Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting both the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex. Reduced synaptic density that occurs early in the disease process seems to be partially due to the overactivation of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) leading to excitotoxicity. Recently, we demonstrated that amyloid-beta oligomers (AβO), the species implicated in synaptic loss during the initial disease stages, induce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in cultured neurons. Here, we investigated whether AβO trigger ER stress by an NMDAR-dependent mechanism leading to neuronal dysfunction and analyzed the contribution of GluN2A and GluN2B subunits of this glutamate receptor. Our data revealed that AβO induce ER stress in mature hippocampal cultures, activating ER stress-associated sensors and increasing the levels of the ER chaperone GRP78. We also showed that AβO induce NADPH oxidase (NOX)-mediated superoxide production downstream of GluN2B and impairs ER and cytosolic Ca2+ homeostasis. These events precede changes in cell viability and activation of the ER stress-mediated apoptotic pathway, which was associated with translocation of the transcription factor GADD153 / CHOP to the nucleus and occurred by a caspase-12-independent mechanism. Significantly, ER stress took place after AβO interaction with GluN2B subunits. In addition, AβO-induced ER stress and hippocampal dysfunction were prevented by ifenprodil, an antagonist of GluN2B subunits, while the GluN2A antagonist NVP-AAM077 only slightly attenuated AβO-induced neurotoxicity. Taken together, our results highlight the role of GluN2B subunit of NMDARs on ER stress-mediated hippocampal dysfunction caused by AβO suggesting that it might be a potential therapeutic target during the early stages of AD.
© 2012 The Authors. Aging Cell © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland.