Glucocorticoid Rapidly Enhances NMDA-Evoked Neurotoxicity by Attenuating the NR2A-Containing NMDA Receptor-Mediated ERK1/2 Activation
Glucocorticoid (GC) has been shown to affect the neuronal survival/death through a genomic mechanism, but whether or not it does through a nongenomic mechanism is unknown. Using a previously identified GR-deficient primary hippocampal neuron culture, we show here that a 15-min coexposure of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) with corticosterone at a stress-induced level significantly enhances neuronal death compared to NMDA alone. This enhancing effect of GC can be mimicked by the BSA-conjugated corticosterone, which is plasma membrane impermeable and cannot be blocked by RU38486 spironolactone. Furthermore, using a calcium-imaging technique, we found that B could increase both the percentage of neurons showing a significant increment of intracellular free calcium ([Ca2+]i) due to NMDA stimulation and the amplitude of [Ca2+]i increment in the individual responsive cells. Interestingly, this boosting effect of GC on [Ca2+]i increment could be blocked by the NMDA receptor subunit 2A (NR2A)-specific antagonist [(R)-[(S)-1-(4-bromo-phenyl)-ethylamino]-(2,3-dioxo-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-quinoxalin-5-yl)-methyl]-phosphonic acid (NVP-AAM077) but not by the NMDA receptor subunit 2B (NR2B)-specific antagonist Ro25-6981. Moreover, we also found that GC can dramatically attenuate the NMDA-induced activation of ERK1/2 without affecting that of p38; and that the NMDA-induced ERK1/2 activation and its attenuation by GC both can be occluded by the NVP-AAM077 but not by Ro25-6981. Consistently, the enhancing effect of GC on NMDA neurotoxicity can also be blocked by NVP-AAM077 and the ERK1/2 inhibitor PD98059 but not by Ro25-6981 and p38 inhibitor SB203580. Indeed, the NMDA neurotoxicity itself can be blocked by Ro25-6981 or SB203580, whereas it is increased by NVP-AAM077 and PD98059. Therefore, it is probable that NMDA triggers a prodeath signaling through the NR2B-p38 MAPK pathway, and a prosurvival signaling through the NR2A-ERK1/2 MAPK pathway, whereas the latter was negatively regulated by rapid GC action. Taken together, the present data suggest a nongenomic action by GC that enhances NMDA neurotoxicity through facilitating [Ca2+]i increment and attenuating the NR2A-ERK1/2-mediated neuroprotective signaling, implicating a novel pathway underlying the regulatory effect of GC on neuronal survival/death.