Zinc transporter-3 (ZnT3) protein is responsible for loading zinc into presynaptic vesicles and consequently controls the availability of zinc at the glutamatergic synapse. ZnT3 has been shown to decline with age and in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and is crucially involved in learning and memory. In this study, we utilised whole animal behavioural analyses in the ZnT3 KO mouse line, together with electrophysiological analysis of long-term potentiation in brain slices from ZnT3 KO mice, to show that metal chaperones (clioquinol, 30 mg/kg/day for 6weeks) can prevent the age-dependent cognitive phenotype that characterises these animals. This likely occurs as a result of a homeostatic restoration of synaptic protein expression, as clioquinol significantly restored levels of various pre- and postsynaptic proteins that are critical for normal cognition, including PSD-95; AMPAR and NMDAR2b. We hypothesised that this clioquinol-mediated restoration of synaptic health resulted from a selective increase in synaptic zinc content within the hippocampus. While we demonstrated a small regional increase in hippocampal zinc content using synchrotron x-ray fluorescence microscopy, further sub-region analyses are required to determine whether this effect is seen in other regions of the hippocampal formation that are more closely linked to the synaptic plasticity effects observed in this study. These data support our recent report on the use of a different metal chaperone (PBT2) to prevent normal age-related cognitive decline and demonstrate that metal chaperones are efficacious in preventing the zinc-mediated cognitive decline that characterises ageing and disease.
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