CNS neuroscience & therapeutics 2018 04 15() doi 10.1111/cns.12856
Autophagy has been regarded as a promising therapeutic target for spinal cord injury (SCI). Erythropoietin (EPO) has been demonstrated to exhibit neuroprotective effects in the central nervous system (CNS); however, the molecular mechanisms of its protection against SCI remain unknown. This study aims to investigate whether the neuroprotective effects of EPO on SCI are mediated by autophagy via AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) signaling pathways.
Functional assessment and Nissl staining were used to investigate the effects of EPO on SCI. Expressions of proteins were detected by Western blot and immunohistochemistry.
Treatment with EPO significantly reduced the loss of motor neurons and improved the functional recovery following SCI. Erythropoietin significantly enhanced the SCI-induced autophagy through activating AMPK and inactivating mTOR signaling. The inhibitor of AMPK, compound C, could block the EPO-induced autophagy and beneficial action on SCI, whereas the activator of AMPK, metformin, could mimic the effects of EPO. In the in vitro studies, EPO enhanced the hypoxia-induced autophagy in an AMPK-dependent manner.
The AMPK-dependent induction of autophagy contributes to the neuroprotection of EPO on SCI.