CaMKII is involved in cadmium activation of MAPK and mTOR pathways leading to neuronal cell death

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Cadmium (Cd), a toxic environmental contaminant, induces neurodegenerative diseases. Recently, we have shown that Cd elevates intracellular free calcium ion ([Ca2+]i) level, leading to neuronal apoptosis partly by activating mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathways. However, the underlying mechanism remains to be elucidated. In this study, we show that the effects of Cd-elevated [Ca2+]i on MAPK and mTOR network as well as neuronal cell death are through stimulating phosphorylation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). This is supported by the findings that chelating intracellular Ca2+ with 1,2-bis(o-aminophenoxy) ethane-N,N,N′,N′-tetraacetic acid tetra(acetoxymethyl) ester or preventing Cd-induced [Ca2+]i elevation using 2-aminoethoxydiphenyl borate blocked Cd activation of CaMKII. Inhibiting CaMKII with KN93 or silencing CaMKII attenuated Cd activation of MAPK/mTOR pathways and cell death. Furthermore, inhibitors of mTOR (rapamycin), c-Jun N-terminal kinase (SP600125) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (U0126), but not of p38 (PD169316), prevented Cd-induced neuronal cell death in part through inhibition of [Ca2+]i elevation and CaMKII phosphorylation. The results indicate that Cd activates MAPK/mTOR network triggering neuronal cell death, by stimulating CaMKII. Our findings underscore a central role of CaMKII in the neurotoxicology of Cd, and suggest that manipulation of intracellular Ca2+ level or CaMKII activity may be exploited for prevention of Cd-induced neurodegenerative disorders.

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