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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2002 Sep;302(3):881-8.

Protection and reversal of excitotoxic neuronal damage by glucagon-like peptide-1 and exendin-4.

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Section of Drug Design and Development, Laboratory of Neuroscience, Gerontology Research Center, National Institute on Aging/NIH, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Glucagon-like peptide-1 (7-36)-amide (GLP-1) is an endogenous insulinotropic peptide that is secreted from the L cells of the gastrointestinal tract in response to food. It has potent effects on glucose-dependent insulin secretion, insulin gene expression, and pancreatic islet cell formation. In type 2 diabetes, GLP-1, by continuous infusion, can normalize blood glucose and is presently being tested in clinical trials as a therapy for this disease. More recently, GLP-1 has been found to have central nervous system (CNS) effects and to stimulate neurite outgrowth in cultured cells. We now report that GLP-1, and its longer-acting analog exendin-4, can completely protect cultured rat hippocampal neurons against glutamate-induced apoptosis. Extrapolating these effects to a well defined rodent model of neurodegeneration, GLP-1 and exendin-4 greatly reduced ibotenic acid-induced depletion of choline acetyltransferase immunoreactivity in basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. These findings identify a novel neuroprotective/neurotrophic function of GLP-1 and suggest that such peptides may have potential for halting or reversing neurodegenerative processes in CNS disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, and in neuropathies associated with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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