Abnormal cytoplasmic mislocalization of transactive response DNA binding protein 43 (TARDBP or TDP-43) in degenerating neurons is a hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin-positive inclusions (FTLD-U). Our previous work suggested that nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) may constitute a therapeutic target for TDP-43-mediated disease. Here, we investigated the effects of root extract of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha), an herbal medicine with anti-inflammatory properties, in transgenic mice expressing a genomic fragment encoding human TDP-43A315T mutant. Ashwagandha extract was administered orally to hTDP-43A315T mice for a period of 8 weeks starting at 64 and 48 weeks of age for males and females, respectively. The treatment of hTDP-43A315T mice ameliorated their motor performance on rotarod test and cognitive function assessed by the passive avoidance test. Microscopy examination of tissue samples revealed that Ashwagandha treatment of hTDP-43A315T mice improved innervation at neuromuscular junctions, attenuated neuroinflammation, and reduced NF-κB activation. Remarkably, Ashwagandha treatment reversed the cytoplasmic mislocalization of hTDP-43 in spinal motor neurons and in brain cortical neurons of hTDP-43A315T mice and it reduced hTDP-43 aggregation. In vitro evidence is presented that the neuronal rescue of TDP-43 mislocalization may be due to the indirect effect of factors released from microglial cells exposed to Ashwagandha. These results suggest that Ashwagandha and its constituents might represent promising therapeutics for TDP-43 proteinopathies.
Keywords: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; NF-κB.; TDP-43; Withania somnifera.