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1.  Specific Calpain Inhibition by Calpastatin Prevents Tauopathy and Neurodegeneration and Restores Normal Lifespan in Tau P301L Mice 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(28):9222-9234.
Tau pathogenicity in Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies is thought to involve the generation of hyperphosphorylated, truncated, and oligomeric tau species with enhanced neurotoxicity, although the generative mechanisms and the implications for disease therapy are not well understood. Here, we report a striking rescue from mutant tau toxicity in the JNPL3 mouse model of tauopathy. We show that pathological activation of calpains gives rise to a range of potentially toxic forms of tau, directly, and by activating cdk5. Calpain overactivation in brains of these mice is accelerated as a result of the marked depletion of the endogenous calpain inhibitor, calpastatin. When levels of this inhibitor are restored in neurons of JNPL3 mice by overexpressing calpastatin, tauopathy is prevented, including calpain-mediated breakdown of cytoskeletal proteins, cdk5 activation, tau hyperphosphorylation, formation of potentially neurotoxic tau fragments by either calpain or caspase-3, and tau oligomerization. Calpastatin overexpression also prevents loss of motor axons, delays disease onset, and extends survival of JNPL3 mice by 3 months to within the range of normal lifespan. Our findings support the therapeutic promise of highly specific calpain inhibition in the treatment of tauopathies and other neurodegenerative states.
PMCID: PMC4087203  PMID: 25009256
ambulatory movements; calcium; fractionation; insoluble extracts; nesting behavior
2.  Lysosome and Calcium Dysregulation in Alzheimer’s Disease – Partners in Crime 
Biochemical Society transactions  2013;41(6):1495-1502.
Early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) is caused by mutations of Presenilin 1, Presenilin 2, and amyloid precursor protein. Beyond the effects of PS1 mutations on proteolytic functions of the gamma-secretase complex, mutant or deficient PS1 disrupts lysosomal function and calcium homeostasis, both of which are considered strong pathogenic factors in FAD. Loss of PS1 function compromises assembly and proton-pumping activity of the vacuolar-ATPase on lysosomes, leading to defective lysosomal acidification and marked impairment of autophagy. Additional dysregulation of cellular calcium by mutant PS1 in FAD has been ascribed to altered ion channels in the endoplasmic reticulum; however, rich stores of calcium in lysosomes are also abnormally released in PS1-deficient cells secondary to the lysosomal acidification defect. The resultant rise in cytosolic calcium activates calcium-dependent enzymes, contributing substantially to calpain over-activation that is a final common pathway leading to neurofibrillary degeneration in all forms of AD. Here we discuss the close inter-relationships among deficits of lysosomal function, autophagy, and calcium homeostasis as a pathogenic process in PS1-related FAD and their relevance to sporadic AD.
PMCID: PMC3960943  PMID: 24256243
Alzheimer’s disease; lysosomes; calcium regulation; calpains
3.  Autophagy and Neuronal Cell Death in Neurological Disorders 
Autophagy is implicated in the pathogenesis of major neurodegenerative disorders although concepts about how it influences these diseases are still evolving. Once proposed to be mainly an alternative cell death pathway, autophagy is now widely viewed as both a vital homeostatic mechanism in healthy cells and as an important cytoprotective response mobilized in the face of aging- and disease-related metabolic challenges. In Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other diseases, impairment at different stages of autophagy leads to the buildup of pathogenic proteins and damaged organelles, while defeating autophagy’s crucial prosurvival and antiapoptotic effects on neurons. The differences in the location of defects within the autophagy pathway and their molecular basis influence the pattern and pace of neuronal cell death in the various neurological disorders. Future therapeutic strategies for these disorders will be guided in part by understanding the manifold impact of autophagy disruption on neurodegenerative diseases.
In late-onset neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s), impairment of autophagy leads to the buildup of pathogenic proteins and damaged organelles, triggering neuronal apoptosis or necrosis.
PMCID: PMC3475163  PMID: 22983160
4.  Spared Piriform Cortical Single-Unit Odor Processing and Odor Discrimination in the Tg2576 Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106431.
Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly today. One of the earliest reported signs of Alzheimer's disease is olfactory dysfunction, which may manifest in a variety of ways. The present study sought to address this issue by investigating odor coding in the anterior piriform cortex, the primary cortical region involved in higher order olfactory function, and how it relates to performance on olfactory behavioral tasks. An olfactory habituation task was performed on cohorts of transgenic and age-matched wild-type mice at 3, 6 and 12 months of age. These animals were then anesthetized and acute, single-unit electrophysiology was performed in the anterior piriform cortex. In addition, in a separate group of animals, a longitudinal odor discrimination task was conducted from 3–12 months of age. Results showed that while odor habituation was impaired at all ages, Tg2576 performed comparably to age-matched wild-type mice on the olfactory discrimination task. The behavioral data mirrored intact anterior piriform cortex single-unit odor responses and receptive fields in Tg2576, which were comparable to wild-type at all age groups. The present results suggest that odor processing in the olfactory cortex and basic odor discrimination is especially robust in the face of amyloid β precursor protein (AβPP) over-expression and advancing amyloid β (Aβ) pathology. Odor identification deficits known to emerge early in Alzheimer's disease progression, therefore, may reflect impairments in linking the odor percept to associated labels in cortical regions upstream of the primary olfactory pathway, rather than in the basic odor processing itself.
PMCID: PMC4152226  PMID: 25181487
5.  The Ubiquitin–Proteasome System and the Autophagic–Lysosomal System in Alzheimer Disease 
As neurons age, their survival depends on eliminating a growing burden of damaged, potentially toxic proteins and organelles—a capability that declines owing to aging and disease factors. Here, we review the two proteolytic systems principally responsible for protein quality control in neurons and their important contributions to Alzheimer disease pathogenesis. In the first section, the discovery of paired helical filament ubiquitination is described as a backdrop for discussing the importance of the ubiquitin–proteasome system in Alzheimer disease. In the second section, we review the prominent involvement of the lysosomal system beginning with pathological endosomal–lysosomal activation and signaling at the very earliest stages of Alzheimer disease followed by the progressive failure of autophagy. These abnormalities, which result in part from Alzheimer-related genes acting directly on these lysosomal pathways, contribute to the development of each of the Alzheimer neuropathological hallmarks and represent a promising therapeutic target.
Neurons rely on the proteasome and lysosomal systems to remove damaged proteins and organelles. Their disruption leads to the accumulation of toxic proteins—including amyloid-β and tau.
PMCID: PMC3405832  PMID: 22908190
6.  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
7.  Autophagy failure in Alzheimer’s disease and the role of defective lysosomal acidification 
The European journal of neuroscience  2013;37(12):1949-1961.
Autophagy is a lysosomal degradative process to recycle cellular waste and eliminate potentially toxic damaged organelles and protein aggregates. The important cytoprotective functions of autophagy are evidenced by the diverse pathogenic consequences that may stem from autophagy dysregulation in a growing number of neurodegenerative disorders. In many of the diseases associated with autophagy anomalies, it is the final stage of autophagy-lysosomal degradation that is disrupted. In several disorders, including AD, defective lysosomal acidification contributes to this proteolytic failure. The complex regulation of lysosomal pH makes this process vulnerable to disruption by many factors and reliable lysosomal pH measurements have become increasingly important in investigations of disease mechanisms. Although various reagents for pH quantification have been developed over several decades, they are not all equally well-suited for measuring the pH of lysosomes. Here, we evaluate the most commonly used pH probes for sensitivity and localization and identify Lysosensor Yellow/Blue-Dextran, among currently used probes, as having the most optimal profile of properties for measuring lysosomal pH. In addition, we review evidence that lysosomal acidification is defective in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and extend our original findings of elevated lysosomal pH in presenilin 1 (PS1)-deficient blastocysts and neurons to additional cell models of PS1- and PS1/2-deficiency, to fibroblasts from AD patients with PS1 mutations, and to neurons in the PS/APP mouse model of AD.
