To determine whether glutathione (GSH) loss or increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) are more important to neuron loss, aging, and Alzheimer's disease (AD), we stressed or boosted GSH levels in neurons isolated from aging 3xTg-AD neurons compared with those from age-matched nontransgenic (non-Tg) neurons. Here, using titrating with buthionine sulfoximine, an inhibitor of γ-glutamyl cysteine synthetase (GCL), we observed that GSH depletion increased neuronal death of 3xTg-AD cultured neurons at increasing rates across the age span, whereas non-Tg neurons were resistant to GSH depletion until old age. Remarkably, the rate of neuron loss with ROS did not increase in old age and was the same for both genotypes, which indicates that cognitive deficits in the AD model were not caused by ROS. Therefore, we targeted for neuroprotection activation of the redox sensitive transcription factor, nuclear erythroid-related factor 2 (Nrf2) by 18 alpha glycyrrhetinic acid to stimulate GSH synthesis through GCL. This balanced stimulation of a number of redox enzymes restored the lower levels of Nrf2 and GCL seen in 3xTg-AD neurons compared with those of non-Tg neurons and promoted translocation of Nrf2 to the nucleus. By combining the Nrf2 activator together with the NADH precursor, nicotinamide, we increased neuron survival against amyloid beta stress in an additive manner. These stress tests and neuroprotective treatments suggest that the redox environment is more important for neuron survival than ROS. The dual neuroprotective treatment with nicotinamide and an Nrf2 inducer indicates that these age-related and AD-related changes are reversible.
Keywords: 3xTg-AD; Aging; Glutathione; Neurodegeneration; Neuroprotection; Nrf2; ROS; Stress.
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