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1.  The Expression and Significance of Neuronal Iconic Proteins in Podocytes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e93999.
Growing evidence suggests that there are many common cell biological features shared by neurons and podocytes; however, the mechanism of podocyte foot process formation remains unclear. Comparing the mechanisms of process formation between two cell types should provide useful guidance from the progress of neuron research. Studies have shown that some mature proteins of podocytes, such as podocin, nephrin, and synaptopodin, were also expressed in neurons. In this study, using cell biological experiments and immunohistochemical techniques, we showed that some neuronal iconic molecules, such as Neuron-specific enolase, nestin and Neuron-specific nuclear protein, were also expressed in podocytes. We further inhibited the expression of Neuron-specific enolase, nestin, synaptopodin and Ubiquitin carboxy terminal hydrolase-1 by Small interfering RNA in cultured mouse podocytes and observed the significant morphological changes in treated podocytes. When podocytes were treated with Adriamycin, the protein expression of Neuron-specific enolase, nestin, synaptopodin and Ubiquitin carboxy terminal hydrolase-1 decreased over time. Meanwhile, the morphological changes in the podocytes were consistent with results of the Small interfering RNA treatment of these proteins. The data demonstrated that neuronal iconic proteins play important roles in maintaining and regulating the formation and function of podocyte processes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0093999
PMCID: PMC3974844  PMID: 24699703
2.  miRNAs-19b, -29b-2* and -339-5p Show an Early and Sustained Up-Regulation in Ischemic Models of Stroke 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e83717.
Stroke, the loss of neurons after ischemic insult to the brain, is one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Despite its prevalence and severity, current therapy is extremely limited, highlighting the importance of further understanding the molecular events underlying ischemia-induced neuronal cell death. An ischemic area can be subdivided into two separate pathophysiological regions: the rapidly dying necrotic core, and the potentially salvageable apoptotic penumbra. Understanding molecular events occurring in the apoptotic ischemic penumbra may give greater insight into mechanisms controlling this salvageable tissue. miRNAs are known to have key roles in the regulation of gene expression in numerous pathological conditions, including the modulation of distinct pathways in stroke. However, previous studies have profiled miRNAs in the whole ischemic infarct, and do not differentiate between miRNA regulation in the necrotic core versus the apoptotic penumbra. We asked if there were unique miRNAs that are differentially regulated following ischemic insults in the salvageable apoptotic penumbra. miRNA expression profiles were compared in the whole infarct from in vivo stroke models, using the three vessel occlusion approach, to an in vitro model of the ischemic penumbra, prior to apoptotic induction. Multiple miRNAs were found to be differentially regulated following ischemic insults in each system. However, miR-19b, miR-29b-2* and miR-339-5p were significantly up-regulated in both model systems. Further, we confirmed these results in a neuroblastoma cell line subjected to a penumbra-like ischemic insult that induced the apoptotic cell death pathway. The data show that miR-19b, miR-29b-2* and miR-339-5p are up-regulated following ischemic insults and may be regulating gene expression to control important cellular pathways in the salvageable ischemic penumbra. Further investigation of their role and mRNA target identification may lead to new insights into the molecular mechanisms taking place in the salvageable apoptotic penumbra.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083717
PMCID: PMC3869799  PMID: 24376737
3.  PrPST, a Soluble, Protease Resistant and Truncated PrP Form Features in the Pathogenesis of a Genetic Prion Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e69583.
While the conversion of PrPC into PrPSc in the transmissible form of prion disease requires a preexisting PrPSc seed, in genetic prion disease accumulation of disease related PrP could be associated with biochemical and metabolic modifications resulting from the designated PrP mutation. To investigate this possibility, we looked into the time related changes of PrP proteins in the brains of TgMHu2ME199K/wt mice, a line modeling for heterozygous genetic prion disease linked to the E200K PrP mutation. We found that while oligomeric entities of mutant E199KPrP exist at all ages, aggregates of wt PrP in the same brains presented only in advanced disease, indicating a late onset conversion process. We also show that most PK resistant PrP in TgMHu2ME199K mice is soluble and truncated (PrPST), a pathogenic form never before associated with prion disease. We next looked into brain samples from E200K patients and found that both PK resistant PrPs, PrPST as in TgMHu2ME199K mice, and “classical” PrPSc as in infectious prion diseases, coincide in the patient's post mortem brains. We hypothesize that aberrant metabolism of mutant PrPs may result in the formation of previously unknown forms of the prion protein and that these may be central for the fatal outcome of the genetic prion condition.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069583
PMCID: PMC3724911  PMID: 23922744
4.  Loss of the SV2-like Protein SVOP Produces No Apparent Deficits in Laboratory Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e68215.
