Tauopathies are characterized by intracellular deposition of the microtubule-associated protein tau as filamentous aggregates. The rTg4510 mouse conditionally expresses mutant human tau protein in various forebrain areas under the Tet-off expression system. Mice develop neurofibrillary tangles, with significant neuronal loss and cognitive deficits by 6 months of age. Previous behavioral and biochemical work has linked the expression and aggregates of mutant tau to functional impairments. The present work used manganese-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MEMRI) to investigate basal levels of brain activity in the rTg4510 and control mice.
Our results show an unmistakable curtailment of neural activity in the amygdala and hippocampus, two regions known for their role in memory formation, but not the cortex, cerebellum, striatum and hypothalamus in tau expressing mice.
Behavioral impairments associated with changes in activity in these areas may correspond to age progressive mutant tauP301L-induced neurodegeneration.
Tauopathy; Neurodegenerative disease; Alzheimer’s disease; rTg4510; Manganese enhanced MRI
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, especially affecting the hippocampus. Impairment of cognitive and memory functions is associated with amyloid β-peptide-induced oxidative stress and alterations in lipid metabolism. In this scenario, the dual role of peroxisomes in producing and removing ROS, and their function in fatty acids β-oxidation, may be critical. This work aims to investigating the possible involvement of peroxisomes in AD onset and progression, as studied in a transgenic mouse model, harboring the human Swedish familial AD mutation. We therefore characterized the peroxisomal population in the hippocampus, focusing on early, advanced, and late stages of the disease (3, 6, 9, 12, 18 months of age). Several peroxisome-related markers in transgenic and wild-type hippocampal formation were comparatively studied, by a combined molecular/immunohistochemical/ultrastructural approach.
Our results demonstrate early and significant peroxisomal modifications in AD mice, compared to wild-type. Indeed, the peroxisomal membrane protein of 70 kDa and acyl-CoA oxidase 1 are induced at 3 months, possibly reflecting the need for efficient fatty acid β-oxidation, as a compensatory response to mitochondrial dysfunction. The concomitant presence of oxidative damage markers and the altered expression of antioxidant enzymes argue for early oxidative stress in AD. During physiological and pathological brain aging, important changes in the expression of peroxisome-related proteins, also correlating with ongoing gliosis, occur in the hippocampus. These age- and genotype-based alterations, strongly dependent on the specific marker considered, indicate metabolic and/or numerical remodeling of peroxisomal population.
Overall, our data support functional and biogenetic relationships linking peroxisomes to mitochondria and suggest peroxisomal proteins as biomarkers/therapeutic targets in pre-symptomatic AD.
Peroxisome; Brain aging; Alzheimer’s disease; Neurodegeneration; Oxidative stress; Lipid metabolism; Catalase; Superoxide dismutase; Glutathione peroxidase; Acyl-CoA beta-oxidation
Lewy bodies (LB) are a neuropathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other synucleinopathies. The role their formation plays in disease pathogenesis is not well understood, in part because studies of LB have been limited to examination of post-mortem tissue. LB formation may be detrimental to neuronal survival or merely an adaptive response to other ongoing pathological processes. In a human cytoplasmic hybrid (cybrid) neural cell model that expresses mitochondrial DNA from PD patients, we observed spontaneous formation of intracellular protein aggregates (“cybrid LB” or CLB) that replicate morphological and biochemical properties of native, cortical LB. We studied mitochondrial morphology, bioenergetics and biogenesis signaling by creating stable sub-clones of three PD cybrid cell lines derived from cells expressing CLB.
Cloning based on CLB expression had a differential effect on mitochondrial morphology, movement and oxygen utilization in each of three sub-cloned lines, but no long-term change in CLB expression. In one line (PD63CLB), mitochondrial function declined compared to the original PD cybrid line (PD63Orig) due to low levels of mtDNA in nucleoids. In another cell line (PD61Orig), the reverse was true, and cellular and mitochondrial function improved after sub-cloning for CLB expression (PD61CLB). In the third cell line (PD67Orig), there was no change in function after selection for CLB expression (PD67CLB).
Expression of mitochondrial DNA derived from PD patients in cybrid cell lines induced the spontaneous formation of CLB. The creation of three sub-cloned cybrid lines from cells expressing CLB resulted in differential phenotypic changes in mitochondrial and cellular function. These changes were driven by the expression of patient derived mitochondrial DNA in nucleoids, rather than by the presence of CLB. Our studies suggest that mitochondrial DNA plays an important role in cellular and mitochondrial dysfunction in PD. Additional studies will be needed to assess the direct effect of CLB expression on cellular and mitochondrial function.
Although the mechanism of neuron loss in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is enigmatic, it is associated with cerebral accumulation of Aβ42. The 5XFAD mouse model of amyloid deposition expresses five familial AD (FAD) mutations that are additive in driving Aβ42 overproduction. 5XFAD mice exhibit intraneuronal Aβ42 accumulation at 1.5 months, amyloid deposition at 2 months, and memory deficits by 4 months of age.
