Given that RNA is involved in virtually all biological processes, it is perhaps not surprising that several RNA binding proteins are associated with aging and with different age related disorders. Other chapters in this volume will discuss some specific examples of diseases where RNA plays a role that are also associated with aging, such as cancer and inflammation, so here I will discuss some general aspects of how RNA changes with the aging process. I will also discuss some specific examples of RNA binding proteins that are associated with age-dependent neurological diseases as these provide an interesting framework to examine how lifetime mutations might lead to a late onset disease, although the answers to these questions are still not well understood.
Aging; Senescence; Age-related diseases; Progeria; Neurodegeneration; Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
The dysregulation of mitochondrial function has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson disease. Mutations in the parkin, PINK1 and DJ-1 genes all result in recessive parkinsonism. Although the protein products of these genes have not been fully characterized, it has been established that all three contribute to the maintenance of mitochondrial function. PINK1 and parkin act in a common pathway to regulate the selective autophagic removal of depolarized mitochondria, but the relationship between DJ-1 and PINK1- and/or parkin-mediated effects on mitochondria and autophagy is less clear. We have shown that loss of DJ-1 leads to mitochondrial phenotypes including reduced membrane potential, increased fragmentation and accumulation of autophagic markers. Supplementing DJ-1-deficient cells with glutathione reverses both mitochondrial and autophagic changes suggesting that DJ-1 may act to maintain mitochondrial function during oxidative stress and thereby alter mitochondrial dynamics and autophagy indirectly.
mitochondria; oxidative stress; Parkinson disease; PINK1; parkin; DJ-1
Interpreting gene expression profiles obtained from heterogeneous samples can be difficult because bulk gene expression measures are not resolved to individual cell populations. We have recently devised Population-Specific Expression Analysis (PSEA), a statistical method that identifies individual cell types expressing genes of interest and achieves quantitative estimates of cell type-specific expression levels. This procedure makes use of marker gene expression and circumvents the need for additional experimental information like tissue composition.
To systematically assess the performance of statistical deconvolution, we applied PSEA to gene expression profiles from cerebellum tissue samples and compared with parallel, experimental separation methods. Owing to the particular histological organization of the cerebellum, we could obtain cellular expression data from in situ hybridization and laser-capture microdissection experiments and successfully validated computational predictions made with PSEA. Upon statistical deconvolution of whole tissue samples, we identified a set of transcripts showing age-related expression changes in the astrocyte population.
PSEA can predict cell-type specific expression levels from tissues homogenates on a genome-wide scale. It thus represents a computational alternative to experimental separation methods and allowed us to identify age-related expression changes in the astrocytes of the cerebellum. These molecular changes might underlie important physiological modifications previously observed in the aging brain.
Genomics; Computational biology; Cerebellum; Gene expression; Aging; Astrocyte
Several methods now exist for identifying and quantifying many biological events in parallel and in a relatively unbiased fashion. For gene expression experiments, cloning approaches have been supplemented with microarray platforms over the past few years. The focus of this review is on deep sequencing, a new set of techniques that can be used to both identify RNA species and quantify them in a massively parallel fashion. Deep sequencing has some advantages over other methods, driven largely by the high depth of coverage for any library of nucleic acids. This allows, for example, estimates of alternative splicing and untranslated region utilization. We will discuss how deep sequencing methods are being applied to characterization of gene expression in the brain and how these technologies might develop over the next few years.
Alternative splicing; Deep sequencing; Gene expression; massively parallel signature sequencing; Next generation sequencing; non-coding RNA; small RNA
► Summary of the existing literature on gene expression in Parkinson's disease, concentrating on alterations in gene expression in the brain. ► Analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a genome wide approach to assessing gene expression in Parkinson's. ► A preview of what lies ahead for gene expression in Parkinson's disease as technology advances.
The study of gene expression has undergone a transformation in the past decade as the benefits of the sequencing of the human genome have made themselves felt. Increasingly, genome wide approaches are being applied to the analysis of gene expression in human disease as a route to understanding the underlying pathogenic mechanisms. In this review, we will summarise current state of gene expression studies of the brain in Parkinson's disease, and examine how these techniques can be used to gain an insight into aetiology of this devastating disorder.
