Treatment with the BCL-2/BCL-xL inhibitor senolytic drug ABT263/Navitoclax improves functional hyperemia in aged mice

Geroscience. 2021 Oct;43(5):2427-2440. doi: 10.1007/s11357-021-00440-z. Epub 2021 Aug 24.


Moment-to-moment adjustment of regional cerebral blood flow to neuronal activity via neurovascular coupling (NVC or "functional hyperemia") has a critical role in maintenance of healthy cognitive function. Aging-induced impairment of NVC responses importantly contributes to age-related cognitive decline. Advanced aging is associated with increased prevalence of senescent cells in the cerebral microcirculation, but their role in impaired NVC responses remains unexplored. The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that a validated senolytic treatment can improve NVC responses and cognitive performance in aged mice. To achieve this goal, aged (24-month-old) C57BL/6 mice were treated with ABT263/Navitoclax, a potent senolytic agent known to eliminate senescent cells in the aged mouse brain. Mice were behaviorally evaluated (radial arms water maze) and NVC was assessed by measuring CBF responses (laser speckle contrast imaging) in the somatosensory whisker barrel cortex evoked by contralateral whisker stimulation. We found that NVC responses were significantly impaired in aged mice. ABT263/Navitoclax treatment improved NVC response, which was associated with significantly improved hippocampal-encoded functions of learning and memory. ABT263/Navitoclax treatment did not significantly affect endothelium-dependent acetylcholine-induced relaxation of aorta rings. Thus, increased presence of senescent cells in the aged brain likely contributes to age-related neurovascular uncoupling, exacerbating cognitive decline. The neurovascular protective effects of ABT263/Navitoclax treatment highlight the preventive and therapeutic potential of senolytic treatments (as monotherapy or as part of combination treatment regimens) as effective interventions in patients at risk for vascular cognitive impairment (VCI).

Keywords: Aging; Endothelial dysfunction; Functional hyperemia; Microcirculation; Senescence; Vascular cognitive impairment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Aniline Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Hyperemia* / drug therapy
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Senotherapeutics / pharmacology*
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology*
  • bcl-X Protein / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Aniline Compounds
  • Bcl2l1 protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Senotherapeutics
  • Sulfonamides
  • bcl-X Protein
  • navitoclax