Here, we demonstrate by unbiased stereology that statistically significant neuron loss occurs by 9 months of age in 5XFAD mice. We validated two Aβ42-selective antibodies by immunostaining 5XFAD; BACE1−/− bigenic brain sections and then used these antibodies to show that intraneuronal Aβ42 and amyloid deposition develop in the same regions where neuron loss is observed in 5XFAD brain. In 5XFAD neuronal soma, intraneuronal Aβ42 accumulates in puncta that co-label for Transferrin receptor and LAMP-1, indicating endosomal and lysosomal localization, respectively. In addition, in young 5XFAD brains, we observed activated Caspase-3 in the soma and proximal dendrites of intraneuronal Aβ42-labeled neurons. In older 5XFAD brains, we found activated Caspase-3-positive punctate accumulations that co-localize with the neuronal marker class III β-tubulin, suggesting neuron loss by apoptosis.
Together, our results indicate a temporal sequence of intraneuronal Aβ42 accumulation, Caspase-3 activation, and neuron loss that implies a potential apoptotic mechanism of neuron death in the 5XFAD mouse.
Intraneuronal Aβ42; 5XFAD; Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid-β; Caspase-3; Neuron loss; Apoptosis
A proline-to-serine substitution at position-56 (P56S) of vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B (VAPB) causes a form of dominantly inherited motor neuron disease (MND), including typical and atypical amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a mild late-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). VAPB is an integral endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein and has been implicated in various cellular processes, including ER stress, the unfolded protein response (UPR) and Ca2+ homeostasis. However, it is unclear how the P56S mutation leads to neurodegeneration and muscle atrophy in patients. The formation of abnormal VAPB-positive inclusions by mutant VAPB suggests a possible toxic gain of function as an underlying mechanism. Furthermore, the amount of VAPB protein is reported to be reduced in sporadic ALS patients and mutant SOD1G93A mice, leading to the hypothesis that wild type VAPB plays a role in the pathogenesis of ALS without VAPB mutations.
To investigate the pathogenic mechanism in vivo, we generated human wild type (wtVAPB) and mutant VAPB (muVAPB) transgenic mice that expressed the transgenes broadly in the CNS. We observed robust VAPB-positive aggregates in the spinal cord of muVAPB transgenic mice. However, we failed to find an impairment of motor function and motor neuron degeneration. We also did not detect any change in the endogenous VAPB level or evidence for induction of the unfolded protein response (UPR) and coaggregation of VAPA with muVAPB. Furthermore, we crossed these VAPB transgenic mice with mice that express mutant SOD1G93A and develop motor neuron degeneration. Overexpression of neither wtVAPB nor muVAPB modulated the protein aggregation and disease progression in the SOD1G93A mice.
Overexpression of VAPBP56S mutant to approximately two-fold of the endogenous VAPB in mouse spinal cord produced abundant VAPB aggregates but was not sufficient to cause motor dysfunction or motor neuron degeneration. Furthermore, overexpression of either muVAPB or wtVAPB does not modulate the course of ALS in SOD1G93A mice. These results suggest that changes in wild type VAPB do not play a significant role in ALS cases that are not caused by VAPB mutations. Furthermore, these results suggest that muVAPB aggregates are innocuous and do not cause motor neuron degeneration by a gain-of-toxicity, and therefore, a loss of function may be the underlying mechanism.
VAPB; ALS; Motor neuron disease; Neurodegeneration; Transgenic mice
A hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the presence of senile plaques in human brain primarily containing the amyloid peptides Aβ42 and Aβ40. Many drug discovery efforts have focused on decreasing the production of Aβ42 through γ-secretase inhibition. However, identification of γ-secretase inhibitors has also uncovered mechanism-based side effects. One approach to circumvent these side effects has been modulation of γ-secretase to shift Aβ production to favor shorter, less amyloidogenic peptides than Aβ42, without affecting the overall cleavage efficiency of the enzyme. This approach, frequently called γ-secretase modulation, appears more promising and has lead to the development of new therapeutic candidates for disease modification in Alzheimer’s disease.
Here we describe EVP-0015962, a novel small molecule γ-secretase modulator. EVP-0015962 decreased Aβ42 in H4 cells (IC50 = 67 nM) and increased the shorter Aβ38 by 1.7 fold at the IC50 for lowering of Aβ42. AβTotal, as well as other carboxyl-terminal fragments of amyloid precursor protein, were not changed. EVP-0015962 did not cause the accumulation of other γ-secretase substrates, such as the Notch and ephrin A4 receptors, whereas a γ-secretase inhibitor reduced processing of both. A single oral dose of EVP-0015962 (30 mg/kg) decreased Aβ42 and did not alter AβTotal peptide levels in a dose-dependent manner in Tg2576 mouse brain at an age when overt Aβ deposition was not present. In Tg2576 mice, chronic treatment with EVP-0015962 (20 or 60 mg/kg/day in a food formulation) reduced Aβ aggregates, amyloid plaques, inflammatory markers, and cognitive deficits.
