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1.  Stimulation of autophagy reduces neurodegeneration in a mouse model of human tauopathy 
Brain  2012;135(7):2169-2177.
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.
PMCID: PMC3381726  PMID: 22689910
autophagy; neurodegenerative disorders; neuroprotection; protein aggregation; tau
2.  Molecular chaperones and protein folding as therapeutic targets in Parkinson’s disease and other synucleinopathies 
Changes in protein metabolism are key to disease onset and progression in many neurodegenerative diseases. As a prime example, in Parkinson’s disease, folding, post-translational modification and recycling of the synaptic protein α-synuclein are clearly altered, leading to a progressive accumulation of pathogenic protein species and the formation of intracellular inclusion bodies. Altered protein folding is one of the first steps of an increasingly understood cascade in which α-synuclein forms complex oligomers and finally distinct protein aggregates, termed Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites. In neurons, an elaborated network of chaperone and co-chaperone proteins is instrumental in mediating protein folding and re-folding. In addition to their direct influence on client proteins, chaperones interact with protein degradation pathways such as the ubiquitin-proteasome-system or autophagy in order to ensure the effective removal of irreversibly misfolded and potentially pathogenic proteins. Because of the vital role of proper protein folding for protein homeostasis, a growing number of studies have evaluated the contribution of chaperone proteins to neurodegeneration. We herein review our current understanding of the involvement of chaperones, co-chaperones and chaperone-mediated autophagy in synucleinopathies with a focus on the Hsp90 and Hsp70 chaperone system. We discuss genetic and pathological studies in Parkinson’s disease as well as experimental studies in models of synucleinopathies that explore molecular chaperones and protein degradation pathways as a novel therapeutic target. To this end, we examine the capacity of chaperones to prevent or modulate neurodegeneration and summarize the current progress in models of Parkinson’s disease and related neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC4046681  PMID: 24314025
Neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease; Alpha-synuclein; Molecular chaperone; Heat shock protein; Hsp70; Hsp90; Proteasome; Autophagy; Apoptosis
3.  The activation sequence of cellular protein handling systems after proteasomal inhibition in dopaminergic cells 
Chemico-biological interactions  2013;204(2):116-124.
Dysfunction of protein handling has been implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases and inhibition of the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) has been linked to the formation of protein aggregates and proteinopathies in such diseases. While proteasomal inhibition could trigger an array of downstream protein handling changes including up-regulation of heat shock proteins (HSPs), induction of molecular chaperones, activation of the ER stress/unfolded protein response (UPR), autophagy and aggresome formation, little is known of the relationship of proteasomal inhibition to the sequence of activation of these diverse protein handling systems. In this study we utilized the reversible proteasome inhibitor MG132 and examined the activity of several major protein handling systems in the immortalized dopaminergic neuronal N27 cell line. In the early phase (up to 6 hours after proteasomal inhibition), MG132 induced time-dependent proteasomal inhibition which resulted in stimulation of the UPR, increased autophagic flux and stimulated heat shock protein response as determined by increased levels of phosphorylation of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2α), C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP)/GADD153, turnover of autophagy related microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) and increased levels of Hsp70 respectively. After prolonged proteasomal inhibition induced by MG132, we observed the formation of vimentin-caged aggresome-like inclusion bodies. A recovery study after MG132-induced proteasomal inhibition indicated that the autophagy-lysosomal pathway participated in the clearance of aggresomes. Our data characterizes the relationship between proteasome inhibition and activation of other protein handling systems. These data also indicated that the induction of alternate protein handling systems and their temporal relationships may be important factors that determine the extent of accumulation of misfolded proteins in cells as a result of proteasome inhibition.
PMCID: PMC3784407  PMID: 23684743
Proteasome activity; ER stress; Autophagy; Heat shock protein responses; Aggresome; UPS dysfunction
4.  Autophagy and misfolded proteins in neurodegeneration 
Experimental Neurology  2012;238(1):22-28.
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.
