The symptoms of prion infection can take years or decades to manifest following the initial exposure. Molecular markers of prion disease include accumulation of the misfolded prion protein (PrPSc), which is derived from its cellular precursor (PrPC), as well as downregulation of the PrP-like Shadoo (Sho) glycoprotein. Given the overlapping cellular environments for PrPC and Sho, we inferred that PrPC levels might also be altered as part of a host response during prion infection. Using rodent models, we found that, in addition to changes in PrPC glycosylation and proteolytic processing, net reductions in PrPC occur in a wide range of prion diseases, including sheep scrapie, human Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and cervid chronic wasting disease. The reduction in PrPC results in decreased prion replication, as measured by the protein misfolding cyclic amplification technique for generating PrPSc in vitro. While PrPC downregulation is not discernible in animals with unusually short incubation periods and high PrPC expression, slowly evolving prion infections exhibit downregulation of the PrPC substrate required for new PrPSc synthesis and as a receptor for pathogenic signaling. Our data reveal PrPC downregulation as a previously unappreciated element of disease pathogenesis that defines the extensive, presymptomatic period for many prion strains.
Prion diseases are driven by the strain-specific, template-dependent transconformation of the normal cellular prion protein (PrPC) into a disease specific isoform PrPSc. Cell culture models of prion infection generally use replicating cells resulting in lower levels of prion accumulation compared to animals. Using non-replicating cells allows the accumulation of higher levels of PrPSc and, thus, greater amounts of infectivity. Here, we infect non-proliferating muscle fiber myotube cultures prepared from differentiated myoblasts. We demonstrate that prion-infected myotubes generate substantial amounts of PrPSc and that the level of infectivity produced in these post-mitotic cells, 105.5 L.D.50/mg of total protein, approaches that observed in vivo. Exposure of the myotubes to different mouse-adapted agents demonstrates strain-specific replication of infectious agents. Mouse-derived myotubes could not be infected with hamster prions suggesting that the species barrier effect is intact. We suggest that non-proliferating myotubes will be a valuable model system for generating infectious prions and for screening compounds for anti-prion activity.
This manuscript describes the generation of a new cell culture system to study the replication of infectious prions. While numerous cell lines exist that can replicate prions, these systems are usually based upon proliferating cells. As mammalian cell cultures double approximately every day, prions established in the culture must also, at least, double to be maintained. This is problematic, however, as prions replicate relatively slowly and cell replication may outpace prion replication. In fact, many cell culture systems do not replicate prions and those that do often do not replicate all strains of prions. Here we describe the use of differentiated non-proliferative muscle cells to replicate prions without the interfering effect of cell division. We observed that prions accumulate to very high levels in this muscle cell culture with infectivity approaching that observed in animals.
Although they share certain biological properties with nucleic acid based infectious agents, prions, the causative agents of invariably fatal, transmissible neurodegenerative disorders such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, sheep scrapie, and human Creutzfeldt Jakob disease, propagate by conformational templating of host encoded proteins. Once thought to be unique to these diseases, this mechanism is now recognized as a ubiquitous means of information transfer in biological systems, including other protein misfolding disorders such as those causing Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. To address the poorly understood mechanism by which host prion protein (PrP) primary structures interact with distinct prion conformations to influence pathogenesis, we produced transgenic (Tg) mice expressing different sheep scrapie susceptibility alleles, varying only at a single amino acid at PrP residue 136. Tg mice expressing ovine PrP with alanine (A) at (OvPrP-A136) infected with SSBP/1 scrapie prions propagated a relatively stable (S) prion conformation, which accumulated as punctate aggregates in the brain, and produced prolonged incubation times. In contrast, Tg mice expressing OvPrP with valine (V) at 136 (OvPrP-V136) infected with the same prions developed disease rapidly, and the converted prion was comprised of an unstable (U), diffusely distributed conformer. Infected Tg mice co-expressing both alleles manifested properties consistent with the U conformer, suggesting a dominant effect resulting from exclusive conversion of OvPrP-V136 but not OvPrP-A136. Surprisingly, however, studies with monoclonal antibody (mAb) PRC5, which discriminates OvPrP-A136 from OvPrP-V136, revealed substantial conversion of OvPrP-A136. Moreover, the resulting OvPrP-A136 prion acquired the characteristics of the U conformer. These results, substantiated by in vitro analyses, indicated that co-expression of OvPrP-V136 altered the conversion potential of OvPrP-A136 from the S to the otherwise unfavorable U conformer. This epigenetic mechanism thus expands the range of selectable conformations that can be adopted by PrP, and therefore the variety of options for strain propagation.