EVP-0015962 is orally bioavailable, detected in brain, and a potent, selective γ-secretase modulator in vitro and in vivo. Chronic treatment with EVP-0015962 was well tolerated in mice and lowered the production of Aβ42, attenuated memory deficits, and reduced Aβ plaque formation and inflammation in Tg2576 transgenic animals. In summary, these data suggest that γ-secretase modulation with EVP-0015962 represents a viable therapeutic alternative for disease modification in Alzheimer’s disease.
γ-secretase; Modulation; NSAID; Cognition; Amyloid; Alzheimer’s disease
Mutations in either Aβ Precursor protein (APP) or genes that regulate APP processing, such as BRI2/ITM2B and PSEN1/PSEN2, cause familial dementias. Although dementias due to APP/PSEN1/PSEN2 mutations are classified as familial Alzheimer disease (FAD) and those due to mutations in BRI2/ITM2B as British and Danish dementias (FBD, FDD), data suggest that these diseases have a common pathogenesis involving toxic APP metabolites. It was previously shown that FAD mutations in APP and PSENs promote activation of caspases leading to the hypothesis that aberrant caspase activation could participate in AD pathogenesis.
Here, we tested whether a similar mechanism applies to the Danish BRI2/ITM2B mutation. We have generated a genetically congruous mouse model of FDD, called FDDKI, which presents memory and synaptic plasticity deficits. We found that caspase-9 is activated in hippocampal synaptic fractions of FDDKI mice and inhibition of caspase-9 activity rescues both synaptic plasticity and memory deficits.
These data directly implicate caspase-9 in the pathogenesis of Danish dementia and suggest that reducing caspase-9 activity is a valid therapeutic approach to treating human dementias.
The accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) oligomers or fibrils is thought to be one of the main causes of synaptic and neuron loss, believed to underlie cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Neuron loss has rarely been documented in amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic mouse models. We investigated whether two APP mouse models characterized by different folding states of amyloid showed different neuronal densities using an accurate method of cell counting.
We examined total cell and neuronal populations in Swedish/Indiana APP mutant mice (TgCRND8) with severe Aβ pathology that includes fibrils, plaques, and oligomers, and Dutch APP mutant mice with only Aβ oligomer pathology. Using the isotropic fractionator, we found no differences from control mice in regional total cell populations in either TgCRND8 or Dutch mice. However, there were 31.8% fewer hippocampal neurons in TgCRND8 compared to controls, while no such changes were observed in Dutch mice.
We show that the isotropic fractionator is a convenient method for estimating neuronal content in milligram quantities of brain tissue and represents a useful tool to assess cell loss efficiently in transgenic models with different types of neuropathology. Our data support the hypothesis that TgCRND8 mice with a spectrum of Aβ plaque, fibril, and oligomer pathology exhibit neuronal loss whereas Dutch mice with only oligomers, showed no evidence for neuronal loss. This suggests that the combination of plaques, fibrils, and oligomers causes more damage to mouse hippocampal neurons than Aβ oligomers alone.
Alzheimer’s disease; Mouse models; Amyloid beta (Aβ); Isotropic fractionator; Neuronal loss
Axonal pathology might constitute one of the earliest manifestations of Alzheimer disease. Axonal dystrophies were observed in Alzheimer’s patients and transgenic models at early ages. These axonal dystrophies could reflect the disruption of axonal transport and the accumulation of multiple vesicles at local points. It has been also proposed that dystrophies might interfere with normal intracellular proteolysis. In this work, we have investigated the progression of the hippocampal pathology and the possible implication in Abeta production in young (6 months) and aged (18 months) PS1(M146L)/APP(751sl) transgenic mice.
Our data demonstrated the existence of a progressive, age-dependent, formation of axonal dystrophies, mainly located in contact with congophilic Abeta deposition, which exhibited tau and neurofilament hyperphosphorylation. This progressive pathology was paralleled with decreased expression of the motor proteins kinesin and dynein. Furthermore, we also observed an early decrease in the activity of cathepsins B and D, progressing to a deep inhibition of these lysosomal proteases at late ages. This lysosomal impairment could be responsible for the accumulation of LC3-II and ubiquitinated proteins within axonal dystrophies. We have also investigated the repercussion of these deficiencies on the APP metabolism. Our data demonstrated the existence of an increase in the amyloidogenic pathway, which was reflected by the accumulation of hAPPfl, C99 fragment, intracellular Abeta in parallel with an increase in BACE and gamma-secretase activities. In vitro experiments, using APPswe transfected N2a cells, demonstrated that any imbalance on the proteolytic systems reproduced the in vivo alterations in APP metabolism. Finally, our data also demonstrated that Abeta peptides were preferentially accumulated in isolated synaptosomes.
A progressive age-dependent cytoskeletal pathology along with a reduction of lysosomal and, in minor extent, proteasomal activity could be directly implicated in the progressive accumulation of APP derived fragments (and Abeta peptides) in parallel with the increase of BACE-1 and gamma-secretase activities. This retard in the APP metabolism seemed to be directly implicated in the synaptic Abeta accumulation and, in consequence, in the pathology progression between synaptically connected regions.
