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1.  Epigenetic regulation of adult neural stem cells: implications for Alzheimer’s disease 
Experimental evidence has demonstrated that several aspects of adult neural stem cells (NSCs), including their quiescence, proliferation, fate specification and differentiation, are regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. These control the expression of specific sets of genes, often including those encoding for small non-coding RNAs, indicating a complex interplay between various epigenetic factors and cellular functions.
Previous studies had indicated that in addition to the neuropathology in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), plasticity-related changes are observed in brain areas with ongoing neurogenesis, like the hippocampus and subventricular zone. Given the role of stem cells e.g. in hippocampal functions like cognition, and given their potential for brain repair, we here review the epigenetic mechanisms relevant for NSCs and AD etiology. Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in the epigenetic regulation of adult NSCs will advance our knowledge on the role of adult neurogenesis in degeneration and possibly regeneration in the AD brain.
PMCID: PMC4080757  PMID: 24964731
Adult neurogenesis; Epigenetics; Alzheimer’s disease; DNA methylation; Histone modifications; MicroRNAs; Stem cell; Induced pluripotent stem cell
2.  Prevention of intestinal obstruction reveals progressive neurodegeneration in mutant TDP-43 (A315T) mice 
Intraneuronal inclusions of TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) have been found in the majority of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) patients. Mutations in the gene encoding TDP-43 cause familial ALS. Transgenic mice expressing mutant TDP-43 with one such mutation (TDP-43 (A315T)) under control of the murine prion promoter develop motor symptoms, but their use is currently hampered by sudden death. We aimed to understand and overcome the cause of sudden death in TDP-43 (A315T) mice. Since intestinal obstruction was suspected to be the cause, intestinal motility of TDP-43 (A315T) mice was studied in an ex-vivo pellet propulsion assay. The effect on the enteric and motor phenotype was assessed, both in animals on normal chow or on a jellified fiber deprived diet, aimed at preventing intestinal obstruction.
The frequency of the propulsive motor complexes was significantly reduced in the colon of TDP-43 (A315T) compared to non transgenic (NTG) mice. Immunohistochemistry revealed significant enlargement in size and reduction in number of the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) neurons in the myenteric plexus of TDP-43 (A315T) mice. Prevention of intestinal obstruction by jellified food abolished sudden death, allowing the motor phenotype to develop and slowly progress with a more pronounced degeneration of upper and lower motor axons. A downregulation of endogenous TDP-43 mRNA and protein levels was observed prior to neurodegeneration.
TDP-43 (A315T) mice suffer from intestinal dysmotility due to degeneration of NOS neurons in the myenteric plexus. Feeding the mice jellified food prevents sudden death and allows the motor phenotype to progress.
PMCID: PMC4088917  PMID: 24938805
ALS; TDP43; Gastro-intestinal tract; Neurodegeneration; Enteric nervous system
3.  Identification of longitudinally dynamic biomarkers in Alzheimer’s disease cerebrospinal fluid by targeted proteomics 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia affecting greater than 26 million people worldwide. Although cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of Aβ42, tau, and p-tau181 are well established as diagnostic biomarkers of AD, there is a need for additional CSF biomarkers of neuronal function that continue to change during disease progression and could be used as pharmacodynamic measures in clinical trials. Multiple proteomic discovery experiments have reported a range of CSF biomarkers that differ between AD and control subjects. These potential biomarkers represent multiple aspects of the disease pathology. The performance of these markers has not been compared with each other, and their performance has not been evaluated longitudinally.
We developed a targeted-proteomic, multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) assay for the absolute quantitation of 39 peptides corresponding to 30 proteins. We evaluated the candidate biomarkers in longitudinal CSF samples collected from aged, cognitively-normal control (n = 10), MCI (n = 5), and AD (n = 45) individuals (age > 60 years). We evaluated each biomarker for diagnostic sensitivity, longitudinal consistency, and compared with CSF Aβ42, tau, and p-tau181. Four of 28 quantifiable CSF proteins were significantly different between aged, cognitively-normal controls and AD subjects including chitinase-3-like protein 1, reproducing published results. Four CSF markers demonstrated significant longitudinal change in AD: Amyloid precursor protein, Neuronal pentraxin receptor, NrCAM and Chromogranin A. Robust correlations were observed within some subgroups of proteins including the potential disease progression markers.
Using a targeted proteomics approach, we confirmed previous findings for a subset of markers, defined longitudinal performance of our panel of markers, and established a flexible proteomics method for robust multiplexed analyses.