Prions are infectious proteins, originally discovered as the cause of a group of transmissible, fatal mammalian neurodegenerative diseases. Propagation results from conversion of the host-encoded cellular form of the prion protein to a self-propagating disease-associated conformation. It is believed that the self-propagating pathogenic form exists in a variety of subtly different conformations that encipher prion strain information. Here we explored the mechanism by which prion protein primary structural variants, differing at only a single amino acid residue, interact with prion strain conformations to control disease phenotype. We show that under conditions of co-expression, a susceptible prion protein variant influences the ability of an otherwise resistant variant to propagate an otherwise unfavorable prion strain. While this phenomenon is analogous to the expression of genetically-determined phenotypes, our results support a mechanism whereby dominant and recessive prion traits are epigenetically controlled by means of protein-mediated conformational templating.
Prions are infectious agents causing fatal neurodegenerative diseases of humans and animals. In humans, these have sporadic, acquired and inherited aetiologies. The inherited prion diseases are caused by one of over 30 coding mutations in the human prion protein (PrP) gene (PRNP) and many of these generate infectious prions as evidenced by their experimental transmissibility by inoculation to laboratory animals. However, some, and in particular an extensively studied type of Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS) caused by a PRNP A117V mutation, are thought not to generate infectious prions and instead constitute prion proteinopathies with a quite distinct pathogenetic mechanism. Multiple attempts to transmit A117V GSS have been unsuccessful and typical protease-resistant PrP (PrPSc), pathognomonic of prion disease, is not detected in brain. Pathogenesis is instead attributed to production of an aberrant topological form of PrP, C-terminal transmembrane PrP (CtmPrP). Barriers to transmission of prion strains from one species to another appear to relate to structural compatibility of PrP in host and inoculum and we have therefore produced transgenic mice expressing human 117V PrP. We found that brain tissue from GSS A117V patients did transmit disease to these mice and both the neuropathological features of prion disease and presence of PrPSc was demonstrated in the brains of recipient transgenic mice. This PrPSc rapidly degraded during laboratory analysis, suggesting that the difficulty in its detection in patients with GSS A117V could relate to post-mortem proteolysis. We conclude that GSS A117V is indeed a prion disease although the relative contributions of CtmPrP and prion propagation in neurodegeneration and their pathogenetic interaction remains to be established.
Prions are infectious agents causing incurable brain disease in humans and animals. Prion diseases are by definition transmissible, which means that it should be possible to experimentally transfer disease from patient brain tissue to laboratory animals by inoculation. While many forms of prion disease have been shown to be experimentally transmissible, some inherited forms, in particular, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS) associated with the substitution of valine for alanine at amino acid position 117 (GSS A117V) of the human prion protein gene have not. This has led to the suggestion that such syndromes are not true prion diseases and are better designated non-transmissible proteinopathies. Since prions may transmit more efficiently when the host's normal prion protein amino acid sequence matches that of the infecting prion, we generated transgenic mice expressing human prion protein with the same amino acid sequence found in A117V GSS. We found that brain tissue from GSS A117V patients could transmit disease to these mice, producing the typical brain lesions associated with GSS A117V. We therefore conclude that GSS A117V is an authentic prion disease.