Parkinson's disease; Microarray; Gene expression; Neuropathology; Genome wide
The MAPT (microtubule-associated protein tau) locus is one of the most remarkable in neurogenetics due not only to its involvement in multiple neurodegenerative disorders, including progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration, Parksinson's disease and possibly Alzheimer's disease, but also due its genetic evolution and complex alternative splicing features which are, to some extent, linked and so all the more intriguing. Therefore, obtaining robust information regarding the expression, splicing and genetic regulation of this gene within the human brain is of immense importance. In this study, we used 2011 brain samples originating from 439 individuals to provide the most reliable and coherent information on the regional expression, splicing and regulation of MAPT available to date. We found significant regional variation in mRNA expression and splicing of MAPT within the human brain. Furthermore, at the gene level, the regional distribution of mRNA expression and total tau protein expression levels were largely in agreement, appearing to be highly correlated. Finally and most importantly, we show that while the reported H1/H2 association with gene level expression is likely to be due to a technical artefact, this polymorphism is associated with the expression of exon 3-containing isoforms in human brain. These findings would suggest that contrary to the prevailing view, genetic risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases at the MAPT locus are likely to operate by changing mRNA splicing in different brain regions, as opposed to the overall expression of the MAPT gene.
Recent studies show an increased frequency of mutations in the glucocerebrosidase gene (GBA1) in patients with α-synucleinopathies including Parkinson disease. Some patients with Gaucher disease (GD) develop parkinsonism with α-synuclein-positive inclusions post mortem. Proteins were extracted from the cerebral cortex of subjects with synucleinopathies with and without GBA1 mutations, controls and patients with GD. Patients with GBA1-associated synucleinopathies showed aggregation of oligomeric forms of α-synuclein in the SDS-soluble fraction, while only monomeric forms of α-synuclein were seen in subjects with GBA1 mutations without parkinsonism. Thus, brains from patients with GBA1-associated parkinsonism show biochemical characteristics typical of Lewy body disorders.
Gaucher disease; Glucocerebrosidase; α-synuclein; Lewy body; Synucleinopathies; Parkinson disease
It is well established that tau pathology propagates in a predictable manner in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Moreover, tau accumulates in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of AD’s patients. The mechanisms underlying the propagation of tau pathology and its accumulation in the CSF remain to be elucidated. Recent studies have reported that human tau was secreted by neurons and non-neuronal cells when it was overexpressed indicating that tau secretion could contribute to the spreading of tau pathology in the brain and could lead to its accumulation in the CSF. In the present study, we showed that the overexpression of human tau resulted in its secretion by Hela cells. The main form of tau secreted by these cells was cleaved at the C-terminal. Surprisingly, secreted tau was dephosphorylated at several sites in comparison to intracellular tau which presented a strong immunoreactivity to all phospho-dependent antibodies tested. Our data also revealed that phosphorylation and cleavage of tau favored its secretion by Hela cells. Indeed, the mimicking of phosphorylation at 12 sites known to be phosphorylated in AD enhanced tau secretion. A mutant form of tau truncated at D421, the preferential cleavage site of caspase-3, was also significantly more secreted than wild-type tau. Taken together, our results indicate that hyperphosphorylation and cleavage of tau by favoring its secretion could contribute to the propagation of tau pathology in the brain and its accumulation in the CSF.
Mutations in parkin, PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) and DJ-1 can all cause autosomal recessive forms of Parkinson disease. Recent data suggest that these recessive parkinsonism-associated genes converge within a single pathogenic pathway whose dysfunction leads to the loss of substantia nigra pars compacta neurons. The major common functional effects of all three genes relate to mitochondrial and oxidative damage, with a possible additional involvement of the ubiquitin proteasome system. This review highlights the role of the mitochondrial kinase, PINK1, in protection against mitochondrial dysfunction and how this might relate to loss of substantia nigra neurons in recessive parkinsonism.
parkinsonism; parkin; Drp1; fission; fusion; oxidative stress
Methylation at CpG sites is a critical epigenetic modification in mammals. Altered DNA methylation has been suggested to be a central mechanism in development, some disease processes and cellular senescence. Quantifying the extent and identity of epigenetic changes in the aging process is therefore potentially important for understanding longevity and age-related diseases. In the current study, we have examined DNA methylation at >27 000 CpG sites throughout the human genome, in frontal cortex, temporal cortex, pons and cerebellum from 387 human donors between the ages of 1 and 102 years. We identify CpG loci that show a highly significant, consistent correlation between DNA methylation and chronological age. The majority of these loci are within CpG islands and there is a positive correlation between age and DNA methylation level. Lastly, we show that the CpG sites where the DNA methylation level is significantly associated with age are physically close to genes involved in DNA binding and regulation of transcription. This suggests that specific age-related DNA methylation changes may have quite a broad impact on gene expression in the human brain.
