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1.  Cardiolipin externalization to the outer mitochondrial membrane acts as an elimination signal for mitophagy in neuronal cells 
Nature cell biology  2013;15(10):1197-1205.
Recognition of injured mitochondria for degradation by macroautophagy is essential for cellular health, but the mechanisms remain poorly understood. Cardiolipin is an inner mitochondrial membrane phospholipid. We found that rotenone, staurosporine, 6-hydroxydopamine and other pro-mitophagy stimuli caused externalization of cardiolipin to the mitochondrial surface in primary cortical neurons and SH-SY5Y cells. RNAi knockdown of cardiolipin synthase or of phospholipid scramblase-3, which transports cardiolipin to the outer mitochondrial membrane, decreased mitochondrial delivery to autophagosomes. Furthermore, we found that the autophagy protein microtubule-associated-protein-1-light chain-3 (LC3), which mediates both autophagosome formation and cargo recognition, contains cardiolipin-binding sites important for the engulfment of mitochondria by the autophagic system. Mutation of LC3 residues predicted as cardiolipin-interaction sites by computational modeling inhibited its participation in mitophagy. These data indicate that redistribution of cardiolipin serves as an “eat-me” signal for the elimination of damaged mitochondria from neuronal cells.
PMCID: PMC3806088  PMID: 24036476
2.  Differential Expression of Alpha-Synuclein in Hippocampal Neurons 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89327.
α-Synuclein is the major pathological component of synucleinopathies including Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Recent studies have demonstrated that α-synuclein also plays important roles in the release of synaptic vesicles and synaptic membrane recycling in healthy neurons. However, the precise relationship between the pathogenicity and physiological functions of α-synuclein remains to be elucidated. To address this issue, we investigated the subcellular localization of α-synuclein in normal and pathological conditions using primary mouse hippocampal neuronal cultures. While some neurons expressed high levels of α-synuclein in presynaptic boutons and cell bodies, other neurons either did not or only very weakly expressed the protein. These α-synuclein-negative cells were identified as inhibitory neurons by immunostaining with specific antibodies against glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), parvalbumin, and somatostatin. In contrast, α-synuclein-positive synapses were colocalized with the excitatory synapse marker vesicular glutamate transporter-1. This expression profile of α-synuclein was conserved in the hippocampus in vivo. In addition, we found that while presynaptic α-synuclein colocalizes with synapsin, a marker of presynaptic vesicles, it is not essential for activity-dependent membrane recycling induced by high potassium treatment. Exogenous supply of preformed fibrils generated by recombinant α-synuclein was shown to promote the formation of Lewy body (LB) -like intracellular aggregates involving endogenous α-synuclein. GAD-positive neurons did not form LB-like aggregates following treatment with preformed fibrils, however, exogenous expression of human α-synuclein allowed intracellular aggregate formation in these cells. These results suggest the presence of a different mechanism for regulation of the expression of α-synuclein between excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Furthermore, α-synuclein expression levels may determine the efficiency of intracellular aggregate formation in different neuronal subtypes.
PMCID: PMC3934906  PMID: 24586691
3.  Human A53T α-Synuclein Causes Reversible Deficits in Mitochondrial Function and Dynamics in Primary Mouse Cortical Neurons 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e85815.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease. A key pathological feature of PD is Lewy bodies, of which the major protein component is α-synuclein (α-syn). Human genetic studies have shown that mutations (A53T, A30P, E46K) and multiplication of the α-syn gene are linked to familial PD. Mice overexpressing the human A53T mutant α-syn gene develop severe movement disorders. However, the molecular mechanisms of α-syn toxicity are not well understood. Recently, mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked with multiple neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease. Here we investigated whether mitochondrial motility, dynamics and respiratory function are affected in primary neurons from a mouse model expressing the human A53T mutation. We found that mitochondrial motility was selectively inhibited in A53T neurons while transport of other organelles was not affected. In addition, A53T expressing neurons showed impairment in mitochondrial membrane potential and mitochondrial respiratory function. Furthermore, we found that rapamycin, an autophagy inducer, rescued the decreased mitochondrial mobility. Taken together, these data demonstrate that A53T α-syn impairs mitochondrial function and dynamics and the deficit of mitochondrial transport is reversible, providing further understanding of the disease pathogenesis and a potential therapeutic strategy for PD.
PMCID: PMC3877382  PMID: 24392030
4.  Monitoring Mitophagy in Neuronal Cell Cultures 
Proper control of mitochondrial turnover is critical for maintenance of cellular energetics under basal and stressed conditions, and for prevention of endogenous oxidative stress. Whole organelle turnover is mediated through macroautophagy, a process by which autophagosomes deliver mitochondria to the lysosome for hydrolytic degradation. While mitochondrial autophagy can occur as part of a nonselective upregulation of autophagy, selective degradation of damaged or unneeded mitochondria (mitophagy) is a rapidly growing area in development, cancer, and neurodegeneration, particularly with regard to Parkinson’s disease. Due to its dynamic nature, and the potential for regulatory perturbation by disease processes, no single technique is sufficient to evaluate mitophagy. Here, we describe several complementary techniques that include electron microscopy, single cell analysis of LC3 fluorescent puncta, and Western blot, each used in conjunction with a flux inhibitor to trap newly formed autophagosomes in order to monitor mitophagy in neuronal cells.
PMCID: PMC3683873  PMID: 21913110
Autophagy; Mitophagy; Electron microscopy; Western Blot; RFP-LC3; GFP-LC3; Immunofluorescence
5.  Expression Analysis of Lrrk1, Lrrk2 and Lrrk2 Splice Variants in Mice 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63778.
Missense mutations in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 gene (LRRK2) are linked to autosomal dominant forms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). In order to get insights into the physiological role of Lrrk2, we examined the distribution of Lrrk2 mRNA and different splice variants in the developing murine embryo and the adult brain of Mus musculus. To analyse if the Lrrk2-paralog, Lrrk1, may have redundant functions in PD-development, we also compared Lrrk1 and Lrrk2 expression in the same tissues. Using radioactive in situ hybridization, we found ubiquitous expression of both genes at low level from embryonic stage E9.5 onward, which progressively increased up until birth. The developing central nervous system (CNS) displayed no prominent Lrrk2 mRNA signals at these time-points. However, in the entire postnatal brain Lrrk2 became detectable, showing strongest level in the striatum and the cortex of adult mice; Lrrk1 was only detectable in the mitral cell layer of the olfactory bulb. Thus, due to the non-overlapping expression patterns, a redundant function of Lrrk2 and Lrrk1 in the pathogenesis of PD seems to be unlikely. Quantification of Lrrk2 mRNA and protein level in several brain regions by real-time PCR and Western blot verified the striatum and cortex as hotspots of postnatal Lrrk2 expression. Strong expression of Lrrk2 is mainly found in neurons, specifically in the dopamine receptor 1 (DRD1a) and 2 (DRD2)-positive subpopulations of the striatal medium spiny neurons. Finally, we identified 2 new splice-variants of Lrrk2 in RNA-samples from various adult brain regions and organs: a variant with a skipped exon 5 and a truncated variant terminating in an alternative exon 42a. In order to identify the origin of these two splice variants, we also analysed primary neural cultures independently and found cell-specific expression patterns for these variants in microglia and astrocytes.
PMCID: PMC3651128  PMID: 23675505
6.  Altered transcription factor trafficking in oxidatively-stressed neuronal cells 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2012;1822(11):1773-1782.
Age-related neurodegenerative diseases are associated with alterations in gene expression in affected neurons. One of the mechanisms that could account for this is altered subcellular localization of transcription factors, which has been observed in human post-mortem brains of each of the major neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s disease (PD). The specific mechanisms are yet to be elucidated; however a potential mechanism involves alterations in nuclear transport. In this study, we examined the nucleocytoplasmic trafficking of select transcription factors in response to a PD-relevant oxidative injury, 6-hydroxydopamine (6OHDA). Utilizing a well-established model of ligand-regulated nucleocytoplasmic shuttling, the glucocorticoid receptor, we found that 6OHDA selectively impaired nuclear import through an oxidative mechanism without affecting nuclear export or nuclear retention. Interestingly, impaired nuclear import was selective as Nrf2 (nuclear factor E2-related factor 2) nuclear localization remained intact in 6OHDA-treated cells. Thus, oxidative stress specifically impacts the subcellular localization of some but not all transcription factors, which is consistent with observations in post-mortem PD brains. Our data further implicate a role for altered microtubule dependent trafficking in the differential effects of 6OHDA on transcription factor import. Oxidative disruption of microtubule-dependent nuclear transport may contribute to selective declines in transcriptional responses of aging or diseased dopaminergic cells.
PMCID: PMC3628596  PMID: 22902725
Parkinson’s disease; Nuclear trafficking; 6-Hydroxydopamine; Oxidative stress; Microtubules
7.  Neocortex and Allocortex Respond Differentially to Cellular Stress In Vitro and Aging In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58596.
In Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, the allocortex accumulates aggregated proteins such as synuclein and tau well before neocortex. We present a new high-throughput model of this topographic difference by microdissecting neocortex and allocortex from the postnatal rat and treating them in parallel fashion with toxins. Allocortical cultures were more vulnerable to low concentrations of the proteasome inhibitors MG132 and PSI but not the oxidative poison H2O2. The proteasome appeared to be more impaired in allocortex because MG132 raised ubiquitin-conjugated proteins and lowered proteasome activity in allocortex more than neocortex. Allocortex cultures were more vulnerable to MG132 despite greater MG132-induced rises in heat shock protein 70, heme oxygenase 1, and catalase. Proteasome subunits PA700 and PA28 were also higher in allocortex cultures, suggesting compensatory adaptations to greater proteasome impairment. Glutathione and ceruloplasmin were not robustly MG132-responsive and were basally higher in neocortical cultures. Notably, neocortex cultures became as vulnerable to MG132 as allocortex when glutathione synthesis or autophagic defenses were inhibited. Conversely, the glutathione precursor N-acetyl cysteine rendered allocortex resilient to MG132. Glutathione and ceruloplasmin levels were then examined in vivo as a function of age because aging is a natural model of proteasome inhibition and oxidative stress. Allocortical glutathione levels rose linearly with age but were similar to neocortex in whole tissue lysates. In contrast, ceruloplasmin levels were strikingly higher in neocortex at all ages and rose linearly until middle age. PA28 levels rose with age and were higher in allocortex in vivo, also paralleling in vitro data. These neo- and allocortical differences have implications for the many studies that treat the telencephalic mantle as a single unit. Our observations suggest that the topographic progression of protein aggregations through the cerebrum may reflect differential responses to low level protein-misfolding stress but also reveal impressive compensatory adaptations in allocortex.
PMCID: PMC3594169  PMID: 23536801
8.  ATP13A2 regulates mitochondrial bioenergetics through macroautophagy 
Neurobiology of Disease  2011;45(3):962-972.
Mitochondrial dysfunction and autophagy are centrally implicated in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Mutations in ATP13A2, which encodes a lysosomal P-type ATPase of unknown function, cause a rare, autosomal recessive parkinsonian syndrome. Lysosomes are essential for autophagy, and autophagic clearance of dysfunctional mitochondria represents an important element of mitochondrial quality control. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that loss of ATP13A2 function will affect mitochondrial function. Knockdown of ATP13A2 led to an increase in mitochondrial mass in primary mouse cortical neurons and SH-SY5Y cells forced into mitochondrial dependence. ATP13A2-deficient cells exhibited increased oxygen consumption without a significant change in steady-state levels of ATP. Mitochondria in knockdown cells exhibited increased fragmentation and increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Basal levels of the autophagosome marker LC3-II were not significantly changed, however, ATP13A2 knockdown cells exhibited decreased autophagic flux, associated with increased levels of phospho-mTOR, and resistance to autophagy induction by rapamycin. The effects of ATP13A2 siRNA on oxygen consumption, mitochondrial mass and ROS production could be mimicked by inhibiting autophagy induction using siRNA to Atg7. We propose that decreased autophagy associated with ATP13A2 deficiency affects mitochondrial quality control, resulting in increased ROS production. These data are the first to implicate loss of ATP13A2 function in mitochondrial maintenance and oxidative stress, lending further support to converging genetic and environmental evidence for mitochondrial dysregulation in PD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3291101  PMID: 22198378
mitochondrial quality control; autophagy; recessive parkinsonism; Kufor-Rakeb syndrome
9.  A comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related molecules and processes (2nd edition) 
Autophagy  2011;7(11):1273-1294.
The study of autophagy is rapidly expanding, and our knowledge of the molecular mechanism and its connections to a wide range of physiological processes has increased substantially in the past decade. The vocabulary associated with autophagy has grown concomitantly. In fact, it is difficult for readers—even those who work in the field—to keep up with the ever-expanding terminology associated with the various autophagy-related processes. Accordingly, we have developed a comprehensive glossary of autophagy-related terms that is meant to provide a quick reference for researchers who need a brief reminder of the regulatory effects of transcription factors and chemical agents that induce or inhibit autophagy, the function of the autophagy-related proteins, and the roles of accessory components and structures that are associated with autophagy.
PMCID: PMC3359482  PMID: 21997368
autophagy; lysosome; mitophagy; pexophagy; stress; vacuole
10.  Mitochondria and Parkinson's Disease 
Parkinson's Disease  2012;2011:261791.
PMCID: PMC3437634  PMID: 22973533
11.  Synaptic Dysfunction in Genetic Models of Parkinson's Disease: A Role for Autophagy? 
Neurobiology of disease  2010;43(1):60-67.
The past decade in Parkinson's disease (PD) research has been punctuated by numerous advances in understanding genetic factors that contribute to the disease. Common to most of the genetic models of Parkinsonian neurodegeneration are pathologic mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction, secretory vesicle dysfunction and oxidative stress that likely trigger common cell death mechanisms. Whereas presynaptic function is implicated in the function / dysfunction of α-synuclein, the first gene shown to contribute to PD, synaptic function has not comprised a major focus in most other genetic models. However, recent advances in understanding the impact of mutations in parkin and LRRK2 have also yielded insights into synaptic dysfunction as a possible early pathogenic mechanism. Autophagy is a common neuronal response in each of these genetic models of PD, participating in the clearance of protein aggregates and injured mitochondria. However, the potential consequences of autophagy upregulation on synaptic structure and function remain unknown. In this review, we discuss the evidence that supports a role for synaptic dysfunction in the neurodegenerative cascade in PD, and highlight unresolved questions concerning a potential role for autophagy in either pathological or compensatory synaptic remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3049988  PMID: 20969957
12.  Common Pathogenic Effects of Missense Mutations in the P-Type ATPase ATP13A2 (PARK9) Associated with Early-Onset Parkinsonism 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e39942.
Mutations in the ATP13A2 gene (PARK9) cause autosomal recessive, juvenile-onset Kufor-Rakeb syndrome (KRS), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by parkinsonism. KRS mutations produce truncated forms of ATP13A2 with impaired protein stability resulting in a loss-of-function. Recently, homozygous and heterozygous missense mutations in ATP13A2 have been identified in subjects with early-onset parkinsonism. The mechanism(s) by which missense mutations potentially cause parkinsonism are not understood at present. Here, we demonstrate that homozygous F182L, G504R and G877R missense mutations commonly impair the protein stability of ATP13A2 leading to its enhanced degradation by the proteasome. ATP13A2 normally localizes to endosomal and lysosomal membranes in neurons and the F182L and G504R mutations disrupt this vesicular localization and promote the mislocalization of ATP13A2 to the endoplasmic reticulum. Heterozygous T12M, G533R and A746T mutations do not obviously alter protein stability or subcellular localization but instead impair the ATPase activity of microsomal ATP13A2 whereas homozygous missense mutations disrupt the microsomal localization of ATP13A2. The overexpression of ATP13A2 missense mutants in SH-SY5Y neural cells does not compromise cellular viability suggesting that these mutant proteins lack intrinsic toxicity. However, the overexpression of wild-type ATP13A2 may impair neuronal integrity as it causes a trend of reduced neurite outgrowth of primary cortical neurons, whereas the majority of disease-associated missense mutations lack this ability. Finally, ATP13A2 overexpression sensitizes cortical neurons to neurite shortening induced by exposure to cadmium or nickel ions, supporting a functional interaction between ATP13A2 and heavy metals in post-mitotic neurons, whereas missense mutations influence this sensitizing effect. Collectively, our study provides support for common loss-of-function effects of homozygous and heterozygous missense mutations in ATP13A2 associated with early-onset forms of parkinsonism.
PMCID: PMC3386943  PMID: 22768177
13.  Mitochondrially localized PKA reverses mitochondrial pathology and dysfunction in a cellular model of Parkinson’s disease 
Cell death and differentiation  2011;18(12):1914-1923.
Mutations in PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) are associated with a familial syndrome related to Parkinson’s disease (PD). We previously reported that stable neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cell lines with reduced expression of endogenous PINK1 exhibit mitochondrial fragmentation, increased mitochondria-derived superoxide, induction of compensatory macroautophagy/mitophagy and a low level of ongoing cell death. Here, we investigated the ability of protein kinase A (PKA) to confer protection in this model, focusing on its subcellular targeting. Either: 1) treatment with pharmacological PKA activators; 2) transient expression of a constitutively active form of mitochondria-targeted PKA; or 3) transient expression of wild-type AKAP1, a scaffold that targets endogenous PKA to mitochondria, reversed each of the phenotypes attributed to loss of PINK1 in SH-SY5Y cells, and rescued parameters of mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction. Mitochondrial and lysosomal changes in primary cortical neurons derived from PINK1 knockout mice or subjected to PINK1 RNAi were also reversed by activation of PKA. PKA phosphorylates the rat dynamin-related protein 1 isoform 1 (Drp1) at serine 656 (homologous to human serine 637), inhibiting its pro-fission function. Mimicking phosphorylation of Drp1 recapitulated many of the protective effects of AKAP1/PKA. These data indicate that redirecting endogenous PKA to mitochondria can compensate for deficiencies in PINK1 function, highlighting the importance of compartmentalized signaling networks in mitochondrial quality control.
PMCID: PMC3177020  PMID: 21637291
PINK1; PKA; AKAP1; neurodegeneration; mitochondria and mitophagy
14.  To Eat or Not to Eat: Neuronal Metabolism, Mitophagy, and Parkinson's Disease 
Antioxidants & Redox Signaling  2011;14(10):1979-1987.
Neurons are exquisitely dependent upon mitochondrial respiration to support energy-demanding functions. Mechanisms that regulate mitochondrial quality control have recently taken center stage in Parkinson's disease research, particularly the selective degradation of mitochondria by autophagy (mitophagy). Unlike other cells, neurons show limited glycolytic potential, and both insufficient and excessive mitophagy have been linked to neurodegeneration. Kinases implicated in regulating mammalian mitophagy include extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases (ERK1/2) and PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1). Increased expression of full-length PINK1 enhances recruitment of parkin to chemically depolarized mitochondria, resulting in rapid mitochondrial clearance in transformed cell lines. As parkin and PINK1 mutations cause autosomal recessive parkinsonism, potential defects in clearing dysfunctional mitochondria may contribute to mitochondrial abnormalities in disease. Given the unique features of metabolic regulation in neurons, however, mechanisms regulating mitochondrial network stability and the threshold for mitophagy are likely to vary from cells that preferentially utilize aerobic glycolysis. Moreover, removal of the entire mitochondrial complement may represent part of a neuronal cell death pathway. Future work utilizing physiological injuries that affect only a subset of mitochondria would help to elucidate whether defective recognition of damaged mitochondria, or alternatively, inability to maintain or generate healthy mitochondria, play the major roles in parkinsonian neurodegeneration. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 14, 1979–1987.
PMCID: PMC3078495  PMID: 21126205
15.  DJ-1 Null Dopaminergic Neuronal Cells Exhibit Defects in Mitochondrial Function and Structure: Involvement of Mitochondrial Complex I Assembly 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e32629.
DJ-1 is a Parkinson's disease-associated gene whose protein product has a protective role in cellular homeostasis by removing cytosolic reactive oxygen species and maintaining mitochondrial function. However, it is not clear how DJ-1 regulates mitochondrial function and why mitochondrial dysfunction is induced by DJ-1 deficiency. In a previous study we showed that DJ-1 null dopaminergic neuronal cells exhibit defective mitochondrial respiratory chain complex I activity. In the present article we investigated the role of DJ-1 in complex I formation by using blue native-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and 2-dimensional gel analysis to assess native complex status. On the basis of these experiments, we concluded that DJ-1 null cells have a defect in the assembly of complex I. Concomitant with abnormal complex I formation, DJ-1 null cells show defective supercomplex formation. It is known that aberrant formation of the supercomplex impairs the flow of electrons through the channels between respiratory chain complexes, resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction. We took two approaches to study these mitochondrial defects. The first approach assessed the structural defect by using both confocal microscopy with MitoTracker staining and electron microscopy. The second approach assessed the functional defect by measuring ATP production, O2 consumption, and mitochondrial membrane potential. Finally, we showed that the assembly defect as well as the structural and functional abnormalities in DJ-1 null cells could be reversed by adenovirus-mediated overexpression of DJ-1, demonstrating the specificity of DJ-1 on these mitochondrial properties. These mitochondrial defects induced by DJ-1mutation may be a pathological mechanism for the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC3293835  PMID: 22403686
16.  Bioenergetics of neurons inhibit the translocation response of Parkin following rapid mitochondrial depolarization 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;20(5):927-940.
Recent studies delineate a pathway involving familial Parkinson's disease (PD)-related proteins PINK1 and Parkin, in which PINK1-dependent mitochondrial accumulation of Parkin targets depolarized mitochondria towards degradation through mitophagy. The pathway has been primarily characterized in cells less dependent on mitochondria for energy production than neurons. Here we report that in neurons, unlike other cells, mitochondrial depolarization by carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenyl hydrazone did not induce Parkin translocation to mitochondria or mitophagy. PINK1 overexpression increased basal Parkin accumulation on neuronal mitochondria, but did not sensitize them to depolarization-induced Parkin translocation. Our data suggest that bioenergetic differences between neurons and cultured cell lines contribute to these different responses. In HeLa cells utilizing usual glycolytic metabolism, mitochondrial depolarization robustly triggered Parkin–mitochondrial translocation, but this did not occur in HeLa cells forced into dependence on mitochondrial respiration. Declining ATP levels after mitochondrial depolarization correlated with the absence of induced Parkin–mitochondrial translocation in both HeLa cells and neurons. However, intervention allowing neurons to maintain ATP levels after mitochondrial depolarization only modestly increased Parkin recruitment to mitochondria, without evidence of increased mitophagy. These data suggest that changes in ATP levels are not the sole determinant of the different responses between neurons and other cell types, and imply that additional mechanisms regulate mitophagy in neurons. Since the Parkin–mitophagy pathway is heavily dependent on bioenergetic status, the unique metabolic properties of neurons likely influence the function of this pathway in the pathogenesis of PD.
PMCID: PMC3033183  PMID: 21147754
17.  Establishment of a Novel Fluorescence-Based Method to Evaluate Chaperone-Mediated Autophagy in a Single Neuron 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31232.
Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) is a selective autophagy-lysosome protein degradation pathway. The role of CMA in normal neuronal functions and in neural disease pathogenesis remains unclear, in part because there is no available method to monitor CMA activity at the single-cell level.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We sought to establish a single-cell monitoring method by visualizing translocation of CMA substrates from the cytosol to lysosomes using the HaloTag (HT) system. GAPDH, a CMA substrate, was fused to HT (GAPDH-HT); this protein accumulated in the lysosomes of HeLa cells and cultured cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs) after labeling with fluorescent dye-conjugated HT ligand. Lysosomal accumulation was enhanced by treatments that activate CMA and prevented by siRNA-mediated knockdown of LAMP2A, a lysosomal receptor for CMA, and by treatments that inactivate CMA. These results suggest that lysosomal accumulation of GAPDH-HT reflects CMA activity. Using this method, we revealed that mutant γPKC, which causes spinocerebellar ataxia type 14, decreased CMA activity in cultured PCs.
In the present study, we established a novel fluorescent-based method to evaluate CMA activity in a single neuron. This novel method should be useful and valuable for evaluating the role of CMA in various neuronal functions and neural disease pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3280339  PMID: 22363588
18.  Neurotrophic Effect of Citrus 5-Hydroxy-3,6,7,8,3′,4′-Hexamethoxyflavone: Promotion of Neurite Outgrowth via cAMP/PKA/CREB Pathway in PC12 Cells 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28280.
5-Hydroxy-3,6,7,8,3′,4′-hexamethoxyflavone (5-OH-HxMF), a hydroxylated polymethoxyflavone, is found exclusively in the Citrus genus, particularly in the peels of sweet orange. In this research, we report the first investigation of the neurotrophic effects and mechanism of 5-OH-HxMF in PC12 pheochromocytoma cells. We found that 5-OH-HxMF can effectively induce PC12 neurite outgrowth accompanied with the expression of neuronal differentiation marker protein growth-associated protein-43(GAP-43). 5-OH-HxMF caused the enhancement of cyclic AMP response element binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation, c-fos gene expression and CRE-mediated transcription, which was inhibited by 2-naphthol AS-E phosphate (KG-501), a specific antagonist for the CREB-CBP complex formation. Moreover, 5-OH-HxMF-induced both CRE transcription activity and neurite outgrowth were inhibited by adenylate cyclase and protein kinase A (PKA) inhibitor, but not MEK1/2, protein kinase C (PKC), phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) or calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase (CaMK) inhibitor. Consistently, 5-OH-HxMF treatment increased the intracellular cAMP level and downstream component, PKA activity. We also found that addition of K252a, a TrKA antagonist, significantly inhibited NGF- but not 5-OH-HxMF-induced neurite outgrowth. These results reveal for the first time that 5-OH-HxMF is an effective neurotrophic agent and its effect is mainly through a cAMP/PKA-dependent, but TrKA-independent, signaling pathway coupling with CRE-mediated gene transcription. A PKC-dependent and CREB-independent pathway was also involved in its neurotrophic action.
PMCID: PMC3226691  PMID: 22140566
19.  Peroxiredoxin-2 protects against 6-hydroxydopamine-induced dopaminergic neurodegeneration via attenuation of the ASK1 signaling cascade 
The peroxiredoxin (PRX) family of antioxidant enzymes helps maintain the intracellular reducing milieu and suppresses apoptosis in non-neuronal cells. However, whether PRX can inhibit neuronal apoptosis through specific signaling mechanisms remains poorly understood. Induction of PRX2, the most abundant neuronal PRX, occurs in Parkinson’s disease (PD) patient brains, but its functional impact is unclear. In the present study, we used the dopaminergic (DA) toxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) to model PD and explore the protective effect and mechanisms of PRX on DA neurons. Of the 2-cysteine PRXs that were tested in MN9D DA neurons, endogenous PRX2 was most beneficial to cell survival. Lentivirus-mediated PRX2 over-expression conferred marked in vitro and in vivo neuroprotection against 6-OHDA toxicity in DA neurons, and preserved motor functions involving the dopamine system in mouse. In addition to its role as an antioxidant enzyme, PRX2 exhibited anti-apoptotic effects in DA neurons via suppression of ASK1-dependent activation of the JNK/c-Jun and p38 pro-death pathways, which are also activated in DA neurons of post-mortem PD brains. PRX2 inhibited 6-OHDA-induced ASK1 activation by modulating the redox status of the endogenous ASK1 inhibitor thioredoxin (Trx). PRX2 over-expression maintained Trx in a reduced state by inhibiting the cysteine thiol-disulfide exchange, thereby preventing its dissociation from ASK1. This study describes a previously undefined mechanism by which redox-sensitive molecules signal via apoptotic pathways in response to PD-relevant toxic stress in DA neurons. Our results also suggest that PRX2 and ASK1 may be potential targets for neuroprotective intervention in PD.
