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1.  Neuronal Autophagy: Self-eating or Self-cannibalism in Alzheimer’s Disease 
Neurochemical Research  2013;38(9):1769-1773.
Autophagy is a major intracellular degeneration pathway involved in the elimination and recycling of damaged organelles and long-lived proteins by lysosomes. Many of the pathological factors, which trigger neurodegenerative diseases, can perturb the autophagy activity, which is associated with misfolded protein aggregates accumulation in these disorders. Alzheimer’s disease, the first neurodegenerative disorder between dementias, is characterized by two aggregating proteins, β-amyloid peptide (plaques) and τ-protein (tangles). In Alzheimer’s disease autophagosomes dynamically form along neurites within neuronal cells and in synapses but effective clearance of these structures needs retrograde transportation towards the neuronal soma where there is a major concentration of lysosomes. Maturation of autophago-lysosomes and their retrograde trafficking are perturbed in Alzheimer’s disease, which causes a massive concentration of autophagy elements along degenerating neurites. Transportation system is disturbed along defected microtubules in Alzheimer’s disease brains. τ-protein has been found to control the stability of microtubules, however, phosphorylation of τ-protein or an increase in the total level of τ-protein can cause dysfunction of neuronal cells microtubules. Current evidence has shown that autophagy is developing in Alzheimer’s disease brains because of ineffective degradation of autophagosomes, which hold amyloid precursor protein-rich organelles and secretases important for β-amyloid peptides generation from amyloid precursor. The combination of raised autophagy induction and abnormal clearance of β-amyloid peptide-generating autophagic vacuoles creates circumstances helpful for β-amyloid peptide aggregation and accumulation in Alzheimer’s disease. However, the key role of autophagy in Alzheimer’s disease development is still under consideration today. One point of view suggests that abnormal autophagy induction causes a concentration of autophagic vacuoles rich in amyloid precursor protein, β-amyloid peptide and the elements crucial for its formation, whereas other hypothesis points to marred autophagic clearance or even decrease in autophagic effectiveness playing a role in maturation of Alzheimer’s disease. In this review we present the recent evidence linking autophagy to Alzheimer’s disease and the role of autophagic regulation in the development of full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3732752  PMID: 23737325
Alzheimer’s disease; Autophagy; Amyloid precursor protein; β-Amyloid peptide; τ-Protein; Neuronal death
2.  A diverse portfolio of novel drug discovery efforts for Alzheimer's disease: Meeting report from the 11th International Conference on Alzheimer's Drug Discovery, 27-28 September 2010, Jersey City, NJ, USA 
While Alzheimer's disease researchers continue to debate the underlying cause(s) of the disease, most agree that a diverse, multi-target approach to treatment will be necessary. To this end, the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) recently hosted the 11th International Conference on Alzheimer's Drug Discovery to highlight the array of exciting efforts from the ADDF's funded investigators.
PMCID: PMC3031879  PMID: 21159211
3.  Overcoming obstacles to repurposing for neurodegenerative disease 
Repurposing Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs for a new indication may offer an accelerated pathway for new treatments to patients but is also fraught with significant commercial, regulatory, and reimbursement challenges. The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) convened an advisory panel in October 2013 to understand stakeholder perspectives related to repurposing FDA-approved drugs for neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we present opportunities on how philanthropy, industry, and government can begin to address these challenges, promote policy changes, and develop targeted funding strategies to accelerate the potential of FDA-approved repurposed drugs.
PMCID: PMC4184781  PMID: 25356422
4.  Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease Begins as Episodes of Brain Ischemia and Ischemically Dysregulated Alzheimer’s Disease Genes 
Molecular Neurobiology  2013;48(3):500-515.
The study of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease etiology, now more than ever, needs an infusion of new concepts. Despite ongoing interest in Alzheimer’s disease, the basis of this entity is not yet clear. At present, the best-established and accepted “culprit” in Alzheimer’s disease pathology by most scientists is the amyloid, as the main molecular factor responsible for neurodegeneration in this disease. Abnormal upregulation of amyloid production or a disturbed clearance mechanism may lead to pathological accumulation of amyloid in brain according to the “amyloid hypothesis.” We will critically review these observations and highlight inconsistencies between the predictions of the “amyloid hypothesis” and the published data. There is still controversy over the role of amyloid in the pathological process. A question arises whether amyloid is responsible for the neurodegeneration or if it accumulates because of the neurodegeneration. Recent evidence suggests that the pathophysiology and neuropathology of Alzheimer’s disease comprises more than amyloid accumulation, tau protein pathology and finally brain atrophy with dementia. Nowadays, a handful of researchers share a newly emerged view that the ischemic episodes of brain best describe the pathogenic cascade, which eventually leads to neuronal loss, especially in hippocampus, with amyloid accumulation, tau protein pathology and irreversible dementia of Alzheimer type. The most persuasive evidences come from investigations of ischemically damaged brains of patients and from experimental ischemic brain studies that mimic Alzheimer-type dementia. This review attempts to depict what we know and do not know about the triggering factor of the Alzheimer’s disease, focusing on the possibility that the initial pathological trigger involves ischemic episodes and ischemia-induced gene dysregulation. The resulting brain ischemia dysregulates additionally expression of amyloid precursor protein and amyloid-processing enzyme genes that, in addition, ultimately compromise brain functions, leading over time to the complex alterations that characterize advanced sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. The identification of the genes involved in Alzheimer’s disease induced by ischemia will enable to further define the events leading to sporadic Alzheimer’s disease-related abnormalities. Additionally, knowledge gained from the above investigations should facilitate the elaboration of the effective treatment and/or prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3825141  PMID: 23519520
