Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1 (CMT1A) is a hereditary peripheral neuropathy for which there is no available therapy. Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) is an abundant serine protease inhibitor with anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating properties. Here, we tested whether treatment with human AAT (hAAT) would have a therapeutic effect on CMT1A in a PMP22 transgenic mouse model. Our results show that hAAT significantly improved compound muscle action potential and histopathological features and decreased circulating IL-6 in CMT1A mice. We also investigated some of the possible underlying mechanisms in vitro. We confirmed that hAAT inhibits ADAM-17, a protease that has been implicated in blocking myelination. Furthermore, both hAAT and recombinant human AAT (rhAAT) were able to attenuate the activation of a macrophage/microglia cell line, markedly decreasing the activation of the MHC class II promoter and the expression of pro-inflammatory genes such as IL-1β and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress marker ATF3. Taken together, our results demonstrate for the first time that hAAT is able to reduce the progression of CMT1A, possibly by dampening inflammation and by regulating ADAM-17. Given the already well-established safety profile of hAAT, specifically in AAT deficiency disease (AATD), we suggest that the findings of our study should be promptly investigated in CMT1A patients.
Keywords: CMT1A; MHC class II (MHCII); hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy (HMSN); interleukin-6 (IL-6); peripheral myelin protein (PMP22); recombinant AAT.