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1.  The RAB39B p.G192R mutation causes X-linked dominant Parkinson’s disease 
To identify the causal gene in a multi-incident U.S. kindred with Parkinson’s disease (PD).
We characterized a family with a classical PD phenotype in which 7 individuals (5 males and 2 females) were affected with a mean age at onset of 46.1 years (range, 29-57 years). We performed whole exome sequencing on 4 affected and 1 unaffected family members. Sanger-sequencing was then used to verify and genotype all candidate variants in the remainder of the pedigree. Cultured cells transfected with wild-type or mutant constructs were used to characterize proteins of interest.
We identified a missense mutation (c.574G > A; p.G192R) in the RAB39B gene that closely segregated with disease and exhibited X-linked dominant inheritance with reduced penetrance in females. The mutation occurred in a highly conserved amino acid residue and was not observed among 87,725 X chromosomes in the Exome Aggregation Consortium dataset. Sequencing of the RAB39B coding region in 587 familial PD cases yielded two additional mutations (c.428C > G [p.A143G] and c.624_626delGAG [p.R209del]) that were predicted to be deleterious in silico but occurred in families that were not sufficiently informative to assess segregation with disease. Experiments in PC12 and SK-N-BE(2)C cells demonstrated that p.G192R resulted in mislocalization of the mutant protein, possibly by altering the structure of the hypervariable C-terminal domain which mediates intracellular targeting.
Our findings implicate RAB39B, an essential regulator of vesicular-trafficking, in clinically typical PD. Further characterization of normal and aberrant RAB39B function might elucidate important mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in PD and related disorders.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0045-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4581468  PMID: 26399558
2.  A brain-targeted, modified neurosin (kallikrein-6) reduces α-synuclein accumulation in a mouse model of multiple system atrophy 
Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by parkinsonism, resistance to dopamine therapy, ataxia, autonomic dysfunction, and pathological accumulation of α-synuclein (α-syn) in oligodendrocytes. Neurosin (kallikrein-6) is a serine protease capable of cleaving α-syn in the CNS, and we have previously shown that lentiviral (LV) vector delivery of neurosin into the brain of a mouse model of dementia with Lewy body/ Parkinson’s disease reduces the accumulation of α-syn and improves neuronal synaptic integrity.
In this study, we investigated the ability of a modified, systemically delivered neurosin to reduce the levels of α-syn in oligodendrocytes and reduce the cell-to-cell spread of α-syn to glial cells in a mouse model of MSA (MBP-α-syn). We engineered a viral vector that expresses a neurosin genetically modified for increased half-life (R80Q mutation) that also contains a brain-targeting sequence (apoB) for delivery into the CNS. Peripheral administration of the LV-neurosin-apoB to the MBP-α-syn tg model resulted in accumulation of neurosin-apoB in the CNS, reduced accumulation of α-syn in oligodendrocytes and astrocytes, improved myelin sheath formation in the corpus callosum and behavioral improvements.
Thus, the modified, brain-targeted neurosin may warrant further investigation as potential therapy for MSA.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0043-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4580347  PMID: 26394760
3.  Pharmacogenetic stimulation of cholinergic pedunculopontine neurons reverses motor deficits in a rat model of Parkinson’s disease 
Patients with advanced Parkinson's disease (PD) often present with axial symptoms, including postural- and gait difficulties that respond poorly to dopaminergic agents. Although deep brain stimulation (DBS) of a highly heterogeneous brain structure, the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN), improves such symptoms, the underlying neuronal substrate responsible for the clinical benefits remains largely unknown, thus hampering optimization of DBS interventions. Choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)::Cre+ transgenic rats were sham-lesioned or rendered parkinsonian through intranigral, unihemispheric stereotaxic administration of the ubiquitin-proteasomal system inhibitor, lactacystin, combined with designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADD), to activate the cholinergic neurons of the nucleus tegmenti pedunculopontine (PPTg), the rat equivalent of the human PPN. We have previously shown that the lactacystin rat model accurately reflects aspects of PD, including a partial loss of PPTg cholinergic neurons, similar to what is seen in the post-mortem brains of advanced PD patients.
In this manuscript, we show that transient activation of the remaining PPTg cholinergic neurons in the lactacystin rat model of PD, via peripheral administration of the cognate DREADD ligand, clozapine-N-oxide (CNO), dramatically improved motor symptoms, as was assessed by behavioral tests that measured postural instability, gait, sensorimotor integration, forelimb akinesia and general motor activity. In vivo electrophysiological recordings revealed increased spiking activity of PPTg putative cholinergic neurons during CNO-induced activation. c-Fos expression in DREADD overexpressed ChAT-immunopositive (ChAT+) neurons of the PPTg was also increased by CNO administration, consistent with upregulated neuronal activation in this defined neuronal population.
