Research Papers:

Rapamycin inhibits Erk1/2-mediated neuronal apoptosis caused by cadmium

Chong Xu _, Hai Zhang, Chunxiao Liu, Yu Zhu, Xiaoxue Wang, Wei Gao, Shile Huang and Long Chen

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:21452-21467. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.4087

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Chong Xu1,*, Hai Zhang1,*, Chunxiao Liu1, Yu Zhu1, Xiaoxue Wang1, Wei Gao1, Shile Huang2,3, Long Chen1

1Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Molecular and Medical Biotechnology, Jiangsu Key Laboratory for Microbes and Functional Genomics, College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, PR China

2Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA, USA

3Feist-Weiller Cancer Center, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA, USA

*These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Long Chen, e-mail: [email protected]

Shile Huang, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: rapamycin, neuronal apoptosis, PP2A, PTEN, Erk1/2

Received: March 11, 2015     Accepted: May 11, 2015     Published: May 25, 2015


Cadmium (Cd), an environmental contaminant, causes neurodegenerative disorders. Recently we have shown that rapamycin prevents Cd-induced neuronal cell death by inhibiting mTOR signaling pathway. Here we found that rapamycin exerted its prevention against Cd-induced neuronal cell death also partially via blocking Erk1/2 pathway. Inhibiting Erk1/2 with PD98059 or silencing Erk1/2 potentiated rapamycin’s inhibition of Cd-induced phosphorylation of Erk1/2 and apoptosis in neuronal cells. Both PP2A and PTEN/Akt were involved in the regulation of Erk1/2 activation and cell death triggered by Cd. Inhibition of PP2A with okadaic acid or ectopic expression of dominant negative PP2A attenuated rapamycin’s inhibition of Cd-induced phospho-Erk1/2 and apoptosis, whereas over-expression of wild-type PP2A enhanced rapamycin’s effects; Over-expression of wild-type PTEN or dominant negative Akt, or inhibition of Akt with Akt inhibitor X strengthened rapamycin’s inhibition of Cd-induced phospho-Erk1/2 and cell death. Furthermore, expression of a rapamycin-resistant and kinase-active mTOR (mTOR-T) blocked rapamycin’s inhibitory effects on Cd-induced inhibition of PP2A, down-regulation of PTEN, and activation of Akt, leading to Erk1/2 activation and cell death, whereas silencing mTOR mimicked rapamycin’s effects. The results uncover that rapamycin inhibits Cd activation of Erk1/2-mediated neuronal apoptosis through intervening mTOR-PP2A/PTEN signaling network.

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