Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors as a Target for Cognition Enhancement in Aging and Alzheimer's Disease: A Translational Overview

P. R. A. Heckman, C. Wouters, J. Prickaerts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Phosphodiesterase inhibitors (PDE-Is) enhance cAMP and/or cGMP signaling via reducing the degradation of these cyclic nucleotides. Since both cAMP and cGMP signaling are essential in a variety of cellular functions, including neuroplasticity and neuroprotection, PDE-Is are receiving increased attention as possible targets for treatment of age-related cognitive decline as well as Alzheimer's disease (AD). In this review we will give a translational overview of the preclinical and clinical data on PDE-Is and cognition enhancement focusing on aging and AD. PDE2, 4 and 5 inhibitors improved memory performance in both aged animals and models of AD. Treatment with a PDE3-I or PDE7-I has not been tested in aged animals yet, but in mouse models of AD both PDE-Is improved memory performance. Unfortunately, there are no peer-reviewed studies on the effects of PDE-I treatment in aged human subjects except the possible positive effect on memory impairment of the PDE1-I vinpocetine. Three other types of PDE-Is have been tested on cognition in mild to moderate AD patients: the PDE3-I cilostazol is being tested as a co-treatment to the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor donepezil, but with inconsistent results; the PDE4-I MK-0952 has been tested, although the outcome has not been disclosed yet; and the PDE9-I PF- 04447943 was reported to have no effects on cognition. Obviously, the demonstration of clinical proof of concept for cognition enhancing effects of PDE-Is and the generation of isoform selective PDE-Is are the final hurdles to overcome in developing safe and efficacious novel PDE-Is for the treatment of age-associated cognitive decline or AD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-331
JournalCurrent Pharmaceutical Design
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • cAMP
  • cGMP
  • dementia
  • long-term potentiation
  • neurogenesis
  • PDE
  • rolipram
  • sildenafil


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