Inflammation is involved in some neurodegenerative disorders. NMDA glutamate receptors play an important role in neuronal development. Here, we show that NR1 expression in the cerebral cortex and primary neurons of rats was upregulated after lipopolysaccharide (LPS) treatment. This increase in NR1 expression was considered to be strongly associated with hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) activation because the treatment of primary neurons with either echinomycin or small interfering RNA (siRNA) targeting HIF-1α could block NR1 expression. HIF-1α could be induced by an increase in the translational efficiency of the cells. After this, it was transported into the nucleus where it bound to the NR1 promoter and regulated the induction of NR1 transcriptional activity by LPS. LPS injection into the prefrontal cortex caused neuronal death, and this condition was aggravated by intracerebroventricular injection of echinomycin. Furthermore, knockdown of HIF-1α and NR1 by the appropriate siRNAs reduced the neurite outgrowth and viability of the primary neurons. These results suggest that NR1 expression is regulated by HIF-1α and plays a protective role in neurons during LPS challenge.
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