Vascular endothelial growth factor increases the function of calcium-impermeable AMPA receptor GluA2 subunit in astrocytes via activation of protein kinase C signaling pathway.
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Astrocytic calcium signaling plays pivotal roles in the maintenance of neural functions and neurovascular coupling in the brain. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), an original biological substance of vessels, regulates the movement of calcium and potassium ions across neuronal membrane. In this study, we investigated whether and how VEGF regulates glutamate-induced calcium influx in astrocytes. We used cultured astrocytes combined with living cell imaging to detect the calcium influx induced by glutamate. We found that VEGF quickly inhibited the glutamate/hypoxia-induced calcium influx, which was blocked by an AMPA receptor antagonist CNQX, but not D-AP5 or UBP310, NMDA and kainate receptor antagonist, respectively. VEGF increased phosphorylation of PKC and AMPA receptor subunit GluA2 in astrocytes, and these effects were diminished by SU1498 or calphostin C, a PKC inhibitor. With the pHluorin assay, we observed that VEGF significantly increased membrane insertion and expression of GluA2, but not GluA1, in astrocytes. Moreover, siRNA-produced knockdown of GluA2 expression in astrocytes reversed the inhibitory effect of VEGF on glutamate-induced calcium influx. Together, our results suggest that VEGF reduces glutamate-induced calcium influx in astrocytes via enhancing PKC-mediated GluA2 phosphorylation, which in turn promotes the membrane insertion and expression of GluA2 and causes AMPA receptors to switch from calcium-permeable to calcium-impermeable receptors, thereby inhibiting astrocytic calcium influx. The present study reveals that excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate-mediated astrocytic calcium influx can be regulated by vascular biological factor via activation of AMPA receptor GluA2 subunit and uncovers a novel coupling mechanism between astrocytes and endothelial cells within the neurovascular unit.