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1.  Presenilin 1 maintains lysosomal Ca2+ homeostasis by regulating vATPase-mediated lysosome acidification 
Cell reports  2015;12(9):1430-1444.
Presenilin-1 (PS1) deletion or Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)-linked mutations disrupt lysosomal acidification and proteolysis, which inhibits autophagy. Here, we establish that this phenotype stems from impaired glycosylation and instability of vATPase V0a1 subunit causing deficient lysosomal vATPase assembly and function. We further demonstrate that elevated lysosomal pH in PS1KO cells induces abnormal Ca2+ efflux from lysosomes mediated by TRPML1 and elevates cytosolic Ca2+. In WT cells, blocking vATPase activity or knockdown of either PS1 or the V0a1 subunit of vATPase reproduces all of these abnormalities. Normalizing lysosomal pH in PS1KO cells using acidic nanoparticles restores normal lysosomal proteolysis, autophagy, and Ca2+ homeostasis, but correcting lysosomal Ca2+ deficits alone neither re-acidifies lysosomes nor reverses proteolytic and autophagic deficits. Our results indicate that vATPase deficiency in PS1 loss of function states causes lysosomal/autophagy deficits and contributes to abnormal cellular Ca2+ homeostasis, thus linking two AD-related pathogenic processes through a common molecular mechanism.
PMCID: PMC4558203  PMID: 26299959
2.  Evidence that the Rab5 effector APPL1 mediates APP-βCTF induced dysfunction of endosomes in Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease 
Molecular psychiatry  2015;21(5):707-716.
β-amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its cleaved products are strongly implicated in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Endosomes are highly active APP processing sites and endosome anomalies associated with upregulated expression of early endosomal regulator, rab5, are the earliest known disease-specific neuronal response in AD. Here, we show that the rab5 effector APPL1 mediates rab5 over-activation in Down Syndrome (DS) and AD, which is caused by elevated levels of the β-cleaved carboxy-terminal fragment of APP (βCTF). βCTF recruits APPL1 to rab5 endosomes, where it stabilizes active GTP-rab5, leading to pathologically accelerated endocytosis, endosome swelling, and selectively impaired axonal transport of rab5 endosomes. In DS fibroblasts, APPL1 knockdown corrects these endosomal anomalies. βCTF levels are also elevated in Alzheimer brain, which is accompanied by abnormally high recruitment of APPL1 to rab5 endosomes as seen in DS fibroblasts. These studies indicate that persistent rab5 over-activation through βCTF-APPL1 interactions constitutes a novel APP-dependent pathogenic pathway in AD.
PMCID: PMC4721948  PMID: 26194181
3.  Neurofilament Subunits are Integral Components of Synapses and Modulate Neurotransmission and Behavior In Vivo 
Molecular psychiatry  2015;20(8):986-994.
Synaptic roles for neurofilament proteins have rarely been considered. Here, we establish all four neurofilament subunits as integral resident proteins of synapses. Compared to the population in axons, neurofilament subunits isolated from synapses have distinctive stoichiometry and phosphorylation state, and respond differently to perturbations in vivo. Completely eliminating neurofilament proteins from brain by genetically deleting three subunits (α-internexin, NFH and NFL) markedly depresses hippocampal LTP induction without detectably altering synapse morphology. Deletion of NFM in mice, but not the deletion of any other neurofilament subunit, amplifies dopamine D1-receptor-mediated motor responses to cocaine while redistributing postsynaptic D1-receptors from endosomes to plasma membrane, consistent with a specific modulatory role of NFM in D1-receptor recycling. These results identify a distinct pool of synaptic neurofilament subunits and establish their key role in neurotransmission in vivo, suggesting potential novel influences of neurofilament proteins in psychiatric as well as neurological states.
PMCID: PMC4514553  PMID: 25869803
Neurofilament; synaptic plasticity; D1 receptor; stimulant drug; cocaine; LTP
4.  G9a-Mediated Histone Methylation Regulates Ethanol-Induced Neurodegeneration in the Neonatal Mouse Brain 
Neurobiology of disease  2013;54:475-485.
