Wnt1 Neuroprotection Translates into Improved Neurological Function during Oxidant Stress and Cerebral Ischemia Through AKT1 and Mitochondrial Apoptotic Pathways
Although essential for the development of the nervous system, Wnt1 also has been associated with neurodegenerative disease and cognitive loss during periods of oxidative stress. Here we show that endogenous expression of Wnt1 is suppressed during oxidative stress in both in vitro and in vivo experimental models. Loss of endogenous Wnt1 signaling directly correlates with neuronal demise and increased functional deficit, illustrating that endogenous neuronal Wnt1 offers a vital level of intrinsic cellular protection against oxidative stress. Furthermore, transient overexpression of Wnt1 or application of exogenous Wnt1 recombinant protein is necessary to preserve neurological function and rescue neurons from apoptotic membrane phosphatidylserine externalization and genomic DNA degradation, since blockade of Wnt1 signaling with a Wnt1 antibody or dickkopf related protein 1 abrogates neuronal protection by Wnt1. Wnt1 ultimately relies upon the activation of Akt1, the modulation of mitochondrial membrane permeability, and the release of cytochrome c to control the apoptotic cascade, since inhibition of Wnt1 signaling, the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase pathway, or Akt1 activity abrogates the ability of Wnt1 to block these apoptotic components. Our work identifies Wnt1 and its downstream signaling as cellular targets with high clinical potential for novel treatment strategies for multiple disorders precipitated by oxidative stress.