Apoptosis plays an important role in neuronal cell death in both chronic and acute human neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington's disease, cerebral ischemia, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) encephalopathy. We evaluated the ability of the extracellular binding domain of a dimeric tumor necrosis factor receptor (p75TNFR) to prevent neurotoxicity and death of human fetal cerebral neurons that were exposed in vitro to toxic agents known to be implicated in human neurological disorders, including tumor necrosis factor (TNFα) and the HIV proteins Tat and gp120. The extracellular domain of p75TNFR is capable of binding and neutralizing both soluble and transmembrane-anchored TNFα. We efficiently transduced human neurons using adenoviral vectors expressing p75TNFR (Ad.p75TNFR) or a control gene (lacZ). Treatment of control cultures with the toxic agents TNFα, TNFα plus actinomycin D, or Tat and gp120, induced neurotoxic alterations and apoptotic death of neurons. By contrast, transduction of neurons with Ad.p75TNFR prevented apoptosis and cell death due to these agents. We conclude that viral vector transfer of the p75TNFR gene efficiently protects human neurons from TNFα-, Tat- or gp120-induced apoptosis and cell death. These results suggest that p75TNFR transduction of neurons by viral vectors could be therapeutically useful in the treatment of many human neurodegenerative diseases.
- Gene therapy
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