Oral administration of the combination of L-threonate (threonate) and magnesium (Mg(2+)) in the form of L-Threonic acid Magnesium salt (L-TAMS) can enhance learning and memory in young rats and prevent memory decline in aging rats and in Alzheimer's disease model mice. Recent results from a human clinical trial demonstrate the efficacy of L-TAMS in restoring global cognitive abilities of older adults. Previously, we reported that neuronal intracellular Mg(2+) serves as a critical signaling molecule for controlling synapse density, a key factor that determines cognitive ability. The elevation of brain Mg(2+) by oral administration of L-TAMS in intact animals plays a significant role in mediating the therapeutic effects of L-TAMS. The current study sought to elucidate the unique role of threonate. We aimed to understand if threonate acts directly to elevate intraneuronal Mg(2+), and why Mg(2+) given without threonate is ineffective for enhancing learning and memory ability. We discovered that threonate is naturally present in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and oral treatment with L-TAMS elevated CSF threonate. In cultured hippocampal neurons, threonate treatment directly induced an increase in intracellular Mg(2+) concentration. Functionally, elevating threonate upregulated expression of NR2B-containing NMDAR, boosted mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm), and increased functional synapse density in neuronal cultures. These effects are unique to threonate, as other common Mg(2+) anions failed to have the same results. Mechanistically, threonate's effects were specifically mediated through glucose transporters (GLUTs). We also evaluated the effects of threonate in human neural stem cell-derived neurons, and found it was equally effective at upregulating synapse density. The current study provides an explanation for why threonate is an essential component of L-TAMS and supports the use of L-TAMS to promote cognitive abilities in human.
Keywords: Functional terminals; Human stem cell-derived neurons; Intracellular Mg(2+); Rat; Synaptic density; Threonate.
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