Brain ischemia; Blood–brain barrier; Neuronal death; Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Genes; Amyloid precursor protein; Presenilins; Apolipoproteins; Secretases
5.  Mary S. Easton Center of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at UCLA: Advancing the Therapeutic Imperative 
The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research (UCLA-Easton Alzheimer’s Center) is committed to the “therapeutic imperative” and is devoted to finding new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and to developing technologies (biomarkers) to advance that goal. The UCLA-Easton Alzheimer’s Center has a continuum of research and research-related activities including basic/foundational studies of peptide interactions; translational studies in transgenic animals and other animal models of AD; clinical research to define the phenotype of AD, characterize familial AD, develop biomarkers, and advance clinical trials; health services and outcomes research; and active education, dissemination, and recruitment activities. The UCLA-Easton Alzheimer’s Center is supported by the National Institutes on Aging, the State of California, and generous donors who share our commitment to developing new therapies for AD. The naming donor (Jim Easton) provided substantial funds to endow the center and to support projects in AD drug discovery and biomarker development. The Sidell-Kagan Foundation supports the Katherine and Benjamin Kagan Alzheimer’s Treatment Development Program, and the Deane F. Johnson Alzheimer’s Research Foundation supports the Deane F. Johnson Center for Neurotherapeutics at UCLA. The John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Research Foundation provides grants to junior investigators in critical periods of their academic development. The UCLA-Easton Alzheimer’s Center partners with community organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association California Southland Chapter and the Leeza Gibbons memory Foundation. Collaboration with pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, and device companies is critical to developing new therapeutics for AD and these collaborations are embraced in the mission of the UCLA-Easton Alzheimer’s Center. The Center supports excellent senior investigators and serves as an incubator for new scientists, agents, models, technologies and concepts that will significantly influence the future of AD treatment and AD research.
PMCID: PMC2855886  PMID: 20110588
6.  Autophagy impairment: a crossroad between neurodegeneration and tauopathies 
BMC Biology  2012;10:78.
Most neurodegenerative diseases involve the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the nervous system. Impairment of protein degradation pathways such as autophagy is emerging as a consistent and transversal pathological phenomenon in neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's disease. Genetic inactivation of autophagy in mice has demonstrated a key role of the pathway in maintaining protein homeostasis in the brain, triggering massive neuronal loss and the accumulation of abnormal protein inclusions. However, the mechanism underlying neurodegeneration due to autophagy impairment remains elusive. A paper in Molecular Neurodegeneration from Abeliovich's group now suggests a role for phosphorylation of Tau and the activation of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) in driving neurodegeneration in autophagy-deficient neurons. We discuss the implications of this study for understanding the factors driving neurofibrillary tangle formation in Alzheimer's disease and tauopathies.
See research article
PMCID: PMC3448508  PMID: 22999309
7.  Florbetapir PET analysis of amyloid-β deposition in the presenilin 1 E280A autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease kindred: a cross-sectional study 
Lancet neurology  2012;11(12):10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70227-2.
Fibrillar amyloid-β (Aβ) is thought to begin accumulating in the brain many years before the onset of clinical impairment in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. By assessing the accumulation of Aβ in people at risk of genetic forms of Alzheimer’s disease, we can identify how early preclinical changes start in individuals certain to develop dementia later in life. We sought to characterise the age-related accumulation of Aβ deposition in presenilin 1 (PSEN1) E280A mutation carriers across the spectrum of preclinical disease.
Between Aug 1 and Dec 6, 2011, members of the familial Alzheimer’s disease Colombian kindred aged 18–60 years were recruited from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative’s registry at the University of Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia. Cross-sectional assessment using florbetapir PET was done in symptomatic mutation carriers with mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia, asymptomatic carriers, and asymptomatic non-carriers. These assessments were done at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, AZ, USA. A cortical grey matter mask consisting of six predefined regions. was used to measure mean cortical florbetapir PET binding. Cortical-to-pontine standard-uptake value ratios were used to characterise the cross-sectional accumulation of fibrillar Aβ deposition in carriers and non-carriers with regression analysis and to estimate the trajectories of fibrillar Aβ deposition.
We enrolled a cohort of 11 symptomatic individuals, 19 presymptomatic mutation carriers, and 20 asymptomatic non-carriers, ranging in age from 20 to 56 years. There was greater florbetapir binding in asymptomatic PSEN1 E280A mutation carriers than in age matched non-carriers. Fibrillar Aβ began to accumulate in PSEN 1E280A mutation carriers at a mean age of 28·2 years (95% CI 27·3–33·4), about 16 years and 21 years before the predicted median ages at mild cognitive impairment and dementia onset, respectively. 18F florbetapir binding rose steeply over the next 9·4 years and plateaued at a mean age of 37·6 years (95% CI 35·3–40·2), about 6 and 11 years before the expected respective median ages at mild cognitive impairment and dementia onset. Prominent florbetapir binding was seen in the anterior and posterior cingulate, precuneus, and parietotemporal and frontal grey matter, as well as in the basal ganglia. Binding in the basal ganglia was not seen earlier or more prominently than in other regions.
