Although p53 is a key modulator of cellular stress responses, the mechanism of p53-mediated apoptosis is ambiguous. p53 can mediate apoptosis in response to death stimuli by transcriptional activation of proapoptotic genes and transcriptional-independent mechanisms. Recent studies have shown that the p53 protein can directly induce permeabilization of the outer mitochondrial membrane by forming a inhibitory complex with a protective Bcl-2 family protein, resulting in cytochrome c release. However, how the mitochondrial p53 pathway mediates neuronal apoptosis after cerebral ischemia remains unclear. We examined the interaction between the mitochondrial p53 pathway and vulnerable hippocampal CA1 neurons in rats using a transient global cerebral ischemia (tGCI) model. Western blot analysis and immunofluorescent staining revealed mitochondrial p53 translocation after tGCI in the hippocampal CA1 neurons. Coimmunoprecipitation revealed that translocated p53 bound to Bcl-XL in the mitochondrial fraction. To examine the effect of a specific p53 inhibitor on the mitochondrial p53 pathway and apoptotic cell death after tGCI, we intravenously administered pifithrin-α (PFT). Mitochondrial p53 translocation and interaction between p53 and Bcl-XL were prevented by treatment with PFT. Moreover, cytochrome c release from mitochondria and subsequent apoptotic CA1 neuronal death were decreased with PFT treatment. These results suggest that the mitochondrial p53 pathway is one of the novel mechanisms mediating delayed death of vulnerable hippocampal CA1 neurons after tGCI.
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