Research highlights
►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
PMCID: PMC3463804  PMID: 21095248
Autophagy; Neurodegeneration; Huntington's disease
Acta neuropathologica  2012;124(2):153-172.
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.
PMCID: PMC3417142  PMID: 22744791
Parkinson’s disease; neurodegeneration; α-synuclein; autophagy; lysosome; ubiquitin-proteasome system; molecular chaperones
6.  Tau fragmentation, aggregation and clearance: the dual role of lysosomal processing 
Human Molecular Genetics  2009;18(21):4153-4170.
Aggregation and cleavage are two hallmarks of Tau pathology in Alzheimer disease (AD), and abnormal fragmentation of Tau is thought to contribute to the nucleation of Tau paired helical filaments. Clearance of the abnormally modified protein could occur by the ubiquitin–proteasome and autophagy–lysosomal pathways, the two major routes for protein degradation in cells. There is a debate on which of these pathways contributes to clearance of Tau protein and of the abnormal Tau aggregates formed in AD. Here, we demonstrate in an inducible neuronal cell model of tauopathy that the autophagy–lysosomal system contributes to both Tau fragmentation into pro-aggregating forms and to clearance of Tau aggregates. Inhibition of macroautophagy enhances Tau aggregation and cytotoxicity. The Tau repeat domain can be cleaved near the N terminus by a cytosolic protease to generate the fragment F1. Additional cleavage near the C terminus by the lysosomal protease cathepsin L is required to generate Tau fragments F2 and F3 that are highly amyloidogenic and capable of seeding the aggregation of Tau. We identify in this work that components of a selective form of autophagy, chaperone-mediated autophagy, are involved in the delivery of cytosolic Tau to lysosomes for this limited cleavage. However, F1 does not fully enter the lysosome but remains associated with the lysosomal membrane. Inefficient translocation of the Tau fragments across the lysosomal membrane seems to promote formation of Tau oligomers at the surface of these organelles which may act as precursors of aggregation and interfere with lysosomal functioning.
PMCID: PMC2758146  PMID: 19654187
7.  Molecular Chaperones in Parkinson’s Disease – Present and Future 
Journal of Parkinson's disease  2011;1(4):299-320.
Parkinson’s disease, like many other neurodegenerative disorders, is characterized by the progressive accumulation of pathogenic protein species and the formation of intracellular inclusion bodies. The cascade by which the small synaptic protein α-synuclein misfolds to form distinctive protein aggregates, termed Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, has been the subject of intensive research for more than a decade. Genetic and pathological studies in Parkinson’s disease patients as well as experimental studies in disease models have clearly established altered protein metabolism as a key element in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. Alterations in protein metabolism include misfolding and aggregation, post-translational modification and dysfunctional degradation of cytotoxic protein species.
Protein folding and re-folding are both mediated by a highly conserved network of molecules, called molecular chaperones and co-chaperones. In addition to the regulatory role in protein folding, molecular chaperone function is intimately associated with pathways of protein degradation, such as the ubiquitin-proteasome system and the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, to effectively remove irreversibly misfolded proteins. Because of the central role of molecular chaperones in maintaining protein homeostasis, we herein review our current knowledge on the involvement of molecular chaperones and co-chaperones in Parkinson’s disease. We further discuss the capacity of molecular chaperones to prevent or modulate neurodegeneration, an important concept for future neuroprotective strategies and summarize the current progress in preclinical studies in models of Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Finally we include a discussion on the future potential of using molecular chaperones as a disease modifying therapy.
PMCID: PMC3264060  PMID: 22279517
neurodegeneration; Parkinson’s disease; alpha-synuclein; Lewy body; molecular chaperone; proteasome; autophagy; lysosome; heat shock protein (Hsp); Hsp90 inhibitor
8.  Autophagic failure promotes the exocytosis and intercellular transfer of α-synuclein 
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.
PMCID: PMC3674407  PMID: 23661100
autophagy; neurodegeneration; protein aggregation; signal transduction
9.  Autophagy, a guardian against neurodegeneration 
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.