These findings contribute to the understanding of preclinical familial Alzheimer’s disease and help set the stage for assessment of amyloid-modifying treatments in the prevention of familial Alzheimer’s disease.
Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, Banner Alzheimer’s Foundation, Nomis Foundation, Anonymous Foundation, Forget Me Not Initiative, Colciencias, National Institute on Aging, and the State of Arizona.
PMCID: PMC3515078  PMID: 23137949
8.  Structure-based discovery of fiber-binding compounds that reduce the cytotoxicity of amyloid beta 
eLife  2013;2:e00857.
Amyloid protein aggregates are associated with dozens of devastating diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and diabetes type 2. While structure-based discovery of compounds has been effective in combating numerous infectious and metabolic diseases, ignorance of amyloid structure has hindered similar approaches to amyloid disease. Here we show that knowledge of the atomic structure of one of the adhesive, steric-zipper segments of the amyloid-beta (Aβ) protein of Alzheimer’s disease, when coupled with computational methods, identifies eight diverse but mainly flat compounds and three compound derivatives that reduce Aβ cytotoxicity against mammalian cells by up to 90%. Although these compounds bind to Aβ fibers, they do not reduce fiber formation of Aβ. Structure-activity relationship studies of the fiber-binding compounds and their derivatives suggest that compound binding increases fiber stability and decreases fiber toxicity, perhaps by shifting the equilibrium of Aβ from oligomers to fibers.
eLife digest
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, estimated to affect roughly five million people in the United States, and its incidence is steadily increasing as the population ages. A pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the presence in the brain of aggregates of two proteins: tangles of a protein called tau; and fibers and smaller units (oligomers) of a peptide called amyloid beta.
Many attempts have been made to screen libraries of natural and synthetic compounds to identify substances that might prevent the aggregation and toxicity of amyloid. Such studies revealed that polyphenols found in green tea and in the spice turmeric can inhibit the formation of amyloid fibrils. Moreover, a number of dyes reduce the toxic effects of amyloid on cells, although significant side effects prevent these from being used as drugs.
Structure-based drug design, in which the structure of a target protein is used to help identify compounds that will interact with it, has been used to generate therapeutic agents for a number of diseases. Here, Jiang et al. report the first application of this technique in the hunt for compounds that inhibit the cytotoxicity of amyloid beta. Using the known atomic structure of the protein in complex with a dye, Jiang et al. performed a computational screen of 18,000 compounds in search of those that are likely to bind effectively.
The compounds that showed the strongest predicted binding were then tested for their ability to interfere with the aggregation of amyloid beta and to protect cells grown in culture from its toxic effects. Compounds that reduced toxicity did not reduce the abundance of protein aggregates, but they appear to increase the stability of fibrils. This is consistent with other evidence suggesting that small, soluble forms (oligomers) of amyloid beta that break free from the fibrils may be the toxic agent in Alzheimer’s disease, rather than the fibrils themselves.
In addition to uncovering compounds with therapeutic potential in Alzheimer’s disease, this work presents a new approach for identifying proteins that bind to amyloid fibrils. Given that amyloid accumulation is a feature of many other diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and type 2 diabetes, the approach could have broad therapeutic applications.
PMCID: PMC3713518  PMID: 23878726
amyloid fiber; computational biology; drug discovery; Alzheimer's disease; ligand docking; Other
9.  Nebula/DSCR1 Upregulation Delays Neurodegeneration and Protects against APP-Induced Axonal Transport Defects by Restoring Calcineurin and GSK-3β Signaling 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(9):e1003792.
Post-mortem brains from Down syndrome (DS) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients show an upregulation of the Down syndrome critical region 1 protein (DSCR1), but its contribution to AD is not known. To gain insights into the role of DSCR1 in AD, we explored the functional interaction between DSCR1 and the amyloid precursor protein (APP), which is known to cause AD when duplicated or upregulated in DS. We find that the Drosophila homolog of DSCR1, Nebula, delays neurodegeneration and ameliorates axonal transport defects caused by APP overexpression. Live-imaging reveals that Nebula facilitates the transport of synaptic proteins and mitochondria affected by APP upregulation. Furthermore, we show that Nebula upregulation protects against axonal transport defects by restoring calcineurin and GSK-3β signaling altered by APP overexpression, thereby preserving cargo-motor interactions. As impaired transport of essential organelles caused by APP perturbation is thought to be an underlying cause of synaptic failure and neurodegeneration in AD, our findings imply that correcting calcineurin and GSK-3β signaling can prevent APP-induced pathologies. Our data further suggest that upregulation of Nebula/DSCR1 is neuroprotective in the presence of APP upregulation and provides evidence for calcineurin inhibition as a novel target for therapeutic intervention in preventing axonal transport impairments associated with AD.
Author Summary
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease characterized by gradual neuronal cell loss and memory decline. Importantly, Down syndrome (DS) individuals over 40 years of age almost always develop neuropathological features of AD, although most do not develop dementia until at least two decades later. These findings suggest that DS and AD may share common genetic causes and that a neuroprotective mechanism may delay neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. It has been shown that the amyloid precursor protein (APP), which is associated with AD when duplicated and upregulated in DS, is a key gene contributing to AD pathologies and axonal transport abnormalities. Here, using fruit fly as a simple model organism, we examined the role of Down syndrome critical region 1 (DSCR1), another gene located on chromosome 21 and upregulated in both DS and AD, in modulating APP phenotypes. We find that upregulation of DSCR1 (Nebula in flies) is neuroprotective in the presence of APP upregulation. We report that nebula overexpression delays the onset of neurodegeneration and transport blockage in neuronal cells. Our results further suggest that signaling pathways downstream of DSCR1 may be potential therapeutic targets for AD.
