Inhibition of strocyte FAK–JNK Signaling Promotes Subventricular Zone Neurogenesis Through CNTF

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Astrocyte-derived ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) promotes adult subventricular zone (SVZ) neurogenesis. We found that focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and JNK, but not ERK or P38, repress CNTF in vitro. Here, we defined the FAK–JNK pathway and its regulation of CNTF in mice, and the related leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which promote stem cell renewal at the expense of neurogenesis. Intrastriatal injection of FAK inhibitor, FAK14, in adult male C57BL/6 mice reduced pJNK and increased CNTF expression in the SVZ-containing periventricular region. Injection of a JNK inhibitor increased CNTF without affecting LIF and IL-6, and increased SVZ proliferation and neuroblast formation. The JNK inhibitor had no effect in CNTF−/− mice, suggesting that JNK inhibits SVZ neurogenesis by repressing CNTF. Inducible deletion of FAK in astrocytes increased SVZ CNTF and neurogenesis, but not LIF and IL-6. Intrastriatal injection of inhibitors suggested that P38 reduces LIF and IL-6 expression, whereas ERK induces CNTF and LIF. Intrastriatal FAK inhibition increased LIF, possibly through ERK, and IL-6 through another pathway that does not involve P38. Systemic injection of FAK14 also inhibited JNK while increasing CNTF, but did not affect P38 and ERK activation, or LIF and IL-6 expression. Importantly, systemic FAK14 increased SVZ neurogenesis in wild-type C57BL/6 and CNTF+/+ mice, but not in CNTF−/− littermates, indicating that it acts by upregulating CNTF. These data show a surprising differential regulation of related cytokines and identify the FAK–JNK–CNTF pathway as a specific target in astrocytes to promote neurogenesis and possibly neuroprotection in neurological disorders.