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1.  Apolipoprotein E in Synaptic Plasticity and Alzheimer’s Disease: Potential Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms 
Molecules and Cells  2014;37(11):767-776.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is clinically characterized with progressive memory loss and cognitive decline. Synaptic dysfunction is an early pathological feature that occurs prior to neurodegeneration and memory dysfunction. Mounting evidence suggests that aggregation of amyloid-β (Aβ) and hyperphosphorylated tau leads to synaptic deficits and neurodegeneration, thereby to memory loss. Among the established genetic risk factors for AD, the ɛ4 allele of apolipoprotein E (APOE) is the strongest genetic risk factor. We and others previously demonstrated that apoE regulates Aβ aggregation and clearance in an isoform-dependent manner. While the effect of apoE on Aβ may explain how apoE isoforms differentially affect AD pathogenesis, there are also other underexplored pathogenic mechanisms. They include differential effects of apoE on cerebral energy metabolism, neuroinflammation, neurovascular function, neurogenesis, and synaptic plasticity. ApoE is a major carrier of cholesterols that are required for neuronal activity and injury repair in the brain. Although there are a few conflicting findings and the underlying mechanism is still unclear, several lines of studies demonstrated that apoE4 leads to synaptic deficits and impairment in long-term potentiation, memory and cognition. In this review, we summarize current understanding of apoE function in the brain, with a particular emphasis on its role in synaptic plasticity and the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms, involving low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1), syndecan, and LRP8/ApoER2.
PMCID: PMC4255096  PMID: 25358504
Alzheimer’s disease; ApoER2; Apolipoprotein E; HSPG; LRP1; synaptic plasticity
2.  Mercaptoacetamide-based class II HDAC inhibitor lowers Aβ levels and improves learning and memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease 
Experimental neurology  2012;239:192-201.
Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACIs) alter gene expression epigenetically by interfering with the normal functions of HDAC. Given their ability to decrease Aβ levels, HDACIs area potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, it is unclear how HDACIs alter Aβ levels. We developed two novel HDAC inhibitors with improved pharmacological properties, such as a longer half-life and greater penetration of the blood-brain barrier: mercaptoacetamide-based class II HDACI (coded as W2) and hydroxamide-based class I and IIHDACI (coded as I2) and investigated how they affect Aβ levels and cognition. HDACI W2 decreased Aβ40 and Aβ42 in vitro. HDACI I2 also decreased Aβ40, but not Aβ42. We systematically examined the molecular mechanisms by which HDACIs W2 and I2 can decrease Aβ levels. HDACI W2 decreased gene expression of γ-secretase components and increased the Aβ degradation enzyme Mmp2. Similarly, HDACI I2 decreased expression of β- and γ-secretase components and increased mRNA levels of Aβ degradation enzymes. HDACI W2 also significantly decreased Aβ levels and rescued learning and memory deficits in aged hAPP 3x Tg AD mice. Furthermore, we found that the novel HDACI W2 decreased tau phosphorylation at Thr181, an effect previously unknown for HDACIs. Collectively, these data suggest that class II HDACls may serve as a novel therapeutic strategy for AD.
PMCID: PMC3780389  PMID: 23063601
Amyloid-β; Alzheimer's disease; Amyloid Precursor Protein; Epigenetics; Histone deacetylase inhibitors
3.  miR-106b impairs cholesterol efflux and increases Aβ levels by repressing ABCA1 expression 
Experimental Neurology  2011;235(2):476-483.
ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) is a cholesterol transporter that transfers excess cellular cholesterol onto lipid-poor apolipoproteins. Given its critical role in cholesterol homeostasis, ABCA1 has been studied as a therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease. Transcriptional regulation of ABCA1 by liver X receptor has been well characterized. However, whether ABCA1 expression is regulated at the posttranscriptional level is largely unknown. Identification of a novel pathway that regulates ABCA1 expression may provide new strategy for regulating cholesterol metabolism and amyloid β (Aβ) levels. Since ABCA1 has an unusually long 3′ untranslated region, we investigated whether microRNAs could regulate ABCA1 expression. We identified miR-106b as a novel regulator of ABCA1 expression and Aβ metabolism. miR-106b significantly decreased ABCA1 levels and impaired cellular cholesterol efflux in neuronal cells. Furthermore, miR-106b dramatically increased levels of secreted Aβ by increasing Aβ production and preventing Aβ clearance. Alterations in Aβ production and clearance were rescued by expression of miR-106b-resistant ABCA1. Taken together, our data suggest that miR-106b affects Aβ metabolism by suppressing ABCA1 expression.
PMCID: PMC3328628  PMID: 22119192
microRNA; miR-106b; ABCA1; Cholesterol; Amyloid β; Aβ; Alzheimer’s disease; Liver X receptor; LXR; Lipid
4.  Designing and Testing Broadly-Protective Filoviral Vaccines Optimized for Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Epitope Coverage 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e44769.
