Cathepsin B Gene Knockout Improves Behavioral Deficits and Reduces Pathology in Models of Neurologic Disorders

Gregory Hook, Thomas Reinheckel, Junjun Ni, Zhou Wu, Mark Kindy, Christoph Peters, Vivian Hook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Cathepsin B (CTSB) is a powerful lyso-somal protease. This review evaluated CTSB gene knockout (KO) outcomes for amelioration of brain dysfunctions in neurologic diseases and aging animal models. Deletion of the CTSB gene resulted in significant improvements in behavioral deficits, neuropa-thology, and/or biomarkers in traumatic brain injury, ischemia, inflammatory pain, opiate tolerance, epi-lepsy, aging, transgenic Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and periodontitis AD models as shown in 12 studies. One study found beneficial effects for double CTSB and cathepsin S KO mice in a multiple sclerosis model. Transgenic AD models using amyloid precursor protein (APP) mimicking common sporadic AD in three studies showed that CTSB KO improved memory, neu-ropathology, and biomarkers; two studies used APP representing rare familial AD and found no CTSB KO effect, and two studies used highly engineered APP constructs and reported slight increases in a bio-marker. In clinical studies, all reports found that CTSB enzyme was upregulated in diverse neurologic disorders, including AD in which elevated CTSB was positively correlated with cognitive dysfunction. In a wide range of neurologic animal models, CTSB was also upregulated and not downregulated. Further, human genetic mutation data provided precedence for CTSB upregulation causing disease. Thus, the consilience of data is that CTSB gene KO results in improved brain dysfunction and reduced pathology through blockade of CTSB enzyme upregulation that causes human neurologic disease phenotypes. The overall findings provide strong support for CTSB as a rational drug target and for CTSB inhibitors as therapeutic candidates for a wide range of neurologic disorders. Significance Statement——This review provides a comprehensive compilation of the extensive data on the effects of deleting the cathepsin B (CTSB) gene in neurological and aging mouse models of brain disor-ders. Mice lacking the CTSB gene display improved neurobehavioral deficits, reduced neuropathology, and amelioration of neuronal cell death and inflammatory biomarkers. The significance of the compelling CTSB evidence is that the data consilience validates CTSB as a drug target for discovery of CTSB inhibitors as potential therapeutics for treating numerous neurological diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-629
Number of pages30
JournalPharmacological Reviews
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology


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