DMSO Delays Alzheimer Disease Causing Aβ-induced Paralysis in C. elegans Through Modulation of Glutamate/Acetylcholine Neurotransmission

Ann Neurosci. 2021 Jan;28(1-2):55-64. doi: 10.1177/09727531211046369. Epub 2021 Oct 5.


Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD), a prevalent neurodegenerative disease with progressive dementia and neurotransmission (NT)-dysfunction-related complications in older adults, is known to be caused by abnormal Amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide and associated amyloid plaques in the brain. Drugs to cure AD are not in sight. Two major excitatory neurotransmitters, glutamate (Glu) and acetylcholine (ACh), and their signaling systems are implicated in AD.

Objective: To determine the effect of various NT-altering compounds including fenobam, quisqualic acid, and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) in the protection against Aβ toxicity. Further, to identify the potential mechanism through which the protection happens.

Methods: The well-known C. elegans AD model, CL4176, in which human Aβ expression is turned on upon a temperature shift to 25 °C that leads to paralysis, was screened for protection/delay in paralysis because of Αβ toxicity. While screening the compounds, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a universal solvent used to solubilize compounds, was identified to provide protection. Aldicarb and levamisole assays were performed to identify the contribution of ACh neurotransmission in Αβ toxicity protection by DMSO.

Results: One percent and two percent DMSO delayed paralysis by 48% and 90%, respectively. DMSO was dominant over one of the Glu-NT pathway-related compounds, Fenobam-Group I mGluR antagonist. But DMSO provided only 30% to 50% protection against Quisqualic acid, the Glu-agonist. DMSO (2%) delayed ACh-NT, both presynaptic acetylcholine esterase inhibitor (AchEi)-aldicarb and postsynaptic-iAChR-agonst-levamisole induced paralysis, by ∼70% in CL4176. DMSO seems to be altering Ca2+ ion permeability essential for NT as EthyleneDiamine Tetra-Acetic acid (EDTA) and DMSO provided similar aldicarb resistance either combined or alone in wildtype worms. But postsynaptic Ca2+ depletion by EDTA could reverse DMSO-induced levamisole hypersensitivity. Surprisingly, the absence of FOrkhead boXO (FOXO) transcription factor homolog, daf-16 (loss-of-function mutant), a critical transcription factor in the reduced IIS-mediated longevity in C. elegans, abolished DMSO-mediated AldR.

Conclusion: DMSO and Fenobam protect against Aβ toxicity through modulation of NT.

Keywords: Acetylcholine; Aldicarb; Alzheimer disease; Aβ; C. elegans; Ca2+; DMSO; Glutamate; Levamisole; Neurotransmission; daf-16.