PMCID: PMC2938570  PMID: 20188203
Autophagy; Alzheimer disease; Neurodegeneration; Huntington disease
10.  Parkinson's Disease and Autophagy 
Parkinson's Disease  2012;2012:429524.
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.
PMCID: PMC3483737  PMID: 23125941
11.  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
12.  The Tau Tubulin Kinases TTBK1/2 Promote Accumulation of Pathological TDP-43 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(12):e1004803.
Pathological aggregates of phosphorylated TDP-43 characterize amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD-TDP), two devastating groups of neurodegenerative disease. Kinase hyperactivity may be a consistent feature of ALS and FTLD-TDP, as phosphorylated TDP-43 is not observed in the absence of neurodegeneration. By examining changes in TDP-43 phosphorylation state, we have identified kinases controlling TDP-43 phosphorylation in a C. elegans model of ALS. In this kinome-wide survey, we identified homologs of the tau tubulin kinases 1 and 2 (TTBK1 and TTBK2), which were also identified in a prior screen for kinase modifiers of TDP-43 behavioral phenotypes. Using refined methodology, we demonstrate TTBK1 and TTBK2 directly phosphorylate TDP-43 in vitro and promote TDP-43 phosphorylation in mammalian cultured cells. TTBK1/2 overexpression drives phosphorylation and relocalization of TDP-43 from the nucleus to cytoplasmic inclusions reminiscent of neuropathologic changes in disease states. Furthermore, protein levels of TTBK1 and TTBK2 are increased in frontal cortex of FTLD-TDP patients, and TTBK1 and TTBK2 co-localize with TDP-43 inclusions in ALS spinal cord. These kinases may represent attractive targets for therapeutic intervention for TDP-43 proteinopathies such as ALS and FTLD-TDP.
Author Summary
Aggregated proteins are a hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases. In ALS and FTLD-TDP, these aggregates contain abnormal TDP-43 modified by phosphorylation. Protein phosphorylation normally controls protein activity, stability, or location, but in some neurodegenerative diseases the phosphorylated proteins accumulate in excess. Kinases are the enzymes responsible for protein phosphorylation. We have identified two TDP-43 kinases, TTBK1 and TTBK2, using a novel approach combining reverse genetics and biochemical screening to identify the kinases responsible for changes in TDP-43 phosphorylation. We show TTBK1 and TTBK2 directly phosphorylate TDP-43 in vitro, and control TDP-43 phosphorylation in cellular and simple animal models of ALS. This has uncovered a molecular mechanism by which pathological phosphorylated TDP-43 can occur in disease. To determine whether changes in TTBK1/2 protein are contributing to TDP-43 pathology, we examined diseased brain and spinal cord tissue from patients with ALS or FTLD-TDP. We observed changes in the abundance of TTBK1 and TTBK2 in disease-affected neurons, and the coexistence of TTBK1/2 with phosphorylated TDP-43 aggregates in both FTLD-TDP and ALS. Therefore, increased abundance or activity of TTBK1 or TTBK2 may contribute to the neurodegeneration observed in ALS and FTLD-TDP.
PMCID: PMC4256087  PMID: 25473830
13.  Molecular Chaperones as Rational Drug Targets for Parkinson’s Disease Therapeutics 
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.
PMCID: PMC3364514  PMID: 20942788
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
14.  Mice deficient in Epg5 exhibit selective neuronal vulnerability to degeneration 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;200(6):731-741.
Cortical layer 5 pyramidal neurons and spinal cord motor neurons are selectively vulnerable to degeneration after loss of the autophagy gene Epg5.