PMCID: PMC4061120  PMID: 24902845
Alzheimer’s disease; Cerebrospinal fluid; Biomarkers; Mass spectrometry; LC-MS; Targeted-proteomics; Multiple-reaction monitoring
4.  Ryanodine receptors: physiological function and deregulation in Alzheimer disease 
Perturbed Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis emerges as a central player in Alzheimer disease (AD). Accordingly, different studies have reported alterations of the expression and the function of Ryanodine Receptors (RyR) in human AD-affected brains, in cells expressing familial AD-linked mutations on the β amyloid precursor protein (βAPP) and presenilins (the catalytic core in γ-secretase complexes cleaving the βAPP, thereby generating amyloid β (Aβ) peptides), as well as in the brain of various transgenic AD mice models. Data converge to suggest that RyR expression and function alteration are associated to AD pathogenesis through the control of: i) βAPP processing and Aβ peptide production, ii) neuronal death; iii) synaptic function; and iv) memory and learning abilities. In this review, we document the network of evidences suggesting that RyR could play a complex dual “compensatory/protective versus pathogenic” role contributing to the setting of histopathological lesions and synaptic deficits that are associated with the disease stages. We also discuss the possible mechanisms underlying RyR expression and function alterations in AD. Finally, we review recent publications showing that drug-targeting blockade of RyR and genetic manipulation of RyR reduces Aβ production, stabilizes synaptic transmission, and prevents learning and memory deficits in various AD mouse models. Chemically-designed RyR “modulators” could therefore be envisioned as new therapeutic compounds able to delay or block the progression of AD.
PMCID: PMC4063224  PMID: 24902695
Ryanodine receptor; Calcium; Alzheimer disease; Endoplasmic reticulum; Neurodegeneration; Presenilin; Amyloid precursor protein; Amyloid beta
5.  Altered microglial response to Aβ plaques in APPPS1-21 mice heterozygous for TREM2 
Recent genome-wide association studies linked variants in TREM2 to a strong increase in the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The mechanism by which TREM2 influences the susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease is currently unknown. TREM2 is expressed by microglia and is thought to regulate phagocytic and inflammatory microglial responses to brain pathology. Given that a single allele of variant TREM2, likely resulting in a loss of function, conferred an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, we tested whether loss of one functional trem2 allele would affect Aβ plaque deposition or the microglial response to Aβ pathology in APPPS1-21 mice.
There was no significant difference in Aβ deposition in 3-month old or 7-month old APPPS1-21 mice expressing one or two copies of trem2. However, 3-month old mice with one copy of trem2 exhibited a marked decrease in the number and size of plaque-associated microglia. While there were no statistically significant differences in cytokine levels or markers of microglial activation in 3- or 7-month old animals, there were trends towards decreased expression of NOS2, C1qa, and IL1a in 3-month old TREM2+/− vs. TREM2+/+ mice.
Loss of a single copy of trem2 had no effect on Aβ pathology, but altered the morphological phenotype of plaque-associated microglia. These data suggest that TREM2 is important for the microglial response to Aβ deposition but that a 50% decrease inTREM2 expression does not affect Aβ plaque burden.
PMCID: PMC4049806  PMID: 24893973
Alzheimer’s disease; TREM2; Microglia; Amyloid β
6.  Simplified method to perform CLARITY imaging 
Imaging methods are used widely to understand structure of brain and other biological objects. However, sample penetration by light microscopy is limited due to light scattering by the tissue. A number of methods have been recently developed to solve this problem. In one approach (SeeDB) simple procedure for clarifying brain samples for imaging was described. However, this method is not compatible with immunostaining approach as SeeDB-prepared tissue is not permeable to the antibodies. Another technique for clearing brain tissue (CLARITY) was optimized for immunochemistry, but this method technically much more demanding than SeeDB.
Here we report optimized protocol for imaging of brain samples (CLARITY2). We have simplified and shortened the original protocol. Following hydrogel fixation, we cut brain tissue to 1–1.5 mm thick coronal slices. This additional step enabled us to accelerate and simplify clearing, staining and imaging steps when compared to the original protocol. We validated the modified protocol in imaging experiments with brains from line M Thy1-GFP mouse and in immunostaining experiments with antibodies against postsynaptic protein PSD-95 and striatal-specific protein DARPP32.
The original CLARITY protocol was optimized and simplified. Application of the modified CLARITY2 protocol could be useful for a broad range of scientists working in neurobiology and developmental biology.
PMCID: PMC4049387  PMID: 24885504
CLARITY; See deep brain; Neuronal structure; 3D brain tissue reconstruction; Neuroimaging; Confocal; Two-photon
7.  Hippocampal neuronal cells that accumulate α-synuclein fragments are more vulnerable to Aβ oligomer toxicity via mGluR5 – implications for dementia with Lewy bodies 
In dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) abnormal interactions between α-synuclein (α-syn) and beta amyloid (Aβ) result in selective degeneration of neurons in the neocortex, limbic system and striatum. However, factors rendering these neurons selectively vulnerable have not been fully investigated. The metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) has been shown to be up regulated in DLB and might play a role as a mediator of the neurotoxic effects of Aβ and α-syn in vulnerable neuronal populations. In this context, the main objective of the present study was to investigate the role of mGluR5 as a mediator of the neurotoxic effects of α-syn and Aβ in the hippocampus.