Overall, these findings provide evidence that functional modulation of PPN cholinergic neurons alleviates parkinsonian motor symptoms.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0044-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4580350  PMID: 26394842
Cholinergic; Deep brain stimulation; DREADD; Parkinson’s disease; Pedunculopontine nucleus
5.  Frontotemporal dementia-associated N279K tau mutant disrupts subcellular vesicle trafficking and induces cellular stress in iPSC-derived neural stem cells 
Pallido-ponto-nigral degeneration (PPND), a major subtype of frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism related to chromosome 17 (FTDP-17), is a progressive and terminal neurodegenerative disease caused by c.837 T > G mutation in the MAPT gene encoding microtubule-associated protein tau (rs63750756; N279K). This MAPT mutation induces alternative splicing of exon 10, resulting in a modification of microtubule-binding region of tau. Although mutations in the MAPT gene have been linked to multiple tauopathies including Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia and progressive supranuclear palsy, knowledge regarding how tau N279K mutation causes PPND/FTDP-17 is limited.
We investigated the underlying disease mechanism associated with the N279K tau mutation using PPND/FTDP-17 patient-derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and autopsy brains. In iPSC-derived neural stem cells (NSCs), the N279K tau mutation induced an increased ratio of 4-repeat to 3-repeat tau and accumulation of stress granules indicating elevated cellular stress. More significant, NSCs derived from patients with the N279K tau mutation displayed impaired endocytic trafficking as evidenced by accumulation of endosomes and exosomes, and a reduction of lysosomes. Since there were no significant differences in cellular stress and distribution of subcellular organelles between control and N279K skin fibroblasts, N279K-related vesicle trafficking defects are likely specific to the neuronal lineage. Consistently, the levels of intracellular/luminal vesicle and exosome marker flotillin-1 were significantly increased in frontal and temporal cortices of PPND/FTDP-17 patients with the N279K tau mutation, events that were not seen in the occipital cortex which is the most spared cortical region in the patients.
Together, our results demonstrate that alterations of intracellular vesicle trafficking in NSCs/neurons likely contribute to neurodegeneration as an important disease mechanism underlying the N279K tau mutation in PPND/FTDP-17.
PMCID: PMC4572645  PMID: 26373282
FTDP-17; iPSCs; N279K; Neural stem cells; PPND; Tau
6.  TREM2 in CNS homeostasis and neurodegenerative disease 
Myeloid-lineage cells accomplish a myriad of homeostatic tasks including the recognition of pathogens, regulation of the inflammatory milieu, and mediation of tissue repair and regeneration. The innate immune receptor and its adaptor protein—triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) and DNAX-activating protein of 12 kDa (DAP12)—possess the ability to modulate critical cellular functions via crosstalk with diverse signaling pathways. As such, mutations in TREM2 and DAP12 have been found to be associated with a range of disease phenotypes. In particular, mutations in TREM2 increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The leading hypothesis is that microglia, the resident immune cells of the central nervous system, are the major myeloid cells affected by dysregulated TREM2-DAP12 function. Here, we review how impaired signaling by the TREM2-DAP12 pathway leads to altered immune responses in phagocytosis, cytokine production, and microglial proliferation and survival, thus contributing to disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4560063  PMID: 26337043
Alzheimer’s disease; TREM2; Microglia; Inflammation
7.  Cytoplasmic mislocalization of RNA splicing factors and aberrant neuronal gene splicing in TDP-43 transgenic pig brain 
TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) is a nuclear protein, but it is redistributed in the neuronal cytoplasm in both amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Because small transgenic animal models often lack cytoplasmic TDP-43, how the cytoplasmic accumulation of TDP-43 contributes to these diseases remains unclear. The current study is aimed at studying the mechanism of cytoplasmic pathology of TDP-43.
We established transgenic pigs expressing mutant TDP-43 (M337V). This pig model shows severe phenotypes and early death. We found that transgenic TDP-43 is also distributed in the cytoplasm of neuronal cells in the spinal cord and brain. Transgenic TDP-43 interacts with PSF, an RNA splicing factor that associates with NeuN to regulate neuronal RNA splicing. The interaction of TDP-43, PSF and NeuN causes PSF and NeuN mislocalize into the neuronal cytoplasm in transgenic pigs. Consistently, abnormal PSF-related neuronal RNA splicing is seen in TDP-43 transgenic pigs. The cytoplasmic localization of PSF and NeuN as well as abnormal PSF-related neuronal RNA splicing was also found in ALS patient brains.
Our findings from a large mammalian model suggest that cytoplasmic mutant TDP-43 could reduce the nuclear function of RNA splicing factors, contributing to neuropathology.
