Proteolysis of neuronal cytoskeletal proteins by calpain contributes to rat retinal cell death induced by hypoxia

Yoshiyuki Tamada, Emi Nakajima, Takeshi Nakajima, Thomas R. Shearer, Mitsuyoshi Azuma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Our previous studies in retina on the mechanism for hypoxia-induced cell death suggested activation of a class of calcium-activated proteases known as calpains. This conclusion was based on data showing proteolysis of a calpain substrate α-spectrin, autolysis of activated calpain, and reduction of cell damage by calpain inhibitor SJA6017. Less is known about changes in downstream pathways after calpain activation. Thus, the purpose of the present investigation was to measure proteolysis of neuronal cytoskeletal proteins and apoptotic cell signaling factors during hypoxia-induced retinal cell death. Rat retinas were incubated in RPMI medium with glucose and 95% O2/5% CO2 to supply sufficient oxygen for retinal cell survival. Hypoxia was induced with 95% N2/5% CO2 without glucose. Immunoblotting was used to detect activation of calpain and proteolysis of substrates. Amounts of mRNA for calpain 1 and 2 were determined by quantitative PCR. Twelve times more calpain 2 mRNA than calpain 1 was present in retinas. Activation of calpain 2 and production of a calpain-specific α-spectrin breakdown product at 150 kDa were confirmed in hypoxic retinas. Further, pro-caspase-3 at 32 kDa was proteolyzed to a fragment at 30 kDa, tau protein was lost, and p35 was proteolyzed to p25 suggesting prolonged activation of cdk5. SJA6017 partially inhibited the production of these fragments. During hypoxia in rat retinas, calpains may be major proteases causing breakdown of neuronal proteins involved in apoptotic cell death. Calpain inhibitor SJA6017 may have potential for testing as a therapeutic agent against retinal pathologies such those caused by glaucoma, although future studies such as testing in in vivo animal models are required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-155
Number of pages8
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 19 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Calpain
  • SJA6017
  • Tau
  • cdk5
  • p35
  • α-Spectrin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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