Malnutrition is a risk factor for infection, compromising immune response. Glutamine (Gln) protects the lungs and distal organs in well-nourished septic and nonseptic conditions; however, no study to date has analyzed the effects of Gln in the presence of sepsis and malnutrition. In the present work, we tested the hypothesis that early therapy with intravenous Gln prevents lung and distal organ damage in septic malnourished rats. Protein-energy malnutrition was induced in male Wistar rats for 4 weeks. At the end of 4 weeks, malnourished animals were assigned to a sepsis-inducing cecal ligation and puncture group or a sham surgery group. One hour after surgery, animals were given saline (Sal) or L-alanyl-L-glutamine (Gln) intravenously. In addition, a control group (C) was set up with rats fed ad libitum, not submitted to surgery or treatment. Forty-eight hours after surgery, in malnutrition-sham rats, Gln therapy lessened neutrophil lung infiltration and apoptosis in lung and liver. In malnutrition-cecal ligation and puncture rats, Gln therapy yielded (a) reduced static lung elastance, alveolar collapse, inflammation (neutrophil infiltration, interleukin 6), and collagen deposition; (b) repair of types I and II epithelial cells; (c) no significant changes in heat shock protein 70 expression or heat shock factor 1 phosphorylation; (d) a greater number of M1 and M2 macrophages in lung tissue; and (e) less apoptosis in the lung, kidney, small intestine, and liver. In conclusion, early therapy with intravenous Gln reduced inflammation, fibrosis, and apoptosis, minimizing lung and distal organ injury, in septic malnourished rats. These beneficial effects may be associated with macrophage activation in the lung.
The world population is growing older and age-related cognitive decline is becoming a burden of societal importance. D-serine is an endogenous amino acid that activates the co-agonist site of the NMDA-glutamate receptor, which is related to cognitive functions, such as learning and memory. Studies in aged rodents have shown a marked decrease in the levels of D-serine in brain regions such as the hippocampus, a key region for encoding memory. Exogenous administration of D-serine in rodents has demonstrated pro-cognitive effects in several brain functions, including memory and executive function. Further to animal studies, our group has observed an agerelated decrease in D-serine in the blood of healthy adults and elderly. The oral administration of D-serine induced significant improvement in executive function and spatial problem solving in elderly, some of the key cognitive domains affected by aging. In this review we propose the activation of the co-agonist site of NMDA receptors as a target to remediate features of the age-related cognitive decline. The cognitive effects of other agents targeting the co-agonist site of NMDA receptors are also discussed.
Several studies have correlated protein restriction associated with other nutritional deficiencies with the development of cardiovascular and renal diseases. The driving hypothesis for this study was that Ang II signaling pathways in the heart and kidney are affected by chronic protein, mineral and vitamin restriction.
Sensory experience powerfully shapes cortical sensory representations during an early developmental "critical period" of plasticity. In the rat primary auditory cortex (A1), the experience-dependent plasticity is exemplified by significant, long-lasting distortions in frequency representation after mere exposure to repetitive frequencies during the second week of life. In the visual system, the normal unfolding of critical period plasticity is strongly dependent on the elaboration of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the establishment of inhibition. Here, we tested the hypothesis that BDNF signaling plays a role in the experience-dependent plasticity induced by pure tone exposure during the critical period in the primary auditory cortex. Elvax resin implants filled with either a blocking antibody against BDNF or the BDNF protein were placed on the A1 of rat pups throughout the critical period window. These pups were then exposed to 7 kHz pure tone for 7 consecutive days and their frequency representations were mapped. BDNF blockade completely prevented the shaping of cortical tuning by experience and resulted in poor overall frequency tuning in A1. By contrast, BDNF infusion on the developing A1 amplified the effect of 7 kHz tone exposure compared to control. These results indicate that BDNF signaling participates in the experience-dependent plasticity induced by pure tone exposure during the critical period in A1.
Since its first description >40 years ago, the neurological "critical period" has been predominantly described as an early, plastic postnatal brain development stage that rather abruptly advances to an aplastic or less plastic "adult" stage. Here, we show that chronic exposure of juvenile or adult rats to moderate-level acoustic noise results in a broad reversal of maturational changes that mark the infant-to-adult progression in the primary auditory cortex. In time, noise exposure reinstates critical period plasticity. Cortical changes resulting from noise exposure are again reversed to reestablish a physically and functionally normal adult cortex, by returning animals to natural acoustic environments. These studies show that at least some of neurological changes believed to mark the transition from the infantile to the mature (adult) stage are, by their nature, reversible.
D-serine is a co-agonist of NMDA receptor (NMDAR) and plays important roles in synaptic plasticity mechanisms. Serine racemase (SR) is a brain-enriched enzyme that converts L-serine to D-serine. SR interacts with the protein interacting with C-kinase 1 (PICK1), which is known to direct protein kinase C (PKC) to its targets in cells. Here, we investigated whether PKC activity regulates SR activity and D-serine availability in the brain. In vitro, PKC phosphorylated SR and decreased its activity. PKC activation increased SR phosphorylation in serine residues and reduced D-serine levels in astrocyte and neuronal cultures. Conversely, PKC inhibition decreased basal SR phosphorylation and increased cellular D-serine levels. In vivo modulation of PKC activity regulated both SR phosphorylation and D-serine levels in rat frontal cortex. Finally, rats that completed an object recognition task showed decreased SR phosphorylation and increased D-serine/total serine ratios, which was markedly correlated with decreased PKC activity in both cortex and hippocampus. Results indicate that PKC phosphorylates SR in serine residues and regulates D-serine availability in the brain. This interaction may be relevant for the regulation of physiological and pathological mechanisms linked to NMDAR function.
