Axonal degeneration is a common pathologic feature in peripheral neuropathy, neurodegenerative disease, and normal aging. Oxidative stress may be an important mechanism of axonal degeneration, but is underrepresented among current experimental models. To test the effects of loss of the antioxidant enzyme Cu,Zn-superoxide dismutase (SOD1) on axon survival, we cultured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons from SOD1 knockout mice. Beginning as early as 48–72 h, we observed striking degeneration of Sod1−/− axons that was prevented by introduction of human SOD1 and was attenuated by antioxidant treatment. To test susceptibility to increased superoxide production, we exposed wild-type DRGs to the redox-cycling herbicides paraquat and diquat (DQ). Dose-dependent axon degeneration was observed, and toxicity of DQ was exacerbated by SOD1 deficiency. MTT staining suggested that DRG axons are more susceptible to injury than their parent cell bodies in both paradigms. Taken together, these data demonstrate susceptibility of DRG axons to oxidative stress-mediated injury due to loss of SOD1 or excess superoxide production. These in vitro models provide a novel means of investigating oxidative stress-mediated injury to axons, to improve our understanding of axonal redox control and dysfunction in peripheral neuropathy.
Axon; Axonal degeneration; Oxidative stress; Neuropathy; Superoxide dismutase; Dorsal root ganglion
The olfactory bulb (OB) is one of the first brain regions in Parkinson’s disease (PD) to contain alpha-synuclein (α-syn) inclusions, possibly associated with nonmotor symptoms. Mechanisms underlying olfactory synucleinopathy, its contribution to progressive aggregation pathology and nigrostriatal dopaminergic loss observed at later stages, remain unclear. A second hit, such as environmental toxins, is suggestive for α-syn aggregation in olfactory neurons, potentially triggering disease progression. To address the possible pathogenic role of olfactory α-syn accumulation in early PD, we exposed mice with site-specific and inducible overexpression of familial PD-linked mutant α-syn in OB neurons to a low dose of the herbicide paraquat. Here, we found that olfactory α-syn per se elicited structural and behavioral abnormalities, characteristic of an early time point in models with widespread α-syn expression, including hyperactivity and increased striatal dopaminergic marker. Suppression of α-syn reversed the dopaminergic phenotype. In contrast, paraquat treatment synergistically induced degeneration of olfactory dopaminergic cells and opposed the higher reactive phenotype. Neither neurodegeneration nor behavioral abnormalities were detected in paraquat-treated mice with suppressed α-syn expression. By increasing calpain activity, paraquat induced a pathological cascade leading to inhibition of autophagy clearance and accumulation of calpain-cleaved truncated and insoluble α-syn, recapitulating biochemical and structural changes in human PD. Thus our results underscore the primary role of proteolytic failure in aggregation pathology. In addition, we provide novel evidence that olfactory dopaminergic neurons display an increased vulnerability toward neurotoxins in dependence to presence of human α-syn, possibly mediating an olfactory-striatal dopaminergic network dysfunction in mouse models and early PD.
Molecular sub-classification is rapidly informing the clinical management of medulloblastoma. However, the disease remains associated with poor outcomes and therapy-associated late-effects, and the majority of patients are not characterized by a validated prognostic biomarker. Here, we investigated the potential of epigenetic DNA methylation for disease sub-classification, particularly in formalin-fixed biopsies, and to identify biomarkers for improved therapeutic individualization. Tumor DNA methylation profiles were assessed, alongside molecular and clinical disease features, in 230 patients primarily from the SIOP-UKCCSG PNET3 clinical trial. We demonstrate by cross-validation in frozen training and formalin-fixed test sets that medulloblastoma comprises four robust DNA methylation subgroups (termed WNT, SHH, G3 and G4), highly related to their transcriptomic counterparts, and which display distinct molecular, clinical and pathological disease characteristics. WNT patients displayed an expected favorable prognosis, while outcomes for SHH, G3 and G4 were equivalent in our cohort. MXI1 and IL8 methylation were identified as novel independent high-risk biomarkers in cross-validated survival models of non-WNT patients, and were validated using non-array methods. Incorporation of MXI1 and IL8 into current survival models significantly improved the assignment of disease-risk; 46% of patients could be classified as ‘favorable-risk’ (>90% survival) compared to 13% using current models, while the high-risk group was reduced to 16% from 30%. DNA methylation profiling enables the robust sub-classification of four disease sub-groups in frozen and routinely-collected/archival formalin-fixed biopsy material, and the incorporation of DNA methylation biomarkers can significantly improve disease-risk stratification. These findings have important implications for future risk-adapted clinical disease management.
