Targeted Brain Delivery of Dendrimer-4-Phenylbutyrate Ameliorates Neurological Deficits in a Long-Term ABCD1-Deficient Mouse Model of X-Linked Adrenoleukodystrophy

Christina L. Nemeth, Özgül Gӧk, Sophia N. Tomlinson, Anjali Sharma, Ann B. Moser, Sujatha Kannan, Rangaramanujam M. Kannan, Ali Fatemi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a genetic disorder that presents neurologically as either a rapid and fatal cerebral demyelinating disease in childhood (childhood cerebral adrenoleukodystrophy; ccALD) or slow degeneration of the spinal cord in adulthood (adrenomyeloneuropathy; AMN). All forms of ALD result from mutations in the ATP Binding Cassette Subfamily D Member (ABCD) 1 gene, encoding a peroxisomal transporter responsible for the import of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFA) and results mechanistically in a complex array of dysfunction, including endoplasmic reticulum stress, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and inflammation. Few therapeutic options exist for these patients; however, an additional peroxisomal transport protein (ABCD2) has been successfully targeted previously for compensation of dysfunctional ABCD1. 4-Phenylbutyrate (4PBA), a potent activator of the ABCD1 homolog ABCD2, is FDA approved, but use for ALD has been stymied by a short half-life and thus a need for unfeasibly high doses. We conjugated 4PBA to hydroxyl polyamidoamine (PAMAM) dendrimers (D-4PBA) to a create a long-lasting and intracellularly targeted approach which crosses the blood–brain barrier to upregulate Abcd2 and its downstream pathways. Across two studies, Abcd1 knockout mice administered D-4PBA long term showed neurobehavioral improvement and increased Abcd2 expression. Furthermore, when the conjugate was administered early, significant reduction of VLCFA and improved survival of spinal cord neurons was observed. Taken together, these data show improved efficacy of D-4PBA compared to previous studies of free 4PBA alone, and promise for D-4PBA in the treatment of complex and chronic neurodegenerative diseases using a dendrimer delivery platform that has shown successes in recent clinical trials. While recovery in our studies was partial, combined therapies on the dendrimer platform may offer a safe and complete strategy for treatment of ALD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-283
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • ABCD1
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy
  • Dendrimer
  • Leukodystrophy
  • Nanoparticle
  • Phenylbutyrate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology


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