The neurotrophin Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is essential for the maintenance and differentiation of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. Since basal forebrain cholinergic neurons represent one major neuronal population affected and progressively degenerating in Alzheimer's disease (AD), interest has grown for NGF as a potential therapeutic agent in neurodegenerative disorders linked to aging, particularly for AD. However, no evidence was available, to link, in a cause-effect manner, deficits in NGF signalling to the broader activation in the Alzheimer's cascade, besides cholinergic deficits. The phenotypic analysis of the AD11 anti-NGF transgenic mouse, obtained by the “neuroantibodies” phenotypic protein knock out strategy, allowed demonstrating a direct causal link between NGF deprivation and AD pathology. Since then, extensive mechanistic studies on the AD11 model provided a new twist to the concept that alterations in NGF transport and signalling play a crucial role in sporadic Alzheimer's neurodegeneration, leading to the hypothesis of “neurotrophic imbalance” as an upstream driver for sporadic AD. The results obtained with the AD11 anti-NGF mice highlight the fact that the particular mode of NGF neutralization, with an NGF antibody expressed in the brain, selectively interfering with mature NGF versus unprocessed proNGF, plays a major role in the mechanism of neurodegeneration, and could lead to new insights into the mechanisms of human sporadic AD. Here, we will review (1) the renewed neurotrophic imbalance hypothesis for AD and (2) the mechanisms underlying the neurodegenerative phenotype of AD11 anti-NGF mice.
Keywords: NGF, Alzheimer's disease, mouse model, knockout, neuroantibody approach, antibody, proNGF, LOAD, EOAD, Memantine, p75NTR, TgMNAC13, Immunosympathectomy, RT-PCR
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