Featured Publications


Gonadal hormone deprivation regulates response to tibolone in neurodegenerative pathways

Gonadal hormone deprivation (GHD) and decline such as menopause and bilateral oophorectomy are associated with an increased risk of neurodegeneration. Yet, hormone therapies (HTs) show varying efficacy, influenced by factors such as sex, drug type, and timing of treatment relative to hormone decline. We hypothesize that the molecular environment of the brain undergoes a transition following GHD, impacting the effectiveness of HTs. Using a GHD model in mice treated with Tibolone, we conducted proteomic analysis and identified a reprogrammed response to Tibolone, a compound that stimulates estrogenic, progestogenic, and androgenic pathways. Through a comprehensive network pharmacological workflow, we identified a reprogrammed response to Tibolone, particularly within "Pathways of Neurodegeneration", as well as interconnected pathways including "cellular respiration", "carbon metabolism", and "cellular homeostasis". Analysis revealed 23 proteins whose Tibolone response depended on GHD and/or sex, implicating critical processes like oxidative phosphorylation and calcium signalling. Our findings suggest the therapeutic efficacy of HTs may depend on these variables, suggesting a need for greater precision medicine considerations whilst highlighting the need to uncover underlying mechanisms.

Keywords: Gonadectomy; Hormone Therapy; Menopause; Neurodegeneration; Proteomics; Tibolone

Repurposing of Tibolone in Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease characterised by the accumulation of amyloid-beta and tau in the brain, leading to the progressive loss of memory and cognition. The causes of its pathogenesis are still not fully understood, but some risk factors, such as age, genetics, and hormones, may play a crucial role. Studies show that postmenopausal women have a higher risk of developing AD, possibly due to the decrease in hormone levels, especially oestrogen, which may be directly related to a reduction in the activity of oestrogen receptors, especially beta (ERβ), which favours a more hostile cellular environment, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction, mainly affecting key processes related to transport, metabolism, and oxidative phosphorylation. Given the influence of hormones on biological processes at the mitochondrial level, hormone therapies are of clinical interest to reduce the risk or delay the onset of symptoms associated with AD. One drug with such potential is tibolone, which is used in clinics to treat menopause-related symptoms. It can reduce amyloid burden and have benefits on mitochondrial integrity and dynamics. Many of its protective effects are mediated through steroid receptors and may also be related to neuroglobin, whose elevated levels have been shown to protect against neurological diseases. Its importance has increased exponentially due to its implication in the pathogenesis of AD. In this review, we discuss recent advances in tibolone, focusing on its mitochondrial-protective effects, and highlight how valuable this compound could be as a therapeutic alternative to mitigate the molecular pathways characteristic of AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; tibolone; mitochondria; neuroglobin; oestrogen receptors

Serum TCA cycle metabolites in Lewy bodies dementia and Alzheimer's disease: Network analysis and cognitive prognosis

Abnormalities in the Tri-Carboxylic-Acid (TCA) cycle have been documented in dementia. Through network analysis, TCA cycle metabolites could indirectly reflect known dementia-related abnormalities in biochemical pathways, and key metabolites might be associated with prognosis. This study analyzed TCA cycle metabolites as predictors of cognitive decline in a mild dementia cohort and explored potential interactions with the diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) or Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and APOE-ε4 genotype. We included 145 mild dementia patients (LBD = 59; AD = 86). Serum TCA cycle metabolites were analyzed at baseline, and partial correlation networks were conducted. Cognitive performance was measured annually over 5-years with the Mini-mental State Examination. Longitudinal mixed-effects Tobit models evaluated each baseline metabolite as a predictor of 5-years cognitive decline. APOE-ε4 and diagnosis interactions were explored. Results showed comparable metabolite concentrations in LBD and AD. Multiple testing corrected networks showed larger coefficients for a negative correlation between pyruvate - succinate and positive correlations between fumarate - malate and citrate - Isocitrate in both LBD and AD. In the total sample, adjusted mixed models showed significant associations between baseline citrate concentration and longitudinal MMSE scores. In APOE-ε4 carriers, baseline isocitrate predicted MMSE scores. We conclude that, in mild dementia, serum citrate concentrations could be associated with subsequent cognitive decline, as well as isocitrate concentrations in APOE-ε4 carriers. Downregulation of enzymatic activity in the first half of the TCA cycle (decarboxylating dehydrogenases), with upregulation in the latter half (dehydrogenases only), might be indirectly reflected in serum TCA cycle metabolites' networks.