Alzheimer’s disease; PS1/APP transgenic model; Dystrophic neurites; Tau phosphorylation. Cathepsin activity; APP processing; Abeta production
The definitive indicator of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology is the profuse accumulation of amyloid-ß (Aß) within the brain. Various in vitro and cell-based models have been proposed for high throughput drug screening for potential therapeutic benefit in diseases of protein misfolding. Caenorhabditis elegans offers a convenient in vivo system for examination of Aß accumulation and toxicity in a complex multicellular organism. Ease of culturing and a short life cycle make this animal model well suited to rapid screening of candidate compounds.
We have generated a new transgenic strain of C. elegans that expresses full length Aß1-42. This strain differs from existing Aß models that predominantly express amino-truncated Aß3-42. The Aß1-42 is expressed in body wall muscle cells, where it oligomerizes, aggregates and results in severe, and fully penetrant, age progressive-paralysis. The in vivo accumulation of Aß1-42 also stains positive for amyloid dyes, consistent with in vivo fibril formation. The utility of this model for identification of potential protective compounds was examined using the investigational Alzheimer’s therapeutic PBT2, shown to be neuroprotective in mouse models of AD and significantly improve cognition in AD patients. We observed that treatment with PBT2 provided rapid and significant protection against the Aß-induced toxicity in C. elegans.
This C. elegans model of full length Aß1-42 expression can now be adopted for use in screens to rapidly identify and assist in development of potential therapeutics and to study underlying toxic mechanism(s) of Aß.
Amyloid beta peptide; Alzheimer’s disease; Caenorhabditis elegans; 8-hydroxyquinoline; PBT2 and drug screen
Recent studies suggest that the chemotactic G-protein-coupled-receptor (GPCR) formyl-peptide-receptor-like-1 (FPRL1) and the receptor-for-advanced-glycation-end-products (RAGE) play an important role in the inflammatory response involved in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Therefore, the expression and co-localisation of mouse formyl peptide receptor (mFPR) 1 and 2 as well as RAGE in an APP/PS1 transgenic mouse model using immunofluorescence and real-time RT-PCR were analysed. The involvement of rat or human FPR1/FPRL1 (corresponds to mFPR1/2) and RAGE in amyloid-β 1–42 (Aβ1-42)-induced signalling were investigated by extracellular signal regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) phosphorylation. Furthermore, the cAMP level in primary rat glial cells (microglia and astrocytes) and transfected HEK 293 cells was measured. Formyl peptide receptors and RAGE were inhibited by a small synthetic antagonist WRW4 and an inactive receptor variant delta-RAGE, lacking the intracytoplasmatic domains.
We demonstrated a strong increase of mFPR1/2 and RAGE expression in the cortex and hippocampus of APP/PS1 transgenic mice co-localised to the glial cells. In addition, the Aβ1-42-induced signal transduction is dependant on FPRL1, but also on FPR1. For the first time, we have shown a functional interaction between FPRL1/FPR1 and RAGE in RAGE ligands S100B- or AGE-mediated signalling by ERK1/2 phosphorylation and cAMP level measurement. In addition a possible physical interaction between FPRL1 as well as FPR1 and RAGE was shown with co-immunoprecipitation and fluorescence microscopy.
The results suggest that both formyl peptide receptors play an essential role in Aβ1-42-induced signal transduction in glial cells. The interaction with RAGE could explain the broad ligand spectrum of formyl peptide receptors and their important role for inflammation and the host defence against infections.
Alzheimer disease; Amyloid beta 1–42; S100B; Formyl peptide receptor; Glial cell; Astrocytes; Microglia; RAGE; Signal transduction
The protein aggregation that occurs in neurodegenerative diseases is classically thought to occur as an undesirable, nonfunctional byproduct of protein misfolding. This model contrasts with the biology of RNA binding proteins, many of which are linked to neurodegenerative diseases. RNA binding proteins use protein aggregation as part of a normal regulated, physiological mechanism controlling protein synthesis. The process of regulated protein aggregation is most evident in formation of stress granules. Stress granules assemble when RNA binding proteins aggregate through their glycine rich domains. Stress granules function to sequester, silence and/or degrade RNA transcripts as part of a mechanism that adapts patterns of local RNA translation to facilitate the stress response. Aggregation of RNA binding proteins is reversible and is tightly regulated through pathways, such as phosphorylation of elongation initiation factor 2α. Microtubule associated protein tau also appears to regulate stress granule formation. Conversely, stress granule formation stimulates pathological changes associated with tau. In this review, I propose that the aggregation of many pathological, intracellular proteins, including TDP-43, FUS or tau, proceeds through the stress granule pathway. Mutations in genes coding for stress granule associated proteins or prolonged physiological stress, lead to enhanced stress granule formation, which accelerates the pathophysiology of protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases. Over-active stress granule formation could act to sequester functional RNA binding proteins and/or interfere with mRNA transport and translation, each of which might potentiate neurodegeneration. The reversibility of the stress granule pathway also offers novel opportunities to stimulate endogenous biochemical pathways to disaggregate these pathological stress granules, and perhaps delay the progression of disease.
