Recently, it has been reported that dysfunction of astrocytes is involved vulnerability of neuronal cells in several neurological disorders. Glutathione (GSH) is the most abundant intrinsic antioxidant in the central nervous system, and its substrate cysteine is readily becomes the oxidized dimeric cystine. Since neurons lack a cystine transport system, neuronal GSH synthesis depends on cystine uptake via the cystine/glutamate exchange transporter (xCT), GSH synthesis and release in/from surrounding astrocytes. The expression and release of the zinc-binding protein metallothionein (MT) in astrocytes, which is a strong antioxidant, is induced and exerts neuroprotective in the case of dopaminergic neuronal damage. In addition, the transcription factor Nrf2 induces expression of MT-1 and GSH related molecules. We previously revealed that several antiepileptic drugs, serotonin 5-HT1A receptor agonists, plant-derived chemicals (phytochemicals) increased xCT expression, Nrf2 activation, GSH or MT expression and release in/from astrocytes, and exerted a neuroprotective effect against dopaminergic neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease model. Our serial studies on neuroprotection via antioxidant defense mechanism of astrocytes have found three target molecular systems of astrocytes for neuroprotection: (1) xCT-GSH synthetic system, (2) Nrf2 system and (3) 5-HT1A receptor-Nrf2-MT system, 5-HT1A-S100β system. In this article, possible neuroprotective strategy for Parkinson’s disease has been reviewed targeting antioxidative molecules in astrocytes.
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