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1.  Regulation of autophagy by LRRK2 in C. elegans 
Neuro-degenerative diseases  2013;13(0):110-113.
Mutations in LRRK2 are a common cause of familial Parkinson's disease. However, the mechanisms through which LRRK2 mutations contribute to neurodegeneration are poorly understood.
We investigated the effects of WT, G2019S, R1441C and kinase dead (KD) LRRK2 across multiple different cellular compartments in order to gain insight into the breadth of LRRK2 effects on cellular function.
Nematodes expressing lgg-1::RFP, hsp1::GFP, hsp4::GFP and hsp6::GFP were crossed to nematode lines expressing WT, G2019S, R1441C or KD LRRK2.
We observed that G2019S and R1441C LRRK2 inhibited autophagy, while WT, G2019S and R1441C LRRK2 increased the response of the mitochondrial hsp6 reporter to stress. The response of the hsp reporters under basal conditions was more nuanced.
These results support a putative role of LRRK2 in the autophagic and mitochondrial systems.
PMCID: PMC3946265  PMID: 24192129
Autophagy; Parkinson's disease; heat shock protein; mitochondria; endoplasmic reticulum; stress
2.  ALS-Linked Mutations Enlarge TDP-43-Enriched Neuronal RNA Granules in the Dendritic Arbor 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(12):4167-4174.
Trans-activating response region (TAR) DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) is an RNA-binding protein that is mutated in familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Disease-linked mutations in TDP-43 increase the tendency of TDP-43 to aggregate, leading to a corresponding increase in formation of stress granules, cytoplasmic protein/RNA complexes that form in response to stress. Although the field has focused on stress granules, TDP-43 also forms other types of RNA granules. For example, TDP-43 is associated with RNA granules that are prevalent throughout the dendritic arbor in neurons. Because aggregation of TDP-43 is also important for the formation of these neuronal RNA granules, we hypothesized that disease-linked mutations might alter granule formation even in the absence of stress. We now report that ALS-linked mutations in TDP-43 (A315T and Q343R) increase the size of neuronal TDP-43 granules in the dendritic arbor of rat hippocampal neurons. The mutations correspondingly reduce the granule density, movement, and mobility of TDP-43 granules. Depolarization of rat hippocampal neurons with KCl stimulates TDP-43 granule migration into dendrites, but A315T and Q343R TDP-43 granules migrate shorter distances and into fewer dendrites than wild-type TDP-43. These findings highlight novel elements of TDP-43 biology that are affected by disease-linked mutations and suggest a neuronally selective mechanism through which TDP-43 mutations might elicit neuronal dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC3960463  PMID: 24647938
G3BP; induced pluripotent stem cells; stress granule; TIA-1; trafficking; translation
3.  The Role Stress Granules and RNA Binding Proteins in Neurodegeneration 
Gerontology  2013;59(6):10.1159/000354170.
The eukaryotic stress response involves translational suppression of non-housekeeping proteins and the sequestration of unnecessary mRNA transcripts into stress granules (SGs). This process is dependent on mRNA binding proteins (RBPs) that interact with capped mRNA transcripts through RNA recognition motifs, and exhibit reversible aggregation through hydrophobic poly-glycine domains, some of which are homologous to yeast prion proteins. The activity and aggregation of RBPs appears to be important in the context of unfolded protein diseases. The discovery that mutations in these RBPs can cause familial motor neuron diseases and familial dementias indicates the importance of these genes to neuronal degeneration. Some disorders linked to mutations in RBPs include: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), frontotemporal dementia and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). These RBPs also associate with pathological structures in other neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington’s chorea, Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, protein levels of RBPs change across the aging spectrum and may be linked to other age-related disorders, such as type 2 diabetes. The link between SG pathways and proteins linked to neurodegenerative diseases suggests a potential role for common pathways in both processes, such as those involved in translational control, and highlights potentially novel targets for therapeutic intervention in neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC3863624  PMID: 24008580
Alzheimer’s disease; Frontotemporal Dementia; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Fragile X Syndrome; Neurofibrillary Tangles; TIA-1; TTP; G3BP; TDP-43; FUS; Tau protein; Prion protein; HuR; Staufen; Pamilio; Dcp1a
4.  Interventions for Heart Disease and Their Effects on Alzheimer’s disease 
Neurological research  2006;28(6):630-636.