We generated double transgenic mice over-expressing amyloid precursor protein (APP) and α-syn under the mThy1 cassette and investigated the relationship between α-syn cleavage, Aβ, mGluR5 and neurodegeneration in the hippocampus. We found that compared to the single tg mice, the α-syn/APP tg mice displayed greater accumulation of α-syn and mGluR5 in the CA3 region of the hippocampus compared to the CA1 and other regions. This was accompanied by loss of CA3 (but not CA1) neurons in the single and α-syn/APP tg mice and greater loss of MAP 2 and synaptophysin in the CA3 in the α-syn/APP tg. mGluR5 gene transfer using a lentiviral vector into the hippocampus CA1 region resulted in greater α-syn accumulation and neurodegeneration in the single and α-syn/APP tg mice. In contrast, silencing mGluR5 with a lenti-shRNA protected neurons in the CA3 region of tg mice. In vitro, greater toxicity was observed in primary hippocampal neuronal cultures treated with Aβ oligomers and over-expressing α-syn; this effect was attenuated by down-regulating mGluR5 with an shRNA lentiviral vector. In α-syn-expressing neuronal cells lines, Aβ oligomers promoted increased intracellular calcium levels, calpain activation and α-syn cleavage resulting in caspase-3-dependent cell death. Treatment with pharmacological mGluR5 inhibitors such as 2-Methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP) and 3-((2-Methyl-4-thiazolyl)ethynyl)pyridine (MTEP) attenuated the toxic effects of Aβ in α-syn-expressing neuronal cells.
Together, these results support the possibility that vulnerability of hippocampal neurons to α-syn and Aβ might be mediated via mGluR5. Moreover, therapeutical interventions targeting mGluR5 might have a role in DLB.
PMCID: PMC4041038  PMID: 24885390
α-synuclein; Amyloid β oligomer; Dementia with Lewy body; Hippocampus; Human; mGluR5; Parkinsonism; Transgenic animal model
8.  The Parkinsonian mimetic, 6-OHDA, impairs axonal transport in dopaminergic axons 
6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) is one of the most commonly used toxins for modeling degeneration of dopaminergic (DA) neurons in Parkinson's disease. 6-OHDA also causes axonal degeneration, a process that appears to precede the death of DA neurons. To understand the processes involved in 6-OHDA-mediated axonal degeneration, a microdevice designed to isolate axons fluidically from cell bodies was used in conjunction with green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled DA neurons. Results showed that 6-OHDA quickly induced mitochondrial transport dysfunction in both DA and non-DA axons. This appeared to be a general effect on transport function since 6-OHDA also disrupted transport of synaptophysin-tagged vesicles. The effects of 6-OHDA on mitochondrial transport were blocked by the addition of the SOD1-mimetic, Mn(III)tetrakis(4-benzoic acid)porphyrin chloride (MnTBAP), as well as the anti-oxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) suggesting that free radical species played a role in this process. Temporally, microtubule disruption and autophagy occurred after transport dysfunction yet before DA cell death following 6-OHDA treatment. The results from the study suggest that ROS-mediated transport dysfunction occurs early and plays a significant role in inducing axonal degeneration in response to 6-OHDA treatment.
PMCID: PMC4016665  PMID: 24885281
Neurodegeneration; Mitochondria; Microtubule; Parkinson's disease; Microfluidic devices
9.  Increased mtDNA mutations with aging promotes amyloid accumulation and brain atrophy in the APP/Ld transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease 
The role of mitochondrial dysfunction has long been implicated in age-related brain pathology, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, the mechanism by which mitochondrial dysfunction may cause neurodegeneration in AD is unclear. To model mitochondrial dysfunction in vivo, we utilized mice that harbor a knockin mutation that inactivates the proofreading function of mitochondrial DNA polymerase γ (PolgA D257A), so that these mice accumulate mitochondrial DNA mutations with age. PolgA D257A mice develop a myriad of mitochondrial bioenergetic defects and physical phenotypes that mimic premature ageing, with subsequent death around one year of age.
We crossed the D257A mice with a well-established transgenic AD mouse model (APP/Ld) that develops amyloid plaques. We hypothesized that mitochondrial dysfunction would affect Aβ synthesis and/or clearance, thus contributing to amyloidogenesis and triggering neurodegeneration. Initially, we discovered that Aβ42 levels along with Aβ42 plaque density were increased in D257A; APP/Ld bigenic mice compared to APP/Ld monogenic mice. Elevated Aβ production was not responsible for increased amyloid pathology, as levels of BACE1, PS1, C99, and C83 were unchanged in D257A; APP/Ld compared to APP/Ld mice. However, the levels of a major Aβ clearance enzyme, insulin degrading enzyme (IDE), were reduced in mice with the D257A mutation, suggesting this as mechanism for increased amyloid load. In the presence of the APP transgene, D257A mice also exhibited significant brain atrophy with apparent cortical thinning but no frank neuron loss. D257A; APP/Ld mice had increased levels of 17 kDa cleaved caspase-3 and p25, both indicative of neurodegeneration. Moreover, D257A; APP/Ld neurons appeared morphologically disrupted, with swollen and vacuolated nuclei.
