Pridopidine activates neuroprotective pathways impaired in Huntington Disease

Hum Mol Genet. 2016 Sep 15;25(18):3975-3987. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddw238. Epub 2016 Jul 27.


Pridopidine has demonstrated improvement in Huntington Disease (HD) motor symptoms as measured by secondary endpoints in clinical trials. Originally described as a dopamine stabilizer, this mechanism is insufficient to explain the clinical and preclinical effects of pridopidine. This study therefore explored pridopidine's potential mechanisms of action. The effect of pridopidine versus sham treatment on genome-wide expression profiling in the rat striatum was analysed and compared to the pathological expression profile in Q175 knock-in (Q175 KI) vs Q25 WT mouse models. A broad, unbiased pathway analysis was conducted, followed by testing the enrichment of relevant pathways. Pridopidine upregulated the BDNF pathway (P = 1.73E-10), and its effect on BDNF secretion was sigma 1 receptor (S1R) dependent. Many of the same genes were independently found to be downregulated in Q175 KI mice compared to WT (5.2e-7 < P < 0.04). In addition, pridopidine treatment upregulated the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) response, D1R-associated genes and the AKT/PI3K pathway (P = 1E-10, P = 0.001, P = 0.004, respectively). Pridopidine upregulates expression of BDNF, D1R, GR and AKT/PI3K pathways, known to promote neuronal plasticity and survival, as well as reported to demonstrate therapeutic benefit in HD animal models. Activation of S1R, necessary for its effect on the BDNF pathway, represents a core component of the mode of action of pridopidine. Since the newly identified pathways are downregulated in neurodegenerative diseases, including HD, these findings suggest that pridopidine may exert neuroprotective effects beyond its role in alleviating some symptoms of HD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Corpus Striatum / drug effects
  • Corpus Striatum / metabolism*
  • Corpus Striatum / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Genome
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / drug therapy*
  • Huntington Disease / genetics
  • Huntington Disease / pathology
  • Mice
  • Neuroprotective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / metabolism
  • Piperidines / administration & dosage*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Dopamine D5 / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Dopamine D5 / genetics
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Piperidines
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Receptors, Dopamine D5
  • pridopidine