To review the contributions of cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia.
Review of the literature
Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia both share significant risk attributable to cardiovascular risk factors. Hypertension and hypercholesterolemia at midlife are significant risk factors for both subsequent dementia. Diabetes and obesity are also risk factors for dementia. Stressful medical procedures, such as coronary artery bypass and graft operations also appear to contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Apolipoprotein E is the major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Apolipoprotein E does not appear to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease by increasing serum cholesterol, but it might contribute to the disease through a mechanism involving both Aβ and an increase in neuronal vulnerability to stress.
The strong association of cardiovascular risk factors with Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia suggest that these diseases share some biological pathways in common. The contribution of cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular Dementia suggest that cardiovascular therapies might prove useful in treating or preventing dementia. Anti-hypertensive medications appear to be beneficial in preventing vascular dementia. Statins might be beneficial in preventing the progression of dementia in subjects with Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3913064  PMID: 16945215
beta-amyloid; cholesterol; diabetes; hypertension; statins
5.  A high content screen identifies novel compounds that inhibit stress-induced TDP-43 cellular aggregation and associated cytotoxicity 
TDP-43 is an RNA binding protein found to accumulate in the cytoplasm of brain and spinal cord from patients affected with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). Nuclear TDP-43 protein regulates transcription through several mechanisms, and under stressed conditions it forms cytoplasmic aggregates that co-localize with stress granule (SG) proteins in cell culture. These granules are also found in the brain and spinal cord of patients affected with ALS and FTLD. The mechanism through which TDP-43 might contribute to neurodegenerative diseases is poorly understood. In order to investigate the pathophysiology of TDP-43 aggregation and to isolate potential therapeutic targets, we screened a chemical library of 75,000 compounds using high content analysis with PC12 cells that inducibly express human TDP-43 tagged with GFP. The screen identified 16 compounds that dose-dependently decreased the TDP-43 inclusions without significant cellular toxicity or changes in total TDP-43 expression levels. To validate the effect of the compounds, we tested compounds by Western Blot analysis and in a model that replicates some of the relevant disease phenotypes. The hits from this assay will be useful for elucidating regulation of TDP-43, stress granule response, and possible ALS therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3913261  PMID: 24019256
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; RNA granule; RNA binding protein; aggregation; high throughput screen; protein synthesis
6.  TDP-43: A New Player on the AD Field? 
Experimental neurology  2012;237(1):90-95.
PMCID: PMC3910368  PMID: 22691390
7.  The Scientist’s Pledge 
PMCID: PMC3910371  PMID: 23708595
The Journal of biological chemistry  2005;280(52):42655-42668.
How genetic and environmental factors interact in Parkinson’s disease is poorly understood. We have now compared the patterns of vulnerability and rescue of C. elegans with genetic modifications of three different genetic factors implicated in PD. We observed that expressing α-synuclein, deleting parkin (K08E3.7) or knocking down DJ-1 (B0432.2) or parkin, produces similar patterns of pharmacological vulnerability and rescue. C. elegans lines with these genetic changes were more vulnerable than non-transgenic nematodes to mitochondrial complex I inhibitors, including rotenone, fenperoximate, pyridaben or stigmatellin. In contrast, the genetic manipulations did not increase sensitivity to paraquat, sodium azide, divalent metal ions (FeII or CuII) or etoposide compared to non-transgenic nematodes. Each of the PD-related lines was also partially rescued by the anti-oxidant probucol, the mitochondrial complex II activator, D-β-hydroxybutyrate (DβHB) or the anti-apoptotic bile acid tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA). Complete protection in all lines was achieved by combining DβHB with TUDCA but not with probucol. These results show that diverse PD-related genetic modifications disrupt mitochondrial function in C. elegans, and they raise the possibility that mitochondrial disruption is a pathway shared in common by many types of familial PD.
