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Keywords:

  • endogenous neuropeptides;
  • diketopiperazine;
  • GPE;
  • Gm-2PE;
  • NNZ 2591;
  • ischemic brain injury;
  • Parkinson disease and rat

Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is neuroprotective and improves long-term function after brain injury. However, its clinical application to neurological disorders is limited by its large molecular size, poor central uptake and mitogenic potential. Glycine-proline-glutamate (GPE) is naturally cleaved from the IGF-1 N-terminal and it is also neuroprotective after ischemic injury, which provided a novel strategy of drug discovery for neurological disorders. GPE is not enzymatically stable, thus intravenous infusion of GPE becomes necessary for stable and potent neuroprotection. The broad effective dose range and treatment window of 3–7 h after the lesion suggest its potential for treating acute brain injuries. G-2meth-PE, a GPE analogue designed to be more enzymatic resistant, has a prolonged plasma half-life and is more potent in neuroprotection. Neuroprotection by GPE and its analogue may involve modulation of inflammation, promotion of astrocytosis, inhibition of apoptosis and vascular remodelling. Acute administration of GPE also prevents 6-OHDA-induced nigrostrial dopamine depletion. Delayed treatment with GPE does not prevent dopamine loss, but improves long-term function. Cyclo-glycyl-proline (cyclic Gly-Pro) is an endogenous DKP that may be derived from GPE. Cyclic Gly-Pro and its analogue cyclo-L-glycyl-L-2-allylproline (NNZ 2591) are both neuroprotective after ischaemic injury. NNZ2591 is highly enzymatic resistant and centrally accessible. Its peripheral administration improves somatosensory-motor function and long-term histological outcome after brain injury. Our research suggests that small neuropeptides have advantages over growth factors in the treatment of brain injury, and that modified neuropeptides designed to overcome the limitations of their endogenous counterparts represent a novel strategy of pharmaceutical discovery for neurological disorders.