Overall, our results implicate synergism between the effects of the PolgA D257A mutation and Aβ in causing neurodegeneration. These findings provide insight into mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction that may contribute to the pathogenesis of AD via decreased clearance of Aβ.
PMCID: PMC4028006  PMID: 24885175
PolgA D257A; APP/Ld; mitochondrial dysfunction; Amyloid; Aβ; Alzheimer’s disease; Brain atrophy; Neurodegeneration; Insulin degrading enzyme
10.  U1 small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) aggregate in Alzheimer’s disease due to autosomal dominant genetic mutations and trisomy 21 
We recently identified U1 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) tangle-like aggregates and RNA splicing abnormalities in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However little is known about snRNP biology in early onset AD due to autosomal dominant genetic mutations or trisomy 21 in Down syndrome. Therefore we investigated snRNP biochemical and pathologic features in these disorders.
We performed quantitative proteomics and immunohistochemistry in postmortem brain from genetic AD cases. Electron microscopy was used to characterize ultrastructural features of pathologic aggregates. U1-70k and other snRNPs were biochemically enriched in the insoluble fraction of human brain from subjects with presenilin 1 (PS1) mutations. Aggregates of U1 snRNP-immunoreactivity formed cytoplasmic tangle-like structures in cortex of AD subjects with PS1 and amyloid precursor protein (APP) mutations as well as trisomy 21. Ultrastructural analysis with electron microscopy in an APP mutation case demonstrated snRNP immunogold labeling of paired helical filaments (PHF).
These studies identify U1 snRNP pathologic changes in brain of early onset genetic forms of AD. Since dominant genetic mutations and trisomy 21 result in dysfunctional amyloid processing, the findings suggest that aberrant β-amyloid processing may influence U1 snRNP aggregate formation.
PMCID: PMC4022210  PMID: 24773620
Spliceosome; snRNP; Alzheimer’s disease; Down syndrome; U1-70k; SmD; Presenilin; Amyloid precursor protein
11.  Abundance of Aβ5-x like immunoreactivity in transgenic 5XFAD, APP/PS1KI and 3xTG mice, sporadic and familial Alzheimer’s disease 
According to the modified amyloid hypothesis the main event in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the deposition of neurotoxic amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) within neurons. Additionally to full-length peptides, a great diversity of N-truncated Aβ variants is derived from the larger amyloid precursor protein (APP). Vast evidence suggests that Aβx-42 isoforms play an important role triggering neurodegeneration due to its high abundance, amyloidogenic propensity and toxicity. Although N-truncated and Aβx-42 species have been pointed as crucial players in AD etiology, the Aβ5-x isoforms have not received much attention.
The present study is the first to show immunohistochemical evidence of Aβ5-x in familial cases of AD (FAD) and its distribution in APP/PS1KI, 5XFAD and 3xTG transgenic mouse models. In order to probe Aβ5-x peptides we generated the AB5-3 antibody. Positive plaques and congophilic amyloid angiopathy (CAA) were observed among all the FAD cases tested carrying either APP or presenilin 1 (PS1) mutations and most of the sporadic cases of AD (SAD). Different patterns of Aβ5-x distribution were found in the mouse models carrying different combinations of autosomal mutations in the APP, PS1 and Tau genes. All of them showed extracellular Aβ deposits but none CAA. Additionally, they were all affected by a severe amyloid pathology in the hippocampus among other areas. Interestingly, neither 5XFAD nor APP/PS1KI showed any evidence for intraneuronal Aβ5-x.
Different degrees of Aβ5-x accumulations can be found in the transgenic AD mouse models and human cases expressing the sporadic or the familial form of the disease. Due to the lack of intracellular Aβ5-x, these isoforms might not be contributing to early mechanisms in the cascade of events triggering AD pathology. Brain sections obtained from SAD cases showed higher Aβ5-x–immunoreactivity in vascular deposits than in extracellular plaques, while both are equally important in the FAD cases. The difference may rely on alternative mechanisms involving Aβ5-x peptides and operating in a divergent way in the late and early onset forms of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3975588  PMID: 24694184
Aβ5-x; Amyloid plaques; 5XFAD; 3xTG; APP/PS1KI; Vascular deposits; N-truncated Aβ
13.  Reviewer acknowledgement 
Contributing reviewers
The editors of Molecular Neurodegeneration would like to thank all the reviewers who have contributed to the journal in Volume 8 (2013).
