Olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), a special population of glial cells, are able to synthesise several trophic factors exerting a neuroprotective action and promoting growth and functional recovery in both invitro and invivo models. In the present work, we investigated the neuroprotective effects of OEC-conditioned medium (OEC-CM) on two different human neuron-like cell lines, SH-SY5Y and SK-N-SH (neuroblastoma cell lines), under normoxic and hypoxic conditions. In addition, we also focused our attention on the role of connexins (Cxs) in the neuroprotective processes. Our results confirmed OEC-CM mediated neuroprotection as shown by cell adherence, proliferation and cellular viability analyses. Reduced connexin 43 (Cx43) levels in OEC-CM compared to unconditioned cells in hypoxic conditions prompted us to investigate the role of Cx43-Gap junctions (GJs) and Cx43-hemichannels (HCs) in hypoxic/reoxygenation injury using carbenoxolone (non-selective GJ inhibitor), ioxynil octanoato (selective Cx43-GJ inhibitor) and Gap19 (selective Cx43-HC inhibitor). We found that Cx43-GJ and Cx43-HC inhibitors are able to protect SH-SY5Y and allow to these cultures to overcome the injury. Our findings support the hypothesis that both OEC-CM and the inhibition of Cx43-GJs and Cx43-HCs offer a neuroprotective effect by reducing Cx43-mediated cell-to-cell and cell-to-extracellular environment communications.
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