Stress granule; TIA-1; TIAR; TTP; G3BP; Prion protein; Microtubule associated protein tau; TDP-43; FUS; FMRP; Prion protein protein synthesis; RNA translation; Alzheimer’s disease; Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Motor neuron disease; Frontotemporal dementia
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the selective loss of upper and lower motor neurons, a cell type that is intrinsically more vulnerable than other cell types to exogenous stress. The interplay between genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures to toxins has long been thought to be relevant to ALS. One cellular mechanism to overcome stress is the formation of small dense cytoplasmic domains called stress granules (SG) which contain translationally arrested mRNAs. TDP-43 (encoded by TARDBP) is an ALS-causative gene that we have previously implicated in the regulation of the core stress granule proteins G3BP and TIA-1. TIA-1 and G3BP localize to SG under nearly all stress conditions and are considered essential to SG formation. Here, we report that TDP-43 is required for proper SG dynamics, especially SG assembly as marked by the secondary aggregation of TIA-1. We also show that SG assembly, but not initiation, requires G3BP. Furthermore, G3BP can rescue defective SG assembly in cells depleted of endogenous TDP-43. We also demonstrate that endogenous TDP-43 and FUS do not have overlapping functions in this cellular process as SG initiation and assembly occur normally in the absence of FUS. Lastly, we observe that SG assembly is a contributing factor in the survival of neuronal-like cells responding to acute oxidative stress. These data raise the possibility that disruptions of normal stress granule dynamics by loss of nuclear TDP-43 function may contribute to neuronal vulnerability in ALS.
TDP-43; Stress granules; FUS/TLS; G3BP; TIA-1; ALS; Cell death; Oxidative stress
Mutations in the gene encoding the RNA-binding protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) can cause familial and sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and rarely frontotemproal dementia (FTD). FUS accumulates in neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions (NCIs) in ALS patients with FUS mutations. FUS is also a major pathologic marker for a group of less common forms of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which includes atypical FTLD with ubiquitinated inclusions (aFTLD-U), neuronal intermediate filament inclusion disease (NIFID) and basophilic inclusion body disease (BIBD). These diseases are now called FUS proteinopathies, because they share this disease marker. It is unknown how FUS mutations cause disease and the role of FUS in FTD-FUS cases, which do not have FUS mutations. In this paper we report the development of somatic brain transgenic (SBT) mice using recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV) to investigate how FUS mutations lead to neurodegeneration.
We compared SBT mice expressing wild-type human FUS (FUSWT), and two ALS-linked mutations: FUSR521C and FUSΔ14, which lacks the nuclear localization signal. Both FUS mutants accumulated in the cytoplasm relative to FUSWT. The degree of this shift correlated with the severity of the FUS mutation as reflected by disease onset in humans. Mice expressing the most aggressive mutation, FUSΔ14, recapitulated many aspects of FUS proteinopathies, including insoluble FUS, basophilic and eosiniphilic NCIs, and other pathologic markers, including ubiquitin, p62/SQSTM1, α-internexin, and the poly-adenylate(A)-binding protein 1 (PABP-1). However, TDP-43 did not localize to inclusions.
Our data supports the hypothesis that ALS or FTD-linked FUS mutations cause neurodegeneration by increasing cyotplasmic FUS. Accumulation of FUS in the cytoplasm may retain RNA targets and recruit additional RNA-binding proteins, such as PABP-1, into stress-granule like aggregates that coalesce into permanent inclusions that could negatively affect RNA metabolism. Identification of mutations in other genes that cause ALS/FTD, such as C9ORF72, sentaxin, and angiogenin, lends support to the idea that defective RNA metabolism is a critical pathogenic pathway. The SBT FUS mice described here will provide a valuable platform for dissecting the pathogenic mechanism of FUS mutations, define the relationship between FTD and ALS-FUS, and help identify therapeutic targets that are desperately needed for these devastating neurodegenerative disorders.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Fused in sarcoma proteinopathies; Transgenic mouse models; Adeno-associated virus; Neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions; Ubiquitin; p62/SQSTM1; α-internexin; PABP-1; Stress granules; RNA dysfunction
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a complex age-related pathology, the etiology of which has not been firmly delineated. Among various histological stigmata, AD-affected brains display several cellular dysfunctions reflecting enhanced oxidative stress, inflammation process and calcium homeostasis disturbance. Most of these alterations are directly or indirectly linked to amyloid β-peptides (Aβ), the production, molecular nature and biophysical properties of which likely conditions the degenerative process. It is particularly noticeable that, in a reverse control process, the above-described cellular dysfunctions alter Aβ peptides levels. β-secretase βAPP-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is a key molecular contributor of this cross-talk. This enzyme is responsible for the primary cleavage generating the N-terminus of “full length” Aβ peptides and is also transcriptionally induced by several cellular stresses. This review summarizes data linking brain insults to AD-like pathology and documents the key role of BACE1 at the cross-road of a vicious cycle contributing to Aβ production.
Alzheimer’s disease; BACE1; Inflammation; Oxidative stress; Calcium
Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by deficiency of the mitochondrial iron chaperone frataxin (Fxn). FRDA has no cure, but disease-modifying strategies to increase frataxin are under study. Because insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) has therapeutic effects in various types of cerebellar ataxia and exerts protective actions on mitochondrial function, we explored the potential Fxn-stimulating activity of this growth factor on brain cells.
