Recent evidence suggests that presynaptic-acting NMDA receptors (preNMDARs) are important for neocortical synaptic transmission and plasticity. We found that unique properties of the Nr3a subunit enable preNMDARs to enhance spontaneous and evoked glutamate release and that Nr3a is required for spike timing–dependent long-term depression in the juvenile mouse visual cortex. In the mature cortex, Nr2b-containing preNMDARs enhanced neurotransmission in the absence of magnesium, indicating that presynaptic NMDARs may function under depolarizing conditions throughout life. Our findings indicate that Nr3a relieves preNMDARs from the dual-activation requirement of ligand-binding and depolarization; the developmental removal of Nr3a limits preNMDAR functionality by restoring this associative property.
Debilitating neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD), can be attributed to neuronal cell damage in specific brain regions. An important hallmark of these diseases is increased oxidative and nitrosative stress that occurs via overproduction of highly reactive free radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS). These molecules are normally removed by cellular antioxidant systems. Under physiological conditions, ROS/RNS are present at low levels, mediating several neurotrophic and neuroprotective signaling pathways. In contrast, under pathological conditions, there is a pronounced increase in ROS/RNS generation, impairing normal neurological function. Nitric oxide (NO) is one such molecule that functions as a signaling agent under physiological conditions but causes nitrosative stress under pathological conditions due to its enhanced production. As first reported by our group and colleagues, the toxic effects of NO can be in part attributed to thiol S-nitrosylation, a posttranslational modification of cysteine residues on specific proteins. Here, we review several reports appearing over the past decade showing that S-nitrosylation of an increasing number of proteins compromises important cellular functions, including mitochondrial dynamics, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein folding, and signal transduction, thereby promoting synaptic damage, cell death, and neurodegeneration.
Glutamatergic synapse maturation is critically dependent upon activation of NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs); however, the contributions of NR3A subunit-containing NMDARs to this process have only begun to be considered. Here we characterized the expression of NR3A in the developing mouse forebrain and examined the consequences of NR3A deletion on excitatory synapse maturation. We found that NR3A is expressed in many subcellular compartments, and during early development, NR3A subunits are particularly concentrated in the postsynaptic density (PSD). NR3A levels dramatically decline with age and are no longer enriched at PSDs in juveniles and adults. Genetic deletion of NR3A accelerates glutamatergic synaptic transmission, as measured by AMPAR-mediated postsynaptic currents recorded in hippocampal CA1. Consistent with the functional observations, we observed that the deletion of NR3A accelerated the expression of the glutamate receptor subunits NR1, NR2A, and GluR1 in the PSD in postnatal day (P) 8 mice. These data support the idea that glutamate receptors concentrate at synapses earlier in NR3A-knockout (NR3A-KO) mice. The precocious maturation of both AMPAR function and glutamate receptor expression are transient in NR3A-KO mice, as AMPAR currents and glutamate receptor protein levels are similar in NR3A-KO and wildtype mice by P16, an age when endogenous NR3A levels are normally declining. Taken together, our data support a model whereby NR3A negatively regulates the developmental stabilization of glutamate receptors involved in excitatory neurotransmission, synaptogenesis, and spine growth.
Excessive nitrosative and oxidative stress is thought to trigger cellular signaling pathways leading to neurodegenerative conditions. Such redox dysregulation can result from many cellular events, including hyperactivation of the N-methyl-d-aspartate-type glutamate receptor, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cellular aging. Recently, we and our colleagues have shown that excessive generation of free radicals and related molecules, in particular nitric oxide species (NO), can trigger pathological production of misfolded proteins, abnormal mitochondrial dynamics (comprised of mitochondrial fission and fusion events), and apoptotic pathways in neuronal cells. Emerging evidence suggests that excessive NO production can contribute to these pathological processes, specifically by S-nitrosylation of specific target proteins. Here, we highlight examples of S-nitrosylated proteins that regulate misfolded protein accumulation and mitochondrial dynamics. For instance, in models of Parkinson's disease, these S-nitrosylation targets include parkin, a ubiquitin E3 ligase and neuroprotective molecule, and protein-disulfide isomerase, a chaperone enzyme for nascent protein folding. S-Nitrosylation of protein-disulfide isomerase may also be associated with mutant Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase toxicity in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Additionally, in models of Alzheimer's disease, excessive NO generation leads to the formation of S-nitrosylated dynamin-related protein 1 (forming SNO-Drp1), which contributes to abnormal mitochondrial fragmentation and resultant synaptic damage. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 14, 1479–1492.
According to the multi-process theory of prospective memory (ProM), time-based tasks rely more heavily on strategic processes dependent on prefrontal systems than do event-based tasks. Given the prominent frontostriatal pathophysiology of HIV infection, one would expect HIV-infected individuals to demonstrate greater deficits in time-based versus event-based ProM. However, the two prior studies examining this question have produced variable results. We evaluated this hypothesis in 143 individuals with HIV infection and 43 demographically similar seronegative adults (HIV−) who completed the research version of the Memory for Intentions Screening Test, which yields parallel subscales of time- and event-based ProM. Results showed main effects of HIV serostatus and cue type, but no interaction between serostatus and cue. Planned pair-wise comparisons showed a significant effect of HIV on time-based ProM and a trend-level effect on event-based ProM that was driven primarily by the subset of participants with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders. Nevertheless, time-based ProM was more strongly correlated with measures of executive functions, attention/working memory, and verbal fluency in HIV-infected persons. Although HIV-associated deficits in time- and event-based ProM appear to be of comparable severity, the cognitive architecture of time-based ProM may be more strongly influenced by strategic monitoring and retrieval processes.
AIDS dementia complex; Episodic memory; Executive functions; Neuropsychological assessment
Bax-Inhibitor-1 (BI-1) is an evolutionarily conserved cytoprotective protein that resides in membranes of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). BI-1’s cytoprotective activity is manifested in the context of ER stress, with previous studies showing that BI-1 modulates several ER-associated functions, including Unfolded Protein Response (UPR) signaling. Here we investigated the role of BI-1 in neuroprotection by generating transgenic mice in which BI-1 was constitutively expressed from a neuronal-specific promoter. Cultured primary cortical neurons from BI-1 transgenic mouse embryos exhibited greater resistance to cell death induced by agents known to cause ER stress compared to their non-transgenic counterparts. While brain morphology and vasculature of BI-1 mice appeared to be unchanged from normal non-transgenic mice, BI-1 transgenic mice showed reduced brain/lesion volumes and better performance in motoric tests, compared with non-transgenic littermates, in two models of acute brain injury – stroke caused by middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by controlled cortical impact. Furthermore, brain tissue from BI-1 transgenic mice showed reduced levels of apoptotic cells and reduced induction of markers of ER stress after brain injury, including CHOP protein expression. In summary, our findings demonstrate that enforced neuronal expression of BI-1 reduces ER stress and provides protection from acute brain injury, suggesting that strategies for enhancing BI-1 expression or activity should be considered for development of new therapies for counteracting the consequences of stroke and acute brain trauma.
Neuroprotection; Unfolded Protein Response; Brain Injury
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can potentially differentiate into any cell type, including dopaminergic neurons to treat Parkinson's disease (PD), but hyperproliferation and tumor formation must be avoided. Accordingly, we use myocyte enhancer factor 2C (MEF2C) as a neurogenic and anti-apoptotic transcription factor to generate neurons from hESC-derived neural stem/progenitor cells (NPCs), thus avoiding hyperproliferation. Here, we report that forced expression of constitutively active MEF2C (MEF2CA) generates significantly greater numbers of neurons with dopaminergic properties in vitro. Conversely, RNAi knockdown of MEF2C in NPCs decreases neuronal differentiation and dendritic length. When we inject MEF2CA-programmed NPCs into 6-hydroxydopamine—lesioned Parkinsonian rats in vivo, the transplanted cells survive well, differentiate into tyrosine hydroxylase-positive neurons, and improve behavioral deficits to a significantly greater degree than non-programmed cells. The enriched generation of dopaminergic neuronal lineages from hESCs by forced expression of MEF2CA in the proper context may prove valuable in cell-based therapy for CNS disorders such as PD.
Neurons are known to use large amounts of energy for their normal function and activity. In order to meet this demand, mitochondrial fission, fusion, and movement events (mitochondrial dynamics) control mitochondrial morphology, facilitating biogenesis and proper distribution of mitochondria within neurons. In contrast, dysfunction in mitochondrial dynamics results in reduced cell bioenergetics and thus contributes to neuronal injury and death in many neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. We recently reported that amyloid-β peptide, thought to be a key mediator of AD pathogenesis, engenders S-nitrosylation and thus hyperactivation of the mitochondrial fission protein Drp1. This activation leads to excessive mitochondrial fragmentation, bioenergetic compromise, and synaptic damage in models of AD. Here, we provide an extended commentary on our findings of nitric oxide-mediated abnormal mitochondrial dynamics.
