Melatonin attenuates kainic acid-induced neurotoxicity in mouse hippocampus via inhibition of autophagy and α-synuclein aggregation

Chia Fu Chang, Hui Ju Huang, Hsin Chen Lee, Kai Chih Hung, Rong Tsun Wu, Anya Maan Yuh Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


In this study, the protective effect of melatonin on kainic acid (KA)-induced neurotoxicity involving autophagy and α-synuclein aggregation was investigated in the hippocampus of C57/BL6 mice. Our data showed that intraperitoneal injection of KA (20 mg/kg) increased LC3-II levels (a hallmark protein of autophagy) and reduced mitochondrial DNA content and cytochrome c oxidase levels (a protein marker of mitochondria). Atg7 siRNA transfection prevented KA-induced LC3-II elevations and mitochondria loss. Furthermore, Atg7 siRNA attenuated KA-induced activation of caspases 3/12 (biomarkers of apoptosis) and hippocampal neuronal loss, suggesting a pro-apoptotic role of autophagy in the KA-induced neurotoxicity. Nevertheless, KA-induced α-synuclein aggregation was not affected in the Atg7 siRNA-transfected hippocampus. The neuroprotective effect of melatonin (50 mg/kg) orally administered 1 hr prior to KA injection was studied. Melatonin was found to inhibit KA-induced autophagy-lysosomal activation by reducing KA-induced increases in LC3-II, lysosomal-associated membrane protein 2 (a biomarker of lysosomes) and cathepsin B (a lysosomal cysteine protease). Subsequently, KA-induced mitochondria loss was prevented in the melatonin-treated mice. At the same time, melatonin reduced KA-increased HO-1 levels and α-synuclein aggregation. Our immunoprecipitation study showed that melatonin enhanced ubiquitination of α-synuclein monomers and aggregates. The anti-apoptotic effect of melatonin was demonstrated by attenuating KA-induced DNA fragmentation, activation of caspases 3/12, and neuronal loss. Taken together, our study suggests that KA-induced neurotoxicity may be mediated by autophagy and α-synuclein aggregation. Moreover, melatonin may exert its neuroprotection via inhibiting KA-induced autophagy and a subsequent mitochondrial loss as well as reducing α-synuclein aggregation by enhancing α-synuclein ubiquitination in the CNS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-321
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pineal Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • α-synuclein aggregation
  • autophagy
  • kainic acid
  • melatonin
  • mitochondria mass
  • ubiquitination


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