Peptide regulation of cofilin activity in the CNS: A novel therapeutic approach for treatment of multiple neurological disorders

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Cofilin is a ubiquitous protein which cooperates with many other actin-binding proteins in regulating actin dynamics. Cofilin has essential functions in nervous system development including neuritogenesis, neurite elongation, growth cone pathfinding, dendritic spine formation, and the regulation of neurotransmission and spine function, components of synaptic plasticity essential for learning and memory. Cofilin's phosphoregulation is a downstream target of many transmembrane signaling processes, and its misregulation in neurons has been linked in rodent models to many different neurodegenerative and neurological disorders including Alzheimer disease (AD), aggression due to neonatal isolation, autism, manic/bipolar disorder, and sleep deprivation. Cognitive and behavioral deficits of these rodent models have been largely abrogated by modulation of cofilin activity using viral-mediated, genetic, and/or small molecule or peptide therapeutic approaches. Neuropathic pain in rats from sciatic nerve compression has also been reduced by modulating the cofilin pathway within neurons of the dorsal root ganglia. Neuroinflammation, which occurs following cerebral ischemia/reperfusion, but which also accompanies many other neurodegenerative syndromes, is markedly reduced by peptides targeting specific chemokine receptors, which also modulate cofilin activity. Thus, peptide therapeutics offer potential for cost-effective treatment of a wide variety of neurological disorders. Here we discuss some recent results from rodent models using therapeutic peptides with a surprising ability to cross the rodent blood brain barrier and alter cofilin activity in brain. We also offer suggestions as to how neuronal-specific cofilin regulation might be achieved.

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