PMCID: PMC3694736  PMID: 23773064
Autophagy; lysosome; neurodegeneration; pH; presenilin; v-ATPase
8.  Lysosomal NEU1 deficiency affects Amyloid Precursor Protein levels and amyloid-β secretion via deregulated lysosomal exocytosis 
Nature communications  2013;4:2734.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) belongs to a category of adult neurodegenerative conditions which are associated with intracellular and extracellular accumulation of neurotoxic protein aggregates. Understanding how these aggregates are formed, secreted and propagated by neurons has been the subject of intensive research, but so far no preventive or curative therapy for AD is available and clinical trials have been largely unsuccessful. Here we show that deficiency of the lysosomal sialidase NEU1 leads to the spontaneous occurrence of an AD-like amyloidogenic process in mice. This involves two consecutive events linked to NEU1 loss-of-function – accumulation and amyloidogenic processing of an oversialylated amyloid precursor protein in lysosomes, and extracellular release of Aβ-peptides by excessive lysosomal exocytosis. Furthermore, cerebral injection of NEU1 in an established AD mouse model substantially reduces β-amyloid plaques. Our findings identify an additional pathway for the secretion of Aβ and define NEU1 as a potential therapeutic molecule for AD.
PMCID: PMC4015463  PMID: 24225533
9.  Visualization of β-Amyloid Plaques in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease Using MR Microscopy Without Contrast Reagents 
The visualization of β-amyloid plaque deposition in brain, a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is important for the evaluation of disease progression and the efficacy of therapeutic interventions. In this study, β-amyloid plaques in the PS/APP transgenic mouse brain, a model of human AD pathology, were detected using MR microscopy without contrast reagents. β-Amyloid plaques were clearly visible in the cortex, thalamus, and hippocampus of fixed brains of PS/APP mice. The distribution of plaques identified by MRI was in excellent agreement with those found in the immunohistological analysis of the same brain sections. It was also demonstrated that image contrast for β-amyloid plaques was present in freshly excised nonfixed brains. Furthermore, the detection of β-amyloid plaques was achieved with a scan time as short as 2 hr, approaching the scan time considered reasonable for in vivo imaging. Magn Reson Med 52:538–544, 2004.
PMCID: PMC3962264  PMID: 15334572
MR microscopy; transgenic mouse; Alzheimer’s disease; β-amyloid plaques
10.  Histological Co-Localization of Iron in Aβ Plaques of PS/APP Transgenic Mice 
Neurochemical research  2005;30(2):201-205.
This study confirms the presence of iron, co-localized with Aβ plaques, in PS/APP mouse brain, using Perls’ stain for Fe3+ supplemented by 3,3′-diaminobenzidine (DAB) and Aβ immunohistochemistry in histological brains sections fixed with formalin or methacarn. In this study, the fixation process and the slice thickness did not interfere with the Perls’ technique. The presence of iron in β-amyloid plaques in PS/APP transgenic mice, a model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology, may explain previous reports of reductions of transverse relaxation time (T2) in MRI studies and represent the source of the intrinsic Aβ plaque MR contrast in this model.
PMCID: PMC3959869  PMID: 15895823
β-amyloid; Alzheimer’s disease; Brain; Iron; MRI; Transgenic mice
11.  Immunization targeting a minor plaque constituent clears β-amyloid and rescues behavioral deficits in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;34(1):137-145.
While anti-human-Aβ immunotherapy clears brain β-amyloid plaques in Alzheimer's disease (AD), targeting additional brain plaque constituents to promote clearance has not been attempted. Endogenous murine Aβ is a minor β-amyloid plaque component in amyloid precursor protein transgenic AD models, which we show is ~2–8% of the total accumulated Aβ in various human APP transgenic mice. Murine Aβ co-deposits and co-localizes with human Aβ in amyloid plaques and the two Aβ species co-immunoprecipitate together from brain extracts. In the human APP transgenic mice Tg2576, passive immunization for eight weeks with a murine-Aβ-specific antibody reduced β-plaque pathology, robustly decreasing both murine and human Aβ levels. The immunized mice additionally showed improvements in two behavioral assays, odor habituation and nesting behavior. We conclude that passive anti-murine-Aβ immunization clears β-amyloid plaque pathology – including the major human Aβ component – and decreases behavioral deficits, arguing that targeting minor, endogenous brain plaque constituents can be beneficial, broadening the range of plaque-associated targets for AD therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3426627  PMID: 22608241
Alzheimer's disease; Aβ; co-deposition; immunization; immunotherapy
12.  Axonal transport rates in vivo are unaltered in htau mice 
Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD  2013;37(3):10.3233/JAD-130671.
