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Calpains are involved in calcium-induced neuronal cell toxicity, which is associated with the pathophysiology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The activity of calpains is regulated by the inhibitor calpastatin, and increased activity of calpains and decreased calpastastin are often found in AD. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors are implicated in AD treatment through the improvement of learning and memory but the underlying mechanism is yet to be understood. Here, using SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells and a calcium ionophore ionomycin, we examined whether and how HDAC inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) inhibits calcium-induced neuronal cell death. TSA increased both the mRNA and protein levels of calpastatin, with no alterations in those of calpain 1 and calpain 2. Furthermore, TSA-stimulated increase of calpastatin was accompanied by a significant attenuation of ionomycin-induced autolysis of calpain 1, but not of calpain 2, and calpain-dependent 150 kDa αII spectrin cleavage. Under these conditions, however, caspase activity was unaltered. Moreover, ectopic expression of small interfering RNA of calpastatin reversed the inhibitory effect of TSA on ionomycin-induced calpain 1 autolysis and αII spectrin cleavage. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assay revealed the increased levels of acetylation at lysine 5 of histone H4 (H4K5-Ac), H3K9-Ac and H3K14-Ac within the calpastatin promoter region in TSA-treated cells relative to control cells. Finally, TSA significantly decreased ionomycin-induced cell toxicity. This study demonstrates that TSA attenuates calcium-induced neuronal cell death by the inhibition of calpain activity which is mediated in part by increased calpastatin expression via histone hyperacetylation within the calpastatin promoter region. Our study provides a novel mechanism for the neuroprotective effect of HDAC inhibitors on AD.This study describes the molecular mechanism by which trichostatin A (TSA), histone deacetylase inhibitor and potential drug for alleviating neuronal damage, decreases neuronal cell toxicity. Here, we found that TSA increases calpastatin, but not calpain, through histone hyperacetylations of H4K5, H3K9 and H3K14 within a promoter region of calpastatin, and inhibits calcium-dependent calpain activity and subsequent SH-SY5Y neuronal cell toxicity.