The accumulation of insoluble proteins is a pathological hallmark of several neurodegenerative disorders. Tauopathies are caused by the dysfunction and aggregation of tau protein and an impairment of cellular protein degradation pathways may contribute to their pathogenesis. Thus, a deficiency in autophagy can cause neurodegeneration, while activation of autophagy is protective against some proteinopathies. Little is known about the role of autophagy in animal models of human tauopathy. In the present report, we assessed the effects of autophagy stimulation by trehalose in a transgenic mouse model of tauopathy, the human mutant P301S tau mouse, using biochemical and immunohistochemical analyses. Neuronal survival was evaluated by stereology. Autophagy was activated in the brain, where the number of neurons containing tau inclusions was significantly reduced, as was the amount of insoluble tau protein. This reduction in tau aggregates was associated with improved neuronal survival in the cerebral cortex and the brainstem. We also observed a decrease of p62 protein, suggesting that it may contribute to the removal of tau inclusions. Trehalose failed to activate autophagy in the spinal cord, where it had no impact on the level of sarkosyl-insoluble tau. Accordingly, trehalose had no effect on the motor impairment of human mutant P301S tau transgenic mice. Our findings provide direct evidence in favour of the degradation of tau aggregates by autophagy. Activation of autophagy may be worth investigating in the context of therapies for human tauopathies.
autophagy; neurodegenerative disorders; neuroprotection; protein aggregation; tau
Protein misfolding, aggregation and deposition are common disease mechanisms in many neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease. Accumulation of damaged or abnormally modified proteins may lead to perturbed cellular function and eventually to cell death. Thus neurons rely on elaborated pathways of protein quality control and removal to maintain intracellular protein homeostasis. Molecular chaperones, the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) and the autophagy-lysosomal pathway (ALP) are critical pathways that mediate the refolding or removal of abnormal proteins.
The successive failure of these protein degradation pathways, as a cause or consequence of early pathological alterations in vulnerable neurons at risk, may present a key step in the pathological cascade that leads to spreading neurodegeneration. A growing number of studies in disease models and patients have implicated dysfunction of the UPS and ALP in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease and related disorders. Deciphering the exact mechanism by which the different proteolytic systems contribute to the elimination of pathogenic proteins, like α-synuclein, is therefore of paramount importance. We herein review the role of protein degradation pathways in Parkinson’s disease and elaborate on the different contributions of the UPS and the ALP to the clearance of altered proteins. We examine the interplay between different degradation pathways and provide a model for the role of the UPS and ALP in the evolution and progression of α-synuclein pathology. With regards to exciting recent studies we also discuss the putative potential of using protein degradation pathways as novel therapeutic targets in Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease; neurodegeneration; α-synuclein; autophagy; lysosome; ubiquitin-proteasome system; molecular chaperones
A number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and polyglutamine diseases, are characterized by the age-dependent formation of intracellular protein aggregates and neurodegeneration. Although there is some debate surrounding the role of these aggregates in neurotoxicity, the formation of aggregates is known to reflect the accumulation of misfolded and toxic proteins. The degradation of misfolded proteins occurs mainly via the ubiquitin–proteasome and autophagy pathways. In neuronal cells, polyglutamine protein inclusions are present predominantly in the nucleus, which is not accessible to autophagy. It remains unclear how the ubiquitin–proteasomal and autophagy pathways remove misfolded proteins in the different subcellular regions of neurons, where disease proteins become misfolded and aggregated in an age-dependent manner. Here we discuss the key findings to date about the roles of the ubiquitin–proteasome system and autophagy in polyglutamine diseases. Understanding how these two pathways function to clear mutant polyglutamine proteins will further the development of effective treatments for polyglutamine and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Ubiquitin; Proteasome; Autophagy; Polyglutamine; Huntingtin; Neurodegeneration
Aggregation and accumulation of the microtubule-associated protein tau are associated with cognitive decline and neuronal degeneration in Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies. Thus, preventing the transition of tau from a soluble state to insoluble aggregates and/or reversing the toxicity of existing aggregates would represent a reasonable therapeutic strategy for treating these neurodegenerative diseases. Here we demonstrate that molecular chaperones of the heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) family are potent inhibitors of tau aggregation in vitro, preventing the formation of both mature fibrils and oligomeric intermediates. Remarkably, addition of Hsp70 to a mixture of oligomeric and fibrillar tau aggregates prevents the toxic effect of these tau species on fast axonal transport, a critical process for neuronal function. When incubated with preformed tau aggregates, Hsp70 preferentially associated with oligomeric over fibrillar tau, suggesting that prefibrillar oligomeric tau aggregates play a prominent role in tau toxicity. Taken together, our data provide a novel molecular basis for the protective effect of Hsp70 in tauopathies.
