Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by polyglutamine-encoding CAG repeat expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) gene. HTT is involved in the axonal transport of vesicles containing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). In HD, diminished BDNF transport leads to reduced BDNF delivery to the striatum, contributing to striatal and cortical neuronal death. Pridopidine is a selective and potent sigma-1 receptor (S1R) agonist currently in clinical development for HD. The S1R is located at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-mitochondria interface, where it regulates key cellular pathways commonly impaired in neurodegenerative diseases. We used a microfluidic device that reconstitutes the corticostriatal network, allowing the investigation of presynaptic dynamics, synaptic morphology and transmission, and postsynaptic signaling. Culturing primary neurons from the HD mouse model HdhCAG140/+ provides a "disease-on-a-chip" platform ideal for investigating pathogenic mechanisms and drug activity. Pridopidine rescued the trafficking of BDNF and TrkB resulting in an increased neurotrophin signaling at the synapse. This increased the capacity of HD neurons to release glutamate and restored homeostasis at the corticostriatal synapse. These data suggest that pridopidine enhances the availability of corticostriatal BDNF via S1R activation, leading to neuroprotective effects.
Keywords: BDNF/TrkB trafficking; ERK; Glutamate release; Huntingtin; Huntington disease; Neuroprotection; Pridopidine; Sigma-1 receptor; Synaptic transmission.
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