Pioglitazone inhibition of lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide synthase is associated with altered activity of p38 MAP kinase and PI3K/ Akt

Bin Xing, Tao Xin, Randy Lee Hunter, Guoying Bing

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115 Scopus citations


Background: Previous studies have suggested that peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma (PPAR-γ)-mediated neuroprotection involves inhibition of microglial activation and decreased expression and activity of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS); however, the underlying molecular mechanisms have not yet been well established. In the present study we explored: (1) the effect of the PPAR-γ agonist pioglitazone on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced iNOS activity and nitric oxide (NO) generation by microglia; (2) the differential role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38 MAPK), c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK), and phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) on LPS-induced NO generation; and (3) the regulation of p38 MAPK, JNK, and PI3K by pioglitazone. Methods: Mesencephalic neuron-microglia mixed cultures, and microglia-enriched cultures were treated with pioglitazone and/or LPS. The protein levels of iNOS, p38 MAPK, JNK, PPAR-γ, PI3K, and protein kinase B (Akt) were measured by western blot. Different specific inhibitors of iNOS, p38MAPK, JNK, PI3K, and Akt were used in our experiment, and NO generation was measured using a nitrite oxide assay kit. Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive neurons were counted in mesencephalic neuron-microglia mixed cultures. Results: Our results showed that pioglitazone inhibits LPS-induced iNOS expression and NO generation, and inhibition of iNOS is sufficient to protect dopaminergic neurons against LPS insult. In addition, inhibition of p38 MAPK, but not JNK, prevented LPS-induced NO generation. Further, and of interest, pioglitazone inhibited LPS-induced phosphorylation of p38 MAPK. Wortmannin, a specific PI3K inhibitor, enhanced p38 MAPK phosphorylation upon LPS stimulation of microglia. Elevations of phosphorylated PPAR-γ, PI3K, and Akt levels were observed with pioglitazone treatment, and inhibition of PI3K activity enhanced LPS-induced NO production. Furthermore, wortmannin prevented the inhibitory effect of pioglitazone on the LPS-induced NO increase. Conclusion: We demonstrate that pioglitazone protects dopaminergic neurons against LPS insult at least via inhibiting iNOS expression and NO generation, which is potentially mediated via inhibition of p38 MAPK activity. In addition, the PI3K pathway actively participates in the negative regulation of LPS-induced NO production. Our findings suggest that PPAR-γ activation may involve differential regulation of p38 MAPK and of the PI3K/Akt pathway in the regulation of the inflammatory process.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
StatePublished - Jan 18 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Dr. Mei Liu's for her help with the western blot and histological techniques. The present work was supported by NIH grant NS044157 (GB).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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