White matter (WM) is injured in most strokes, which contributes to functional deficits during recovery. Casein kinase 2 (CK2) is a protein kinase that is expressed in brain, including WM. To assess the impact of CK2 inhibition on axon recovery following oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD), mouse optic nerves (MONs), which are pure WM tracts, were subjected to OGD with or without the selective CK2 inhibitor CX-4945. CX-4945 application preserved axon function during OGD and promoted axon function recovery when applied before or after OGD. This protective effect of CK2 inhibition correlated with preservation of oligodendrocytes and conservation of axon structure and axonal mitochondria. To investigate the pertinent downstream signaling pathways, siRNA targeting the CK2α subunit identified CDK5 and AKT as downstream molecules. Consequently, MK-2206 and roscovitine, which are selective AKT and CDK5 inhibitors, respectively, protected young and aging WM function only when applied before OGD. However, a novel pan-AKT allosteric inhibitor, ARQ-092, which targets both the inactive and active conformations of AKT, conferred protection to young and aging axons when applied before or after OGD. These results suggest that AKT and CDK5 signaling contribute to the WM functional protection conferred by CK2 inhibition during ischemia, while inhibition of activated AKT signaling plays the primary role in post-ischemic protection conferred by CK2 inhibition in WM independent of age. CK2 inhibitors are currently being used in clinical trials for cancer patients; therefore, our results will provide rationale for repurposing these drugs as therapeutic options for stroke patients by adding novel targets.
- White matter
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