You are here

Caspase Inhibitor Infusion Protects an Avian Song Control Circuit from Seasonal-Like Neurodegeneration

TitleCaspase Inhibitor Infusion Protects an Avian Song Control Circuit from Seasonal-Like Neurodegeneration
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsThompson CK, Brenowitz EA
JournalJ. Neurosci.
Date Published2008

Sex steroids such as androgens and estrogens have trophic effects on the brain and can ameliorate neurodegeneration, and the withdrawal of circulating steroids induces neurodegeneration in several hormone-sensitive brain areas. Very little is known about the underlying molecular mechanisms that mediate neuronal regression caused by hormone-withdrawal, however. Here we show that reduction of programmed cell death by local infusion of caspase inhibitors rescues a telencephalic nucleus in the adult avian song control system from neurodegeneration that is induced by hormone withdrawal. This treatment also has trans-synaptic effects that provide some protection of an efferent target region. We found that unilateral infusion of caspase inhibitors in vivo in adult white-crowned sparrows rescued neurons within the hormone-sensitive song nucleus HVC (used as a proper name) from programmed cell death for as long as seven days after withdrawal of testosterone and a shift to short-day photoperiod and that the activation of caspase-3 was reduced by 59% on average in the ipsilateral HVC compared with the unmanipulated contralateral HVC. Caspase inhibitor infusion near HVC was sufficient to preserve neuron size ipsilaterally in a downstream nucleus, the robust nucleus of the arcopallium. This is the first report that sustained local application of caspase inhibitors can protect a telencephalic brain area from neurodegeneration in vivo and that a degenerating neural circuit rescued with caspase inhibitors produces sufficient trophic support to protect attributes of a downstream target that would otherwise degenerate. These results strengthen the case for the possible therapeutic use of caspase inhibitors under certain neurodegenerative conditions.