Clozapine protects dopaminergic neurons from inflammation-induced damage by inhibiting microglial overactivation

Xiaoming Hu, Hui Zhou, Dan Zhang, Sufen Yang, Li Qian, Hung Ming Wu, Po See Chen, Belinda Wilson, Hui Ming Gao, Ru Band Lu, Jau Shyong Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing evidence suggests a possible involvement of neuroinflammation in some psychiatric disorders, and also pharmacological reports indicate that antiinflammatory effects are associated with therapeutic actions of psychoactive drugs, such as anti-depressants and antipsychotics. The purpose of this study was to explore whether clozapine, a widely used antipsychotic drugs, displays anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Using primary cortical and mesencephalic neuron-glia cultures, we found that clozapine was protective against inflammation-related neurodegeneration induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Pretreatment of cortical or mesencephalic neuron-glia cultures with clozapine (0.1 or 1 μM) for 24 h attenuated LPS-induced neurotoxicity. Clozapine also protected neurons against 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium + (MPP +)-induced neurotoxicity, but only in cultures containing microglia, indicating an indispensable role of microglia in clozapine-afforded neuroprotection. Further observation revealed attenuated LPS-induced microglial activation in primary neuron-glia cultures and in HAPI microglial cell line with clozapine pretreatment. Clozapine ameliorated the production of microglia-derived superoxide and intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS), as well as the production of nitric oxide and TNF-α following LPS. In addition, the protective effect of clozapine was not observed in neuronglia cultures from mice lacking functional NADPH oxidase (PHOX), a key enzyme for superoxide production in immune cells. Further mechanistic studies demonstrated that clozapine pretreatment inhibited LPS-induced translocation of cytosolic subunit p47 phox to the membrane in microglia, which was most likely through inhibiting the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway. Taken together, this study demonstrates that clozapine exerts neuroprotective effect via the attenuation of microglia activation through inhibition of PHOX-generated ROS production and suggests potential use of antipsychotic drugs for neuroprotection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-201
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Mar

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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