S-Nitrosylation; Dynamin-related protein 1; Alzheimers’s disease; Mitochondrial fission
X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) is a potent antagonist of caspase apoptotic activity. XIAP also functions as an E3 ubiquitin ligase, targeting caspases for degradation. However, molecular pathways controlling XIAP activities remain unclear. Here we report that nitric oxide (NO) reacts with XIAP by S-nitrosylating its RING domain (forming SNO-XIAP), thereby inhibiting E3 ligase and antiapoptotic activity. NO-mediated neurotoxicity and caspase activation have been linked to several neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases. We find significant SNO-XIAP formation in brains of patients with these diseases, implicating this reaction in the etiology of neuronal damage. Conversely, S-nitrosylation of caspases is known to inhibit apoptotic activity. Unexpectedly, we find that SNO-caspase transnitrosylates (transfers its NO group) to XIAP, forming SNO-XIAP, and thus promotes cell injury and death. These findings provide unique insights into the regulation of caspase activation in neurodegenerative disorders mediated, at least in part, by nitrosative stress.
Accumulation of aberrant proteins to form Lewy bodies (LBs) is a hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD). Ubiquitination-mediated degradation of aberrant, misfolded proteins is critical for maintaining normal cell function. Emerging evidence suggests that oxidative/nitrosative stress compromises the precisely-regulated network of ubiquitination in PD, particularly affecting parkin E3 ligase activity, and contributes to the accumulation of toxic proteins and neuronal cell death.
To gain insight into the mechanism whereby cell stress alters parkin-mediated ubiquitination and LB formation, we investigated the effect of oxidative stress. We found significant increases in oxidation (sulfonation) and subsequent aggregation of parkin in SH-SY5Y cells exposed to the mitochondrial complex I inhibitor 1-methyl-4-phenlypyridinium (MPP+), representing an in vitro cell-based PD model. Exposure of these cells to direct oxidation via pathological doses of H2O2 induced a vicious cycle of increased followed by decreased parkin E3 ligase activity, similar to that previously reported following S-nitrosylation of parkin. Pre-incubation with catalase attenuated H2O2 accumulation, parkin sulfonation, and parkin aggregation. Mass spectrometry (MS) analysis revealed that H2O2 reacted with specific cysteine residues of parkin, resulting in sulfination/sulfonation in regions of the protein similar to those affected by parkin mutations in hereditary forms of PD. Immunohistochemistry or gel electrophoresis revealed an increase in aggregated parkin in rats and primates exposed to mitochondrial complex I inhibitors, as well as in postmortem human brain from patients with PD with LBs.
These findings show that oxidative stress alters parkin E3 ligase activity, leading to dysfunction of the ubiquitin-proteasome system and potentially contributing to LB formation.
Overactivation of the NMDA-subtype of glutamate receptor is known to trigger excessive calcium influx, contributing to neurodegenerative conditions. Such dysregulation of calcium signaling results in generation of excessive free radicals, including reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS), including nitric oxide (NO). In turn, we and our colleagues have shown that these free radicals trigger pathological production of misfolded proteins, mitochondrial dysfunction, and apoptotic pathways in neuronal cells. Here, we discuss emerging evidence that excessive calcium-induced NO production can contribute to the accumulation of misfolded proteins, specifically by S-nitrosylation of the ubiquitin E3 ligase, parkin, and the chaperone enzyme for nascent protein folding, protein-disulfide isomerase. Additionally, excessive calcium-induced NO generation leads to the formation of S-nitrosylated dynamin-related protein 1, which causes abnormal mitochondrial fragmentation and resultant synaptic damage. In this review, we also discuss how two novel classes of pharmacological agents hold promise to interrupt these pathological processes. Firstly, the NMDA receptor antagonists, Memantine and NitroMemantine, block excessive extrasynaptic glutamate excitation while maintaining synaptic transmission, thereby limiting excessive calcium influx and production of ROS/RNS. Secondly, therapeutic pro-electrophiles are activated in the face of oxidative insult, thus protecting cells from calcium-induced oxidative stress via the Keap1/Nrf2 transcriptional pathway.
