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Preclinical Evidence Supporting Early Initiation of Citalopram Treatment in Machado-Joseph Disease.

Molecular neurobiology (2018-09-03)
Sofia Esteves, Stéphanie Oliveira, Sara Duarte-Silva, Daniela Cunha-Garcia, Andreia Teixeira-Castro, Patrícia Maciel

Spinocerebellar ataxias are dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorders with no disease-modifying treatment. We previously identified the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor citalopram as a safe and effective drug to be repurposed for Machado-Joseph disease. Pre-symptomatic treatment of transgenic (CMVMJD135) mice strikingly ameliorated mutant ataxin-3 (ATXN3) pathogenesis. Here, we asked whether citalopram treatment initiated at a post-symptomatic age would still show efficacy. We used a cohort of CMVMJD135 mice that shows increased phenotypic severity and faster disease progression (CMVMJD135hi) compared to the mice used in the first trial. Groups of hemizygous CMVMJD135hi mice were orally treated with citalopram. Behavior, protein analysis, and pathology assessment were performed blindly to treatment. Our results show that even when initiated after symptom onset, treatment of CMVMJD135hi mice with citalopram ameliorated motor coordination and balance, attenuating disease progression, albeit to a lesser extent than that seen with pre-symptomatic treatment initiation. There was no impact on ATXN3 aggregation, which contrasts with the robust reduction in ATXN3-positive inclusions observed in CMVMJD135 mice, when treated pre-symptomatically. Post-symptomatic treatment of CMVMJD135hi mice revealed, however, a limited neuroprotective effect by showing a tendency to repair cerebellar calbindin staining, and to increase the number of motor neurons and of NeuN-positive cells in certain brain regions. While supporting that early initiation of treatment with citalopram leads to a marked increase in efficacy, these results strengthen our previous observation that modulation of serotonergic signaling by citalopram is a promising therapeutic approach for Machado-Joseph disease even after symptom onset.

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