GSK3β and endoplasmic reticulum stress mediate rotenone-induced death of SK-N-MC neuroblastoma cells

Yuan Yuan Chen, Gang Chen, Zhiqin Fan, Jia Luo, Zun Ji Ke

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50 Scopus citations


Rotenone, an environmental toxin that inhibits mitochondrial complex I, has been used to induce experimental Parkinsonism in animals and cell cultures. We investigated the mechanism underlying rotenone-induced death of SK-N-MC neuroblastoma cells. Rotenone-induced cell death preceded intracellular accumulation of reactive oxygen species, and antioxidants failed to protect cells, indicating that oxidative stress was minimally involved in rotenone-induced death of SK-N-MC cells. Glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), a multifunctional serine/threonine kinase, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration. We showed that rotenone activated GSK3β by enhancing its phosphorylation at tyrosine 216 while inhibiting phosphorylation at serine 9. Inhibitors of GSK3β and dominant negative (kinase deficient) GSK3β partially protected SK-N-MC cells against rotenone cytotoxicity. Rotenone also induced endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress which was evident by an increase in phosphorylation of PERK, PKR, and eIF2α as well as the expression of GRP78. Rotenone had a modest effect on the expression of CHOP. An eIF2α siRNA significantly reduced rotenone cytotoxicity. ER stress was experimentally induced by tunicamycin and thapsigargin, but tunicamycin/thapsigargin did not activate GSK3β in SK-N-MC cells. Down-regulation of eIF2α also offered partial protection against rotenone cytotoxicity. Combined treatment of GSK3β inhibitors and eIF2α siRNA provided much greater protection than either treatment alone. Taken together, the results suggest that GSK3β activation and ER stress contribute separately to rotenone cytotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-138
Number of pages11
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Ms. Kimberly A. Bower for reading this manuscript. This research was supported by grants from the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2007CB947100), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30470544, 30471452, and 30570580), the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KSCX2-YW-R-115), and Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (Grant No. 07DJ14005). Dr Z.-J. Ke was also supported by the One Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Dr J. Luo was also supported by a grant from NIH/NIAAA (AA015407).


  • ER stress
  • GSK3β
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Oxidative stress
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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