The accumulation of misfolded proteins in insoluble aggregates within the neuronal cytoplasm is one of the common pathological hallmarks of most adult-onset human neurodegenerative diseases. The clearance of these misfolded proteins may represent a promising therapeutic strategy in these diseases. The two main routes for intracellular protein degradation are the ubiquitin–proteasome and the autophagy–lysosome pathways. In this review, we will focus on the autophagic pathway, by providing some examples of how impairment at different steps in this degradation pathway is related to different neurodegenerative diseases. We will also consider that upregulating autophagy may be useful in the treatment of some of these diseases. Finally, we discuss how antioxidants, which have been considered to be beneficial in neurodegenerative diseases, can block autophagy, thus potentially compromising their therapeutic potential.
►Autophagy compromise occurs in different neurodegenerative diseases. ►Upregulating autophagy may be useful in the treatment of some neurodegenerative diseases. ►Many different reactive oxygen species scavengers impair autophagy
Autophagy; Neurodegeneration; Huntington's disease
Tau inclusions are a prominent feature of many neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Their accumulation in neurons as ubiquitinated filaments suggests a failure in the degradation limb of the Tau pathway. The components of a Tau protein triage system consisting of CHIP/Hsp70 and other chaperones have begun to emerge. However, the site of triage and the master regulatory elements are unknown. Here we report an elegant mechanism of Tau degradation involving the co-chaperone BAG2. The BAG2/Hsp70 complex is tethered to the microtubule and this complex can capture and deliver Tau to the proteasome for ubiquitin-independent degradation. This complex preferentially degrades sarkosyl insoluble Tau and phosphorylated Tau. BAG2 levels in cells are under the physiological control of the microRNA miR-128a, which can tune PHF Tau levels in neurons. Thus we propose that ubiquitinated Tau inclusions arise due to shunting of Tau degradation toward a less efficient ubiquitin-dependent pathway.
BCL-Associated anthanogene2 (BAG2); Heat Shock Protein70 (Hsp 70); Phosphorylated Tau; ubiquitin; proteasome; mir-128a
Neurodegeneration, the progressive loss of function in neurons that eventually leads to their death, is the cause of many neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases. Protein aggregation is a hallmark of most neurodegenerative diseases, where unfolded proteins form intranuclear, cytosolic, and extracellular insoluble aggregates in neurons. Mounting evidence from studies in neurodegenerative disease models shows that molecular chaperones, key regulators of protein aggregation and degradation, play critical roles in the progression of neurodegeneration. Although chaperones exhibit promiscuity in their substrate specificity, specific molecular features are required for substrate recognition. Understanding the basis for substrate recognition by chaperones will aid in the development of therapeutic strategies that regulate chaperone expression levels in order to combat neurodegeneration. Many experimental techniques, including alanine scanning mutagenesis and phage display library screening, have been developed and applied to understand the basis of substrate recognition by chaperones. Here, we present computational algorithms that can be applied to rapidly screen the sequence space of potential substrates to determine the sequence and structural requirements for substrate recognition by chaperones.
► The ubiquitin–proteasome system and autophagy are two main degradative pathways. ► Autophagy upregulation may protect against polyglutamine-expanded protein neurotoxicity. ► Autophagy compromise may occur in certain neurodegenerative diseases.