IGF-I normalized frataxin levels in frataxin-deficient neurons and astrocytes through its canonical Akt/mTOR signaling pathway. IGF-I also stimulated frataxin in normal astrocytes but not in normal neurons, whereas IGF-I stimulated the Akt/mTOR pathway in both types of cells. This cell context-dependent action of IGF-I on neurons suggested that the intrinsic regulation of Fxn in neurons is different than in astrocytes. Indeed, neurons express much higher levels of frataxin and are much more sensitive to Fxn deficiency than astrocytes; i.e.: only neurons die in the absence of frataxin. In addition, the half-life of frataxin is shorter in neurons than in astrocytes, while after blockade of the proteasome only neurons responded to IGF-I with an increase in frataxin levels. We also explore a potential therapeutic utility of IGF-I in FRDA-like transgenic mice (YG8R mice) and found that treatment with IGF-I normalized motor coordination in these moderately ataxic mice.
Exposure to IGF-I unveiled a cell-specific regulation of frataxin in neurons as compared to astrocytes. Collectively, these results indicate that IGF-I exerts cell-context neuroprotection in frataxin deficiency that maybe therapeutically effective.
Friedreich’s ataxia; Frataxin; Insulin-like growth factor 1; Neuroprotection
One of the best-characterized causative factors of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the generation of amyloid-β peptide (Aβ). AD subjects are at high risk of epileptic seizures accompanied by aberrant neuronal excitability, which in itself enhances Aβ generation. However, the molecular linkage between epileptic seizures and Aβ generation in AD remains unclear.
X11 and X11-like (X11L) gene knockout mice suffered from epileptic seizures, along with a malfunction of hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide gated (HCN) channels. Genetic ablation of HCN1 in mice and HCN1 channel blockage in cultured Neuro2a (N2a) cells enhanced Aβ generation. Interestingly, HCN1 levels dramatically decreased in the temporal lobe of cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) during aging and were significantly diminished in the temporal lobe of sporadic AD patients.
Because HCN1 associates with amyloid-β precursor protein (APP) and X11/X11L in the brain, genetic deficiency of X11/X11L may induce aberrant HCN1 distribution along with epilepsy. Moreover, the reduction in HCN1 levels in aged primates may contribute to augmented Aβ generation. Taken together, HCN1 is proposed to play an important role in the molecular linkage between epileptic seizures and Aβ generation, and in the aggravation of sporadic AD.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a multifactorial disease where environmental factors act on genetically predisposed individuals. Although only 5% of PD manifestations are associated with specific mutations, majority of PD cases are of idiopathic origin, where environment plays a prominent role. Concurrent exposure to Paraquat (PQ) and Maneb (MB) in rural workers increases the risk for PD and exposure of adult mice to MB/PQ results in dopamine fiber loss and decreased locomotor activity. While PD is characterized by neuronal loss in the substantia nigra, we previously showed that accumulation of α-synuclein in the limbic system contributes to neurodegeneration by interfering with adult neurogenesis.
We investigated the effect of pesticides on adult hippocampal neurogenesis in two transgenic models: Line 61, expressing the human wild type SNCA gene and Line LRRK2(G2019S), expressing the human LRRK2 gene with the mutation G2019S. Combined exposure to MB/PQ resulted in significant reduction of neuronal precursors and proliferating cells in non-transgenic animals, and this effect was increased in transgenic mice, in particular for Line 61, suggesting that α-synuclein accumulation and environmental toxins have a synergistic effect. We further investigated the transcription of 84 genes with direct function on neurogenesis. Overexpresion of α-synuclein resulted in the downregulation of 12% of target genes, most of which were functionally related to cell differentiation, while LRRK2 mutation had a minor impact on gene expression. MB/PQ also affected transcription in non-transgenic backgrounds, but when transgenic mice were exposed to the pesticides, profound alterations in gene expression affecting 27% of the studied targets were observed in both transgenic lines. Gene enrichment analysis showed that 1:3 of those genes were under the regulation of FoxF2 and FoxO3A, suggesting a primary role of these proteins in the response to genetic and environmental cues.
We report that adult neurogenesis is highly susceptible to multiple “risk factors” for PD, including α-synuclein accumulation, LRRK2 G2019 mutation and exposure to environmental toxins. We identified specific groups of genes that are responsive to each stressor, while uncovering a novel function for Fox transcription factors in PD.
Adult neurogenesis; Parkinson’s disease; Maneb; Paraquat; Pesticides; Environmental exposure; Gene expression; Gene x environment interactions
Macroautophagy is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for bulk intracellular degradation of proteins and organelles. Pathological studies have implicated macroautophagy defects in human neurodegenerative disorders of aging including Alzheimer’s disease and tauopathies. Neuronal deficiency of macroautophagy throughout mouse embryonic development results in neurodevelopmental defects and early postnatal mortality. However, the role of macroautophagy in mature CNS neurons, and the relationship with human disease neuropathology, remains unclear. Here we describe mice deficient in an essential macroautophagy component, Atg7, specifically within postnatal CNS neurons.
