The alpha-secretase-derived form of the amyloid precursor protein (sAPPalpha), which is released from neurons in an activity-dependent manner, has been shown to promote long-term survival of hippocampal and cortical neurons in culture and can protect those neurons against excitotoxic and ischemic injury in culture and in vivo. The signal transduction pathway(s) activated by sAPPalpha has not been established. We now report that sAPPalpha activates the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI(3)K)-Akt kinase signaling pathway in cultured hippocampal neurons. sAPPalpha also stimulates phosphorylation of p42 (ERK1) and p44 (ERK2) mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinases by a PI(3)K-independent pathway. Treatment of neurons with sAPPalpha protects them against death induced by trophic factor deprivation and exposure to glutamate, and these survival-promoting effects of sAPPalpha are abolished or attenuated when either PI(3)K or p42/p44 MAP kinases are selectively blocked. Exposure of neurons to sAPPalpha resulted in a decrease in the level of IkappaBbeta and an increase in NF-kappaB DNA binding activity, both of which were blocked by wortmannin, suggesting that the transcription factor NF-kappaB may be a downstream target of the PI(3)K-Akt pathway that may play a role in the cell survival-promoting action of sAPPalpha. These findings suggest that the PI(3)K-Akt pathway and p42/p44 MAP kinases mediate responses of neurons to sAPPalpha in physiological and pathological settings, with implications for synaptic plasticity and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease.
(c) 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).