Microtubule-based axonal transport is believed to become globally disrupted in Alzheimer’s disease in part due to alterations of tau expression or phosphorylation. We previously showed that axonal transport rates along retinal ganglion axons are unaffected by deletion of normal mouse tau or by overexpression of wild-type human tau. Here, we report that htau mice expressing 3-fold higher levels of human tau in the absence of mouse tau also display normal fast and slow transport kinetics despite the presence of abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau in some neurons. In addition, markers of slow transport (neurofilament light subunit) and fast transport (snap25) exhibit normal distributions along optic axons of these mice. These studies demonstrate that human tau overexpression, even when associated with a limited degree of tau pathology, does not necessarily impair general axonal transport function in vivo. This investigation is contributed for the issue of Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease dedicated to the memory of Inge Grunke-Iqbal and to the celebration of her contributions to Alzheimer’s disease research.
PMCID: PMC3819434  PMID: 23948900
Tau; tauopathy; Alzheimer’s disease; neurofilament; slow axonal transport; fast axonal transport
13.  Calpastatin modulates APP processing in the brains of β-amyloid depositing but not wild-type mice 
Neurobiology of Aging  2011;33(6):1125.e9-1125.e18.
We report that neuronal overexpression of the endogenous inhibitor of calpains, calpastatin (CAST), in a mouse model of human Alzheimer’s disease (AD) β-amyloidosis, the APP23 mouse, reduces β-amyloid pathology and Aβ levels when comparing aged, double transgenic (tg) APP23/CAST with APP23 mice. Concurrent with Aβ plaque deposition, aged APP23/CAST mice show a decrease in the steady-state brain levels of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and APP C-terminal fragments when compared to APP23 mice. This CAST-dependent decrease in APP metabolite levels was not observed in single tg CAST mice expressing endogenous APP or in younger, Aβ plaque predepositing APP23/CAST mice. We also determined that the CAST-mediated inhibition of calpain activity in the brain is greater in the CAST mice with β-amyloid pathology than in non-APP tg mice, as demonstrated by a decrease in calpain-mediated cytoskeleton protein cleavage. Moreover, aged APP23/CAST mice have reduced ERK1/2 activity and tau phosphorylation when compared to APP23 mice. In summary, in vivo calpain inhibition mediated by CAST transgene expression reduces Aβ pathology in APP23 mice, with our findings further suggesting that APP metabolism is modified by CAST overexpression as the mice develop β-amyloid pathology. Our results indicate that the calpain system in neurons is more responsive to CAST inhibition under conditions of β-amyloid pathology, suggesting that in the disease state neurons may be more sensitive to the therapeutic use of calpain inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3318946  PMID: 22206846
calpain; calpastatin; APP; Aβ; Alzheimer’s disease
15.  Peripherin Is a Subunit of Peripheral Nerve Neurofilaments: Implications for Differential Vulnerability of CNS and PNS Axons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(25):8501-8508.
Peripherin, a neuronal intermediate filament protein implicated in neurodegenerative disease, coexists with the neurofilament triplet proteins (NFL, NFM, and NFH) but has an unknown function. The earlier peak expression of peripherin than the triplet during brain development and its ability to form homopolymers, unlike the triplet, which are obligate heteropolymers, have supported a widely held view that peripherin and neurofilament triplet form separate filament systems. Here, we demonstrate, however, that despite a postnatal decline in expression, peripherin is as abundant as the triplet in the adult PNS and exists in a relatively fixed stoichiometry with these subunits. Peripherin exhibits a distribution pattern identical to those of triplet proteins in sciatic axons and co-localizes with NFL on single neurofilament by immunogold electron microscopy. Peripherin also co-assembles into a single network of filaments containing NFL, NFM, NFH with and without α-internexin in quadruple- or quintuple-transfected SW13 vim (−) cells. Genetically deleting NFL in mice dramatically reduces peripherin content in sciatic axons. Moreover, peripherin mutations has been shown to disrupt the neurofilament network in transfected SW13 vim(−) cells. These data show that peripherin and the neurofilament proteins are functionally interdependent. The results strongly support the view that rather than forming an independent structure, peripherin is a subunit of neurofilaments in the adult PNS. Our findings provide a basis for its close relationship with neurofilaments in PNS diseases associated with neurofilament accumulation.