The molecular mechanism underlying the selective vulnerability of certain neuronal populations associated with neurodegenerative diseases remains poorly understood. Basal autophagy is important for maintaining axonal homeostasis and preventing neurodegeneration. In this paper, we demonstrate that mice deficient in the metazoan-specific autophagy gene Epg5/epg-5 exhibit selective damage of cortical layer 5 pyramidal neurons and spinal cord motor neurons. Pathologically, Epg5 knockout mice suffered muscle denervation, myofiber atrophy, late-onset progressive hindquarter paralysis, and dramatically reduced survival, recapitulating key features of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Epg5 deficiency impaired autophagic flux by blocking the maturation of autophagosomes into degradative autolysosomes, leading to accumulation of p62 aggregates and ubiquitin-positive inclusions in neurons and glial cells. Epg5 knockdown also impaired endocytic trafficking. Our study establishes Epg5-deficient mice as a model for investigating the pathogenesis of ALS and indicates that dysfunction of the autophagic–endolysosomal system causes selective damage of neurons associated with neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC3601354  PMID: 23479740
15.  Expression of Fused in sarcoma mutations in mice recapitulates the neuropathology of FUS proteinopathies and provides insight into disease pathogenesis 
Mutations in the gene encoding the RNA-binding protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) can cause familial and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and rarely frontotemproal dementia (FTD). FUS accumulates in neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCIs) in ALS patients with FUS mutations. FUS is also a major pathologic marker for a group of less common forms of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which includes atypical FTLD with ubiquitinated inclusions (aFTLD-U), neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease (NIFID) and basophilic inclusion body disease (BIBD). These diseases are now called FUS proteinopathies, because they share this disease marker. It is unknown how FUS mutations cause disease and the role of FUS in FTD-FUS cases, which do not have FUS mutations. In this paper we report the development of somatic brain transgenic (SBT) mice using recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) to investigate how FUS mutations lead to neurodegeneration.
We compared SBT mice expressing wild-type human FUS (FUSWT), and two ALS-linked mutations: FUSR521C and FUSΔ14, which lacks the nuclear localization signal. Both FUS mutants accumulated in the cytoplasm relative to FUSWT. The degree of this shift correlated with the severity of the FUS mutation as reflected by disease onset in humans. Mice expressing the most aggressive mutation, FUSΔ14, recapitulated many aspects of FUS proteinopathies, including insoluble FUS, basophilic and eosiniphilic NCIs, and other pathologic markers, including ubiquitin, p62/SQSTM1, α-internexin, and the poly-adenylate(A)-binding protein 1 (PABP-1). However, TDP-43 did not localize to inclusions.
Our data supports the hypothesis that ALS or FTD-linked FUS mutations cause neurodegeneration by increasing cyotplasmic FUS. Accumulation of FUS in the cytoplasm may retain RNA targets and recruit additional RNA-binding proteins, such as PABP-1, into stress-granule like aggregates that coalesce into permanent inclusions that could negatively affect RNA metabolism. Identification of mutations in other genes that cause ALS/FTD, such as C9ORF72, sentaxin, and angiogenin, lends support to the idea that defective RNA metabolism is a critical pathogenic pathway. The SBT FUS mice described here will provide a valuable platform for dissecting the pathogenic mechanism of FUS mutations, define the relationship between FTD and ALS-FUS, and help identify therapeutic targets that are desperately needed for these devastating neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC3519790  PMID: 23046583
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Fused in sarcoma proteinopathies; Transgenic mouse models; Adeno-associated virus; Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions; Ubiquitin; p62/SQSTM1; α-internexin; PABP-1; Stress granules; RNA dysfunction
16.  Stimulation of autophagy is neuroprotective in a mouse model of human tauopathy 
Autophagy  2012;8(11):1686-1687.
The most common neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the accumulation of misfolded proteins. Tauopathies, which include Alzheimer disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, Pick disease and cases of frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17, are characterized by the accumulation of hyperphosphorylated and filamentous MAPT/tau protein. The pathological mechanisms involved in MAPT protein accumulation are not well understood, but a possible impairment of protein degradation pathways has been suggested. We investigated the effects of autophagy stimulation on MAPT pathology in a model tauopathy, the human mutant P301S MAPT transgenic mouse line. In the brain of the trehalose-treated mutant mice, autophagy is activated and a reduced number of neurons containing MAPT inclusions, as well as a decreased amount of insoluble MAPT, are observed. The improvement of MAPT pathology is associated with increased nerve cell survival. Moreover, MAPT inclusions colocalize with SQSTM1/p62- and LC3-positive puncta, suggesting the colocalization of MAPT aggregates with autophagic vacuoles. Autophagy is not activated in the spinal cord of the human P301S MAPT transgenic mice and neuronal survival, as well as MAPT pathology, is unaffected. This study supports a role for autophagy stimulation in the degradation of MAPT aggregates and opens new perspectives for the investigation of autophagy as a pathological mechanism involved in neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC3494601  PMID: 22874558
autophagy; neurodegenerative diseases; neuroprotection; protein aggregation; protein degradation; tau
17.  Tau phosphorylation affects its axonal transport and degradation 
Neurobiology of Aging  2013;34(9):2146-2157.
Phosphorylated forms of microtubule-associated protein tau accumulate in neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer's disease. To investigate the effects of specific phosphorylated tau residues on its function, wild type or phosphomutant tau was expressed in cells. Elevated tau phosphorylation decreased its microtubule binding and bundling, and increased the number of motile tau particles, without affecting axonal transport kinetics. In contrast, reducing tau phosphorylation enhanced the amount of tau bound to microtubules and inhibited axonal transport of tau. To determine whether differential tau clearance is responsible for the increase in phosphomimic tau, we inhibited autophagy in neurons which resulted in a 3-fold accumulation of phosphomimic tau compared with wild type tau, and endogenous tau was unaffected. In autophagy-deficient mouse embryonic fibroblasts, but not in neurons, proteasomal degradation of phosphomutant tau was also reduced compared with wild type tau. Therefore, autophagic and proteasomal pathways are involved in tau degradation, with autophagy appearing to be the primary route for clearing phosphorylated tau in neurons. Defective autophagy might contribute to the accumulaton of tau in neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC3684773  PMID: 23601672
Tau phosphorylation; Axonal transport; Degradation
18.  Intracellular degradation of misfolded proteins in polyglutamine neurodegenerative diseases 
Brain research reviews  2008;59(1):245-252.
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.
PMCID: PMC2577582  PMID: 18773920
Ubiquitin; Proteasome; Autophagy; Polyglutamine; Huntingtin; Neurodegeneration
19.  Differential roles of the ubiquitin proteasome system and autophagy in the clearance of soluble and aggregated TDP-43 species 
Journal of Cell Science  2014;127(6):1263-1278.
TAR DNA-binding protein (TDP-43, also known as TARDBP) is the major pathological protein in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Large TDP-43 aggregates that are decorated with degradation adaptor proteins are seen in the cytoplasm of remaining neurons in ALS and FTD patients post mortem. TDP-43 accumulation and ALS-linked mutations within degradation pathways implicate failed TDP-43 clearance as a primary disease mechanism. Here, we report the differing roles of the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) and autophagy in the clearance of TDP-43. We have investigated the effects of inhibitors of the UPS and autophagy on the degradation, localisation and mobility of soluble and insoluble TDP-43. We find that soluble TDP-43 is degraded primarily by the UPS, whereas the clearance of aggregated TDP-43 requires autophagy. Cellular macroaggregates, which recapitulate many of the pathological features of the aggregates in patients, are reversible when both the UPS and autophagy are functional. Their clearance involves the autophagic removal of oligomeric TDP-43. We speculate that, in addition to an age-related decline in pathway activity, a second hit in either the UPS or the autophagy pathway drives the accumulation of TDP-43 in ALS and FTD. Therapies for clearing excess TDP-43 should therefore target a combination of these pathways.
PMCID: PMC3953816  PMID: 24424030
TDP-43; ALS; Autophagy; Proteasome; Aggrephagy; UPS
20.  PPARGC1A/PGC-1α, TFEB and enhanced proteostasis in Huntington disease 
Autophagy  2012;8(12):1845-1847.