PMCID: PMC3784514  PMID: 24086147
10.  Diverse therapeutic targets and biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias: report on the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation 2012 International Conference on Alzheimer's Drug Discovery 
The Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation's 13th International Conference on Alzheimer's Drug Discovery was held on 10-11 September 2012 in Jersey City, NJ, USA. This meeting report provides an overview of Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation-funded programs, ranging from novel biomarkers to accelerate clinical development to drug-discovery programs with a focus on targets related to neuroprotection, mitochondrial function, apolipoprotein E and vascular biology.
PMCID: PMC3580332  PMID: 23374760
11.  Anesthetic modulation of neuroinflammation in Alzheimer's Disease 
Purpose of review
To summarize key studies and recent thought on the role of neuroinflammation in chronic neurodegeneration, and whether it can be modulated by anesthesia and surgery.
Recent findings
A large and growing body of evidence shows that neuroinflammation participates in the development of neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Modulation may be possible early in the pathogenesis, and less so when cognitive symptoms appear. A dysfunctional hypo-inflammatory response may permit accelerated damage due to other mechanisms in late disease. The peripheral inflammatory response elicited by surgery itself appears to provoke a muted neuroinflammatory response, which enhances ongoing neurodegeneration in some models. Anesthetics have both anti- and pro-inflammatory effects depending on the drug and concentration, but in general, appear to play a small role in neuroinflammation. Human studies at the intersection of chronic neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, and surgery/anesthesia are rare.
The perioperative period has the potential to modulate the progression of chronic neurodegenerative diseases. The growing number of elderly having surgery, combined with the expanding life expectancy, indicates the potential for this interaction to have considerable public health implications, and call for further research, especially in humans.
PMCID: PMC3289136  PMID: 21659873
neurodegeneration; surgery; perioperative neurotoxicity; cytokines; cognitive dysfunction; microglia
12.  Effects of aerobic exercise on cognition and hippocampal volume in Alzheimer’s disease: study protocol of a randomized controlled trial (The FIT-AD trial) 
Trials  2014;15(1):394.
Alzheimer’s disease, a global public health issue, accounts for 60 to 80% of all dementias. Alzheimer’s disease primarily causes cognitive impairment and drugs have only modest short-term effects, highlighting a pressing need to develop effective interventions. Aerobic exercise holds promise for treating cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease through biologically sound mechanisms. Nonetheless, aerobic exercise studies in Alzheimer’s disease are limited with mixed findings.
This pilot randomized controlled trial will investigate the effects of a 6-month, individualized, moderate-intensity cycling intervention (20 to 50 minutes per session, 3 times a week) on cognition and hippocampal volume in community-dwelling older adults with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The specific aims are to: 1) determine the immediate effect of the cycling intervention on cognition in Alzheimer’s disease; 2) examine if the cycling intervention slows cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease from baseline to 12 months; and 3) assess the effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampal volume over 12 months. Ninety subjects will be randomized on a 2:1 allocation ratio to cycling or attention control (low-intensity stretching) and followed for another 6 months. Allocations will be concealed to all investigators and outcome assessors will be blinded to group assignments and previous data. Cognition will be measured by the Alzheimer’s disease Assessment Scale-Cognition at baseline before randomization and at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Hippocampal volume will be measured by magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and 6 and 12 months. The sample size of 90 will give 80% power to detect a 2.5-point difference in within-group changes in the Alzheimer’s disease Assessment Scale-Cognition at 6 months for the cycling group.
Findings from this study will address the critical gap of exercise efficacy in Alzheimer’s disease and use of magnetic resonance imaging as an outcome measure in clinical trials. This study will provide a potential treatment that may increase physical function and quality of life and curb the prohibitive costs for the growing dementia population.
Trial registration
Primary registration: (NCT01954550; date of registration: 20 September 2013). Secondary registration: (NCT01954550; date of registration: 1 October 2013).
PMCID: PMC4283145  PMID: 25304364
Exercise; Alzheimer’s disease; Dementia; Physical activity; Cognition; Hippocampal volume; Imaging
13.  Choroidal Proteins Involved in Cerebrospinal Fluid Production may be Potential Drug Targets for Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy 
Alzheimer’s disease is known to be the most common form of dementia in the elderly. It is clinically characterized by impairment of cognitive functions, as well as changes in personality, behavioral disturbances and an impaired ability to perform activities of daily living. To date, there are no effective ways to cure or reverse the disease. Genetic studies of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease cases revealed causative mutations in the genes encoding β-amyloid precursor protein and the γ-secretase-complex components presenilin-1 and presenilin-2, supporting an important role of β-amyloid in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Compromised function of the choroid plexus and defective cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover, with diminished clearance of β-amyloid, may play an important role in late-onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease. If reduced cerebrospinal fluid turnover is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, then therapeutic strategies to improve cerebrospinal fluid flow are reasonable. However, the role of deficient cerebrospinal fluid dynamics in Alzheimer’s disease and the relevance of choroidal proteins as potential therapeutic targets to enhance cerebrospinal fluid turnover have received relatively little research attention. In this paper, we discuss several choroidal proteins, such as Na+-K+ ATPase, carbonic anhydrase, and aquaporin 1, that may be targets for pharmacological up-regulation of cerebrospinal fluid formation. The search for potentially beneficial drugs useful to ameliorate Alzheimer’s disease by facilitating cerebrospinal fluid production and turnover may be an important area for future research. However, the ultimate utility of such modulators in the management of Alzheimer’s disease remains to be determined. Here, we hypothesize that caffeine, the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world, may be an attractive therapeutic candidate for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease since long-term caffeine consumption may augment cerebrospinal fluid production. Other potential mechanisms of cognitive protection by caffeine have been suggested by recent studies.