PMCID: PMC4557629  PMID: 26334913
TDP-43; PSF; NeuN; NMHC II-B; ALS; transgenic Pig
8.  A novel BACE inhibitor NB-360 shows a superior pharmacological profile and robust reduction of amyloid-β and neuroinflammation in APP transgenic mice 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, the number of affected individuals is rising, with significant impacts for healthcare systems. Current symptomatic treatments delay, but do not halt, disease progression. Genetic evidence points to aggregation and deposition of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the brain being causal for the neurodegeneration and dementia typical of AD. Approaches to target Aβ via inhibition of γ-secretase or passive antibody therapy have not yet resulted in substantial clinical benefits. Inhibition of BACE1 (β-secretase) has proven a challenging concept, but recent BACE1inhibitors can enter the brain sufficiently well to lower Aβ. However, failures with the first clinical BACE1 inhibitors have highlighted the need to generate compounds with appropriate efficacy and safety profiles, since long treatment periods are expected to be necessary in humans.
Treatment with NB-360, a potent and brain penetrable BACE-1 inhibitor can completely block the progression of Aβ deposition in the brains of APP transgenic mice, a model for amyloid pathology. We furthermore show that almost complete reduction of Aβ was achieved also in rats and in dogs, suggesting that these findings are translational across species and can be extrapolated to humans. Amyloid pathology may be an initial step in a complex pathological cascade; therefore we investigated the effect of BACE-1 inhibition on neuroinflammation, a prominent downstream feature of the disease. NB-360 stopped accumulation of activated inflammatory cells in the brains of APP transgenic mice. Upon chronic treatment of APP transgenic mice, patches of grey hairs appeared.
In a rapidly developing field, the data on NB-360 broaden the chemical space and expand knowledge on the properties that are needed to make a BACE-1 inhibitor potent and safe enough for long-term use in patients. Due to its excellent brain penetration, reasonable oral doses of NB-360 were sufficient to completely block amyloid-β deposition in an APP transgenic mouse model. Data across species suggest similar treatment effects can possibly be achieved in humans. The reduced neuroinflammation upon amyloid reduction by NB-360 treatment supports the notion that targeting amyloid-β pathology can have beneficial downstream effects on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC4559881  PMID: 26336937
Alzheimer’s disease; BACE-1; Inhibitor; Amyloid-β; Neuroinflammation
10.  Distinct clinical and neuropathological features of G51D SNCA mutation cases compared with SNCA duplication and H50Q mutation 
We and others have described the neurodegenerative disorder caused by G51D SNCA mutation which shares characteristics of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and multiple system atrophy (MSA). The objective of this investigation was to extend the description of the clinical and neuropathological hallmarks of G51D mutant SNCA-associated disease by the study of two additional cases from a further G51D SNCA kindred and to compare the features of this group with a SNCA duplication case and a H50Q SNCA mutation case.
All three G51D patients were clinically characterised by parkinsonism, dementia, visual hallucinations, autonomic dysfunction and pyramidal signs with variable age at disease onset and levodopa response. The H50Q SNCA mutation case had a clinical picture that mimicked late-onset idiopathic PD with a good and sustained levodopa response. The SNCA duplication case presented with a clinical phenotype of frontotemporal dementia with marked behavioural changes, pyramidal signs, postural hypotension and transiently levodopa responsive parkinsonism. Detailed post-mortem neuropathological analysis was performed in all cases. All three G51D cases had abundant α-synuclein pathology with characteristics of both PD and MSA. These included widespread cortical and subcortical neuronal α-synuclein inclusions together with small numbers of inclusions resembling glial cytoplasmic inclusions (GCIs) in oligodendrocytes. In contrast the H50Q and SNCA duplication cases, had α-synuclein pathology resembling idiopathic PD without GCIs. Phosphorylated α-synuclein was present in all inclusions types in G51D cases but was more restricted in SNCA duplication and H50Q mutation. Inclusions were also immunoreactive for the 5G4 antibody indicating their highly aggregated and likely fibrillar state.
Our characterisation of the clinical and neuropathological features of the present small series of G51D SNCA mutation cases should aid the recognition of this clinico-pathological entity. The neuropathological features of these cases consistently share characteristics of PD and MSA and are distinct from PD patients carrying the H50Q or SNCA duplication.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0038-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4549856  PMID: 26306801
Parkinson’s disease; Multiple system atrophy; α-synuclein; Clinical features; Phosphorylation; Mutation; SNCA
11.  Caspase-7: a critical mediator of optic nerve injury-induced retinal ganglion cell death 
Axonal injury of the optic nerve (ON) is involved in various ocular diseases, such as glaucoma and traumatic optic neuropathy, which leads to apoptotic death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and loss of vision. Caspases have been implicated in RGC pathogenesis. However, the role of caspase-7, a functionally unique caspase, in ON injury and RGC apoptosis has not been reported previously. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the role of caspase-7 in ON injury-induced RGC apoptosis.