Neurons express two families of transporter-like proteins − Synaptic Vesicle protein 2 (SV2A, B, and C) and SV2-related proteins (SVOP and SVOPL). Both families share structural similarity with the Major Facilitator (MF) family of transporters. SV2 is present in all neurons and endocrine cells, consistent with it playing a key role in regulated exocytosis. Like SV2, SVOP is expressed in all brain regions, with highest levels in cerebellum, hindbrain and pineal gland. Furthermore, SVOP is expressed earlier in development than SV2 and is one of the neuronal proteins whose expression declines most during aging. Although SV2 is essential for survival, it is not required for development. Because significant levels of neurotransmission remain in the absence of SV2 it has been proposed that SVOP performs a function similar to that of SV2 that mitigates the phenotype of SV2 knockout mice. To test this, we generated SVOP knockout mice and SVOP/SV2A/SV2B triple knockout mice. Mice lacking SVOP are viable, fertile and phenotypically normal. Measures of neurotransmission and behaviors dependent on the cerebellum and pineal gland revealed no measurable phenotype. SVOP/SV2A/SV2B triple knockout mice did not display a phenotype more severe than mice harboring the SV2A/SV2B gene deletions. These findings support the interpretation that SVOP performs a unique, though subtle, function that is not necessary for survival under normal conditions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068215
PMCID: PMC3722232  PMID: 23894296
5.  Brain Region Specific Pre-Synaptic and Post-Synaptic Degeneration Are Early Components of Neuropathology in Prion Disease 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e55004.
Synaptic abnormalities, one of the key features of prion disease pathogenesis, gives rise to functional deficits and contributes to the devastating clinical outcome. The synaptic compartment is the first to succumb in several neurodegenerative diseases linked with protein misfolding but the mechanisms underpinning this are poorly defined. In our current study we document that a focal intrahippocampal injection of the mouse-adapted 22L scrapie strain produces a complex, region-specific pathology in the brain. Our findings reveal that early synaptic changes in the stratum radiatum of the hippocampus, identical to those observed with the ME7 strain, occur when 22L strain is introduced into the hippocampus. The pathology was defined by degenerating Type I pre-synaptic elements progressively enveloped by the post-synaptic density of the dendritic spine. In contrast, the pathology in the cerebellum suggested that dendritic disintegration rather than pre-synaptic abnormalities dominate the early degenerative changes associated with the Purkinje cells. Indeed, both of the major synaptic inputs into the cerebellum, which arise from the parallel and climbing fibers, remained intact even at late stage disease. Immunolabeling with pathway selective antibodies reinforced these findings. These observations demonstrate that neuronal vulnerability to pathological protein misfolding is strongly dependent on the structure and function of the target neurons.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055004
PMCID: PMC3559345  PMID: 23383030
6.  Prion Protein and Shadoo Are Involved in Overlapping Embryonic Pathways and Trophoblastic Development 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e41959.
The potential requirement of either the Prion or Shadoo protein for early mouse embryogenesis was recently suggested. However, the current data did not allow to precise the developmental process that was affected in the absence of both proteins and that led to the observed early lethal phenotype. In the present study, using various Prnp transgenic mouse lines and lentiviral vectors expressing shRNAs that target the Shadoo-encoding mRNA, we further demonstrate the specific requirement of at least one of these two PrP-related proteins at early developmental stages. Histological analysis reveals developmental defect of the ectoplacental cone and important hemorrhage surrounding the Prnp-knockout-Sprn-knockdown E7.5 embryos. By restricting the RNA interference to the trophoblastic cell lineages, the observed lethal phenotype could be attributed to the sole role of these proteins in this trophectoderm-derived compartment. RNAseq analysis performed on early embryos of various Prnp and Sprn genotypes indicated that the simultaneous down-regulation of these two proteins affects cell-adhesion and inflammatory pathways as well as the expression of ectoplacental-specific genes. Overall, our data provide biological clues in favor of a crucial and complementary embryonic role of the prion protein family in Eutherians and emphasizes the need to further evaluate its implication in normal and pathological human placenta biology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041959
PMCID: PMC3408428  PMID: 22860039
7.  Sustained translational repression by eIF2α–P mediates prion neurodegeneration 
Nature  2012;485(7399):507-511.
