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The carboxyl-terminal domain of the heavy chain of tetanus toxin (Hc-TeTx) exerts a neuroprotective effect in neurodegenerative diseases via the activation of signaling pathways related to neurotrophins, and also through inhibiting apoptotic cell death. Here, we demonstrate that Hc-TeTx preserves motoneurons from chronic excitotoxicity in an in vitro model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Furthermore, we found that PI3-K/Akt pathway, but not p21ras/MAPK pathway, is involved in their beneficial effects under chronic excitotoxicity. Moreover, we corroborate the capacity of the Hc-TeTx to be transported retrogradely into the spinal motor neurons and also its capacity to bind to the motoneuron-like cell line NSC-34. These findings suggest a possible therapeutic tool to improve motoneuron preservation in neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Institute of Neurosciences, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain.