The chemical warfare nerve agent (CWNA) soman irreversibly inhibits acetylcholinesterase (AChE) causing seizure, neuropathology and neurobehavioral deficits. Pyridostigmine bromide (PB), the currently approved pretreatment for soman, is a reversible AChE inhibitor that does not cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to protect against central nervous system damage. [-]-Huperzine A, a natural reversible AChE inhibitor, rapidly passes through the BBB and has numerous neuroprotective properties that are beneficial for protection against soman. However, [-]-Huperzine A is toxic at higher doses due to potent AChE inhibition which limits the utilization of its neuroprotective properties. [+]-Huperzine A, a synthetic stereoisomer of [-]-Huperzine A and a weak inhibitor of AChE, is non-toxic. In this study, we evaluated the efficacy of [+]-Huperzine A for protection against soman toxicity in guinea pigs. Pretreatments with [+]-Huperzine A, i.m., significantly increased the survival rate in a dose-dependent manner against 1.2× LD(50) soman exposures. Behavioral signs of soman toxicity were significantly reduced in 20 and 40 mg/kg [+]-Huperzine A treated animals at 4 and 24 h compared to vehicle and PB controls. Electroencephalogram (EEG) power spectral analysis showed that [+]-Huperzine A significantly reduces soman-induced seizure compared to PB. [+]-Huperzine A (40 mg/kg) preserved higher blood and brain AChE activity compared to PB in soman exposed animals. These data suggest that [+]-Huperzine A protects against soman toxicity stronger than PB and warrant further development as a potent medical countermeasure against CWNA poisoning.
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