Meteorin is a newly discovered secreted protein involved in both glial and neuronal cell differentiation, as well as in cerebral angiogenesis during development; but effects in the adult nervous system are unknown. The growth factor-like properties and expression of Meteorin during the development of the nervous system raises the possibility that it might possess important neuroprotective or regenerative capabilities. This report is the first demonstration that Meteorin has potent neuroprotective effects in vivo. Lentiviral-mediated striatal delivery of Meteorin to rats two weeks prior to injections of quinolinic acid (QA) dramatically reduced the loss of striatal neurons. The cellular protection afforded by Meteorin was associated with normalization of neurological performance on spontaneous forelimb placing and cylinder behavioral tests and a complete protection against QA-induced weight loss. These benefits were comparable in magnitude to those obtained with lentiviral-mediated delivery of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), a protein with known neuroprotective properties in the same model system. In naive animals, endogenous levels of both Meteorin and CNTF were increased in glial cells in response to QA lesion indicating that Meteorin may exert its protective effects as part of the reactive gliosis cascade in the injured brain. In summary, these data demonstrate that Meteorin strongly protects striatal neurons and deserves additional evaluation as a novel therapeutic for the treatment of neurological disorders with an excitotoxic component such as Huntington's Disease.
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