Salvatore Guarini : Department of Biomedical, Metabolic and Neural Sciences, Section of Pharmacology and Molecular Medicine, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, via G. Campi 287, 41125 Modena, Italy. Fax: +39 59 2055376. email : firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been previously reported that brain hydrogen sulfide (H2S) synthesis is severely decreased in Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients, and plasma H2S levels are negatively correlated with the severity of AD. Here we extensively investigated whether treatment with a H2S donor and spa-waters rich in H2S induces neuroprotection and slows down progression of AD. Studies with sodium hydrosulfide (a H2S donor) and Tabiano's spa-water were carried out in three experimental models of AD. Short-term and long-term treatments with sodium hydrosulfide and/or Tabiano's spa-water significantly protected against impairment in learning and memory in rat models of AD induced by brain injection of β-amyloid1-40 (Aβ) or streptozotocin, and in an AD mouse model harboring human transgenes APPSwe, PS1M146V and tauP301L (3xTg-AD mice). The improvement in behavioral performance was associated with hippocampus was size of Aβ plaques and preservation of the morphological picture, as found in AD rats. Further, lowered concentration/phosphorylation levels of proteins thought to be the central events in AD pathophysiology, namely amyloid precursor protein, presenilin-1, Aβ1-42 and tau phosphorylated at Thr181, Ser396 and Ser202, were detected in 3xTg-AD mice treated with spa-water. The excitotoxicity-triggered oxidative and nitrosative stress was counteracted in 3xTg-AD mice, as indicated by the decreased levels of malondialdehyde and nitrites in the cerebral cortex. Hippocampus reduced activity of c-jun N-terminal kinases, extracellular signal-regulated kinases and p38, which have an established role not only in phosphorylation of tau protein but also in inflammation and apoptosis, was also found. Consistently, decrease in tumor necrosis factor-α level, up-regulation of Bcl-2, and down-regulation of BAX and the downstream executioner caspase-3, also occurred in the hippocampus of 3xTg-AD mice after treatment with Tabiano's spa-water, thus suggesting that it is also able to modulate inflammation and apoptosis. Our findings indicate that appropriate treatments with H2S donors and Tabiano's spa-waters, and may be other spa-waters rich in H2S content, might represent an innovative approach to slow down AD progression in humans by targeting multiple pathophysiological mechanisms.