Therapeutic potential of pregnenolone and pregnenolone methyl ether on depressive and CDKL5 deficiency disorders: Focus on microtubule targeting

J Neuroendocrinol. 2022 Feb;34(2):e13033. doi: 10.1111/jne.13033. Epub 2021 Sep 8.


Pregnenolone methyl-ether (PME) is a synthetic derivative of the endogenous neuroactive steroid pregnenolone (PREG), which is an important modulator of several brain functions. In addition to being the precursor of steroids, PREG acts directly on various targets including microtubules (MTs), the functioning of which is fundamental for the development and homeostasis of nervous system. The coordination of MT dynamics is supported by a plethora of MT-associated proteins (MAPs) and by a specific MT code that is defined by the post-translational modifications of tubulin. Defects associated with MAPs or tubulin post-translational modifications are linked to different neurological pathologies including mood and neurodevelopmental disorders. In this review, we describe the beneficial effect of PME in major depressive disorders (MDDs) and in CDKL5 deficiency disorder (CDD), two pathologies that are joint by defective MT dynamics. Growing evidence indeed suggests that PME, as well as PREG, is able to positively affect the MT-binding of MAP2 and the plus-end tracking protein CLIP170 that are both found to be deregulated in the above mentioned pathologies. Furthermore, PME influences the state of MT acetylation, the deregulation of which is often associated with neurological abnormalities including MDDs. By contrast to PREG, PME is not metabolised into other downstream molecules with specific biological properties, an aspect that makes this compound more suitable for therapeutic strategies. Thus, through the analysis of MDDs and CDD, this work focuses attention on the possible use of PME for neuronal pathologies associated with MT defects.

Keywords: CDKL5 deficiency disorder; major depressive disorders; microtubules; pregnenolone-methyl-ether.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder, Major*
  • Epileptic Syndromes
  • Humans
  • Methyl Ethers* / metabolism
  • Methyl Ethers* / pharmacology
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / pharmacology
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Pregnenolone / metabolism
  • Pregnenolone / therapeutic use
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Spasms, Infantile
  • Tubulin / metabolism
  • Tubulin / pharmacology


  • Methyl Ethers
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Tubulin
  • Pregnenolone
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • CDKL5 protein, human

Supplementary concepts

  • CDKL5 deficiency disorder