Quercetin, one of the major flavonoids in plants, has been recently reported to have neuroprotective effects against neurodegenerative processes. However, since the molecular signaling mechanisms governing these effects are not well clarified, we evaluated quercetin's effect on the neuroprotective signaling events in dopaminergic neuronal models and further tested its efficacy in the MitoPark transgenic mouse model of Parkinson's disease (PD). Western blot analysis revealed that quercetin significantly induced the activation of two major cell survival kinases, protein kinase D1 (PKD1) and Akt in MN9D dopaminergic neuronal cells. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition or siRNA knockdown of PKD1 blocked the activation of Akt, suggesting that PKD1 acts as an upstream regulator of Akt in quercetin-mediated neuroprotective signaling. Quercetin also enhanced cAMP response-element binding protein phosphorylation and expression of the cAMP response-element binding protein target gene brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Results from qRT-PCR, Western blot analysis, mtDNA content analysis, and MitoTracker assay experiments revealed that quercetin augmented mitochondrial biogenesis. Quercetin also increased mitochondrial bioenergetics capacity and protected MN9D cells against 6-hydroxydopamine-induced neurotoxicity. To further evaluate the neuroprotective efficacy of quercetin against the mitochondrial dysfunction underlying PD, we used the progressive dopaminergic neurodegenerative MitoPark transgenic mouse model of PD. Oral administration of quercetin significantly reversed behavioral deficits, striatal dopamine depletion, and TH neuronal cell loss in MitoPark mice. Together, our findings demonstrate that quercetin activates the PKD1-Akt cell survival signaling axis and suggest that further exploration of quercetin as a promising neuroprotective agent for treating PD may offer clinical benefits.
Insulin suppresses glucose output from the liver via Akt activation; however, which substrate of Akt plays the major role in transducing this effect is unclear. We tested the postnatal expression of Akt-unresponsive, constitutively active mutants of three major Akt substrates widely considered to regulate glucose metabolism [i.e., FoxO1, PGC1α, and glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β)] using adenoviral gene delivery to the mouse liver. We performed physiological hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp studies using these mice under awake and nonrestrained conditions with blood sampling via an arterial catheter. Hepatic expression of constitutively active FoxO1 induced significant hepatic and systemic insulin resistance. However, neither the expression of constitutively active PGC1α nor that of GSK3β significantly changed insulin sensitivity. Simultaneous expression of all three mutants together induced no further insulin resistance compared with that of the FoxO1 mutant. The glycogen content in the liver was significantly reduced by constitutively active GSK3β expression. In cultured hepatocytes, constitutively active PGC1α induced markedly stronger transcriptional enhancement of gluconeogenic key enzymes than did constitutively active FoxO1. From these results, we conclude that FoxO1 has the most prominent role in transducing insulin's effect downstream from Akt to suppress hepatic glucose output, involving mechanisms independent of the transcriptional regulation of key gluconeogenic enzymes.