Alternative role of glucagon-like Peptide-1 receptor agonists in neurodegenerative diseases

Eur J Pharmacol. 2023 Jan 5:938:175439. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2022.175439. Epub 2022 Dec 2.


Aging is a crucial risk factor for common neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD). Limited options are available for the treatment of age-related, multiple pathogenic mechanism-contributed diseases that usually advance to irreversible conditions with severe neurological deficits and result in a heavy socioeconomic burden on patients, families, and society. A therapy that decelerates disease progression and reduces the socioeconomic burden stemming from these diseases is required. Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) is an important class of medication for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Through pancreatic effects, GLP-1R agonists can stimulate insulin secretion, increase β-cell proliferation, reduce β-cell apoptosis, and inhibit glucagon secretion in patients with T2DM. Currently, seven clinically approved GLP-1R agonists are used for T2DM: exenatide, liraglutide, lixisenatide, extended-release exenatide, albiglutide, dulaglutide, and semaglutide. Besides the pancreas, GLP-1Rs are also expressed in organs, such as the gastrointestinal tract, heart, lung, kidney, and brain, indicating their potential use in diseases other than T2DM. Emerging evidence reveals that GLP-1R agonists possess pleiotropic effects that enrich neurogenesis, diminish apoptosis, preclude neurons from oxidative stress, and reduce neuroinflammation in various neurological conditions. These favorable effects may also be employed in neurodegenerative diseases. Herein, we reviewed the recent progress, both in preclinical studies and clinical trials, regarding these clinically used GLP-1R agonists in aging-related neurodegenerative diseases, mainly AD and PD. We stress the pleiotropic characteristics of GLP-1R agonists as repurposing drugs to target multiple pathological mechanisms and for use in the future for these devastating neurodegenerative conditions.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; GLP-1 receptor agonist; Neurodegenerative diseases; Parkinson's disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / chemically induced
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2* / drug therapy
  • Exenatide / therapeutic use
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor / agonists
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / chemically induced
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / drug therapy


  • Glucagon-Like Peptide-1 Receptor
  • Exenatide
  • Hypoglycemic Agents