Significance: When lesions are unrepaired or there are defects in the DNA repair system, DNA damage is often correlated to apoptosis. However, different kinds of lesions and different degrees of lesion severity can trigger numerous signaling responses. Recent Advances: DNA repair proteins involved in specific DNA repair pathways can modulate the function or activity of some apoptotic factors, further emphasizing the crosstalk between DNA damage and cell death. Critical Issues: Here, we discuss the signaling networks that link DNA damage to apoptosis, and we focus on post-translational modifications, leading to crucial changes in protein behavior, following various kinds of DNA damage. Moreover, we analyze the existence of apoptosis-related functions of typical repair proteins, leading to diverse, often-overlapping, DNA damage responses. Future Directions: The better understanding of the regulation and the functionality of key DNA repair proteins, also involved in apoptosis regulation, has the potential of modulating the cell outcomes on DNA damage, particularly in the context of cancer treatment. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 559–571.
Aims: Nitric oxide (NO) production is implicated in muscle contraction, growth and atrophy, and in the onset of neuropathy. However, many aspects of the mechanism of action of NO are not yet clarified, mainly regarding its role in muscle wasting. Notably, whether NO production-associated neuromuscular atrophy depends on tyrosine nitration or S-nitrosothiols (SNOs) formation is still a matter of debate. Here, we aim at assessing this issue by characterizing the neuromuscular phenotype of S-nitrosoglutathione reductase-null (GSNOR-KO) mice that maintain the capability to produce NO, but are unable to reduce SNOs. Results: We demonstrate that, without any sign of protein nitration, young GSNOR-KO mice show neuromuscular atrophy due to loss of muscle mass, reduced fiber size, and neuropathic behavior. In particular, GSNOR-KO mice show a significant decrease in nerve axon number, with the myelin sheath appearing disorganized and reduced, leading to a dramatic development of a neuropathic phenotype. Mitochondria appear fragmented and depolarized in GSNOR-KO myofibers and myotubes, conditions that are reverted by N-acetylcysteine treatment. Nevertheless, although atrogene transcription is induced, and bulk autophagy activated, no removal of damaged mitochondria is observed. These events, alongside basal increase of apoptotic markers, contribute to persistence of a neuropathic and myopathic state. Innovation: Our study provides the first evidence that GSNOR deficiency, which affects exclusively SNOs reduction without altering nitrotyrosine levels, results in a clinically relevant neuromuscular phenotype. Conclusion: These findings provide novel insights into the involvement of GSNOR and S-nitrosylation in neuromuscular atrophy and neuropathic pain that are associated with pathological states; for example, diabetes and cancer. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 21, 570–587.
The essential role of autophagy in muscle homeostasis has been clearly demonstrated by phenotype analysis of mice with muscle-specific inactivation of genes encoding autophagy-related proteins. Ambra1 is a key component of the Beclin 1 complex and, in zebrafish, it is encoded by two paralogous genes, ambra1a and ambra1b, both required for normal embryogenesis and larval development. In this study we focused on the function of Ambra1, a positive regulator of the autophagic process, during skeletal muscle development by means of morpholino (MO)-mediated knockdown and compared the phenotype of zebrafish Ambra1-depleted embryos with that of Ambra1gt/gt mouse embryos. Morphological analysis of zebrafish morphant embryos revealed that silencing of ambra1 impairs locomotor activity and muscle development, as well as myoD1 expression. Skeletal muscles in ATG-morphant embryos displayed severe histopathological changes and contained only small areas of organized myofibrils that were widely dispersed throughout the cell. Double knockdown of ambra1a and ambra1b resulted in a more severe phenotype whereas defects were much less evident in splice-morphants. The morphants phenotypes were effectively rescued by co-injection with human AMBRA1 mRNA. Together, these results indicate that ambra1a and ambra1b are required for the correct development and morphogenesis of skeletal muscle.
Apaf1 (apoptotic protease activating factor 1) is the central component of the apoptosome, a multiprotein complex that activates procaspase-9 after cytochrome c release from the mitochondria in the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Other cellular roles, including a pro-survival role, have also been described for Apaf1, while the relative contribution of each function to cell death, but also to cell homeostatic conditions, remain to be clarified.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Here we examined the response to apoptosis induction of available embryonic fibroblasts from Apaf1 knockout mice (MEFS KO Apaf1). In the absence of Apaf1, cells showed mitochondria with an altered morphology that affects cytochrome c release and basal metabolic status.
