Estrogen deficiency reduces estrogen receptor-alpha (ERα) and promotes apoptosis in the hippocampus, inducing learning-memory deficits; however, underlying mechanisms remain less understood. Here, we explored the molecular mechanism in an ovariectomized (OVX) rat model, hypothesizing participation of autophagy and growth factor signaling that relate with apoptosis. We observed enhanced hippocampal autophagy in OVX rats, characterized by increased levels of autophagy proteins, presence of autophagosomes and inhibition of AKT-mTOR signaling. Investigating upstream effectors of reduced AKT-mTOR signaling revealed a decrease in hippocampal heparin-binding epidermal growth factor (HB-EGF) and p-EGFR. Moreover, 17β-estradiol and HB-EGF treatments restored hippocampal EGFR activation and alleviated downstream autophagy process and neuronal loss in OVX rats. In vitro studies using estrogen receptor (ERα)-silenced primary hippocampal neurons further corroborated the in vivo observations. Additionally, in vivo and in vitro studies suggested the participation of an attenuated hippocampal neuronal HB-EGF and enhanced autophagy in apoptosis of hippocampal neurons in estrogen- and ERα-deficient conditions. Subsequently, we found evidence of mitochondrial loss and mitophagy in hippocampal neurons of OVX rats and ERα-silenced cells. The ERα-silenced cells also showed a reduction in ATP production and an HB-EGF-mediated restoration. Finally in concordance with molecular studies, inhibition of autophagy and treatment with HB-EGF in OVX rats restored cognitive performances, assessed through Y-Maze and passive avoidance tasks. Overall, our study, for the first time, links neuronal HB-EGF/EGFR signaling and autophagy with ERα and memory performance, disrupted in estrogen-deficient condition.
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Rukmani Pandey, Pallavi Shukla, Baby Anjum, Himanshu Pawankumar Gupta, Subhashis Pal, Nidhi Arjaria, Keerti Gupta, Naibedya Chattopadhyay, Rohit A Sinha, and Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay
Jitendra Vishwakarma, Keerti Gupta, Juhi Mishra, Asmita Garg, Rafat Malik, Amit Kashyap, Manoj Shukla, Dhirendra Singh, and Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay
Thyroid hormones (TH) are vital for brain functions, while TH deficiency, i.e. hypothyroidism, induces neurological impairment in children and adults. Cerebellar neuronal apoptosis and motor deficits are crucial events in hypothyroidism; however, the underlying mechanism is less-known. Using a methimazole-treated hypothyroidism rat model, we investigated cerebellar autophagy, growth factor, and apoptotic mechanisms that participate in motor functions. We first identified that methimazole up-regulated cerebellar autophagy, marked by enhanced LC3B-II, Beclin-1, ATG7, ATG5-12, p-AMPKα/AMPKα, and p62 degradation as well as reduced p-AKT/AKT, p-mTOR/mTOR, and p-ULK1/ULK1 in developing and young adult rats. We probed upstream effectors of this abnormal autophagy and detected a methimazole-induced reduction in cerebellar phospho-epidermal growth factor receptor (p-EGFR)/EGFR and heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF). Here, while a thyroxine-induced TH replenishment alleviated autophagy process and restored HB-EGF/EGFR, HB-EGF treatment regulated AKT-mTOR and autophagy signaling in the cerebellum. Moreover, neurons of the rat cerebellum demonstrated this reduced HB-EGF-dependent increased autophagy in hypothyroidism. We further checked whether the above events were related to cerebellar neuronal apoptosis and motor functions. We detected that comparable to thyroxine, treatment with HB-EGF or autophagy inhibitor, 3-MA, reduced methimazole-induced decrease in Nissl staining and increase in c-Caspase-3 and TUNEL-+ve apoptotic count of cerebellar neurons. Additionally, 3-MA, HB-EGF, and thyroxine attenuated the methimazole-induced diminution in riding time on rota-rod and grip strength for the motor performance of rats. Overall, our study enlightens HB-EGF/EGFR-dependent autophagy mechanism as a key to cerebellar neuronal loss and functional impairments in developmental hypothyroidism, which may be inhibited by HB-EGF and 3-MA treatments, like thyroxine.