Mutations in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene are a common cause of familial Parkinson's disease (PD). Variation around the LRRK2 locus also contributes to the risk of sporadic PD. The LRRK2 protein contains a central catalytic region, and pathogenic mutations cluster in the Ras of complex protein C terminus of Ras of complex protein (mutations N1437H, R1441G/C and Y1699C) and kinase (G2019S and I2020T) domains. Much attention has been focused on the kinase domain, because kinase-dead versions of mutant LRRK2 are less toxic than kinase-active versions of the same proteins. Furthermore, kinase inhibitors may be able to mimic this effect in mouse models, although the currently tested inhibitors are not completely specific. In this review, we discuss the recent progress in the development of specific LRRK2 kinase inhibitors. We also discuss non-kinase-based therapeutic strategies for LRRK2-associated PD as it is possible that different approaches may be needed for different mutations.
Hyperphosphorylation of the microtubule binding protein Tau is a feature of a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. Tau is hyperphosphorylated in the hippocampus of dab1-null mice in a strain-dependent manner; however, it has not been clear if the Tau phosphorylation phenotype is a secondary effect of the morbidity of these mutants. The dab1 gene encodes a docking protein that is required for normal brain lamination and dendritogenesis as part of the Reelin signaling pathway. We show that dab1 gene inactivation after brain development leads to Tau hyperphosphorylation in anatomically normal mice. Genomic regions that regulate the phospho Tau phenotype in dab1 mutants have previously been identified. Using a microarray gene expression comparison between dab1-mutants from the high-phospho Tau expressing and low-phospho Tau expressing strains, we identified Stk25 as a differentially expressed modifier of dab1-mutant phenotypes. Stk25 knockdown reduces Tau phosphorylation in embryonic neurons. Furthermore, Stk25 regulates neuronal polarization and Golgi morphology in an antagonistic manner to Dab1. This work provides insights into the complex regulation of neuronal behavior during brain development and provides insights into the molecular cascades that regulate Tau phosphorylation.
Mutations in DJ-1, PINK1 (PTEN-induced putative kinase 1) and parkin all cause recessive parkinsonism in humans, but the relationships between these genes are not clearly defined. One event associated with loss of any of these genes is altered mitochondrial function. Recent evidence suggests that turnover of damaged mitochondria by autophagy might be central to the process of recessive parkinsonism. Here, we show that loss of DJ-1 leads to loss of mitochondrial polarization, fragmentation of mitochondria and accumulation of markers of autophagy (LC3 punctae and lipidation) around mitochondria in human dopaminergic cells. These effects are due to endogenous oxidative stress, as antioxidants will reverse all of them. Similar to PINK1 and parkin, DJ-1 also limits mitochondrial fragmentation in response to the mitochondrial toxin rotenone. Furthermore, overexpressed parkin will protect against loss of DJ-1 and, although DJ-1 does not alter PINK1 mitochondrial phenotypes, DJ-1 is still active against rotenone-induced damage in the absence of PINK1. None of the three proteins complex together using size exclusion chromatography. These data suggest that DJ-1 works in parallel to the PINK1/parkin pathway to maintain mitochondrial function in the presence of an oxidative environment.
Mutations in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene are the most prevalent known cause of autosomal dominant Parkinson's disease (PD). The LRRK2 gene encodes a Roco protein featuring a ROC GTPase and a kinase domain linked by the C-terminal of ROC (COR) domain. Here, we explored the effects of the Y1699C pathogenic LRRK2 mutation in the COR domain on GTPase activity and interactions within the catalytic core of LRRK2. We observed a decrease in GTPase activity for LRRK2 Y1699C comparable to the decrease observed for the R1441C pathogenic mutant and the T1348N dysfunctional mutant. To study the underlying mechanism, we explored the dimerization in the catalytic core of LRRK2. ROC-COR dimerization was significantly weakened by the Y1699C or R1441C/G mutation. Using a competition assay we demonstrated that the intra-molecular ROC:COR interaction is favoured over ROC:ROC dimerization. Interestingly, the intra-molecular ROC:COR interaction was strengthened by the Y1699C mutation. This is supported by a 3D homology model of the ROC-COR tandem of LRRK2, showing that Y1699 is positioned at the intra-molecular ROC:COR interface. In conclusion, our data provides mechanistic insight into the mode of action of the Y1699C LRRK2 mutant: the Y1699C substitution, situated at the intra-molecular ROC:COR interface, strengthens the intra-molecular ROC:COR interaction, thereby locally weakening the dimerization of LRRK2 at the ROC-COR tandem domain resulting in decreased GTPase activity.
