This overviews recent understanding of the mechanisms of apoptosis on ischemia-induced neuronal cell death. Apoptosis is a prominent feature of the developing nervous system. Several lines of evidence suggest that apoptosis is also an important mechanism of cell death in adult brain in acute or chronic diseases such as stroke and Alzheimer's disease. In animal models of stroke, markers of apoptosis such as cytoplasmic and nuclear condensation and DNA fragmentation appear in neurons. A variety of physiological and pathological stimuli can activate signal-transduction pathways that result in the sequential proteolytic activation of caspase family members. The activation of caspases can be inhibited by several molecules, including peptide aldehydes (caspase-1 and/or caspase-3 inhibitors) and crmA that target the active-site cysteine of caspase family members, Bcl-2, IAP (inhibitor of apoptosis protein) and NAIP (neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein). Once activated, caspase-1 protease can activate the caspase family members and hydrolyze a discrete set of cellular targets. Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), which appears to facilitate apoptosis, was recognized as a substrate of activated caspase-3. These results suggest that caspase family, bcl-2 family, IAP family and substrates such PARP contribute to mechanisms of cell death in ischemic brain injury. Inhibition of the caspase family, particularly by non-peptide inhibitors that cross the bloodbrain barrier and easily penetrate neurons and glia, could provide novel treatments for stroke and other forms of brain and spinal cord injury in humans.
Psychological stress is believed to be implicated in the etiology of affective disorders such as anxiety and depression. To date, a wide range of behavioral responses including analgesia and motor suppression induced by various physiological stressors such as footshock, forced swimming and immobilization have been investigated in animals. However, there is little information concerning behavioral changes in psychological stress. This article describes the experimental procedures and the characteristics of motor suppression in psychological stress, defined as conditioned fear stress (CFS). Mice exhibit a marked suppression of motility when they are re-placed in the same environment in which they had previously received an electric footshock. This motor suppression is regarded as a conditioned emotional response to the environment associated with previous footshock. The motor suppression in CFS is attenuated by sigma receptor agonists such as (+)-N-allylnormetazocine and dextromethorphan, whereas typical anxiolytics (diazepam and chlordiazepoxide) and antidepressants (imipramine and fluoxetine) have no effect. These findings suggest that the CFS model may be useful for investigating the pathogenesis of affective disorders, particularly those considered to be treatment resistant, and for developing their novel therapeutic drugs.