Valproic acid stimulates proliferation of glial precursors during cortical gliogenesis in developing rat

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Valproic acid (VPA) is a neurotherapeutic drug prescribed for seizures, bipolar disorder, and migraine, including women of reproductive age. VPA is a well-known teratogen that produces congenital malformations in many organs including the nervous system, as well as later neurodevelopmental disorders, including mental retardation and autism. In developing brain, few studies have examined VPA effects on glial cells, particularly astrocytes. To investigate effects on primary glial precursors, we developed new cell culture andin vivomodels using frontal cerebral cortex of postnatal day (P2) rat.In vitro, VPA exposure elicited dose-dependent, biphasic effects on DNA synthesis and proliferation.In vivoVPA (300 mg/kg) exposure from P2 to P4 increased both DNA synthesis and cell proliferation, affecting primarily astrocyte precursors, as >75% of mitotic cells expressed brain lipid-binding protein. Significantly, the consequence of early VPA exposure was increased astrocytes, as both S100-β+ cells and glial fibrillary acidic protein were increased in adolescent brain. Molecularly, VPA served as an HDAC inhibitorin vitroandin vivoas enhanced proliferation was accompanied by increased histone acetylation, whereas it elicited changes in culture in cell-cycle regulators, including cyclin D1 and E, and cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors, p21 and p27. Collectively, these data suggest clinically relevant VPA exposures stimulate glial precursor proliferation, though at higher doses can elicit inhibition through differential regulation of CDK inhibitors. Because changes in glial cell functions are proposed as mechanisms contributing to neuropsychiatric disorders, these observations suggest that VPA teratogenic actions may be mediated through changes in astrocyte generation during development. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 76: 780–798, 2016

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