Folate deprivation modulates the expression of autophagy- and circadian-related genes in HT-22 hippocampal neuron cells through GR-mediated pathway

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Folic acid (FA) is an extremely important nutrient for brain formation and development. FA deficiency is highly linked to brain degeneration and age-related diseases, which are also associated with autophagic activities and circadian rhythm in hippocampal neurons. However, little is known how autophagy- and circadian-related genes in hippocampal neurons are regulated under FA deficiency. Here, hippocampal neuron cells (HT-22) were employed to determine the effect of FA deprivation (FD) on the expression of relevant genes and to reveal the potential role of glucocorticoid receptor (GR). FD increased autophagic activities in HT-22 cells, associated with significantly (P < 0.05) enhanced GR activation indicated by higher ratio of GR phosphorylation. Out of 17 autophagy-related genes determined, 8 was significantly (P < 0.05) up-regulated in FD group, which includes ATG2b, ATG3, ATG4c, ATG5, ATG10, ATG12, ATG13 and ATG14. Meanwhile, 4 out of 7 circadian-related genes detected, Clock, Cry1, Cry2 and Per2, were significantly (P < 0.05) up-regulated. The protein content of autophagy markers, LC3A and LC3B, was also increased significantly (P < 0.05). ChIP assay showed that FD promoted (P < 0.05) GR binding to the promoter sequence of ATG3 and Per2. Moreover, MeDIP analysis demonstrated significant (P < 0.05) hypomethylation in the promoter sequence of ATG12, ATG13 and Per2 genes. Together, we speculate that FD increases the transcription of autophagy- and circadian-related genes through, at least partly, GR-mediated pathway. Our results provide a basis for future investigations into the intracellular regulatory network in response to folate deficiency.

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