, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 61-72

The 21-aminosteroid U-74389F increases the number of glial fibrillary acidic protein-expressing astrocytes in the spinal cord of control and wobbler mice

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1. Wobbler mice suffer an autosomal recessive mutation producing severe motoneuron degeneration and dense astrogliosis, with increased levels of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in the spinal cord and brain stem. They have been considered animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and infantile spinal muscular atrophy.

2. Using Wobbler mice and normal littermates, we investigated the effects of the membrane-active steroid Lazaroid U-74389F on the number of GFAP-expressing astrocytes and glucocorticoid receptors (GR). Lazaroids are inhibitors of oxygen radical-induced lipid peroxidation, and proved beneficial in cases of CNS injury and ischemia.

3. Four days after pellet implantation of U-74389F into Wobbler mice, hyperplasia and hypertophy of GFAP-expressing astrocytes were apparent in the spinal cord ventral and dorsal horn, areas showing already intense astrogliosis in untreated Wobbler mice. In control mice, U-74389F also produced astrocyte hyperplasia and hypertophy in the dorsal horn and hyperplasia in the ventral-lateral funiculi of the cord.

4. Givenin vivo U-74389F did not change GR in spinal cord of Wobbler or control mice, in line with the concept that it is active in membranes but does not bind to GR. Besides, U-74390F did not compete for [3H]dexamethasone binding when addedin vitro.

5. The results suggest that stimulation of proliferation and size of GFAP-expressing astrocytes by U-74389F may be a novel mechanism of action of this compound. The Wobbler mouse may be a valuable animal model for further pharmacological testing of glucocorticoid and nonglucocorticoid steroids in neurodegenerative diseases.