The accumulation of TDP-43 (transactive response DNA-binding protein 43) and its 25 kDa C-terminal fragment (TDP-25) is a hallmark of several neurodegenerative disorders, including frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The majority of FTLD-TDP cases are due to loss of function mutations in the gene encoding progranulin, a secreted growth factor. In ALS, specific mutations in the gene encoding TDP-43 have been linked to the disease pathogenesis. In both cases, however, the penetrance of the mutations greatly increases during aging, suggesting that other genetic or environmental factors may facilitate the development of the disease. Using transgenic mice that overexpress the 25 kDa C-terminal fragment of TDP-43, here we show that glucocorticoids, stress hormones known to increase the brain susceptibility to neurotoxic insults, increase the levels of soluble TDP-25 and exacerbate cognitive deficits, without altering full-length TDP-43 levels. Additionally, we show that the mechanism underlying the glucocorticoid-mediated increase in TDP-25 levels is coupled to changes in the glutathione redox state. Glutathione is an antioxidant involved in protecting cells from damage caused by reactive oxygen species; notably, alterations in the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione, which is the primary determinant of the cellular redox state, are associated with aging and neurodegeneration. We show that restoring the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione blocks the glucocorticoid effects on TDP-25. These data show that glucocorticoids potentiate the neurotoxic action of TDP-25 by increasing its levels and clearly indicate the role of cellular oxidative damage in this process.
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