Neuronal Per Arnt Sim domain protein 4 (NPAS4), a brainspecific basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor, has recently been shown to regulate the development of the GABAergic inhibitory synapses and transcription program for contextual memory formation in the hippocampus.Wepreviously reported that chronic social isolation or restriction stress in mice resulted in an impairment in memory and emotional behavior, which was associated with a decrease in Npas4 mRNA levels. In this study, we investigated the role of NPAS4 in neuronal function in vitro and in vivo. Differentiation medium-induced neurite outgrowth was inhibited in Npas4 knockdown Neuro2a cells, whereas overexpression of NPAS4 accelerated the neurite outgrowth in Neuro2a cells. Furthermore, depolarization-induced neurite outgrowth was abolished in Npas4 KO hippocampal neurons. NPAS4 overexpression increased cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5)-dependent synapsin I phosphorylation in Neuro2a cells and primary cultured hippocampal neurons. A CDK5 inhibitor, roscovitine, inhibited the neurite outgrowth and the increase in phosphorylated synapsin I (p-SYN I) levels in Npas4-overexpressed Neuro2a cells. Interaction of NPAS4 with promoters of Cdk5 and NeuN genes was demonstrated by a chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. In an in vivo study, pentylenetetrazole- induced convulsions in mice resulted in an increase in NPAS4 and p-SYN I levels in the prefrontal cortex of wild-type mice, although no changes in p-SYN I levels were observed in Npas4 knock-out mice. These results suggest that NPAS4 plays an important role in the structural and functional plasticity of neurons.
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