Curcumin Modulates the NMDA Receptor Subunit Composition Through a Mechanism Involving CaMKII and Ser/Thr Protein Phosphatases

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Curcumin is one of the major compounds contained in turmeric, the powdered rhizome of Curcuma longa. Results obtained in various experimental models indicate that curcumin has the potential to treat a large variety of neuronal diseases. Excitotoxicity, the toxicity due to pathological glutamate receptors stimulation, has been considered to be involved in several ocular pathologies including ischemia, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. The NMDA receptor (NMDAR), a heteromeric ligand-gated ion channel, is composed of GluN1 and GluN2 subunits. There are four GluN2 subunits (GluN2A-D), which are major determinants of the functional properties of NMDARs. It is widely accepted that GluN2B has a pivotal role in excitotoxicity while the role of GluN2A remains controversial. We previously demonstrated that curcumin is neuroprotective against NMDA-induced excitotoxicity with a mechanism involving an increase of GluN2A subunit activity. In this paper, we investigate the mechanisms involved in curcumin-induced GluN2A increase in retinal cultures. Our results show that curcumin treatment activated CaMKII with a time-course that paralleled those of GluN2A increase. Moreover, KN-93, a CaMKII inhibitor, was able to block the effect of curcumin on GluN2A expression. Finally, in our experimental model, curcumin reduced ser/thr phosphatases activity. Using okadaic acid, a specific PP1 and PP2A blocker, we observed an increase in GluN2A levels in cultures. The ability of okadaic acid to mimic the effect of curcumin on GluN2A expression suggests that curcumin might regulate GluN2A expression through a phosphatase-dependent mechanism. In conclusion, our findings indicate curcumin modulation of CaMKII and/or ser/thr phosphatases activities as a mechanism involved in GluN2A expression and neuroprotection against excitotoxicity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1320
Number of pages6
JournalCellular and Molecular Neurobiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2018


  • CaMKII
  • Curcumin
  • Excitotoxicity
  • NMDA receptor
  • Retina
  • Ser/thr phosphatases


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