We report the rational design and in vivo testing of mosaic proteins for a polyvalent pan-filoviral vaccine using a computational strategy designed for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1) but also appropriate for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and potentially other diverse viruses. Mosaics are sets of artificial recombinant proteins that are based on natural proteins. The recombinants are computationally selected using a genetic algorithm to optimize the coverage of potential cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes. Because evolutionary history differs markedly between HIV-1 and filoviruses, we devised an adapted computational technique that is effective for sparsely sampled taxa; our first significant result is that the mosaic technique is effective in creating high-quality mosaic filovirus proteins. The resulting coverage of potential epitopes across filovirus species is superior to coverage by any natural variants, including current vaccine strains with demonstrated cross-reactivity. The mosaic cocktails are also robust: mosaics substantially outperformed natural strains when computationally tested against poorly sampled species and more variable genes. Furthermore, in a computational comparison of cross-reactive potential a design constructed prior to the Bundibugyo outbreak performed nearly as well against all species as an updated design that included Bundibugyo. These points suggest that the mosaic designs would be more resilient than natural-variant vaccines against future Ebola outbreaks dominated by novel viral variants. We demonstrate in vivo immunogenicity and protection against a heterologous challenge in a mouse model. This design work delineates the likely requirements and limitations on broadly-protective filoviral CTL vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3463593  PMID: 23056184
6.  Haploinsufficiency of human APOE reduces amyloid deposition in a mouse model of Aβ amyloidosis 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2011;31(49):18007-18012.
Apolipoprotein E ε4 (APOE ε4) is the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Evidence suggests that the effect of apoE isoforms on amyloid-β (Aβ) accumulation in the brain plays a critical role in AD pathogenesis. Like in humans, apoE4 expression in animal models that develop Aβ-amyloidosis results in greater Aβ and amyloid deposition than with apoE3 expression. However, whether decreasing levels of apoE3 or apoE4 would promote or attenuate Aβ-related pathology has not been directly addressed. To determine the effect of decreasing human apoE levels on Aβ accumulation in vivo, we generated human APOE isoform haploinsufficient mouse models by crossing APPPS1-21 mice with APOE isoform knock-in mice. By genetically manipulating APOE gene dosage, we demonstrate that decreasing human apoE levels, regardless of isoform status, results in significantly decreased amyloid plaque deposition and microglial activation. This differences in amyloid load between apoE3 and apoE4 expressing mice were not due to apoE4 protein being present at lower levels than apoE3. These data suggest that current therapeutic strategies to increase apoE levels without altering its lipidation state may actually worsen Aβ amyloidosis, while increasing apoE degradation or inhibiting its synthesis may be a more effective treatment approach.
PMCID: PMC3257514  PMID: 22159114
Apolipoprotein E; Haploinsufficiency; Aβ; Amyloid; Plaque; Alzheimer’s disease
7.  In Vivo Human Apolipoprotein E Isoform Fractional Turnover Rates in the CNS 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38013.
Apolipoprotein E (ApoE) is the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and has been implicated in the risk for other neurological disorders. The three common ApoE isoforms (ApoE2, E3, and E4) each differ by a single amino acid, with ApoE4 increasing and ApoE2 decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Both the isoform and amount of ApoE in the brain modulate AD pathology by altering the extent of amyloid beta (Aβ) peptide deposition. Therefore, quantifying ApoE isoform production and clearance rates may advance our understanding of the role of ApoE in health and disease. To measure the kinetics of ApoE in the central nervous system (CNS), we applied in vivo stable isotope labeling to quantify the fractional turnover rates of ApoE isoforms in 18 cognitively-normal adults and in ApoE3 and ApoE4 targeted-replacement mice. No isoform-specific differences in CNS ApoE3 and ApoE4 turnover rates were observed when measured in human CSF or mouse brain. However, CNS and peripheral ApoE isoform turnover rates differed substantially, which is consistent with previous reports and suggests that the pathways responsible for ApoE metabolism are different in the CNS and the periphery. We also demonstrate a slower turnover rate for CSF ApoE than that for amyloid beta, another molecule critically important in AD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3366983  PMID: 22675504
8.  The LANL hemorrhagic fever virus database, a new platform for analyzing biothreat viruses 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D587-D592.
Hemorrhagic fever viruses (HFVs) are a diverse set of over 80 viral species, found in 10 different genera comprising five different families: arena-, bunya-, flavi-, filo- and togaviridae. All these viruses are highly variable and evolve rapidly, making them elusive targets for the immune system and for vaccine and drug design. About 55 000 HFV sequences exist in the public domain today. A central website that provides annotated sequences and analysis tools will be helpful to HFV researchers worldwide. The HFV sequence database collects and stores sequence data and provides a user-friendly search interface and a large number of sequence analysis tools, following the model of the highly regarded and widely used Los Alamos HIV database [Kuiken, C., B. Korber, and R.W. Shafer, HIV sequence databases. AIDS Rev, 2003. 5: p. 52–61]. The database uses an algorithm that aligns each sequence to a species-wide reference sequence. The NCBI RefSeq database [Sayers et al. (2011) Database resources of the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Nucleic Acids Res., 39, D38–D51.] is used for this; if a reference sequence is not available, a Blast search finds the best candidate. Using this method, sequences in each genus can be retrieved pre-aligned. The HFV website can be accessed via
PMCID: PMC3245160  PMID: 22064861

Results 1-8 (8)