Reactive Nitrogen Species; S-Nitrosylation; Molecular Chaperone; Ubiquitin-Proteasome System; Protein Misfolding; Mitochondrial Fission; Neurodegeneration; Memantine
Glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain. The N-methyl-D-aspartate subtype of glutamate receptors (NMDARs) is known to mediate many physiological neural functions. However, excessive activation of NMDARs contributes to neuronal damage in various acute and chronic neurological disorders. In order to avoid unwanted adverse side effects, blockade of excessive NMDAR activity must therefore be achieved without affecting its physiological function. Memantine, an adamantane derivative, has been used for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease with an excellent clinical safety profile. We previously showed that memantine preferentially blocked neurotoxicity mediated by excessive NMDAR activity while relatively sparing normal neurotransmission, in part due to its uncompetitive antagonism with a fast off-rate. Here, using rat autaptic hippocampal microcultures, we show that memantine at therapeutic concentrations (1–10 μM) preferentially blocks extrasynaptic rather than synaptic currents mediated by NMDARs in the same neuron. We found that memantine blocks extrasynaptic NMDAR-mediated currents induced by bath application of 100 μM NMDA/10 μM glycine with a 2-fold higher potency than its blockade of the NMDAR component of evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCsNMDAR); this effect persists under conditions of pathological depolarization in the presence of 1 mM extracellular Mg2+. Thus, our findings provide the first unequivocal evidence to explain the tolerability of memantine based on differential extrasynaptic/synaptic receptor blockade. At therapeutic concentrations, memantine effectively blocks excessive extrasynaptic NMDAR-mediated currents, while relatively sparing normal synaptic activity.
NMDA receptors; uncompetitive antagonism; synaptic currents; extrasynaptic currents; neuroprotection; clinically-tolerated antagonist
NMDA receptors are typically excited by a combination of glutamate and glycine. Here we describe excitatory responses in CNS myelin that are gated by a glycine agonist alone and mediated by NR1/NR3 ‘NMDA receptor’ subunits. Response properties include activation by d-serine, inhibition by the glycine-site antagonist CNQX, and insensitivity to the glutamate-site antagonist d-APV. d-Serine responses were abrogated in NR3A-deficient mice. Our results suggest the presence of functional NR1/NR3 receptors in CNS myelin.
NMDARs; NR3; myelin; glycine; d-serine; white matter
To evaluate the long-term safety and efficacy of memantine use as treatment of HIV-associated cognitive impairment.
The results of a 20-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of memantine in HIV-infected participants with cognitive impairment (ACTG 301) were previously reported. We report the results of the up-to-60-week open-label phase following the double-blind phase.
Participants received open-label memantine and were escalated to a 40 mg/day dose or their maximum tolerated dose in the double-blind phase. Adverse experiences were used to evaluate safety, and changes in the mean of eight neuropsychological test scores (NPZ-8) were used to evaluate efficacy.
Ninety-nine participants entered the initial 12-week open-label phase and 45 in the additional 48-week extension. Twenty-seven participants reported severe adverse experiences. During the initial 12-week open-label phase, participants randomized to memantine in the double-blind phase had a statistically significant higher improvement in NPZ-8 compared to those randomized to placebo in the double-blind phase. No statistically significant NPZ-8 changes were detected during the 48-week extension.
Long-term use of memantine appears safe and tolerable. Future randomized studies with longer follow-up are necessary to establish efficacy of memantine for the treatment of HIV-associated cognitive impairment.
AIDS dementia; cognitive impairment; memantine; HIV
The phosphatase PTEN governs the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt signaling pathway which is arguably the most important pro-survival pathway in neurons. Recently, PTEN has also been implicated in multiple important CNS functions such as neuronal differentiation, plasticity, injury and drug addiction. It has been reported that loss of PTEN protein, accompanied by Akt activation, occurs under excitotoxic conditions (stroke) as well as in Alzheimer's (AD) brains. However the molecular signals and mechanism underlying PTEN loss are unknown.
