ERK5/KLF4 signaling as a common mediator of the neuroprotective effects of both nerve growth factor and hydrogen peroxide preconditioning

Chang Su, Fen Sun, Rebecca L. Cunningham, Nataliya Rybalchenko, Meharvan Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Oxidative stress has long been implicated in the pathogenesis of various neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke. While high levels of oxidative stress are generally associated with cell death, a slight rise of reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels can be protective by "preconditioning" cells to develop a resistance against subsequent challenges. However, the mechanisms underlying such preconditioning (PC)-induced protection are still poorly understood. Previous studies have supported a role of ERK5 (mitogen-activated protein [MAP] kinase 5) in neuroprotection and ischemic tolerance in the hippocampus. In agreement with these findings, our data suggest that ERK5 mediates both hydrogen peroxide (H2O 2)- induced PC as well as nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced neuroprotection. Activation of ERK5 partially rescued pheochromocytoma PC12 cells as well as primary hippocampal neurons from H2O 2-caused death, while inhibition of ERK5 abolished NGF or PC-induced protection. These results implicate ERK5 signaling as a common downstream pathway for NGF and PC. Furthermore, both NGF and PC increased the expression of the transcription factor, KLF4, which can initiate an anti-apoptotic response in various cell types. Induction of KLF4 by NGF or PC was blocked by siERK5, suggesting that ERK5 is required in this process. siKLF4 can also attenuate NGF- or PC-induced neuroprotection. Overexpression of active MEK5 or KLF4 in H 2O2-stressed cells increased Bcl-2/Bax ratio and the expression of NAIP (neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein). Taken together, our data suggest that ERK5/KLF4 cascade is a common signaling pathway shared by at least two important mechanisms by which neurons can be protected from cell death.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9685
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • ERK5
  • KLF4
  • NGF
  • Neuroprotection
  • Oxidative stress
  • Preconditioning


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