Recently, missense mutations in the gene TARDBP encoding TDP-43 have been linked to familial ALS. The discovery of genes encoding these RNA binding proteins, such as TDP-43 and FUS/TLS, raised the notion that altered RNA metabolism is a major factor underlying the pathogenesis of ALS. To begin to unravel how mutations in TDP-43 cause dysfunction and death of motor neurons, investigators have employed both gain- and loss-of-function studies in rodent model systems. Here, we will summarize major findings from the initial sets of TDP-43 transgenic and knockout rodent models, identify their limitations, and point to future directions toward clarification of disease mechanism(s) and testing of therapeutic strategies that ultimately may lead to novel therapy for this devastating disease.
TDP-43; Transgenic; Conditional knockout
γ-Secretase, a multi-subunit transmembrane protease comprised of presenilin, nicastrin, presenilin enhancer 2, and anterior pharynx-defective 1, participates in the regulated intramembrane proteolysis of Type I membrane proteins including the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Although Aph-1 is thought to play a structural role in the assembly of γ-secretase complex and several transmembrane domains (TMDs) of Aph-1 have been shown to be critical for its function, the importance of the other domains of Aph-1 remains elusive. We screened a series of Aph-1 mutants and focused on 9 mutations distributed in 6 different TMDs of human APH-1aS, assessing their ability to complement mouse embryonic fibroblasts lacking Aph-1. We showed that mutations in TMD4 (G126) and TMD5 (H171) of Aph-1a prevented the formation of the Nct/Aph-1 subcomplex. Importantly, although mutations in TMD3 (Q83/E84/R85) and TMD6 (H197) of APH-1aS did not affect Nct/Aph-1 subcomplex formation, both mutations prevented further association/endoproteolysis of PS1. We propose a model that identifies critical TMDs of Aph-1 for associations with Nct and PS for the stepwise assembly of γ-secretase components.
γ-Secretase; Aph-1; Nct; PS; mutagenesis; transmembrane domain
Assemblies of β-amyloid (Aβ) peptides are pathological mediators of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and are produced by the sequential cleavages of amyloid precursor protein (APP) by β-secretase (BACE1) and γ-secretase. The generation of Aβ is coupled to neuronal activity, however the molecular basis is unknown. Here, we report that the immediate early gene Arc is required for activity-dependent generation of Aβ. Arc is a postsynaptic protein that recruits endophilin2/3 and dynamin to early/recycling endosomes that traffic AMPA receptors to reduce synaptic strength in both Hebbian and non-Hebbian forms of plasticity. The Arc-endosome also traffics APP and BACE1, and Arc physically associates with presenilin1 (PS1) to regulate γ-secretase trafficking and confer activity-dependence. Genetic deletion of Arc reduces Aβ load in a transgenic mouse model of AD. In concert with the finding that patients with AD can express anomalously high levels of Arc, we hypothesize that Arc participates in the pathogenesis of AD.
β- site amyloid precursor protein (APP) cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is an aspartyl protease best known for its role in generating the amyloid β peptides that are present in plaques of Alzheimer's Disease. BACE1 has been an attractive target for drug development. In cultured embryonic neurons BACE1-cleaved N-terminal APP is further processed to generate a fragment that can trigger axonal degeneration, suggesting a vital role for BACE1 in axonal health. In addition, BACE1 cleaves neuregulin 1 type III, a protein critical for myelination of peripheral axons by Schwann cells during development. Here, we asked if axonal degeneration or axonal regeneration in adult nerves might be affected by inhibition or elimination of BACE1. We report that BACE1 knockout and wild-type nerves degenerated at a similar rate after axotomy and to a similar extent in the experimental neuropathies produced by administration of paclitaxel and acrylamide. These data indicate N-APP is not the sole culprit in axonal degeneration in adult nerves. Unexpectedly, however, we observed that BACE1 knockout mice had markedly enhanced clearance of axonal and myelin debris from degenerated fibers, accelerated axonal regeneration, and earlier reinnervation of neuromuscular junctions, compared to littermate controls. These observations were reproduced in part by pharmacological inhibition of BACE1. These data suggest BACE1 inhibition as a therapeutic approach to accelerate regeneration and recovery after peripheral nerve damage.
