Neuroprotective role of prostaglandin PGE2 EP2 receptor in hemin-mediated toxicity

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Heme (Fe2+ protoporphyrin IX) and hemin (Fe3+), the prosthetic group of hemoprotein, are cytotoxic due to their ability to contribute to the production of reactive oxygen species, increased intracellular calcium levels, and stimulate glutamate-mediated excitotoxicity. Previous work by our group showed that blockade of the prostaglandin E2 (PGE2)-EP1 receptor reduced hemin-induced cytotoxicity in primary cortical neuronal cultures. However, the role of the prostaglandin E2 (PGE2)-EP2 receptor in hemin neurotoxicity remains unclear. Activation of the EP2 receptor in neurons results in increased cyclic AMP (cAMP) and protein kinase A signaling; therefore, we hypothesized that the activation of the EP2 receptor decreases hemin neurotoxicity. Using postnatal primary cortical neurons cultured from wildtype-control (WT) and EP2−/− mice, we investigated the role of the EP2 receptor in hemin neurotoxicity by monitoring cell survival with the Calcein-AM live-cell and lactate dehydrogenase assays. MitoTracker staining was also performed to determine how mitochondria were affected by hemin. Hemin neurotoxicity in EP2−/− neurons was 37.2 ± 17.0% greater compared to WT neurons. Of interest, cotreatment with the EP2 receptor agonist, butaprost (1 and 10 μM), significantly attenuated hemin neurotoxicity by 55.7 ± 21.1% and 60.1 ± 14.8%, respectively. To further investigate signaling mechanisms related to EP2 receptor mediating cytoprotection, neurons were cotreated with hemin and activators/inhibitors of both the cAMP-protein kinase A/exchange protein directly activated by cAMP (Epac) pathways. Forskolin, a cAMP activator, and 8-pCPT-cAMP, an Epac activator, both attenuated hemin neurotoxicity by 78.8 ± 22.2% and 58.4 ± 9.8%, respectively, as measured using the lactate dehydrogenase assay. Together, the results reveal that activation of the EP2 receptor is protective against hemin neurotoxicity in vitro and these findings suggest that neuroprotection occurs through the cAMP-Epac pathway in neuronal cultures. Therefore, activation of the EP2 receptor could be used to minimize neuronal damage following exposure to supraphysiological levels of hemin.

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