PMCID: PMC3405552  PMID: 22723690
peripherin; neurofilament; intermediate filament; cytoskeleton; peripheral nerve; ALS; PNS
16.  Primary lysosomal dysfunction causes cargo-specific deficits of axonal transport leading to Alzheimer-like neuritic dystrophy 
Autophagy  2011;7(12):1562-1563.
Abnormally swollen regions of axons and dendrites (neurites) filled mainly with autophagy-related organelles represent the highly characteristic and widespread form of “neuritic dystrophy” in Alzheimer disease (AD), which implies dysfunction of autophagy and axonal transport. In this punctum, we discuss our recent findings that autophagic/lysosomal degradation is critical to proper axonal transport of autophagic vacuoles (AVs) and lysosomes. We showed that lysosomal protease inhibition induces defective axonal transport of specific cargoes, causing these cargoes to accumulate in axonal swellings that biochemically and morphologically resemble the dystrophic neurites in AD. Our findings suggest that a cargo-specific failure of axonal transport promotes neuritic dystrophy in AD, which involves a mechanism distinct from the global axonal transport deficits seen in some other neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC3327621  PMID: 22024748
Alzheimer disease; autophagy; axonal transport; dystrophic neurites; lysosomes; proteolysis
17.  Declining phosphatases underlie aging-related hyperphosphorylation of neurofilaments 
Neurobiology of aging  2009;32(11):2016-2029.
Cytoskeletal protein phosphorylation is frequently altered in neuropathologic states but little is known about changes during normal aging. Here we report that declining protein phosphatase activity, rather than activation of kinases, underlies aging-related neurofilament hyperphosphorylation. Purified PP2A or PP2B dephosphorylated the heavy neurofilament (NFH) subunit or its extensively phorphorylated carboxyl-terminal domain in vitro. In cultured primary hippocampal neurons, inhibiting either phosphatase induced NFH phosphorylation without activating known neurofilament kinases. Neurofilament phosphorylation in the mouse CNS, as reflected by levels of the RT-97 phosphoepitope associated with late axon maturation, more than doubled during the 12 month period after NFH expression plateaued at p21. This was accompanied by declines in levels and activity of PP2A but not PP2B, and no rise in activities of neurofilament kinases (Erk1,2, cdk5 and JNK1,2). Inhibiting PP2A in mice in vivo restored brain RT-97 to levels seen in young mice. Declining PP2A activity, therefore, can account for rising neurofilament phosphorylation in maturing brain, potentially compounding similar changes associated with adult-onset neurodegenerative diseases.
PMCID: PMC2891331  PMID: 20031277
neurofilament; phosphorylation; dephosphorylation; kinases; phosphatases; maturation; aging; RT-97 epitope; immunoreactivity
18.  Upregulation of select rab GTPases in cholinergic basal forebrain neurons in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease 
Journal of chemical neuroanatomy  2011;42(2):102-110.
Endocytic system dysfunction is one of the earliest disturbances that occur in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and may underlie the selective vulnerability of cholinergic basal forebrain (CBF) neurons during the progression of dementia. Herein we report that genes regulating early and late endosomes are selectively upregulated within CBF neurons in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD. Specifically, upregulation of rab4, rab5, rab7, and rab27 was observed in CBF neurons microdissected from postmortem brains of individuals with MCI and AD compared to age-matched control subjects with no cognitive impairment (NCI). Upregulated expression of rab4, rab5, rab7, and rab27 correlated with antemortem measures of cognitive decline in individuals with MCI and AD. qPCR validated upregulation of these select rab GTPases within microdissected samples of the basal forebrain. Moreover, quantitative immunoblot analysis demonstrated upregulation of rab5 protein expression in the basal forebrain of subjects with MCI and AD. The elevation of rab4, rab5, and rab7 expression is consistent with our recent observations in CA1 pyramidal neurons in MCI and AD. These findings provide further support that endosomal pathology accelerates endocytosis and endosome recycling, which may promote aberrant endosomal signaling and neurodegeneration throughout the progression of AD.