PMCID: PMC3910375  PMID: 16239214
9.  Interaction of LRRK2 with kinase and GTPase signaling cascades 
LRRK2 is a protein that interacts with a plethora of signaling molecules, but the complexity of LRRK2 function presents a challenge for understanding the role of LRRK2 in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Studies of LRRK2 using over-expression in transgenic mice have been disappointing, however, studies using invertebrate systems have yielded a much clearer picture, with clear effects of LRRK2 expression, knockdown or deletion in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila on modulation of survival of dopaminergic neurons. Recent studies have begun to focus attention on particular signaling cascades that are a target of LRRK2 function. LRRK2 interacts with members of the mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and might regulate the pathway action by acting as a scaffold that directs the location of MAPK pathway activity, without strongly affecting the amount of MAPK pathway activity. Binding to GTPases, GTPase-activating proteins and GTPase exchange factors are another strong theme in LRRK2 biology, with LRRK2 binding to rac1, cdc42, rab5, rab7L1, endoA, RGS2, ArfGAP1, and ArhGEF7. All of these molecules appear to feed into a function output for LRRK2 that modulates cytoskeletal outgrowth and vesicular dynamics, including autophagy. These functions likely impact modulation of α-synuclein aggregation and associated toxicity eliciting the disease processes that we term PD.
PMCID: PMC4087324  PMID: 25071441
GTPase; kinase; trafficking; cytoskeleton; actin; autophagy; cell death; dopamine
10.  The spectrum of disease in chronic traumatic encephalopathy 
Brain  2012;136(1):43-64.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive tauopathy that occurs as a consequence of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury. We analysed post-mortem brains obtained from a cohort of 85 subjects with histories of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury and found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 68 subjects: all males, ranging in age from 17 to 98 years (mean 59.5 years), including 64 athletes, 21 military veterans (86% of whom were also athletes) and one individual who engaged in self-injurious head banging behaviour. Eighteen age- and gender-matched individuals without a history of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury served as control subjects. In chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the spectrum of hyperphosphorylated tau pathology ranged in severity from focal perivascular epicentres of neurofibrillary tangles in the frontal neocortex to severe tauopathy affecting widespread brain regions, including the medial temporal lobe, thereby allowing a progressive staging of pathology from stages I–IV. Multifocal axonal varicosities and axonal loss were found in deep cortex and subcortical white matter at all stages of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. TAR DNA-binding protein 43 immunoreactive inclusions and neurites were also found in 85% of cases, ranging from focal pathology in stages I–III to widespread inclusions and neurites in stage IV. Symptoms in stage I chronic traumatic encephalopathy included headache and loss of attention and concentration. Additional symptoms in stage II included depression, explosivity and short-term memory loss. In stage III, executive dysfunction and cognitive impairment were found, and in stage IV, dementia, word-finding difficulty and aggression were characteristic. Data on athletic exposure were available for 34 American football players; the stage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy correlated with increased duration of football play, survival after football and age at death. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy was the sole diagnosis in 43 cases (63%); eight were also diagnosed with motor neuron disease (12%), seven with Alzheimer’s disease (11%), 11 with Lewy body disease (16%) and four with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (6%). There is an ordered and predictable progression of hyperphosphorylated tau abnormalities through the nervous system in chronic traumatic encephalopathy that occurs in conjunction with widespread axonal disruption and loss. The frequent association of chronic traumatic encephalopathy with other neurodegenerative disorders suggests that repetitive brain trauma and hyperphosphorylated tau protein deposition promote the accumulation of other abnormally aggregated proteins including TAR DNA-binding protein 43, amyloid beta protein and alpha-synuclein.
PMCID: PMC3624697  PMID: 23208308
axonal injury; brain trauma; frontotemporal lobar degeneration; neurodegenerative disorders; traumatic brain injury
11.  Redox Proteomics Analyses of the Influence of Co-Expression of Wild-Type or Mutated LRRK2 and Tau on C. elegans Protein Expression and Oxidative Modification: Relevance to Parkinson Disease 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2012;17(11):1490-1506.
