The p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75(NTR)) is associated with multiple mechanisms linked to Alzheimer's disease (AD); hence, modulating its function might confer therapeutic effects. In previous in vitro work, we developed small molecule p75(NTR) ligands that inhibited amyloid-β-induced degenerative signaling and prevented neurite degeneration. In the present study, a prototype p75(NTR) ligand, LM11A-31, was administered orally to the Thy-1 hAPP(Lond/Swe) (APP(L/S)) AD mouse model. LM11A-31 reached brain concentrations known to inhibit degenerative signaling without toxicity or induction of hyperalgesia. It prevented deficits in novel object recognition after 2.5 months and, in a separate cohort, deficits in Y-maze performance after 3 months of treatment. Stereology studies found that the number and size of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons, which are normal in APP(L/S) mice, were unaffected. Neuritic dystrophy, however, was readily apparent in the basal forebrain, hippocampus and cortex, and was significantly reduced by LM11A-31, with no effect on amyloid levels. These studies reveal that p75(NTR) is an important and tractable in vivo drug target for AD, with LM11A-31 representing a novel class of therapeutic candidates.
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