Novel GLP-1 mimetics developed to treat type 2 diabetes promote progenitor cell proliferation in the brain

J Neurosci Res. 2011 Apr;89(4):481-9. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22565. Epub 2011 Jan 10.


One of the symptoms of diabetes is the progressive development of neuropathies. One mechanism to replace neurons in the CNS is through the activation of stem cells and neuronal progenitor cells. We have tested the effects of the novel GLP-1 mimetics exenatide (exendin-4; Byetta) and liraglutide (NN2211; Victoza), which are already on the market as treatments for type 2 diabetes, on the proliferation rate of progenitor cells and differentiation into neurons in the dentate gyrus of brains of mouse models of diabetes. GLP-1 analogues were injected subcutaneously for 4, 6, or 10 weeks once daily in three mouse models of diabetes: ob/ob mice, db/db mice, or high-fat-diet-fed mice. Twenty-four hours before perfusion, animals were injected with 5'-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) to mark dividing progenitor cells. By using immunohistochemistry and stereological methods, the number of progenitor cells or doublecortin-positive young neurons in the dentate gyrus was estimated. We found that, in all three mouse models, progenitor cell division was enhanced compared with nondiabetic controls after chronic i.p. injection of either liraglutide or exendin-4 by 100-150% (P < 0.001). We also found an increase in young neurons in the DG of high-fat-diet-fed mice after drug treatment (P < 0.001). The GLP-1 receptor antagonist exendin(9-36) reduced progenitor cell proliferation in these mice. The results demonstrate that GLP-1 mimetics show promise as a treatment for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, because these novel drugs cross the blood-brain barrier and increase neuroneogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dentate Gyrus / drug effects*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Exenatide
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / agonists
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Liraglutide
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neural Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neurogenesis / drug effects
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Venoms / pharmacology*


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Peptides
  • Venoms
  • Liraglutide
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1
  • Exenatide