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Apelin-13 Protects Dopaminergic Neurons Against Rotenone—Induced Neurotoxicity Through The AMPK/mTOR/ULK-1 Mediated Autophagy Activation

Peng Chen, Youcui Wang, Leilei Chen, Ning Song, Junxia Xie

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Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by the progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. Several brain–gut peptides are able to exert neuroprotective effects on the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system. Apelin-13 is a neuropeptide, conveying potential neuroprotective activities. However, whether, and how, apelin-13 could antagonize rotenone-induced neurotoxicity has not yet been elucidated. In the present study, rotenone-treated SH-SY5Y cells and rats were used to clarify whether apelin-13 has protective effects on dopaminergic neurons, both in vivo and in vitro. The results showed that apelin-13 could protect SH-SY5Y cells from rotenone-induced injury and apoptosis. Apelin-13 was able to activate autophagy, and restore rotenone induced autophagy impairment in SH-SY5Y cells, which could be blocked by the autophagy inhibitor 3-Methyladenine. Apelin-13 activated AMPK/mTOR/ULK-1 signaling, AMPKα inhibitor compound C, as well as apelin receptor blockage via siRNA, which could block apelin-13-induced signaling activation, autophagy activation, and protective effects, in rotenone-treated SH-SY5Y cells. These results indicated that apelin-13 exerted neuroprotective properties against rotenone by stimulating AMPK/mTOR/ULK-1 signaling-mediated autophagy via the apelin receptor. We also observed that intracerebroventricular injection of apelin-13 could alleviate nigrostriatal dopaminergic neuron degeneration in rotenone-treated rats. Our findings provide new insights into the mechanism by which apelin-13 might attenuate neurotoxicity in PD.