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J Neurochem. 2008 Jul;106(1):392-404. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05396.x. Epub 2008 Jul 1.

Etazolate, a neuroprotective drug linking GABA(A) receptor pharmacology to amyloid precursor protein processing.

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Department of Neurology, ExonHit Therapeutics, Paris, France.


Pharmacological modulation of the GABA(A) receptor has gained increasing attention as a potential treatment for central processes affected in Alzheimer disease (AD), including neuronal survival and cognition. The proteolytic cleavage of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) through the alpha-secretase pathway decreases in AD, concurrent with cognitive impairment. This APP cleavage occurs within the beta-amyloid peptide (Abeta) sequence, precluding formation of amyloidogenic peptides and leading to the release of the soluble N-terminal APP fragment (sAPPalpha) which is neurotrophic and procognitive. In this study, we show that at nanomolar-low micromolar concentrations, etazolate, a selective GABA(A) receptor modulator, stimulates sAPPalpha production in rat cortical neurons and in guinea pig brains. Etazolate (20 nM-2 microM) dose-dependently protected rat cortical neurons against Abeta-induced toxicity. The neuroprotective effects of etazolate were fully blocked by GABA(A) receptor antagonists indicating that this neuroprotection was due to GABA(A) receptor signalling. Baclofen, a GABA(B) receptor agonist failed to inhibit the Abeta-induced neuronal death. Furthermore, both pharmacological alpha-secretase pathway inhibition and sAPPalpha immunoneutralization approaches prevented etazolate neuroprotection against Abeta, indicating that etazolate exerts its neuroprotective effect via sAPPalpha induction. Our findings therefore indicate a relationship between GABA(A) receptor signalling, the alpha-secretase pathway and neuroprotection, documenting a new therapeutic approach for AD treatment.

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