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Several lines of evidence indicate that a rapid loss of protein kinase C (PKC) activity may be important in the delayed death of neurons following cerebral ischemia. However, in primary neuronal cultures, cytotoxic levels of glutamate have been reported not to cause a loss in PKC as measured by immunoblot and conventional activity methods. This apparent contradiction has not been adequately addressed. In this study, the effects of cytotoxic levels of glutamate, NMDA, and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid (AMPA) on membrane PKC activity was determined in cortical neurons using an assay that measures only PKC that is active in isolated membranes, which can be used to differentiate active enzyme from that associated with membranes in an inactive state. A 15-min exposure of day 14-18 cortical neurons to 100 microM glutamate, AMPA, or NMDA caused a rapid and persistent loss in membrane PKC activity, which by 4 h fell to 30-50% of that in control cultures. However, the amount of enzyme present in these membranes remained unchanged during this period despite the loss in enzyme activity. The inactivation of PKC activity was confirmed by the fact that phosphorylation of the MARCKS protein, a PKC-selective substrate, was reduced in intact neurons following transient glutamate treatment. By contrast, activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors by trans-(1S,3R)-1-amino-1,3-cyclopentanedicarboxylic acid was not neurotoxic and induced a robust and prolonged activation of PKC activity in neurons. PKC inactivation by NMDA and AMPA was dependent on extracellular Ca2+, but less so on Na+, although cell death induced by these agents was dependent on both ions. The loss of PKC activity was likely effected by Ca2+ entry through specific routes because the bulk increase in intracellular free [Ca2+] effected by the Ca2+ ionophore ionomycin did not cause the inactivation of PKC. The results indicate that the pattern of PKC activity in neurons killed by glutamate, NMDA, and AMPA in vitro is consistent with that observed in neurons injured by cerebral Ischemia in vivo.


Journal article


J Neurochem

Publication Date





951 - 962


Animals, Cell Death, Cell Membrane, Cerebral Cortex, Excitatory Amino Acids, Glutamic Acid, N-Methylaspartate, Neurons, Protein Kinase C, Rats, Rats, Sprague-Dawley, alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid