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Reactive oxygen species and p38 phosphorylation regulate the protective effect of Δ9 –tetrahydrocannabinol in the apoptotic response to NMDA

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NMDA causes oxidative stress in neurons, and produces cell death involving elements of both necrosis and apoptosis. To examine the neuroprotective mechanism of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in NMDA-induced death of AF5 cells, we measured reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation after exposure to NMDA. ROS generation was increased by NMDA, and NMDA-induced ROS generation was significantly decreased by THC. Western blotting revealed an increase in phosphorylated p38 MAPK after NMDA treatment, which was also blocked by pretreatment with THC. The time course of ROS generation and activation of MAPK signaling pathways were similar. SB203580, a p38 inhibitor, partially blocked glutamate excitotoxicity in AF5 cells. The present data suggest that THC protects against NMDA-induced apoptosis in AF5 cells by blocking ROS generation and inhibiting the activation of p38-MAPK.

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