Long-lasting rescue of age-associated deficits in cognition and the CNS cholinergic phenotype by a partial agonist peptidomimetic ligand of TrkA.
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Previously, we developed a proteolytically stable small molecule peptidomimetic termed D3 as a selective ligand of the extracellular domain of the TrkA receptor for the NGF. Ex vivo D3 was defined as a selective, partial TrkA agonist. Here, the in vivo efficacy of D3 as a potential therapeutic for cholinergic neurons was tested in cognitively impaired aged rats, and we compared the consequence of partial TrkA activation (D3) versus full TrkA/p75 activation (NGF). We show that in vivo D3 binds to TrkA receptors and affords a significant and long-lived phenotypic rescue of the cholinergic phenotype both in the cortex and in the nucleus basalis. The cholinergic rescue was selective and correlates with a significant improvement of memory/learning in cognitively impaired aged rats. The effects of the synthetic ligand D3 and the natural ligand NGF were comparable. Small, proteolytically stable ligands with selective agonistic activity at a growth factor receptor may have therapeutic potential for neurodegenerative disorders.