PMCID: PMC3994520
14.  ApoE variant p.V236E is associated with markedly reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease 
Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (LOAD) have identified single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) which show significant association at the well-known APOE locus and at nineteen additional loci. Among the functional, disease-associated variants at these loci, missense variants are particularly important because they can be readily investigated in model systems to search for novel therapeutic targets. It is now possible to perform a low-cost search for these “actionable” variants by genotyping the missense variants at known LOAD loci already cataloged on the Exome Variant Server (EVS). In this proof-of-principle study designed to explore the efficacy of this approach, we analyzed three rare EVS variants in APOE, p.L28P, p.R145C and p.V236E, in our case control series of 9114 subjects. p.R145C proved to be too rare to analyze effectively. The minor allele of p.L28P, which was in complete linkage disequilibrium (D’ = 1) with the far more common APOE ϵ4 allele, showed no association with LOAD (P = 0.75) independent of the APOE ϵ4 allele. p.V236E was significantly associated with a marked reduction in risk of LOAD (P = 7.5×10−05; OR = 0.10, 0.03 to 0.45). The minor allele of p.V236E, which was in complete linkage disequilibrium (D’ = 1) with the common APOE ϵ3 allele, identifies a novel LOAD-associated haplotype (APOE ϵ3b) which is associated with decreased risk of LOAD independent of the more abundant APOE ϵ2, ϵ3 and ϵ4 haplotypes. Follow-up studies will be important to confirm the significance of this association and to better define its odds ratio. The ApoE p.V236E substitution is the first disease-associated change located in the lipid-binding, C-terminal domain of the protein. Thus our study (i) identifies a novel APOE missense variant which may profitably be studied to better understand how ApoE function may be modified to reduce risk of LOAD and (ii) indicates that analysis of protein-altering variants cataloged on the EVS can be a cost-effective way to identify actionable functional variants at recently discovered LOAD loci.
PMCID: PMC3995879  PMID: 24607147
15.  A consecutive case series experience with [18 F] florbetapir PET imaging in an urban dementia center: impact on quality of life, decision making, and disposition 
Identification and quantification of fibrillar amyloid in brain using positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and Amyvid™ ([18 F] Amyvid, [18 F] florbetapir, 18 F-AV-45) was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as a clinical tool to estimate brain amyloid burden in patients being evaluated for cognitive impairment or dementia. Imaging with [18 F] florbetapir offers in vivo confirmation of the presence of cerebral amyloidosis and may increase the accuracy of the diagnosis and likely cause of cognitive impairment (CI) or dementia. Most importantly, amyloid imaging may improve certainty of etiology in situations where the differential diagnosis cannot be resolved on the basis of standard clinical and laboratory criteria.
A consecutive case series of 30 patients (age 50-89; 16 M/14 F) were clinically evaluated at a cognitive evaluation center of urban dementia center and referred for [18 F] florbetapir PET imaging as part of a comprehensive dementia workup. Evaluation included neurological examination and neuropsychological assessment by dementia experts. [18 F] florbetapir PET scans were read by trained nuclear medicine physicians using the qualitative binary approach. Scans were rated as either positive or negative for the presence of cerebral amyloidosis. In addition to a comprehensive dementia evaluation, post [18 F] florbetapir PET imaging results caused diagnoses to be changed in 10 patients and clarified in 9 patients. Four patients presenting with SCI were negative for amyloidosis. These results show that [18 F] florbetapir PET imaging added diagnostic clarification and discrimination in over half of the patients evaluated.
Amyloid imaging provided novel and essential data that: (1) caused diagnosis to be revised; and/or (2) prevented the initiation of incorrect or suboptimal treatment; and/or (3) avoided inappropriate referral to an anti-amyloid clinical trial.
PMCID: PMC3913628  PMID: 24484858
Amyvid™; Florbetapir; PET; Clinical series; Alzheimer’s disease; Neuroimaging
16.  Effects of the C57BL/6 strain background on tauopathy progression in the rTg4510 mouse model 
Cross-breeding of transgenic mice is commonly used to assess gene-gene interactions, particularly in the context of disease. Strain background changes can influence the phenotype of mouse models and can confound crossbreeding studies. We sought to determine if changing the strain background of a commonly used mouse model of tauopathy (rTg4510) would significantly impact the originally reported phenotype. On the original F1 FVB/N x 129S6 background, rTg4510 mice present with progressive cognitive decline, increased insoluble tau, robust tau pathology and age-dependent neurodegeneration. One of the most common strains in mouse modeling is C57BL/6. We and others have previously reported that this strain background alters the phenotypes of various models, including the JNPL3 model of tauopathy. To determine if the phenotype of rTg4510 mice was similarly affected by the introduction of the C57BL/6 background, we compared rTg4510 mice on the original F1 FVB/N x 129S6 background to rTg4510 mice on an F1 FVB/N x C57BL/6NTac (B6/NTac) background, herein termed rTg4510B6.
