The selective disruption of presynaptic JNK2/STX1a interaction reduces NMDA receptor-dependent glutamate release
The neuronal loss caused by excessive glutamate release, or ‘excitotoxicity’, leads to several pathological conditions, including cerebral ischemia, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases. Over-stimulation of presynaptic N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors is known to trigger and support glutamate spillover, while postsynaptic NMDA receptors are responsible for the subsequent apoptotic cascade. Almost all molecules developed so far are unable to selectively block presynaptic or postsynaptic NMDA receptors, therefore a deeper knowledge about intracellular NMDA pathways is required to design more specific inhibitors. Our previous work showed that presynaptic c-Jun N-terminal kinase 2 (JNK2) specifically regulates NMDA-evoked glutamate release and here we demonstrate that an interaction between Syntaxin-1a and JNK2 is fundamental to this mechanism. Based on this evidence, a new cell permeable peptide (CPP), “JGRi1”, has been developed to disrupt the JNK2/STX1a interaction to indirectly, but specifically, inhibit presynaptic NMDA receptor signaling. JGRi1 reduces the NMDA-evoked release of glutamate both in in-vitro and ex-vivo experiments while also being able to widely diffuse throughout brain tissue via intraperitoneal administration. In conclusion, the JNK2/STX1 interaction is involved in presynaptic NMDA-evoked glutamate release and the novel CPP, JGRi1, acts as a pharmacological tool that promotes neuroprotection.