Reversal of Age-Related Neuronal Atrophy by α5-GABAA Receptor Positive Allosteric Modulation

Dr. Prevot and Colleagues just published their finding in the Journal Cerebral Cortex. They demonstrated the effect of GABAA receptor modulation, through the α5-subunit on the improvement of neuron morphology in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus of old mice. The effect on the morphology is associated with improved memory functions.



Aging is associated with reduced brain volume, altered neural activity, and neuronal atrophy in cortical-like structures, comprising the frontal cortex and hippocampus, together contributing to cognitive impairments. Therapeutic efforts aimed at reversing these deficits have focused on excitatory or neurotrophic mechanisms, although recent findings show that reduced dendritic inhibition mediated by α5-subunit containing GABA-A receptors (α5-GABAA-Rs) occurs during aging and contributes to cognitive impairment. Here, we aimed to confirm the beneficial effect on working memory of augmenting α5-GABAA-R activity in old mice and tested its potential at reversing age-related neuronal atrophy. We show that GL-II-73, a novel ligand with positive allosteric modulatory activity at α5-GABAA-R (α5-PAM), increases dendritic branching complexity and spine numbers of cortical neurons in vitro. Using old mice, we confirm that α5-PAM reverses age-related working memory deficits and show that chronic treatment (3 months) significantly reverses age-related dendritic shrinkage and spine loss in frontal cortex and hippocampus. A subsequent 1-week treatment cessation (separate cohort) resulted in loss of efficacy on working memory but maintained morphological neurotrophic effects. Together, the results demonstrate the beneficial effect on working memory and neurotrophic efficacy of augmenting α5-GABAA-R function in old mice, suggesting symptomatic and disease-modifying potential in age-related brain disorders.