Aims: The human LRRK2 gene has been identified as the most common causative gene of autosomal-dominantly inherited and idiopathic Parkinson disease (PD). The G2019S substitution is the most common mutation in LRRK2. The R1441C mutation also occurs in cases of familial PD, but is not as prevalent. Some cases of LRRK2-based PD exhibit Tau pathology, which suggests that alterations on LRRK2 activity affect the pathophysiology of Tau. To investigate how LRRK2 might affect Tau and the pathophysiology of PD, we generated lines of C. elegans expressing human LRRK2 [wild-type (WT) or mutated (G2019S or R1441C)] with and without V337M Tau. Expression and redox proteomics were used to identify the effects of LRRK2 (WT and mutant) on protein expression and oxidative modifications. Results: Co-expression of WT LRRK2 and Tau led to increased expression of numerous proteins, including several 60S ribosomal proteins, mitochondrial proteins, and the V-type proton ATPase, which is associated with autophagy. C. elegans expressing mutant LRRK2 showed similar changes, but also showed increased protein oxidation and lipid peroxidation, the latter indexed as increased protein-bound 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (HNE). Innovation: Our study brings new knowledge about the possible alterations induced by LRRK2 (WT and mutated) and Tau interactions, suggesting the involvement of G2019S and R1441C in Tau-dependent neurodegenerative processes. Conclusion: These results suggest that changes in LRRK2 expression or activity lead to corresponding changes in mitochondrial function, autophagy, and protein translation. These findings are discussed with reference to the pathophysiology of PD. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 17, 1490–1506.
PMCID: PMC3448940  PMID: 22315971
12.  Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Modeling of Multisystemic, Hereditary Transthyretin Amyloidosis 
Stem Cell Reports  2013;1(5):451-463.
Familial transthyretin amyloidosis (ATTR) is an autosomal-dominant protein-folding disorder caused by over 100 distinct mutations in the transthyretin (TTR) gene. In ATTR, protein secreted from the liver aggregates and forms fibrils in target organs, chiefly the heart and peripheral nervous system, highlighting the need for a model capable of recapitulating the multisystem complexity of this clinically variable disease. Here, we describe the directed differentiation of ATTR patient-specific iPSCs into hepatocytes that produce mutant TTR, and the cardiomyocytes and neurons normally targeted in the disease. We demonstrate that iPSC-derived neuronal and cardiac cells display oxidative stress and an increased level of cell death when exposed to mutant TTR produced by the patient-matched iPSC-derived hepatocytes, recapitulating essential aspects of the disease in vitro. Furthermore, small molecule stabilizers of TTR show efficacy in this model, validating this iPSC-based, patient-specific in vitro system as a platform for testing therapeutic strategies.
•Successful modeling of familial amyloidosis in vitro using iPSC technology•Proto-fibril formation leads to cellular damage in two target tissues of amyloidosis•iPSCs can be used in the testing of novel therapeutics for protein folding disorders
This work involves the modeling of hereditary transthyretin amyloidosis in vitro using iPSC technology. Murphy and colleagues demonstrate that it is possible to model a long-term, complex, multisystem disease using hepatic, cardiac, and neuronal lineages derived from patient-specific stem cells and validate this approach for the testing of therapeutic strategies.
PMCID: PMC3841264  PMID: 24286032
13.  Characterization of Insulin Degrading Enzyme and other Aβ Degrading Proteases in Human Serum: a Role in Alzheimer’s disease? 
Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients have low amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) clearance in the central nervous system (CNS). The peripheral Aβ clearance may also be important but its role in AD remains unclear. We aimed to study the Aβ degrading proteases including insulin degrading enzyme (IDE), angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) and others in blood. Using the fluorogenic substrate V—a substrate of IDE and other metalloproteases, we showed that human serum degraded the substrate V, and the activity was inhibited by adding increasing dose of Aβ. The existence of IDE activity was demonstrated by the inhibition of insulin, amylin or EDTA, and further confirmed by immunocapture of IDE using monoclonal antibodies. The involvement of ACE was indicated by the ability of the ACE inhibitor, lisinopril, to inhibit the substrate V degradation. To test the variations of substrate V degradation in humans, we used serum samples from a homebound elderly population with cognitive diagnoses. Compared with the elderly who had normal cognition, those with probable AD and amnestic mild cognitive impairment (amnestic MCI) had lower peptidase activities. Probable AD or amnestic MCI as an outcome remained negatively associated with serum substrate V degradation activity after adjusting for the confounders. The elderly with probable AD had lower serum substrate V degradation activity compared with those who had vascular dementia. The blood proteases mediating Aβ degradation may be important for the AD pathogenesis. More studies are needed to specify each Aβ degrading protease in blood as a useful biomarker and a possible treatment target for AD.
