Calcium channel blocking as a therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer's disease: The case for isradipine

Thimmappa S. Anekonda, Joseph F. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


Alzheimer's disease is the most devastating neurodegenerative disorder in the elderly, yet treatment options are severely limited. The drug development effort to modify Alzheimer's disease pathology by intervention at beta amyloid production sites has been largely ineffective or inconclusive. The greatest challenge has been to identify and define downstream mechanisms reliably predictive of clinical symptoms. Beta amyloid accumulation leads to dysregulation of intracellular calcium by plasma membrane L-type calcium channels located on neuronal somatodendrites and axons in the hippocampus and cortex. Paradoxically, L-type calcium channel subtype Ca v1.2 also promotes synaptic plasticity and spatial memory. Increased intracellular calcium modulates amyloid precursor protein processing and affects multiple downstream pathways including increased hyperphosphorylated tau and suppression of autophagy. Isradipine is a Federal Drug Administration-approved dihydropyridine calcium channel blocker that binds selectively to Ca v1.2 in the hippocampus. Our studies have shown that isradipine in vitro attenuates beta amyloid oligomer toxicity by suppressing calcium influx into cytoplasm and by suppressing Ca v1.2 expression. We have previously shown that administration of isradipine to triple transgenic animal model for Alzheimer's disease was well-tolerated. Our results further suggest that isradipine became bioavailable, lowered tau burden, and improved autophagy function in the brain. A better understanding of brain pharmacokinetics of calcium channel blockers will be critical for designing new experiments with appropriate drug doses in any future clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease. This review highlights the importance of Ca v1.2 channel overexpression, the accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau and suppression of autophagy in Alzheimer's disease and modulation of this pathway by isradipine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1584-1590
Number of pages7
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Autophagy
  • Beta amyloid
  • Bioavailability
  • Tau

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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