Glutamate receptor-driven activation of transcription factors in primary neuronal cultures

Neurochem Res. 1994 Apr;19(4):489-99. doi: 10.1007/BF00967329.


We have used primary neuronal cultures prepared from fetal cerebral hemispheres to investigate the effects of different glutamate receptor agonists and antagonists on the expression of transcription factor encoding genes, such as c-fos, fosB, c-jun, junB, junD, c-myc, and zif/268. The addition of glutamate (100 microM) to the culture medium rapidly activated c-fos, fosB, c-jun, junB and zif/268 gene expression, reaching the maximal level at 30-60 minutes for zif/268 and at 60 minutes for the other genes. The onset of fosB mRNA accumulation was slightly delayed in comparison to the other genes. No clear induction was found for junD and c-myc. Different glutamate receptor agonists, such as NMDA, kainate, quisqualate, trans-(+/-)-1-aminocyclopentane-1,3-dicarboxylic acid (t-ACPD) and alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate (AMPA) were able to increase c-fos, c-jun, and zif-268 mRNA levels with rapid and transient kinetics similar to those observed after glutamate treatment. Similar results were obtained for junB and fosB after kainate and quisqualate stimulation. Pretreatment with MK-801, a non competitive NMDA antagonist, produced an almost complete inhibition of glutamate-driven expression of transcription factor genes, thus suggesting that NMDA receptor plays a major role in glutamate induced-gene expression. On the contrary the kainate/AMPA receptor antagonist, DNQX, did not influence glutamate induced-gene expression. Under the conditions used in the present study, NMDA was effective in inducing the simultaneous activation of several IEGs even when added to the culture medium containing millimolar concentration of magnesium. When experiments were performed in Krebs solution, NMDA was effective in stimulating zif/268 and c-fos mRNAs only in the absence of Mg2+, while glutamate activated c-fos and zif/268 both in the presence and absence of magnesium ions. As expected, NMDA effect was fully inhibited by MK-801. The level of AP-1 DNA binding activity, as measured by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, increased after addition of glutamate and NMDA to cultured neurons and such increase was antagonized by the pretreatment with MK-801.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cycloleucine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cycloleucine / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Glutamates / pharmacology
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Kainic Acid / pharmacology
  • Kinetics
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogenes
  • Quisqualic Acid / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Glutamate / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glutamate / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid / pharmacology


  • Glutamates
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Transcription Factors
  • Cycloleucine
  • 1-amino-1,3-dicarboxycyclopentane
  • Glutamic Acid
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid
  • Quisqualic Acid
  • Kainic Acid