Cell death & disease

Loss of GCN5 leads to increased neuronal apoptosis by upregulating E2F1- and Egr-1-dependent BH3-only protein Bim.

PMID 28125090


Cellular acetylation homeostasis is a kinetic balance precisely controlled by histone acetyl-transferase (HAT) and histone deacetylase (HDAC) activities. The loss of the counterbalancing function of basal HAT activity alters the precious HAT:HDAC balance towards enhanced histone deacetylation, resulting in a loss of acetylation homeostasis, which is closely associated with neuronal apoptosis. However, the critical HAT member whose activity loss contributes to neuronal apoptosis remains to be identified. In this study, we found that inactivation of GCN5 by either pharmacological inhibitors, such as CPTH2 and MB-3, or by inactivation with siRNAs leads to a typical apoptosis in cultured cerebellar granule neurons. Mechanistically, the BH3-only protein Bim is transcriptionally upregulated by activated Egr-1 and E2F1 and mediates apoptosis following GCN5 inhibition. Furthermore, in the activity withdrawal- or glutamate-evoked neuronal apoptosis models, GCN5 loses its activity, in contrast to Bim induction. Adenovirus-mediated overexpression of GCN5 suppresses Bim induction and apoptosis. Interestingly, the loss of GCN5 activity and the induction of Egr-1, E2F1 and Bim are involved in the early brain injury (EBI) following subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) in rats. HDAC inhibition not only significantly rescues Bim expression and apoptosis induced by either potassium deprivation or GCN5 inactivation but also ameliorates these events and EBI in SAH rats. Taken together, our results highlight a new mechanism by which the loss of GCN5 activity promotes neuronal apoptosis through the transcriptional upregulation of Bim, which is probably a critical event in triggering neuronal death when cellular acetylation homeostasis is impaired.