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1.  Autophagy Induction and Autophagosome Clearance in Neurons: Relationship to Autophagic Pathology in Alzheimer's Disease 
Macroautophagy, a major pathway for organelle and protein turnover, has been implicated in the neurodegeneration of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The basis for the profuse accumulation of autophagic vacuoles (AVs) in affected neurons of the AD brain, however, is unknown. In this study, we show that constitutive macroautophagy in primary cortical neurons is highly efficient, as newly formed autophagosomes are rapidly cleared by fusion with lysosomes, accounting for their scarcity in the healthy brain. Even after macroautophagy is strongly induced by suppressing mTOR kinase activity with rapamycin or nutrient deprivation, active cathepsin-positive autolysosomes rather than LC3-II-positive autophagosomes predominate, implying efficient autophagosome clearance in healthy neurons. By contrast, selectively impeding late steps in macroautophagy by inhibiting cathepsin-mediated proteolysis within autophagosomes with cysteine- and aspartyl-protease inhibitors caused a marked accumulation of electron-dense double membrane-limited AVs, containing cathepsin D and incompletely degraded LC3-II in perikarya and neurites. Similar structures accumulated in large numbers when fusion of autophagosomes with lysosomes was slowed by disrupting their transport on microtubules with vinblastine. Finally, we find that the autophagic vacuoles accumulating after protease inhibition or prolonged vinblastine treatment strongly resembled AVs that collect in dystrophic neurites in the AD brain and in an AD mouse model. We conclude that macroautophagy is constitutively active and highly efficient in healthy neurons, and that the autophagic pathology observed in AD most likely arises from impaired clearance of AVs rather than strong autophagy induction alone. Therapeutic modulation of autophagy in AD may, therefore, require targeting late steps in the autophagic pathway.
PMCID: PMC2676733  PMID: 18596167
Aging [Ageing]; Alzheimer; Autophagy; Culture; Lysosome; Neuron; Neuron Death; neuronal death; Neuropathology; neuroprotection; Neurotoxicity; Storage
2.  Macroautophagy deficiency mediates age-dependent neurodegeneration through a phospho-tau pathway 
Macroautophagy is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for bulk intracellular degradation of proteins and organelles. Pathological studies have implicated macroautophagy defects in human neurodegenerative disorders of aging including Alzheimer’s disease and tauopathies. Neuronal deficiency of macroautophagy throughout mouse embryonic development results in neurodevelopmental defects and early postnatal mortality. However, the role of macroautophagy in mature CNS neurons, and the relationship with human disease neuropathology, remains unclear. Here we describe mice deficient in an essential macroautophagy component, Atg7, specifically within postnatal CNS neurons.
Postnatal forebrain-specific Atg7 conditional knockout (cKO) mice displayed age-dependent neurodegeneration and ubiquitin- and p62-positive inclusions. Phosphorylated tau was significantly accumulated in Atg7 cKO brains, but neurofibrillary tangles that typify end-stage human tauopathy were not apparent. A major tau kinase, glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), was also accumulated in Atg7 cKO brains. Chronic pharmacological inhibition of tau phosphorylation, or genetic deletion of tau, significantly rescued Atg7-deficiency-mediated neurodegeneration, but did not suppress inclusion formation.
These data elucidate a role for macroautophagy in the long-term survival and physiological function of adult CNS neurons. Neurodegeneration in the context of macroautophagy deficiency is mediated through a phospho-tau pathway.
PMCID: PMC3544596  PMID: 22998728
3.  Short-term recognition memory impairment is associated with decreased expression of FK506 binding protein 51 in the aged mouse brain 
Age  2010;32(3):309-322.
Evidence suggests that increased glucocorticoid receptor (GR) signaling may contribute to cognitive decline with age. We hypothesized that alterations in GR signaling pathway molecules, FK506 binding protein (FKBP) 51 and FKBP52, were associated with memory impairment in aged mice. We used the single-trial object recognition test to measure short-term memory in 18 aged mice compared to 22 young mice, and employed quantitative immunohistochemistry to assess cellular expression of those three proteins in the frontal cortex, hippocampal CA1, and dentate gyrus. Values of the discrimination ratio (DR, a measure of novelty preference) in aged mice were significantly lower than those in young mice (mean 0.54 vs. 0.67, p = 0.003, t test). Aged mice with DR below 0.54 were considered impaired (n = 9). In the three neuroanatomic regions studied, the immunoreactivity normalized to the area measured (IRn) for GR was significantly increased in aged mice regardless of their task performance compared to young mice (p < 0.005), as was the FKBP52 IRn (p < 0.007, U test). In the frontal cortex and CA1, the FKBP51 IRn was significantly lower in impaired aged mice than in unimpaired aged mice (p < 0.01 and <0.05, respectively) and in young mice (p < 0.05 and <0.01, respectively, Dunn’s post hoc test). In aged mice, the frontal cortex FKBP51 IRn correlated directly with DR (rs = 0.68, p = 0.002, Spearman rank correlation). These observations suggest that recognition memory impairment in aged mice is associated with decreased FKBP51 expression that may promote GR-mediated glucocorticoid signaling to a greater extent than in unimpaired aged mice.