Huntington disease (HD) results from CAG repeats that encode expanded polyglutamine tracts in the HTT/huntingtin protein. HD belongs to a large category of inherited and sporadic neurodegenerative disorders in which production of a misfolded protein initiates the pathogenic cascade. Previous studies have shown that misfolded proteins become resistant to cellular protein turnover pathways by eluding and disabling the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) and autophagy-lysosome pathway. Based upon earlier work implicating impaired PPARGC1A function in HD, we derived inducible PPARGC1A mice and crossed them with HD mice. We found that PPARGC1A overexpression can rescue HD neurological phenotypes and neurodegeneration. An unexpected outcome of the rescue was the virtual elimination of huntingtin aggregates, and we found that PPARGC1A-mediated aggregate elimination required the autophagy pathway. Moreover, we observed decreased expression of transcription factor EB (TFEB), a master regulator of the autophagy-lysosome pathway, in HD cells and mice, and documented PPARGC1A co-activation of TFEB in these model systems, noting that PPARGC1A is upstream of TFEB in promoting proteostasis. These findings underscore the importance of bioenergetics and autophagy in neurodegeneration, and indicate that PPARGC1A promotes mitochondrial quality control to support high-energy production states in cells, such as neurons. As impaired energy production and altered protein–organelle quality control appear inextricably linked in disorders such as HD, Parkinson disease, and Alzheimer disease, efforts directed at enhancing PPARGC1A and TFEB action may represent viable strategies for therapy development in neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3541300  PMID: 22932698
PGC-1-alpha; TFEB; autophagy; Huntington disease; mitochondria; neurodegeneration; oxidative stress; transcription; aggregate
21.  Long-term treadmill exercise attenuates tau pathology in P301S tau transgenic mice 
Recent epidemiological evidence suggests that modifying lifestyle by increasing physical activity could be a non-pharmacological approach to improving symptoms and slowing disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease and other tauopathies. Previous studies have shown that exercise reduces tau hyperphosphorylation, however, it is not known whether exercise reduces the accumulation of soluble or insoluble tau aggregates and neurofibrillary tangles, which are both neuropathological hallmarks of neurodegenerative tauopathy. In this study, 7-month old P301S tau transgenic mice were subjected to 12-weeks of forced treadmill exercise and evaluated for effects on motor function and tau pathology at 10 months of age.
Exercise improved general locomotor and exploratory activity and resulted in significant reductions in full-length and hyperphosphorylated tau in the spinal cord and hippocampus as well as a reduction in sarkosyl-insoluble AT8-tau in the spinal cord. Exercise did not attenuate significant neuron loss in the hippocampus or cortex. Key proteins involved in autophagy—microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B light chain 3 and p62/sequestosome 1 —were also measured to assess whether autophagy is implicated in the exercised-induced reduction of aggregated tau protein. There were no significant effects of forced treadmill exercise on autophagy protein levels in P301S mice.
Our results suggest that forced treadmill exercise differently affects the brain and spinal cord of aged P301S tau mice, with greater benefits observed in the spinal cord versus the brain. Our work adds to the growing body of evidence that exercise is beneficial in tauopathy, however these benefits may be more limited at later stages of disease.
PMCID: PMC4280713  PMID: 25432085
Tau pathology; Exercise; Alzheimer’s disease; Neurodegeneration
22.  Autophagy and polyglutamine diseases 
Progress in Neurobiology  2012;97(2):67-82.
► 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.
PMCID: PMC3712188  PMID: 21930185
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
23.  Development and characterization of a new Parkinson disease model resulting from impaired autophagy 
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by the interaction of genetic and environmental factors. However, the etiology of PD remains largely unknown. Macroautophagy is known to play an essential role in the degradation of abnormal proteins and organelles. Furthermore, the loss of autophagy-related (Atg) genes results in neurodegeneration and abnormal protein accumulation. Since these are also pathologic features of Parkinson disease, the conditional impairment of autophagy may lead to improved animal models for the study of PD. Using transgenic mice expressing Cre recombinase under the control of either the dopamine transporter or the engrailed-1 promoters, we generated mice with the conditional deletion of Atg7 in the dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta, other regions of the midbrain, and also the hindbrain. This conditional impairment of autophagy results in the age-related loss of dopaminergic neurons and corresponding loss of striatal dopamine, the accumulation of low molecular weight α-synuclein, and the presence of ubiquitinated protein aggregates, recapitulating many of the pathologic features of PD. These conditional knockout animals provide insight into the process of autophagy in Parkinson disease pathology.
