Fingolimod (FTY720) attenuates social deficits, learning and memory impairments, neuronal loss and neuroinflammation in the rat model of autism

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Abstract

Aims:

To investigate the effect of FTY720 on the valproic acid (VPA) rat model of autism.

Main methods:

As an animal model of autism, we used intraperitoneal injection of VPA on embryonic day 12.5 in Wistar rats. The pups were given FTY720 orally at doses of 0.25, 0.5 and 1 mg/kg daily from postnatal day 15 to 35. Social behavior, spatial learning and memory were assessed at the end of FTY720 treatment. The histological change, oxidative stress, neuroinflammatory responses, and apoptosis-related proteins in the hippocampus were evaluated.

Key findings:

FTY720 (1 mg/kg) administration to VPA-exposed rats (1) improved social behavior, spatial learning and memory impairment; (2) resulted in a reduction in neuronal loss and apoptosis of pyramidal cells in hippocampal CA1 regions; (3) inhibited activation of microglial cells, in turn lowering the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and IL-6 in the hippocampus; (4) changed Malondialdehyde (MDA) levels, Glutathione (GSH) levels, superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and Glutathione Peroxidase (GSH-Px) activity in the hippocampus; (6) inhibited the elevated Bax and caspase-3 protein levels and enhanced the relative expression level of Bcl-2 in the hippocampus; and (7) increased phospho-Ca2 +/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (p-CaMKII), phospho-cAMP-response element binding protein (p-CREB) and Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) protein expression in the hippocampus.

Significance:

FTY720 rescues social deficit, spatial learning and memory impairment in VPA-exposed rats. FTY720 exerts both a direct protection for neurons and an indirect modulation of inflammation-mediated neuron loss as a possible mechanism of neuroprotection.

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