Keywords:Alzheimer's disease; Citric acid cycle; Cognitive decline; Dementia; Dementia with Lewy bodies

Sex-specific vulnerabilities in human astrocytes underpin the differential impact of palmitic acid

Obesity and neurometabolic diseases have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Our hypothesis is that the endogenous estrogenic component of human astrocytes plays a critical role in cell response during lipotoxic damage, given that obesity can disrupt hormonal homeostasis and cause brain inflammation. Our findings showed that high concentrations of palmitic acid (PA) significantly reduced cell viability more in male astrocytes, indicating sex-specific vulnerabilities. PA induced a greater increase in cytosolic reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in males, while female astrocytes exhibited higher superoxide ion levels in mitochondria. In addition, female astrocytes treated with PA showed increased expression of antioxidant proteins, including catalase, Gpx-1 and Nrf2 suggesting a stronger cellular defence mechanism. Interestingly, there was a difference in the expression of estrogenic components, such as estrogen, androgens, and progesterone receptors, as well as aromatase and 5α-reductase enzymes, between males and females. PA induced their expression mainly in females, indicating a potential protective mechanism mediated by endogenous hormones. In summary, our findings highlight the impact of sex on the response of human astrocytes to lipotoxicity. Male astrocytes appear to be more susceptible to cellular damage when exposed to high concentrations of fatty acids.

Keywords: Palmitic acid; Human astrocytes; Sex differences; Estrogen receptors; Neurodegenerative diseases; Mitochondria

Respirasome Proteins Are Regulated by Sex-Hormone Interactions in the Brain

The existence of sex differences in disease incidence is attributed, in part, to sex differences in metabolism. Uncovering the precise mechanism driving these differences is an extraordinarily complex process influenced by genetics, endogenous hormones, sex-specific lifetime events, individual differences and external environmental/social factors. In fact, such differences may be subtle, but across a life span, increase susceptibility to a pathology. Whilst research persists in the hope of discovering an elegant biological mechanism to underpin sex differences in disease, here, we show, for the first time, that such a mechanism may be subtle in nature but influenced by multiple sex-specific factors. A proteomic dataset was generated from a gonadectomized mouse model treated with Tibolone, a menopausal hormone therapy. Following functional enrichment analysis, we identified that Alzheimer’s disease and the electron transport chain-associated pathways were regulated by sex-hormone interactions. Specifically, we identified that the expression of three respirasome proteins, NDUFA2, NDUFA7 and UQCR10, is significantly altered by compounding factors that contribute to sex differences. These proteins function in bioenergetics and produce reactive oxygen species, which are each dysregulated in many diseases with sex differences in incidence. We show sex-specific reprogrammed responses to Tibolone following gonadectomy, which primarily influence the expression of proteins contributing to metabolic pathways. This further infers that metabolic differences may underpin the observed sex differences in disease, but also that hormone therapy research now has potential in exploring sex-specific interventions to produce an effective method of prevention or treatment.

Keywords: sex differences; Tibolone; proteome; mitochondria; respirasome; gonadectomy

Identification of HMGCR, PPGARG and prohibitin as potential druggable targets of dihydrotestosterone for treatment against traumatic brain injury using system pharmacology

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has long-term devastating effects for which there is no accurate and effective treatment for inflammation and chronic oxidative stress. As a disease that affects multiple signalling pathways, the search for a drug with a broader spectrum of pharmacological action is of clinical interest. The fact that endocrine disruption (e.g hypogonadism) has been observed in TBI patients suggests that endogenous therapy with testosterone, or its more androgenic derivative, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), may attenuate, at least in part, the TBI-induced inflammation, but the underlying molecular mechanisms by which this occurs are still not completely clear. In this study, the main aim was to investigate proteins that may be related to the pathophysiological mechanism of TBI and also be pharmacological targets of DHT in order to explore a possible therapy with this androgen using network pharmacology. We identified 2.700 proteins related to TBI and 1.567 that are potentially molecular targets of DHT. Functional enrichment analysis showed that steroid (p-value: 2.1–22), lipid metabolism (p-value: 2.8–21) and apoptotic processes (p-value: 5.2–21) are mainly altered in TBI. Furthermore, being mitochondrion an organelle involved on these molecular processes we next identified that out of 32 mitochondrial-related proteins 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR), peroxisome proliferator activated receptor gamma (PPGARG) and prohibitin are those found highly regulated in the network and potential targets of DHT in TBI. In conclusion, the identification of these cellular nodes may prove to be essential as targets of DHT for therapy against post-TBI inflammation.