In polyglutamine diseases, an abnormally elongated polyglutamine tract results in protein misfolding and accumulation of intracellular aggregates. The length of the polyglutamine expansion correlates with the tendency of the mutant protein to aggregate, as well as with neuronal toxicity and earlier disease onset. Although currently there is no effective cure to prevent or slow down the progression of these neurodegenerative disorders, increasing the clearance of mutant proteins has been proposed as a potential therapeutic approach. The ubiquitin–proteasome system and autophagy are the two main degradative pathways responsible for eliminating misfolded and unnecessary proteins in the cell. We will review some of the studies that have proposed autophagy as a strategy to reduce the accumulation of polyglutamine-expanded protein aggregates and protect against mutant protein neurotoxicity. We will also discuss some of the currently known mechanisms that induce autophagy, which may be beneficial for the treatment of these and other neurodegenerative disorders.
HD, Huntington's disease; SCA, spinocerebellar ataxia; DRPLA, Denatorubral-pallidoluysian atrophy; SBMA, spinal and bulbar muscular atropy; Htt, Huntingtin; UPS, ubiquitin–proteasome system; HDL-2, Huntington's disease-like 2; IBs, inclusion bodies; RNAi, RNA interference; Atg, autophagy-related genes; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; PI3K, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase; JNK1, c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase 1; PE, phosphatidylethanolamine; SNAREs, soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptors; mTOR, mammalian target of rapamycin; PI-3-P, phosphatidylinositol-3-phosphate; ROS, reactive oxygen species; IP3, inositol-1,4,5-triphosphate; IP3R, IP3 receptors; cAMP, cyclic AMP; IMPase, inositol monophosphatase; GSK3β, glycogen synthase kinase-3 β; I1R, imidazoline-1-receptor; SMERs, small molecule enhancers of rapamycin; SMIRs, small molecule inhibitors of rapamycin; Polyglutamine diseases; Autophagy; Neurodegeneration; Huntington's disease
The accumulation of abnormal protein aggregates is a major characteristic of many neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's disease (PD). The intracytoplasmic deposition of α-synuclein aggregates and Lewy bodies, often found in PD and other α-synucleinopathies, is thought to be linked to inefficient cellular clearance mechanisms, such as the proteasome and autophagy/lysosome pathways. The accumulation of α-synuclein aggregates in neuronal cytoplasm causes numerous autonomous changes in neurons. However, it can also affect the neighboring cells through transcellular transmission of the aggregates. Indeed, a progressive spreading of Lewy pathology among brain regions has been hypothesized from autopsy studies. We tested whether inhibition of the autophagy/lysosome pathway in α-synuclein-expressing cells would increase the secretion of α-synuclein, subsequently affecting the α-synuclein deposition in and viability of neighboring cells. Our results demonstrated that autophagic inhibition, via both pharmacological and genetic methods, led to increased exocytosis of α-synuclein. In a mixed culture of α-synuclein-expressing donor cells with recipient cells, autophagic inhibition resulted in elevated transcellular α-synuclein transmission. This increase in protein transmission coincided with elevated apoptotic cell death in the recipient cells. These results suggest that the inefficient clearance of α-synuclein aggregates, which can be caused by reduced autophagic activity, leads to elevated α-synuclein exocytosis, thereby promoting α-synuclein deposition and cell death in neighboring neurons. This finding provides a potential link between autophagic dysfunction and the progressive spread of Lewy pathology.
autophagy; neurodegeneration; protein aggregation; signal transduction
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative movement disorder that is caused, in part, by the loss of dopaminergic neurons within the substantia nigra pars compacta of the basal ganglia. The presence of intracellular protein aggregates, known as Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, within the surviving nigral neurons is the defining neuropathological feature of the disease. Accordingly, the identification of specific genes mutated in families with Parkinson’s disease and of genetic susceptibility variants for idiopathic Parkinson’s disease has implicated abnormalities in proteostasis, or the handling and elimination of misfolded proteins, in the pathogenesis of this neurodegenerative disorder. Protein folding and the refolding of misfolded proteins are regulated by a network of interactive molecules, known as the chaperone system, which is composed of molecular chaperones and co-chaperones. The chaperone system is intimately associated with the ubiquitin-proteasome system and the autophagy-lysosomal pathway which are responsible for elimination of misfolded proteins and protein quality control. In addition to their role in proteostasis, some chaperone molecules are involved in the regulation of cell death pathways. Here we review the role of the molecular chaperones Hsp70 and Hsp90, and the co-chaperones Hsp40, BAG family members such as BAG5, CHIP and Hip in modulating neuronal death with a focus on dopaminergic neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease. We also review current progress in preclinical studies aimed at targetting the chaperone system to prevent neurodegeneration. Finally, we discuss potential future chaperone-based therapeutics for the symptomatic treatment and possible disease modification of Parkinson’s disease.