PMCID: PMC3072647  PMID: 21487536
Alzheimer’s disease; aquaporin 1; caffeine; carbonic anhydrase II; cerebrospinal fluid pressure; cerebrospinal fluid production; choroid plexus; intracranial pressure; Na+-K+ ATPase; SLC4A10
14.  Neuroinflammation and J2 prostaglandins: linking impairment of the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway and mitochondria to neurodegeneration 
The immune response of the CNS is a defense mechanism activated upon injury to initiate repair mechanisms while chronic over-activation of the CNS immune system (termed neuroinflammation) may exacerbate injury. The latter is implicated in a variety of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, HIV dementia, and prion diseases. Cyclooxygenases (COX-1 and COX-2), which are key enzymes in the conversion of arachidonic acid into bioactive prostanoids, play a central role in the inflammatory cascade. J2 prostaglandins are endogenous toxic products of cyclooxygenases, and because their levels are significantly increased upon brain injury, they are actively involved in neuronal dysfunction induced by pro-inflammatory stimuli. In this review, we highlight the mechanisms by which J2 prostaglandins (1) exert their actions, (2) potentially contribute to the transition from acute to chronic inflammation and to the spreading of neuropathology, (3) disturb the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway and mitochondrial function, and (4) contribute to neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and demyelination in Krabbe disease. We conclude by discussing the therapeutic potential of targeting the J2 prostaglandin pathway to prevent/delay neurodegeneration associated with neuroinflammation. In this context, we suggest a shift from the traditional view that cyclooxygenases are the most appropriate targets to treat neuroinflammation, to the notion that J2 prostaglandin pathways and other neurotoxic prostaglandins downstream from cyclooxygenases, would offer significant benefits as more effective therapeutic targets to treat chronic neurodegenerative diseases, while minimizing adverse side effects.
PMCID: PMC4292445  PMID: 25628533
J2 prostaglandins; neuroinflammation; UPP; mitochondria; neurodegeneration
15.  Early Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease Pathology in Urban Children: Friend versus Foe Responses—It Is Time to Face the Evidence 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:161687.
Chronic exposure to particulate matter air pollution is known to cause inflammation leading to respiratory- and cardiovascular-related sickness and death. Mexico City Metropolitan Area children exhibit an early brain imbalance in genes involved in oxidative stress, inflammation, and innate and adaptive immune responses. Early dysregulated neuroinflammation, brain microvascular damage, production of potent vasoconstrictors, and perturbations in the integrity of the neurovascular unit likely contribute to progressive neurodegenerative processes. The accumulation of misfolded proteins coincides with the anatomical distribution observed in the early stages of both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. We contend misfolding of hyperphosphorylated tau (HPπ), alpha-synuclein, and beta-amyloid could represent a compensatory early protective response to the sustained systemic and brain inflammation. However, we favor the view that the chronic systemic and brain dysregulated inflammation and the diffuse vascular damage contribute to the establishment of neurodegenerative processes with childhood clinical manifestations. Friend turns Foe early; therefore, implementation of neuroprotective measures to ameliorate or stop the inflammatory and neurodegenerative processes is warranted in exposed children. Epidemiological, cognitive, structural, and functional neuroimaging and mechanistic studies into the association between air pollution exposures and the development of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in children are of pressing importance for public health.