Parkinson's disease; leucine rich repeat kinase 2; GTPase; dimerization
Mutations in the SNCA gene are causal for familial Parkinson disease/Lewy body disease. α-Synuclein is a small acidic protein that binds loosely to the surface of vesicles and may play a role in synaptic dynamics, although its normal function remains somewhat unclear. What is clear is that point mutations or increased expression of wild type α-synuclein causes disease. A great deal of literature supports the overall hypothesis that α-synuclein is damaging to neurons because it is inherently prone to aggregation; mutations or increased concentration of the protein both increase this tendency. An unproven, but popular, contention is that the toxic species are small oligomers that are relatively soluble, which may react with membranes to damage key processes within the cell. The details of this process, especially in determining the order of events and the requirement of particular processes in cell death, are unclear. Derangements in vesicle processing, including synaptic function, protein turnover, mitochondrial function and oxidative stress have all been suggested to occur. Whether there is a sequence of events or whether these are interacting effects is unclear, but the outcome is to trigger cell death, by both apoptotic and non-apoptotic mechanisms depending on the system studied. In this article, we develop a framework for thinking about α-synuclein in terms of initiating events and secondary processes that are required to trigger neuronal dysfunction and cell death.
The Reelin ligand regulates a Dab1-dependent signaling pathway required for brain lamination and normal dendritogenesis, but the specific mechanisms underlying these actions remain unclear. We find that Stk25, a modifier of Reelin-Dab1 signaling, regulates Golgi morphology and neuronal polarization as part of an LKB1-Stk25-Golgi matrix protein 130 (GM130) signaling pathway. Overexpression of Stk25 induces Golgi condensation and multiple axons, both of which are rescued by Reelin treatment. Reelin stimulation of cultured neurons induces the extension of the Golgi into dendrites, which is suppressed by Stk25 overexpression. In vivo, Reelin and Dab1 are required for the normal extension of the Golgi apparatus into the apical dendrites of hippocampal and neocortical pyramidal neurons. This demonstrates that the balance between Reelin-Dab1 signaling and LKB1-Stk25-GM130 regulates Golgi dispersion, axon specification and dendrite growth, and provides insights into the importance of the Golgi apparatus for cell polarization.
In this review, we discuss examples that show how glial-cell pathology is increasingly recognized in several neurodegenerative diseases. We also discuss the more provocative idea that some of the disorders that are currently considered to be neurodegenerative diseases might, in fact, be due to primary abnormalities in glia. Although the mechanism of glial pathology (i.e. modulating glutamate excitotoxicity) might be better established for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a role for neuronal–glial interactions in the pathogenesis of most neurodegenerative diseases is plausible. This burgeoning area of neuroscience will receive much attention in the future and it is expected that further understanding of basic neuronal–glial interactions will have a significant impact on the understanding of the fundamental nature of human neurodegenerative disorders.
Protein aggregation; tau; α-synuclein; SOD1
Parkinson's disease (PD) has long been considered to be a sporadic entity, perhaps with an environmental etiology. However, recent genetic discoveries have challenged this view, as there are many families with diseases of Mendelian inheritance that clinically resemble PD. Here, we will review in detail the neuropathological data relating to familial cases of PD. We will discuss the complicated relationships between the genetically defined cases and the two key pathological events seen in PD, namely loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta and the formation of protein inclusions, Lewy bodies, in the neurons that survive to the end stage of the disease course. These observations will be synthesized into an overall scheme that emphasizes the two key aspects of the neuropathology as distinct events and suggest that each gene tells us something a little different about the neuropathology of PD.
Parkinson's disease; parkinsonism; α-synuclein; LRRK2; parkin; tau; neuropathology
Mutations in Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase 2 (LRRK2) are the leading genetic cause of Parkinson’s disease (PD). LRRK2 is predicted to contain kinase and GTPase enzymatic domains, with recent evidence suggesting that the kinase activity of LRRK2 is central to the pathogenic process associated with this protein. The GTPase domain of LRRK2 plays an important role in the regulation of kinase activity. To investigate the how the GTPase domain might be related to disease, we examined the GTP binding and hydrolysis properties of wild type and a mutant LRRK2. We show that LRRK2 immunoprecipitated from cells has a detectable GTPase activity that is disrupted by a familial mutation associated with PD located within the GTPase domain, R1441C.
