Open Access Open Badges Research

Early intervention with a small molecule inhibitor for tumor nefosis factor-α prevents cognitive deficits in a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

S Prasad Gabbita1, Minu K Srivastava2, Pirooz Eslami2, Ming F Johnson2, Naomi K Kobritz2, David Tweedie3, Nigel H Greig3, Frank P Zemlan1, Sherven P Sharma2 and Marni E Harris-White2*

Author Affiliations

1 P2D Bioscience, Cincinnati, OH, 45242, USA

2 Veterans Administration-Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 11301 Wilshire Boulevard, (151), Los Angeles, CA, 90073, USA

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

For all author emails, please log on.

Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:99  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-99

Published: 25 May 2012



Chronic neuroinflammation is an important component of Alzheimer’s disease and could contribute to neuronal dysfunction, injury and loss that lead to disease progression. Multiple clinical studies implicate tumor necrosis factor-α as an inflammatory mediator of neurodegeneration in patients with Alzheimer’s because of elevated levels of this cytokine in the cerebrospinal fluid, hippocampus and cortex. Current Alzheimer’s disease interventions are symptomatic treatments with limited efficacy that do not address etiology. Thus, a critical need exists for novel treatments directed towards modifying the pathophysiology and progression.


To investigate the effect of early immune modulation on neuroinflammation and cognitive outcome, we treated triple transgenic Alzheimer’s disease mice (harboring PS1M146V, APPSwe, and tauP301L transgenes) with the small molecule tumor necrosis factor-α inhibitors, 3,6′-dithiothalidomide and thalidomide, beginning at four months of age. At this young age, mice do not exhibit plaque or tau pathology but do show mild intraneuronal amyloid beta protein staining and a robust increase in tumor necrosis factor-α. After 10 weeks of treatment, cognitive performance was assessed using radial arm maze and neuroinflammation was assessed using biochemical, stereological and flow cytometric endpoints.


3,6′-dithiothalidomide reduced tumor necrosis factor-α mRNA and protein levels in the brain and improved working memory performance and the ratio of resting to reactive microglia in the hippocampus of triple transgenic mice.

In comparison to non-transgenic controls, triple transgenic Alzheimer’s disease mice had increased total numbers of infiltrating peripheral monomyelocytic/granulocytic leukocytes with enhanced intracytoplasmic tumor necrosis factor-α, which was reduced after treatment with 3,6′-dithiothalidomide.


These results suggest that modulation of tumor necrosis factor-α with small molecule inhibitors is safe and effective with potential for the long-term prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease; memory; neuroinflammation; thalidomide; thiothalidomide; tumor necrosis factor-alpha