Regulated upon Activation, Normal T-cell Expressed, and Secreted (RANTES) is a well-known pro-inflammatory chemokine and its role in ischemic stroke remains controversial. We examined the significance of RANTES in ischemic stroke and aimed to elucidate the direct effect of RANTES on neurons. Plasma concentrations of major C-C chemokines, including RANTES, and neurotrophic factors were examined in 171 ischemic stroke patients and age- and gender- matched healthy subjects. Plasma concentrations of RANTES at day 0 after onset were significantly elevated in stroke patients, compared with controls, and were highly correlated with those of BDNF, EGF, and VEGF. In a mouse middle cerebral artery occlusion model (MCAO), plasma RANTES was significantly elevated and the expression of RANTES was markedly upregulated in neurons particularly in peri-infarct areas. The expression of CCR3 and CCR5, receptors for RANTES, was also induced in neurons, while another receptor, CCR1, was observed in vascular cells, in peri-infarct areas after MCAO. We examined the effects of RANTES on differentiated PC12 cells, a model of neuronal cells. Treatment with RANTES induced the activation of Akt and Erk1/2, and attenuated the cleavage of caspase-3 in the cells. RANTES increased the expression of BDNF, EGF, and VEGF in the cells. Moreover, RANTES maintained the number of cells under serum free conditions. The RANTES-mediated upregulation of neurotrophic factors and cell survival were significantly attenuated by the inhibition of Akt or Erk1/2. Taken together, RANTES is an interesting chemokine that is produced from neurons after ischemic stroke and has the potential to protect neurons directly or indirectly through the production of neurotrophic factors in peri-infarct areas.
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