Recent discoveries established that activation of glucagon-like peptide-1 receptors (GLP-1Rs) mediates neuroprotection and antinociception through microglial β-endorphin expression. This study aimed to explore the underlying signaling mechanisms of microglial β-endorphin. GLP-1Rs and β-endorphin were coexpressed in primary cultures of microglia. Treatment with the GLP-1R agonist exenatide concentration-dependently stimulated microglial expression of the β-endorphin precursor gene proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and peptides, with EC50 values of 4.1 and 7.5 nM, respectively. Exenatide also significantly increased intracellular cAMP levels and expression of p-protein kinase A (PKA), p-p38, and p-cAMP response element binding protein (CREB) in cultured primary microglia. Furthermore, exenatide-induced microglial expression of POMC was completely blocked by reagents that specifically inhibit adenylyl cyclase and activation of PKA, p38, and CREB. In addition, knockdown of p38β (but not p38α) using short interfering RNA (siRNA) eliminated exenatide-induced microglial p38 phosphorylation and POMC expression. In contrast, lipopolysaccharide increased microglial activation of p38, and knockdown of p38α (but not p38β) partially suppressed expression of proinflammatory factors (including tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1β, and interleukin-6). Exenatide-induced phosphorylation of p38 and CREB was also totally blocked by the PKA inhibitor and siRNA/p38β, but not by siRNA/p38α. Seven-day intrathecal injections of siRNA/p38β (but not siRNA/p38α) completely blocked exenatide-induced spinal p38 activation, β-endorphin expression, and mechanical antiallodynia in rats with established neuropathy, although siRNA/p38β and siRNA/p38α were not antiallodynic. To our knowledge, our results are the first to show a causal relationship between the PKA-dependent p38β mitogen-activated protein kinase/CREB signal cascade and GLP-1R agonism–mediated microglial β-endorphin expression. The differential role of p38α and p38β activation in inflammation and nociception was also highlighted.
- Received October 4, 2016.
- Accepted February 7, 2017.
This research was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [Grant 81374000] and the Shanghai Industrial Translational Project [Grant 15401901300].
- Copyright © 2017 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics