We aimed to investigate whether HIV latency in the CNS might have adverse molecular, pathologic, and clinical consequences.
This was a case-control comparison of HIV-1 seropositive (HIV+) patients with clinical and neuropathologic examination. Based on the levels of HIV-1 DNA, RNA, and p24 in the brain, cases were classified as controls, latent HIV CNS infection, and HIV encephalitis (HIVE). Analysis of epigenetic markers including BCL11B, neurodegeneration, and neuroinflammation was performed utilizing immunoblot, confocal microscopy, immunochemistry/image analysis, and qPCR. Detailed antemortem neurocognitive data were available for 23 out of the 32 cases.
HIV+ controls (n = 12) had no detectable HIV-1 DNA, RNA, or p24 in the CNS; latent HIV+ cases (n = 10) showed high levels of HIV-1 DNA but no HIV RNA or p24; and HIVE cases (n = 10) had high levels of HIV-1 DNA, RNA, and p24. Compared to HIV+ controls, the HIV+ latent cases displayed moderate cognitive impairment with neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory alterations, although to a lesser extent than HIVE cases. Remarkably, HIV+ latent cases showed higher levels of BCL11B and other chromatin modifiers involved in silencing. Increased BCL11B was associated with deregulation of proinflammatory genes like interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor–α, and CD74.
Persistence of latent HIV-1 infection in the CNS was associated with increased levels of chromatin modifiers, including BCL11B. Alteration of these epigenetic factors might result in abnormal transcriptomes, leading to inflammation, neurodegeneration, and neurocognitive impairment. BCL11B and other epigenetic factors involved in silencing might represent potential targets for HIV-1 involvement of the CNS.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is characterized by widespread alpha-synuclein pathology and neuronal loss, primarily of the nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons. Inflammation has been implicated in PD, and alpha-synuclein can initiate microglial activation; however, the kinetics and distribution of inflammatory responses to alpha-synuclein overexpression in vivo are not well understood. We have examined the regional and temporal pattern of microglial activation and pro-inflammatory cytokine production in mice over-expressing wild-type human alpha-synuclein driven by the Thy1-promoter (Thy1-aSyn mice). Increased number of activated microglia, and increased levels of TNF-α mRNA and protein were first detected in the striatum (1 month of age) and later in the substantia nigra (5–6 months), but not cerebral cortex or cerebellum; in contrast, IL-1β and TGFβ remained unchanged in striatum and substantia nigra at all ages examined. Microglial activation persisted up to 14 months of age in these regions and only minimal increases were observed in other regions at this later age. Increased concentrations of serum TNF-α were observed at 5–6 months, but not 1 month of age. The expression of toll-like receptors (TLR) 1, TLR 4 and TLR 8, which are possible mediators of microglial activation, was increased at 5–6 months in the substantia nigra but not in the cerebral cortex, and TLR 2 was increased in the substantia nigra at 14 months of age. With the exception of a slight increase in the striatum of 14 months old Thy1-aSyn mice, MHCII staining was not detected in the regions and ages examined. Similarly, peripheral CD4 and CD8-postive T cells were increased in the blood but only at 22 months of age, suggesting later involvement of the adaptive immune response. These data indicate that, despite the presence of high levels of alpha-synuclein in other brain regions, alpha-synuclein overexpression caused a selective early inflammatory response in regions containing the axon terminals and cell bodies of the nigrostriatal pathway. Our results suggest that specific factors, possibly involving a regionally and temporally selective increase in TLRs, mediate alpha-synuclein-induced inflammatory responses in the SN, and may play a role in the selective vulnerability of nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons in PD.
Parkinson’s disease; alpha-synuclein; overexpression; transgenic; neurodegeneration; microglia; cytokines; inflammation
Most neurodegenerative diseases contain hyperphosphorylated Tau [p-Tau]. We examined for the first time epitopes at which Tau is hyperphosphorylated in Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and Alzheimer’s disease, and also select Tau kinases.
Postmortem frontal cortex from Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, Alzheimer’s disease and striata from Parkinson’s disease, were analyzed by immunoblots using commercially available antibodies against 20 different phospho-epitopes of Tau. Major Tau kinases were also screened. Results in diseased tissues were compared to nondiseased controls.
In Alzheimer’s disease, Tau was hyperphosphorylated at all the 20 epitopes of p-Tau. In dementia with Lewy bodies, p-Tau formation occurred at 6 sites sharing 30% overlap with Alzheimer’s disease, while in Parkinson’s frontal cortex, an area which does not degenerate, Tau hyperphosphorylation was seen at just 3 epitopes, indicating 15% overlap with Alzheimer’s disease. In Parkinson’s disease striatum, an area which undergoes considerable neurodegeneration, Tau was hyperphosphorylated at 10 epitopes, sharing 50% overlap with Alzheimer’s disease. Between frontal cortex of Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, there were only two p-Tau epitopes in common. In striata of Parkinson’s disease, there were 3 clusters of Tau hyperphosphorylated at 3 contiguous sites, while two such clusters were detected in dementia with Lewy bodies; such clusters disrupt axonal transport of mitochondria, cause microtubule remodeling and result in cell death. p-GSK-3β, a major Tau kinase, was activated in all brain regions examined, except in dementia with Lewy bodies. Activation of other Tau kinases was seen in all brain regions, with no clear pattern of activation.
Our studies suggest that the three neurodegenerative diseases each have a signature-specific profile of p-Tau formation which may be useful in understanding the genesis of the diseases and for the development of a panel of specific biomarkers.
Primary central nervous system lymphomas (PCNSL) have a dramatically increased prevalence among persons living with AIDS and are known to be associated with human Epstein Barr virus (EBV) infection. Previous work suggests that in some cases, co-infection with other viruses may be important for PCNSL pathogenesis. Viral transcription in tumor samples can be measured using next generation transcriptome sequencing. We demonstrate the ability of transcriptome sequencing to identify viruses, characterize viral expression, and identify viral variants by sequencing four archived AIDS-related PCNSL tissue samples and analyzing raw sequencing reads. EBV was detected in all four PCNSL samples and cytomegalovirus (CMV), JC polyomavirus (JCV), and HIV were also discovered, consistent with clinical diagnoses. CMV was found to express three long non-coding RNAs recently reported as expressed during active infection. Single nucleotide variants were observed in each of the viruses observed and three indels were found in CMV. No viruses were found in several control tumor types including 32 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma samples. This study demonstrates the ability of next generation transcriptome sequencing to accurately identify viruses, including DNA viruses, in solid human cancer tissue samples.
The current study explored the value of visuospatial findings for predicting the occurrence of visual hallucinations (VH) in a sample of patients with Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) compared to patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Retrospective analysis of 55 autopsy-confirmed DLB and 55 demographically-similar, autopsy-confirmed AD cases determined whether severe initial visuospatial deficits on the WISC-R Block Design subtest predicted the development of VH. Visuospatial deficits were considered severe if Block Design z-scores were 2.5 or more standard deviations below the mean of a well-characterized normal control group (Severe-VIS; DLB: n=35, AD: n=26) and otherwise were considered mild (Mild-VIS; DLB: n=20, AD: n=29).
Forty percent of the Severe-VIS DLB group had baseline VH compared to 0% of Mild-VIS DLB patients. Only 8% of the Severe-VIS and 3% Mild-VIS AD patients had baseline VH. During the follow-up period (mean=5.0 years), an additional 61% of the Severe-VIS but only 11% of the Mild-VIS DLB patients developed VH. In that period, 38% of the Severe-VIS and 20% of the Mild-VIS AD patients developed VH. After considering initial MMSE score and rate of decline, logistic regression analyses found that performance on Block Design significantly predicted the presence of VH in the DLB group but not the AD group.
The presence of early, severe deficits on neuropsychological tests of visuospatial skill increases the likelihood that patients with suspected DLB will develop the prototypical DLB syndrome. The presence of such deficits may identify those DLB patients whose syndrome is driven by alpha-synuclein pathology rather than AD pathology and may inform treatment plans as well as future research.
Lewy body disease; Hallucinations, visual; Alzheimer’s disease; Visuospatial cognition
Sestrin-2 is involved in p53-dependent antioxidant defenses and in the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis. We hypothesize that sestrin-2 expression is altered in the brains of subjects diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) due to neuronal oxidative stress. We studied sestrin-2 immunoreactivity in 42 isocortex sections from HIV-1-infected subjects compared to 18 age-matched non-HIV controls and 19 advanced Alzheimer's disease (AD) cases. With HIV infection, the sestrin-2 immunoreactivity pattern shifted from neuropil predominance (N) to neuropil and neuronal-soma co-dominance (NS) and neuronalsoma predominance (S; P < 0.0001, Chi-square test for linear trend). Among HIV cases showing the NS or S pattern, HAND cases were preferentially associated with the S pattern (n = 10 of 20) compared to cognitively intact cases (n = 1 of 11; P = 0.047, Fisher's exact test). In AD brains, sestrin-2 immunoreactivity was mostly intense in the neuropil and co-localized with phospho-Tau immunoreactivity in a subset of neurofibrillary lesions. Phospho-Tau-immunoreactive neurofibrillary lesions were rare in HIV cases and their occurrence was not associated with HAND. Levels of isocortical 8-hydroxy-deoxyguanosine (marker of nucleic acid oxidation) immunoreactivity were not significantly altered in HAND cases compared to cognitively intact HIV cases. In conclusion, the sestrin-2 immunoreactivity redistribution to neuronal soma in HAND suggests unique involvement of sestrin-2 in the pathophysiology of HAND, which is different from the role of sestrin-2 in AD pathogenesis. Alternatively, the difference in sestrin-2 immunoreactivity distribution between HAND and AD may be related to different degrees of severity or stages of oxidative stress.
Alzheimer's disease; HIV dementia; Neurofibrillary pathology; Oxidative stress; SESN2
Mutations in the gene encoding parkin, a neuroprotective protein with dual functions as an E3 ubiquitin ligase and transcriptional repressor of p53, are linked to familial forms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). We hypothesized that oxidative posttranslational modification of parkin by environmental toxins may contribute to sporadic PD.
We first demonstrated that S-nitrosylation of parkin decreased its activity as a repressor of p53 gene expression, leading to upregulation of p53. Chromatin immunoprecipitation as well as gel-shift assays showed that parkin bound to the p53 promoter, and this binding was inhibited by S-nitrosylation of parkin. Additionally, nitrosative stress induced apoptosis in cells expressing parkin, and this death was, at least in part, dependent upon p53. In primary mesencephalic cultures, pesticide-induced apoptosis was prevented by inhibition of nitric oxide synthase (NOS). In a mouse model of pesticide-induced PD, both S-nitrosylated (SNO-)parkin and p53 protein levels were increased, while administration of a NOS inhibitor mitigated neuronal death in these mice. Moreover, the levels of SNO-parkin and p53 were simultaneously elevated in postmortem human PD brain compared to controls.
Taken together, our data indicate that S-nitrosylation of parkin, leading to p53-mediated neuronal cell death, contributes to the pathophysiology of sporadic PD.
Nitric oxide (NO); S-nitrosylation; Parkin; p53; Nitrosative stress; Parkinson’s disease
Prolonged human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) infection leads to neurological debilitation, including motor dysfunction and frank dementia. Although pharmacological control of HIV infection is now possible, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) remain intractable. Here, we report that chronic treatment with erythropoietin (EPO) and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) protects against HIV/gp120-mediated neuronal damage in culture and in vivo.
Initially, we tested the neuroprotective effects of various concentrations of EPO, IGF-I, or EPO+IGF-I from gp120-induced damage in vitro. To assess the chronic effects of EPO+IGF-I administration in vivo, we treated HIV/gp120-transgenic or wild-type mice transnasally once a week for 4 months and subsequently conducted immunohistochemical analyses.
Low concentrations of EPO+IGF-I provided neuroprotection from gp120 in vitro in a synergistic fashion. In vivo, EPO+IGF-I treatment prevented gp120-mediated neuronal loss, but did not alter microgliosis or astrocytosis. Strikingly, in the brains of both humans with HAND and gp120-transgenic mice, we found evidence for hyperphosphorylated tau protein (paired helical filament-I tau), which has been associated with neuronal damage and loss. In the mouse brain following transnasal treatment with EPO+IGF-I, in addition to neuroprotection we observed increased phosphorylation/activation of Akt (protein kinase B) and increased phosphorylation/inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β, dramatically decreasing downstream hyperphosphorylation of tau. These results indicate that the peptides affected their cognate signaling pathways within the brain parenchyma.
Our findings suggest that chronic combination therapy with EPO+IGF-I provides neuroprotection in a mouse model of HAND, in part, through cooperative activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt/GSK-3β signaling. This combination peptide therapy should therefore be tested in humans with HAND.
FK506 binding protein (FKBP)-51 and FKBP52 act as molecular chaperones to control glucocorticoid receptor (GR) sensitivity. Dysregulation of proteins involved in GR-mediated signaling can lead to maladaptive stress response and aging-related cognitive decline. As HIV infection is related to chronic stress, we hypothesized that altered cortical expression of these proteins was associated with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). We used quantitative immunohistochemistry to assess expression levels of these proteins in the mid-frontal gyrus of 55 HIV-infected subjects free of cerebral opportunistic diseases compared to 20 age-matched non-HIV controls. The immunoreactivity normalized to the neuroanatomic area measured (IRn) for FKBP51 was increased in HIV subjects both in the cortex and subcortical white matter (p<0.0001, U test), while no significant alterations were observed for GR or FKBP52. Notably, the cortical FKBP51 IRn was higher in HAND subjects than in cognitively normal HIV subjects (p=0.02, U test). There was also a trend for increasing cortical FKBP51 IRn with the increasing severity of HAND (p=0.08, Kruskal-Wallis test). No significant changes in FKBP51 IRn were found with respect to hepatitis C virus infection, lifetime methamphetamine use, or antiretroviral treatment in HIV subjects. In conclusion, the increased cortical expression of FKBP51 (an inhibitor for GR activity) might represent negative feedback in an attempt to reduce GR sensitivity in the setting of chronic stress-induced elevation of GR-mediated signaling inherent in HIV infection. The further increased FKBP51 expression might lead to maladaptive stress response and HAND.
FKBP4; FKBP5; HIV dementia; Immunophilin; NR3C1
Huntington’s disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by a triplet repeat, CAG expansion mutation. Although CAG repeat length is thought to correlate with pathologic burden and disease severity, considerable variability in clinical phenotype remains. This study examined whether neuropathologic burden at autopsy corresponded with severity of clinical phenotype in Huntington’s disease.
The brains of 24 patients with a clinical and genetic diagnosis of Huntington’s disease were analyzed at autopsy. Subjects were stratified on the basis of Vonsattel staging as mild/moderate (Stage 1–2, n=7) or severe (Stage 3–4, n=17). Clinical severity was assessed on the basis of the Mini Mental State Exam (0–30) and two Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale functional components, the Independence Scale (10–100) and the Total Functional Capacity (0–13).
The mild/moderate subjects were significantly older, had lower CAG repeat lengths, and greater fixed brain weights than those classified as severe. Patients who were pathologically classified as severe at autopsy were, on average, younger at age of onset and death, and less well educated. Despite obvious clinical and pathological differences between mild-moderate and severe Huntington’s disease subjects at autopsy, mean Mini Mental State Exam scores of the two groups prior to death were surprisingly similar. Correlations between Vonsattel stage and functional assessment scores prior to death were low and not statistically significant.
Our results suggest that the extent of striatal changes in Huntington’s disease may not always correlate with clinical disease severity measured by Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale functional scales.
Autopsy study; Huntington’s disease; Independence scale; Total Functional Capacity; Unified Huntington's Disease Rating Scale; Vonsattel staging
To investigate the rate of death caused by pulmonary embolism (PE) and the antemortem performance in diagnosis and treatment of PE.
A systematic search of cases involving fatal PE via PowerPath® (Sunquest) followed by chart review.
An academic medical centre located in San Diego, United States of America.
Postmortem cases with pathological findings of PE.
Main outcome measures
After data collection and collation, the data were subject to analysis.
From 2002 to 2012, PE was identified as the mechanism of death in 108 of 982 cases (11%, 95% CI 9.01–12.99%) at an institution with an average autopsy rate of 30% ± 0.07%. Excluding cases where care was withheld (by advance directive) or unavailable, 29 of 108 were eligible for antemortem treatment for PE. In 31% (nine of 29) of these cases the diagnosis of PE was considered antemortem. Only three of 29 were given thrombolytics despite only one case being contraindicated.
The rate of PE-related death is consistent with most other autopsy series and major epidemiologic studies despite advances in system wide deep venous thrombosis prophylaxis. The results validate previous studies that this diagnosis is often missed but probably improving compared to historical standards. Even when the diagnosis is considered, however, thrombolytics are not routinely given, even without contraindications. The cause of this failure to treat may require further study with comparison to patients that were treated to determine the utilization of this treatment. It also underscores the continued difficulty in the diagnosis of this disease.
Cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction, such as orthostatic hypotension consequent to baroreflex failure and cardiac sympathetic denervation, is frequently observed in the synucleinopathy Parkinson’s disease (PD). In the present study, the baroreceptor reflex was assessed in mice overexpressing human wildtype alpha-synuclein (Thy1-aSyn), a genetic mouse model of synucleinopathy. The beat-to-beat change in heart rate (HR), computed from R–R interval, in relation to blood pressure was measured in anesthetized and conscious mice equipped with arterial blood pressure telemetry transducers during transient bouts of hypertension and hypotension. Compared to wildtype, tachycardia following nitroprusside-induced hypotension was significantly reduced in Thy1-aSyn mice. Thy1-aSyn mice also showed an abnormal cardiovascular response (i.e., diminished tachycardia) to muscarinic blockade with atropine. We conclude that Thy1-aSyn mice have impaired basal and dynamic range of sympathetic and parasympathetic-mediated changes in HR and will be a useful model for long-term study of cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction associated with PD.
Parkinson’s disease; alpha-synuclein; orthostatic hypotension; baroreflex; mouse model
Forkhead box protein p1 (Foxp1), a transcription factor showing highly enriched expression in the striatum, has been implicated in central nervous system (CNS) development, but its role in the mature brain is unknown. In order to ascertain functional roles for Foxp1 in the CNS, we have identified gene targets for Foxp1 both in vitro and in vivo using genome-wide expression microarrays and chromatin-immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (ChIP-seq) assays. We found that mouse Foxp1 overexpression in striatal cells elicited expression changes of genes related to immune signaling, transcriptional regulation and a manually curated Huntington's disease (HD)-signaling pathway. Similar results were found when the gene expression data set was integrated with Foxp1-binding data determined from ChIP-seq analysis. In vivo lentiviral-mediated overexpression of human FOXP1 in the context of mutant huntingtin (Htt) protein resulted in a robust downregulation of glial cell-associated, immune genes, including those encoding a variety of cytokines and chemokines. Furthermore, Foxp1-induced expression changes were significantly negatively correlated with those changes elicited by mutant Htt protein in several different HD mouse models, and most significantly in post-mortem caudate from human HD subjects. We finally show that Foxp1 interacts with mutant Htt protein in mouse brain and is present in nuclear Htt aggregates in the striatum of R6/1 transgenic mice. These findings implicate Foxp1 as a key repressor of immune signaling in the CNS and suggest that the loss of Foxp1-mediated gene regulation in HD contributes to the immune dysfunction in this disease. We further suggest that Foxp1-regulated pathways might be important mediators of neuronal-glial cell communication.
α-Synuclein (α-Syn) is a presynaptic protein implicated in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Mice overexpressing human wildtype (WT) α-Syn under the Thy1 promoter show high levels of α-Syn in cortical and subcortical regions, exhibit progressive sensorimotor anomalies, as well as non-motor abnormalities and are considered models of pre-manifest PD as there is little evidence of early loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons. We used whole-cell patch clamp recordings from visually identified striatal medium-sized spiny neurons (MSSNs) in slices from α-Syn and WT littermate control mice at 35, 90 and 300 days of age to examine corticostriatal synaptic function. MSSNs displayed significant decreases in the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in α-Syn mice at all ages. This difference persisted in the presence of tetrodotoxin indicating it was independent of action potentials. Stimulation thresholds for evoking EPSCs were significantly higher and responses were smaller in α-Syn mice. These data suggest a decrease in neurotransmitter release at the corticostriatal synapse. At 90 days the frequency of spontaneous GABAA receptor-mediated synaptic currents was decreased in MSSNs but increased in cortical pyramidal neurons. These observations indicate that high levels of expression of α-Syn alter corticostriatal synaptic function early and they provide evidence for early synaptic dysfunction in a pre-manifest model of PD. Of importance, these changes are opposite to those found in DA-depletion models, suggesting that before degeneration of DA neurons in the substantia nigra synaptic adaptations occur at the corticostriatal synapse that may initiate subtle preclinical manifestations.
Glutamate receptors; Postsynaptic currents; Parkinson’s disease
The importance of ubiquitin E3 ligases in neurodegeneration is being increasingly recognized. The crucial role of NEDD4-1 (neural precursor cell-expressed developmentally down-regulated gene 4) in neural development is well-appreciated; however, its role in neurodegeneration remains unexplored. Herein, we report increased NEDD4-1 expression in the degenerated tissues of several major neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, its expression is upregulated in cultured neurons in response to various neurotoxins, including zinc and hydrogen superoxide, via transcriptional activation likely mediated by the ROS-responsive FOXM1B. Reduced protein levels of the insulin-like growth factor receptor (IGF-1Rβ) were observed as a consequence of upregulated NEDD4-1 via the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). Overexpression of a familial mutant form of SOD-1 (G93A) in neuroblastoma cells resulted in a similar reduction of IGF-1Rβ protein. This inverse correlation between NEDD4-1 and IGF-1Rβ was also observed in the cortex and spinal cords of mutant (G93A) SOD-1 transgenic mice at a pre-symptomatic age, which was similarly induced by in vivo administered zinc in WT C57BL/6 mice. Furthermore, histochemistry reveals markedly increased NEDD4-1 immunoreactivity in the degenerating/degenerated motor neurons in the lumbar anterior horn of the spinal cord, suggesting a direct causative role for NEDD4-1 in neurodegeneration. Indeed, downregulation of NEDD4-1 by shRNA or overexpression of a catalytically inactive form rescued neurons from zinc-induced cell death. Similarly, neurons with a NEDD4-1 haplotype are more resistant to apoptosis, largely due to expression of higher levels of IGF-1Rβ. Taken together, our work identifies a novel molecular mechanism for ROS-upregulated NEDD4-1 and the subsequently reduced IGF-1Rβ signaling in neurodegeneration.
The aggregation of α-synuclein (αSyn) is a neuropathologic hallmark of Parkinson's disease and other synucleinopathies. In Lewy bodies, αSyn is extensively phosphorylated, predominantly at serine 129 (S129). Recent studies in yeast have shown that, at toxic levels, αSyn disrupts Rab homeostasis, causing an initial endoplasmic reticulum-to-Golgi block that precedes a generalized trafficking collapse. However, whether αSyn phosphorylation modulates trafficking defects has not been evaluated. Here, we show that constitutive expression of αSyn in yeast impairs late-exocytic, early-endocytic and/or recycling trafficking. Although members of the casein kinase I (CKI) family phosphorylate αSyn at S129, they attenuate αSyn toxicity and trafficking defects by an S129 phosphorylation-independent mechanism. Surprisingly, phosphorylation of S129 modulates αSyn toxicity and trafficking defects in a manner strictly determined by genetic background. Abnormal endosome morphology, increased levels of the endosome marker Rab5 and co-localization of mammalian CKI with αSyn aggregates are observed in brain sections from αSyn-overexpressing mice and human synucleinopathies. Our results contribute to evidence that suggests αSyn-induced defects in endocytosis, exocytosis and/or recycling of vesicles involved in these cellular processes might contribute to the pathogenesis of synucleinopathies.
While most forms of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) are sporadic in nature, a small percentage of PD have genetic causes as first described for dominant, single base pair changes as well as duplication and triplication in the α-synuclein gene. The α-synuclein gene encodes a 140 amino acid residue protein that interacts with a variety of organelles including synaptic vesicles, lysosomes, endoplasmic reticulum/Golgi vesicles and, reported more recently, mitochondria. Here we examined the structural and functional interactions of human α-synuclein with brain mitochondria obtained from an early, pre-manifest mouse model for PD over-expressing human α-synuclein (ASOTg). The membrane potential in ASOTg brain mitochondria was decreased relative to wildtype (WT) mitochondria, while reactive oxygen species (ROS) were elevated in ASOTg brain mitochondria. No selective interaction of human α-synuclein with mitochondrial electron transport complexes cI-cV was detected. Monomeric human α-synuclein plus carboxyl terminally truncated forms were the predominant isoforms detected in ASOTg brain mitochondria by 2-dimensional PAGE (Native/SDS) and immunoblotting. Oligomers or fibrils were not detected with amyloid conformational antibodies. Mass spectrometry of human α-synuclein in both ASOTg brain mitochondria and homogenates from surgically resected human cortex demonstrated that the protein was full-length and postranslationally modified by N-terminal acetylation. Overall the study showed that accumulation of full-length, N-terminally acetylated human α-synuclein was sufficient to disrupt brain mitochondrial function in adult mice.
Synucleinopathies like Parkinson disease and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are characterized by α-synuclein aggregates within neurons (Lewy bodies) and their processes (Lewy neurites). Whereas α-synuclein has been genetically linked to the disease process, the pathological relevance of α-synuclein aggregates is still debated. Impaired degradation is considered to result in aggregation of α-synuclein. In addition to the ubiquitin-proteasome degradation, the autophagy-lysosomal pathway (ALP) is involved in intracellular degradation processes for α-synuclein. Here, we asked if modulation of ALP affects α-synuclein aggregation and toxicity. We have identified an induction of the ALP markers LAMP-2A and LC3-II in human brain tissue from DLB patients, in a transgenic mouse model of synucleinopathy, and in a cell culture model for α-synuclein aggregation. ALP inhibition using bafilomycin A1 (BafA1) significantly potentiates toxicity of aggregated α-synuclein species in transgenic mice and in cell culture. Surprisingly, increased toxicity is paralleled by reduced aggregation in both in vivo and in vitro models. The dichotomy of effects on aggregating and nonaggregating species of α-synuclein was specifically sensitive to BafA1 and could not be reproduced by other ALP inhibitors. The present study expands on the accumulating evidence regarding the function of ALP for α-synuclein degradation by isolating an aggregation specific, BafA1-sensitive, ALP-related pathway. Our data also suggest that protein aggregation may represent a detoxifying event rather than being causal for cellular toxicity.
alpha-synuclein; dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB); Lewy body; lysosomal degradation; Parkinson disease (PD); protein aggregation
Apoptosis is an essential cellular process in multiple diseases and a major pathway for neuronal death in neurodegeneration. The detailed signaling events/pathways leading to apoptosis, especially in neurons, require further elucidation. Here we identify a β-amyloid precursor protein (APP)-interacting protein, designated as appoptosin, whose levels are upregulated in brain samples from Alzheimer’s disease and infarct patients, and in rodent stroke models, as well as in neurons treated with β-amyloid (Aβ) and glutamate. We further demonstrate that appoptosin induces reactive oxygen species release and intrinsic caspase-dependent apoptosis. The physiological function of appoptosin is to transport/exchange glycine/5-amino-levulinic acid across the mitochondrial membrane for heme synthesis. Downregulation of appoptosin prevents cell death and caspase activation caused by glutamate or Aβ insults. APP modulates appoptosin-mediated apoptosis through interaction with appoptosin. Our study identifies appoptosin as a crucial player in apoptosis and a novel proapoptotic protein involved in neuronal cell death, providing a possible new therapeutic target for neurodegenerative disorders and cancers.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) results in cognitive decline and altered network activity, but the mechanisms are unknown. To identify such mechanisms, we studied human amyloid precursor protein (hAPP) transgenic mice, which simulate key aspects of AD. Electroencephalographic recordings in hAPP mice revealed spontaneous epileptiform discharges, indicating network hypersynchrony, primarily during reduced gamma oscillatory activity. Because this oscillatory rhythm is generated by inhibitory parvalbumin (PV) cells, network dysfunction in hAPP mice might arise from impaired PV cells. Supporting this hypothesis, hAPP mice and AD patients had decreased levels of the interneuron-specific and PV cell–predominant voltage-gated sodium channel subunit Nav1.1. Restoring Nav1.1 levels in hAPP mice by Nav1.1-BAC expression increased inhibitory synaptic activity and gamma oscillations and reduced hypersynchrony, memory deficits, and premature mortality. We conclude that reduced Nav1.1 levels and PV cell dysfunction critically contribute to abnormalities in oscillatory rhythms, network synchrony, and memory in hAPP mice and possibly in AD.
Alpha-synuclein (α-Syn) accumulation/aggregation and mitochondrial dysfunction play prominent roles in the pathology of Parkinson’s disease. We have previously shown that postmortem human dopaminergic neurons from PD brains accumulate high levels of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions. We now addressed the question, whether alterations in a component of the mitochondrial import machinery -TOM40- might contribute to the mitochondrial dysfunction and damage in PD. For this purpose, we studied levels of TOM40, mtDNA deletions, oxidative damage, energy production, and complexes of the respiratory chain in brain homogenates as well as in single neurons, using laser-capture-microdissection in transgenic mice overexpressing human wildtype α-Syn. Additionally, we used lentivirus-mediated stereotactic delivery of a component of this import machinery into mouse brain as a novel therapeutic strategy. We report here that TOM40 is significantly reduced in the brain of PD patients and in α-Syn transgenic mice. TOM40 deficits were associated with increased mtDNA deletions and oxidative DNA damage, and with decreased energy production and altered levels of complex I proteins in α-Syn transgenic mice. Lentiviral-mediated overexpression of Tom40 in α-Syn-transgenic mice brains ameliorated energy deficits as well as oxidative burden. Our results suggest that alterations in the mitochondrial protein transport machinery might contribute to mitochondrial impairment in α-Synucleinopathies.
Infectious prions cause diverse clinical signs and form an extraordinary range of structures, from amorphous aggregates to fibrils. How the conformation of a prion dictates the disease phenotype remains unclear. Mice expressing GPI-anchorless or GPI-anchored prion protein exposed to the same infectious prion develop fibrillar or nonfibrillar aggregates, respectively, and show a striking divergence in the disease pathogenesis. To better understand how a prion's physical properties govern the pathogenesis, infectious anchorless prions were passaged in mice expressing anchorless prion protein and the resulting prions were biochemically characterized. Serial passage of anchorless prions led to a significant decrease in the incubation period to terminal disease and altered the biochemical properties, consistent with a transmission barrier effect. After an intraperitoneal exposure, anchorless prions were only weakly neuroinvasive, as prion plaques rarely occurred in the brain yet were abundant in extracerebral sites such as heart and adipose tissue. Anchorless prions consistently showed very high stability in chaotropes or when heated in SDS, and were highly resistant to enzyme digestion. Consistent with the results in mice, anchorless prions from a human patient were also highly stable in chaotropes. These findings reveal that anchorless prions consist of fibrillar and highly stable conformers. The additional finding from our group and others that both anchorless and anchored prion fibrils are poorly neuroinvasive strengthens the hypothesis that a fibrillar prion structure impedes efficient CNS invasion.
Prions cause fatal neurodegenerative disease in humans and animals and there is currently no treatment available. The cellular prion protein is normally tethered to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane by a glycophosphatidyl inositol (GPI) anchor. A rare stop codon mutation in the PRNP gene leads to the production of GPI-anchorless prion protein and the development of familial prion disease, which has been reproduced in mouse models. GPI-anchorless prions in humans or mice form large, dense plaques containing fibrils in the brain that vary from the more common non-fibrillar prion aggregates. Here we investigated the biochemical differences between GPI-anchored and GPI-anchorless prions. We also assessed the capacity of GPI-anchorless prions to spread from entry sites into the central nervous system. We found that infectious GPI-anchorless prions were extraordinarily stable when exposed to protein denaturing conditions. Additionally, we show that GPI-anchorless prions rarely invade the central nervous system and then only after long incubation periods, despite their presence in extraneural tissues including adipose tissue and heart. Our study shows that GPI-anchored prions converted into GPI-anchorless prions become extraordinarily stable, more resistant to enzyme digestion, and are poorly able to invade the nervous system.