Rodent exposure to binge-like ethanol during postnatal day 7 (P7), which is comparable to the third trimester of human pregnancy, induces neuronal cell loss. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these neuronal losses are still poorly understood. Here, we tested the possibility of histone methylation mediated by G9a (lysine dimethyltransferase) in regulating neuronal apoptosis in P7 mice exposed to ethanol. G9a protein expression, which is higher during embryogenesis and synaptogenic period compared to adult brain, is entirely confined to the cell nuclei in the developing brain. We found that ethanol treatment at P7, which induces apoptotic neurodegeneration in neonatal mice, enhanced G9a activity followed by increased histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9me2) and 27 (H3K27me2) dimethylation. In addition, it appears that increased dimethylation of H3K9 makes it susceptible to proteolytic degradation by caspase-3 in conditions in which ethanol induces neurodegeneration. Further, pharmacological inhibition of G9a activity prior to ethanol treatment at P7 normalized H3K9me2, H3K27me2 and total H3 proteins to basal levels and prevented neurodegeneration in neonatal mice. Together, these data demonstrate that G9a mediated histone H3K9 and K27 dimethylation critically regulates ethanol-induced neurodegeneration in the developing brain. Furthermore, these findings reveal a novel link between G9a and neurodegeneration in the developing brain exposed to postnatal ethanol and may have a role in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC3656439  PMID: 23396011
Developing brain; Fetal alcohol syndrome; Methyltransferase; Neuronal loss; Bix
5.  Therapeutic effects of remediating autophagy failure in a mouse model of Alzheimer disease by enhancing lysosomal proteolysis 
Autophagy  2011;7(7):788-789.
The extensive autophagic-lysosomal pathology in Alzheimer disease (AD) brain has revealed a major defect in the proteolytic clearance of autophagy substrates. Autophagy failure contributes on several levels to AD pathogenesis and has become an important therapeutic target for AD and other neurodegenerative diseases. We recently observed broad therapeutic effects of stimulating autophagic-lysosomal proteolysis in the TgCRND8 mouse model of AD that exhibits defective proteolytic clearance of autophagic substrates, robust intralysosomal amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) accumulation, extracellular β-amyloid deposition and cognitive deficits. By genetically deleting the lysosomal cysteine protease inhibitor, cystatin B (CstB), to selectively restore depressed cathepsin activities, we substantially cleared Aβ, ubiquitinated proteins and other autophagic substrates from autolysosomes/lysosomes and rescued autophagic-lysosomal pathology, as well as reduced total Aβ40/42 levels and extracellular amyloid deposition, highlighting the underappreciated importance of the lysosomal system for Aβ clearance. Most importantly, lysosomal remediation prevented the marked learning and memory deficits in TgCRND8 mice. Our findings underscore the pathogenic significance of autophagic-lysosomal dysfunction in AD and demonstrate the value of reversing this dysfunction as an innovative therapeutic strategy for AD.
PMCID: PMC3359468  PMID: 21464620
autophagy; lysosome; cathepsin; cystatin B; proteolysis; Alzheimer disease; transgenic
6.  Reversal of autophagy dysfunction in the TgCRND8 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease ameliorates amyloid pathologies and memory deficits 
Brain  2010;134(1):258-277.
Autophagy, a major degradative pathway for proteins and organelles, is essential for survival of mature neurons. Extensive autophagic-lysosomal pathology in Alzheimer’s disease brain contributes to Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis, although the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we identified and characterized marked intraneuronal amyloid-β peptide/amyloid and lysosomal system pathology in the Alzheimer’s disease mouse model TgCRND8 similar to that previously described in Alzheimer’s disease brains. We further establish that the basis for these pathologies involves defective proteolytic clearance of neuronal autophagic substrates including amyloid-β peptide. To establish the pathogenic significance of these abnormalities, we enhanced lysosomal cathepsin activities and rates of autophagic protein turnover in TgCRND8 mice by genetically deleting cystatin B, an endogenous inhibitor of lysosomal cysteine proteases. Cystatin B deletion rescued autophagic-lysosomal pathology, reduced abnormal accumulations of amyloid-β peptide, ubiquitinated proteins and other autophagic substrates within autolysosomes/lysosomes and reduced intraneuronal amyloid-β peptide. The amelioration of lysosomal function in TgCRND8 markedly decreased extracellular amyloid deposition and total brain amyloid-β peptide 40 and 42 levels, and prevented the development of deficits of learning and memory in fear conditioning and olfactory habituation tests. Our findings support the pathogenic significance of autophagic-lysosomal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease and indicate the potential value of restoring normal autophagy as an innovative therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3009842  PMID: 21186265
autophagy; lysosome; cystatin B; cathepsin; Alzheimer’s disease
7.  The Myosin Va Head Domain Binds to the Neurofilament-L Rod and Modulates Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) Content and Distribution within Axons 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e17087.
The neurofilament light subunit (NF-L) binds to myosin Va (Myo Va) in neurons but the sites of interaction and functional significance are not clear. We show by deletion analysis that motor domain of Myo Va binds to the NF-L rod domain that forms the NF backbone. Loss of NF-L and Myo Va binding from axons significantly reduces the axonal content of ER, and redistributes ER to the periphery of axon. Our data are consistent with a novel function for NFs as a scaffold in axons for maintaining the content and proper distribution of vesicular organelles, mediated in part by Myo Va. Based on observations that the Myo Va motor domain binds to intermediate filament (IF) proteins of several classes, Myo Va interactions with IFs may serve similar roles in organizing organelle topography in different cell types.