Prion disease research has opened up the “black-box” of neurodegeneration, defining a key role for protein misfolding wherein a predominantly alpha-helical precursor protein, PrPC, is converted to a disease-associated, β-sheet enriched isoform called PrPSc. In Alzheimer disease (AD) the Aβ peptide derived from the β-amyloid precuror protein APP folds in β-sheet amyloid. Early thoughts along the lines of overlap may have been on target,1 but were eclipsed by a simultaneous (but now anachronistic) controversy over the role of PrPSc in prion diseases.2,3 Nonetheless, as prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) are themselves rare and can include an overt infectious mode of transmission, and as familial prion diseases and familial AD involve different genes, an observer might reasonably have concluded that prion research could occasionally catalyze ideas in AD, but could never provide concrete overlaps at the mechanistic level. Surprisingly, albeit a decade or three down the road, several prion/AD commonalities can be found within the contemporary literature. One important prion/AD overlap concerns seeded spread of Aβ aggregates by intracerebral inoculation much like prions,4 and, with a neuron-to-neuron ‘spreading’ also reported for pathologic forms of other misfolded proteins, Tau5,6 and α-synuclein in the case of Parkinson Disease.7,8 The concept of seeded spread has been discussed extensively elsewhere, sometimes under the rubric of “prionoids”9, and lies outside the scope of this particular review where we will focus upon PrPC. From this point the story can now be subdivided into four strands of investigation: (1) pathologic effects of Aβ can be mediated by binding to PrPC,10 (2) the positioning of endoproteolytic processing events of APP by pathologic (β-cleavage + γ-cleavage) and non-pathologic (α-cleavage + γ-cleavage) secretase pathways is paralleled by seemingly analogous α- and β-like cleavage of PrPC (Fig. 1) (3) similar lipid raft environments for PrPC and APP processing machinery,11-13 and perhaps in consequence, overlaps in repertoire of the PrPC and APP protein interactors (“interactomes”),14,15 and (4) rare kindreds with mixed AD and prion pathologies.16 Here we discuss confounds, consensus and conflict associated with parameters that apply to these experimental settings.
APP; Alzheimer disease; BSE; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; GPI-anchored glycoprotein; amyloid; prionoids; prions; protein misfolding
Latrepirdine (Dimebon™) is a pro-neurogenic, antihistaminic compound that has yielded mixed results in clinical trials of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, with a dramatically positive outcome in a Russian clinical trial that was unconfirmed in a replication trial in the United States. We sought to determine whether latrepirdine-stimulated APP catabolism is at least partially attributable to regulation of macroautophagy, a highly conserved protein catabolism pathway that is known to be impaired in brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We utilized several mammalian cellular models to determine whether latrepirdine regulates mTOR- and Atg5-dependent autophagy. Male TgCRND8 mice were chronically administered latrepirdine prior to behavior analysis in the cued and contextual fear conditioning paradigm, as well as immunohistological and biochemical analysis of AD-related neuropathology. Treatment of cultured mammalian cells with latrepirdine led to enhanced mTOR- and Atg5-dependent autophagy. Latrepirdine treatment of TgCRND8 transgenic mice was associated with improved learning behavior and with a reduction in accumulation of Aβ42 and α-synuclein. We conclude that latrepirdine possesses pro-autophagic properties in addition to the previously reported pro-neurogenic properties, both of which are potentially relevant to the treatment and/or prevention of neurodegenerative diseases. We suggest that elucidation of the molecular mechanism(s) underlying latrepirdine effects on neurogenesis, autophagy, and behavior might warranty the further study of latrepirdine as a potentially viable lead compound that might yield more consistent clinical benefit following optimization of its pro-neurogenic, pro-autophagic, and/or pro-cognitive activities.
