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Alzheimers Res Ther. 2016 Jan 28;8:5. doi: 10.1186/s13195-015-0167-5.

An integrative genome-wide transcriptome reveals that candesartan is neuroprotective and a candidate therapeutic for Alzheimer's disease.

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Comparative genomics and Cancer Genetics Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA.
Section on Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA.
Section on Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA.
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Georgetown University Medical Center, SE402 Med/Dent, 3900 Reservoir Road, Washington, DC, 20057, USA.



Alzheimer's disease is the most frequent age-related dementia, and is currently without treatment. To identify possible targets for early therapeutic intervention we focused on glutamate excitotoxicity, a major early pathogenic factor, and the effects of candesartan, an angiotensin receptor blocker of neuroprotective efficacy in cell cultures and rodent models of Alzheimer's disease. The overall goal of the study was to determine whether gene analysis of drug effects in a primary neuronal culture correlate with alterations in gene expression in Alzheimer's disease, thus providing further preclinical evidence of beneficial therapeutic effects.


Primary neuronal cultures were treated with candesartan at neuroprotective concentrations followed by excitotoxic glutamate amounts. We performed genome-wide expression profile analysis and data evaluation by ingenuity pathway analysis and gene set enrichment analysis, compared with alterations in gene expression from two independent published datasets identified by microarray analysis of postmortem hippocampus from Alzheimer's disease patients. Preferential expression in cerebrovascular endothelial cells or neurons was analyzed by comparison to published gene expression in these cells isolated from human cortex by laser capture microdissection.


Candesartan prevented glutamate upregulation or downregulation of several hundred genes in our cultures. Ingenuity pathway analysis and gene set enrichment analysis revealed that inflammation, cardiovascular disease and diabetes signal transduction pathways and amyloid β metabolism were major components of the neuronal response to glutamate excitotoxicity. Further analysis showed associations of glutamate-induced changes in the expression of several hundred genes, normalized by candesartan, with similar alterations observed in hippocampus from Alzheimer's disease patients. Gene analysis of neurons and cerebrovascular endothelial cells obtained by laser capture microdissection revealed that genes up- and downregulated by glutamate were preferentially expressed in endothelial cells and neurons, respectively.


Our data may be interpreted as evidence of direct candesartan neuroprotection beyond its effects on blood pressure, revealing common and novel disease mechanisms that may underlie the in vitro gene alterations reported here and glutamate-induced cell injury in Alzheimer's disease. Our observations provide novel evidence for candesartan neuroprotection through early molecular mechanisms of injury in Alzheimer's disease, supporting testing this compound in controlled clinical studies in the early stages of the illness.

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