Subgroups; medulloblastoma; methylation; prognosis; biomarkers
Filamentous tau pathologies are hallmark lesions of several neurodegenerative tauopathies including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and corticobasal degeneration (CBD) which show cell type-specific and topographically distinct tau inclusions. Growing evidence supports templated transmission of tauopathies through functionally interconnected neuroanatomical pathways suggesting that different self-propagating strains of pathological tau could account for the diverse manifestations of neurodegenerative tauopathies. Here, we describe the rapid and distinct cell type-specific spread of pathological tau following intracerebral injections of CBD or AD brain extracts enriched in pathological tau (designated CBD-Tau and AD-Tau, respectively) in young human mutant P301S tau transgenic (Tg) mice (line PS19) ~6–9 months before they show onset of mutant tau transgene-induced tau pathology. At 1 month post-injection of CBD-Tau, tau inclusions developed predominantly in oligodendrocytes of the fimbria and white matter near the injection sites with infrequent intraneuronal tau aggregates. In contrast, injections of AD-Tau in young PS19 mice induced tau pathology predominantly in neuronal perikarya with little or no oligodendrocyte involvement 1 month post-injection. With longer post-injection survival intervals of up to 6 months, CBD-Tau- and AD-Tau-induced tau pathology spread to different brain regions distant from the injection sites while maintaining the cell type-specific pattern noted above. Finally, CA3 neuron loss was detected 3 months post-injection of AD-Tau but not CBD-Tau. Thus, AD-Tau and CBD-Tau represent specific pathological tau strains that spread differentially and may underlie distinct clinical and pathological features of these two tauopathies. Hence, these strains could become targets to develop disease-modifying therapies for CBD and AD.
Alzheimer’s disease; Corticobasal degeneration; Seeded transmission of pathological tau; Frontotemporal degeneration
Neuronal insulin signaling abnormalities have been associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the specificity of this association and its underlying mechanisms have been unclear. This study investigated the expression of abnormal serine phosphorylation of insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS1) in 157 human brain autopsy cases that included AD, tauopathies, α-synucleinopathies, TDP-43 proteinopathies, and normal aging. IRS1-pS616, IRS1-pS312 and downstream target Akt-pS473 measures were most elevated in AD but were also significantly increased in the tauopathies: Pick's disease, corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy. Double immunofluorescence labeling showed frequent co-expression of IRS1-pS616 with pathologic tau in neurons and dystrophic neurites. To further investigate an association between tau and abnormal serine phosphorylation of IRS1, we examined the presence of abnormal IRS1-pS616 expression in pathological tau-expressing transgenic mice and demonstrated that abnormal IRS1-pS616 frequently co-localizes in tangle-bearing neurons. Conversely, we observed increased levels of hyperphosphorylated tau in the high-fat diet-fed mouse, a model of insulin resistance. These results provide confirmation and specificity that abnormal phosphorylation of IRS1 is a pathological feature of AD and other tauopathies, and provide support for an association between insulin resistance and abnormal tau as well as amyloid-β.
Alzheimer's disease; Tau; Synuclein; TDP-43; Insulin resistance; Insulin receptor substrate 1
Multiple sclerosis (MS) and neuromyelitis optica (NMO) are the most prevalent neuroinflammatory diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). The immunological cascade of these disorders is complex, and the exact spatial and temporal role of different immune cells is not fully understood. Although MS has been considered for many years to be primarily T cell driven, it is well established that B cells and the humoral immune response play an important role in its pathogenesis. This has long been evident from laboratory findings that include the presence of oligoclonal bands in the CSF. In NMO the importance of the humoral immune system appears even more obvious as evidenced by pathogenic antibodies against aquaporin 4 (AQP4). Besides their capacity to mature into antibody-producing plasma cells, B cells are potent antigen presenting cells to T lymphocytes and they can provide soluble factors for cell activation and differentiation to other immune-competent cells.
In MS and NMO, there are substantial data from clinical trials that B cell depletion with CD20-directed agents is effective and relatively safe. Plasma cells, which produce antibodies against molecular targets expressed by the host, but which also provide humeral immune responses against pathogens, are not targeted by anti-CD20 therapies. Therefore the depletion of CD19-expressing cells would offer potential advantages with regard to efficacy, but potentially higher risks with regard to infectious complications.