We analysed mitochondrial features and cell death response to etoposide and ABT-737 in two different Apaf1-deficient MEFS, which differ in the immortalisation protocol. Unexpectedly, MEFS KO Apaf1 immortalised with the SV40 antigen (SV40IM-MEFS Apaf1) and those which spontaneously immortalised (SIM-MEFS Apaf1) respond differently to apoptotic stimuli, but both presented relevant differences at the mitochondria when compared to MEFS WT, indicating a role for Apaf1 at the mitochondria.
AMBRA1; lysosome; TFEB; ubiquitylation; ULK1
Spermine oxidase is a FAD-containing enzyme involved in polyamines catabolism, selectively oxidizing spermine to produce H2O2, spermidine, and 3-aminopropanal. Spermine oxidase is highly expressed in the mouse brain and plays a key role in regulating the levels of spermine, which is involved in protein synthesis, cell division and cell growth. Spermine is normally released by neurons at synaptic sites where it exerts a neuromodulatory function, by specifically interacting with different types of ion channels, and with ionotropic glutamate receptors. In order to get an insight into the neurobiological roles of spermine oxidase and spermine, we have deregulated spermine oxidase gene expression producing and characterizing the transgenic mouse model JoSMOrec, conditionally overexpressing the enzyme in the neocortex. We have investigated the effects of spermine oxidase overexpression in the mouse neocortex by transcript accumulation, immunohistochemical analysis, enzymatic assays and polyamine content in young and aged animals. Transgenic JoSMOrec mice showed in the neocortex a higher H2O2 production in respect to Wild-Type controls, indicating an increase of oxidative stress due to SMO overexpression. Moreover, the response of transgenic mice to excitotoxic brain injury, induced by kainic acid injection, was evaluated by analysing the behavioural phenotype, the immunodistribution of neural cell populations, and the ultrastructural features of neocortical neurons. Spermine oxidase overexpression and the consequently altered polyamine levels in the neocortex affects the cytoarchitecture in the adult and aging brain, as well as after neurotoxic insult. It resulted that the transgenic JoSMOrec mouse line is more sensitive to KA than Wild-Type mice, indicating an important role of spermine oxidase during excitotoxicity. These results provide novel evidences of the complex and critical functions carried out by spermine oxidase and spermine in the mammalian brain.
In 2008 we published the first set of guidelines for standardizing research in autophagy. Since then, research on this topic has continued to accelerate, and many new scientists have entered the field. Our knowledge base and relevant new technologies have also been expanding. Accordingly, it is important to update these guidelines for monitoring autophagy in different organisms. Various reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose. Nevertheless, there continues to be confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure autophagy, especially in multicellular eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers or volume of autophagic elements (e.g., autophagosomes or autolysosomes) at any stage of the autophagic process vs. those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway (i.e., the complete process); thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from stimuli that result in increased autophagic activity, defined as increased autophagy induction coupled with increased delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes and some protists such as Dictyostelium) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). In other words, it is especially important that investigators new to the field understand that the appearance of more autophagosomes does not necessarily equate with more autophagy. In fact, in many cases, autophagosomes accumulate because of a block in trafficking to lysosomes without a concomitant change in autophagosome biogenesis, whereas an increase in autolysosomes may reflect a reduction in degradative activity. Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of methods for use by investigators who aim to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as for reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that are focused on these processes. These guidelines are not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to monitor autophagy. In these guidelines, we consider these various methods of assessing autophagy and what information can, or cannot, be obtained from them. Finally, by discussing the merits and limits of particular autophagy assays, we hope to encourage technical innovation in the field.
LC3; autolysosome; autophagosome; flux; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, especially affecting the hippocampus. Impairment of cognitive and memory functions is associated with amyloid β-peptide-induced oxidative stress and alterations in lipid metabolism. In this scenario, the dual role of peroxisomes in producing and removing ROS, and their function in fatty acids β-oxidation, may be critical. This work aims to investigating the possible involvement of peroxisomes in AD onset and progression, as studied in a transgenic mouse model, harboring the human Swedish familial AD mutation. We therefore characterized the peroxisomal population in the hippocampus, focusing on early, advanced, and late stages of the disease (3, 6, 9, 12, 18 months of age). Several peroxisome-related markers in transgenic and wild-type hippocampal formation were comparatively studied, by a combined molecular/immunohistochemical/ultrastructural approach.
