A novel calpain inhibitor compound has protective effects on a zebrafish model of spinocerebellar ataxia type 3

Katherine J. Robinson, Kristy Yuan, Stuart K. Plenderleith, Maxinne Watchon, Angela Laird*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
52 Downloads (Pure)


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) is a hereditary ataxia caused by inheritance of a mutated form of the human ATXN3 gene containing an expanded CAG repeat region, encoding a human ataxin-3 protein with a long polyglutamine (polyQ) repeat region. Previous studies have demonstrated that ataxin-3 containing a long polyQ length is highly aggregation prone. Cleavage of the ataxin-3 protein by calpain proteases has been demonstrated to be enhanced in SCA3 models, leading to an increase in the aggregation propensity of the protein. Here, we tested the therapeutic potential of a novel calpain inhibitor BLD-2736 for the treatment of SCA3 by testing its efficacy on a transgenic zebrafish model of SCA3. We found that treatment with BLD-2736 from 1 to 6 days post-fertilisation (dpf) improves the swimming of SCA3 zebrafish larvae and decreases the presence of insoluble protein aggregates. Furthermore, delaying the commencement of treatment with BLD2736, until a timepoint when protein aggregates were already known to be present in the zebrafish larvae, was still successful at removing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) fused-ataxin-3 aggregates and improving the zebrafish swimming. Finally, we demonstrate that treatment with BLD-2736 increased the synthesis of LC3II, increasing the activity of the autophagy protein quality control pathway. Together, these findings suggest that BLD-2736 warrants further investigation as a treatment for SCA3 and related neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2592
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • calpain
  • spinocerebellar ataxia-3
  • Machado Joseph disease
  • polyglutamine
  • zebrafish


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