The STriatal-Enriched tyrosine Phosphatase (STEP) is involved in the etiology of several age-associated neurologic disorders linked to oxidative stress and is also known to play a role in neuroprotection by modulating glutamatergic transmission. However, the possible effect of aging on STEP level and activity in the brain is still unclear. In this study, using young (1 month), adult (4 months), and aged (18 months) rats, we show that aging is associated with increase in dimerization and loss of activity of STEP. Increased dimerization of STEP is primarily observed in the cortex and hippocampus and is associated with depletion of both reduced and total glutathione levels, suggesting an increase in oxidative stress. Consistent with this interpretation, studies in cell culture models of glutathione depletion and oxidative stress also demonstrate formation of dimers and higher order oligomers of STEP that involve intermolecular disulfide bond formation between multiple cysteine residues. Conversely, administration of N-acetyl cysteine, a major antioxidant that enhances glutathione biosynthesis, attenuates STEP dimerization both in the cortex and hippocampus. The findings indicate that loss of this intrinsic protective response pathway with age-dependent increase in oxidative stress may be a contributing factor for the susceptibility of the brain to age-associated neurologic disorders.
Keywords: Aging; Dimerization; Glutathione; N-acetyl cysteine; STEP; Tyrosine phosphatase.
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