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Rapamycin ameliorates cadmium-induced activation of MAPK pathway and neuronal apoptosis by preventing mitochondrial ROS inactivation of PP2A

Chong Xu, Xiaoxue Wang, Yu Zhu, Xiaoqing Dong, Chunxiao Liu, Hai Zhang, Lei Liu, Shile Huang, Long Chen*

Cadmium (Cd) is a highly toxic metal that affects the central nervous system. Recently we have demonstrated that inhibition of mTOR by rapamycin rescues neuronal cells from Cd-poisoning. Here we show that rapamycin inhibited Cd-induced mitochondrial ROS-dependent neuronal apoptosis. Intriguingly, rapamycin remarkably blocked phosphorylation of JNK, Erk1/2 and p38 in neuronal cells induced by Cd, which was strengthened by co-treatment with Mito-TEMPO. Inhibition of JNK and Erk1/2 by SP600125 and U0126, respectively, potentiated rapamycin’s prevention from Cd-induced apoptosis. Consistently, over-expression of dominant negative c-Jun or MKK1 also potently improved the inhibitory effect of rapamycin on Cd neurotoxicity. Furthermore, pretreatment with SP600125 or U0126, or expression of dominant negative c-Jun or MKK1 enhanced the inhibitory effects of rapamycin or Mito-TEMPO on Cd-induced ROS. Further investigation found that co-treatment with Mito-TEMPO/rapamycin more effectively rescued cells by preventing Cd inactivation of PP2A than treatment with rapamycin or Mito-TEMPO alone. Over-expression of wild-type PP2A reinforced rapamycin or Mito-TEMPO suppression of activated JNK and Erk1/2 pathways, as well as ROS production and apoptosis in neuronal cells in response to Cd. The findings indicate that rapamycin ameliorates Cd-evoked neuronal apoptosis by preventing mitochondrial ROS inactivation of PP2A, thereby suppressing activation of JNK and Erk1/2 pathways. Our results underline that rapamycin may have a potential in preventing Cd-induced oxidative stress and neurodegenerative diseases.