autophagy; amyloid; Alzheimer’s disease; therapeutics
The functional impact of amyloid peptides (Aβs) on the vascular system is less understood despite these pathologic peptides are substantially deposited in the brain vasculature of Alzheimer's patients. Here we show substantial accumulation of Aβs 40 and 42 in the brain arterioles of Alzheimer's patients and of transgenic Alzheimer's mice. Purified Aβs 1–40 and 1–42 exhibited vascular regression activity in the in vivo animal models and vessel density was reversely correlated with numbers and sizes of amyloid plaques in human patients. A significant high number of vascular cells underwent cellular apoptosis in the brain vasculature of Alzheimer's patients. VEGF significantly prevented Aβ-induced endothelial apoptosis in vitro. Neuronal expression of VEGF in transgenic mice restored memory behavior of Alzheimer's. These findings provide conceptual implication of improvement of vascular functions as a novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
In order to assess the susceptibility of bank voles to chronic wasting disease (CWD), we inoculated voles carrying isoleucine or methionine at codon 109 (Bv109I and Bv109M, respectively) with CWD isolates from elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. Efficient transmission rate (100%) was observed with mean survival times ranging from 156 to 281 days post inoculation. Subsequent passages in Bv109I allowed us to isolate from all CWD sources the same vole-adapted CWD strain (Bv109ICWD), typified by unprecedented short incubation times of 25–28 days and survival times of ∼35 days. Neuropathological and molecular characterisation of Bv109ICWD showed that the classical features of mammalian prion diseases were all recapitulated in less than one month after intracerebral inoculation. Bv109ICWD was characterised by a mild and discrete distribution of spongiosis and relatively low levels of protease-resistant PrPSc (PrPres) in the same brain regions. Despite the low PrPres levels and the short time lapse available for its accumulation, end-point titration revealed that brains from terminally-ill voles contained up to 108,4 i.c. ID50 infectious units per gram. Bv109ICWD was efficiently replicated by protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) and the infectivity faithfully generated in vitro, as demonstrated by the preservation of the peculiar Bv109ICWD strain features on re-isolation in Bv109I. Overall, we provide evidence that the same CWD strain was isolated in Bv109I from the three-cervid species. Bv109ICWD showed unique characteristics of “virulence”, low PrPres accumulation and high infectivity, thus providing exceptional opportunities to improve basic knowledge of the relationship between PrPSc, neurodegeneration and infectivity.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects free-ranging and captive cervids and is expanding increasingly in the USA and Canada. Animal models are of key importance in the study of prion diseases but their development for CWD has long been hampered by its very inefficient transmission to wild-type mice. Significant progress was made following the generation of transgenic mice over-expressing cervid PrP. Here we show that the bank vole (Myodes glareolus), a wild rodent species that we demonstrated to be susceptible to many animal and human prion diseases, is also very susceptible to CWD from elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. Adaptation of CWD to bank vole led to the isolation of a prion strain with peculiar characteristics: unprecedented short incubation and survival times, respectively of 25–28 and ∼35 days, low PrPSc levels compared with other vole-adapted prion strains and high infectious titre. These features were all faithfully maintained upon the generation of this strain in vitro by protein misfolding cyclic amplification. The development of a model for prion diseases that led to disease in less than one month accumulating high infectious titres but low PrPSc levels, represents a significant tool for investigating the still unclear relationship between PrPSc, neurodegeneration and infectivity in prion diseases.
P73 belongs to the p53 family of cell survival regulators with the corresponding locus Trp73 producing the N-terminally distinct isoforms, TAp73 and DeltaNp73. Recently, two studies have implicated the murine Trp73 in the modulation in phospho-tau accumulation in aged wild type mice and in young mice modeling Alzheimer’s disease (AD) suggesting that Trp73, particularly the DeltaNp73 isoform, links the accumulation of amyloid peptides to the creation of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). Here, we reevaluated tau pathologies in the same TgCRND8 mouse model as the previous studies.
Despite the use of the same animal models, our in vivo studies failed to demonstrate biochemical or histological evidence for misprocessing of tau in young compound Trp73+/- + TgCRND8 mice or in aged Trp73+/- mice analyzed at the ages reported previously, or older. Secondly, we analyzed an additional mouse model where the DeltaNp73 was specifically deleted and confirmed a lack of impact of the DeltaNp73 allele, either in heterozygous or homozygous form, upon tau pathology in aged mice. Lastly, we also examined human TP73 for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and/or copy number variants in a meta-analysis of 10 AD genome-wide association datasets. No SNPs reached significance after correction for multiple testing and no duplications/deletions in TP73 were found in 549 cases of AD and 544 non-demented controls.