PMCID: PMC3581281  PMID: 23509683
16.  Dual destructive and protective roles of adaptive immunity in neurodegenerative disorders 
Inappropriate T cell responses in the central nervous system (CNS) affect the pathogenesis of a broad range of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders that include, but are not limited to, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. On the one hand immune responses can exacerbate neurotoxic responses; while on the other hand, they can lead to neuroprotective outcomes. The temporal and spatial mechanisms by which these immune responses occur and are regulated in the setting of active disease have gained significant recent attention. Spatially, immune responses that affect neurodegeneration may occur within or outside the CNS. Migration of antigen-specific CD4+ T cells from the periphery to the CNS and consequent immune cell interactions with resident glial cells affect neuroinflammation and neuronal survival. The destructive or protective mechanisms of these interactions are linked to the relative numerical and functional dominance of effector or regulatory T cells. Temporally, immune responses at disease onset or during progression may exhibit a differential balance of immune responses in the periphery and within the CNS. Immune responses with predominate T cell subtypes may differentially manifest migratory, regulatory and effector functions when triggered by endogenous misfolded and aggregated proteins and cell-specific stimuli. The final result is altered glial and neuronal behaviors that influence the disease course. Thus, discovery of neurodestructive and neuroprotective immune mechanisms will permit potential new therapeutic pathways that affect neuronal survival and slow disease progression.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/2047-9158-3-25) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4323229  PMID: 25671101
Neurodegeneration; Neuroprotection; Migration; MPTP; MCAM; Regulatory T cell; Effector T cell; Neuroinflammation
17.  Pathways to neurodegeneration: mechanistic insights from GWAS in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and related disorders 
The discovery of causative genetic mutations in affected family members has historically dominated our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Nevertheless, most cases of neurodegenerative disease are not explained by Mendelian inheritance of known genetic variants, but instead are thought to have a complex etiology with numerous genetic and environmental factors contributing to susceptibility. Although unbiased genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified novel associations to neurodegenerative diseases, most of these hits explain only modest fractions of disease heritability. In addition, despite the substantial overlap of clinical and pathologic features among major neurodegenerative diseases, surprisingly few GWAS-implicated variants appear to exhibit cross-disease association. These realities suggest limitations of the focus on individual genetic variants and create challenges for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, which traditionally target an isolated molecule or mechanistic step. Recently, GWAS of complex diseases and traits have focused less on individual susceptibility variants and instead have emphasized the biological pathways and networks revealed by genetic associations. This new paradigm draws on the hypothesis that fundamental disease processes may be influenced on a personalized basis by a combination of variants – some common and others rare, some protective and others deleterious – in key genes and pathways. Here, we review and synthesize the major pathways implicated in neurodegeneration, focusing on GWAS from the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders, AD and PD. Using literature mining, we also discover a novel regulatory network that is enriched with AD- and PD-associated genes and centered on the SP1 and AP-1 (Jun/Fos) transcription factors. Overall, this pathway- and network-driven model highlights several potential shared mechanisms in AD and PD that will inform future studies of these and other neurodegenerative disorders. These insights also suggest that biomarker and treatment strategies may require simultaneous targeting of multiple components, including some specific to disease stage, in order to assess and modulate neurodegeneration. Pathways and networks will provide ideal vehicles for integrating relevant findings from GWAS and other modalities to enhance clinical translation.
PMCID: PMC3783830  PMID: 24093081
Neurodegeneration; Alzheimer’s disease (AD); Parkinson’s disease (PD); genome-wide association study (GWAS); single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP); pathway; network; biomarker; omics; complex disease
18.  The Central Role of AMP-Kinase and Energy Homeostasis Impairment in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Multifactor Network Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e78919.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide, affecting the elderly population. It is characterized by the hallmark pathology of amyloid-β deposition, neurofibrillary tangle formation, and extensive neuronal degeneration in the brain. Wealth of data related to Alzheimer’s disease has been generated to date, nevertheless, the molecular mechanism underlying the etiology and pathophysiology of the disease is still unknown. Here we described a method for the combined analysis of multiple types of genome-wide data aimed at revealing convergent evidence interest that would not be captured by a standard molecular approach. Lists of Alzheimer-related genes (seed genes) were obtained from different sets of data on gene expression, SNPs, and molecular targets of drugs. Network analysis was applied for identifying the regions of the human protein-protein interaction network showing a significant enrichment in seed genes, and ultimately, in genes associated to Alzheimer’s disease, due to the cumulative effect of different combinations of the starting data sets. The functional properties of these enriched modules were characterized, effectively considering the role of both Alzheimer-related seed genes and genes that closely interact with them. This approach allowed us to present evidence in favor of one of the competing theories about AD underlying processes, specifically evidence supporting a predominant role of metabolism-associated biological process terms, including autophagy, insulin and fatty acid metabolic processes in Alzheimer, with a focus on AMP-activated protein kinase. This central regulator of cellular energy homeostasis regulates a series of brain functions altered in Alzheimer’s disease and could link genetic perturbation with neuronal transmission and energy regulation, representing a potential candidate to be targeted by therapy.
PMCID: PMC3827084  PMID: 24265728
19.  Cyclooxygenase-2 in Synaptic Signaling 
Current pharmaceutical design  2008;14(14):1443-1451.
Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), a rate-limiting enzyme converting arachidonic acid to prostaglandins and a key player in neuroinflammation, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and in traumatic brain injury- and ischemia-induced neuronal damage, and epileptogenesis. Accumulated information suggests that the contribution of COX-2 to neuropathology is associated with its involvement in synaptic modification. Inhibition or elevation of COX-2 has been shown to suppress or enhance excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmission and long-term potentiation (LTP). These events are mainly mediated via PGE2, the predominant reaction product of COX-2, and the PGE2 subtype 2 receptor (EP2)-protein kinase A pathway. Recent evidence shows that endogenous cannabinoids are substrates for COX-2 and can be oxygenated by COX-2 to form new classes of prostaglandins (prostaglandin glycerol esters and prostaglandin ethanolamides). These COX-2 oxidative metabolites of endocannabinoids, as novel signaling mediators, modulate synaptic transmission and plasticity and cause neurodegeneration. The actions of these COX-2 metabolites are likely mediated by mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) signal transduction pathways. These discoveries suggest that the contributions of COX-2 to neurotransmission and brain malfunction result not only from its conversion of arachidonic acid to classic prostaglandins but also from its oxidative metabolism of endocannabinoids to novel prostaglandins. Thus, elucidation of COX-2 in synaptic signaling may provide a mechanistic basis for designing new drugs aimed at preventing, treating or alleviating neuroinflammation-associated neurological disorders.