Bcl-2 associated athanogene (BAG) family; C-terminal Hsp70 interacting protein (CHIP); chaperones; co-chaperones; heat shock protein (Hsp); Hsp90 inhibitors; neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease
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 http://www.molecularneurodegeneration.com/content/7/1/48
Alzheimer's disease (AD) and a host of other neurodegenerative central nervous system (CNS) proteinopathies are characterized by the accumulation of misfolded protein aggregates. Simplistically, these aggregates can be divided into smaller, soluble, oligomeric and larger, less-soluble or insoluble, fibrillar forms. Perhaps the major ongoing debate in the neurodegenerative disease field is whether the smaller oligomeric or larger fibrillar aggregates are the primary neurotoxin. Herein, we propose an integrative hypothesis that provides new insights into how a variety of misfolded protein aggregates can result in neurodegeneration.
We introduce the concept that a wide range of highly stable misfolded protein aggregates in AD and other neurodegenerative proteinopathies are recognized as non-self and chronically activate the innate immune system. This pro-inflammatory state leads to physiological senescence of CNS cells. Once CNS cells undergo physiological senescence, they secrete a variety of pro-inflammatory molecules. Thus, the senescence of cells, which was initially triggered by inflammatory stimuli, becomes a self-reinforcing stimulus for further inflammation and senescence. Ultimately, senescent CNS cells become functionally impaired and eventually die, and this neurodegeneration leads to brain organ failure.
This integrative hypothesis, which we will refer to as the proteinopathy-induced senescent cell hypothesis of AD and other neurodegenerative diseases, links CNS proteinopathies to inflammation, physiological senescence, cellular dysfunction, and ultimately neurodegeneration. Future studies characterizing the senescent phenotype of CNS cells in AD and other neurodegenerative diseases will test the validity of this hypothesis. The implications of CNS senescence as a contributing factor to the neurodegenerative cascade and its implications for therapy are discussed.
Tau is a microtubule-associated protein that accumulates in at least 15 different neurodegenerative disorders, which are collectively referred to as tauopathies. In these diseases, tau is often hyperphosphorylated and found in aggregates, including paired helical filaments, neurofibrillary tangles and other abnormal oligomers. Tau aggregates are associated with neuron loss and cognitive decline, which suggests that this protein can somehow evade normal quality control allowing it to aberrantly accumulate and become proteotoxic. Consistent with this idea, recent studies have shown that molecular chaperones, such as heat shock protein 70 and heat shock protein 90, counteract tau accumulation and neurodegeneration in disease models. These molecular chaperones are major components of the protein quality control systems and they are specifically involved in the decision to retain or degrade many proteins, including tau and its modified variants. Thus, one potential way to treat tauopathies might be to either accelerate interactions of abnormal tau with these quality control factors or tip the balance of triage towards tau degradation. In this review, we summarize recent findings and suggest models for therapeutic intervention.
The accumulation of mutant protein is a common feature of neurodegenerative disease. In Huntington’s disease, a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein triggers neuronal toxicity. Accompanying neuronal death, mutant huntingtin aggregates in large macromolecular structures called inclusion bodies. The function of the machinery for intracellular protein degradation is linked to huntingtin toxicity and components of this machinery colocalize with inclusion bodies. An increasing body of evidence implicates the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in the failure of cells to degrade mutant huntingtin. A number of potential mechanisms that link compromised ubiquitin-proteasome pathway function and neurodegeneration have been proposed and may offer opportunities for therapeutic intervention.
neurodegeneration; polyglutamine; autophagy; protein misfolding
The ubiquitin/proteasome pathway is the major proteolytic quality control system in cells. In this review we discuss the impact of a deregulation of this pathway on neuronal function and its causal relationship to the intracellular deposition of ubiquitin protein conjugates in pathological inclusion bodies in all the major chronic neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases as well as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We describe the intricate nature of the ubiquitin/proteasome pathway and discuss the paradox of protein aggregation, i.e. its potential toxic/protective effect in neurodegeneration. The relations between some of the dysfunctional components of the pathway and neurodegeneration are presented. We highlight possible ubiquitin/proteasome pathway-targeting therapeutic approaches, such as activating the proteasome, enhancing ubiquitination and promoting SUMOylation that might be important to slow/treat the progression of neurodegeneration. Finally, a model time line is presented for neurodegeneration starting at the initial injurious events up to protein aggregation and cell death, with potential time points for therapeutic intervention.