PMCID: PMC2926850  PMID: 20422297
Aging; Brain immunophilins; FKBP51; FKBP52; Glucocorticoid receptor signaling; Object recognition test
4.  Arginine vasopressin neuronal loss results from autophagy-associated cell death in a mouse model for familial neurohypophysial diabetes insipidus 
Cell Death & Disease  2014;5(3):e1148-.
Familial neurohypophysial diabetes insipidus (FNDI) characterized by progressive polyuria is mostly caused by mutations in the gene encoding neurophysin II (NPII), which is the carrier protein of the antidiuretic hormone, arginine vasopressin (AVP). Although accumulation of mutant NPII in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) could be toxic for AVP neurons, the precise mechanisms of cell death of AVP neurons, reported in autopsy studies, remain unclear. Here, we subjected FNDI model mice to intermittent water deprivation (WD) in order to promote the phenotypes. Electron microscopic analyses demonstrated that, while aggregates are confined to a certain compartment of the ER in the AVP neurons of FNDI mice with water access ad libitum, they were scattered throughout the dilated ER lumen in the FNDI mice subjected to WD for 4 weeks. It is also demonstrated that phagophores, the autophagosome precursors, emerged in the vicinity of aggregates and engulfed the ER containing scattered aggregates. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed that expression of p62, an adapter protein between ubiquitin and autophagosome, was elicited on autophagosomal membranes in the AVP neurons, suggesting selective autophagy induction at this time point. Treatment of hypothalamic explants of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) transgenic mice with an ER stressor thapsigargin increased the number of GFP-LC3 puncta, suggesting that ER stress could induce autophagosome formation in the hypothalamus of wild-type mice as well. The cytoplasm of AVP neurons in FNDI mice was occupied with vacuoles in the mice subjected to WD for 12 weeks, when 30–40% of AVP neurons are lost. Our data thus demonstrated that autophagy was induced in the AVP neurons subjected to ER stress in FNDI mice. Although autophagy should primarily be protective for neurons, it is suggested that the organelles including ER were lost over time through autophagy, leading to autophagy-associated cell death of AVP neurons.
PMCID: PMC3973212  PMID: 24675466
autophagy; autophagy-associated cell death; ER stress; ER-associated compartment; familial neurohypophysial diabetes insipidus
5.  Protein quality control during aging involves recruitment of the macroautophagy pathway by BAG3 
The EMBO Journal  2009;28(7):889-901.
The Hsc/Hsp70 co-chaperones of the BAG (Bcl-2-associated athanogene) protein family are modulators of protein quality control. We examined the specific roles of BAG1 and BAG3 in protein degradation during the aging process. We show that BAG1 and BAG3 regulate proteasomal and macroautophagic pathways, respectively, for the degradation of polyubiquitinated proteins. Moreover, using models of cellular aging, we find that a switch from BAG1 to BAG3 determines that aged cells use more intensively the macroautophagic system for turnover of polyubiquitinated proteins. This increased macroautophagic flux is regulated by BAG3 in concert with the ubiquitin-binding protein p62/SQSTM1. The BAG3/BAG1 ratio is also elevated in neurons during aging of the rodent brain, where, consistent with a higher macroautophagy activity, we find increased levels of the autophagosomal marker LC3-II as well as a higher cathepsin activity. We conclude that the BAG3-mediated recruitment of the macroautophagy pathway is an important adaptation of the protein quality control system to maintain protein homeostasis in the presence of an enhanced pro-oxidant and aggregation-prone milieu characteristic of aging.
PMCID: PMC2647772  PMID: 19229298
BAG1; p62; proteasome; SQSTM1; ubiquitination
6.  Coordinate Regulation of Mature Dopaminergic Axon Morphology by Macroautophagy and the PTEN Signaling Pathway 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(10):e1003845.
Macroautophagy is a conserved mechanism for the bulk degradation of proteins and organelles. Pathological studies have implicated defective macroautophagy in neurodegeneration, but physiological functions of macroautophagy in adult neurons remain unclear. Here we show that Atg7, an essential macroautophagy component, regulates dopaminergic axon terminal morphology. Mature Atg7-deficient midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons harbored selectively enlarged axonal terminals. This contrasted with the phenotype of DA neurons deficient in Pten – a key negative regulator of the mTOR kinase signaling pathway and neuron size – that displayed enlarged soma but unaltered axon terminals. Surprisingly, concomitant deficiency of both Atg7 and Pten led to a dramatic enhancement of axon terminal enlargement relative to Atg7 deletion alone. Similar genetic interactions between Atg7 and Pten were observed in the context of DA turnover and DA-dependent locomotor behaviors. These data suggest a model for morphological regulation of mature dopaminergic axon terminals whereby the impact of mTOR pathway is suppressed by macroautophagy.
Author Summary
Macroautophagy is a major recycling pathway in cells, and its dysfunction is associated with neurological disorders including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and frontotemporal dementia. Here we show that Atg7, an essential component of macroautophagy, regulates mature dopaminergic axon terminal morphology in coordination with the well-described role of the PI3K pathway. Deficiency of Pten, a negative regulator of the PI3K/mTOR pathway, leads primarily to enlarged dopaminergic cell soma but normal-appearing axonal terminals, whereas Atg7 deficiency primarily induces enlarged axonal terminals. Atg7 and Pten double deficiency leads to further axon terminal enlargement, suggesting that Atg7 deficiency unmasks the impact of PI3K/mTOR pathway on mature dopaminergic axon terminals. In addition, we show that Atg7 and Pten coordinately regulate striatal dopamine turnover and dopamine-dependent motor behaviors. Taken together, these data support a novel role for Atg7-dependent macroautophagy in the regulation of dopaminergic axon terminal morphology, in coordination with the PI3K/mTOR pathway.
