Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease. In addition to the occurrence of amyloid deposits and widespread tau pathology, AD is associated with a neuroinflammatory response characterized by the activation of microglia and astrocytes. Protein kinase 2 (CK2, former casein kinase II) is involved in a wide variety of cellular processes. Previous studies on CK2 in AD showed controversial results, and the involvement of CK2 in neuroinflammation in AD remains elusive.
Methods: In this study, we used immunohistochemical and immunofluorescent staining methods to investigate the localization of CK2 in the hippocampus and temporal cortex of patients with AD and non-demented controls. We compared protein levels with Western blotting analysis, and we investigated CK2 activity in human U373 astrocytoma cells and human primary adult astrocytes stimulated with IL-1β or TNF-α.
Results: We report increased levels of CK2 in the hippocampus and temporal cortex of AD patients compared to non-demented controls. Immunohistochemical analysis shows CK2 immunoreactivity in astrocytes in AD and control cases. In AD, the presence of CK2 immunoreactive astrocytes is increased. CK2 immunopositive astrocytes are associated with amyloid deposits, suggesting an involvement of CK2 in the neuroinflammatory response. In U373 cells and human primary astrocytes, the selective CK2 inhibitor CX-4945 shows a dose-dependent reduction of the IL-1β or TNF-α induced MCP-1 and IL-6 secretion.
Conclusions: This data suggests that CK2 in astrocytes is involved in the neuroinflammatory response in AD. The reduction in pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion by human astrocytes using the selective CK2 inhibitor CX-4945 indicates that CK2 could be a potential target to modulate neuroinflammation in AD.