The p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR; also known as NGFR) can mediate neuronal apoptosis in disease or following trauma, and facilitate survival through interactions with Trk receptors. Here we tested the ability of a p75NTR-derived trophic cell-permeable peptide, c29, to inhibit p75NTR-mediated motor neuron death. Acute c29 application to axotomized motor neuron axons decreased cell death, and systemic c29 treatment of SOD1G93A mice, a common model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, resulted in increased spinal motor neuron survival mid-disease as well as delayed disease onset. Coincident with this, c29 treatment of these mice reduced the production of p75NTR cleavage products. Although c29 treatment inhibited mature- and pro-nerve-growth-factor-induced death of cultured motor neurons, and these ligands induced the cleavage of p75NTR in motor-neuron-like NSC-34 cells, there was no direct effect of c29 on p75NTR cleavage. Rather, c29 promoted motor neuron survival in vitro by enhancing the activation of TrkB-dependent signaling pathways, provided that low levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were present, an effect that was replicated in vivo in SOD1G93A mice. We conclude that the c29 peptide facilitates BDNF-dependent survival of motor neurons in vitro and in vivo.
- Motor neuron