PMCID: PMC3508432  PMID: 23152632
24.  Selective Molecular Alterations in the Autophagy Pathway in Patients with Lewy Body Disease and in Models of α-Synucleinopathy 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9313.
Lewy body disease is a heterogeneous group of neurodegenerative disorders characterized by α-synuclein accumulation that includes dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Parkinson's Disease (PD). Recent evidence suggests that impairment of lysosomal pathways (i.e. autophagy) involved in α-synuclein clearance might play an important role. For this reason, we sought to examine the expression levels of members of the autophagy pathway in brains of patients with DLB and Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and in α-synuclein transgenic mice.
Methodology/Principal Findings
By immunoblot analysis, compared to controls and AD, in DLB cases levels of mTor were elevated and Atg7 were reduced. Levels of other components of the autophagy pathway such as Atg5, Atg10, Atg12 and Beclin-1 were not different in DLB compared to controls. In DLB brains, mTor was more abundant in neurons displaying α-synuclein accumulation. These neurons also showed abnormal expression of lysosomal markers such as LC3, and ultrastructural analysis revealed the presence of abundant and abnormal autophagosomes. Similar alterations were observed in the brains of α-synuclein transgenic mice. Intra-cerebral infusion of rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTor, or injection of a lentiviral vector expressing Atg7 resulted in reduced accumulation of α-synuclein in transgenic mice and amelioration of associated neurodegenerative alterations.
This study supports the notion that defects in the autophagy pathway and more specifically in mTor and Atg7 are associated with neurodegeneration in DLB cases and α-synuclein transgenic models and supports the possibility that modulators of the autophagy pathway might have potential therapeutic effects.
PMCID: PMC2824828  PMID: 20174468
25.  The Regulation of Autophagosome Dynamics by Huntingtin and HAP1 Is Disrupted by Expression of Mutant Huntingtin, Leading to Defective Cargo Degradation 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(4):1293-1305.
Autophagy is an essential cellular pathway for degrading defective organelles and aggregated proteins. Defects in autophagy have been implicated in the neurodegenerative disorder Huntington's disease (HD), in which polyglutamine-expanded huntingtin (polyQ-htt) is predominantly cleared by autophagy. In neurons, autophagosomes form constitutively at the axon tip and undergo robust retrograde axonal transport toward the cell body, but the factors regulating autophagosome dynamics and autophagosome maturation are not well understood. Here, we show that both huntingtin (htt) and its adaptor protein huntingtin-associated protein-1 (HAP1) copurify and colocalize with autophagosomes in neurons. We use live-cell imaging and RNAi in primary neurons from GFP-LC3 transgenic mice to show that htt and HAP1 control autophagosome dynamics, regulating dynein and kinesin motors to promote processive transport. Expression of polyQ-htt in either primary neurons or striatal cells from HD knock-in mice is sufficient to disrupt the axonal transport of autophagosomes. Htt is not required for autophagosome formation or cargo loading. However, the defective autophagosome transport observed in both htt-depleted neurons and polyQ-htt-expressing neurons is correlated with inefficient degradation of engulfed mitochondrial fragments. Together, these studies identify htt and HAP1 as regulators of autophagosome transport in neurons and suggest that misregulation of autophagosome transport in HD leads to inefficient autophagosome maturation, potentially due to inhibition of autophagosome/lysosome fusion along the axon. The resulting defective clearance of both polyQ-htt aggregates and dysfunctional mitochondria by neuronal autophagosomes may contribute to neurodegeneration and cell death in HD.
PMCID: PMC3898289  PMID: 24453320
autophagy; axonal transport; dynein; huntingtin; Huntington's disease; mitophagy

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