Our results fail to support P73 as a contributor to AD pathogenesis.
P73; Alzheimer’s disease; Animal models; GWAS
We have reported that properties of prion strains may change when propagated in different environments. For example, when swainsonine-sensitive 22L prions were propagated in PK1 cells in the presence of swainsonine, drug-resistant variants emerged. We proposed that prions constitute quasi- populations comprising a range of variants with different properties, from which the fittest are selected in a particular environment. Prion populations developed heterogeneity even after biological cloning, indicating that during propagation mutation-like processes occur at the conformational level. Because brain-derived 22L prions are naturally swainsonine resistant, it was not too surprising that prions which had become swa sensitive after propagation in cells could revert to drug resistance. Because RML prions, both after propagation in brain or in PK1 cells, are swainsonine sensitive, we investigated whether it was nonetheless possible to select swainsonine-resistant variants by propagation in the presence of the drug. Interestingly, this was not possible with the standard line of PK1 cells, but in certain PK1 sublines not only swainsonine-resistant, but even swainsonine-dependent populations (i.e. that propagated more rapidly in the presence of the drug) could be isolated. Once established, they could be passaged indefinitely in PK1 cells, even in the absence of the drug, without losing swainsonine dependence. The misfolded prion protein (PrPSc) associated with a swainsonine-dependent variant was less rapidly cleared in PK1 cells than that associated with its drug-sensitive counterpart, indicating that likely structural differences of the misfolded PrP underlie the properties of the prions. In summary, propagation of prions in the presence of an inhibitory drug may not only cause the selection of drug-resistant prions but even of stable variants that propagate more efficiently in the presence of the drug. These adaptations are most likely due to conformational changes of the abnormal prion protein.
Prions consist of PrPSc, an aggregated conformer of the host protein PrPC. PrPSc multiplies by catalyzing the conformational conversion of PrPC into a likeness of itself. Prions present as distinct strains that have the same primary amino acid sequence but differ in their conformation. Many distinct mouse-derived prions strains, for example RML, 22L or Me7, have been isolated. Prions can adapt to their environment. We investigated whether propagation of swainsonine-sensitive RML prions in the presence of the drug would yield swainsonine-resistant variants. Interestingly, this was not possible with a standard line of neuroblastoma cells, but in certain sublines not only swainsonine-resistant, but even swainsonine-dependent populations (i.e. that propagated more rapidly in the presence than in the absence of the drug) could be isolated. Once established, they could be propagated “indefinitely” in PK1 cells, even in the absence of the drug, without losing swainsonine dependence. In summary, our paper shows that propagation of prions in the presence of an inhibitory drug may not only cause the selection of drug-resistant prions but even of stable prion variants that propagate more efficiently in the presence of the drug. These adaptations are most likely due to conformational changes of the abnormal prion protein.
The accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) oligomers or fibrils is thought to be one of the main causes of synaptic and neuron loss, believed to underlie cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Neuron loss has rarely been documented in amyloid precursor protein (APP) transgenic mouse models. We investigated whether two APP mouse models characterized by different folding states of amyloid showed different neuronal densities using an accurate method of cell counting.
We examined total cell and neuronal populations in Swedish/Indiana APP mutant mice (TgCRND8) with severe Aβ pathology that includes fibrils, plaques, and oligomers, and Dutch APP mutant mice with only Aβ oligomer pathology. Using the isotropic fractionator, we found no differences from control mice in regional total cell populations in either TgCRND8 or Dutch mice. However, there were 31.8% fewer hippocampal neurons in TgCRND8 compared to controls, while no such changes were observed in Dutch mice.
