Apoptosis of post-mitotic neurons plays a significant role in secondary tissue damage following traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI). Activation of E2F1-dependent transcription promotes expression of pro-apoptotic factors, including CDK1; this signal transduction pathway is believed to represent an important mechanism for the physiological or pathological neuronal cell death. However, a specific role for this pathway in neuronal apoptosis induced by SCI has not yet been reported. Here we demonstrate up-regulation of the E2F1/CDK1 pathway that is associated with neuronal apoptosis following impact SCI in rats. Expression of E2F1 and CDK1 were robustly up-regulated as early as 15 min after injury and sustained until 3 days post-injury. CDK1 activity and E2F1 downstream targets bim and c-Myb were significantly increased after SCI. Activation of E2F1/CDK1 signaling also was associated with death of neurons in vitro; this was attenuated by shRNA knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of the E2F1/CDK1 pathway. CR8, a novel and potent CDK1 inhibitor, blocked apoptosis of primary cortical neurons at low-micromolar concentrations. Moreover, SCI-induced up-regulation of E2F1/CDK1 and associated neuronal apoptosis was significantly attenuated by systemic injection of CR8 (1 mg/kg, i.p.) at 5 min after injury. CR8 significantly decreased posttraumatic elevation of biochemical markers of apoptosis, such as products of caspase-3 and α-fodrin cleavage, as well as neuronal cell death, as indicated by TUNEL staining. Importantly, CR8 treatment also increased the number of surviving neurons at 5 weeks after injury. Together, these findings indicate that activation of the E2F1/CDK1 pathway contributes to the pathophysiology of SCI and that selective inhibition of this signaling cascade may represent an attractive therapeutic strategy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)