BGIN is an alternatively spliced Rac1-GAP comprising a unique C-terminal poly-ubiquitin–binding module. Poly-Ub/BGIN interactions enhance BGIN distribution to membranes to limit Rac1 activity and downstream effector function in tissue culture cells and with proteotoxic stress such as neurodegenerative APP proteotoxicity.
Spatial control of RhoGTPase-inactivating GAP components remains largely enigmatic. We describe a brain-specific RhoGAP splice variant, BARGIN (BGIN), which comprises a combination of BAR, GAP, and partial CIN phosphatase domains spliced from adjacent SH3BP1 and CIN gene loci. Excision of BGIN exon 2 results in recoding of a 42–amino acid N-terminal stretch. The partial CIN domain is a poly-ubiquitin (poly-Ub)–binding module that facilitates BGIN distribution to membranous and detergent-insoluble fractions. Poly-Ub/BGIN interactions support BGIN-mediated inactivation of a membranous Rac1 population, which consequently inactivates membrane-localized Rac1 effector systems such as reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation by the Nox1 complex. Given that Ub aggregate pathology and proteotoxicity are central themes in various neurodegenerative disorders, we investigated whether BGIN/Rac1 signaling could be involved in neurodegenerative proteotoxicity. BGIN/Ub interactions are observed through colocalization in tangle aggregates in the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brain. Moreover, enhanced BGIN membrane distribution correlates with reduced Rac1 activity in AD brain tissue. Finally, BGIN contributes to Rac1 inhibition and ROS generation in an amyloid precursor protein (APP) proteotoxicity model. These results suggest that BGIN/poly-Ub interactions enhance BGIN membrane distribution and relay poly-Ub signals to enact Rac1 inactivation, and attenuation of Rac1 signaling is partially dependent on BGIN in a proteotoxic APP context.
In neurodegenerative disorders of the aging population, misfolded proteins, such as PrPSc, α-synuclein, amyloid β protein and tau, can interact resulting in enhanced aggregation, cross seeding and accelerated disease progression. Previous reports have shown that in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and scrapie, α-synuclein accumulates near PrPSc deposits. However, it is unclear if pre-existing human α-synuclein aggregates modified prion disease pathogenesis, or if PrPSc exacerbates the α-synuclein pathology. Here, we inoculated infectious prions into aged α-synuclein transgenic (tg) and non-transgenic littermate control mice by the intracerebral route. Remarkably, inoculation of RML and mNS prions into α-synuclein tg mice resulted in more extensive and abundant intraneuronal and synaptic α-synuclein accumulation. In addition, infectious prions led to the formation of perineuronal α-synuclein deposits with a neuritic plaque-like appearance. Prion pathology was unmodified by the presence of α-synuclein. However, with the mNS prion strain there was a modest but significant acceleration in the time to terminal prion disease in mice having α-synuclein aggregates as compared with non-tg mice. Taken together, these studies support the notion that PrPSc directly or indirectly promotes α-synuclein pathology.
amyloid; neurodegeneration; plaque; prion; strain; synuclein
Abnormal deposition and intercellular propagation of α-synuclein plays a central role in the pathogenesis of disorders such as Parkinson's Disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). Previous studies demonstrated that immunization against α-synuclein resulted in reduced α-synuclein accumulation and synaptic loss in a transgenic (tg) mouse model, highlighting the potential for immunotherapy. However, the mechanism by which immunization prevents synucleinopathy-associated deficits remains unknown. Here, we show that antibodies against α-synuclein specifically target and aid in clearance of extracellular α-synuclein proteins by microglia, thereby preventing their actions on neighboring cells. Antibody-assisted clearance occurs mainly in microglia through the Fcγ receptor, and not in neuronal cells or astrocytes. Stereotaxic administration of antibody into the brains of α-synuclein tg mice prevented neuron-to-astroglia transmission of α-synuclein and led to increased localization of α-synuclein and the antibody in microglia. Furthermore, passive immunization with α-synuclein antibody reduced neuronal and glial accumulation of α-synuclein and ameliorated neurodegeneration and behavioral deficits associated with α-synuclein overexpression. These findings provide an underlying mechanistic basis for immunotherapy for PD/DLB and suggest extracellular forms of α-synuclein as potential therapeutic targets.