Our results demonstrate early and significant peroxisomal modifications in AD mice, compared to wild-type. Indeed, the peroxisomal membrane protein of 70 kDa and acyl-CoA oxidase 1 are induced at 3 months, possibly reflecting the need for efficient fatty acid β-oxidation, as a compensatory response to mitochondrial dysfunction. The concomitant presence of oxidative damage markers and the altered expression of antioxidant enzymes argue for early oxidative stress in AD. During physiological and pathological brain aging, important changes in the expression of peroxisome-related proteins, also correlating with ongoing gliosis, occur in the hippocampus. These age- and genotype-based alterations, strongly dependent on the specific marker considered, indicate metabolic and/or numerical remodeling of peroxisomal population.
Overall, our data support functional and biogenetic relationships linking peroxisomes to mitochondria and suggest peroxisomal proteins as biomarkers/therapeutic targets in pre-symptomatic AD.
Peroxisome; Brain aging; Alzheimer’s disease; Neurodegeneration; Oxidative stress; Lipid metabolism; Catalase; Superoxide dismutase; Glutathione peroxidase; Acyl-CoA beta-oxidation
Oxidative DNA damage is produced by reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are generated by exogenous and endogenous sources and continuously challenge the cell. One of the most severe DNA lesions is the double-strand break (DSB), which is mainly repaired by nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) pathway in mammals. NHEJ directly joins the broken ends, without using the homologous template. Ku70/86 heterodimer, also known as Ku, is the first component of NHEJ as it directly binds DNA and recruits other NHEJ factors to promote the repair of the broken ends. Neurons are particularly metabolically active, displaying high rates of transcription and translation, which are associated with high metabolic and mitochondrial activity as well as oxygen consumption. In such a way, excessive oxygen radicals can be generated and constantly attack DNA, thereby producing several lesions. This condition, together with defective DNA repair systems, can lead to a high accumulation of DNA damage resulting in neurodegenerative processes and defects in neurodevelopment. In light of recent findings, in this paper, we will discuss the possible implication of Ku in neurodevelopment and in mediating the DNA repair dysfunction observed in certain neurodegenerations.
When autophagy is induced, ULK1 phosphorylates AMBRA1, releasing the autophagy core complex from the cytoskeleton and allowing its relocalization to the ER membrane to nucleate autophagosome formation.
Autophagy is an evolutionary conserved catabolic process involved in several physiological and pathological processes such as cancer and neurodegeneration. Autophagy initiation signaling requires both the ULK1 kinase and the BECLIN 1–VPS34 core complex to generate autophagosomes, double-membraned vesicles that transfer cellular contents to lysosomes. In this study, we show that the BECLIN 1–VPS34 complex is tethered to the cytoskeleton through an interaction between the BECLIN 1–interacting protein AMBRA1 and dynein light chains 1/2. When autophagy is induced, ULK1 phosphorylates AMBRA1, releasing the autophagy core complex from dynein. Its subsequent relocalization to the endoplasmic reticulum enables autophagosome nucleation. Therefore, AMBRA1 constitutes a direct regulatory link between ULK1 and BECLIN 1–VPS34, which is required for core complex positioning and activity within the cell. Moreover, our results demonstrate that in addition to a function for microtubules in mediating autophagosome transport, there is a strict and regulatory relationship between cytoskeleton dynamics and autophagosome formation.
Foregut division—the separation of dorsal (oesophageal) from ventral (tracheal) foregut components—is a crucial event in gastro-respiratory development, and frequently disturbed in clinical birth defects. Here, we examined three outstanding questions of foregut morphogenesis. The origin of the trachea is suggested to result either from respiratory outgrowth or progressive septation of the foregut tube. We found normal foregut lengthening despite failure of tracheo-oesophageal separation in Adriamycin-treated embryos, whereas active septation was observed only in normal foregut morphogenesis, indicating a primary role for septation. Dorso-ventral patterning of Nkx2.1 (ventral) and Sox2 (dorsal) expression is proposed to be critical for tracheo-oesophageal separation. However, normal dorso-ventral patterning of Nkx2.1 and Sox2 expression occurred in Adriamycin-treated embryos with defective foregut separation. In contrast, Shh expression shifts dynamically, ventral-to-dorsal, solely during normal morphogenesis, particularly implicating Shh in foregut morphogenesis. Dying cells localise to the fusing foregut epithelial ridges, with disturbance of this apoptotic pattern in Adriamycin, Shh and Nkx2.1 models. Strikingly, however, genetic suppression of apoptosis in the Apaf1 mutant did not prevent foregut separation, indicating that apoptosis is not required for tracheo-oesophageal morphogenesis. Epithelial remodelling during septation may cause loss of cell-cell or cell-matrix interactions, resulting in apoptosis (anoikis) as a secondary consequence.
