Age-related neuronal dysfunction can be overcome by circulating factors present in young blood. Growth differentiation factor-11 (GDF-11), a systemic factor that declines with age, can reverse age-related dysfunction in brain, heart and skeletal muscle. Given that age increases susceptibility to stroke, we hypothesized that GDF-11 may be directly protective to neurons following ischemia. Primary cortical neurons were isolated from E18 Wistar rat embryos and cultured for 7-10 days. Neurons were deprived of oxygen and glucose (OGD) to simulate ischemia. Neuronal death was assessed by lactate dehydrogenase, propidium iodide or CellTox™ green cytotoxicity assays. 40 ng/mL GDF-11 administration during 2 h OGD significantly increased neuronal death following 24 h recovery. However, GDF-11 pre-treatment did not affect neuronal death during 2 h OGD. GDF-11 treatment during the 24 h recovery period after 2 h OGD also did not alter death. Real-time monitoring for 24 h revealed that by 2 h OGD, GDF-11 treatment had increased neuronal death which remained raised at 24 h. Co-treatment of 1 μM SB431542 (ALK4/5/7 receptor inhibitor) with GDF-11 prevented GDF-11 neurotoxicity after 2 h OGD and 24 h OGD. Transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ) did not increase neuronal death to the same extent as GDF-11 following OGD. GDF-11 neurotoxicity was also exhibited following neuronal exposure to hydrogen peroxide. These results reveal for the first time that GDF-11 is neurotoxic to primary neurons in the acute phase of simulated stroke through primarily ALK4 receptor signaling.
GDF-11, growth factor, in vitro, ischemia, neuron, stroke