The mechanisms leading to neuronal death in neurodegenerative disease are poorly understood. Many of these disorders, including Alzheimer’s (AD), Parkinson’s (PD) and prion diseases, are associated with the accumulation of misfolded disease-specific proteins. The unfolded protein response (UPR) is a protective cellular mechanism triggered by rising levels of misfolded proteins. One arm of this pathway results in the transient shutdown of protein translation, through phosphorylation of the alpha subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor, eIF2α. UPR activation and/or increased eIF2α–P levels are seen in patients with AD, PD and prion disease 1-4, but how this links to neurodegeneration is unknown. Here we show that accumulation of prion protein (PrP) during prion replication causes persistent translational repression of global protein synthesis by eIF2α–P, associated with synaptic failure and neuronal loss in prion-diseased mice. Further, we show that promoting translational recovery in hippocampi of prion-infected mice is neuroprotective. Over-expression of GADD34, a specific eIF2α–P phosphatase, as well as reduction of PrP levels by lentivirally-mediated RNAi, reduced eIF2α–P levels. As a result, both approaches restored vital translation rates during prion disease, rescuing synaptic deficits and neuronal loss, and thereby significantly increasing survival. In contrast, salubrinal, an inhibitor of eIF2α-P dephosphorylation5 increased eIF2α-P levels, exacerbating neurotoxicity and significantly reducing survival in prion diseased mice. Given the prevalence of protein misfolding and UPR activation in several neurodegenerative diseases, our results suggest that manipulation of common pathways such as translational control, rather than disease-specific approaches, may lead to new therapies preventing synaptic failure and neuronal loss across the spectrum of these disorders.
doi:10.1038/nature11058
PMCID: PMC3378208  PMID: 22622579
8.  Hyccin, the Molecule Mutated in the Leukodystrophy Hypomyelination and Congenital Cataract (HCC), Is a Neuronal Protein 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32180.
“Hypomyelination and Congenital Cataract”, HCC (MIM #610532), is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by congenital cataract and diffuse cerebral and peripheral hypomyelination. HCC is caused by deficiency of Hyccin, a protein whose biological role has not been clarified yet. Since the identification of the cell types expressing a protein of unknown function can contribute to define the physiological context in which the molecule is explicating its function, we analyzed the pattern of Hyccin expression in the central and peripheral nervous system (CNS and PNS). Using heterozygous mice expressing the b-galactosidase (LacZ) gene under control of the Hyccin gene regulatory elements, we show that the gene is primarily expressed in neuronal cells. Indeed, Hyccin-LacZ signal was identified in CA1 hippocampal pyramidal neurons, olfactory bulb, and cortical pyramidal neurons, while it did not colocalize with oligodendroglial or astrocytic markers. In the PNS, Hyccin was detectable only in axons isolated from newborn mice. In the brain, Hyccin transcript levels were higher in early postnatal development (postnatal days 2 and 10) and then declined in adult mice. In a model of active myelinogenesis, organotypic cultures of rat Schwann cells (SC)/Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons, Hyccin was detected along the neurites, while it was absent from SC. Intriguingly, the abundance of the molecule was upregulated at postnatal days 10 and 15, in the initial steps of myelinogenesis and then declined at 30 days when the process is complete. As Hyccin is primarily expressed in neurons and its mutation leads to hypomyelination in human patients, we suggest that the protein is involved in neuron-to-glia signalling to initiate or maintain myelination.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032180
PMCID: PMC3312879  PMID: 22461884
9.  Levetiracetam Reverses Synaptic Deficits Produced by Overexpression of SV2A 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29560.
