Upregulation of BDNF and hippocampal functions by a hippocampal ligand of PPARα

JCI Insight. 2020 May 21;5(10):e136654. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.136654.


Discovery strategies commonly focus on the identification of chemical libraries or natural products, but the modulation of endogenous ligands offers a much better therapeutic strategy due to their low adverse potential. Recently, we found that hexadecanamide (Hex) is present in hippocampal nuclei of normal mice as an endogenous ligand of PPARα. This study underlines the importance of Hex in inducing the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) from hippocampal neurons via PPARα. The level of Hex was lower in the hippocampi of 5XFAD mice as compared with that in non-Tg mice. Oral administration of Hex increased the level of this molecule in the hippocampus to stimulate BDNF and its downstream plasticity-associated molecules, promote synaptic functions in the hippocampus, and improve memory and learning in 5XFAD mice. However, oral Hex remained unable to stimulate hippocampal plasticity and improve cognitive behaviors in 5XFADPparα-null and 5XFADPparα-ΔHippo mice, indicating an essential role of hippocampal PPARα in Hex-mediated improvement in hippocampal functions. This is the first demonstration to our knowledge of protection of hippocampal functions by oral administration of a hippocampus-based drug, suggesting that Hex may be explored for therapeutic intervention in AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Neuroscience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Animals
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / biosynthesis*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • PPAR alpha / agonists*
  • PPAR alpha / genetics
  • PPAR alpha / metabolism
  • Palmitic Acids / pharmacology*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects*


  • Bdnf protein, mouse
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • PPAR alpha
  • Palmitic Acids
  • Ppara protein, mouse
  • hexadecanamide