Riluzole is approved for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); however, recent accumulating evidence suggests that riluzole is also effective for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, such as mood disorders. Plastic change in the brain induced by neurotrophic factors/growth factors is thought to be involved in the mechanism of antidepressants. This study investigated the mechanism of riluzole-induced glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) production in rat C6 glioma cells (C6 cells), a model of astrocytes. The study investigated the phosphorylation of cAMP response element binding protein (CREB), an important transcriptional factor of the gdnf gene, and found that riluzole increased CREB phosphorylation in a time-dependent manner, peaking at 40min after treatment. The riluzole-induced CREB phosphorylation was completely blocked by a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase (MEK) inhibitor (U0126). Riluzole increased extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation prior to CREB phosphorylation. These results suggest that riluzole rapidly activates the MEK/ERK/CREB pathway. Furthermore, two types of fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) tyrosine kinase inhibitors (SU5402 and PD173074) completely blocked riluzole-induced CREB phosphorylation. In addition, riluzole rapidly phosphorylated FGFR substrate 2α (FRS2α), a major adaptor protein of FGFR. These findings suggest that riluzole induces CREB phosphorylation through FGFR. In addition, PD173074 inhibited riluzole-induced GDNF production. In contrast, l-glutamate and a glutamate transporter inhibitor (t-PDC) did not yield any effects in either CREB phosphorylation or GDNF production. These findings suggest that riluzole rapidly activates a MEK/ERK/CREB pathway through FGFR in a glutamate transporter-independent manner, followed by GDNF expression in C6 cells.
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