PMCID: PMC3784270  PMID: 22232014
Aβ; degradation; protease; insulin degrading enzyme; angiotensin convertingenzyme; serum; alzheimer’s disease
14.  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Blast-Exposed Military Veterans and a Blast Neurotrauma Mouse Model 
Science translational medicine  2012;4(134):134ra60.
Blast exposure is associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI), neuropsychiatric symptoms, and long-term cognitive disability. We examined a case series of postmortem brains from U.S. military veterans exposed to blast and/or concussive injury. We found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a tau protein–linked neurodegenerative disease, that was similar to the CTE neuropathology observed in young amateur American football players and a professional wrestler with histories of concussive injuries. We developed a blast neurotrauma mouse model that recapitulated CTE-linked neuropathology in wild-type C57BL/6 mice 2 weeks after exposure to a single blast. Blast-exposed mice demonstrated phosphorylated tauopathy, myelinated axonopathy, microvasculopathy, chronic neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration in the absence of macroscopic tissue damage or hemorrhage. Blast exposure induced persistent hippocampal-dependent learning and memory deficits that persisted for at least 1 month and correlated with impaired axonal conduction and defective activity-dependent long-term potentiation of synaptic transmission. Intracerebral pressure recordings demonstrated that shock waves traversed the mouse brain with minimal change and without thoracic contributions. Kinematic analysis revealed blast-induced head oscillation at accelerations sufficient to cause brain injury. Head immobilization during blast exposure prevented blast-induced learning and memory deficits. The contribution of blast wind to injurious head acceleration may be a primary injury mechanism leading to blast-related TBI and CTE. These results identify common pathogenic determinants leading to CTE in blast-exposed military veterans and head-injured athletes and additionally provide mechanistic evidence linking blast exposure to persistent impairments in neurophysiological function, learning, and memory.
PMCID: PMC3739428  PMID: 22593173
15.  The heat shock transcription factor Hsf1 is downregulated in DNA damage–associated senescence, contributing to the maintenance of senescence phenotype 
Aging cell  2012;11(4):617-627.
Heat shock response (HSR) that protects cells from proteotoxic stresses is downregulated in aging, as well as upon replicative senescence of cells in culture. Here we demonstrate that HSR is suppressed in fibroblasts from the patients with segmental progerioid Werner Syndrome, which undergo premature senescence. Similar suppression of HSR was seen in normal fibroblasts, which underwent senescence in response to DNA damaging treatments. The major DNA-damage-induced signaling (DDS) pathways p53–p21 and p38-NF-kB-SASP contributed to the HSR suppression. The HSR suppression was associated with inhibition of both activity and transcription of the heat shock transcription factor Hsf1. This inhibition in large part resulted from the downregulation of SIRT1, which in turn was because of decrease in the expression of the translation regulator HuR. Importantly, we uncovered a positive feedback regulation, where suppression of Hsf1 further activates the p38–NF-κB-SASP pathway, which in turn promotes senescence. Overexpression of Hsf1 inhibited the p38–NFκB-SASP pathway and partially relieved senescence. Therefore, downregulation of Hsf1 plays an important role in the development or in the maintenance of DNA damage signaling-induced cell senescence.
PMCID: PMC3433748  PMID: 22510478
heat shock response; Hsp70; HuR; inflammation; p38; p53; SIRT1
16.  Regulation of Physiologic Actions of LRRK2: Focus on Autophagy 
Neuro-Degenerative Diseases  2011;10(1-4):238-241.
Mutations in LRRK2 are associated with familial and sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD). Subjects with PD caused by LRRK2 mutations show pleiotropic pathology that can involve inclusions containing α-synuclein, tau or neither protein. The mechanisms by which mutations in LRRK2 lead to this pleiotropic pathology remain unknown. Objectives: To investigate mechanisms by which LRRK2 might cause PD.