PMCID: PMC3163754  PMID: 21669283
cognitive decline; endosome; microarray; mild cognitive impairment; rab5; and qPCR
19.  The C-Terminal Domains of NF-H and NF-M Subunits Maintain Axonal Neurofilament Content by Blocking Turnover of the Stationary Neurofilament Network 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44320.
Newly synthesized neurofilaments or protofilaments are incorporated into a highly stable stationary cytoskeleton network as they are transported along axons. Although the heavily phosphorylated carboxyl-terminal tail domains of the heavy and medium neurofilament (NF) subunits have been proposed to contribute to this process and particularly to stability of this structure, their function is still obscure. Here we show in NF-H/M tail deletion [NF-(H/M)tailΔ] mice that the deletion of both of these domains selectively lowers NF levels 3–6 fold along optic axons without altering either rates of subunit synthesis or the rate of slow axonal transport of NF. Pulse labeling studies carried out over 90 days revealed a significantly faster rate of disappearance of NF from the stationary NF network of optic axons in NF-(H/M)tailΔ mice. Faster NF disappearance was accompanied by elevated levels of NF-L proteolytic fragments in NF-(H/M)tailΔ axons. We conclude that NF-H and NF-M C-terminal domains do not normally regulate NF transport rates as previously proposed, but instead increase the proteolytic resistance of NF, thereby stabilizing the stationary neurofilament cytoskeleton along axons.
PMCID: PMC3448626  PMID: 23028520
20.  Amyloid-independent mechanisms in Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis 
Despite the progress of the past two decades, the cause of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and effective treatments against it remains elusive. The hypothesis that amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides are the primary causative agents of AD retains significant support amongst researchers. Nonetheless, a growing body of evidence shows that Aβ peptides are unlikely to be the sole factor in AD etiology. Evidence that Aβ/amyloid-independent factors, including the actions of AD-related genes, also contribute significantly to AD pathogenesis was presented in a symposium at the 2010 annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Here we summarize the studies showing how amyloid-independent mechanisms cause defective endo-lysosomal trafficking, altered intracellular signaling cascades or impaired neurotransmitter release and contribute to synaptic dysfunction and/or neurodegeneration, leading to dementia in AD. A view of AD pathogenesis that encompasses both the amyloid-dependent and -independent mechanisms will help fill the gaps in our knowledge and reconcile the findings that cannot be explained solely by the amyloid hypothesis.
PMCID: PMC3426835  PMID: 21068297
21.  Sensory network dysfunction, behavioral impairments, and their reversibility in an Alzheimer’s β-amyloidosis mouse model 
The unique vulnerability of the olfactory system to Alzheimer’s disease (AD) provides a quintessential translational tool for understanding mechanisms of synaptic dysfunction and pathological progression in the disease. Using the Tg2576 mouse model of β-amyloidosis, we show aberrant, hyperactive olfactory network activity begins early in life, prior to detectable behavioral impairments or comparable hippocampal dysfunction and at a time when Aβ deposition is restricted to the olfactory bulb (OB). Hyperactive odor-evoked activity in the piriform cortex (PCX) and increased OB-PCX functional connectivity emerged at a time coinciding with olfactory behavior impairments. This hyperactive activity persisted until later-life when the network converted to a hyporesponsive state. This conversion was Aβ-dependent, as liver-x-receptor agonist treatment to promote Aβ degradation, rescued the hyporesponsive state and olfactory behavior. These data lend evidence to a novel working model of olfactory dysfunction in AD and, complimentary to other recent works, suggest that disease-relevant network dysfunction is highly dynamic and region specific, yet with lasting effects on cognition and behavior.
PMCID: PMC3417321  PMID: 22049439
Neural network; olfactory bulb; olfactory cortex; Amyloid-β; APP
22.  Autophagy Failure in Alzheimer's Disease – Locating the Primary Defect 
Neurobiology of disease  2011;43(1):38-45.