This review will outline the rationale for CD19 as a molecular target in CNS autoimmunity. The current stage of drug development is illustrated. Potential safety concerns will be discussed.
C9orf72 promoter hypermethylation inhibits the accumulation of pathologies which have been postulated to be neurotoxic. We tested here whether C9orf72 hypermethylation is associated with prolonged disease in C9orf72 mutation carriers. C9orf72 methylation was quantified from brain or blood using methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme digest-qPCR in a cross-sectional cohort of 118 C9orf72 repeat expansion carriers and 19 non-carrier family members. Multivariate regression models were used to determine whether C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with age at onset, disease duration, age at death, or hexanucleotide repeat expansion size. Permutation analysis was performed to determine whether C9orf72 methylation is heritable. We observed a high correlation between C9orf72 methylation across tissues including cerebellum, frontal cortex, spinal cord and peripheral blood. While C9orf72 methylation was not significantly different between ALS and FTD and did not predict age at onset, brain and blood C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with later age at death in FTD (brain: β = 0.18, p = 0.006; blood: β = 0.15, p < 0.001), and blood C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with longer disease duration in FTD (β = 0.03, p = 0.007). Furthermore, C9orf72 hypermethylation was associated with smaller hexanucleotide repeat length (β = −16.69, p = 0.033). Finally, analysis of pedigrees with multiple mutation carriers demonstrated a significant association between C9orf72 methylation and family relatedness (p < 0.0001). C9orf72 hypermethylation is associated with prolonged disease in C9orf72 repeat expansion carriers with FTD. The attenuated clinical phenotype associated with C9orf72 hypermethylation suggests that slower clinical progression in FTD is associated with reduced expression of mutant C9orf72. These results support the hypothesis that expression of the hexanucleotide repeat expansion is associated with a toxic gain of function.
Neurodegeneration; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Frontotemporal dementia; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Epigenetics
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia in the elderly. This brain neuropathology is characterized by a progressive synaptic dysfunction and neuronal loss, which lead to decline in memory and other cognitive functions. Histopathologically, AD manifests via synaptic abnormalities, neuronal degeneration as well as the deposition of extracellular amyloid plaques and intraneuronal neurofibrillary tangles. While the exact pathogenic contribution of these two AD hallmarks and their abundant constituents [aggregation-prone amyloid β (Aβ) peptide species and hyperphosphorylated tau protein, respectively] remain debated, a growing body of evidence suggests that their development may be paralleled or even preceded by the alterations/dysfunctions in the endolysosomal and the autophagic system. In AD-affected neurons, abnormalities in these cellular pathways are readily observed already at early stages of disease development, and even though many studies agree that defective lysosomal degradation may relate to or even underlie some of these deficits, specific upstream molecular defects are still deliberated. In this review we summarize various pathogenic events that may lead to these cellular abnormalities, in light of our current understanding of molecular mechanisms that govern AD progression. In addition, we also highlight the increasing evidence supporting mutual functional dependence of the endolysosomal trafficking and autophagy, in particular focusing on those molecules and processes which may be of significance to AD.
Alzheimer’s disease; Autophagy; Endolysosomal trafficking; Presenilins; γ-Secretase
Many studies report an association of cognitive and social experiential factors and related traits with dementia risk. Further, many clinical-pathologic studies find a poor correspondence between levels of neuropathology and the presence of dementia and level of cognitive impairment. The poor correspondence suggests that other factors contribute to the maintenance or loss of cognitive function, with factors associated with the maintenance of function referred to as neural or cognitive reserve. This has led investigators to examine the associations of cognitive and social experiential factors with neuropathology as a first step in disentangling the complex associations between these experiential risk factors, neuropathology, and cognitive impairment. Despite the consistent associations of a range of cognitive and social lifestyle factors with cognitive decline and dementia risk, the extant clinical pathologic data finds only a single factor from one cohort, linguistic ability, related to AD pathology. Other factors, including education, harm avoidance, and emotional neglect, are associated with cerebrovascular disease. Overall, the associations are weak. Some factors, such as education, social networks, and purpose in life modify the relation of neuropathology to cognition. Finally, some factors such as cognitive activity appear to bypass known pathologies altogether suggesting a more direct association with biologic indices that promote person-specific differences in reserve and resilience. Future work will first need to replicate findings across more studies to ensure the veracity of the existing data. Second, effort is need to identify the molecular substrates of neural reserve as potential mediators of the association of lifestyle factors with cognition.