Mouse; Embryo; Trachea; Oesophagus; Tracheo-oesophageal defects; Malformations; Apoptosis; Anoikis; Cell proliferation; Adriamycin
Autophagy is important for the degradation of bulk cytoplasm, long-lived proteins, and entire organelles. In lower eukaryotes, autophagy functions as a cell death mechanism or as a stress response during development. However, autophagy’s significance in vertebrate development, and the role (if any) of vertebrate-specific factors in its regulation, remains unexplained. Through careful analysis of the current autophagy gene mutant mouse models, we propose that in mammals, autophagy may be involved in specific cytosolic rearrangements needed for proliferation, death, and differentiation during embryogenesis and postnatal development. Thus, autophagy is a process of cytosolic “renovation,” crucial in cell fate decisions.
Multiple cellular stressors, including activation of the tumour suppressor p53, can stimulate autophagy. Here we show that knockout, knockdown or pharmacological inhibition of p53 can induce autophagy in human, mouse and nematode cells. Enhanced autophagy improved the survival of p53-deficient cancer cells under conditions of hypoxia and nutrient depletion, allowing them to maintain high ATP levels. Inhibition of p53 led to autophagy in enucleated cells, and cytoplasmic, not nuclear, p53 was able to repress the enhanced autophagy of p53-/- cells. Many different inducers of autophagy (for example, starvation, rapamycin and toxins affecting the endoplasmic reticulum) stimulated proteasome-mediated degradation of p53 through a pathway relying on the E3 ubiquitin ligase HDM2. Inhibition of p53 degradation prevented the activation of autophagy in several cell lines, in response to several distinct stimuli. These results provide evidence of a key signalling pathway that links autophagy to the cancer-associated dysregulation of p53.
Autophagy can promote cell survival or cell death, but the molecular basis underlying
its dual role in cancer remains obscure. Here we demonstrate that
Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component of
marijuana, induces human glioma cell death through stimulation of autophagy. Our data
indicate that THC induced ceramide accumulation and eukaryotic translation initiation
factor 2α (eIF2α) phosphorylation and thereby activated an ER
stress response that promoted autophagy via tribbles homolog 3–dependent
(TRB3-dependent) inhibition of the Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1
(mTORC1) axis. We also showed that autophagy is upstream of apoptosis in
cannabinoid-induced human and mouse cancer cell death and that activation of this
pathway was necessary for the antitumor action of cannabinoids in vivo. These
findings describe a mechanism by which THC can promote the autophagic death of human
and mouse cancer cells and provide evidence that cannabinoid administration may be an
effective therapeutic strategy for targeting human cancers.
Research in autophagy continues to accelerate,1 and as a result many new scientists are entering the field. Accordingly, it is important to establish a standard set of criteria for monitoring macroautophagy in different organisms. Recent reviews have described the range of assays that have been used for this purpose.2,3 There are many useful and convenient methods that can be used to monitor macroautophagy in yeast, but relatively few in other model systems, and there is much confusion regarding acceptable methods to measure macroautophagy in higher eukaryotes. A key point that needs to be emphasized is that there is a difference between measurements that monitor the numbers of autophagosomes versus those that measure flux through the autophagy pathway; thus, a block in macroautophagy that results in autophagosome accumulation needs to be differentiated from fully functional autophagy that includes delivery to, and degradation within, lysosomes (in most higher eukaryotes) or the vacuole (in plants and fungi). Here, we present a set of guidelines for the selection and interpretation of the methods that can be used by investigators who are attempting to examine macroautophagy and related processes, as well as by reviewers who need to provide realistic and reasonable critiques of papers that investigate these processes. This set of guidelines is not meant to be a formulaic set of rules, because the appropriate assays depend in part on the question being asked and the system being used. In addition, we emphasize that no individual assay is guaranteed to be the most appropriate one in every situation, and we strongly recommend the use of multiple assays to verify an autophagic response.
autolysosome; autophagosome; flux; lysosome; phagophore; stress; vacuole
Cytochrome c release from mitochondria promotes apoptosome formation and caspase activation. The question as to whether mitochondrial permeabilization kills cells via a caspase-independent pathway when caspase activation is prevented is still open. Here we report that proneural cells of embryonic origin, when induced to die but rescued by apoptosome inactivation are deprived of cytosolic cytochrome c through proteasomal degradation. We also show that, in this context, those cells keep generating ATP by glycolysis for a long period of time and that they keep their mitochondria in a depolarized state that can be reverted. Moreover, under these conditions, such apoptosome-deficient cells activate a Beclin 1–dependent autophagy pathway to sustain glycolytic-dependent ATP production. Our findings contribute to elucidating what the point-of-no-return in apoptosis is. They also help in clarifying the issue of survival of apoptosome-deficient proneural cells under stress conditions. Unraveling this issue could be highly relevant for pharmacological intervention and for therapies based on neural stem cell transfer in the treatment of neurological disorders.