Increase in the generation and deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) plays a central role in the development of Alzheimer's Disease (AD). Elevation of the activity of γ-secretase, a key enzyme required for the generation for Aβ, can thus be a potential risk factor in AD. However, it is not known whether γ-secretase can be upregulated in vivo. While in vitro studies showed that expression of all four components of γ-secretase (Nicastrin, Presenilin, Pen-2 and Aph-1) are required for upregulation of γ-secretase, it remains to be established as to whether this is true in vivo. To investigate whether overexpressing a single component of the γ-secretase complex is sufficient to elevate its level and activity in the brain, we analyzed transgenic mice expressing either wild type or familial AD (fAD) associated mutant PS1. In contrast to cell culture studies, overexpression of either wild type or mutant PS1 is sufficient to increase levels of Nicastrin and Pen-2, and elevate the level of active γ-secretase complex, enzymatic activity of γ-secretase and the deposition of Aβ in brains of mice. Importantly, γ-secretase comprised of mutant PS1 is less active than that of wild type PS1-containing γ-secretase; however, γ-secretase comprised of mutant PS1 cleaves at the Aβ42 site of APP-CTFs more efficiently than at the Aβ40 site, resulting in greater accumulation of Aβ deposits in the brain. Our data suggest that whereas fAD-linked PS1 mutants cause early onset disease, upregulation of PS1/γ-secretase activity may be a risk factor for late onset sporadic AD.
The role of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the neurodegeneration of Alzheimer’s disease remains controversial, to a large extent because of the lack of robust neurodegeneration in mouse models of AD. To address this question, we examined the effects of Aβ antibodies in the recently described monoaminergic (MAergic) axonal degeneration in AβPPswe/PS1dE9 mice. To determine if Aβ accumulation is directly involved in degeneration of MAergic axons, we examined the effects of passive anti-Aβ antibody (7B6) administration on Aβ pathology and MAergic degeneration in AβPPswe/PS1dE9 mice. Injections of monoclonal antibody (mAb) 7B6 into mice (6 to 9 months of age) resulted in a modest reduction of Aβ load in the brains of AβPPswe/PS1dE9 mice. In addition, 7B6 treated AβPPswe/PS1dE9 mice had significantly higher densities of MAergic axons in both cortex and in hippocampus as compared to untreated mutant mice. For example, 7B6 treated mice showed almost 2-fold greater densities of serotonergic (5-HT) axons in the cortex compared to saline treated mice. Similar findings were observed in the catecholaminergic (TH) axons. Our results demonstrate that lowering of Aβ levels via passive Aβ immunotherapy ameliorates ongoing degenerative processes, supporting a causal link between Aβ and neurodegeneration.
Amyloid-β; axon; immunotherapy; neurodegeneration; serotonergic
The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) was established in 1958 and is one the oldest prospective studies of aging in the USA and the world. The BLSA is supported by the National Institute of Aging (NIA) and its mission is to learn what happens to people as they get old and how to sort out changes due to aging and from those due to disease or other causes. In 1986, an autopsy program combined with comprehensive neurologic and cognitive evaluations was established in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC). Since then, 211 subjects have undergone autopsy. Here we review the key clinical neuropathological correlations from this autopsy series. The focus is on the morphological and biochemical changes that occur in normal aging, and the early neuropathological changes of neurodegenerative diseases, especially Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We highlight the combined clinical, pathologic, morphometric, and biochemical evidence of asymptomatic AD, a state characterized by normal clinical evaluations in subjects with abundant AD pathology. We conclude that in some individuals, successful cognitive aging results from compensatory mechanisms that occur at the neuronal level (i.e., neuronal hypertrophy and synaptic plasticity) whereas a failure of compensation may culminate in disease.
