In spite of the massive research for the identification of neurorestorative or neuroprotective intervention for curing Parkinson's disease (PD), there is still lack of clinically proven neuroprotective agents. Metformin, a common anti-hyperglycemic drug has been known to possess neuroprotective properties. However, specific mechanisms by which metformin protects neurons from 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) neurotoxicity remain to be elucidated. In this study, we assessed the neuroprotective effects of metformin in the subchronic MPTP model of PD, and explored its feasible mechanisms for neuroprotection. Animals received saline or MPTP injection (30 mg/kg/day) for the first 7 days, and then saline or metformin (200 mg/kg/day) for the next 7 days. Immunohistochemical stainings showed that metformin rescued the tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons and attenuated astroglial activation in the nigrostriatal pathway. In parallel, metformin restored dopamine depletion and behavioral impairments exerted by MPTP. Western blot analysis revealed that metformin ameliorated MPTP-induced α-synuclein phosphorylation which was accompanied by increased methylation of protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A), a phosphatase related to α-synuclein dephosphorylation. Moreover, the metformin regimen significantly increased the level of brain derived neurotrophic factor in the substantia nigra, and activated signaling pathways related to cell survival. Proof of concept study revealed that inhibition of PP2A or tropomyosin receptor kinase B reversed neuroprotective property of metformin in SH-SY5Y cells. Our results indicate that metformin provides neuroprotection against MPTP neurotoxicity, which might be mediated by inhibition of α-synuclein phosphorylation and induction of neurotrophic factors.
- Parkinson's disease