Repeated Methylglyoxal Treatment Depletes Dopamine in the Prefrontal Cortex, and Causes Memory Impairment and Depressive-Like Behavior in Mice

Neurochem Res. 2020 Feb;45(2):354-370. doi: 10.1007/s11064-019-02921-2. Epub 2019 Nov 30.


Methylglyoxal (MGO) is a highly reactive dicarbonyl molecule that promotes the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are believed to play a key role in a number of pathologies, such as diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and inflammation. Here, Swiss mice were treated with MGO by intraperitoneal injection to investigate its effects on motor activity, mood, and cognition. Acute MGO treatment heavily decreased locomotor activity in the open field test at higher doses (80-200 mg/kg), an effect not observed at lower doses (10-50 mg/kg). Several alterations were observed 4 h after a single MGO injection (10-50 mg/kg): (a) plasma MGO levels were increased, (b) memory was impaired (object location task), (c) anxiolytic behavior was observed in the open field and marble burying test, and (d) depressive-like behavior was evidenced as evaluated by the tail suspension test. Biochemical alterations in the glutathione and glyoxalase systems were not observed 4 h after MGO treatment. Mice were also treated daily with MGO at 0, 10, 25 and 50 mg/kg for 11 days. From the 5th to the 11th day, several behavioral end points were evaluated, resulting in: (a) absence of motor impairment as evaluated in the open field, horizontal bars and pole test, (b) depressive-like behavior observed in the tail suspension test, and (c) cognitive impairments detected on working, short- and long-term memory when mice were tested in the Y-maze spontaneous alternation, object location and recognition tests, and step-down inhibitory avoidance task. An interesting finding was a marked decrease in dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex of mice treated with 50 mg/kg MGO for 11 days, along with a ~ 25% decrease in the Glo1 content. The MGO-induced dopamine depletion in the prefrontal cortex may be related to the observed memory deficits and depressive-like behavior, an interesting topic to be further studied as a potentially novel route for MGO toxicity.

Keywords: Cognitive dysfunction; Diabetes; Dopamine; Glyoxalase; Memory; Methylglyoxal; Mood.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / toxicity*
  • Depression / chemically induced*
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Dopamine / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Lactoylglutathione Lyase / metabolism
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Memory Disorders / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism
  • Pyruvaldehyde / toxicity*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Pyruvaldehyde
  • Glo1 protein, mouse
  • Lactoylglutathione Lyase
  • Dopamine