PMCID: PMC3078571  PMID: 21209210
Parkinson’s disease; neuroprotection; peroxiredoxin; apoptosis signaling kinase-1; thioredoxin; cell death
20.  Mitochondrial Localized STAT3 Is Involved in NGF Induced Neurite Outgrowth 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e21680.
Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) plays critical roles in neural development and is increasingly recognized as a major mediator of injury response in the nervous system. Cytokines and growth factors are known to phosphorylate STAT3 at tyrosine705 with or without the concomitant phosphorylation at serine727, resulting in the nuclear localization of STAT3 and subsequent transcriptional activation of genes. Recent evidence suggests that STAT3 may control cell function via alternative mechanisms independent of its transcriptional activity. Currently, the involvement of STAT3 mono-phosphorylated at residue serine727 (P-Ser-STAT3) in neurite outgrowth and the underlying mechanism is largely unknown.
Principal Findings
In this study, we investigated the role of nerve growth factor (NGF) induced P-Ser-STAT3 in mediating neurite outgrowth. NGF induced the phosphorylation of residue serine727 but not tyrosine705 of STAT3 in PC12 and primary cortical neuronal cells. In PC12 cells, serine but not tyrosine dominant negative mutant of STAT3 was found to impair NGF induced neurite outgrowth. Unexpectedly, NGF induced P-Ser-STAT3 was localized to the mitochondria but not in the nucleus. Mitochondrial STAT3 was further found to be intimately involved in NGF induced neurite outgrowth and the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Taken together, the findings herein demonstrated a hitherto unrecognized novel transcription independent mechanism whereby the mitochondria localized P-Ser-STAT3 is involved in NGF induced neurite outgrowth.
PMCID: PMC3124549  PMID: 21738764
21.  Co-Chaperone HSJ1a Dually Regulates the Proteasomal Degradation of Ataxin-3 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(5):e19763.
Homo sapiens J domain protein (HSJ1) is a J-domain containing co-chaperone that is known to stimulate ATPase activity of HSP70 chaperone, while it also harbors two ubiquitin (Ub)-interacting motifs (UIMs) that may bind with ubiquitinated substrates and potentially function in protein degradation. We studied the effects of HSJ1a on the protein levels of both normal and the disease–related polyQ-expanded forms of ataxin-3 (Atx3) in cells. The results demonstrate that the N-terminal J-domain and the C-terminal UIM domain of HSJ1a exert opposite functions in regulating the protein level of cellular overexpressed Atx3. This dual regulation is dependent on the binding of the J-domain with HSP70, and the UIM domain with polyUb chains. The J-domain down-regulates the protein level of Atx3 through HSP70 mediated proteasomal degradation, while the UIM domain may alleviate this process via maintaining the ubiquitinated Atx3. We propose that co-chaperone HSJ1a orchestrates the balance of substrates in stressed cells in a Yin-Yang manner.
PMCID: PMC3098244  PMID: 21625540
22.  A pivotal role for PINK1 and autophagy in mitochondrial quality control: implications for Parkinson disease 
Human Molecular Genetics  2010;19(R1):R28-R37.
The PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) is a mitochondrially targeted serine–threonine kinase, which is linked to autosomal recessive familial parkinsonism. Current literature implicates PINK1 as a pivotal regulator of mitochondrial quality control, promoting maintenance of respiring mitochondrial networks through cristae stabilization, phosphorylation of chaperones and possibly regulation of mitochondrial transport or autophagy. Pulse—chase studies indicate that PINK1 is rapidly processed into at least two shorter forms, which are distributed in both mitochondrial and cytosolic compartments. Through indirect regulation of mitochondrial proteases and Drp1, PINK1 may act to facilitate localized repair and fusion in response to minor mitochondrial stress. With severe mitochondrial damage, PINK1 facilitates aggregation and clearance of depolarized mitochondria through interactions with Parkin and possibly Beclin1. This switch in function most probably involves altered processing, post-translational modification and/or localization of PINK1, as overexpression of full-length PINK1 is required for mitochondrial Parkin recruitment. Under conditions of PINK1 deficiency, dysregulation of reactive oxygen species, electron transport chain function and calcium homeostasis trigger altered mitochondrial dynamics, indicating compromise of mitochondrial quality control mechanisms. Nevertheless, Parkin- and Beclin1-regulated mitochondrial autophagy remains effective at recycling PINK1-deficient mitochondria; failure of this final tier of mitochondrial quality control contributes to cell death. Thus, PINK1 plays a pivotal, multifactorial role in mitochondrial homeostasis. As autophagic recycling represents the final tier of mitochondrial quality control, whether PINK1 levels are enhanced or reduced, strategies to promote selective mitophagy and mitochondrial biogenesis may prove effective for multiple forms of Parkinson's disease.
PMCID: PMC2875056  PMID: 20385539
23.  Diversity in the Regulation of Autophagy and Mitophagy: Lessons from Parkinson's Disease 
Parkinson's Disease  2011;2011:789431.
Selective mitochondrial degradation through autophagy (mitophagy) has emerged as an important homeostatic mechanism in a variety of organisms and contexts. Complete clearance of mitochondria can be observed during normal maturation of certain mammalian cell types, and during certain forms of neuronal cell death. In recent years, autophagy dysregulation has been implicated in toxin-injured dopaminergic neurons as well as in major genetic models of Parkinson's disease (PD), including α-synuclein, leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), parkin, PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1), and DJ-1. Indeed, PINK1-parkin interactions may form the basis of a mechanism by which dissipation of the inner mitochondrial membrane potential can trigger selective mitochondrial targeting for autophagy. Multiple signals are likely to exist, however, depending upon the trigger for mitophagy. Similarly, the regulation of basal or injury-induced autophagy does not always follow canonical pathways described for nutrient deprivation. Implications of this regulatory diversity are discussed in the context of neuronal function and survival. Further studies are needed to address whether alterations in autophagy regulation play a directly injurious role in PD pathogenesis, or if the observed changes reflect impaired, appropriate, or excessive autophagic responses to other forms of cellular injury.
PMCID: PMC3096099  PMID: 21603187
24.  Nuclear transport, oxidative stress, and neurodegeneration 
Trafficking of transcription factors between the cytoplasm and the nucleus is an essential aspect of signal transduction, which is particularly challenging in neurons due to their highly polarized structure. Disruption in the subcellular localization of many proteins, including transcription factors, is observed in affected neurons of human neurodegenerative diseases. In these diseases, there is also growing evidence supporting alterations in nuclear transport as potential mechanisms underlying the observed mislocalization of proteins. Oxidative stress, which plays a key pathogenic role in these diseases, has also been associated with significant alterations in nuclear transport. After providing an overview of the major nuclear import and export pathways and discussing the impact of oxidative injury on nuclear trafficking of proteins, this review synthesizes emerging evidence for altered nuclear transport as a possible mechanism in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. Potential strategies to overcome such deficits are also discussed.
PMCID: PMC3071655  PMID: 21487518
Nuclear transport; nuclear pore complex; oxidative stress; neurodegeneration; Parkinson's disease; Alzheimer's disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; polyglutamine diseases
25.  Regulation of the autophagy protein LC3 by phosphorylation 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2010;190(4):533-539.
PKA puts the brakes on autophagy by inhibiting LC3 recruitment to autophagosomes.
Macroautophagy is a major catabolic pathway that impacts cell survival, differentiation, tumorigenesis, and neurodegeneration. Although bulk degradation sustains carbon sources during starvation, autophagy contributes to shrinkage of differentiated neuronal processes. Identification of autophagy-related genes has spurred rapid advances in understanding the recruitment of microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) in autophagy induction, although braking mechanisms remain less understood. Using mass spectrometry, we identified a direct protein kinase A (PKA) phosphorylation site on LC3 that regulates its participation in autophagy. Both metabolic (rapamycin) and pathological (MPP+) inducers of autophagy caused dephosphorylation of endogenous LC3. The pseudophosphorylated LC3 mutant showed reduced recruitment to autophagosomes, whereas the nonphosphorylatable mutant exhibited enhanced puncta formation. Finally, autophagy-dependent neurite shortening induced by expression of a Parkinson disease–associated G2019S mutation in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 was inhibited by dibutyryl–cyclic adenosine monophosphate, cytoplasmic expression of the PKA catalytic subunit, or the LC3 phosphorylation mimic. These data demonstrate a role for phosphorylation in regulating LC3 activity.
PMCID: PMC2928022  PMID: 20713600

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