PMCID: PMC3789823  PMID: 24098148
7.  Macroautophagy—a novel β-amyloid peptide-generating pathway activated in Alzheimer's disease 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2005;171(1):87-98.
Macroautophagy, which is a lysosomal pathway for the turnover of organelles and long-lived proteins, is a key determinant of cell survival and longevity. In this study, we show that neuronal macroautophagy is induced early in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and before β-amyloid (Aβ) deposits extracellularly in the presenilin (PS) 1/Aβ precursor protein (APP) mouse model of β-amyloidosis. Subsequently, autophagosomes and late autophagic vacuoles (AVs) accumulate markedly in dystrophic dendrites, implying an impaired maturation of AVs to lysosomes. Immunolabeling identifies AVs in the brain as a major reservoir of intracellular Aβ. Purified AVs contain APP and β-cleaved APP and are highly enriched in PS1, nicastrin, and PS-dependent γ-secretase activity. Inducing or inhibiting macroautophagy in neuronal and nonneuronal cells by modulating mammalian target of rapamycin kinase elicits parallel changes in AV proliferation and Aβ production. Our results, therefore, link β-amyloidogenic and cell survival pathways through macroautophagy, which is activated and is abnormal in AD.
PMCID: PMC2171227  PMID: 16203860
8.  17-AAG Induces Cytoplasmic α-Synuclein Aggregate Clearance by Induction of Autophagy 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8753.
The accumulation and aggregation of α-synuclein in nerve cells and glia are characteristic features of a number of neurodegenerative diseases termed synucleinopathies. α-Synuclein is a highly soluble protein which in a nucleation dependent process is capable of self-aggregation. The causes underlying aggregate formation are not yet understood, impairment of the proteolytic degradation systems might be involved.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In the present study the possible aggregate clearing effects of the geldanamycin analogue 17-AAG (17-(Allylamino)-17-demethoxygeldanamycin) was investigated. Towards this, an oligodendroglial cell line (OLN-93 cells), stably expressing human α-synuclein (A53T mutation) was used. In these cells small punctate aggregates, not staining with thioflavine S, representing prefibrillary aggregates, occur characteristically. Our data demonstrate that 17-AAG attenuated the formation of α-synuclein aggregates by stimulating macroautophagy. By blocking the lysosomal compartment with NH4Cl the aggregate clearing effects of 17-AAG were abolished and α-synuclein deposits were enlarged. Analysis of LC3-II immunoreactivity, which is an indicator of autophagosome formation, further revealed that 17-AAG led to the recruitment of LC3-II and to the formation of LC3 positive puncta. This effect was also observed in cultured oligodendrocytes derived from the brains of newborn rats. Inhibition of macroautophagy by 3-methyladenine prevented 17-AAG induced occurrence of LC3 positive puncta as well as the removal of α-synuclein aggregates in OLN-A53T cells.
Our data demonstrate for the first time that 17-AAG not only causes the upregulation of heat shock proteins, but also is an effective inducer of the autophagic pathway by which α-synuclein can be removed. Hence geldanamycin derivatives may provide a means to modulate autophagy in neural cells, thereby ameliorating pathogenic aggregate formation and protecting the cells during disease and aging.
PMCID: PMC2807466  PMID: 20090920
9.  Type 2 transglutaminase is involved in the autophagy-dependent clearance of ubiquitinated proteins 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2012;19(7):1228-1238.
Eukaryotic cells are equipped with an efficient quality control system to selectively eliminate misfolded and damaged proteins, and organelles. Abnormal polypeptides that escape from proteasome-dependent degradation and aggregate in the cytosol can be transported via microtubules to inclusion bodies called ‘aggresomes', where misfolded proteins are confined and degraded by autophagy. Here, we show that Type 2 transglutaminase (TG2) knockout mice display impaired autophagy and accumulate ubiquitinated protein aggregates upon starvation. Furthermore, p62-dependent peroxisome degradation is also impaired in the absence of TG2. We also demonstrate that, under cellular stressful conditions, TG2 physically interacts with p62 and they are localized in cytosolic protein aggregates, which are then recruited into autophagosomes, where TG2 is degraded. Interestingly, the enzyme's crosslinking activity is activated during autophagy and its inhibition leads to the accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins. Taken together, these data indicate that the TG2 transamidating activity has an important role in the assembly of protein aggregates, as well as in the clearance of damaged organelles by macroautophagy.