C57BL/6 (wildtype, WT) and caspase-7 knockout (Casp7−/−) mice were used. We show that ON crush activated caspase-7 and calpain-1, an upstream activator of caspase-7, in mouse RGCs, as well as hydrolysis of kinectin and co-chaperone P23, specific substrates of caspase-7. ON crush caused a progressive loss of RGCs to 28 days after injury. Knockout of caspase-7 partially and significantly protected against the ON injury-induced RGC loss; RGC density at 28 days post ON crush in Casp7−/− mice was approximately twice of that in WT ON injured retinas. Consistent with changes in RGC counts, spectral-domain optical coherence tomography analysis revealed that ON crush significantly reduced the in vivo thickness of the ganglion cell complex layer (including ganglion cell layer, nerve fiber layer, and inner plexiform layer) in the retina. The ON crush-induced thinning of retinal layer was significantly ameliorated in Casp7−/− mice when compared to WT mice. Moreover, electroretinography analysis demonstrated a decline in the positive component of scotopic threshold response amplitude in ON crushed eyes of the WT mice, whereas this RGC functional response was significantly higher in Casp7−/− mice at 28 days post injury.
Altogether, our findings indicate that caspase-7 plays a critical role in ON injury-induced RGC death, and inhibition of caspase-7 activity may be a novel therapeutic strategy for glaucoma and other neurodegenerative diseases of the retina.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0039-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4550044  PMID: 26306916
Caspase-7; Optic nerve injury; Retinal ganglion cell; Neuroprotection
12.  The topology of pen-2, a γ-secretase subunit, revisited: evidence for a reentrant loop and a single pass transmembrane domain 
The γ-secretase complex, composed of transmembrane proteins termed presenilin (PS), anterior pharynx defective (APH), nicastrin (NCT), and presenilin enhancer-2 (Pen-2) catalyzes intramembranous hydrolysis of a variety of Type I membrane protein substrates. In order to understand aspects of subunit assembly, interactions, dynamics and catalysis, it is essential to clarify the membrane topology of each polypeptide. Hydophathicity plots predict that the 101 amino acid Pen-2 molecule has two hydrophobic domains (HP1 and HP2) that may serve as transmembrane spanning domains. Earlier reports indicated that transiently overexpressed Pen-2 uses these two hydrophobic domains as transmembrane helices that generates a “U-shaped” hairpin topology with both amino- (N-) and carboxyl-(C-) termini facing the lumen. In this report, we have reexamined the topology of endogenous Pen-2 and Pen-2 chimeras that are stably expressed in mammalian cells, and have assessed the function of these molecules in rescuing γ-secretase activity in Pen-2-deficient fibroblasts.
We confirm that the Pen-2 C-terminus is lumenal, but the N-terminus of Pen-2 is exposed to the cytoplasm, thus indicating that HP1 does not traverse the lipid bilayer as a transmembrane domain. Domain swapping studies reveal the importance of specific regions within the first hydrophobic domain of Pen-2 that are critical for generating the topology that is a prerequisite for mediating PS1 endoproteolysis and γ-secretase activity. Finally, we report that the first fourteen amino acids of the Pen-2 HP1 are required for γ-secretase activity.
We propose that the first hydrophobic domain of Pen-2 forms a structure similar to a reentrant loop while the second hydrophobic domain spans the lipid bilayer.
PMCID: PMC4546279  PMID: 26296997
Pen-2; Topology; γ-secretase
13.  Human neural stem cells alleviate Alzheimer-like pathology in a mouse model 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an inexorable neurodegenerative disease that commonly occurs in the elderly. The cognitive impairment caused by AD is associated with abnormal accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) and hyperphosphorylated tau, which are accompanied by inflammation. Neural stem cells (NSCs) are self-renewing, multipotential cells that differentiate into distinct neural cells. When transplanted into a diseased brain, NSCs repair and replace injured tissues after migration toward and engraftment within lesions. We investigated the therapeutic effects in an AD mouse model of human NSCs (hNSCs) that derived from an aborted human fetal telencephalon at 13 weeks of gestation. Cells were transplanted into the cerebral lateral ventricles of neuron-specific enolase promoter-controlled APPsw-expressing (NSE/APPsw) transgenic mice at 13 months of age.
Implanted cells extensively migrated and engrafted, and some differentiated into neuronal and glial cells, although most hNSCs remained immature. The hNSC transplantation improved spatial memory in these mice, which also showed decreased tau phosphorylation and Aβ42 levels and attenuated microgliosis and astrogliosis. The hNSC transplantation reduced tau phosphorylation via Trk-dependent Akt/GSK3β signaling, down-regulated Aβ production through an Akt/GSK3β signaling-mediated decrease in BACE1, and decreased expression of inflammatory mediators through deactivation of microglia that was mediated by cell-to-cell contact, secretion of anti-inflammatory factors generated from hNSCs, or both. The hNSC transplantation also facilitated synaptic plasticity and anti-apoptotic function via trophic supplies. Furthermore, the safety and feasibility of hNSC transplantation are supported.