Aging; Dementia; Risk Factors; Neuropathology; Neural Reserve; Epidemiology
Obesity, a pathologic state defined by excess adipose tissue, is a significant public health problem as it affects a large proportion of individuals and is linked with increased risk for numerous chronic diseases. Obesity is the result of fundamental changes associated with modern society including overnutrition and sedentary lifestyles. Proper energy homeostasis is dependent on normal brain function as the master metabolic regulator which integrates peripheral signals, modulates autonomic outflow and controls feeding behavior. Therefore, many human brain diseases are associated with obesity. This review explores the neuropathology of obesity by examining brain diseases which either cause or are influenced by obesity. First, several genetic and acquired brain diseases are discussed as a means to understand the central regulation of peripheral metabolism. These diseases range from monogenetic causes of obesity (leptin deficiency, MC4R deficiency, Bardet-Biedl syndrome and others) to complex neurodevelopmental disorders (Prader-Willi syndrome and Sim1 deficiency) and neurodegenerative conditions (frontotemporal dementia and Gourmand’s syndrome) and serve to highlight the central regulatory mechanisms which have evolved to maintain energy homeostasis. Next, to examine the effect of obesity on the brain, chronic neuropathologic conditions (epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease) are discussed as examples of obesity leading to maladaptive processes which exacerbate chronic disease. Thus obesity is associated with multiple pathways including abnormal metabolism, altered hormonal signaling and increased inflammation which act in concert to promote downstream neuropathology. Finally, the effect of anti-obesity interventions is discussed in terms of brain structure and function. Together, understanding human diseases and anti-obesity interventions leads to insights into the bidirectional interaction between peripheral metabolism and central brain function, highlighting the need for continued clinicopathologic and mechanistic studies of the neuropathology of obesity.
X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (X-ALD) is a rare neurometabolic disease characterized by the accumulation of very long chain fatty acids (VLCFAs) due to a loss of function of the peroxisomal transporter ABCD1. Here, using in vivo and in vitro models, we demonstrate that autophagic flux was impaired due to elevated mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling, which contributed to X-ALD pathogenesis. We also show that excess VLCFAs downregulated autophagy in human fibroblasts. Furthermore, mTOR inhibition by a rapamycin derivative (temsirolimus) restored autophagic flux and inhibited the axonal degenerative process as well as the associated locomotor impairment in the Abcd1−/Abcd2−/− mouse model. This process was mediated through the restoration of proteasome function and redox as well as metabolic homeostasis. These findings provide the first evidence that links impaired autophagy to X-ALD, which may yield a therapy based on autophagy activators for adrenomyeloneuropathy patients.
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X-ALD; Autophagy; mTOR; Temsirolimus; VLCFA
Neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques constitute the hallmark brain lesions of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients. Tangles are composed of fibrillar aggregates of the microtubule-associated protein tau, and plaques comprise fibrillar forms of a proteolytic cleavage product, amyloid-β (Aβ). Although plaques and tangles are the end-stage lesions in AD, small oligomers of Aβ and tau are now receiving increased attention as they are shown to correlate best with neurotoxicity. One key question of debate, however, is which of these pathologies appears first and hence is upstream in the pathocascade. Studies suggest that there is an intense crosstalk between the two molecules and, based on work in animal models, there is increasing evidence that Aβ, at least in part, exerts its toxicity via tau, with the Src kinase Fyn playing a crucial role in this process. In other experimental paradigms, Aβ and tau have been found to exert both separate and synergistic modes of toxicity. The challenge, however, is to integrate these different scenarios into a coherent picture. Furthermore, the ability of therapeutic interventions targeting just one of these molecules, to successfully neutralize the toxicity of the other, needs to be ascertained to improve current therapeutic strategies, such as immunotherapy, for the treatment of AD. Although this article is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of the currently pursued therapeutic strategies, we will discuss what has been achieved by immunotherapy and, in particular, how the inherent limitations of this approach can possibly be overcome by novel strategies that involve single-chain antibodies.
Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid-β (Aβ); Frontotemporal dementia; Tau; Immunotherapy; scFvs (single-chain variable antibody fragments); Neurotoxicity
The benefits of regular exercise, physical fitness and sports participation on cardiovascular and brain health are undeniable. Physical activity reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and stroke, and produces beneficial effects on cholesterol levels, antioxidant systems, inflammation, and vascular function. Exercise also enhances psychological health, reduces age-related loss of brain volume, improves cognition, reduces the risk of developing dementia, and impedes neurodegeneration. Nonetheless, the play of sports is associated with risks, including a risk for mild TBI (mTBI) and, rarely, catastrophic traumatic injury and death. There is also growing awareness that repetitive mTBIs, such as concussion and subconcussion, can occasionally produce persistent cognitive, behavioral, and psychiatric problems as well as lead to the development of a neurodegeneration, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In this review, we summarize the beneficial aspects of sports participation on psychological, emotional, physical and cognitive health, and specifically analyze some of the less common adverse neuropathological outcomes, including concussion, second-impact syndrome, juvenile head trauma syndrome, catastrophic sudden death, and CTE. CTE is a latent neurodegeneration clinically associated with behavioral changes, executive dysfunction and cognitive impairments, and pathologically characterized by frontal and temporal lobe atrophy, neuronal and axonal loss, and abnormal deposits of paired helical filament (PHF)-tau and 43 kDa TAR deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)-binding protein (TDP-43). CTE often occurs as a sole diagnosis, but may be associated with other neurodegenerative disorders, including motor neuron disease (CTE-MND). Although the incidence and prevalence of CTE are not known, CTE has been reported most frequently in American football players and boxers. Other sports associated with CTE include ice hockey, professional wrestling, soccer, rugby, and baseball.
Mitochondrial-mediated oxidative stress in response to high glucose is proposed as a primary cause of dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neuron injury in the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy. In the present study, we report a greater number of mitochondria in both myelinated and unmyelinated dorsal root axons in a well-established model of murine diabetic neuropathy. No similar changes were seen in younger diabetic animals without neuropathy or in the ventral motor roots of any diabetic animals. These findings led us to examine mitochondrial biogenesis and fission in response to hyperglycemia in the neurites of cultured DRG neurons. We demonstrate overall mitochondrial biogenesis via increases in mitochondrial transcription factors and increases in mitochondrial DNA in both DRG neurons and axons. However, this process occurs over a longer time period than a rapidly observed increase in the number of mitochondria in DRG neurites that appears to result, at least in part, from mitochondrial fission. We conclude that during acute hyperglycemia, mitochondrial fission is a prominent response, and excessive mitochondrial fission may result in dysregulation of energy production, activation of caspase 3, and subsequent DRG neuron injury. During more prolonged hyperglycemia, there is evidence of compensatory mitochondrial biogenesis in axons. Our data suggest that an imbalance between mitochondrial biogenesis and fission may play a role in the pathogenesis of diabetic neuropathy.
TERT; IDH1; glioma; medulloblastoma; telomerase
Sudden unexplained death in infants, including the sudden infant death syndrome, is likely due to heterogeneous causes that involve different intrinsic vulnerabilities and/or environmental factors. Neuropathologic research focuses upon the role of brain regions, particularly the brainstem, that regulate or modulate autonomic and respiratory control during sleep or transitions to waking. The hippocampus is a key component of the forebrain–limbic network that modulates autonomic/respiratory control via brainstem connections, but its role in sudden infant death has received little attention. We tested the hypothesis that a well-established marker of hippocampal pathology in temporal lobe epilepsy—focal granule cell bilamination in the dentate, a variant of granule cell dispersion—is associated with sudden unexplained death in infants. In a blinded study of hippocampal morphology in 153 infants with sudden and unexpected death autopsied in the San Diego County medical examiner’s office, deaths were classified as unexplained or explained based upon autopsy and scene investigation. Focal granule cell bilamination was present in 41.2 % (47/114) of the unexplained group compared to 7.7 % (3/39) of the explained (control) group (p < 0.001). It was associated with a cluster of other dentate developmental abnormalities that reflect defective neuronal proliferation, migration, and/or survival. Dentate lesions in a large subset of infants with sudden unexplained death may represent a developmental vulnerability that leads to autonomic/respiratory instability or autonomic seizures, and sleep-related death when the infants are challenged with homeostatic stressors. Importantly, these lesions can be recognized in microscopic sections prepared in current forensic practice. Future research is needed to determine the relationship between hippocampal and previously reported brainstem pathology in sudden infant death.
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The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-014-1357-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.