Aluminum-induced neuronal cell apoptosis has been implicated in various neurodegenerative disorders. However, whether autophagy, a vital lysosomal degradation pathway, is involved in this pathogenesis still remains unknown. Our present findings demonstrated that aluminum significantly increased rat astrocyte apoptosis and autophagy levels in a dose-dependent manner. Examination of the associated mechanisms revealed that aluminum at low levels (400μM) did not increase apoptosis protein expressions (cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved PARP), but markedly up-regulated autophagy-related protein Beclin 1 expression. This indicates that the autophagy process occurs earlier than neuronal apoptosis. Moreover, aluminum at high levels (1600μM) significantly induced autophagy-related protein (Beclin 1 and LC3II) and apoptosis-related protein expressions, showing that both autophagy and apoptosis processes are activated under high levels of aluminum exposure. We used 3-methyladenine, an inhibitor of class III phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase, to treat astrocytes and found that the apoptosis rate in the 3-MA/aluminum co-treated group was markedly down-regulated compared with aluminum alone-treated astrocytes. The apoptosis protein and autophagy-related protein expressions were also decreased. These observations showed that the mild autophagy process may precede apoptosis in low dose aluminum-insulted astrocytes, and high dose aluminum-induced serious autophagy may result in cell apoptosis via the Beclin 1-dependent autophagy signal pathway.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.