Anti-Excitotoxic Effects of N-Butylidenephthalide Revealed by Chemically Insulted Purkinje Progenitor Cells Derived from SCA3 iPSCs

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jan 26;23(3):1391. doi: 10.3390/ijms23031391.


Spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3) is characterized by the over-repetitive CAG codon in the ataxin-3 gene (ATXN3), which encodes the mutant ATXN3 protein. The pathological defects of SCA3 such as the impaired aggresomes, autophagy, and the proteasome have been reported previously. To date, no effective treatment is available for SCA3 disease. This study aimed to study anti-excitotoxic effects of n-butylidenephthalide by chemically insulted Purkinje progenitor cells derived from SCA3 iPSCs. We successfully generated Purkinje progenitor cells (PPs) from SCA3 patient-derived iPSCs. The PPs, expressing both neural and Purkinje progenitor's markers, were acquired after 35 days of differentiation. In comparison with the PPs derived from control iPSCs, SCA3 iPSCs-derived PPs were more sensitive to the excitotoxicity induced by quinolinic acid (QA). The observations of QA-treated SCA3 PPs showing neural degeneration including neurite shrinkage and cell number decrease could be used to quickly and efficiently identify drug candidates. Given that the QA-induced neural cell death of SCA3 PPs was established, the activity of calpain in SCA3 PPs was revealed. Furthermore, the expression of cleaved poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1), a marker of apoptotic pathway, and the accumulation of ATXN3 proteolytic fragments were observed. When SCA3 PPs were treated with n-butylidenephthalide (n-BP), upregulated expression of calpain 2 and concurrent decreased level of calpastatin could be reversed, and the overall calpain activity was accordingly suppressed. Such findings reveal that n-BP could not only inhibit the cleavage of ATXN3 but also protect the QA-induced excitotoxicity from the Purkinje progenitor loss.

Keywords: ATXN3; Purkinje progenitor; SCA3; iPSCs; n-butylidenephthalide; quinolinic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ataxin-3 / metabolism*
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Calpain / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Machado-Joseph Disease / metabolism
  • Male
  • Phthalic Anhydrides / pharmacology*
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Purkinje Cells / drug effects*
  • Purkinje Cells / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*


  • Phthalic Anhydrides
  • Repressor Proteins
  • ATXN3 protein, human
  • Ataxin-3
  • Calpain
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • butylidenephthalide