Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) plays a crucial role in pathological processes of brain inflammation, injury, and neurodegeneration. Thrombin has been known as a regulator of MMP-9 expression and cells migration. However, the mechanisms underlying thrombin-induced MMP-9 expression in rat brain astrocytes (RBA-1 cells) remain unclear. Here, we demonstrated that thrombin induced the expression of pro-form MMP-9 and migration of RBA-1 cells, which were inhibited by pretreatment with the inhibitor of Gq-coupled receptor (GPAnt2A), Gi/o-coupled receptor (GPAnt2), PC-PLC (D609), PI-PLC (U73122), Ca 2+-ATPase (thapsigargin, TG), calmodulin (CaMI), CaMKII (KN62), PKC (Gö6976 or GF109203X), MEK1/2 (PD98059), p38 MAPK (SB202190), JNK1/2 (SP600125), or AP-1 (Tanshinone IIA) or the intracellular calcium chelator (BAPTA/AM) and transfection with siRNA of PKCα, Erk2, JNK1, p38 MAPK, c-Jun, or c-Fos. In addition, thrombin-induced elevation of intracellular Ca2+ concentration was attenuated by PPACK (a thrombin inhibitor). Thrombin further induced CaMKII phosphorylation and PKCα translocation, which were inhibited by U73122, D609, KN62, TG, or BAPTA/AM. Thrombin also induced PKCα-dependent p42/p44 MAPK and JNK1/2, but not p38 MAPK activation. Finally, we showed that thrombin enhanced c-Fos expression and c-Jun phosphorylation. c-Fos mRNA levels induced by thrombin were reduced by PD98059, SP600125, and Gö6976, but not SB202190. Thrombin stimulated in vivo binding of c-Fos to the MMP-9 promoter, which was reduced by pretreatment with SP600125 or PD98059, but not SB202190. These results concluded that thrombin activated a PLC/Ca2+/CaMKII/PKCα/p42/p44 MAPK and JNK1/2 pathway, which in turn triggered AP-1 activation and ultimately induced MMP-9 expression in RBA-1 cells.
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