Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra and the deposition of Lewy bodies. Mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and autophagy dysfunction are involved in the pathogenesis of PD. Ghrelin is a brain-gut peptide that has been reported that protected against 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6- tetrahydropyran (MPTP)/MPP-induced toxic effects. In the present work, human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells were exposed to rotenone as a PD model to explore the underlying mechanism of ghrelin. We found that ghrelin inhibited rotenone-induced cytotoxicity, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptosis by improving cell viability, increasing the ratio of red/green of JC-1, inhibiting the production of reactive oxidative species (ROS), and regulating Bcl-2, Bax, Cytochrome c, caspase-9, and caspase-3 expression. Besides, ghrelin promoted mitophagy accompanied by up-regulating microtubule-associated protein 1 Light Chain 3B-II/I(LC3B-II/I) and Beclin1 but decreasing the expression of p62. Moreover, ghrelin promoted PINK1/Parkin mitochondrial translocation. Additionally, we investigated that ghrelin activated the AMPK/SIRT1/PGC1α pathway and pharmacological inhibition of AMPK and SIRT1 abolished the cytoprotection of ghrelin, decreased the level of mitophagy, and PINK1/Parkin mitochondrial translocation. Taken together, our findings suggested that mitophagy and AMPK/SIRT1/PGC1α pathways were related to the cytoprotection of ghrelin. These findings provided novel insights into the underlying mechanisms of ghrelin, further mechanistic studies on preclinical and clinical levels are required to be conducted with ghrelin to avail and foresee it as a potential agent in the treatment and management of PD.
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