In this study, we investigated redox regulation of PTEN, namely S-nitrosylation, a covalent modification of cysteine residues by nitric oxide (NO), and H2O2-mediated oxidation. We found that S-nitrosylation of PTEN was markedly elevated in brains in the early stages of AD (MCI). Surprisingly, there was no increase in the H2O2-mediated oxidation of PTEN, a modification common in cancer cell types, in the MCI/AD brains as compared to normal aged control. Using several cultured neuronal models, we further demonstrate that S-nitrosylation, in conjunction with NO-mediated enhanced ubiquitination, regulates both the lipid phosphatase activity and protein stability of PTEN. S-nitrosylation and oxidation occur on overlapping and distinct Cys residues of PTEN. The NO signal induces PTEN protein degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) through NEDD4-1-mediated ubiquitination.
This study demonstrates for the first time that NO-mediated redox regulation is the mechanism of PTEN protein degradation, which is distinguished from the H2O2-mediated PTEN oxidation, known to only inactivate the enzyme. This novel regulatory mechanism likely accounts for the PTEN loss observed in neurodegeneration such as in AD, in which NO plays a critical pathophysiological role.
K+ channel interacting protein 1 (KChIP1) is a neuronal calcium sensor (NCS) protein that interacts with multiple intracellular molecules. Its physiological function, however, remains largely unknown. We report that KChIP1 is predominantly expressed at GABAergic synapses of a subset of parvalbumin-positive neurons in the brain. Forced expression of KChIP1 in cultured hippocampal neurons increased the frequency of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs), reduced paired pulse facilitation of autaptic IPSCs, and decreases potassium current density. Furthermore, genetic ablation of KChIP1 potentiated potassium current density in neurons and caused a robust enhancement of anxiety-like behavior in mice. Our study suggests that KChIP1 is a synaptic protein that regulates behavioral anxiety by modulating inhibitory synaptic transmission, and drugs that act on KChIP1 may help to treat patients with mood disorders including anxiety.
Retinal ganglion cells can be protected by a caspase-substrate binding peptide, IQACRG, which protects proteins from caspase cleavage.
This study investigated whether the enzymatically inactive caspase mimetic IQACRG protects rat retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) from excitotoxic insults. Minimally invasive delivery of the peptide to the retina was explored, and the mechanisms of neuroprotection were elucidated.
IQACRG was linked to penetratin (P-IQACRG) to facilitate cellular uptake. RGC labeling by biotinylated-P-IQACRG delivered via intravitreal or subconjunctival injection was demonstrated by avidin-biotin chemistry. The authors used histologic and electrophysiological measures to evaluate the neuroprotective potential of P-IQACRG against RGC death induced by N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) in vitro and in vivo. In addition, they monitored activity of an enzyme that is downstream of caspase-1, matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), and protein levels of the caspase-3/7 substrate, myocyte enhancer factor 2C (MEF2C), to determine the effectiveness of IQACRG in blocking excessive caspase activity.
IQACRG significantly reduced NMDA-induced RGC death in culture and in vivo. Ex vivo electrophysiological recording of the retina on multielectrode arrays demonstrated functional rescue of RGCs by IQACRG. The authors also found that delivery of IQACRG to the retina inhibited NMDA-triggered MMP-9 activity and prevented cleavage of MEF2C protein that would otherwise have been engendered by caspase activation preceding RGC death. Strikingly, subconjunctival injection of P-IQACRG was very effective in preventing NMDA-induced RGC death in vivo.
These data demonstrate that IQACRG protects RGCs from excitotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. The positive results with subconjunctival administration of P-IQACRG suggest that in the future this treatment may be useful clinically in diseases such as glaucoma and retinal ischemia.
We have characterized a rodent-specific gene family designated α-takusan (meaning “many” in Japanese). We initially identified a member of the family whose expression is upregulated in mice lacking the NMDAR subunit NR3A. We then isolated cDNAs encoding 46 α-takusan variants from mouse brains. Most variants share a ~130-aa long sequence, which contains the previously identified DUF622 (domain of unknown function 622) and is predicted to form coiled-coil structures. Single-cell PCR analyses indicate one neuron can express multiple α-takusan variants, and particular variants may predominate in certain cell types. Forced expression in cultured hippocampal neurons of two variants, α1 or α2, which bind either directly or indirectly to PSD-95, leads to an increase in PSD-95 clustering, dendritic-spine density, GluR1 surface expression, and AMPAR activity. Conversely, treating cultured neurons with RNAi targeting α-takusan variants resulted in the opposite phenotype. Hence, α-takusan represents a novel gene family that regulates synaptic activity.