These findings demonstrate the hNSC transplantation modulates diverse AD pathologies and rescue impaired memory via multiple mechanisms in an AD model. Thus, our data provide tangible preclinical evidence that human NSC transplantation could be a safe and versatile approach for treating AD patients.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0035-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4546205  PMID: 26293123
Alzheimer’s disease; Human neural stem cells; Transplantation; Trophic factors; Glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β); Anti-inflammation
14.  MicroRNA-9 induces defective trafficking of Nav1.1 and Nav1.2 by targeting Navβ2 protein coding region in rat with chronic brain hypoperfusion 
Previous studies have demonstrated that the trafficking defects of Nav1.1/Nav1.2 are involved in the dementia pathophysiology. However, the detailed mechanisms are not fully understood. Moreover, whether the impaired miRNAs regulation linked to dementia is a key player in sodium channel trafficking disturbance remains unclear. The cognitive impairment induced by chronic cerebral ischemia through chronic brain hypoperfusion (CBH) is likely reason to precede dementia. Therefore, our goal in the present study was to examine the role of microRNA-9 (miR-9) in regulating Nav1.1/Nav1.2 trafficking under CBH generated by bilateral common carotid artery occlusion (2VO).
The impairment of Nav1.1/Nav1.2 trafficking and decreased expression of Navβ2 were found in the hippocampi and cortices of rats following CBH generated by bilateral 2VO. MiR-9 was increased in both the hippocampi and cortices of rats following CBH by qRT-PCR. Intriguingly, miR-9 suppressed, while AMO-miR-9 enhanced, the trafficking of Nav1.1/Nav1.2 from cytoplasm to cell membrane. Further study showed that overexpression of miR-9 inhibited the Navβ2 expression by targeting on its coding sequence (CDS) domain by dual luciferase assay. However, binding-site mutation or miR-masks failed to influence Navβ2 expression as well as Nav1.1/Nav1.2 trafficking process, indicating that Navβ2 is a potential target for miR-9. Lentivirus-mediated miR-9 overexpression also inhibited Navβ2 expression and elicited translocation deficits to cell membrane of Nav1.1/Nav1.2 in rats, whereas injection of lentivirus-mediated miR-9 knockdown could reverse the impaired trafficking of Nav1.1/Nav1.2 triggered by 2VO.
We conclude that miR-9 may play a key role in regulating the process of Nav1.1/Nav1.2 trafficking via targeting on Navβ2 protein in 2VO rats at post-transcriptional level, and inhibition of miR-9 may be a potentially valuable approach to prevent Nav1.1/Nav1.2 trafficking disturbance induced by CBH.
PMCID: PMC4530481  PMID: 26259688
microRNA-9; Chronic brain hypoperfusion; Sodium channel
15.  CRISPR/Cas9: a powerful genetic engineering tool for establishing large animal models of neurodegenerative diseases 
Animal models are extremely valuable to help us understand the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders and to find treatments for them. Since large animals are more like humans than rodents, they make good models to identify the important pathological events that may be seen in humans but not in small animals; large animals are also very important for validating effective treatments or confirming therapeutic targets. Due to the lack of embryonic stem cell lines from large animals, it has been difficult to use traditional gene targeting technology to establish large animal models of neurodegenerative diseases. Recently, CRISPR/Cas9 was used successfully to genetically modify genomes in various species. Here we discuss the use of CRISPR/Cas9 technology to establish large animal models that can more faithfully mimic human neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC4524001  PMID: 26238861
CRISPR/Cas9; Non-human primates; Neurodegenerative diseases; Animal model
16.  Brca1 is expressed in human microglia and is dysregulated in human and animal model of ALS 
There is growing evidence that microglia are key players in the pathological process of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It is suggested that microglia have a dual role in motoneurone degeneration through the release of both neuroprotective and neurotoxic factors.
To identify candidate genes that may be involved in ALS pathology we have analysed at early symptomatic age (P90), the molecular signature of microglia from the lumbar region of the spinal cord of hSOD1G93A mice, the most widely used animal model of ALS. We first identified unique hSOD1G93A microglia transcriptomic profile that, in addition to more classical processes such as chemotaxis and immune response, pointed toward the potential involvement of the tumour suppressor gene breast cancer susceptibility gene 1 (Brca1). Secondly, comparison with our previous data on hSOD1G93A motoneurone gene profile substantiated the putative contribution of Brca1 in ALS. Finally, we established that Brca1 protein is specifically expressed in human spinal microglia and is up-regulated in ALS patients.
Overall, our data provide new insights into the pathogenic concept of a non-cell-autonomous disease and the involvement of microglia in ALS. Importantly, the identification of Brca1 as a novel microglial marker and as possible contributor in both human and animal model of ALS may represent a valid therapeutic target. Moreover, our data points toward novel research strategies such as investigating the role of oncogenic proteins in neurodegenerative diseases.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0023-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4521418  PMID: 26227626
Microglia; Transcriptomics; hSOD1G93A mice; ALS patients; Brca1
17.  Conditional inactivation of Akt three isoforms causes tau hyperphosphorylation in the brain 
Tau hyperphosphorylation plays a critical role in neurodegenerative diseases [EMBO Mol Med. 6:1142-60, 2014; Annu Rev Neurosci. 24:1121-59, 2001]. Recent evidence has shown that Akt is down-regulated in AD [J Pathol. 225:54-62, 2011]. However, it remained unknown which pathological process, e.g. tau pathology or neuron death, Akt may contribute to. In this study, Cre-loxP technique was employed to generate a viable Akt three isoforms conditional knockout (Akt cTKO) mouse in which total Akt levels were dramatically reduced in the adult brain.