PMCID: PMC3374086  PMID: 22322858
autophagy; MG132; p62; transglutaminase 2; ubiquitinated proteins
10.  The Type 3 Adenylyl Cyclase is Required for Novel Object Learning and Extinction of Contextual Memory: Role of cAMP Signaling in Primary Cilia 
Although primary cilia are found on neurons throughout the brain, their physiological function remains elusive. Human ciliopathies are associated with cognition defects and transgenic mice lacking proteins expressed in primary cilia exhibit defects in learning and memory. Recently, it was reported that mice lacking the G-protein coupling receptor somatostatin receptor-3 (SSTR3), a protein expressed predominately in the primary cilia of neurons, have defective memory for novel object recognition and lower cAMP levels in the brain. Since SSTR3 is coupled to regulation of adenylyl cyclase this suggests that adenylyl cyclase activity in primary cilia of CNS neurons may be critical for some forms of learning and memory. Because the type 3 adenylyl cyclase (AC3) is expressed in primary cilia of hippocampal neurons, we examined AC3−/− mice for several forms of learning and memory. Here, we report that AC3−/− mice show no short-term memory for novel objects and fail to exhibit extinction of contextual fear conditioning. They also show impaired learning and memory for temporally dissociated passive avoidance (TDPA). Since AC3 is exclusively expressed in primary cilia we conclude that cAMP signals generated within primary cilia contribute to some forms of learning and memory including extinction of contextual fear conditioning.
PMCID: PMC3091825  PMID: 21490195
Primary cilia; adenylyl cyclase; learning and memory; memory extinction
11.  Characterization of macroautophagic flux in vivo using a leupeptin-based assay 
Autophagy  2011;7(6):629-642.
Macroautophagy is a highly conserved catabolic process that is crucial for organ homeostasis in mammals. However, methods to directly measure macroautophagic activity (or flux) in vivo are limited. In this study we developed a quantitative macroautophagic flux assay based on measuring LC3b protein turnover in vivo after administering the protease inhibitor leupeptin. Using this assay we then characterized basal macroautophagic flux in different mouse organs. We found that the rate of LC3b accumulation after leupeptin treatment was greatest in the liver and lowest in spleen. Interestingly we found that LC3a, an ATG8/LC3b homologue and the LC3b-interacting protein p62 were degraded with similar kinetics to LC3b. However, the LC3b-related proteins GABARAP and GATE-16 were not rapidly turned over in mouse liver, implying that different LC3b homologues may contribute to macroautophagy via distinct mechanisms. Nutrient starvation augmented macroautophagic flux as measured by our assay, while refeeding the animals after a period of starvation significantly suppressed flux. We also confirmed that beclin 1 heterozygous mice had reduced basal macroautophagic flux compared to wild-type littermates. These results illustrate the usefulness of our leupeptin-based assay for studying the dynamics of macroautophagy in mice.
PMCID: PMC3127049  PMID: 21460622
macroautophagy; autophagy; flux; mice; in vivo; LC3; GABARAP; GATE-16; leupeptin; cycloheximide
12.  Microarray analysis of CA1 pyramidal neurons in a mouse model of tauopathy reveals progressive synaptic dysfunction 
Neurobiology of Disease  2011;45(2):751-762.
The hTau mouse model of tauopathy was utilized to assess gene expression changes in vulnerable hippocampal CA1 neurons. CA1 pyramidal neurons were microaspirated via laser capture microdissection followed by RNA amplification in combination with custom-designed microarray analysis and qPCR validation in hTau mice and nontransgenic (ntg) littermates aged 11-14 months. Statistical analysis revealed ∼8% of all the genes on the array platform were dysregulated, with notable downregulation of several synaptic-related markers including synaptophysin (Syp), synaptojanin, and synaptobrevin, among others. Downregulation was also observed for select glutamate receptors (GluRs), Psd-95, TrkB, and several protein phosphatase subunits. In contrast, upregulation of tau isoforms and a calpain subunit were found. Microarray assessment of synaptic-related markers in a separate cohort of hTau mice at 7-8 months of age indicated only a few alterations compared to the 11-14 month cohort, suggesting progressive synaptic dysfunction occurs as tau accumulates in CA1 pyramidal neurons. An assessment of SYP and PSD-95 expression was performed in the hippocampal CA1 sector of hTau and ntg mice via confocal laser scanning microscopy along with hippocampal immunoblot analysis for protein-based validation of selected microarray observations. Results indicate significant decreases in SYP-immunoreactive and PSD-95-immunoreactive puncta as well as downregulation of SYP-immunoreactive and PSD-95-immunoreactive band intensity in hTau mice compared to age-matched ntg littermates. In summary, the high prevalence of downregulation of synaptic-related genes indicates that the moderately aged hTau mouse may be a model of tau-induced synaptodegeneration, and has profound effects on how we perceive progressive tau pathology affecting synaptic transmission in AD.
PMCID: PMC3259262  PMID: 22079237
Alzheimer's disease; hippocampus; laser capture microdissection; PSD-95; RNA amplification; synaptophysin; TrkB
13.  Somatostatin Signaling in Neuronal Cilia Is Criticalfor Object Recognition Memory 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2010;30(12):4306-4314.
Most neurons possess a single, nonmotile cilium that projects out from the cell surface. These microtubule-based organelles are important in brain development and neurogenesis; however, their function in mature neurons is unknown. Cilia express a complement of proteins distinct from other neuronal compartments, one of which is the somatostatin receptor subtype SST3. We show here that SST3 is critical for object recognition memory in mice. sst3 knock-out mice are severely impaired in discriminating novel objects, whereas they retain normal memory for object location. Further, systemic injection of an SST3 antagonist (ACQ090) disrupts recall of familiar objects in wild-type mice. To examine mechanisms of SST3, we tested synaptic plasticity in CA1 hippocampus. Electrically evoked long-term potentiation (LTP) was normal in sst3 knock-out mice, while adenylyl cyclase/cAMP-mediated LTP was impaired. The SST3 antagonist also disrupted cAMP-mediated LTP. Basal cAMP levels in hippocampal lysate were reduced in sst3 knock-out mice compared with wild-type mice, while the forskolin-induced increase in cAMP levels was normal. The SST3 antagonist inhibited forskolin-stimulated cAMP increases, whereas the SST3 agonist L-796,778 increased basal cAMP levels in hippocampal slices but not hippocampal lysate. Our results show that somatostatin signaling in neuronal cilia is critical for recognition memory and suggest that the cAMP pathway is a conserved signaling motif in cilia. Neuronal cilia therefore represent a novel nonsynaptic compartment crucial for signaling involved in a specific form of synaptic plasticity and in novelty detection.
