Protein kinase B (AKT) upregulation and Thy-1-αvβ3 integrin-induced phosphorylation of Connexin43 by activated AKT in astrogliosis

Ramón Pérez-Núñez, Alejandro Chamorro, María Fernanda González, Pamela Contreras, Rocío Artigas, Alejandro H. Corvalán, Brigitte van Zundert, Christopher Reyes, Pablo R. Moya, Ana María Avalos, Pascal Schneider, Andrew F.G. Quest, Lisette Leyton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In response to brain injury or inflammation, astrocytes undergo hypertrophy, proliferate, and migrate to the damaged zone. These changes, collectively known as "astrogliosis", initially protect the brain; however, astrogliosis can also cause neuronal dysfunction. Additionally, these astrocytes undergo intracellular changes involving alterations in the expression and localization of many proteins, including αvβ3 integrin. Our previous reports indicate that Thy-1, a neuronal glycoprotein, binds to this integrin inducing Connexin43 (Cx43) hemichannel (HC) opening, ATP release, and astrocyte migration. Despite such insight, important links and molecular events leading to astrogliosis remain to be defined. Methods: Using bioinformatics approaches, we analyzed different Gene Expression Omnibus datasets to identify changes occurring in reactive astrocytes as compared to astrocytes from the normal mouse brain. In silico analysis was validated by both qRT-PCR and immunoblotting using reactive astrocyte cultures from the normal rat brain treated with TNF and from the brain of a hSOD1G93A transgenic mouse model. We evaluated the phosphorylation of Cx43 serine residue 373 (S373) by AKT and ATP release as a functional assay for HC opening. In vivo experiments were also performed with an AKT inhibitor (AKTi). Results: The bioinformatics analysis revealed that genes of the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway were among the most significantly altered in reactive astrocytes. mRNA and protein levels of PI3K, AKT, as well as Cx43, were elevated in reactive astrocytes from normal rats and from hSOD1G93A transgenic mice, as compared to controls. In vitro, reactive astrocytes stimulated with Thy-1 responded by activating AKT, which phosphorylated S373Cx43. Increased pS373Cx43 augmented the release of ATP to the extracellular medium and AKTi inhibited these Thy-1-induced responses. Furthermore, in an in vivo model of inflammation (brain damage), AKTi decreased the levels of astrocyte reactivity markers and S373Cx43 phosphorylation. Conclusions: Here, we identify changes in the PI3K/AKT molecular signaling network and show how they participate in astrogliosis by regulating the HC protein Cx43. Moreover, because HC opening and ATP release are important in astrocyte reactivity, the phosphorylation of Cx43 by AKT and the associated increase in ATP release identify a potential therapeutic window of opportunity to limit the adverse effects of astrogliosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • ALS model
  • Astrogliosis
  • Bioinformatics analysis
  • Brain damage
  • Connexin43
  • Inflammation
  • PI3K/AKT signaling pathway

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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