Significantly increased levels of tau phosphorylated (p-tau) at various sites were observed in Akt cTKO mice as compared to age-matched littermate controls. Increased levels for phosphorylated GSK3α and phosphorylated PKA substrates were detected in Akt cTKO brains. In contrast, no significant changes on p-tau levels were found in Akt1−/−, Akt2−/− or Akt3−/− mice.
Akt may regulate tau phosphorylation in the adult brain by affecting activities for PKA and GSK3α.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0030-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4521471  PMID: 26227811
Akt; Tau phosphorylation; Tau kinases; GSK3 and PKA
18.  Studies of lipopolysaccharide effects on the induction of α-synuclein pathology by exogenous fibrils in transgenic mice 
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that is pathologically characterized by loss of dopaminergic neurons from the substantia nigra, the presence of aggregated α-synuclein (αS) and evidence of neuroinflammation. Experimental studies have shown that the cerebral injection of recombinant fibrillar αS, especially in αS transgenic mouse models, can induce the formation and spread of αS inclusion pathology. However, studies reporting this phenomenon did not consider the presence of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the injected αS, produced in E. coli, as a potential confound. The objectives of this study are to develop a method to remove the LPS contamination and investigate the differences in pathologies induced by αS containing LPS or αS highly purified of LPS.
Results and conclusions
We were able to remove >99.5 % of the LPS contamination from the αS preparations through the addition of a cation exchange step during purification. The αS pathology induced by injection of fibrils produced from αS containing LPS or purified of LPS, showed a similar distribution pattern; however, there was less spread into the cortex of the mice injected with αS containing higher levels of LPS. As previously reported, injection of αS fibrils could induce astrogliosis, and αS inclusions were present within astrocytes in mice injected with fibrils comprised of αS with or without cation exchange purification. Furthermore, we identified the presence of αS pathology in ependymal cells in both groups of mice, which suggests the involvement of a novel mechanism for spread in this model of αS pathology.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0029-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4520273  PMID: 26223783
Lipopolysaccharide; α-synuclein pathology; Transgenic mice; Neuroinflammation; Parkinson’s disease
19.  Synaptotagmins interact with APP and promote Aβ generation 
Accumulation of the β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) is a major pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Recent studies have shown that synaptic Aβ toxicity may directly impair synaptic function. However, proteins regulating Aβ generation at the synapse have not been characterized. Here, we sought to identify synaptic proteins that interact with the extracellular domain of APP and regulate Aβ generation.
Affinity purification-coupled mass spectrometry identified members of the Synaptotagmin (Syt) family as novel interacting proteins with the APP ectodomain in mouse brains. Syt-1, −2 and −9 interacted with APP in cells and in mouse brains in vivo. Using a GST pull-down approach, we have further demonstrated that the Syt interaction site lies in the 108 amino acids linker region between the E1 and KPI domains of APP. Stable overexpression of Syt-1 or Syt-9 with APP in CHO and rat pheochromocytoma cells (PC12) significantly increased APP-CTF and sAPP levels, with a 2 to 3 fold increase in secreted Aβ levels in PC12 cells. Moreover, using a stable knockdown approach to reduce the expression of endogenous Syt-1 in PC12 cells, we have observed a ~ 50 % reduction in secreted Aβ generation. APP processing also decreased in these cells, shown by lower CTF levels. Lentiviral-mediated knock down of endogenous Syt-1 in mouse primary neurons also led to a significant reduction in both Aβ40 and Aβ42 generation. As secreted sAPPβ levels were significantly reduced in PC12 cells lacking Syt-1 expression, our results suggest that Syt-1 regulates Aβ generation by modulating BACE1-mediated cleavage of APP.
Altogether, our data identify the synaptic vesicle proteins Syt-1 and 9 as novel APP-interacting proteins that promote Aβ generation and thus may play an important role in the pathogenesis of AD.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0028-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4511450  PMID: 26202512
Alzheimer’s disease; APP; BACE1; Aβ; APP-interacting proteins; Synaptotagmin; Synaptic vesicles; Proteomics
20.  Reduced secreted clusterin as a mechanism for Alzheimer-associated CLU mutations 
The clusterin (CLU) gene has been identified as an important risk locus for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Although the actual risk–increasing polymorphisms at this locus remain to be identified, we previously observed an increased frequency of rare non-synonymous mutations and small insertion-deletions of CLU in AD patients, which specifically clustered in the β-chain domain of CLU. Nonetheless the pathogenic nature of these variants remained unclear.
Here we report a novel non-synonymous CLU mutation (p.I360N) in a Belgian Alzheimer patient and have explored the pathogenic nature of this and 10 additional CLU mutations on protein localization and secretion in vitro using immunocytochemistry, immunodetection and ELISAs.