PMCID: PMC3040190  PMID: 21359212
8.  Induction of Autophagy by Cystatin C: A Mechanism That Protects Murine Primary Cortical Neurons and Neuronal Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9819.
Cystatin C (CysC) expression in the brain is elevated in human patients with epilepsy, in animal models of neurodegenerative conditions, and in response to injury, but whether up-regulated CysC expression is a manifestation of neurodegeneration or a cellular repair response is not understood. This study demonstrates that human CysC is neuroprotective in cultures exposed to cytotoxic challenges, including nutritional-deprivation, colchicine, staurosporine, and oxidative stress. While CysC is a cysteine protease inhibitor, cathepsin B inhibition was not required for the neuroprotective action of CysC. Cells responded to CysC by inducing fully functional autophagy via the mTOR pathway, leading to enhanced proteolytic clearance of autophagy substrates by lysosomes. Neuroprotective effects of CysC were prevented by inhibiting autophagy with beclin 1 siRNA or 3-methyladenine. Our findings show that CysC plays a protective role under conditions of neuronal challenge by inducing autophagy via mTOR inhibition and are consistent with CysC being neuroprotective in neurodegenerative diseases. Thus, modulation of CysC expression has therapeutic implications for stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.
PMCID: PMC2843718  PMID: 20352108
9.  Marked Calpastatin (CAST) Depletion in Alzheimer’s Disease Accelerates Cytoskeleton Disruption and Neurodegeneration: Neuroprotection by CAST Overexpression 
Increased activity of calpains is implicated in synaptic dysfunction and neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The molecular mechanisms responsible for increased calpain activity in AD are not known. Here, we demonstrate that disease progression is propelled by a marked depletion of the endogenous calpain inhibitor, calpastatin (CAST), from AD neurons, which is mediated by caspase-1, caspase-3, and calpains. Initial CAST depletion focally along dendrites coincides topographically with calpain II and ERK 1/2 activation, tau cleavage by caspase-3, and tau and neurofilament hyperphosphorylation. These same changes, together with cytoskeletal proteolysis and neuronal cell death, accompany CAST depletion after intrahippocampal kainic acid administration to mice, and are substantially reduced in mice overexpressing human CAST. Moreover, CAST reduction by shRNA in neuronal cells causes calpain-mediated death at levels of calcium-induced injury that are sublethal to cells normally expressing CAST. Our results strongly support a novel hypothesis that CAST depletion by multiple abnormally activated proteases accelerates calpain dysregulation in AD leading to cytoskeleton disruption and neurodegeneration. CAST mimetics may, therefore, be neuroprotective in AD.
PMCID: PMC2819018  PMID: 19020018
apoptosis; caspase; calpain; tau; cdk5; ERK
10.  Mesencephalic Dopamine Neuron Number and Tyrosine Hydroxylase Content: Genetic Control and Candidate Genes 
Neuroscience  2007;149(3):561-572.
The mesotelencephalic dopamine system shows substantial genetic variation which fundamentally affects normal and pathological behaviors related to motor function, motivation, and learning. Our earlier radioenzyme assay studies demonstrated significantly higher activity of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the first and rate limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of catecholamine neurotransmitters, in the substantia nigra – ventral tegmental area of BALB/cJ mice in comparison with that of C57BL/6ByJ mice. Here, using quantitative immunoblotting and immunocytochemistry, we tested the hypothesis that mesencephalic TH protein content and number of nigral TH-positive neurons show strain-dependent differences in C57BL/6ByJ and BALB/cJ parallel to those observed in the TH activity studies. Immunoblotting experiments detected significantly higher mesencephalic TH protein content in BALB/cJ in comparison to C57BL/6ByJ (p<0.05). Immunocytochemical studies demonstrated that the number of TH-positive cells in substantia nigra was 31.3% higher in BALB/cJ than that in C57BL/6ByJ (p<0.01), while the average dopamine neuron volume was not significantly different. In a search for candidate genes that modulate TH content and the size of mesencephalic dopamine neuron populations we also studied near-isogenic mouse sublines derived from the C57BL/6ByJ and BALB/cJ progenitor strains. A whole-genome scan with 768 single nucleotide polymorphism markers indicated that two sublines, C4A6/N and C4A6/B, were genetically very similar (98.3%). We found significantly higher mesencephalic tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) protein content in C4A6/B in comparison to C4A6/N (p=0.01), and a tendency for higher number of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra in C4A6/B in comparison to C4A6/N, which, however, did not reach statistical significance. To identify the genetic source of the TH content difference we analyzed the SNP genotype data of the whole-genome scan, and detected two small differential chromosome segments on chr. 13 and chr. 14. Microarray gene expression studies and bioinformatic analysis of the two differential regions implicated two cis-regulated genes (Spock1 and Cxcl14, chr. 13), and two growth factor genes [Bmp6 (chr. 13), and Fgf14 (chr. 14)]. Taken together, the results suggest that (1) nigral dopamine neuron number and TH protein content may be genetically associated but further studies are needed to establish unequivocally this linkage, and (2) Spock1, Cxcl14, Bmp6, and Fgf14 are novel candidates for modulating the expression and maintenance of TH content in mesencephalic dopamine neurons in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2128036  PMID: 17920205
midbrain; dopamine system; gene mapping; recombinant QTL introgression
11.  Macroautophagy—a novel β-amyloid peptide-generating pathway activated in Alzheimer's disease 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2005;171(1):87-98.
