Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling has been implicated in a wide range of neuronal processes, including development, plasticity, and viability. One of the principal downstream targets of both the extracellular signal-regulated kinase/MAPK pathway and the p38 MAPK pathway is Mitogen- and Stress-activated protein Kinase 1 (MSK1). Here, we sought to understand the role that MSK1 plays in neuroprotection against excitotoxic stimulation in the hippocampus. To this end, we utilized immunohistochemical labeling, a MSK1 null mouse line, cell viability assays, and array-based profiling approaches. Initially, we show that MSK1 is broadly expressed within the major neuronal cell layers of the hippocampus and that status epilepticus drives acute induction of MSK1 activation. In response to the status epilepticus paradigm, MSK1 KO mice exhibited a striking increase in vulnerability to pilocarpine-evoked cell death within the CA1 and CA3 cell layers. Further, cultured MSK1 null neurons exhibited a heighted level of N-methyl-D-aspartate-evoked excitotoxicity relative to wild-type neurons, as assessed using the lactate dehydrogenase assay. Given these findings, we examined the hippocampal transcriptional profile of MSK1 null mice. Affymetrix array profiling revealed that MSK1 deletion led to the significant (>1.25-fold) downregulation of 130 genes and an upregulation of 145 genes. Notably, functional analysis indicated that a subset of these genes contribute to neuroprotective signaling networks. Together, these data provide important new insights into the mechanism by which the MAPK/MSK1 signaling cassette confers neuroprotection against excitotoxic insults. Approaches designed to upregulate or mimic the functional effects of MSK1 may prove beneficial against an array of degenerative processes resulting from excitotoxic insults.
- cell death