Involvement of JNK and caspase activation in hoiamide A-induced neurotoxicity in neocortical neurons

Zhengyu Cao, Xichun Li, Xiaohan Zou, Michael Greenwood, William H. Gerwick, Thomas F. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The frequent occurrence of Moorea producens (formerly Lyngbya majuscula) blooms has been associated with adverse effects on human health. Hoiamide A is a structurally unique cyclic depsipeptide isolated from an assemblage of the marine cyanobacteria M. producens and Phormidium gracile. We examined the influence of hoiamide A on neurite outgrowth in neocortical neurons and found that it suppressed neurite outgrowth with an IC50 value of 4.89 nM. Further study demonstrated that hoiamide A stimulated lactic acid dehydrogenase (LDH) efflux, nuclear condensation and caspase-3 activity with EC50 values of 3.66, 2.55 and 4.33 nM, respectively. These data indicated that hoiamide A triggered a unique neuronal death profile that involves both necrotic and apoptotic mechanisms. The similar potencies and similar time-response relationships between LDH efflux and caspase-3 activation/nuclear condensation suggested that both necrosis and apoptosis may derive from interaction with a common molecular target. The broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor, Z-VAD-FMK completely inhibited hoiamide A-induced neurotoxicity. Additionally, hoiamide A stimulated JNK phosphorylation, and a JNK inhibitor attenuated hoiamide A-induced neurotoxicity. Collectively, these data demonstrate that hoiamide A-induced neuronal death requires both JNK and caspase signaling pathways. The potent neurotoxicity and unique neuronal cell death profile of hoiamide A represents a novel neurotoxic chemotype from marine cyanobacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-919
Number of pages17
JournalMarine Drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Apoptosis
  • c-Jun N-terminal kinase
  • Caspase
  • Hoiamide A
  • Necrosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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