Keywords:Traumatic brain injury; Endocrine disruption; Dihydrotestosterone; Mitochondria; Inflammation; Neuroprotection

Role of Neuroglobin in the Neuroprotective Actions of Estradiol and Estrogenic Compounds

Estradiol exerts neuroprotective actions that are mediated by the regulation of a variety of signaling pathways and homeostatic molecules. Among these is neuroglobin, which is upregulated by estradiol and translocated to the mitochondria to sustain neuronal and glial cell adaptation to injury. In this paper, we will discuss the role of neuroglobin in the neuroprotective mechanisms elicited by estradiol acting on neurons, astrocytes and microglia. We will also consider the role of neuroglobin in the neuroprotective actions of clinically relevant synthetic steroids, such as tibolone. Finally, the possible contribution of the estrogenic regulation of neuroglobin to the generation of sex differences in brain pathology and the potential application of neuroglobin as therapy against neurological diseases will be examined.

Keywords: astrocytes; estrogen receptors; microglia; mitochondria; neuron; sex differences; tibolone

Tibolone as Hormonal Therapy and Neuroprotective Agent

Tibolone (TIB), a selective tissue estrogenic activity regulator (STEAR) in clinical use by postmenopausal women, activates hormonal receptors in a tissue-specific manner. Estrogenic activity is present mostly in the brain, vagina, and bone, while the inactive forms predominate in the endometrium and breast. Conflicting literature on TIB’s actions has been observed. While it has benefits for vasomotor symptoms, bone demineralization, and sexual health, a higher relative risk of hormone-sensitive cancer has been reported. In the brain, TIB can improve mood and cognition, neuroinflammation, and reactive gliosis. This review aims to discuss the systemic effects of TIB on peri- and post-menopausal women and its role in the brain. We suggest that TIB is a hormonal therapy with promising neuroprotective properties.

Keywords: tibolone; hormonal therapy; central nervous system; neuroprotection; breast; uterus


Tibolone Reduces Oxidative Damage and Inflammation in Microglia Stimulated with Palmitic Acid through Mechanisms Involving Estrogen Receptor Beta

High concentrations of palmitic acid in plasma increase both the inflammation associated with obesity and the susceptibility to develop a neurodegenerative event. In the brain, the inflammatory response is mediated by activated microglial cells, which undergo morphological and biochemical changes and can directly affect cell viability. Recent evidence shows that the use of estrogenic compounds can control microglia-induced inflammation with promising results. In this study, we explored the actions of the synthetic steroid tibolone on BV-2 microglia cells stimulated with palmitic acid. Our results demonstrated that tibolone increased cell viability and reduced nuclear fragmentation and the production of reactive oxygen species, as well as preserved mitochondrial membrane potential. These effects were accompanied by reduced nuclear translocation of NF-κB p65, upregulation of neuroglobin, and improved antioxidant defense. Furthermore, estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) inhibition partially dampened tibolone’s protective actions in BV-2 cells stimulated with palmitic acid. In conclusion, tibolone protects BV-2 cells by a mechanism involving ERβ and upregulation of neuroglobin.

Regulation of astroglia by gonadal steroid hormones under physiological and pathological conditions

In the last years there has been a considerable advance in the knowledge on the regulation of astrocytes by sex steroids under physiological and pathological conditions. By the activation of a variety of nuclear and membrane receptors, sex steroid hormones regulate the functions of astrocytes and their communication with other cell types in the central nervous system. Under physiological conditions astrocytes participate in the neuroendocrine and behavioral actions of gonadal steroids, as well as in the hormonal control of brain tissue homeostasis. Under pathological conditions astrocytes mediate, at least partially, the neuroprotective effects of gonadal steroid hormones; given that sex steroids modulate reactive astrogliosis and reduce the release of pro-inflammatory molecules by these cells. Given the side effects that sex steroids may have when administered systemically, a number of synthetic agonists of the receptors for gonadal steroid hormones in the nervous system have been developed, and may be considered for clinical use after brain injury as potential enhancers of the neuroprotective astrocytic functions.

Keywords: Estradiol; Progesterone; Reactive astrocytes; Sex differences; Testosterone; Steroid

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