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.
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