PMCID: PMC2561288  PMID: 18537667
Inflammation; Prostaglandin E2; Endocannabinoids; Prostaglandin glycerol esters; Prostaglandin ethanolamides; Synaptic plasticity
20.  Leptin signaling and Alzheimer’s disease 
Leptin, an adipocytokine produced in the peripheral system as well as in the brain, is implicated in obesity, food intake, glucose homeostasis, and energy expenditure. Leptin expression levels and signaling pathways may also be linked to the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that higher circulating leptin levels are associated with lower risk of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, and lower circulating levels of leptin have been reported in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Leptin receptors are highly expressed in the hippocampus, a brain area involved in learning and memory and severely affected during the course of Alzheimer’s disease. In laboratory studies, several in vivo and in vitro studies have shown that leptin supplementation decreases amyloid-β (Aβ) production and tau phosphorylation, two major biochemical events that play a key role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. In this review, we will review the structure of leptin, the type of receptors of leptin in the brain, the various biological functions attributed to this adipocytokine, the signaling pathways that govern leptin actions, and the potential role of leptin in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease. Leptin exerts its functions by binding to the leptin receptor (ObR). This binding can involve several signaling pathways including JAK/STAT pathway, ERK pathway and the PI3K/Akt/mTOR Pathway. Modulation of these pathways leads to the regulation of a multitude of functions that define the intricate involvement of leptin in various physiological tasks. In this review, we will specifically relate the potential involvement of leptin signaling in Alzheimer’s disease based on work published by several laboratories including ours. All this work points to leptin as a possible target for developing supplementation therapies for reducing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3560472  PMID: 23383396
Alzheimer’s disease; BACE1; Abeta; leptin; leptin receptors; JAK/STAT pathway; hippocampus; hypothalamus; PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathway; ERK; SIRT
21.  Cell “Self-Eating” (Autophagy) Mechanism in Alzheimer’s Disease 
The autophagy pathway is the major degradation pathway of the cell for long-lived proteins and organelles. Dysfunction of autophagy has been linked to several neurodegenerative disorders that are associated with an accumulation of misfolded protein aggregates. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common neurodegenerative disorder, is characterized by 2 aggregate forms, tau tangles and amyloid-β plaques. Autophagy has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis through its merger with the endosomal-lysosomal system, which has been shown to play a role in the formation of the latter amyloid-β plaques. However, the precise role of autophagy in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis is still under contention. One hypothesis is that aberrant autophagy induction results in an accumulation of autophagic vacuoles containing amyloid-β and the components necessary for its generation, whereas other evidence points to impaired autophagic clearance or even an overall reduction in autophagic activity playing a role in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. In this review, we discuss the current evidence linking autophagy to Alzheimer’s disease as well as the uncertainty over the exact role and level of autophagic regulation in the pathogenic mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC2835623  PMID: 20101724
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloidogenesis; autophagy; dysfunction; endosomal-lysosomal pathway
22.  Cellular and animal models for high-throughput screening of therapeutic agents for the treatment of the diseases of the elderly in general and Alzheimer’s disease in particular† 
It is currently thought that the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease is due to the neurotoxicity of the deposits or aggregates of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the extracellular space of the cerebral cortex. This model has been widely criticized because there is a poor correlation between deposits and dementia. Others have questioned whether Aβ is truly neurotoxic. Yet, in spite of these concerns, the search for therapeutic agents has been based on the development of mouse models transfected with mutant genes associated in humans with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. A major limitation of these models is that although they exhibit many of the pathological and clinical manifestation of the human disease, the bulk of individuals who develop the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease have none of these mutant genes. Furthermore, nine clinical trials of drugs that were effective in transgenic mice failed to show any benefit in patients. Finally, a major unresolved issue with the Aβ model is that since Aβ is produced in everyone, why are deposits only seen in the elderly? This issue must be resolved if we are to understand the etiology of the disease and develop test systems for both diagnosis and drug discovery. Published studies from my laboratory demonstrate that in human cerebrospinal fluid immunoreactive Aβ is only present as a complex with two chaperones, ERp57 and calreticulin and is N-glycosylated. This complex formation is catalyzed by the posttranslational protein processing system of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Others have reported that in plaque Aβ is present only as the naked peptide. Together these results suggest that both plaque and dementia are secondary to an age related decline in the capacity of the ER to catalyze protein, posttranslational processing. Since the synaptic membrane proteins necessary for a functioning memory are also processed in the ER, these findings would suggest that the loss of cognition is due to a decline in the capacity of the neuron to produce and maintain functioning synapses. Work from my laboratory and from others further indicate that the components of the ER, posttranslational, protein processing pathway do dramatically decline with age. These data suggest that this decline may be found in all cells and could account not only for the dementia of Alzheimer’s disease, but also for many of the other manifestations of the aging process. These observations also suggest that declining ER function has a role in two well-recognized phenomena associated with aging: a loss of mitochondrial function and a decrease in myelin. Finally, based on this paradigm I propose new cellular and animals models for high-throughput screening for drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3651961  PMID: 23717280
amyloid-β; protein processing; chaperones; N-glycosylation; dementia
23.  Genetic background modifies neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation driven by misfolded human tau protein in rat model of tauopathy: implication for immunomodulatory approach to Alzheimer's disease 
Numerous epidemiological studies demonstrate that genetic background modifies the onset and the progression of Alzheimer's disease and related neurodegenerative disorders. The efficacious influence of genetic background on the disease pathway of amyloid beta has been meticulously described in rodent models. Since the impact of genetic modifiers on the neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory cascade induced by misfolded tau protein is yet to be elucidated, we have addressed the issue by using transgenic lines expressing the same human truncated tau protein in either spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) or Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) genetic background.
