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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Heme deficiency suppresses the expression of key neuronal genes and causes neuronal cell death.

Defective heme synthesis may cause acute porphyrias, which are associated with a wide array of neurological disturbances involving both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Thus, the understanding of the roles of heme in neuronal cell function may provide insights into the molecular events underlying the pathogenesis of neuropathies associated with defective heme synthesis. In this report, we use rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) clonal cells as a model system for studying the role of heme in neuronal cell survival. We examined the effects of inhibition of heme synthesis on signaling pathways and gene expression in nerve growth factor (NGF)-induced PC12 cells. We found that succinyl acetone-induced heme deficiency selectively caused apoptosis in NGF-induced PC12 cells. Further, we found that in succinyl acetone-treated, NGF-induced cells, the pro-survival Ras-ERK1/2 signaling pathway was inactivated and the pro-apoptotic JNK signaling pathway was activated. In these cells, the activation of caspase and the cleavage of nuclear poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) were also evident. Importantly, microarray gene expression analysis showed that more than 20 key neuronal genes that were induced by NGF were suppressed by succinyl acetone. These genes include those encoding survival motor neuron protein, synaptic vesicle protein SVOP, and neural cell adhesion molecule NCAM. These results indicate that heme is important for neuronal cell signaling and the proper functioning of neuronal cells.[1]


  1. Heme deficiency suppresses the expression of key neuronal genes and causes neuronal cell death. Sengupta, A., Hon, T., Zhang, L. Brain Res. Mol. Brain Res. (2005) [Pubmed]
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