Mild hypothermia has promising effects in the treatment of acute brain insults and also affects cell cycle progression. Mitochondrial dynamics, fusion and fission, are changed along with the cell cycle and disrupted in neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, the effects of hypothermia on aberrant mitochondrial dynamics in PD remain unknown. We hypothesized that mild hypothermia protects neurons by regulating cell cycle-dependent protein expression and mitochondrial dynamics in a 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+)-induced cell model of PD. We found that the hypothermia treatment at 32 °C prevented MPP+-induced neuron death; however, 32 °C treatment itself also reduced cell viability. This reduction was associated with cell cycle arrest and downregulation of cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) in proliferating human SK-N-SH neuroblastoma cells but upregulation in well-differentiated primary rat cortical neurons. In both types of neurons, hypothermia upregulated p27 (an endogenous inhibitor of CDKs) and p35 (CDK5 activator) protein expression. Treatment with hypothermia, or a selective CDK4 inhibitor, or roscovitine (CDK5 inhibitor) prevented MPP+-induced mitochondrial fission, upregulation of mitochondrial fission protein dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1), and neuron death. In addition, overexpression of dominant negative mutant Drp1K38A improved MPP+-induced mitochondrial fission while overexpression of wild-type Drp1 blunted the prevention of mitochondrial fission by hypothermia as well as CDK4 inhibitor and roscovitine. These results elucidate that hypothermia may inhibit CDK4 and CDK5 activation by upregulating p27 and p35 expression to prevent Drp1-dependent mitochondrial fission and neuron loss after MPP+ treatment. CDK4 and CDK5 inhibition imitates the neuroprotective functions of hypothermia as a potential therapy for PD.
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