Adult rats were trained to detect the occurrence of a two-element sound sequence in a background of nine other nontarget sound pairs. Training resulted in a modest, enduring, static expansion of the cortical areas of representation of both target stimulus sounds. More importantly, once the initial stimulus A in the target A-B sequence was presented, the cortical "map" changed dynamically, specifically to exaggerate further the representation of the "anticipated" stimulus B. If B occurred, it was represented over a larger cortical area by more strongly excited, more coordinated, and more selectively responding neurons. This biasing peaked at the expected time of B onset with respect to A onset. No dynamic biasing of responses was recorded for any sound presented in a nontarget pair. Responses to nontarget frequencies flanking the representation of B were reduced in area and in response strength only after the presentation of A at the expected time of B onset. This study shows that cortical areas are not representationally static but, to the contrary, can be biased moment by moment in time as a function of behavioral context.
Aggregates of the amyloid-beta peptide (Abeta) play a central role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimers disease (AD). Identification of proteins that physiologically bind Abeta and modulate its aggregation and neurotoxicity could lead to the development of novel disease-modifying approaches in AD. By screening a phage display peptide library for high affinity ligands of aggregated Abeta(1-42), we isolated a peptide homologous to a highly conserved amino acid sequence present in the N-terminus of apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I). We show that purified human apoA-I and Abeta form non-covalent complexes and that interaction with apoA-I affects the morphology of amyloid aggregates formed by Abeta. Significantly, Abeta/apoA-I complexes were also detected in cerebrospinal fluid from AD patients. Interestingly, apoA-I and apoA-I-containing reconstituted high density lipoprotein particles protect hippocampal neuronal cultures from Abeta-induced oxidative stress and neurodegeneration. These results suggest that human apoA-I modulates Abeta aggregation and Abeta-induced neuronal damage and that the Abeta-binding domain in apoA-I may constitute a novel framework for the design of inhibitors of Abeta toxicity.
Changes in D-serine availability in the brain may contribute to the hypofunction of NMDA-glutamate receptors in schizophrenia; however, measurements of blood levels of D-serine in individuals with schizophrenia have not been consistent amongst previous studies. Here we studied plasma levels of D-serine and L-serine in 84 Brazilian individuals with schizophrenia and 75 gender- and age-matched controls. Plasma levels of D-serine and the ratio of plasma D-serine to total serine were significantly lower in individuals with schizophrenia as compared to the control group. Levels of D-serine were significantly and negatively correlated to the severity of negative symptoms of schizophrenia. We also observed that plasma levels of D-serine significantly decreased with aging in healthy controls. Our results suggest that the possible role of D-serine in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia should be further investigated, with possible implications for the drug treatment of this disorder.
Assembly of synapses requires proper coordination between pre- and postsynaptic elements. Identification of cellular and molecular events in synapse formation and maintenance is a key step to understand human perception, learning, memory, and cognition. A key role for astrocytes in synapse formation and function has been proposed. Here, we show that transforming growth factor ? (TGF-?) signaling is a novel synaptogenic pathway for cortical neurons induced by murine and human astrocytes. By combining gain and loss of function approaches, we show that TGF-?1 induces the formation of functional synapses in mice. Further, TGF-?1-induced synaptogenesis involves neuronal activity and secretion of the co-agonist of the NMDA receptor, D-serine. Manipulation of D-serine signaling, by either genetic or pharmacological inhibition, prevented the TGF-?1 synaptogenic effect. Our data show a novel molecular mechanism that might impact synaptic function and emphasize the evolutionary aspect of the synaptogenic property of astrocytes, thus shedding light on new potential therapeutic targets for synaptic deficit diseases.
Intensive computerized auditory training results in improved cognition for schizophrenia patients, but participants show variation in their cognitive gains and the biological factors that affect the response to training are unknown. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene have been related to cognitive function. Here we asked if functional variation in this gene has an impact on the response of schizophrenia patients to cognitive training. We genotyped 48 schizophrenia patients who completed 50 h of computerized cognitive training and analyzed the association between DNA variants in the COMT gene and the improvement in global cognition. Although conventional analyses did not reveal any significant associations, a set-based analysis examining the aggregate effect of common variation in the COMT gene (42 SNPs) suggested association with improvement in global cognition. Eight SNPs, mostly located in the 3 end of the COMT gene, were nominally associated with improvement in cognition. These data suggest that genotype influences the response to intensive cognitive training in schizophrenia, and may indicate that cognitive training regimens need to be personalized to the underlying biosignatures of each individual patient. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Cognitive Enhancers.
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