Rapamycin Confers Neuroprotection against Colistin-Induced Oxidative Stress, Mitochondria Dysfunction, and Apoptosis through the Activation of Autophagy and mTOR/Akt/CREB Signaling Pathways

Chongshan Dai, Giuseppe D. Ciccotosto, Roberto Cappai, Yang Wang, Shusheng Tang, Daniel Hoyer, Elena K. Schneider, Tony Velkov, Xilong Xiao

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Our previous studies showed that colistin-induced neurotoxicity involves apoptosis and oxidative damage. The present study demonstrates a neuroprotective effect of rapamycin against colistin-induced neurotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. In a mouse model, colistin treatment (18 mg/kg/d; 14 days) produced marked neuronal mitochondria damage in the cerebral cortex and increased activation of caspase-9 and-3. Rapamycin cotreatment (2.5 mg/kg/d) effectively reduced this neurotoxic effect. In an in vitro mouse neuroblastoma-2a (N2a) cell culture model, rapamycin pretreatment (500 nM) reduced colistin (200 μM) induced cell death from ∼50% to 72%. Moreover, rapamycin showed a marked neuroprotective effect in the N2a cells by decreasing intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and by up-regulating the activities of the anti-ROS enzymes superoxide dismutase and catalase and recovering glutathione (GSH) levels to normal. Moreover, rapamycin pretreatment protected against colistin-induced mitochondrial dysfunction, caspase activation, and subsequent apoptosis by up-regulating autophagy and activating the Akt/CREB, NGF, and Nrf2 pathways, while inhibiting p53 signaling. Taken together, this is the first study to demonstrate that rapamycin protects against colistin-induced neurotoxicity by activating autophagy, inhibiting oxidative stress, mitochondria dysfunction, and apoptosis. Our data highlight that regulating autophagy to rescue neurons from apoptosis may become a new targeted therapy to relieve the adverse neurotoxic effects associated with colistin therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)824-837
Number of pages14
JournalACS Chemical Neuroscience
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2018


  • apoptosis
  • colistin
  • mitochondrial dysfunction
  • neurotoxicity
  • oxidative stress
  • Rapamycin

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