Three patient-specific CLU mutations in the β-chain (p.I303NfsX13, p.R338W and p.I360N) caused an alteration of the subcellular CLU localization and diminished CLU transport through the secretory pathway, indicative of possible degradation mechanisms. For these mutations, significantly reduced CLU intensity was observed in the Golgi while almost all CLU protein was exclusively present in the endoplasmic reticulum. This was further confirmed by diminished CLU secretion in HEK293T and HEK293 FLp-In cell lines.
Our data lend further support to the contribution of rare coding CLU mutations in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. Functional analyses suggest reduced secretion of the CLU protein as the mode of action for three of the examined CLU mutations. One of those is a frameshift mutation leading to a loss of secreted protein, and the other two mutations are amino acid substitutions in the disulfide bridge region, possibly interfering with heterodimerization of the α- and β-chain of CLU.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0024-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4502563  PMID: 26179372
Alzheimer’s disease; Clusterin; Mutations; Rare variant; β-chain; Cell secretion; Golgi
21.  Regulation of human MAPT gene expression 
The number of known pathologies involving deregulated Tau expression/metabolism is increasing. Indeed, in addition to tauopathies, which comprise approximately 30 diseases characterized by neuronal aggregation of hyperphosphorylated Tau in brain neurons, this protein has also been associated with various other pathologies such as cancer, inclusion body myositis, and microdeletion/microduplication syndromes, suggesting its possible function in peripheral tissues. In addition to Tau aggregation, Tau deregulation can occur at the expression and/or splicing levels, as has been clearly demonstrated in some of these pathologies. Here, we aim to review current knowledge regarding the regulation of human MAPT gene expression at the DNA and RNA levels to provide a better understanding of its possible deregulation. Several aspects, including repeated motifs, CpG island/methylation, and haplotypes at the DNA level, as well as the key regions involved in mRNA expression and stability and the splicing patterns of different mRNA isoforms at the RNA level, will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4499907  PMID: 26170022
Tau; Tauopathy; MAPT; Alzheimer’s disease; Repeat sequences; CpG islands; Tau haplotype; Tau promoter; Tau splicing
22.  Cholestenoic acid, an endogenous cholesterol metabolite, is a potent γ-secretase modulator 
Amyloid-β (Aβ) 42 has been implicated as the initiating molecule in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD); thus, therapeutic strategies that target Aβ42 are of great interest. γ-Secretase modulators (GSMs) are small molecules that selectively decrease Aβ42. We have previously reported that many acidic steroids are GSMs with potencies ranging in the low to mid micromolar concentration with 5β-cholanic acid being the most potent steroid identified GSM with half maximal effective concentration (EC50) of 5.7 μM.
We find that the endogenous cholesterol metabolite, 3β-hydroxy-5-cholestenoic acid (CA), is a steroid GSM with enhanced potency (EC50 of 250 nM) relative to 5β-cholanic acid. CA i) is found in human plasma at ~100-300 nM concentrations ii) has the typical acidic GSM signature of decreasing Aβ42 and increasing Aβ38 levels iii) is active in in vitro γ-secretase assay iv) is made in the brain. To test if CA acts as an endogenous GSM, we used Cyp27a1 knockout (Cyp27a1−/−) and Cyp7b1 knockout (Cyp7b1−/−) mice to investigate if manipulation of cholesterol metabolism pathways relevant to CA formation would affect brain Aβ42 levels. Our data show that Cyp27a1−/− had increased brain Aβ42, whereas Cyp7b1−/− mice had decreased brain Aβ42 levels; however, peripheral dosing of up to 100 mg/kg CA did not affect brain Aβ levels. Structure-activity relationship (SAR) studies with multiple known and novel CA analogs studies failed to reveal CA analogs with increased potency.
These data suggest that CA may act as an endogenous GSM within the brain. Although it is conceptually attractive to try and increase the levels of CA in the brain for prevention of AD, our data suggest that this will not be easily accomplished.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0021-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4501119  PMID: 26169917
Cholestenoic acid; γ-secretase modulator (GSM); Amyloid; Alzheimer disease; Cholesterol; Steroid; Bile acid; Cytochrome P450
23.  Viral expression of ALS-linked ubiquilin-2 mutants causes inclusion pathology and behavioral deficits in mice 
UBQLN2 mutations have recently been associated with familial forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and ALS-dementia. UBQLN2 encodes for ubiquilin-2, a member of the ubiquitin-like protein family which facilitates delivery of ubiquitinated proteins to the proteasome for degradation. To study the potential role of ubiquilin-2 in ALS, we used recombinant adeno-associated viral (rAAV) vectors to express UBQLN2 and three of the identified ALS-linked mutants (P497H, P497S, and P506T) in primary neuroglial cultures and in developing neonatal mouse brains.
