Carboxypeptidase E Protects Hippocampal Neurons During Stress in Male Mice by Up-Regulating Pro-Survival BCL2 Protein Expression

S.R.K. Murthy, etc
Endocrinology, 2013

Prolonged chronic stress causing elevated plasma glucocorticoids leads to neurodegeneration. Adaptation to stress (allostasis) through neuroprotective mechanisms can delay this process. Studies on hippocampal neurons have identified carboxypeptidase E (CPE) as a novel neuroprotective protein that acts extracellularly, independent of its enzymatic activity, although the mechanism of action is unclear. Here, we aim to determine if CPE plays a neuroprotective role in allostasis in mouse hippocampus during chronic restraint stress (CRS), and the molecular mechanisms involved. Quantitative RT-PCR/in situ hybridization and Western blots were used to assay for mRNA and protein. After mild CRS (1 h/d for 7 d), CPE protein and mRNA were significantly elevated in the hippocampal CA3 region, compared to naïve littermates. In addition, luciferase reporter assays identified a functional glucocorticoid regulatory element within the cpe promoter that mediated the up-regulation of CPE expression in primary hippocampal neurons following dexamethasone treatment, suggesting that circulating plasma glucocorticoids could evoke a similar effect on CPE in the hippocampus in vivo. Overexpression of CPE in hippocampal neurons, or CRS in mice, resulted in elevated prosurvival BCL2 protein/mRNA and p-AKT levels in the hippocampus; however, CPE-/- mice showed a decrease. Thus, during mild CRS, CPE expression is up-regulated, possibly contributed by glucocorticoids, to mediate neuroprotection of the hippocampus by enhancing BCL2 expression through AKT signaling, and thereby maintaining allostasis.

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doi: 10.1210/en.2013-1118