PTEN degradation after ischemic stroke: a double-edged sword

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Tumor suppressor PTEN is highly expressed in neurons and PTEN inhibition has been reported to be neuroprotective against ischemic stroke in experimental models. On the other hand, PTEN deletion has been shown to lead to cognitive impairment. In current study, we examined the expression and functions of PTEN in ischemic stroke. We found rapid S-nitrosylation and degradation of PTEN after cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury. PTEN degradation leads to activation of Akt. PTEN partial deletion or PTEN inhibition increased expression of GABAA receptor (GABAAR) γ2 subunit and enhanced GABAA receptor current. After cerebral ischemia, increased expression of GABAAR γ2 subunit was observed in the ischemia region and penumbra area. We also observed PTEN loss in astrocytes after cerebral ischemia. Astrocytic PTEN partial knockout increased astrocyte activation and exacerbated ischemic damage. We speculated that ischemic stroke induced neuronal PTEN degradation, hence enhanced GABAA receptor-medicated neuronal activity inhibition which could attenuate excitotoxicity and provide neuroprotection during the acute phase after stroke, while inhibit long term functional recovery and contribute vascular cognitive impairment after stroke. On the other hand, ischemic stroke induced astrocytic PTEN loss enhance ischemic damage and astrogliosis. Taken together, our study indicates that ischemic stroke induces rapid PTEN degradation in both neurons and astrocytes which play both protective and detrimental action in a spatiotemporal- and cell type-dependent manner. Our study provides critical insight for targeting PTEN signaling pathway for stroke treatment.