Inhibition of PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling by NDRG2 contributes to neuronal apoptosis and autophagy in ischemic stroke

J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2023 Mar;32(3):106984. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2023.106984. Epub 2023 Jan 16.


Background: Astrocytic N-myc downstream-regulated gene 2 (NDRG2), a differentiation- and stress-associated molecule, has been involved in the cause of ischemic stroke (IS). However, its downstream effector in IS remains unclear. This study aimed to characterize expression of NDRG2 in IS patients and rats and to investigate the underlying mechanism.

Methods: The protein expression of NDRG2 and mammalian target of the rapamycin (mTOR) and the extent of mTOR phosphorylation in plasma of IS patients were detected by ELISA. An oxygen-glucose deprivation model was established in mouse neuronal cells CATH.a, followed by cell counting kit-8, flow cytometry, TUNEL, and western blot assays to examine cell viability, apoptosis and autophagy. Finally, the effect of NDRG2-mediated phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase-B/mTOR (PI3K/AKT/mTOR) pathway on neuronal apoptosis and autophagy was verified in rats treated with middle cerebral artery occlusion.

Results: NDRG2 was highly expressed in the plasma of IS patients, while the extent of mTOR phosphorylation was reduced in IS patients. NDRG2 blocked the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling through dephosphorylation. Depletion of NDRG2 suppressed apoptosis and autophagy in CATH.a cells, which was reversed by a dual inhibitor of PI3K and mTOR, BEZ235. In vivo experiments confirmed that NDRG2 promoted neuronal apoptosis and autophagy by dephosphorylating and blocking the PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling.

Conclusion: The present study has shown that NDRG2 impairs the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway via dephosphorylation to promote neuronal apoptosis and autophagy in IS. These findings provide potential targets for future clinical therapies for IS.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Ischemic stroke; NDRG2; The PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Ischemic Stroke*
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt* / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sirolimus / pharmacology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Sirolimus
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • mTOR protein, rat
  • Ndrg2 protein, rat
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins