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J. Biol. Chem. 282 (47): 34479-34491

© 2007 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.

Leptin Protects against 6-Hydroxydopamine-induced Dopaminergic Cell Death via Mitogen-activated Protein Kinase Signaling*

Zhongfang Weng{ddagger}§1, Armando P. Signore{ddagger}§1, Yanqin Gao, Suping Wang{ddagger}§, Feng Zhang{ddagger}§, Teresa Hastings{ddagger}§, Xiao-Ming Yin||, , and Jun Chen{ddagger}§**2

Departments of {ddagger}Neurology and ||Pathology and the §Pittsburgh Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, the State Key Laboratory of Medical Neurobiology, Fudan University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200032, China, and the **Geriatric Research, Educational and Clinical Center Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Health Care System, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261

Abstract: The death of midbrain dopaminergic neurons in sporadic Parkinson disease is of unknown etiology but may involve altered growth factor signaling. The present study showed that leptin, a centrally acting hormone secreted by adipocytes, rescued dopaminergic neurons, reversed behavioral asymmetry, and restored striatal catecholamine levels in the unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) mouse model of dopaminergic cell death. In vitro studies using the murine dopaminergic cell line MN9D showed that leptin attenuated 6-OHDA-induced apoptotic markers, including caspase-9 and caspase-3 activation, internucleosomal DNA fragmentation, and cytochrome c release. ERK1/2 phosphorylation (pERK1/2) was found to be critical for mediating leptin-induced neuroprotection, because inhibition of the MEK pathway blocked both the pERK1/2 response and the pro-survival effect of leptin in cultures. Knockdown of the downstream messengers JAK2 or GRB2 precluded leptin-induced pERK1/2 activation and neuroprotection. Leptin/pERK1/2 signaling involved phosphorylation and nuclear localization of CREB (pCREB), a well known survival factor for dopaminergic neurons. Leptin induced a marked MEK-dependent increase in pCREB that was essential for neuroprotection following 6-OHDA toxicity. Transfection of a dominant negative MEK protein abolished leptin-enhanced pCREB formation, whereas a dominant negative CREB or decoy oligonucleotide diminished both pCREB binding to its target DNA sequence and MN9D survival against 6-OHDA toxicity. Moreover, in the substantia nigra of mice, leptin treatment increased the levels of pERK1/2, pCREB, and the downstream gene product BDNF, which were reversed by the MEK inhibitor PD98059. Collectively, these data provide evidence that leptin prevents the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons by 6-OHDA and may prove useful in the treatment of Parkinson disease.

Received for publication July 2, 2007. Revision received September 21, 2007.

* This work was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants NS44178, NS43802, and NS45048 (to J. C.), and by the Chinese Natural Science Foundation (Grants 30470592 and 30670642 to Y. G.). The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked "advertisement" in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

1 Both authors contributed equally to this work.

2 To whom correspondence should be addressed: Dept. of Neurology, S-507, Biomedical Science Tower, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Tel.: 412-648-1263; Fax: 412-383-9985; E-mail: chenj2{at}

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