miR-302/367-induced neurons reduce behavioral impairment in an experimental model of Alzheimer's disease

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In vivo reprogramming of reactive glial cells to neurons has opened a new horizon in regenerative medicine. Our previous study showed that astrocytes could be converted to neurons by the microRNA-302/367 (miR-302/367) cluster in adult brains. In this study, we investigated the possible contribution of miR-302/367-induced neurons in behavioral improvement and neural repair in an Alzheimer's disease (AD) animal model. The AD model was induced by an intracerebroventricular (i.c.v) injection of streptozotocin (STZ). GFP-only or miR-302/367 + GFP expressing lentiviral particles were injected into the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus along with intraperitoneal (i.p) valproate (VPA) injection, 3 weeks after the STZ administration. We assessed short-term and spatial memories by the Y-maze and Morris water maze (MWM) tasks, respectively. Electrophysiological activities of induced neuron-like cells were investigated using a whole-cell patch clamp technique, 6 months after injection of miR-302/367. Behavioral analysis showed that the STZ injection significantly impaired short-term memory and increased escape latency parameter in the MWM task. Compared to STZ and STZ + VPA groups, miR-302/367 combined with VPA significantly improved the spontaneous alternation and spatial memory. Immunostaining against NeuN, as a mature neuronal marker, and its quantification indicated that co-labeled GFP and NeuN significantly increased in the miR-302/367 + VPA group. Induced neurons were detected 6 months after the miR-302/367 injection. The patch-clamp recording suggested that induced neurons could fire repetitive action potential like endogenous neurons. In conclusion, our results indicated that in vivo reprogramming of reactive astrocytes to neurons by the miR-302/367 cluster might be considered as a novel strategy to restore learning and memory in AD patients.Graphical abstractHighlightsAD animal model and hippocampal gliosis was induced by streptozocin.Hippocampal injection of miR-302/367 expressing lentiviral particles and systemic valproate were performed.Treated animals showed enhanced memory performance.Transduced astrocytes were converted to neurons.

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