SU5416 was originally designed as a potent and selective inhibitor of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2) for cancer therapy. In this study, we have found for the first time that SU5416 unexpectedly prevented 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion (MPP+)-induced neuronal apoptosis in cerebellar granule neurons, and decreased 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-induced loss of dopaminergic neurons and impairment of swimming behavior in zebrafish in a concentration-dependent manner. However, VEGFR-2 kinase inhibitor II, another specific VEGFR-2 inhibitor, failed to reverse neurotoxicity at the concentration exhibiting anti-angiogenic activity, strongly suggesting that the neuroprotective effect of SU5416 is independent from its anti-angiogenic action. SU5416 potently reversed MPP+-increased intracellular nitric oxide level with an efficacy similar to 7-nitroindazole, a specific neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) inhibitor. Western blotting analysis showed that SU5416 reduced the elevation of nNOS protein expression induced by MPP+. Furthermore, SU5416 directly inhibited the enzyme activity of rat cerebellum nNOS with an IC50 value of 22.7 μM. In addition, knock-down of nNOS expression using short hairpin RNA (shRNA) abolished the neuroprotective effects of SU5416 against MPP+-induced neuronal loss. Our results strongly demonstrate that SU5416 might exert its unexpected neuroprotective effects by concurrently reducing nNOS protein expression and directly inhibiting nNOS enzyme activity. In view of the capability of SU5416 to cross the blood-brain barrier and the safety for human use, our findings further indicate that SU5416 might be a novel drug candidate for neurodegenerative disorders, particularly those associated with NO-mediated neurotoxicity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)