Research Papers: Pathology:

Crosstalk between Ca2+ signaling and mitochondrial H2O2 is required for rotenone inhibition of mTOR signaling pathway leading to neuronal apoptosis

Chunxiao Liu, Yangjing Ye, Qian Zhou, Ruijie Zhang, Hai Zhang, Wen Liu, Chong Xu, Lei Liu, Shile Huang and Long Chen _

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:7534-7549. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7183

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Chunxiao Liu1,*, Yangjing Ye1,*, Qian Zhou1, Ruijie Zhang1, Hai Zhang1, Wen Liu1, Chong Xu1, Lei Liu2, Shile Huang2,3 and Long Chen1

1 Jiangsu 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

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

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

* These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Long Chen, email:

Shile Huang, email:

Keywords: rotenone, apoptosis, calcium ion, CaMKII, H2O2, mTOR, Pathology

Received: October 11, 2015 Accepted: January 24, 2016 Published: February 03, 2016


Rotenone, a neurotoxic pesticide, induces loss of dopaminergic neurons related to Parkinson’s disease. Previous studies have shown that rotenone induces neuronal apoptosis partly by triggering hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-dependent suppression of mTOR pathway. However, the underlying mechanism is not fully understood. Here, we show that rotenone elevates intracellular free calcium ion ([Ca2+]i) level, and activates CaMKII, resulting in inhibition of mTOR signaling and induction of neuronal apoptosis. Chelating [Ca2+]i with BAPTA/AM, preventing extracellular Ca2+ influx using EGTA, inhibiting CaMKII with KN93, or silencing CaMKII significantly attenuated rotenone-induced H2O2 production, mTOR inhibition, and cell death. Interestingly, using TTFA, antimycin A, catalase or Mito-TEMPO, we found that rotenone-induced mitochondrial H2O2 also in turn elevated [Ca2+]i level, thereby stimulating CaMKII, leading to inhibition of mTOR pathway and induction of neuronal apoptosis. Expression of wild type mTOR or constitutively active S6K1, or silencing 4E-BP1 strengthened the inhibitory effects of catalase, Mito-TEMPO, BAPTA/AM or EGTA on rotenone-induced [Ca2+]i elevation, CaMKII phosphorylation and neuronal apoptosis. Together, the results indicate that the crosstalk between Ca2+ signaling and mitochondrial H2O2 is required for rotenone inhibition of mTOR-mediated S6K1 and 4E-BP1 pathways. Our findings suggest that how to control over-elevation of intracellular Ca2+ and overproduction of mitochondrial H2O2 may be a new approach to deal with the neurotoxicity of rotenone.

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