Ubiquitin/proteasome pathway; Neurodegeneration; Therapy; Protein aggregation
Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by selective neuronal vulnerability and neurodegeneration in specific brain regions. The pathogenesis of these disorders centrally involves abnormal accumulation and aggregation of specific proteins, which are deposited in intracellular inclusions or extracellular aggregates that are characteristic for each disease. Increasing evidence suggests that genetic mutations or environmental factors can instigate protein misfolding and aggregation in these diseases. Consequently, neurodegenerative diseases are often considered as conformational diseases. This idea is further supported by studies implicating that impairment of the protein quality control (PQC) and clearance systems, such as the ubiquitin-proteasome system and autophagosome-lysosome pathway, may lead to the abnormal accumulation of disease-specific proteins. This suggests that similar pathological mechanisms may underlie the pathogenesis of the different neurodegenerative disorders. Interestingly, several proteins that are known to associate with neurodegenerative diseases have been identified as important regulators of PQC and clearance systems. In this review, we summarize the central features of abnormal protein accumulation in different common neurodegenerative diseases and discuss some aspects of specific disease-associated proteins regulating the PQC and clearance mechanisms, such as ubiquilin-1.
Protein quality control; ubiquitin-proteasome system; autophagy; protein misfolding; neurodegenerative diseases; inclusion body; aggresome; IPOD; JUNQ; ubiquilin-1
Tau, a protein that is enriched in neurons of the central nervous system (CNS)1, is thought to play a critical role in the stabilization of microtubules (MTs). Several neurodegenerative disorders referred to as tauopathies, including Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of frontotemporal lobar degeneration, are characterized by the intracellular accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau fibrils. Tau deposition into insoluble aggregates is believed to result in a loss of tau function that leads to MT destabilization, and this could cause neurodegeneration as intact MTs are required for axonal transport and normal neuron function. This tau loss-of-function hypothesis has been validated in a tau transgenic mouse model with spinal cord tau inclusions, where the MT-stabilizing agent, paclitaxel, increased spinal nerve MT density and improved motor function after drug absorption at neuromuscular junctions. Unfortunately, paclitaxel is a P-glycoprotein substrate and has poor blood-brain barrier permeability, making it unsuitable for the treatment of human tauopathies. We therefore examined several MT-stabilizing compounds from the taxane and epothilone natural product families to assess their membrane permeability and to determine whether they act as substrates or inhibitors of P-glycoprotein. Moreover, we compared brain and plasma levels of the compounds after administration to mice. Finally, we assessed whether brain-penetrant compounds could stabilize mouse CNS MTs. We found that several epothilones have significantly greater brain penetration than the taxanes. Furthermore, certain epothilones cause an increase in CNS MT stabilization, with epothilone D demonstrating a favorable pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile which suggests this agent merits further study as a potential tauopathy drug candidate.
Alzheimer’s disease; microtubules; tauopathies; therapeutic
It is generally accepted that a correlation between neurodegenerative disease and protein aggregation in the brain exists; however, a causal relationship has not been elucidated. In neurons, failure of autophagy may result in the accumulation of aggregate-prone proteins and subsequent neurodegeneration. Thus, pharmacological induction of autophagy to enhance the clearance of intracytoplasmic aggregate-prone proteins has been considered as a therapeutic strategy to ameliorate pathology in cell and animal models of neurodegenerative disorders. However, autophagy has also been found to be a factor in the onset of these diseases, which raises the question of whether autophagy induction is an effective therapeutic strategy, or, on the contrary, can result in cell death. In this paper, we will first describe the autophagic machinery, and we will consider the literature to discuss the neuroprotective effects of autophagy.
