Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), a highly prevalent neurodegenerative disorder, causes motor and cognitive deficits. The main pathophysiologies of DLB are glutamate excitotoxicity and accumulation of Lewy bodies comprising α-synuclein (α-syn) and β-amyloid (Aβ). Amitriptyline (AMI) promotes expression of glutamate transporter-1 and glutamate reuptake. In this study, we measured the effects of AMI on behavioral and neuronal function in a DLB rat model. We used rivastigmine (RIVA) as a positive control. To establish the DLB rat model, male Wistar rats were stereotaxically injected with recombinant adenoassociated viral vector with the SNCA gene (10 μg/10 μL) and Aβ (5 μg/2.5 μL) into the left ventricle and prefrontal cortex, respectively. AMI (10 mg/kg/day, i.p.), RIVA (2 mg/kg/day, i.p.), or saline was injected intraperitoneally after surgery. From the 29th day, behavioral tests were performed to evaluate the motor and cognitive functions of the rats. Immunohistochemical staining was used to assess neuronal changes. We measured the α-syn level, number of newborn cells, and neuronal density in the hippocampus and in the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system. The DLB group exhibited deficit in object recognition. Both the AMI and RIVA treatments reversed these deficits. Histologically, the DLB rats exhibited cell loss in the substantia nigra pars compacta and in the hippocampal CA1 area. AMI reduced this cell loss, but RIVA did not. In addition, the DLB rats exhibited a lower number of newborn cells and higher α-syn levels in the dentate gyrus (DG). AMI did not affect α-syn accumulation but recovered neurogenesis in the DG of the rats, whereas RIVA reversed the α-syn accumulation but did not affect neurogenesis in the rats. We suggest that AMI may have potential for use in the treatment of DLB.
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