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Tumor necrosis factor-α synthesis inhibitor 3,6′-dithiothalidomide attenuates markers of inflammation, Alzheimer pathology and behavioral deficits in animal models of neuroinflammation and Alzheimer’s disease

David Tweedie1, Ryan A Ferguson2, Kelly Fishman2, Kathryn A Frankola1, Henriette Van Praag1, Harold W Holloway1, Weiming Luo1, Yazhou Li1, Luca Caracciolo3, Isabella Russo3, Sergio Barlati4, Balmiki Ray5, Debomoy K Lahiri5, Francesca Bosetti36, Nigel H Greig1* and Susanna Rosi27

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Neurosciences, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, MD, 21224, USA

2 Brain and Spinal Injury Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA, 94143, USA

3 Molecular Neuroscience Unit, Brain Physiology and Metabolism Section, Intramural Research Program, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

4 Division of Biology & Genetics, Department of Biomedical Sciences and Biotechnologies & National Institute of Neuroscience, University of Brescia, Brescia, 25123, Italy

5 Laboratory of Molecular Neurogenetics, Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatric Research Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN, 46202, USA

6 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

7 Departments of Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science and Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:106  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-106

Published: 29 May 2012



Neuroinflammation is associated with virtually all major neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although it remains unclear whether neuroinflammation is the driving force behind these disorders, compelling evidence implicates its role in exacerbating disease progression, with a key player being the potent proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α. Elevated TNF-α levels are commonly detected in the clinic and animal models of AD.


The potential benefits of a novel TNF-α-lowering agent, 3,6′-dithiothalidomide, were investigated in cellular and rodent models of neuroinflammation with a specific focus on AD. These included central and systemic inflammation induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and Aβ1–42 challenge, and biochemical and behavioral assessment of 3xTg-AD mice following chronic 3,6′-dithiothaliodmide.


3,6′-Dithiothaliodmide lowered TNF-α, nitrite (an indicator of oxidative damage) and secreted amyloid precursor protein (sAPP) levels in LPS-activated macrophage-like cells (RAW 264.7 cells). This translated into reduced central and systemic TNF-α production in acute LPS-challenged rats, and to a reduction of neuroinflammatory markers and restoration of neuronal plasticity following chronic central challenge of LPS. In mice centrally challenged with Aβ1–42 peptide, prior systemic 3,6′-dithiothalidomide suppressed Aβ-induced memory dysfunction, microglial activation and neuronal degeneration. Chronic 3,6′-dithiothalidomide administration to an elderly symptomatic cohort of 3xTg-AD mice reduced multiple hallmark features of AD, including phosphorylated tau protein, APP, Aβ peptide and Aβ-plaque number along with deficits in memory function to levels present in younger adult cognitively unimpaired 3xTg-AD mice. Levels of the synaptic proteins, SNAP25 and synaptophysin, were found to be elevated in older symptomatic drug-treated 3xTg-AD mice compared to vehicle-treated ones, indicative of a preservation of synaptic function during drug treatment.


Our data suggest a strong beneficial effect of 3,6′-dithiothalidomide in the setting of neuroinflammation and AD, supporting a role for neuroinflammation and TNF-α in disease progression and their targeting as a means of clinical management.

Neuroinflammation; Neurodegeneration; TNF-α; Neuroprotection; Alzheimer’s disease; Mild cognitive impairment; Amyoid-β peptide; Tau; Thalidomide; Lenalidomide