The neurodegenerative disorder Huntington disease (HD) is caused by an expanded CAG repeat in the huntingtin gene, resulting in loss of striatal and cortical neurons. Although, the gene product is widely expressed, it remains unclear why neurons are selectively targeted. Here, we demonstrate the relationship between synaptic and extrasynaptic activity, inclusion formation of mutant huntingtin protein (mtHtt), and neuronal survival. Synaptic NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activity induces mtHtt inclusions via a TCP1 ring complex (TRiC)-dependent mechanism, rendering neurons more resistant to mtHtt-mediated cell death. In contrast, stimulation of extrasynaptic NMDARs increases vulnerability of mtHtt-neurons to cell death by impairing a neuroprotective CREB—PGC-1α cascade and increasing the small guanine nucleotide-binding protein Rhes, which is known to sumoylate and disaggregate mtHtt. Treatment of transgenic YAC128 HD mice with low-dose memantine blocks extrasynaptic (but not synaptic) NMDARs and ameliorates neuropathological and behavioral manifestations. By contrast, high-dose memantine also blocks synaptic NMDAR activity, decreases neuronal inclusions, and worsens these outcomes. Our findings offer a rational therapeutic approach for protecting susceptible neurons in HD.
Normal mitochondrial dynamics consist of fission and fusion events giving rise to new mitochondria, a process termed mitochondrial biogenesis. However, several neurodegenerative disorders manifest aberrant mitochondrial dynamics, resulting in morphological abnormalities often associated with deficits in mitochondrial mobility and cell bioenergetics. Rarely, dysfunctional mitochondrial occur in a familial pattern due to genetic mutations, but much more commonly patients manifest sporadic forms of mitochondrial disability presumably related to a complex set of interactions of multiple genes (or their products) with environmental factors (G × E). Recent studies have shown that generation of excessive nitric oxide (NO), in part due to generation of oligomers of amyloid-β (Aβ) protein or overactivity of the NMDA-subtype of glutamate receptor, can augment mitochondrial fission, leading to frank fragmentation of the mitochondria. S-Nitrosylation, a covalent redox reaction of NO with specific protein thiol groups, represents one mechanism contributing to NO-induced mitochondrial fragmentation, bioenergetic failure, synaptic damage, and eventually neuronal apoptosis. Here, we summarize our evidence in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients and animal models showing that NO contributes to mitochondrial fragmentation via S-nitrosylation of dynamin-related protein 1 (Drp1), a protein involved in mitochondrial fission. These findings may provide a new target for drug development in AD. Additionally, we review emerging evidence that redox reactions triggered by excessive levels of NO can contribute to protein misfolding, the hallmark of a number of neurodegenerative disorders, including AD and Parkinson’s disease. For example, S-nitrosylation of parkin disrupts its E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, and thereby affects Lewy body formation and neuronal cell death.
S-Nitrosylation; Mitochondrial fragmentation; Dynamin-related protein 1; β-Amyloid; Alzheimer’s disease
Mitochondria continuously undergo two opposing processes, fission and fusion. The disruption of this dynamic equilibrium may herald cell injury or death and may contribute to developmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Nitric oxide functions as a signaling molecule, but in excess it mediates neuronal injury, in part via mitochondrial fission or fragmentation. However, the underlying mechanism for nitric oxide–induced pathological fission remains unclear. We found that nitric oxide produced in response to β-amyloid protein, thought to be a key mediator of Alzheimer’s disease, triggered mitochondrial fission, synaptic loss, and neuronal damage, in part via S-nitrosylation of dynamin-related protein 1 (forming SNO-Drp1). Preventing nitrosylation of Drp1 by cysteine mutation abrogated these neurotoxic events. SNO-Drp1 is increased in brains of human Alzheimer’s disease patients and may thus contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegeneration.