Postnatal forebrain-specific Atg7 conditional knockout (cKO) mice displayed age-dependent neurodegeneration and ubiquitin- and p62-positive inclusions. Phosphorylated tau was significantly accumulated in Atg7 cKO brains, but neurofibrillary tangles that typify end-stage human tauopathy were not apparent. A major tau kinase, glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), was also accumulated in Atg7 cKO brains. Chronic pharmacological inhibition of tau phosphorylation, or genetic deletion of tau, significantly rescued Atg7-deficiency-mediated neurodegeneration, but did not suppress inclusion formation.
These data elucidate a role for macroautophagy in the long-term survival and physiological function of adult CNS neurons. Neurodegeneration in the context of macroautophagy deficiency is mediated through a phospho-tau pathway.
The transcription factor NFκB is an important mediator of cell survival and inflammation in the immune system. In the central nervous system (CNS), NFκB signaling has been implicated in regulating neuronal survival following acute pathologic damage such as traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke. NFκB is normally bound by the principal inhibitory protein, IκBα, and sequestered in the cytoplasm. Activation of NFκB requires the degradation of IκBα, thereby freeing NFκB to translocate to the nucleus and activate the target genes. Mice deficient in IκBα display deregulated and sustained NFκB activation and early postnatal lethality, highlighting a critical role of IκBα in NFκB regulation.
We investigated the role of IκBα in regulating NFκB activity in the brain and the effects of the NFκB/IκBα pathway in mediating neuroinflammation under both physiological and brain injury conditions. We report that astrocytes, but not neurons, exhibit prominent NFκB activity, and that basal NFκB activity in astrocytes is elevated in the absence of IκBα. By generating mice with brain-specific deletion of IκBα, we show that IκBα deficiency does not compromise normal brain development. However, basal neuroinflammation detected by GFAP and Iba1 immunoreactivity is elevated. This leads to impaired inflammatory responses following TBI and worsened brain damage including higher blood brain barrier permeability, increased injury volumes and enlarged ventricle volumes.
We conclude that, in the CNS, astrocyte is the primary cell type subject to NFκB regulation. We further demonstrate that IκBα plays an important role in regulating NFκB activity in the brain and a robust NFκB/IκBα-mediated neuroinflammatory response immediately following TBI is beneficial.
NFκB; IκBα; Conditional knockout mice; TBI; Neuroinflammation; Cerebral blood flow; MRI
Proteases that degrade the amyloid ß-protein (Aß) have emerged as key players in the etiology and potential treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but it is unlikely that all such proteases have been identified. To discover new Aß-degrading proteases (AßDPs), we conducted an unbiased, genome-scale, functional cDNA screen designed to identify proteases capable of lowering net Aß levels produced by cells, which were subsequently characterized for Aß-degrading activity using an array of downstream assays.
The top hit emerging from the screen was ß-site amyloid precursor protein-cleaving enzyme 2 (BACE2), a rather unexpected finding given the well-established role of its close homolog, BACE1, in the production of Aß. BACE2 is known to be capable of lowering Aß levels via non-amyloidogenic processing of APP. However, in vitro, BACE2 was also found to be a particularly avid AßDP, with a catalytic efficiency exceeding all known AßDPs except insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE). BACE1 was also found to degrade Aß, albeit ~150-fold less efficiently than BACE2. Aß is cleaved by BACE2 at three peptide bonds—Phe19-Phe20, Phe20-Ala21, and Leu34-Met35—with the latter cleavage site being the initial and principal one. BACE2 overexpression in cultured cells was found to lower net Aß levels to a greater extent than multiple, well-established AßDPs, including neprilysin (NEP) and endothelin-converting enzyme-1 (ECE1), while showing comparable effectiveness to IDE.
This study identifies a new functional role for BACE2 as a potent AßDP. Based on its high catalytic efficiency, its ability to degrade Aß intracellularly, and other characteristics, BACE2 represents a particulary strong therapeutic candidate for the treatment or prevention of AD.
Amyloid-ß-protein; Alzheimer disease; ß-site APP-cleaving enzyme-1; ß-site APP-cleaving enzyme-2; Functional screen; Gene therapy; Protease; Proteolytic degradation
Dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the ventral midbrain selectively degenerate in Parkinson’s disease (PD) in part because their oxidative environment in the substantia nigra (SN) may render them vulnerable to neuroinflammatory stimuli. Chronic inhibition of soluble Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) with dominant-negative TNF inhibitors protects DA neurons in rat models of parkinsonism, yet the molecular mechanisms and pathway(s) that mediate TNF toxicity remain(s) to be clearly identified. Here we investigated the contribution of ceramide sphingolipid signaling in TNF-dependent toxicity.
Ceramide dose-dependently reduced the viability of DA neuroblastoma cells and primary DA neurons and pharmacological inhibition of sphingomyelinases (SMases) with three different inhibitors during TNF treatment afforded significant neuroprotection by attenuating increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, caspase-3 activation and decreases in Akt phosphorylation. Using lipidomics mass spectrometry we confirmed that TNF treatment not only promotes generation of ceramide, but also leads to accumulation of several atypical deoxy-sphingoid bases (DSBs). Exposure of DA neuroblastoma cells to atypical DSBs in the micromolar range reduced cell viability and inhibited neurite outgrowth and branching in primary DA neurons, suggesting that TNF-induced de novo synthesis of atypical DSBs may be a secondary mechanism involved in mediating its neurotoxicity in DA neurons.