Autophagy, the major degradative pathway for organelles and long-lived proteins, is essential for the survival of neurons. Mounting evidence has implicated defective autophagy in the pathogenesis of several major neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer's disease (AD). A continuum of abnormalities of the lysosomal system has been identified in neurons of the AD brain, including pathological endocytic pathway responses at the very earliest disease stage and a progressive disruption of autophagy leading to the massive buildup of incompletely digested substrates within dystrophic axons and dendrites. In this review, we examine research on autophagy in AD and evaluate evidence addressing the specific step or steps along the autophagy pathway that may be defective. Current evidence strongly points to disruption of substrate proteolysis within autolysosomes for the principal mechanism underlying autophagy failure in AD. In the most common form of familial early onset AD, mutant presenilin 1 disrupts autophagy directly by impeding lysosomal proteolysis while, in other forms of AD, autophagy impairments may involve different genetic or environmental factors. Attempts to restore more normal lysosomal proteolysis and autophagy efficiency in mouse models of AD pathology have yielded promising therapeutic effects on neuronal function and cognitive performance, demonstrating the relevance of autophagy failure to the pathogenesis of AD and the potential of autophagy modulation as a therapeutic strategy.
PMCID: PMC3096679  PMID: 21296668
23.  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
24.  Mechanisms of Neural and Behavioral Dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease 
Molecular neurobiology  2011;43(3):163-179.
This review critically examines progress in understanding the link between Alzheimer’s disease (AD) molecular pathogenesis and behavior, with an emphasis on the impact of amyloid-β. We present the argument that the AD research field requires more multi-faceted analyses into the impacts of Alzheimer’s pathogenesis which combine simultaneous molecular-, circuit-, and behavior-level approaches. Supporting this argument is a review of particular research utilizing similar, ‘systems-level’ methods in mouse models of AD. Related to this, a critique of common physiological and behavioral models is made – highlighting the likely usefulness of more refined and specific tools in understanding the relationship between candidate molecular pathologies and behavioral dysfunction. Finally, we propose challenges for future research which, if met, may greatly extend our current understanding of how AD molecular pathology impacts neural network function and behavior and possibly may lead to refinements in disease therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC3090690  PMID: 21424679
Amyloid-β; APP; cognition; dementia; endocytosis; LTD; LTP; neural connectivity; presenilin; tau; rab5; synapse
25.  Lysosomal proteolysis inhibition selectively disrupts axonal transport of degradative organelles and causes an Alzheimer’s-like axonal dystrophy 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2011;31(21):7817-7830.
In the hallmark neuritic dystrophy of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), autophagic vacuoles containing incompletely digested proteins selectively accumulate in focal axonal swellings, reflecting defects in both axonal transport and autophagy. Here, we investigated the possibility that impaired lysosomal proteolysis could be a basis for both defects leading to neuritic dystrophy. In living primary mouse cortical neurons expressing fluorescence-tagged markers, LC3-positive autophagosomes forming in axons rapidly acquired the endo-lysosomal markers, Rab7 and LAMP1, and underwent exclusive retrograde movement. Proteolytic clearance of these transported autophagic vacuoles was initiated upon fusion with bi-directionally moving lysosomes that increase in number at more proximal axon levels and in the perikaryon. Disrupting lysosomal proteolysis by either inhibiting cathepsins directly or by suppressing lysosomal acidification slowed the axonal transport of autolysosomes, late endosomes and lysosomes and caused their selective accumulation within dystrophic axonal swellings. Mitochondria and other organelles lacking cathepsins moved normally under these conditions, indicating that the general functioning of the axonal transport system was preserved. Dystrophic swellings induced by lysosomal proteolysis inhibition resembled in composition those in several mouse models of AD and also acquired other AD-like features, including immunopositivity for ubiquitin, APP, and neurofilament protein hyperphosphorylation. Restoration of lysosomal proteolysis reversed the affected movements of proteolytic Rab7 vesicles, which in turn, largely cleared autophagic substrates and reversed the axonal dystrophy. These studies identify the AD-associated defects in neuronal lysosomal proteolysis as a possible basis for the selective transport abnormalities and highly characteristic pattern of neuritic dystrophy associated with AD.
PMCID: PMC3351137  PMID: 21613495

Results 1-25 (50)