Despite a small, but significant increase in soluble human tau levels, young rTg4510B6 mice had equivalent levels of tau phosphorylation, aggregation and cognitive impairments as age-matched rTg4510 mice. At 6.5 months of age, rTg4510B6 mice displayed hyperphosphorylated insoluble tau and robust cortical tau neuropathology that was equivalent to age-matched rTg4510 mice; however, 10.5-month-old rTg4510B6 mice had greater amounts of phospho-tau in the cortex and hippocampus when compared to age-matched rTg4510 mice. Non-transgenic (NT) littermates of rTg4510B6 (NTB6) mice also had greater amounts of cortical and hippocampal phospho-tau at 10.5 months of age when compared to NT littermates of rTg4510 mice. Additionally, older rTg4510B6 mice had gross forebrain neurodegeneration that was equivalent to age-matched rTg4510 mice.
Overall, our data shows that introduction of the C57BL/6 strain into the rTg4510 mouse background modestly alters the tau pathology that was originally reported in rTg4510 on the F1 FVB/129 background. In contrast, behavioral and neurodegenerative outcomes were not altered. These studies support the use of the rTg4510 mouse model on a partial C57BL/6 strain background without losing fidelity of the phenotype and suggest that the C57BL/6 background does not inherently protect against tauopathy.
PMCID: PMC3896770  PMID: 24428919
Transgenic mouse models; Strain background; C57BL/6; rTg4510; Tau; Tauopathy; Neurodegeneration; Behavior; Morris water maze
17.  Binding of longer Aβ to transmembrane domain 1 of presenilin 1 impacts on Aβ42 generation 
Amyloid-β peptide ending at 42nd residue (Aβ42) is believed as a pathogenic peptide for Alzheimer disease. Although γ-secretase is a responsible protease to generate Aβ through a processive cleavage, the proteolytic mechanism of γ-secretase at molecular level is poorly understood.
We found that the transmembrane domain (TMD) 1 of presenilin (PS) 1, a catalytic subunit for the γ-secretase, as a key modulatory domain for Aβ42 production. Aβ42-lowering and -raising γ-secretase modulators (GSMs) directly targeted TMD1 of PS1 and affected its structure. A point mutation in TMD1 caused an aberrant secretion of longer Aβ species including Aβ45 that are the precursor of Aβ42. We further found that the helical surface of TMD1 is involved in the binding of Aβ45/48 and that the binding was altered by GSMs as well as TMD1 mutation.
Binding between PS1 TMD1 and longer Aβ is critical for Aβ42 production.
PMCID: PMC3896738  PMID: 24410857
Presenilin; Secretases; Alzheimer disease; Intramembrane proteolysis; γ-Secretase modulator
18.  Trafficking regulation of proteins in Alzheimer’s disease 
The β-amyloid (Aβ) peptide has been postulated to be a key determinant in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Aβ is produced through sequential cleavage of the β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) by β- and γ-secretases. APP and relevant secretases are transmembrane proteins and traffic through the secretory pathway in a highly regulated fashion. Perturbation of their intracellular trafficking may affect dynamic interactions among these proteins, thus altering Aβ generation and accelerating disease pathogenesis. Herein, we review recent progress elucidating the regulation of intracellular trafficking of these essential protein components in AD.
PMCID: PMC3891995  PMID: 24410826
α-secretase; Amyloid beta (A4) precursor protein; β-secretase; Beta-site APP-cleaving enzyme 1; γ-secretase; A Disintegrin and Metalloprotease 10; Alzheimer’s disease; Trafficking
19.  Amyloid peptides ABri and ADan show differential neurotoxicity in transgenic Drosophila models of familial British and Danish dementia 
Familial British and Familial Danish dementias (FBD and FDD, respectively) are associated with mutations in the BRI2 gene. Processing of the mutated BRI2 protein leads to the accumulation in the brain of the 34-mer amyloid Bri (ABri) and amyloid Dan (ADan) peptides, accompanied by neurofibrillary tangles. Recently, transgenic mice successfully reproduced different aspects of FDD, while modeling of FBD in vivo has been more difficult. In this work we have modeled FBD and FDD in Drosophila and tested the hypothesis that ABri and ADan are differentially neurotoxic.
By using site-directed insertion, we generated transgenic lines carrying ABri, ADan, Bri2-23 (the normal product of wild-type BRI2 processing) and amyloid-β (Aβ) 1–42 as a well-characterized neurotoxic peptide, alone or with a His-tag. Therefore, we avoided random insertion effects and were able to compare levels of accumulation accurately. Peptides were expressed with the GAL4-Upstream Activating Sequence (UAS) system using specific drivers. Despite low levels of expression, toxicity in the eye was characterized by mild disorganization of ommatidia and amyloid peptides accumulation. The highest toxicity was seen for ADan, followed by Aβ42 and ABri. Pan-neuronal expression in the CNS revealed an age-dependent toxicity of amyloid peptides as determined by the ability of flies to climb in a geotaxis paradigm when compared to Bri2-23. This effect was stronger for ADan, detected at 7 days post-eclosion, and followed by ABri and Aβ42, whose toxicity became evident after 15 and 21 days, respectively. Histological analysis showed mild vacuolization and thioflavine-S-negative deposits of amyloid peptides. In contrast, the over-expression of amyloid peptides in the specific subset of lateral neurons that control circadian locomotor activity showed no toxicity.