Aggregated misfolded proteins are hallmarks of most neurodegenerative diseases. In a chronic disease state, including pathologic
situations of oxidative stress, these proteins are sequestered into inclusions. Accumulation of aggregated proteins can be
prevented by chaperones, or by targeting their degradation to the UPS. If the accumulation of these proteins exceeds their
degradation, they may impair the function of the proteasome. Alternatively, the function of the proteasome may be preserved
by directing aggregated proteins to the autophagy-lysosome pathway for degradation. Sequestosome 1/p62 has recently been
shown to interact with polyubiquitinated proteins through its UBA domain and may direct proteins to either the UPS or autophagosome.
P62 is present in neuronal inclusions of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Herein, we review p62's role in signaling, aggregation, and inclusion formation, and specifically as a possible contributor
to Alzheimer's disease. The use of p62 as a potential target for the development of therapeutics and as a disease biomarker is also discussed.
Protein quality control (PQC) depends on elegant collaboration between molecular chaperones and targeted proteolysis in the cell. The latter is primarily carried out by the ubiquitin-proteasome system, but recent advances in this area of research suggest a supplementary role for the autophagy-lysosomal pathway in PQC-related proteolysis. The (patho)physiological significance of PQC in the heart is best illustrated in cardiac proteinopathy, which belongs to a family of cardiac diseases caused by expression of aggregation-prone proteins in cardiomyocytes. Cardiac proteasome functional insufficiency (PFI) is best studied in desmin-related cardiomyopathy, a bona fide cardiac proteinopathy. Emerging evidence suggests that many common forms of cardiomyopathy may belong to proteinopathy. This review focuses on examining current evidence, as it relates to the hypothesis that PFI impairs PQC in cardiomyocytes and contributes to the progression of cardiac proteinopathies to heart failure.
Protein quality control; Ubiquitin; Proteasome; Desmin-related cardiomyopathy; Chaperone; Autophagy
Autophagy is an intracellular degradation process responsible for the clearance of most long-lived proteins and organelles. Cytoplasmic components are enclosed by double-membrane autophagosomes, which subsequently fuse with lysosomes for degradation. Autophagy dysfunction may contribute to the pathology of various neurodegenerative disorders, which manifest abnormal protein accumulation. As autophagy induction enhances the clearance of aggregate-prone intracytoplasmic proteins that cause neurodegeneration (like mutant huntingtin, tau and ataxin 3) and confers cytoprotective roles in cell and animal models, upregulating autophagy may be a tractable therapeutic strategy for diseases caused by such proteins. Here, we will review the molecular machinery of autophagy and its role in neurodegenerative diseases. Drugs and associated signalling pathways that may be targeted for pharmacological induction of autophagy will also be discussed.
Autophagy; Alzheimer disease; Neurodegeneration; Huntington disease
Neurodegenerative diseases cause tremendous suffering for those afflicted and their families. Many of these diseases involve accumulation of mis-folded or aggregated proteins thought to play a causal role in disease pathology. Ubiquitinated proteins are often found in these protein aggregates, and the aggregates themselves have been shown to inhibit the activity of the proteasome. These and other alterations in the Ubiquitin Pathway observed in neurodegenerative diseases have led to the question of whether impairment of the Ubiquitin Pathway on its own can increase mortality or if ongoing neurodegeneration alters Ubiquitin Pathway function as a side-effect. To address the role of the Ubiquitin Pathway in vivo, we studied loss-of-function mutations in the Drosophila Ubiquitin Activating Enzyme, Uba1 or E1, the most upstream enzyme in the Ubiquitin Pathway. Loss of only one functional copy of E1 caused a significant reduction in adult lifespan. Rare homozygous hypomorphic E1 mutants reached adulthood. These mutants exhibited further reduced lifespan and showed inappropriate Ras activation in the brain. Removing just one functional copy of Ras restored the lifespan of heterozygous E1 mutants to that of wild-type flies and increased the survival of homozygous E1 mutants. E1 homozygous mutants also showed severe motor impairment. Our findings suggest that processes that impair the Ubiquitin Pathway are sufficient to cause early mortality. Reduced lifespan and motor impairment are seen in the human disease X-linked Infantile Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is associated with mutation in human E1 warranting further analysis of these mutants as a potential animal model for study of this disease.