Brains of WKY and SHR transgenic rats in the terminal stage of phenotype and their age-matched non-transgenic littermates were examined by means of immunohistochemistry and unbiased stereology. Basic measures of tau-induced neurodegeneration (load of neurofibrillary tangles) and neuroinflammation (number of Iba1-positive microglia, their activated morphology, and numbers of microglia immunoreactive for MHCII and astrocytes immunoreactive for GFAP) were quantified with an optical fractionator in brain areas affected by neurofibrillary pathology (pons, medulla oblongata). The stereological data were evaluated using two-way ANOVA and Student's t-test.
Tau neurodegeneration (neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs), axonopathy) and neuroinflammation (microgliosis, astrocytosis) appeared in both WKY and SHR transgenic rats. Although identical levels of transgene expression in both lines were present, terminally-staged WKY transgenic rats displayed significantly lower final NFT loads than their SHR transgenic counterparts. Interestingly, microglial responses showed a striking difference between transgenic lines. Only 1.6% of microglia in SHR transgenic rats expressed MHCII in spite of having a robust phagocytic phenotype, whereas in WKY transgenic rats, 23.2% of microglia expressed MHCII despite displaying a considerably lower extent of transformation into phagocytic phenotype.
These results show that the immune response represents a pivotal and genetically variable modifying factor that is able to influence vulnerability to neurodegeneration. Therefore, targeted immunomodulation could represent a prospective therapeutic approach to Alzheimer's disease.
PMCID: PMC2958906  PMID: 20937161
24.  Relationship Between Tau Pathology and Neuroinflammation in Alzheimer's Disease 
Alzheimer's disease is a chronic, age-related neurodegenerative disorder. Neurofibrillary tangles are among the pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. Neurofibrillary tangles consist of abnormal protein fibers known as paired helical filaments. The accumulation of paired helical filaments is one of the most characteristic cellular changes in Alzheimer's disease. Tau protein, a microtubule-associated protein, is the major component of paired helical filaments. Tau in paired helical filaments is hyperphosphorylated, truncated, and aggregated. What triggers the formation of paired helical filaments is not known, but neuroinflammation could play a role. Neuroinflammation is an active process detectable in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease. The neuronal toxicity associated with inflammation makes it a potential risk factor in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. Determining the sequence of events that lead to this devastating disease has become one of the most important goals for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease. In this review, we focus on the pathological properties of tau thought to play a role in neurofibrillary tangle formation and summarize how central nervous system inflammation might be a critical contributor to the pathology of Alzheimer's disease. A better understanding of the mechanisms that cause neurofibrillary tangle formation is of clinical importance for developing therapeutic strategies to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease. One of the major challenges facing us is singling out neuroinflammation as a therapeutic target for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease neurodegeneration. The challenge is developing therapeutic strategies that prevent neurotoxicity linked to inflammation without compromising its neuroprotective role.
PMCID: PMC2904237  PMID: 20101714
aggregation; Alzheimer's disease; inflammation; neurofibrillary tangles; tau protein
25.  T-cell-mediated regulation of neuroinflammation involved in neurodegenerative diseases 
Neuroinflammation is involved in several neurodegenerative disorders and emerging evidence indicates that it constitutes a critical process that is required for the progression of neurodegeneration. Microglial activation constitutes a central event in neuroinflammation. Furthermore, microglia can not only be activated with an inflammatory and neurotoxic phenotype (M1-like phenotype), but they also can acquire a neurosupportive functional phenotype (M2-like phenotype) characterised by the production of anti-inflammatory mediators and neurotrophic factors. Importantly, during the past decade, several studies have shown that CD4+ T-cells infiltrate the central nervous system (CNS) in many neurodegenerative disorders, in which their participation has a critical influence on the outcome of microglial activation and consequent neurodegeneration. In this review, we focus on the analysis of the interplay of the different sub-populations of CD4+ T-cells infiltrating the CNS and how they participate in regulating the outcome of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration in the context of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. In this regard, encephalitogenic inflammatory CD4+ T-cells, such as Th1, Th17, GM-CSF-producer CD4+ T-cells and γδT-cells, strongly contribute to chronic neuroinflammation, thus perpetuating neurodegenerative processes. In contrast, encephalitogenic or meningeal Tregs and Th2 cells decrease inflammatory functions in microglial cells and promote a neurosupportive microenvironment. Moreover, whereas some neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease involve the participation of inflammatory CD4+ T-cells 'naturally', the physiopathology of other neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is associated with the participation of anti-inflammatory CD4+ T-cells that delay the neurodegenerative process. Thus, current evidence supports the hypothesis that the involvement of CD4+ T-cells against CNS antigens constitutes a key component in regulating the progression of the neurodegenerative process.
PMCID: PMC4258012  PMID: 25441979
Neuroinflammation; Neurodegenerative disorders; Microglia; CD4+ T-cells

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