Geranylgeranyl acetone (GGA) protects against various types of cell damages by upregulating heat shock proteins. We investigated whether GGA protect neuronal cells from cell death induced by oxidative stress. Glutamate exposure was lethal to HT-22 cells which comprise a neuronal line derived from mouse hippocampus. This configuration is often used as a model for hippocampus neurodegeneration in vitro. In the present study, GGA protected HT-22 cells from glutamate-induced oxidative stress. GGA pretreatment did not induce Hsps. Moreover, reactive oxygen species increased to the same extent in both GGA-pretreated and untreated cells exposed to glutamate. In contrast, glutamate exposure and GGA pretreatment increased mitochondrial membrane potential. However, increases in intracellular Ca2+ concentration were inhibited by GGA pretreatment. In addition, the increase of phosphorylated ERKs by the glutamate exposure was inhibited by GGA pretreatment. These findings suggest that GGA protects HT-22 cells from glutamate-provoked cell death without Hsp induction and that the mitochondrial calcium buffering capacity plays an important role in this protective effect.
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