Macroautophagy, which is a lysosomal pathway for the turnover of organelles and long-lived proteins, is a key determinant of cell survival and longevity. In this study, we show that neuronal macroautophagy is induced early in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and before β-amyloid (Aβ) deposits extracellularly in the presenilin (PS) 1/Aβ precursor protein (APP) mouse model of β-amyloidosis. Subsequently, autophagosomes and late autophagic vacuoles (AVs) accumulate markedly in dystrophic dendrites, implying an impaired maturation of AVs to lysosomes. Immunolabeling identifies AVs in the brain as a major reservoir of intracellular Aβ. Purified AVs contain APP and β-cleaved APP and are highly enriched in PS1, nicastrin, and PS-dependent γ-secretase activity. Inducing or inhibiting macroautophagy in neuronal and nonneuronal cells by modulating mammalian target of rapamycin kinase elicits parallel changes in AV proliferation and Aβ production. Our results, therefore, link β-amyloidogenic and cell survival pathways through macroautophagy, which is activated and is abnormal in AD.
PMCID: PMC2171227  PMID: 16203860
12.  Myosin Va binding to neurofilaments is essential for correct myosin Va distribution and transport and neurofilament density 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2002;159(2):279-290.
The identification of molecular motors that modulate the neuronal cytoskeleton has been elusive. Here, we show that a molecular motor protein, myosin Va, is present in high proportions in the cytoskeleton of mouse CNS and peripheral nerves. Immunoelectron microscopy, coimmunoprecipitation, and blot overlay analyses demonstrate that myosin Va in axons associates with neurofilaments, and that the NF-L subunit is its major ligand. A physiological association is indicated by observations that the level of myosin Va is reduced in axons of NF-L–null mice lacking neurofilaments and increased in mice overexpressing NF-L, but unchanged in NF-H–null mice. In vivo pulse-labeled myosin Va advances along axons at slow transport rates overlapping with those of neurofilament proteins and actin, both of which coimmunoprecipitate with myosin Va. Eliminating neurofilaments from mice selectively accelerates myosin Va translocation and redistributes myosin Va to the actin-rich subaxolemma and membranous organelles. Finally, peripheral axons of dilute-lethal mice, lacking functional myosin Va, display selectively increased neurofilament number and levels of neurofilament proteins without altering axon caliber. These results identify myosin Va as a neurofilament-associated protein, and show that this association is essential to establish the normal distribution, axonal transport, and content of myosin Va, and the proper numbers of neurofilaments in axons.
PMCID: PMC2173037  PMID: 12403814
myosin Va; dilute; neurofilaments; NF-associated proteins; axonal transport
13.  Local Control of Neurofilament Accumulation during Radial Growth of Myelinating Axons in Vivo 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;151(5):1013-1024.
The accumulation of neurofilaments required for postnatal radial growth of myelinated axons is controlled regionally along axons by oligodendroglia. Developmentally regulated processes previously suspected of modulating neurofilament number, including heavy neurofilament subunit (NFH) expression, attainment of mature neurofilament subunit stoichiometry, and expansion of interneurofilament spacing cannot be primary determinants of regional accumulation as we show each of these factors precede accumulation by days or weeks. Rather, we find that regional neurofilament accumulation is selectively associated with phosphorylation of a subset of Lys-Ser-Pro (KSP) motifs on heavy neurofilament subunits and medium-size neurofilament subunits (NFMs), rising >50-fold selectively in the expanding portions of optic axons. In mice deleted in NFH, substantial preservation of regional neurofilament accumulation was accompanied by increased levels of the same phosphorylated KSP epitope on NFM. Interruption of oligodendroglial signaling to axons in Shiverer mutant mice, which selectively inhibited this site-specific phosphorylation, reduced regional neurofilament accumulation without affecting other neurofilament properties or aspects of NFH phosphorylation. We conclude that phosphorylation of a specific KSP motif triggered by glia is a key aspect of the regulation of neurofilament number in axons during axonal radial growth.
PMCID: PMC2174358  PMID: 11086003
axon caliber; axon–glia interactions; oligodendroglia; CNS development; protein phosphorylation

Results 1-13 (13)