We used systems biology to investigate the transcriptomes from human brains, human blood cells and Caenorhabditis elegans expressing wild-type LRRK2. The role of autophagy was tested in lines of C. elegans expressing LRRK2, V337M tau or both proteins. Neuronal function was measured by quantifying thrashing.
Genes regulating autophagy were coordinately regulated with LRRK2. C. elegans expressing V337M tau showed reduced thrashing, as has been noted previously. Coexpressing mutant LRRK2 (R1441C or G2019S) with V337M tau increased the motor deficits. Treating the lines of C. elegans with an mTOR inhibitor that enhances autophagic flux, ridaforolimus, increased the thrashing behavior to the same level as nontransgenic nematodes.
These data support a role for LRRK2 in autophagy, raise the possibility that deficits in autophagy contribute to the pathophysiology of LRRK2, and point to a potential therapeutic approach addressing the pathophysiology of LRRK2 in PD.
PMCID: PMC3363354  PMID: 22204929
LRRK2 mutations; Autophagy; Familial and sporadic Parkinson's disease
17.  Contrasting Pathology of the Stress Granule Proteins TIA-1 and G3BP in Tauopathies 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(24):8270-8283.
Stress induces aggregation of RNA-binding proteins to form inclusions, termed stress granules (SGs). Recent evidence suggests that SG proteins also colocalize with neuropathological structures, but whether this occurs in Alzheimer’s disease is unknown. We examined the relationship between SG proteins and neuropathology in brain tissue from P301L Tau transgenic mice, as well as in cases of Alzheimer’s disease and FTDP-17. The pattern of SG pathology differs dramatically based on the RNA-binding protein examined. SGs positive for T-cell intracellular antigen-1 (TIA-1) or tristetraprolin (TTP) initially do not colocalize with tau pathology, but then merge with tau inclusions as disease severity increases. In contrast, G3BP (ras GAP-binding protein) identifies a novel type of molecular pathology that shows increasing accumulation in neurons with increasing disease severity, but often is not associated with classic markers of tau pathology. TIA-1 and TTP both bind phospho-tau, and TIA-1 overexpression induces formation of inclusions containing phospho-tau. These data suggest that SG formation might stimulate tau pathophysiology. Thus, study of RNA-binding proteins and SG biology highlights novel pathways interacting with the pathophysiology of AD, providing potentially new avenues for identifying diseased neurons and potentially novel mechanisms regulating tau biology.
PMCID: PMC3402380  PMID: 22699908
18.  Regulated protein aggregation: stress granules and neurodegeneration 
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.
PMCID: PMC3519755  PMID: 23164372
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
19.  Statins and therapy of Alzheimer's disease: questions of efficacy versus trial design 
Recent trials of statins produced no benefit for subjects with Alzheimer's disease. These negative studies add to a growing list of negative clinical trials. These data point to a need for reevaluating the pathophysiology of late-onset Alzheimer's disease. Late-onset Alzheimer's disease might result from the cumulative effects of at least four different factors: β-amyloid accumulation, cardiovascular disease, aging and the associated loss of synaptic plasticity, and inflammation. Successful therapy of subjects with overt dementia might require approaches targeting all four pathophysiological domains.
PMCID: PMC3471428  PMID: 22264400
20.  Local RNA Translation at the Synapse and in Disease 
Local regulation of protein synthesis in neurons has emerged as a leading research focus due to its importance in synaptic plasticity and neurological diseases. The complexity of neuronal sub-cellular domains and their distance from the soma demand local spatial and temporal control of protein synthesis. Synthesis of many synaptic proteins, such as GluR and PSD-95, is under local control. mRNA binding proteins (RBPs), such as FMRP, function as key regulators of local RNA translation, and the mTORC1 pathway acts as a primary signaling cascade for regulation of these proteins. Much of the regulation occurs through structures termed RNA granules, which are based on reversible aggregation of the RBPs, some of which have aggregation prone domains with sequence features similar to yeast prion proteins. Mutations in many of these RBPs are associated with neurologic diseases, including FMRP in Fragile X syndrome, TDP-43, FUS, angiogenin and ataxin-2 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ataxin-2 in spinocerebellar ataxia, and SMN in spinal muscular atrophy.