PMCID: PMC3842454  PMID: 20335466
14.  Macroautophagy regulates energy metabolism during effector T cell activation 
Macroautophagy is a highly conserved mechanism of lysosomal mediated protein degradation that plays a key role in maintaining cellular homeostasis by recycling amino acids, reducing the amount of damaged proteins, and regulating protein levels in response to extracellular signals. We have found that macroautophagy is induced following effector T cell activation. Engagement of the T cell receptor and CD28 results in enhanced LC3 processing, increased numbers of LC3-containing vesicles and increased LC3 flux, indicating active autophagosome formation and clearance. The autophagosomes formed in stimulated T cells actively fuse with lysosomes to degrade their cargo. Using a conditional knockout mouse model where Atg7, a critical gene for macroautophagy, is specifically deleted in T cells, we have found that macroautophagy-deficient effector T helper cells have defective IL-2 and INFγ production and reduced proliferation following stimulation, with no significant increase in apoptosis. We have found that ATP generation is decreased when autophagy is blocked, and defects in activation-induced cytokine production are restored when an exogenous energy source is added to macroautophagy-deficient T cells. Furthermore, we present evidence showing that the nature of the cargo inside autophagic vesicles found in resting T cells differs from the cargo of autophagosomes in activated T-cells, where mitochondria and other organelles are selectively excluded. These results suggest that macroautophagy is an actively regulated process in T cells that can be induced in response to T cell receptor engagement to accommodate the bioenergetic requirements of activated T cells.
PMCID: PMC3046774  PMID: 21059894
15.  Egr3, a synaptic activity regulated transcription factor that is essential for learning and memory 
Learning and memory depend upon poorly defined synaptic and intracellular modifications that occur in activated neurons. Mitogen activated protein kinase-extracellular regulated kinase (MAPK-ERK) signaling and de novo protein synthesis are essential aspects of enduring memory formation, but the precise effector molecules of MAPK-ERK signaling in neurons are not well defined. Early growth response (Egr) transcriptional regulators are examples of MAPK-ERK regulated genes and Egr1 (zif268) has been widely recognized as essential for some aspects of learning and memory. Here we show that Egr3, a transcriptional regulator closely related to Egr1, is essential for normal hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) and for hippocampal and amygdala dependent learning and memory. In the absence of Egr3, the defects in learning and memory appear to be independent of Egr1 since Egr1 protein levels are not altered in amygdala, hippocampus or cortex. Moreover, unlike Egr1-deficient mice which have impairments in late phase hippocampal LTP and consolidation of some forms of long-term hippocampus- and amygdala-dependent memory, Egr3-deficient mice have profound defects in early- and late-phase hippocampal LTP, as well as short-term and long-term hippocampus- and amygdala-dependent learning and memory. Thus, Egr3 has an essential role in learning and memory processing that appears to be partly distinct from the role of Egr1.
PMCID: PMC2683345  PMID: 17350282
learning; memory; transcriptional regulation; plasticity; MAPK; Erk; mouse
16.  Rapid and Long-Lasting Increase in Sites for Synapse Assembly during Late-Phase Potentiation in Rat Hippocampal Neurons 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7690.
Long-term potentiation in hippocampal neurons has stages that correspond to the stages of learning and memory. Early-phase (10–30 min) potentiation is accompanied by rapid increases in clusters or puncta of presynaptic and postsynaptic proteins, which depend on actin polymerization but not on protein synthesis. We have now examined changes in pre- and postsynaptic puncta and structures during glutamate-induced late-phase (3 hr) potentiation in cultured hippocampal neurons. We find that (1) the potentiation is accompanied by long-lasting maintenance of the increases in puncta, which depends on protein synthesis, (2) most of the puncta and synaptic structures are very dynamic, continually assembling and disassembling at sites that are more stable than the puncta or structures themselves, (3) the increase in presynaptic puncta appears to be due to both rapid and more gradual increases in the number of sites where the puncta may form, and also to the stabilization of existing puncta, (4) under control conditions, puncta of postsynaptic proteins behave similarly to puncta of presynaptic proteins and share sites with them, and (5) the increase in presynaptic puncta is accompanied by a similar increase in presumably presynaptic structures, which may form at distinct as well as shared sites. The new sites could contribute to the transition between the early and late phase mechanisms of plasticity by serving as seeds for the formation and maintenance of new synapses, thus acting as local “tags” for protein synthesis-dependent synaptic growth during late-phase plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2767506  PMID: 19893634
17.  Impaired synaptic clustering of postsynaptic density proteins and altered signal transmission in hippocampal neurons, and disrupted learning behavior in PDZ1 and PDZ2 ligand binding-deficient PSD-95 knockin mice 
Molecular Brain  2012;5:43.
