Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is a peptide found in the brain and autonomic nervous system, which is associated with anxiety, depression, epilepsy, learning and memory, sleep, obesity and circadian rhythms. NPY has recently gained much attention as an endogenous antiepileptic and antidepressant agent, as drugs with antiepileptic and/or mood-stabilizing properties may exert their action by increasing NPY concentrations, which in turn can reduce anxiety and depression levels, dampen seizures or increase seizure threshold.
We have used human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells to investigate the effect of valproate (VPA) and amitriptyline (AMI) on NPY expression at therapeutic plasma concentrations of 0.6 mM and 630 nM, respectively. In addition, 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) known to differentiate SH-SY5Y cells into a neuronal phenotype and to increase NPY expression through activation of protein kinase C (PKC) was applied as a positive control (16 nM). Cell viability after drug treatment was tested with a 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay. NPY expression was measured using immunofluorescence and quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR). Results from immunocytochemistry have shown NPY levels to be significantly increased following a 72 h but not 24 h VPA treatment. A further increase in expression was observed with simultaneous VPA and TPA treatment, suggesting that the two agents may increase NPY expression through different mechanisms. The increase in NPY mRNA by VPA and TPA was confirmed with qRT-PCR after 72 h. In contrast, AMI had no effect on NPY expression in SH-SY5Y cells.
Together, the data point to an elevation of human NPY mRNA and peptide levels by therapeutic concentrations of VPA following chronic treatment. Thus, upregulation of NPY may have an impact in anti-cancer treatment of neuroblastomas with VPA, and antagonizing hypothalamic NPY effects may help to ameliorate VPA-induced weight gain and obesity without interfering with the desired central effects of VPA.