PMCID: PMC3241995  PMID: 22072660
Protein synthesis; RNA translation; Synaptic efficacy; transport; RNA granule; Stress Granule; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; fragile X syndrome; spinal muscular atrophy; spinocerebellar ataxia
23.  Leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 induces α-synuclein expression via the extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathway 
Cellular signalling  2010;22(5):821-827.
Mutations in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) are the most frequent cause of autosomal-dominant Parkinson’s disease (PD). The second known autosomal-dominant PD gene (SNCA) encodes α-synuclein, which is deposited in Lewy bodies, the neuropathological hallmark of PD. LRRK2 contains a kinase domain with homology to mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinases (MAPKKKs) and its activity has been suggested to be a key factor in LRRK2-associated PD. Here we investigated the role of LRRK2 in signal transduction pathways to identify putative PD-relevant downstream targets. Over-expression of wild-type [wt]LRRK2 in human embryonic kidney HEK293 cells selectively activated the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) module. PD-associated mutants G2019S and R1441C, but not kinase-dead LRRK2, induced ERK phosphorylation to the same extent as [wt]LRRK2, indicating that this effect is kinase-dependent. However, ERK activation by mutant R1441C and G2019S was significantly slower than that for [wt]LRRK2, despite similar levels of expression. Furthermore, induction of the ERK module by LRRK2 was associated to a small but significant induction of SNCA, which was suppressed by treatment with the selective MAPK/ERK kinase inhibitor U0126. This pathway linking the two dominant PD genes LRRK2 and SNCA may offer an interesting target for drug therapy in both familial and sporadic disease.
PMCID: PMC3163153  PMID: 20074637
LRRK2; Mitogen-activated protein kinases; ERK; α-Synuclein; Parkinson’s disease
24.  Pathogenic LRRK2 Mutations Do Not Alter Gene Expression in Cell Model Systems or Human Brain Tissue 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e22489.
Point mutations in LRRK2 cause autosomal dominant Parkinson's disease. Despite extensive efforts to determine the mechanism of cell death in patients with LRRK2 mutations, the aetiology of LRRK2 PD is not well understood. To examine possible alterations in gene expression linked to the presence of LRRK2 mutations, we carried out a case versus control analysis of global gene expression in three systems: fibroblasts isolated from LRRK2 mutation carriers and healthy, non-mutation carrying controls; brain tissue from G2019S mutation carriers and controls; and HEK293 inducible LRRK2 wild type and mutant cell lines. No significant alteration in gene expression was found in these systems following correction for multiple testing. These data suggest that any alterations in basal gene expression in fibroblasts or cell lines containing mutations in LRRK2 are likely to be quantitatively small. This work suggests that LRRK2 is unlikely to play a direct role in modulation of gene expression, although it remains possible that this protein can influence mRNA expression under pathogenic cicumstances.
PMCID: PMC3142158  PMID: 21799870
25.  Watching Worms Whither: Modeling Neurodegeneration in C. elegans 
C. elegans is increasingly being used to study neurodegenerative diseases. Nematodes are translucent, which facilitates study of particular neurons in the living animal, and easy to manipulate genetically. Despite vast evolutionary divergence, human proteins are functionally active when expressed in C. elegans, and disease-linked mutations in these proteins also cause phenotypic changes in the nematode. In this manuscript, we review use of C. elegans to investigate the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and axonal degeneration. Studies of presenilin, β-amyloid, tau,α-synuclein and LRRK2 all produce strong phenotypic effects in C. elegans, and in many cases reproduces selective neuronal vulnerability observed in humans. Disease-linked mutations enhance degeneration in the C. elegans models. These studies are increasingly leading to high throughput screens that identify novel genes and novel pharmaceuticals that modify the disease course.
PMCID: PMC3140532  PMID: 21377635
Beta-amyloid; Microtubule associated protein tau; presenilin; α-synuclein; Leucine Rich Repeat Kinase 2; Green fluorescent protein; dopamine; axonal dystrophy; laser ablation

Results 1-25 (36)