurons against excitotoxic damage. In vitro spinal cord organotypic cultures were used to assess acute glutamate excitotoxic damage. Our results indicate that Hc-TeTx treatment improves motoneuron survival within a short therapeutical window (the first 2 h post-injury). Within this interval, we found that p44/p42 MAP kinase (ERK1/2) and glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3β) signaling pathways play a crucial role in the neuroprotective effect. Moreover, we demonstrated that Hc–TeTx treatment initiate autophagy which is ERK1/2- and GSK3β-dependent. These findings suggest a possible therapeutical tool to improve motoneuron survival immediately after excitotoxic insults or during the secondary injury phase that occurs after spinal cord trauma.