Postsynaptic density (PSD)-95-like membrane-associated guanylate kinases (PSD-MAGUKs) are scaffold proteins in PSDs that cluster signaling molecules near NMDA receptors. PSD-MAGUKs share a common domain structure, including three PDZ (PDZ1/2/3) domains in their N-terminus. While multiple domains enable the PSD-MAGUKs to bind various ligands, the contribution of each PDZ domain to synaptic organization and function is not fully understood. Here, we focused on the PDZ1/2 domains of PSD-95 that bind NMDA-type receptors, and studied the specific roles of the ligand binding of these domains in the assembly of PSD proteins, synaptic properties of hippocampal neurons, and behavior, using ligand binding-deficient PSD-95 cDNA knockin (KI) mice.
The KI mice showed decreased accumulation of mutant PSD-95, PSD-93 and AMPA receptor subunits in the PSD fraction of the hippocampus. In the hippocampal CA1 region of young KI mice, basal synaptic efficacy was reduced and long-term potentiation (LTP) was enhanced with intact long-term depression. In adult KI mice, there was no significant change in the magnitude of LTP in CA1, but robustly enhanced LTP was induced at the medial perforant path-dentate gyrus synapses, suggesting that PSD-95 has an age- and subregion-dependent role. In a battery of behavioral tests, KI mice showed markedly abnormal anxiety-like behavior, impaired spatial reference and working memory, and impaired remote memory and pattern separation in fear conditioning test.
These findings reveal that PSD-95 including its ligand binding of the PDZ1/2 domains controls the synaptic clustering of PSD-MAGUKs and AMPA receptors, which may have an essential role in regulating hippocampal synaptic transmission, plasticity, and hippocampus-dependent behavior.
PMCID: PMC3575367  PMID: 23268962
PSD-MAGUK; Synaptic clustering; PDZ domain; PSD-95; Synaptic transmission; Dentate gyrus; Behavioral test battery
18.  Activation of the macroautophagic system in scrapie-infected experimental animals and human genetic prion diseases 
Autophagy  2012;8(11):1604-1620.
Macroautophagy is an important process for removing misfolded and aggregated protein in cells, the dysfunction of which has been directly linked to an increasing number of neurodegenerative disorders. However, the details of macroautophagy in prion diseases remain obscure. Here we demonstrated that in the terminal stages of scrapie strain 263K-infected hamsters and human genetic prion diseases, the microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) was converted from the cytosolic form to the autophagosome-bound membrane form. Macroautophagy substrate sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1) and polyubiquitinated proteins were downregulated in the brains of sick individuals, indicating enhanced macroautophagic protein degradation. The levels of mechanistic target of rapamycin (MTOR) and phosphorylated MTOR (p-MTOR) were significantly decreased, which implies that this enhancement of the macroautophagic response is likely through the MTOR pathway which is a negative regulator for the initiation of macroautophagy. Dynamic assays of the autophagic system in the brains of scrapie experimental hamsters after inoculation showed that alterations of the autophagic system appeared along with the deposits of PrPSc in the infected brains. Immunofluorescent assays revealed specific staining of autophagosomes in neurons that were not colocalized with deposits of PrPSc in the brains of scrapie infected hamsters, however, autophagosome did colocalize with PrPSc in a prion-infected cell line after treatment with bafilomycin A1. These results suggest that activation of macroautophagy in brains is a disease-correlative phenomenon in prion diseases.
PMCID: PMC3494590  PMID: 22874564
transmissible spongiform encephalopathies; autophagy; neurodegenerative diseases
19.  Aggravation of Chronic Stress Effects on Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Spatial Memory in LPA1 Receptor Knockout Mice 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e25522.
The lysophosphatidic acid LPA1 receptor regulates plasticity and neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus. Here, we studied whether absence of the LPA1 receptor modulated the detrimental effects of chronic stress on hippocampal neurogenesis and spatial memory.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Male LPA1-null (NULL) and wild-type (WT) mice were assigned to control or chronic stress conditions (21 days of restraint, 3 h/day). Immunohistochemistry for bromodeoxyuridine and endogenous markers was performed to examine hippocampal cell proliferation, survival, number and maturation of young neurons, hippocampal structure and apoptosis in the hippocampus. Corticosterone levels were measured in another a separate cohort of mice. Finally, the hole-board test assessed spatial reference and working memory. Under control conditions, NULL mice showed reduced cell proliferation, a defective population of young neurons, reduced hippocampal volume and moderate spatial memory deficits. However, the primary result is that chronic stress impaired hippocampal neurogenesis in NULLs more severely than in WT mice in terms of cell proliferation; apoptosis; the number and maturation of young neurons; and both the volume and neuronal density in the granular zone. Only stressed NULLs presented hypocortisolemia. Moreover, a dramatic deficit in spatial reference memory consolidation was observed in chronically stressed NULL mice, which was in contrast to the minor effect observed in stressed WT mice.
These results reveal that the absence of the LPA1 receptor aggravates the chronic stress-induced impairment to hippocampal neurogenesis and its dependent functions. Thus, modulation of the LPA1 receptor pathway may be of interest with respect to the treatment of stress-induced hippocampal pathology.