α-synuclein; Alzheimer’s disease; asymptomatic Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid-β; dementia; Parkinson’s disease; stereology; successful aging; tau
As only symptomatic treatments are now available for Alzheimer's disease (AD), safe and effective mechanism-based therapies remain a great unmet need for patients with this neurodegenerative disease. Although γ-secretase and BACE1 [β-site β-amyloid (Aβ) precursor protein (APP) cleaving enzyme 1] are well-recognized therapeutic targets for AD, untoward side effects associated with strong inhibition or reductions in amounts of these aspartyl proteases have raised concerns regarding their therapeutic potential. Although moderate decreases of either γ-secretase or BACE1 are not associated with mechanism-based toxicities, they provide only modest benefits in reducing Aβ in the brains of APPswe/PS1ΔE9 mice. Because the processing of APP to generate Aβ requires both γ-secretase and BACE1, it is possible that moderate reductions of both enzymes would provide additive and significant protection against Aβ amyloidosis. Here, we test this hypothesis and assess the value of this novel anti-amyloid combination therapy in mutant mice. We demonstrate that genetic reductions of both BACE1 and γ-secretase additively attenuate the amyloid burden and ameliorate cognitive deficits occurring in aged APPswe/PS1ΔE9 animals. No evidence of mechanism-based toxicities was associated with such decreases in amounts of both enzymes. Thus, we propose that targeting both γ-secretase and BACE1 may be an effective and safe treatment strategy for AD.
Loss-of-function mutations in the DJ-1 gene account for an autosomal recessive form of Parkinson’s disease (PD). To investigate the physiological functions of DJ-1 in vivo, we generated DJ-1 knockout (DJ-1-/-) mice. Younger (< 1year) DJ-1 -/- mice were hypoactive and had mild gait abnormalities. Older DJ-1-/-, however, showed decreased bodyweight and grip strength, and more severe gait irregularities compared to wild-type littermates. The basal level of extracellular dopamine, evoked dopamine release and dopamine receptor D2 sensitivity appeared normal in the striatum of DJ-1-/- mice, which was consistent with similar results between DJ-1-/- and controls in behavioral paradigms specific for the dopaminergic system. An examination of spinal cord, nerve and muscle tissues failed to identify any pathological changes that were consistent with the noted motor deficits. Taken together, our findings suggest that loss of DJ-1 leads to progressive behavioral changes without significant alterations in nigrostriatal dopaminergic and spinal motor systems.
DJ-1; knockout mouse; Parkinson’s disease; dopamine; striatum; spinal cord; muscle; motor behavior
A transmembrane aspartyl protease termed β-site APP cleavage enzyme 1 (BACE1) that cleaves the amyloid-β precursor protein (APP), which is abundant in neurons, is required for the generation of amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We now demonstrate that BACE1, enriched in neurons of the CNS, is a major determinant that predisposes the brain to Aβ amyloidogenesis. The physiologically high levels of BACE1 activity coupled with low levels of BACE2 and α-secretase anti-amyloidogenic activities in neurons is a major contributor to the accumulation of Aβ in the CNS, whereas other organs are spared. Significantly, deletion of BACE1 in APPswe;PS1ΔE9 mice prevents both Aβ deposition and age-associated cognitive abnormalities that occur in this model of Aβ amyloidosis. Moreover, Aβ deposits are sensitive to BACE1 dosage and can be efficiently cleared from the CNS when BACE1 is silenced. However, BACE1 null mice manifest alterations in hippocampal synaptic plasticity as well as in performance on tests of cognition and emotion. Importantly, memory deficits but not emotional alterations in BACE1-/- mice are prevented by coexpressing APPswe;PS1ΔE9 transgenes, indicating that other potential substrates of BACE1 may affect neural circuits related to emotion. Our results establish BACE1 and APP processing pathways as critical for cognitive, emotional, and synaptic functions, and future studies should be alert to potential mechanism-based side effects that may occur with BACE1 inhibitors designed to ameliorate Aβ amyloidosis in AD.