In primary cultures rAAV2/8-mediated expression of UBQLN2 mutants resulted in inclusion bodies and insoluble aggregates. Intracerebroventricular injection of FVB mice at post-natal day 0 with rAAV2/8 expressing wild type or mutant UBQLN2 resulted in widespread, sustained expression of ubiquilin-2 in brain. In contrast to wild type, mutant UBQLN2 expression induced significant pathology with large neuronal, cytoplasmic inclusions and ubiquilin-2-positive aggregates in surrounding neuropil. Ubiquilin-2 inclusions co-localized with ubiquitin, p62/SQSTM, optineurin, and occasionally TDP-43, but were negative for α-synuclein, neurofilament, tau, and FUS. Mutant UBLQN2 expression also resulted in Thioflavin-S-positive inclusions/aggregates. Mice expressing mutant forms of UBQLN2 variably developed a motor phenotype at 3–4 months, including nonspecific clasping and rotarod deficits.
These findings demonstrate that UBQLN2 mutants (P497H, P497S, and P506T) induce proteinopathy and cause behavioral deficits, supporting a “toxic” gain-of-function, which may contribute to ALS pathology. These data establish also that our rAAV model can be used to rapidly assess the pathological consequences of various UBQLN2 mutations and provides an agile system to further interrogate the molecular mechanisms of ubiquilins in neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC4495639  PMID: 26152284
Ubiquilin-2; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Proteinopathy; Somatic brain transgenesis; Mouse model
24.  Partial eNOS deficiency causes spontaneous thrombotic cerebral infarction, amyloid angiopathy and cognitive impairment 
Cerebral infarction due to thrombosis leads to the most common type of stroke and a likely cause of age-related cognitive decline and dementia. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) generates NO, which plays a crucial role in maintaining vascular function and exerting an antithrombotic action. Reduced eNOS expression and eNOS polymorphisms have been associated with stroke and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common type of dementia associated with neurovascular dysfunction. However, direct proof of such association is lacking. Since there are no reports of complete eNOS deficiency in humans, we used heterozygous eNOS+/- mice to mimic partial deficiency of eNOS, and determine its impact on cerebrovascular pathology and perfusion of cerebral vessels.
Combining cerebral angiography with immunohistochemistry, we found thrombotic cerebral infarctions in eNOS+/- mice as early as 3–6 months of age but not in eNOS+/+ mice at any age. Remarkably, vascular occlusions in eNOS+/- mice were found almost exclusively in three areas: temporoparietal and retrosplenial granular cortexes, and hippocampus this distribution precisely matching the hypoperfused areas identified in preclinical AD patients. Moreover, progressive cerebral amyloid angiopaphy (CAA), blood brain barrier (BBB) breakdown, and cognitive impairment were also detected in aged eNOS+/- mice.
These data provide for the first time the evidence that partial eNOS deficiency results in spontaneous thrombotic cerebral infarctions that increase with age, leading to progressive CAA and cognitive impairments. We thus conclude that eNOS+/- mouse may represent an ideal model of ischemic stroke to address early and progressive damage in spontaneously-evolving chronic cerebral ischemia and thus, study vascular mechanisms contributing to vascular dementia and AD.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13024-015-0020-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4479241  PMID: 26104027
Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS); Cerebral chronic hypoperfusion; Cerebral dysfunction; Thrombosis; Microvessel occlusion; Cerebral microinfarction; Vascular dementia; Cerebral amyloid angiopathy (CAA)
25.  Nigral overexpression of alpha-synuclein in the absence of parkin enhances alpha-synuclein phosphorylation but does not modulate dopaminergic neurodegeneration 
Alpha-synuclein is a key protein in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. Mutations in the parkin gene are the most common cause of early-onset autosomal recessive Parkinson’s disease, probably through a loss-of-function mechanism. However, the molecular mechanism by which loss of parkin function leads to the development of the disease and the role of alpha-synuclein in parkin-associated Parkinson’s disease is still not elucidated. Conflicting results were reported about the effect of the absence of parkin on alpha-synuclein-mediated neurotoxicity using a transgenic approach. In this study, we investigated the effect of loss of parkin on alpha-synuclein neuropathology and toxicity in adult rodent brain using viral vectors. Therefore, we overexpressed human wild type alpha-synuclein in the substantia nigra of parkin knockout and wild type mice using two different doses of recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors.
No difference was observed in nigral dopaminergic cell loss between the parkin knockout mice and wild type mice up to 16 weeks after viral vector injection. However, the level of alpha-synuclein phosphorylated at serine residue 129 in the substantia nigra was significantly increased in the parkin knockout mice compared to the wild type mice while the total expression level of alpha-synuclein was similar in both groups. The increased alpha-synuclein phosphorylation was confirmed in a parkin knockdown cell line.
These findings support a functional relationship between parkin and alpha-synuclein phosphorylation in rodent brain.
PMCID: PMC4477319  PMID: 26099628
Parkinson’s disease; Alpha-synuclein; Alpha-synuclein phosphorylation; Parkin; Adeno-associated viral vectors; Knockout

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