Background: Factors that regulate intracellular calcium concentration are known to play a critical role in brain function and neural development, including neural plasticity and neurogenesis. We previously demonstrated that the neurosteroid allopregnanolone (APα; 5α-pregnan-3α-ol-20-one) promotes neural progenitor proliferation in vitro in cultures of rodent hippocampal and human cortical neural progenitors, and in vivo in triple transgenic Alzheimer's disease mice dentate gyrus. We also found that APα-induced proliferation of neural progenitors is abolished by a calcium channel blocker, nifedipine, indicating a calcium dependent mechanism for the proliferation. Methods: In the present study, we investigated the effect of APα on the regulation of intracellular calcium concentration in E18 rat hippocampal neurons using ratiometric Fura2-AM imaging. Results: Results indicate that APα rapidly increased intracellular calcium concentration in a dose-dependent and developmentally regulated manner, with an EC50 of 110 ± 15 nM and a maximal response occurring at three days in vitro. The stereoisomers 3β-hydroxy-5α-hydroxy-pregnan-20-one, and 3β-hydroxy-5β-hydroxy-pregnan-20-one, as well as progesterone, were without significant effect. APα-induced intracellular calcium concentration increase was not observed in calcium depleted medium and was blocked in the presence of the broad spectrum calcium channel blocker La3+, or the L-type calcium channel blocker nifedipine. Furthermore, the GABAA receptor blockers bicuculline and picrotoxin abolished APα-induced intracellular calcium concentration rise. Conclusion: Collectively, these data indicate that APα promotes a rapid, dose-dependent, stereo-specific, and developmentally regulated increase of intracellular calcium concentration in rat embryonic hippocampal neurons via a mechanism that requires both the GABAA receptor and L-type calcium channel. These data suggest that APα-induced intracellular calcium concentration increase serves as the initiation mechanism whereby APα promotes neurogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience