The neuroprotective role of carbon monoxide (CO) has been studied in a cell-autonomous mode. Herein, a new concept is disclosed - CO affects astrocyte-neuron communication in a paracrine manner to promote neuroprotection. Neuronal survival was assessed when co-cultured with astrocytes that had been pre-treated or not with CO. The CO-pre-treated astrocytes reduced neuronal cell death, and the cellular mechanisms were investigated, focusing on purinergic signaling. CO modulates astrocytic metabolism and extracellular ATP content in the co-culture medium. Moreover, several antagonists of P1 adenosine and P2 ATP receptors partially reverted CO-induced neuroprotection through astrocytes. Likewise, knocking down expression of the neuronal P1 adenosine receptor A2A-R (encoded by Adora2a) reverted the neuroprotective effects of CO-exposed astrocytes. The neuroprotection of CO-treated astrocytes also decreased following prevention of ATP or adenosine release from astrocytic cells and inhibition of extracellular ATP metabolism into adenosine. Finally, the neuronal downstream event involves TrkB (also known as NTRK2) receptors and BDNF. Pharmacological and genetic inhibition of TrkB receptors reverts neuroprotection triggered by CO-treated astrocytes. Furthermore, the neuronal ratio of BDNF to pro-BDNF increased in the presence of CO-treated astrocytes and decreased whenever A2A-R expression was silenced. In summary, CO prevents neuronal cell death in a paracrine manner by targeting astrocytic metabolism through purinergic signaling.
- Carbon monoxide