Background and purpose: beta-Amyloid peptide (Abeta) is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease by initiating a cascade of events from mitochondrial dysfunction to neuronal death. The metabolic enhancer piracetam has been shown to improve mitochondrial dysfunction following brain aging and experimentally induced oxidative stress.
Experimental approach: We used cell lines (PC12 and HEK cells) and murine dissociated brain cells. The protective effects of piracetam in vitro and ex vivo on Abeta-induced impairment of mitochondrial function (as mitochondrial membrane potential and ATP production), on secretion of soluble Abeta and on neurite outgrowth in PC12 cells were investigated.
Key results: Piracetam improves mitochondrial function of PC12 cells and acutely dissociated brain cells from young NMRI mice following exposure to extracellular Abeta(1-42). Similar protective effects against Abeta(1-42) were observed in dissociated brain cells from aged NMRI mice, or mice transgenic for mutant human amyloid precursor protein (APP) treated with piracetam for 14 days. Soluble Abeta load was markedly diminished in the brain of those animals after treatment with piracetam. Abeta production by HEK cells stably transfected with mutant human APP was elevated by oxidative stress and this was reduced by piracetam. Impairment of neuritogenesis is an important consequence of Abeta-induced mitochondrial dysfunction and Abeta-induced reduction of neurite growth in PC12 cells was substantially improved by piracetam.
Conclusion and implications: Our findings strongly support the concept of improving mitochondrial function as an approach to ameliorate the detrimental effects of Abeta on brain function.