Calmodulin Kinase IV–dependent CREB activation is required for neuroprotection via NMDA receptor-PSD95 disruption


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Michelle M. Aarts, Dept of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail (SW525), Scarborough, ON M1C 1A4, Canada.


NMDA-type glutamate receptors mediate both trophic and excitotoxic signalling in CNS neurons. We have previously shown that blocking NMDAR- post-synaptic density-95 (PSD95) interactions provides significant protection from excitotoxicity and in vivo ischaemia; however, the mechanism of neuroprotection is unclear. Here, we report that blocking PSD-95 interactions with the Tat-NR2B9c peptide enhances a Ca2 + -dependent protective pathway converging on cAMP Response Element binding protein (CREB) activation. We provide evidence that Tat-NR2B9c neuroprotection from oxygen glucose deprivation and NMDA toxicity occurs in parallel with the activation of calmodulin kinase signalling and is dependent on a sustained phosphorylation of the CREB transcription factor and its activator CaMKIV. Tat-NR2B9c-dependent neuroprotection and CREB phosphorylation are blocked by coapplication of CaM kinase (KN93 and STO-609) or CREB (KG-501) inhibitors, and by siRNA knockdown of CaMKIV. These results are mirrored in vivo in a rat model of permanent focal ischaemia. Tat-NR2B9c application significantly reduces infarct size and causes a selective and sustained elevation in CaMKIV phosphorylation; effects which are blocked by coadministration of KN93. Thus, calcium-dependent nuclear signalling via CaMKIV and CREB is critical for neuroprotection via NMDAR-PSD95 blockade, both in vitro and in vivo. This study highlights the importance of maintaining neuronal function following ischaemic injury. Future stroke research should target neurotrophic and pro-survival signal pathways in the development of novel neuroprotective strategies.