Our results support the differential neurotoxicity of ADan and ABri in the Drosophila eye and CNS at low expression levels. Such differences may be partially attributed to rates of aggregation and accumulation. In the CNS, both peptides appear to be more neurotoxic than wild-type Aβ42. These Drosophila models will allow a systematic and unambiguous comparison of differences and similarities in the mechanisms of toxicity of diverse amyloid peptides associated with dementia.
PMCID: PMC3898387  PMID: 24405716
Alzheimer’s disease; Familial British dementia; Familial Danish dementia; ABri; ADan; Neurotoxicity; Drosophila
20.  BACE1 activity regulates cell surface contactin-2 levels 
Although BACE1 is a major therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), potential side effects of BACE1 inhibition are not well characterized. BACE1 cleaves over 60 putative substrates, however the majority of these cleavages have not been characterized. Here we investigated BACE1-mediated cleavage of human contactin-2, a GPI-anchored cell adhesion molecule.
Our initial protein sequence analysis showed that contactin-2 harbors a strong putative BACE1 cleavage site close to its GPI membrane linker domain. When we overexpressed BACE1 in CHO cells stably transfected with human contactin-2, we found increased release of soluble contactin-2 in the conditioned media. Conversely, pharmacological inhibition of BACE1 in CHO cells expressing human contactin-2 and mouse primary neurons decreased soluble contactin-2 secretion. The BACE1 cleavage site mutation 1008MM/AA dramatically impaired soluble contactin-2 release. We then asked whether contactin-2 release induced by BACE1 expression would concomitantly decrease cell surface levels of contactin-2. Using immunofluorescence and surface-biotinylation assays, we showed that BACE1 activity tightly regulates contactin-2 surface levels in CHO cells as well as in mouse primary neurons. Finally, contactin-2 levels were decreased in Alzheimer’s disease brain samples correlating inversely with elevated BACE1 levels in the same samples.
Our results clearly demonstrate that mouse and human contactin-2 are physiological substrates for BACE1. BACE1-mediated contactin-2 cleavage tightly regulates the surface expression of contactin-2 in neuronal cells. Given the role of contactin-2 in cell adhesion, neurite outgrowth and axon guidance, our data suggest that BACE1 may play an important role in these physiological processes by regulating contactin-2 surface levels.
PMCID: PMC3899608  PMID: 24405708
21.  Stem cell derived basal forebrain cholinergic neurons from Alzheimer’s disease patients are more susceptible to cell death 
An early substantial loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs) is a constant feature of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and is associated with deficits in spatial learning and memory. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from patients with AD as well as from normal controls could be efficiently differentiated into neurons with characteristics of BFCNs. We used BFCNs derived from iPSCs to model sporadic AD with a focus on patients with ApoE3/E4 genotypes (AD-E3/E4). BFCNs derived from AD-E3/E4 patients showed typical AD biochemical features evidenced by increased Aβ42/Aβ40 ratios. AD-E3/E4 neurons also exhibited altered responses to treatment with γ-secretase inhibitors compared to control BFCNs or neurons derived from patients with familial AD. BFCNs from patients with AD-E3/E4 also exhibited increased vulnerability to glutamate-mediated cell death which correlated with increased intracellular free calcium upon glutamate exposure. The ability to generate BFCNs with an AD phenotype is a significant step both for understanding disease mechanisms and for facilitating screening for agents that promote synaptic integrity and neuronal survival.
PMCID: PMC3896712  PMID: 24401693
Alzheimer’s disease; Human induced pluripotent stem cells; Basal forebrain cholinergic neurons; Aβ42/40 ratio; Aβ rise; Glutamate excitotoxicity; Calcium abnormalities
22.  Soluble apoE/Aβ complex: mechanism and therapeutic target for APOE4-induced AD risk 
The APOE4 allele of apolipoprotein E (apoE) is the greatest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) compared to APOE2 and APOE3. Amyloid-β (Aβ), particularly in a soluble oligomeric form (oAβ), is considered a proximal cause of neurodegeneration in AD. Emerging data indicate that levels of soluble oAβ are increased with APOE4, providing a potential mechanism of APOE4-induced AD risk. However, the pathway(s) by which apoE4 may increase oAβ levels are unclear and the subject of continued inquiry. In this editorial review, we present the hypothesis that apoE isoform-specific interactions with Aβ, namely apoE/Aβ complex, modulate Aβ levels. Specifically, we propose that compared to apoE3, apoE4-containing lipoproteins are less lipidated, leading to less stable apoE4/Aβ complexes, resulting in reduced apoE4/Aβ levels and increased accumulation, particularly of oAβ. Evidence that support or counter this argument, as well as the therapeutic significance of this pathway to neurodegeneration, are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3897976  PMID: 24386905
Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid beta; Apolipoprotein E; Apolipoprotein E/amyloid beta complex; Oligomeric amyloid beta; Lipoprotein; Lipidation
23.  Axonal BACE1 dynamics and targeting in hippocampal neurons: a role for Rab11 GTPase 
BACE1 is one of the two enzymes that cleave amyloid precursor protein to generate Alzheimer's disease (AD) beta amyloid peptides. It is widely believed that BACE1 initiates APP processing in endosomes, and in the brain this cleavage is known to occur during axonal transport of APP. In addition, BACE1 accumulates in dystrophic neurites surrounding brain senile plaques in individuals with AD, suggesting that abnormal accumulation of BACE1 at presynaptic terminals contributes to pathogenesis in AD. However, only limited information is available on BACE1 axonal transport and targeting.
