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J Neurosci. 2008 Dec 10;28(50):13574-81. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4099-08.2008.

Nrf2 activation in astrocytes protects against neurodegeneration in mouse models of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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  • 1Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53705-2222, USA.


Activation of the transcription factor Nrf2 in astrocytes coordinates the upregulation of antioxidant defenses and confers protection to neighboring neurons. Dominant mutations in Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause familial forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal disorder characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons. Non-neuronal cells, including astrocytes, shape motor neuron survival in ALS and are a potential target to prevent motor neuron degeneration. The protective effect of Nrf2 activation in astrocytes has never been examined in a chronic model of neurodegeneration. We generated transgenic mice over-expressing Nrf2 selectively in astrocytes using the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) promoter. The toxicity of astrocytes expressing ALS-linked mutant hSOD1 to cocultured motor neurons was reversed by Nrf2 over-expression. Motor neuron protection depended on increased glutathione secretion from astrocytes. This protective effect was also observed by crossing the GFAP-Nrf2 mice with two ALS-mouse models. Over-expression of Nrf2 in astrocytes significantly delayed onset and extended survival. These findings demonstrate that Nrf2 activation in astrocytes is a viable therapeutic target to prevent chronic neurodegeneration.

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