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An investigation into the neuroprotective properties of acyclovir

by Müller, A.C.

Abstract (Summary)
Accumulating evidence suggests that quinolinic acid has a role to play in disorders involving impairment of learning and memory. In the present study, the effect of the guanosine analogue antiherpetic, acyclovir, on quinolinic acid-induced spatial memory deficits was investigated, as well as some of the mechanisms which underlie this effect.

Behavioural studies using a Morris water maze show that post-treatment of rats with acyclovir significantly improves spatial memory deficits induced by intrahippocampal injections of quinolinic acid. Histological analysis of the hippocampi show that the effect of acyclovir is related to its ability to alleviate quinolinic acid-induced necrotic cell death, through interference with some of the mechanisms of neurodegeneration. However, acyclovir is unable to alter a quinolinic acid-induced increase in glutamate release in the rat hippocampus, even though it alleviates quinolinic acid induced oxidative stress by scavenging the superoxide anion in vitro and in vivo in whole rat brain and hippocampus respectively. Due to the inverse relationship which exists between superoxide anion and glutathione levels, acyclovir also curtails the quinolinic acid-induced decrease in hippocampal glutathione levels.

Acyclovir suppresses quinolinic acid-induced lipid peroxidation in vitro and in vivo, in whole rat brain and hippocampus respectively, through its alleviation of oxidative stress and possibly through the binding of iron (II) and / or iron (III), preventing the participation and redox recycling of iron (II) in the Fenton reaction, which quinolinic acid is thought to enhance by weak binding of ferrous ions. This argument is further strengthened by the ability of the drug to suppress iron (II)-induced lipid peroxidation in vitro directly. Inorganic studies including ultraviolet and visible spectroscopy, electrochemistry and the ferrozine assay show that acyclovir binds to iron (II) and iron (III) and that quinolinic acid forms an easily oxidisable association with iron (II).

Acyclovir inhibits the endogenous biosynthesis of quinolinic acid by inhibiting the activity of liver tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase, intestinal indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase and rat liver 3-hydroxyanthranillic acid oxygenase in vitro and in vivo, possibly through competitive inhibition of haeme, scavenging of superoxide anion and binding of iron (II) respectively. An inverse relationship exists between tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase activity and brain serotonin levels. Acyclovir administration in rats induces a rise in forebrain serotonin and 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid and reduces the turnover of forebrain serotonin to 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid. Furthermore, it shows that acyclovir does not alter forebrain norepinephrine levels. The results of the pineal indole metabolism study show that acyclovir increases 5-hydroxytryptophol, N-acetylserotonin and the neurohormone melatonin, but decreases 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid.

The results of this study show that acyclovir has some neuroprotective properties which may make it useful in the alleviation of the anomalous neurobiology in neurodegenerative disorders.

Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:faculty of pharmacy

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2007

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