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J Neurosci Res. 2012 Feb;90(2):508-17. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22775. Epub 2011 Oct 17.

Huperzine A alleviates synaptic deficits and modulates amyloidogenic and nonamyloidogenic pathways in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice.

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State Key Laboratory of Drug Research, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.


Huperzine A (HupA) is a potent acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (AChEI) used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Recently, HupA was shown to be active in modulating the nonamyloidogenic metabolism of β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) in APP-transfected human embryonic kidney cell line (HEK293swe). However, in vivo research concerning the mechanism of HupA in APP transgenic mice has not yet been fully elucidated. The present study indicates that the loss of dendritic spine density and synaptotagmin levels in the brain of APPswe/presenilin-1 (PS1) transgenic mice was significantly ameliorated by chronic HupA treatment and provides evidence that this neuroprotection was associated with reduced amyloid plaque burden and oligomeric β-amyloid (Aβ) levels in the cortex and hippocampus of APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice. Our findings further demonstrate that the amelioration effect of HupA on Aβ deposits may be mediated, at least in part, by regulation of the compromised expression of a disintegrin and metalloprotease 10 (ADAM10) and excessive membrane trafficking of β-site APP cleavage enzyme 1 (BACE1) in these transgenic mice. In addition, extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 (Erk1/2) phosphorylation may also be partially involved in the effect of HupA on APP processing. In conclusion, our work for the first time demonstrates the neuroprotective effect of HupA on synaptic deficits in APPswe/PS1dE9 transgenic mice and further clarifies the potential pharmacological targets for this protective effect, in which modulation of nonamyloidogenic and amyloidogenic APP processing pathways may be both involved. These findings may provide adequate evidence for the clinical and experimental benefits gained from HupA treatment.

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