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J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;19(4):1205-19. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-1314.

GLP-1 receptor stimulation reduces amyloid-beta peptide accumulation and cytotoxicity in cellular and animal models of Alzheimer's disease.

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Laboratory of Neurosciences, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Type 2 (T2) diabetes mellitus (DM) has been associated with an increased incidence of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). Several pathological features are shared between diabetes and AD, including dysfunctional insulin signaling and a dysregulation of glucose metabolism. It has therefore been suggested that not only may the two conditions share specific molecular mechanisms but also that agents with proven efficacy in one may be useful against the other. Hence, the present study characterized the effects of a clinically approved long-acting analogue, exendin-4 (Ex-4), of the endogenous insulin releasing incretin, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), on stress-induced toxicity in neuronal cultures and on amyloid-beta protein (Abeta) and tau levels in triple transgenic AD (3xTg-AD) mice with and without streptozocin (STZ)-induced diabetes. Ex-4 ameliorated the toxicity of Abeta and oxidative challenge in primary neuronal cultures and human SH-SY5Y cells in a concentration-dependent manner. When 11 to 12.5 month old female 3xTg AD mice were challenged with STZ or saline, and thereafter treated with a continuous subcutaneous infusion of Ex-4 or vehicle, Ex-4 ameliorated the diabetic effects of STZ in 3xTg-AD mice, elevating plasma insulin and lowering both plasma glucose and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels. Furthermore, brain levels of Abeta protein precursor and Abeta, which were elevated in STZ 3xTg-AD mice, were significantly reduced in Ex-4 treated mice. Brain tau levels were unaffected following STZ challenge, but showed a trend toward elevation that was absent following Ex-4 treatment. Together, these results suggest a potential value of Ex-4 in AD, particularly when associated with T2DM or glucose intolerance.

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