Cell survival is determined by a balance among signaling cascades, including those that recruit the Akt and JNK pathways. Here we describe a novel interaction between Akt1 and JNK interacting protein 1 (JIP1), a JNK pathway scaffold. Direct association between Akt1 and JIP1 was observed in primary neurons. Neuronal exposure to an excitotoxic stimulus decreased the Akt1-JIP1 interaction and concomitantly increased association between JIP1 and JNK. Akt1 interaction with JIP1 inhibited JIP1-mediated potentiation of JNK activity by decreasing JIP1 binding to specific JNK pathway kinases. Consistent with this view, neurons from Akt1-deficient mice exhibited higher susceptibility to kainate than wild-type littermates. Overexpression of Akt1 mutants that bind JIP1 reduced excitotoxic apoptosis. These results suggest that Akt1 binding to JIP1 acts as a regulatory gate preventing JNK activation, which is released under conditions of excitotoxic injury.
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