Nuclear factor kappaB is a critical determinant in N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated neuroprotection

J Neurochem. 2001 Jul;78(2):254-64. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.2001.00386.x.


The role of a nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) in NMDA receptor-mediated neuroprotection is not known. A candidate sequence from the 5' flanking region of exon 3 of the rat brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene was used to show that exposure of rat cerebellar granule cells to 100 microM NMDA activated a specific DNA binding activity that was blocked by the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801. Anti-p65 antibody or anti-p50 antibody 'supershifted' the DNA binding activity, suggesting that the DNA-protein complex was composed of p65 and p50 subunits. NMDA receptor-mediated neuroprotection was blocked when cerebellar neurons were transfected with a double-stranded oligonucleotide containing the BDNF gene NF-kappaB sequence. Furthermore, nuclear extracts prepared from neurons treated with NMDA and the double-stranded NF-kappaB oligonucleotide showed reduced DNA binding activity to the target sequence, supporting the idea that NF-kappaB may be involved in the transcriptional activation of the BDNF gene. To address this issue, we quantified the level of exon 3-specific BDNF mRNA. Relative to GAPDH mRNA levels and compared with untreated neurons, NMDA increased exon 3-specific BDNF mRNA twofold. In contrast, pretreatment of neurons with the NF-kappaB target DNA abolished the increase in BDNF mRNA following addition of NMDA. We also determined that BDNF itself induced an NF-kappaB DNA binding activity. Taken together, these data support a mechanism where NF-kappaB plays a critical role in NMDA-mediated neuroprotection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 5' Untranslated Regions / genetics
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology*
  • Exons*
  • I-kappa B Proteins*
  • Kinetics
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology*
  • NF-KappaB Inhibitor alpha
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / chemistry
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / drug effects
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*


  • 5' Untranslated Regions
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • I-kappa B Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Nfkbia protein, rat
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • NF-KappaB Inhibitor alpha
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Dizocilpine Maleate