PMCID: PMC3183048  PMID: 21980482
20.  Deficiency of prion protein induces impaired autophagic flux in neurons 
Normal cellular prion protein (PrPC) is highly expressed in the central nervous system. The Zürich I Prnp-deficient mouse strain did not show an abnormal phenotype in initial studies, however, in later studies, deficits in exploratory behavior and short- and long-term memory have been revealed. In the present study, numerous autophagic vacuoles were found in neurons from Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice. The autophagic accumulation in the soma of cortical neurons in Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice was observed as early as 3 months of age, and in the hippocampal neurons at 6 months of age. Specifically, there is accumulation of electron dense pigments associated with autophagy in the neurons of Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice. Furthermore, autophagic accumulations were observed as early as 3 months of age in the CA3 region of hippocampal and cerebral cortical neuropils. The autophagic vacuoles increased with age in the hippocampus of Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice at a faster rate and to a greater extent than in normal C57BL/6J mice, whereas the cortex exhibited high levels that were maintained from 3 months old in Zürich I Prnp-deficient mice. The pigmented autophagic accumulation is due to the incompletely digested material from autophagic vacuoles. Furthermore, a deficiency in PrPC may disrupt the autophagic flux by inhibiting autophagosome-lysosomal fusion. Overall, our results provide insight into the protective role of PrPC in neurons, which may play a role in normal behavior and other brain functions.
PMCID: PMC4142790  PMID: 25202268
prion protein; autophagy; autophagic flux; lipofuscin pigmented autophagy; Prnp-deficient mice
21.  Long-term effects of an acute and systemic administration of LPS on adult neurogenesis and spatial memory 
The cognitive reserve is the capacity of the brain to maintain normal performance while exposed to insults or ageing. Increasing evidences point to a role for the interaction between inflammatory conditions and cognitive reserve status during Alzheimer's disease (AD) progression. The production of new neurons along adult life can be considered as one of the components of the cognitive reserve. Interestingly, adult neurogenesis is decreased in mouse models of AD and following inflammatory processes. The aim of this work is to reveal the long-term impact of a systemic inflammatory event on memory and adult neurogenesis in wild type (WT) and triple transgenic mouse model of AD (3xTg-AD). Four month-old mice were intraperitoneally injected once with saline or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and their performance on spatial memory analyzed with the Morris water maze (MWM) test 7 weeks later. Our data showed that a single intraperitoneal injection with LPS has a long-term impact in the production of hippocampal neurons. Consistently, LPS-treated WT mice showed less doublecortin-positive neurons, less synaptic contacts in newborn neurons, and decreased dendritic volume and complexity. These surprising observations were accompanied with memory deficits. 3xTg-AD mice showed a decrease in new neurons in the dentate gyrus compatible with, although exacerbated, the pattern observed in WT LPS-treated mice. In 3xTg-AD mice, LPS injection did not significantly affected the production of new neurons but reduced their number of synaptic puncta and impaired memory performance, when compared to the observations made in saline-treated 3xTg-AD mice. These data indicate that LPS treatment induces a long-term impairment on hippocampal neurogenesis and memory. Our results show that acute neuroinflammatory events influence the production of new hippocampal neurons, affecting the cognitive reserve and leading to the development of memory deficits associated to AD pathology.
PMCID: PMC4001049  PMID: 24795557
3xTg-AD mouse; doublecortin cells; dentate gyrus; cognitive reserve; hippocampus; inflammation; microglia; synaptic puncta
22.  Selective autophagy of non-ubiquitylated targets in plants: looking for cognate receptor/adaptor proteins 
Cellular homeostasis is essential for the physiology of eukaryotic cells. Eukaryotic cells, including plant cells, utilize two main pathways to adjust the level of cytoplasmic components, namely the proteasomal and the lysosomal/vacuolar pathways. Macroautophagy is a lysosomal/vacuolar pathway which, until recently, was thought to be non-specific and a bulk degradation process. However, selective autophagy which can be activated in the cell under various physiological conditions, involves the specific degradation of defined macromolecules or organelles by a conserved molecular mechanism. For this process to be efficient, the mechanisms underlying the recognition and selection of the cargo to be engulfed by the double membrane autophagosome are critical, and not yet well understood. Ubiquitin (poly-ubiquitin) conjugation to the target appears to be a conserved ligand mechanism in many types of selective autophagy, and defined receptors/adaptors recognizing and regulating the autophagosomal capture of the ubiquitylated target have been characterized. However, non-proteinaceous and non-ubiquitylated cargoes are also selectively degraded by this pathway. This ubiquitin-independent selective autophagic pathway also involves receptor and/or adaptor proteins linking the cargo to the autophagic machinery. Some of these receptor/adaptor proteins including accessory autophagy-related (Atg) and non-Atg proteins have been described in yeast and animal cells but not yet in plants. In this review we discuss the ubiquitin-independent cargo selection mechanisms in selective autophagy degradation of organelles and macromolecules and speculate on potential plant receptor/adaptor proteins.
PMCID: PMC4070572  PMID: 25009550
selective autophagy cargo receptor; non-ubiquitylated cargo; plant cell; TSPO protein; porphyrins
23.  Haploinsufficiency of the autism-associated Shank3 gene leads to deficits in synaptic function, social interaction, and social communication 
Molecular Autism  2010;1:15.
