Targeting the overexpressed mitochondrial protein VDAC1 in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease protects against mitochondrial dysfunction and mitigates brain pathology

Ankit Verma, Anna Shteinfer-Kuzmine, Nikita Kamenetsky, Srinivas Pittala, Avijit Paul, Edna Nahon Crystal, Alberto Ouro, Vered Chalifa-Caspi, Swaroop Kumar Pandey, Alon Monsengo, Noga Vardi, Shira Knafo, Varda Shoshan-Barmatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) exhibits mitochondrial dysfunctions associated with dysregulated metabolism, brain inflammation, synaptic loss, and neuronal cell death. As a key protein serving as the mitochondrial gatekeeper, the voltage-dependent anion channel-1 (VDAC1) that controls metabolism and Ca2+ homeostasis is positioned at a convergence point for various cell survival and death signals. Here, we targeted VDAC1 with VBIT-4, a newly developed inhibitor of VDAC1 that prevents its pro-apoptotic activity, and mitochondria dysfunction. Methods: To address the multiple pathways involved in AD, neuronal cultures and a 5 × FAD mouse model of AD were treated with VBIT-4. We addressed multiple topics related to the disease and its molecular mechanisms using immunoblotting, immunofluorescence, q-RT-PCR, 3-D structural analysis and several behavioral tests. Results: In neuronal cultures, amyloid-beta (Aβ)-induced VDAC1 and p53 overexpression and apoptotic cell death were prevented by VBIT-4. Using an AD-like 5 × FAD mouse model, we showed that VDAC1 was overexpressed in neurons surrounding Aβ plaques, but not in astrocytes and microglia, and this was associated with neuronal cell death. VBIT-4 prevented the associated pathophysiological changes including neuronal cell death, neuroinflammation, and neuro-metabolic dysfunctions. VBIT-4 also switched astrocytes and microglia from being pro-inflammatory/neurotoxic to neuroprotective phenotype. Moreover, VBIT-4 prevented cognitive decline in the 5 × FAD mice as evaluated using several behavioral assessments of cognitive function. Interestingly, VBIT-4 protected against AD pathology, with no significant change in phosphorylated Tau and only a slight decrease in Aβ-plaque load. Conclusions: The study suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction with its gatekeeper VDAC1 is a promising target for AD therapeutic intervention, and VBIT-4 is a promising drug candidate for AD treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number58
JournalTranslational Neurodegeneration
Issue number1
StatePublished - 28 Dec 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Keren Fridelk and Prof. Hanna Rosenmann from Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, The Center for Performing Behavioral Studies. Noga Vardi: Visiting professor from Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

Funding Information:
This research was funded by The Israel Science Foundation, Grant No. 974/19, and by a grant from the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN) to VSB.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Metabolism
  • Mitochondria
  • Neuroinflammation
  • VDAC1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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