LRRK2; Parkinson’s disease; GTPase; kinase
Since RNA interference (RNAi) has the potential to discriminate between single nucleotide changes, there is growing interest in the use of RNAi as a promising therapeutical approach to target dominant disease-associated alleles. Mutations in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene have been linked to dominantly inherited Parkinson's disease (PD). We focused on three LRRK2 mutations (R1441G/C and the more prevalent G2109S) hoping to identify shRNAs that would both recognize and efficiently silence the mutated alleles preferentially over the wild-type alleles. Using a luciferase-based reporter system, we identified shRNAs that were able to specifically target the R1441G and R1441C alleles with 80% silencing efficiency. The same shRNAs were able to silence specifically mRNAs encoding either partial or full-length mutant LRRK2 fusion proteins, while having a minimal effect on endogenous wild-type LRRK2 expression when transfected in 293FT cells. Shifting of the mutant recognition site (MRS) from position 11 to other sites (4 and 16, within the 19-mer window of our shRNA design) reduced specificity and overall silencing efficiency. Developing an allele-specific RNAi of G2019S was problematic. Placement of the MRS at position 10 resulted in efficient silencing of reporters (75–80%), but failed to discriminate between mutant and wild-type alleles. Shifting of the MRS to positions 4, 5, 15, 16 increased the specificity of the shRNAs, but reduced the overall silencing efficiency. Consistent with previous reports, these data confirm that MRS placement influences both allele-specificity and silencing strength of shRNAs, while further modification to hairpin design or MRS position may lead to the development of effective G2019S shRNAs. In summary, the effective shRNA against LRRK2 R1441 alleles described herein suggests that RNAi-based therapy of inherited Parkinson's disease is a viable approach towards developing effective therapeutic interventions for this serious neurodegenerative disease.
Parkinson's disease (PD) typically presents in sporadic fashion, but the identification of disease-causing mutations in monogenically inherited PD genes has provided crucial insight into the pathogenesis of this disorder. Mutations in autosomal recessively inherited genes, namely parkin, PINK1 and DJ-1, typically lead to early onset parkinsonism. At least two of these genes (PINK1 and parkin) appear to work in the same pathway related to maintenance of mitochondrial functional integrity under conditions of oxidative stress. Dominantly inherited mutations in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) and α-synuclein cause late onset PD, generally with Lewy bodies that are characteristic of sporadic PD and there is evidence that these two genes are also in a common pathway. There is also growing evidence from recently undertaken genome-wide association studies that naturally occurring sequence variants in α-synuclein and LRRK2, but also Tau, also confer an increased risk for late onset, sporadic PD. Collectively, these results highlight how understanding pathways for inherited PD are starting to impact ideas about the pathogenesis, some of which may also be relevant to the commoner sporadic disease.
Opa1 catalyzes fusion of inner mitochondrial membranes and formation of the cristae. OPA1 mutations in humans lead to autosomal dominant optic atrophy. OPA1 knockout mice lose viability around embryonic day 9 from unknown reasons, indicating that OPA1 is essential for embryonic development. Zebrafish are an attractive model for studying vertebrate development and have been used for many years to describe developmental events that are difficult or impractical to view in mammalian models. In this study, Opa1 was successfully depleted in zebrafish embryos using antisense morpholinos, which resulted in disrupted mitochondrial morphology. Phenotypically, these embryos exhibited abnormal blood circulation and heart defects, as well as small eyes and small pectoral fin buds. Additionally, startle response was reduced and locomotor activity was impaired. Furthermore, Opa1 depletion caused bioenergetic defects, without impairing mitochondrial efficiency. In response to mitochondrial dysfunction, a transient upregulation of the master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, pgc1a, was observed. These results not only reveal a new Opa1-associated phenotype in a vertebrate model system, but also further elucidates the absolute requirement of Opa1 for successful vertebrate development.
Genetic forms of parkinsonism are interesting for two particular reasons. First, finding a gene identifies a cause for a disease that would otherwise be unexplained. Second, finding several genes for the same disorder allows us to reconstruct molecular pathways that, in the example of Parkinson’s disease, are be associated with the survival of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra. Two rare causes of parkinsonism, DJ-1 and PINK1, are associated with mitochondria. This organelle has long been linked with Parkinson’s disease, and recent results are starting to show how mutations impact mitochondrial function. In this short review, I will discuss how we can use some of this information to understand why it is that neurons become dysfunctional in PD.
Several genes that cause familial forms of Parkinson's disease (PD) or similar disorders have been found in recent years. The aim of this review is to cover two broad aspects of the logic of genetics. The first aspect is the recognition that PD can have a genetic basis, either for Mendelian families where genes can be identified because mutations segregate with disease or in populations where more common variants are associated with disease. There are several causal genes for both dominant and recessive forms of parkinsonism, some of which overlap with sporadic PD and some of which have more complex phenotypes. Several of the dominant loci have also been reliably indentified as risk factors for sporadic PD. The second topic is how the study of multiple mutations in any given gene can help understand the role that the protein under investigation plays in PD. Examples will be given of both recessive and dominant genes for parkinsonism, showing how the analysis of multiple gene mutations can be a powerful approach for dissecting out which function(s) are important for the disease process.