Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common fatal motor neuron disease, affecting mostly middle-aged people. There are no curative therapies for ALS. Several lines of evidence have supported the notion that the proapoptotic property of familial ALS (FALS)-linked mutant Cu/Zn-superoxide dismutase-1 (SOD1) genes may play an important role in the pathogenesis of some FALS cases. Here we found that activity-dependent neurotrophic factor (ADNF), a neurotrophic factor originally identified to have the anti-Alzheimer's disease (AD) activity, protected against neuronal cell death caused by FALS-linked A4T-, G85R- and G93R-SOD1 in a dose-responsive fashion. Notably, ADNF-mediated complete suppression of SOD1 mutant-induced neuronal cell death occurs at concentrations as low as 100 fM. ADNF maintains the neuroprotective activity even at concentrations of more than 1 nM. This is in clear contrast to the previous finding that ADNF loses its protective activity against neurotoxicity induced by AD-relevant insults, including some familial AD genes and amyloid β peptide at concentrations of more than 1 nM. Characterization of the neuroprotective activity of ADNF against cell death caused by SOD1 mutants revealed that CaMKIV and certain tyrosine kinases are involved in ADNF-mediated neuroprotection. Moreover, in vivo studies showed that intracerebroventricularly administered ADNF significantly improved motor performance of G93A-SOD1 transgenic mice, a widely used model of FALS, although survival was extended only marginally. Thus, the neuroprotective activity of ADNF provides a novel insight into the development of curative drugs for ALS.
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