Homocysteine-induced changes in mRNA levels of genes coding for cytoplasmic- and endoplasmic reticulum-resident stress proteins in neuronal cell cultures.
Elevated homocysteine levels have been suggested to contribute to various pathological states of the brain. However, the basic mechanisms underlying homocysteine-induced neurotoxicity have not yet been fully elucidated. In the present series of experiments, we investigated the effect of homocysteine on mRNA levels of genes coding for cytoplasmic- or endoplasmic reticulum-resident stress proteins. Primary neuronal cell cultures were exposed to different homocysteine levels for 1-24 h. Cell injury was evaluated using the MTT assay, protein synthesis was studied by measuring the incorporation of L-[4,5-3H]leucine into proteins, mRNA levels of hsp70, gadd153, grp78, and grp94 were evaluated by quantitative PCR, and changes in protein levels of hsp70, grp78 and grp94 were analyzed by immunoblotting. Exposure of cells to 5 or 10 mM homocysteine for 24 h induced marked cell injury (decrease of viability to 58 or 45% of control respectively). After 6 h treatment, gadd153, grp78 and grp94 mRNA levels increased markedly, but only when cells were exposed to levels of homocysteine high enough to induce cell injury. In addition, hsp70 mRNA levels and protein synthesis were significantly reduced. At earlier (1 or 3 h) or later (12 or 24 h) time intervals, homocysteine exposure induced a marked increase in mRNA levels of all genes studied. GRP78 and GRP94 protein levels were increased in cells exposed to 5 mM homocysteine for 24 h but not in cells exposed to 10 mM homocysteine. HSP70 protein levels, in contrast, were decreased in cells exposed to homocysteine for different periods. The expression of genes coding for ER-resident stress proteins is specifically activated under conditions of ER stress. The close relationship between the extent of cell injury and increase in grp78 mRNA levels suggests that ER dysfunction may contribute to the pathological process. The results imply that the ER is an intracellular target of homocysteine toxicity.
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