By visualizing BACE1-YFP dynamics using live imaging, we demonstrate that BACE1 undergoes bi-directional transport in dynamic tubulo-vesicular carriers along axons in cultured hippocampal neurons and in acute hippocampal slices of transgenic mice. In addition, a subset of BACE1 is present in larger stationary structures, which are active presynaptic sites. In cultured neurons, BACE1-YFP is preferentially targeted to axons over time, consistent with predominant in vivo localization of BACE1 in presynaptic terminals. Confocal analysis and dual-color live imaging revealed a localization and dynamic transport of BACE1 along dendrites and axons in Rab11-positive recycling endosomes. Impairment of Rab11 function leads to a diminution of total and endocytosed BACE1 in axons, concomitant with an increase in the soma. Together, these results suggest that BACE1 is sorted to axons in endosomes in a Rab11-dependent manner.
Our results reveal novel information on dynamic BACE1 transport in neurons, and demonstrate that Rab11-GTPase function is critical for axonal sorting of BACE1. Thus, we suggest that BACE1 transcytosis in endosomes contributes to presynaptic BACE1 localization.
PMCID: PMC4031619  PMID: 24386896
BACE1; Rab11; Transcytosis; Axonal sorting; Axonal transport; Recycling endosome
24.  Behavioral and transcriptome alterations in male and female mice with postnatal deletion of TrkB in dorsal striatal medium spiny neurons 
The high affinity tyrosine kinase receptor, TrkB, is the primary receptor for brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and plays an important role in development, maintenance and plasticity of the striatal output medium size spiny neuron. The striatal BDNF/TrkB system is thereby implicated in many physiologic and pathophysiologic processes, the latter including mood disorders, addiction, and Huntington’s disease. We crossed a mouse harboring a transgene directing cre-recombinase expression primarily to postnatal, dorsal striatal medium spiny neurons, to a mouse containing a floxed TrkB allele (fB) mouse designed for deletion of TrkB to determine its role in the adult striatum.
We found that there were sexually dimorphic alterations in behaviors in response to stressful situations and drugs of abuse. Significant sex and/or genotype differences were found in the forced swim test of depression-like behaviors, anxiety-like behaviors on the elevated plus maze, and cocaine conditioned reward. Microarray analysis of dorsal striatum revealed significant dysregulation in individual and groups of genes that may contribute to the observed behavioral responses and in some cases, represent previously unidentified downstream targets of TrkB.
The data point to a set of behaviors and changes in gene expression following postnatal deletion of TrkB in the dorsal striatum distinct from those in other brain regions.
PMCID: PMC3880973  PMID: 24369067
TrkB.FL; Medium spiny neuron; Dorsal striatum; BDNF; DARPP-32
25.  Features of wild-type human SOD1 limit interactions with misfolded aggregates of mouse G86R Sod1 
Mutations in the gene encoding superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) account for about 20% of the cases of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (fALS). It is well established that mutations in SOD1, associated with fALS, heighten the propensity of the protein to misfold and aggregate. Although aggregation appears to be a factor in the toxicity of mutant SOD1s, the precise nature of this toxicity has not been elucidated. A number of other studies have now firmly established that raising the levels of wild-type (WT) human SOD1 (hSOD1) proteins can in some manner augment the toxicity of mutant hSOD1 proteins. However, a recent study demonstrated that raising the levels of WT-hSOD1 did not affect disease in mice that harbor a mouse Sod1 gene (mSod1) encoding a well characterized fALS mutation (G86R). In the present study, we sought a potential explanation for the differing effects with WT-hSOD1 on the toxicity of mutant hSOD1 versus mutant mSod1. In the cell culture models used here, we observe poor interactions between WT-hSOD1 and misfolded G86R-mSod1, possibly explaining why over-expression of WT-hSOD1 does not synergize with mutant mSod1 to accelerate the course of the disease in mice.
PMCID: PMC3881023  PMID: 24341866

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