N-acetylcysteine protects against apoptosis through modulation of group I metabotropic glutamate receptor activity

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32503. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032503. Epub 2012 Mar 19.


The activation of group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (group I mGlus) has been shown to produce neuroprotective or neurotoxic effects. In this study, we investigated the effects of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a precursor of the antioxidant glutathione, on group I mGlus activation in apoptosis of glial C6 and MN9D cell lines, and a rat model of Parkinson's disease (PD). We demonstrated that NAC protected against apoptosis through modulation of group I mGlus activity. In glial C6 cells, NAC promoted phosphorylation of ERK induced by (s)-3,5-dihydroxy-phenylglycine (DHPG), an agonist of group I mGlus. NAC enhanced the group I mGlus-mediated protection from staurosporine (STS)-induced apoptosis following DHPG treatment. Moreover, in rotenone-treated MN9D cells and PD rat model, NAC protected against group I mGlus-induced toxicity by compromising the decrease in phosphorylation of ERK, phosphorylation or expression level of TH. Furthermore, the results showed that NAC prohibited the level of ROS and oxidation of cellular GSH/GSSG (E(h)) accompanied by activated group I mGlus in the experimental models. Our results suggest that NAC might act as a regulator of group I mGlus-mediated activities in both neuroprotection and neurotoxicity via reducing the oxidative stress, eventually to protect cell survival. The study also suggests that NAC might be a potential therapeutics targeting for group I mGlus activation in the treatment of PD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology*
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / analogs & derivatives
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / pharmacology
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*
  • Parkinson Disease / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / agonists
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate / metabolism*
  • Staurosporine / pharmacology


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Receptors, Metabotropic Glutamate
  • metabotropic glutamate receptor type 1
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Staurosporine
  • 3,4-dihydroxyphenylglycol
  • Acetylcysteine