The calcium-binding protein S100A4 displays neuroprotective effects in rodent models of brain injury, reports a study in Nature Communications this week. These findings provide new insights on the role of the S100 family of proteins which play important roles in many human diseases.
Brain injury is a complex process whereby primary damage triggers inflammatory and apoptotic pathways, leading to neuronal death. S100A4 is a small calcium-binding protein that was initially identified as a metastasis promoter and mainly studied in relation to cancer. Darya Kiryushko and colleagues examine the effects of brain injury in mice that are deficient in S100A4. In these mice, they find that neuronal loss and oxidative cell damage after brain trauma is exacerbated and that associated neuroprotective proteins are downregulated. When they injected peptides that mimic S100A4 into animals with brain injury, they found that they were able to delay the onset of neurodegeneration. Furthermore, they find that these effects are mediated by the IL-10 receptor and JAK/STAT signalling pathways.
Although these studies were carried out in mice, the authors suggest that that S100A4 could be used therapeutically to protect cells in many types of clinical neurodegeneration