BACE1 null mice; selective vulnerability; Aβ amyloidosis; Alzheimer’s; cognition; synaptic plasticity; RNAi
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the most common adult-onset motor neuron disease is caused by a selective loss of motor neurons. One form of juvenile onset autosomal recessive ALS (ALS2) has been linked to the loss of function of the ALS2 gene. The pathogenic mechanism of ALS2-deficiency, however, remains unclear. To further understand the function of alsin that is encoded by the full-length ALS2 gene, we screened proteins interacting with alsin. Here, we report that alsin interacted with glutamate receptor interacting protein 1 (GRIP1) both in vitro and in vivo, and colocalized with GRIP1 in neurons. In support of the physiological interaction between alsin and GRIP1, the subcellular distribution of GRIP1 was altered in ALS2-/- spinal motor neurons, which correlates with a significant reduction of AMPA-type glutamate receptor subunit 2 (GluR2) at the synaptic/cell surface of ALS2-/- neurons. The decrease of calcium-impermeable GluR2-containing AMPA receptors at the cell/synaptic surface rendered ALS2-/- neurons more susceptible to glutamate receptor-mediated neurotoxicity. Our findings reveal a novel function of alsin in AMPA receptor trafficking and provide a novel pathogenic link between ALS2-deficiency and motor neuron degeneration, suggesting a protective role of alsin in maintaining the survival of motor neurons.
ALS2; knock-out mouse; motor neuron; GRIP1; AMPA receptor; excitotoxicity
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the most common motor neuron disease, is caused by a selective loss of motor neurons in the CNS. Mutations in the ALS2 gene have been linked to one form of autosomal recessive juvenile onset ALS (ALS2). To investigate the pathogenic mechanisms of ALS2, we generated ALS2 knock-out (ALS2−/−) mice. Although ALS2−/− mice lacked obvious developmental abnormalities, they exhibited age-dependent deficits in motor coordination and motor learning. Moreover, ALS2−/− mice showed a higher anxiety response in the open-field and elevated plus-maze tasks. Although they failed to recapitulate clinical or neuropathological phenotypes consistent with motor neuron disease by 20 months of age, ALS2−/− mice or primary cultured neurons derived from these mice were more susceptible to oxidative stress compared with wild-type controls. These observations suggest that loss of ALS2 function is insufficient to cause major motor deficits or motor neuron degeneration in a mouse model but predisposes neurons to oxidative stress.
ALS2; knock-out mouse; motor neuron; motor coordination; motor learning; oxidative stress
Medulloblastomas, embryonal tumors arising in the cerebellum, commonly contain mutations that activate Wnt signaling. To determine whether increased Wnt signaling in the adult CNS is sufficient to induce tumor formation, we created transgenic mice expressing either wild-type or activated β-catenin in the brain.
Wild-type and mutant human β-catenin transgenes were expressed under the control of a murine PrP promoter fragment that drives high level postnatal expression in the CNS. Mutant β-catenin was stabilized by a serine to phenylalanine alteration in codon 37.
Expression of the mutant transgene resulted in an approximately two-fold increase in β-catenin protein levels in the cortex and cerebellum of adult animals. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed nuclear β-catenin in hippocampal, cortical and cerebellar neurons of transgenic animals but not in non-transgenic controls. Tail kinking was observed in some transgenic animals, but no CNS malformations or tumors were detected.
No tumors or morphologic alterations were detected in the brains of transgenic mice expressing stabilized β-catenin, suggesting that postnatal Wnt signaling in differentiated neurons may not be sufficient to induce CNS tumorigenesis.
The morphological changes induced in the frog ventral horn neurons by axonal transection have been studied with the electron microscope. During the first 2 wk after axotomy the neuronal nucleus becomes more translucent and the nucleolus becomes enlarged and less compact. The cisternae of the granular endoplasmic reticulum vesiculate and ribosomes dissociate from membranes. Free ribosomes and polysomes are dispersed in the cytoplasmic matrix. Neurofilaments and neurotubules are increased in number. These structures appear to be important in the regeneration of the axon. It is proposed that neurotubules, neurofilaments, and axoplasmic matrix are synthesized by the free polyribosomes in the chromatolytic neuron. By the fourth postoperative week, the neurons show evidence of recovery. The cytoplasm is filled with profiles of granular endoplasmic reticulum and many intercisternal polysomes. The substances being manufactured by the newly formed granular endoplasmic reticulum are not clearly defined, but probably include elements essential to electrical and chemical conduction of impulses. The significance of these observations in respect to recent studies of axoplasmic flow is discussed.