SHANK3 is a protein in the core of the postsynaptic density (PSD) and has a critical role in recruiting many key functional elements to the PSD and to the synapse, including components of α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA), metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) and N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) glutamate receptors, as well as cytoskeletal elements. Loss of a functional copy of the SHANK3 gene leads to the neurobehavioral manifestations of 22q13 deletion syndrome and/or to autism spectrum disorders. The goal of this study was to examine the effects of haploinsufficiency of full-length Shank3 in mice, focusing on synaptic development, transmission and plasticity, as well as on social behaviors, as a model for understanding SHANK3 haploinsufficiency in humans.
We used mice with a targeted disruption of Shank3 in which exons coding for the ankyrin repeat domain were deleted and expression of full-length Shank3 was disrupted. We studied synaptic transmission and plasticity by multiple methods, including patch-clamp whole cell recording, two-photon time-lapse imaging and extracellular recordings of field excitatory postsynaptic potentials. We also studied the density of GluR1-immunoreactive puncta in the CA1 stratum radiatum and carried out assessments of social behaviors.
In Shank3 heterozygous mice, there was reduced amplitude of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents from hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons and the input-output (I/O) relationship at Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses in acute hippocampal slices was significantly depressed; both of these findings indicate a reduction in basal neurotransmission. Studies with specific inhibitors demonstrated that the decrease in basal transmission reflected reduced AMPA receptor-mediated transmission. This was further supported by the observation of reduced numbers of GluR1-immunoreactive puncta in the stratum radiatum. Long-term potentiation (LTP), induced either with θ-burst pairing (TBP) or high-frequency stimulation, was impaired in Shank3 heterozygous mice, with no significant change in long-term depression (LTD). In concordance with the LTP results, persistent expansion of spines was observed in control mice after TBP-induced LTP; however, only transient spine expansion was observed in Shank3 heterozygous mice. Male Shank3 heterozygotes displayed less social sniffing and emitted fewer ultrasonic vocalizations during interactions with estrus female mice, as compared to wild-type littermate controls.
We documented specific deficits in synaptic function and plasticity, along with reduced reciprocal social interactions in Shank3 heterozygous mice. Our results are consistent with altered synaptic development and function in Shank3 haploinsufficiency, highlighting the importance of Shank3 in synaptic function and supporting a link between deficits in synapse function and neurodevelopmental disorders. The reduced glutamatergic transmission that we observed in the Shank3 heterozygous mice represents an interesting therapeutic target in Shank3-haploinsufficiency syndromes.
PMCID: PMC3019144  PMID: 21167025
24.  Postsynaptic degeneration as revealed by PSD-95 reduction occurs after advanced Aβ and tau pathology in transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease 
Acta neuropathologica  2011;122(3):285-292.
Impairment of synaptic plasticity underlies memory dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Molecules involved in this plasticity such as PSD-95, a major scaffold protein at excitatory synapses, may play an important role in AD pathogenesis. We examined the distribution of PSD-95 in transgenic mice of amyloidopathy (5XFAD) and tauopathy (JNPL3) as well as in AD brains using double-labeling immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy. In wild type control mice, PSD-95 primarily labeled neuropil with distinct distribution in hippocampal apical dendrites. In 3 month-old 5XFAD mice, PSD-95 distribution was similar to that of wild type mice despite significant Aβ deposition. However, in 6 month-old 5XFAD mice, PSD-95 immunoreactivity in apical dendrites markedly decreased and prominent immunoreactivity was noted in neuronal soma in CA1 neurons. Similarly, PSD-95 immunoreactivity disappeared from apical dendrites and accumulated in neuronal soma in 14, but not 3, month-old JNPL3 mice. In AD brains, PSD-95 accumulated in Hirano bodies in hippocampal neurons. Our findings support the notion that either Aβ or tau can induce reduction of PSD-95 in excitatory synapses in hippocampus. Furthermore, this PSD-95 reduction is not an early event but occurs as the pathologies advance. Thus, the time-dependent PSD-95 reduction from synapses and accumulation in neuronal soma in transgenic mice and Hirano bodies in AD may mark postsynaptic degeneration that underlies long-term functional deficits.
PMCID: PMC3437675  PMID: 21630115
PSD-95; Alzheimer’s disease; transgenic mice; 5XFAD; JNPL3; P301L; hippocampus; Hirano body
25.  Monitoring Mitophagy in Neuronal Cell Cultures 
Proper control of mitochondrial turnover is critical for maintenance of cellular energetics under basal and stressed conditions, and for prevention of endogenous oxidative stress. Whole organelle turnover is mediated through macroautophagy, a process by which autophagosomes deliver mitochondria to the lysosome for hydrolytic degradation. While mitochondrial autophagy can occur as part of a nonselective upregulation of autophagy, selective degradation of damaged or unneeded mitochondria (mitophagy) is a rapidly growing area in development, cancer, and neurodegeneration, particularly with regard to Parkinson’s disease. Due to its dynamic nature, and the potential for regulatory perturbation by disease processes, no single technique is sufficient to evaluate mitophagy. Here, we describe several complementary techniques that include electron microscopy, single cell analysis of LC3 fluorescent puncta, and Western blot, each used in conjunction with a flux inhibitor to trap newly formed autophagosomes in order to monitor mitophagy in neuronal cells.
PMCID: PMC3683873  PMID: 21913110
Autophagy; Mitophagy; Electron microscopy; Western Blot; RFP-LC3; GFP-LC3; Immunofluorescence

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