Levetiracetam is an FDA-approved drug used to treat epilepsy and other disorders of the nervous system. Although it is known that levetiracetam binds the synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, how drug binding affects synaptic functioning remains unknown. Here we report that levetiracetam reverses the effects of excess SV2A in autaptic hippocampal neurons. Expression of an SV2A-EGFP fusion protein produced a ∼1.5-fold increase in synaptic levels of SV2, and resulted in reduced synaptic release probability. The overexpression phenotype parallels that seen in neurons from SV2 knockout mice, which experience severe seizures. Overexpression of SV2A also increased synaptic levels of the calcium-sensor protein synaptotagmin, an SV2-binding protein whose stability and trafficking are regulated by SV2. Treatment with levetiracetam rescued normal neurotransmission and restored normal levels of SV2 and synaptotagmin at the synapse. These results indicate that changes in SV2 expression in either direction impact neurotransmission, and suggest that levetiracetam may modulate SV2 protein interactions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029560
PMCID: PMC3248421  PMID: 22220214
10.  Prion neurodegeneration 
Prion  2009;3(4):195-201.
Synaptic dysfunction is a key process in the evolution of many neurodegenerative diseases, with synaptic loss preceding that of neuronal cell bodies. In Alzheimer, Huntington, and prion diseases early synaptic changes correlate with cognitive and motor decline, and altered synaptic function may also underlie deficits in a number of psychiatric and neurodevelopmental conditions. The formation, remodelling and elimination of spines and synapses are continual physiological processes, moulding cortical architecture, underpinning the abilities to learn and remember. In disease, however, particularly in protein misfolding neurodegenerative disorders, lost synapses are not replaced and this loss is followed by neuronal death. These two processes are separately regulated, with mechanistic, spatial and temporal segregation of the death ‘routines’ of synapses and cell bodies. Recent insights into the reversibility of synaptic dysfunction in a mouse model of prion disease at neurophysiological, behavioral and morphological levels call for a deeper analysis of the mechanisms underlying neurotoxicity at the synapse, and have important implications for therapy of prion and other neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC2807691  PMID: 19887910
neurodegeneration; prion; synaptic dysfunction; behavior; neurophysiology
11.  Therapy for prion diseases 
Prion  2009;3(3):121-128.
Insights into the molecular basis and the temporal evolution of neurotoxicity in prion disease are increasing, and recent work in mice leads to new avenues for targeting treatment of these disorders. Using lentivirally mediated RNA interference (RNAi) against native prion protein (PrP), White et al. report the first therapeutic intervention that results in neuronal rescue, prevents symptoms and increases survival in mice with established prion disease.1 Both the target and the timing of treatment here are crucial to the effectiveness of this strategy: the formation of the neurotoxic prion agent is prevented at a point when diseased neurons can still be saved from death. But the data also give new insights into the timing of treatment in the context of the pattern of spread of prion infection throughout the brain, with implications for developing the most effective treatments.
PMCID: PMC2802775  PMID: 19597349
prion; RNA interference; gene therapy; neurodegeneration; synaptic
12.  Nerve injury induces robust allodynia and ectopic discharges in Nav1.3 null mutant mice 
Molecular Pain  2006;2:33.
Changes in sodium channel activity and neuronal hyperexcitability contribute to neuropathic pain, a major clinical problem. There is strong evidence that the re-expression of the embryonic voltage-gated sodium channel subunit Nav1.3 underlies neuronal hyperexcitability and neuropathic pain.
Here we show that acute and inflammatory pain behaviour is unchanged in global Nav1.3 mutant mice. Surprisingly, neuropathic pain also developed normally in the Nav1.3 mutant mouse. To rule out any genetic compensation mechanisms that may have masked the phenotype, we investigated neuropathic pain in two conditional Nav1.3 mutant mouse lines. We used Nav1.8-Cre mice to delete Nav1.3 in nociceptors at E14 and NFH-Cre mice to delete Nav1.3 throughout the nervous system postnatally. Again normal levels of neuropathic pain developed after nerve injury in both lines. Furthermore, ectopic discharges from damaged nerves were unaffected by the absence of Nav1.3 in global knock-out mice. Our data demonstrate that Nav1.3 is neither necessary nor sufficient for the development of nerve-injury related pain.
doi:10.1186/1744-8069-2-33
PMCID: PMC1630424  PMID: 17052333

Results 1-12 (12)