We conclude that TNF/TNFR1-dependent activation of SMases generates ceramide and sphingolipid species that promote degeneration and caspase-dependent cell death of DA neurons. Ceramide and atypical DSBs may represent novel drug targets for development of neuroprotective strategies that can delay or attenuate the progressive loss of nigral DA neurons in patients with PD.
Neuroinflammation; TNF; Ceramide; Sphingolipids; Neuronal apoptosis; Neurodegeneration; ER stress; Caspase; Akt
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal disorder involving the degeneration and loss of motor neurons. The mechanisms of motor neuron loss in ALS are unknown and there are no effective treatments. Defects in the distal axon and at the neuromuscular junction are early events in the disease course, and zebrafish provide a promising in vivo system to examine cellular mechanisms and treatments for these events in ALS pathogenesis.
We demonstrate that transient genetic manipulation of zebrafish to express G93A-SOD1, a mutation associated with familial ALS, results in early defects in motor neuron outgrowth and axonal branching. This is consistent with previous reports on motor neuron axonal defects associated with familial ALS genes following knockdown or mutant protein overexpression. We also demonstrate that upregulation of growth factor signaling is capable of rescuing these early defects, validating the potential of the model for therapeutic discovery. We generated stable transgenic zebrafish lines expressing G93A-SOD1 to further characterize the consequences of G93A-SOD1 expression on neuromuscular pathology and disease progression. Behavioral monitoring reveals evidence of motor dysfunction and decreased activity in transgenic ALS zebrafish. Examination of neuromuscular and neuronal pathology throughout the disease course reveals a loss of neuromuscular junctions and alterations in motor neuron innervations patterns with disease progression. Finally, motor neuron cell loss is evident later in the disease.
This sequence of events reflects the stepwise mechanisms of degeneration in ALS, and provides a novel model for mechanistic discovery and therapeutic development for neuromuscular degeneration in ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); Motor neuron (MN); Zebrafish; Cu2+/Zn2+ superoxide dismutase (SOD1); G93A-SOD1; Neuromuscular junction; Neurodegeneration
Huntington's Disease (HD) is a fatal hereditary neurodegenerative disease caused by the accumulation of mutant huntingtin protein (Htt) containing an expanded polyglutamine (polyQ) tract. Activation of the channel responsible for the inositol-induced Ca2+ release from ensoplasmic reticulum (ER), was found to contribute substantially to neurodegeneration in HD. Importantly, chemical and genetic inhibition of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) receptor type 1 (IP3R1) has been shown to reduce mutant Htt aggregation.
In this study, we propose a novel regulatory mechanism of IP3R1 activity by type III intermediate filament vimentin which sequesters the negative regulator of IP3R1, IRBIT, into perinuclear inclusions, and reduces its interaction with IP3R1 resulting in promotion of mutant Htt aggregation. Proteasome inhibitor MG132, which causes polyQ proteins accumulation and aggregation, enhanced the sequestration of IRBIT. Furthermore we found that IRBIT sequestration can be prevented by a rho kinase inhibitor, Y-27632.
Our results suggest that vimentin represents a novel and additional target for the therapy of polyQ diseases.
Vimentin; IP3R1; IRBIT; Rho-kinase; Huntingtin; Aggregation
Aggregation of alpha-synuclein (αsyn) and resulting cytotoxicity is a hallmark of sporadic and familial Parkinson’s disease (PD) as well as dementia with Lewy bodies, with recent evidence implicating oligomeric and pre-fibrillar forms of αsyn as the pathogenic species. Recent in vitro studies support the idea of transcellular spread of extracellular, secreted αsyn across membranes. The aim of this study is to characterize the transcellular spread of αsyn oligomers and determine their extracellular location.
Using a novel protein fragment complementation assay where αsyn is fused to non-bioluminescent amino-or carboxy-terminus fragments of humanized Gaussia Luciferase we demonstrate here that αsyn oligomers can be found in at least two extracellular fractions: either associated with exosomes or free. Exosome-associated αsyn oligomers are more likely to be taken up by recipient cells and can induce more toxicity compared to free αsyn oligomers. Specifically, we determine that αsyn oligomers are present on both the outside as well as inside of exosomes. Notably, the pathway of secretion of αsyn oligomers is strongly influenced by autophagic activity.
Our data suggest that αsyn may be secreted via different secretory pathways. We hypothesize that exosome-mediated release of αsyn oligomers is a mechanism whereby cells clear toxic αsyn oligomers when autophagic mechanisms fail to be sufficient. Preventing the early events in αsyn exosomal release and uptake by inducing autophagy may be a novel approach to halt disease spreading in PD and other synucleinopathies.
Alpha synuclein; Oligomers; Exosomes; Parkinson’s disease; Aggregation; Secretion