Hyperactivation of N-methyl-D-aspartate-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) results in excitotoxicity, contributing to damage in stroke and neurodegenerative disorders. NMDARs are generally comprised of NR1/NR2 subunits but may contain modulatory NR3 subunits. Inclusion of NR3 subunits reduces the amplitude and dramatically decreases the Ca2+ permeability of NMDAR-associated channels in heterologous expression systems and in transgenic mice. Since excessive Ca2+ influx into neurons is a crucial step for excitotoxicity, we asked whether NR3A subunits are neuroprotective. To address this question, we subjected neurons genetically lacking NR3A to various forms of excitotoxic insult. We found that cultured neurons prepared from NR3A knockout (KO) mice displayed greater sensitivity to damage by NMDA application than wild-type (WT) neurons. In vivo, neonatal, but not adult, WT mice contain NR3A in the cortex, and neonatal NR3A KO mice manifested more damage than WT following hypoxia-ischemia. In adult retina, one location where high levels of NR3A normally persist into adulthood, injection of NMDA into the eye killed more retinal ganglion cells in adult NR3A KO than WT mice. These data suggest that endogenous NR3A is neuroprotective. We next asked whether we could decrease excitotoxicity by overexpressing NR3A. We found that cultured neurons expressing transgenic (TG) NR3A displayed greater resistance to NMDA-mediated neurotoxicity than WT neurons. Similarly in vivo, adult NR3A TG mice subjected to focal cerebral ischemia manifested less damage than WT mice. These data suggest that endogenous NR3A protects neurons, and exogenously added NR3A increases neuroprotection and could be potentially exploited as a therapeutic.
NMDA; glutamate; stroke; ischemia; hypoxia; retina; transgenic; knockout; mice
Cell-based therapies require a reliable source of cells that can be easily grown, undergo directed differentiation, and remain viable after transplantation. Here we generated stably transformed murine embryonic stem (ES) cells that express a constitutively active form of myocyte enhancer factor 2C (MEF2CA). MEF2C has been implicated as a calcium-dependent transcription factor that enhances survival and affects synapse formation of neurons as well as differentiation of cardiomyocytes. We now report that expression of MEF2CA, both in vitro and in vivo, under regulation of the nestin enhancer effectively produces ‘neuronal’ progenitor cells that differentiate into a virtually pure population of neurons. Histological, electrophysiological and behavioral analyses demonstrate that MEF2C-directed neuronal progenitor cells transplanted into a mouse model of cerebral ischemia can successfully differentiate into functioning neurons and ameliorate stroke-induced behavioral deficits.
MEF2C; neuronal progenitor cell; embryonic stem cells; neurogenesis; anti-apoptotic; transplantation
The Golgi apparatus processes intracellular proteins, but undergoes disassembly and fragmentation during apoptosis in several neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. It is well known that other cytoplasmic organelles play important roles in cell death pathways. Thus, we hypothesized that Golgi fragmentation might participate in transduction of cell death signals.
Here, we found that Golgi fragmentation and dispersal precede neuronal cell death triggered by excitotoxins, oxidative/nitrosative insults, or ER stress. Pharmacological intervention or overexpression of the C-terminal fragment of Grasp65, a Golgi-associated protein, inhibits fragmentation and decreases or delays neuronal cell death. Inhibition of mitochondrial or ER cell death pathways also decreases Golgi fragmentation, indicating crosstalk between organelles, and suggesting that the Golgi may be a common downstream-effector of cell death. Taken together, these findings implicate the Golgi as a sensor of stress signals in cell death pathways.
Golgi fragmentation; ER stress; apoptosis; mitochondria; Alzheimer’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; excitotoxicity; NMDA; oxidative stress; nitrosative stress
Under ambient air conditions, NO inhibits NMDA-sensitive glutamate receptor responses by reacting with C399 of the NR2A subunit as well as possibly with two pairs of cysteine residues if their disulfide bonds are reduced to free thiol (C744, C798 in NR1 and C87, C320 in NR2). Here we demonstrate that relative hypoxia enhances S-nitrosylation of NMDA receptors by a unique mechanism involving NR1(C744,C798), which constitutes a novel ‘NO-reactive oxygen sensor motif.’ These two critical thiol groups sensitize other sites on the NMDA receptor to S-nitrosylation and consequent inhibition of receptor activity, while manifesting little if any effect on NMDA receptor activity by their own nitrosylation. The crystal structure of NR1 reveals a uniquely flexible (C744-C798) disulfide bond, which may account for the susceptibility of these two cysteines to reduction and subsequent facile oxidation by NO, as observed with biochemical techniques. Our findings have important implications for the treatment of hypoxia/stroke because these thiol groups can be nitrosylated preferentially during relative hypoxia, thus abrogating excessive activity associated with cytotoxicity while avoiding side effects caused by blockade of normal NMDA receptors.