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) neuropathology is characterized by loss of synapses and neurons, neuritic plaques consisting of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptides, and neurofibrillary tangles consisting of intracellular aggregates of hyperphosphorylated tau protein in susceptible brain regions. Aβ oligomers trigger a cascade of pathogenic events including tau hyperphosphorylation and aggregation, inflammatory reactions, and excitotoxicity that contribute to the progression of AD. The molecular chaperone Hsp90 facilitates the folding of newly synthesized and denatured proteins and is believed to play a role in neurodegenerative disorders in which the defining pathology results in misfolded proteins and the accumulation of protein aggregates. Some agents that inhibit Hsp90 protect neurons against Aβ toxicity and tau aggregation, and assays for rapidly screening potential Hsp90 inhibitors are of interest. We used the release of the soluble cytosolic enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) as an indicator of the loss of cell membrane integrity and cytotoxicity resulting from exposure to Aβ peptides to evaluate the neuroprotective properties of novel novobiocin analogues and established Hsp90 inhibitors. Compounds were assessed for potency in protecting proliferating and differentiated SH-SY5Y neuronal cells against Aβ-induced cell death; the potential of each agent alone was also determined. The data indicated that several of the compounds decreased Aβ toxicity even at low nanomolar concentrations and, unexpectedly, were more potent in protecting the undifferentiated cells against Aβ. The novobiocin analogues alone were not toxic even up to 10 μM concentrations whereas GDA and the parent compound, novobiocin, were toxic at 1 and 10 μM, respectively. The results suggest that novobiocin analogues may provide novel leads for the development of neuroprotective drugs.
Accumulation of tau into neurofibrillary tangles is a pathological consequence of Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies. Failures of the quality control mechanisms by the heat shock proteins (Hsps) positively correlate with the appearance of such neurodegenerative diseases. However, in vivo genetic evidence for the roles of Hsps in neurodegeneration remains elusive. Hsp110 is a nucleotide exchange factor for Hsp70, and direct substrate binding to Hsp110 may facilitate substrate folding. Hsp70 complexes have been implicated in tau phosphorylation state and amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing. To provide evidence for a role for Hsp110 in central nervous system homeostasis, we have generated hsp110−/− mice. Our results show that hsp110−/− mice exhibit accumulation of hyperphosphorylated-tau (p-tau) and neurodegeneration. We also demonstrate that Hsp110 is in complexes with tau, other molecular chaperones, and protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A). Surprisingly, high levels of PP2A remain bound to tau but with significantly reduced activity in brain extracts from aged hsp110−/− mice compared to brain extracts from wild-type mice. Mice deficient in the Hsp110 partner (Hsp70) also exhibit a phenotype comparable to that of hsp110−/− mice, confirming a critical role for Hsp110-Hsp70 in maintaining tau in its unphosphorylated form during aging. In addition, crossing hsp110−/− mice with mice overexpressing mutant APP (APPβsw) leads to selective appearance of insoluble amyloid β42 (Aβ42), suggesting an essential role for Hsp110 in APP processing and Aβ generation. Thus, our findings provide in vivo evidence that Hsp110 plays a critical function in tau phosphorylation state through maintenance of efficient PP2A activity, confirming its role in pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies.
The pathology of many neurodegenerative diseases is characterized by the accumulation of misfolded and aggregated proteins in various cell types and regional substructures throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. The accumulation of these aggregated proteins signals dysfunction of cellular protein homeostatic mechanisms such as the ubiquitin/proteasome system, autophagy, and the chaperone network. Although there are several published studies in which transcriptional profiling has been used to examine gene expression in various tissues, including tissues of neurodegenerative disease models, there has not been a report that focuses exclusively on expression of the chaperone network. In the present study, we used the Allen Brain Atlas online database to analyze chaperone expression levels. This database utilizes a quantitative in situ hybridization approach and provides data on 270 chaperone genes within many substructures of the adult mouse brain. We determined that 256 of these chaperone genes are expressed at some level. Surprisingly, relatively few genes, only 30, showed significant variations in levels of mRNA across different substructures of the brain. The greatest degree of variability was exhibited by genes of the DnaJ co-chaperone, Tetratricopeptide repeat, and the HSPH families. Our analysis provides a valuable resource towards determining how variations in chaperone gene expression may modulate the vulnerability of specific neuronal populations of mammalian brain.