Apoptosis plays a crucial role in tissue homeostasis, development and many diseases. The relevance of Apaf1, the molecular core of apoptosome, has been underlined in mitochondria-dependent apoptosis, which according to a growing body of evidence, is involved in various pathologies where the equilibrium of life-and-death is dysregulated, such as heart attack, stroke, liver failure, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Consequently, great interest has emerged in devising therapeutic strategies for regulating the key molecules involved in the life-and-death decision. Here we review recent progress in apoptosis-based pharmacological therapies and, in particular, we point out a possible role of the apoptosome as an emerging and promising pharmacological target.
apoptosis and disease; apoptosis induction; apoptosis inhibition; apoptosome regulation
Caspase-independent death mechanisms have been shown to execute apoptosis in many types of neuronal injury. P53 has been identified as a key regulator of neuronal cell death after acute injury such as DNA damage, ischemia, and excitotoxicity. Here, we demonstrate that p53 can induce neuronal cell death via a caspase-mediated process activated by apoptotic activating factor-1 (Apaf1) and via a delayed onset caspase-independent mechanism. In contrast to wild-type cells, Apaf1-deficient neurons exhibit delayed DNA fragmentation and only peripheral chromatin condensation. More importantly, we demonstrate that apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is an important factor involved in the regulation of this caspase-independent neuronal cell death. Immunofluorescence studies demonstrate that AIF is released from the mitochondria by a mechanism distinct from that of cytochrome-c in neurons undergoing p53-mediated cell death. The Bcl-2 family regulates this release of AIF and subsequent caspase-independent cell death. In addition, we show that enforced expression of AIF can induce neuronal cell death in a Bax- and caspase-independent manner. Microinjection of neutralizing antibodies against AIF significantly decreased injury-induced neuronal cell death in Apaf1-deficient neurons, indicating its importance in caspase-independent apoptosis. Taken together, our results suggest that AIF may be an important therapeutic target for the treatment of neuronal injury.
neurodegeneration; neurons; apoptosis; p53; Bax
p53 is a transcriptional activator which has been implicated as a key regulator of neuronal cell death after acute injury. We have shown previously that p53-mediated neuronal cell death involves a Bax-dependent activation of caspase 3; however, the transcriptional targets involved in the regulation of this process have not been identified. In the present study, we demonstrate that p53 directly upregulates Apaf1 transcription as a critical step in the induction of neuronal cell death. Using DNA microarray analysis of total RNA isolated from neurons undergoing p53-induced apoptosis a 5–6-fold upregulation of Apaf1 mRNA was detected. Induction of neuronal cell death by camptothecin, a DNA-damaging agent that functions through a p53-dependent mechanism, resulted in increased Apaf1 mRNA in p53-positive, but not p53-deficient neurons. In both in vitro and in vivo neuronal cell death processes of p53-induced cell death, Apaf1 protein levels were increased. We addressed whether p53 directly regulates Apaf1 transcription via the two p53 consensus binding sites in the Apaf1 promoter. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays demonstrated p53–DNA binding activity at both p53 consensus binding sequences in extracts obtained from neurons undergoing p53-induced cell death, but not in healthy control cultures or when p53 or the p53 binding sites were inactivated by mutation. In transient transfections in a neuronal cell line with p53 and Apaf1 promoter–luciferase constructs, p53 directly activated the Apaf1 promoter via both p53 sites. The importance of Apaf1 as a p53 target gene in neuronal cell death was evaluated by examining p53-induced apoptotic pathways in primary cultures of Apaf1-deficient neurons. Neurons treated with camptothecin were significantly protected in the absence of Apaf1 relative to those derived from wild-type littermates. Together, these results demonstrate that Apaf1 is a key transcriptional target for p53 that plays a pivotal role in the regulation of apoptosis after neuronal injury.
apoptosis; neurodegeneration; neurons; bax; caspase 3