New insights about the peculiar role of the 28–38 C-terminal segment and some selected residues in PACAP for signaling and neuroprotection

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Abstract

The pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP), which exists in two isoforms of 27 and 38 amino acids, can induce neuronal protection in vitro and in vivo following the activation of PAC1, a class B G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR). With its potent neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects, this peptide represents a promising avenue for the development of therapeutic strategies to potentially cure or at least slow the progression of neurodegenerative disorders. Beyond the canonical G protein signal effectors, GPCRs are also coupled to a multitude of intracellular signaling pathways that can be independently activated by biased ligands, thereby expanding vastly the potential for discovering new drugs. Interestingly, some studies have demonstrated distinct signaling features for the PACAP isoforms. With this observation in mind, we assessed the impact of chemical and structural modifications introduced into specific regions of the PACAP isoforms on their neuroprotective effects, and determined the role played by these physico-chemical and structural features on their signaling signatures. Each compound was also evaluated for its ability to bind the PACAP receptors, promote cell survival in a cellular model of Parkinson’s disease and stimulate the signaling partners associated with PAC1 activation, including Gs and Gq, as well as β-arrestin 1 and 2. Our results demonstrate that PACAP38 and its related analogs exert a more potent neuroprotective action than their 27-amino acid counterparts and that this neuroprotective effect is dependent on both Gq and Gs-dependent signaling. This study will definitely improve our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with PACAP neuroprotection.

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