We show that the isotropic fractionator is a convenient method for estimating neuronal content in milligram quantities of brain tissue and represents a useful tool to assess cell loss efficiently in transgenic models with different types of neuropathology. Our data support the hypothesis that TgCRND8 mice with a spectrum of Aβ plaque, fibril, and oligomer pathology exhibit neuronal loss whereas Dutch mice with only oligomers, showed no evidence for neuronal loss. This suggests that the combination of plaques, fibrils, and oligomers causes more damage to mouse hippocampal neurons than Aβ oligomers alone.
Alzheimer’s disease; Mouse models; Amyloid beta (Aβ); Isotropic fractionator; Neuronal loss
Prion diseases typically have long pre-clinical incubation periods during which time the infectious prion particle and infectivity steadily propagate in the brain. Abnormal neuritic sprouting and synaptic deficits are apparent during pre-clinical disease, however, gross neuronal loss is not detected until the onset of the clinical phase. The molecular events that accompany early neuronal damage and ultimately conclude with neuronal death remain obscure. In this study, we used laser capture microdissection to isolate hippocampal CA1 neurons and determined their pre-clinical transcriptional response during infection. We found that gene expression within these neurons is dynamic and characterized by distinct phases of activity. We found that a major cluster of genes is altered during pre-clinical disease after which expression either returns to basal levels, or alternatively undergoes a direct reversal during clinical disease. Strikingly, we show that this cluster contains a signature highly reminiscent of synaptic N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor signaling and the activation of neuroprotective pathways. Additionally, genes involved in neuronal projection and dendrite development were also altered throughout the disease, culminating in a general decline of gene expression for synaptic proteins. Similarly, deregulated miRNAs such as miR-132-3p, miR-124a-3p, miR-16-5p, miR-26a-5p, miR-29a-3p and miR-140-5p follow concomitant patterns of expression. This is the first in depth genomic study describing the pre-clinical response of hippocampal neurons to early prion replication. Our findings suggest that prion replication results in the persistent stimulation of a programmed response that is mediated, at least in part, by synaptic NMDA receptor activity that initially promotes cell survival and neurite remodelling. However, this response is terminated prior to the onset of clinical symptoms in the infected hippocampus, seemingly pointing to a critical juncture in the disease. Manipulation of these early neuroprotective pathways may redress the balance between degeneration and survival, providing a potential inroad for treatment.
Neurodegenerative diseases affect an ever-increasing proportion of the population; therefore, there is an urgent need to develop treatments. Prion disorders belong to this group of diseases and although rare and uniquely transmissible, share many features on a sub-cellular level. Central to disease is progressive synaptic impairment that invariably leads to the irreversible loss of neurons. Understanding this process is undoubtedly essential for rational drug discovery. In this study we looked at neurons very early in disease, when prions are barely detectable and there are no clinical symptoms observed. Specifically, we performed a comprehensive analysis of transcriptional changes within a particularly dense area of neurons, the CA1 hippocampus region, from prion-infected and control mice. In this way we were able to enrich our data for molecular changes unique to neurons and minimize those changes characteristic of support cells such as astrocytes and microglia. We detected the activation of a transcriptional program indicative of a protective mechanism within these neurons early in disease. This mechanism diminished as disease progressed and was lost altogether, concurrently with the onset of clinical symptoms. These findings demonstrate the ability of neurons to mount an initial neuroprotective response to prions that could be exploited for therapy development.
Shadoo (Sho) is a brain glycoprotein with similarities to the unstructured region of PrPC. Frameshift alleles of the Sho gene, Sprn, are reported in variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) patients while Sprn mRNA knockdown in PrP-null (Prnp0/0) embryos produces lethality, advancing Sho as the hypothetical PrP-like “pi” protein. Also, Sho levels are reduced as misfolded PrP accumulates during prion infections. To penetrate these issues we created Sprn null alleles (Daude et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci USA 2012; 109(23): 9035–40). Results from the challenge of Sprn null and TgSprn transgenic mice with rodent-adapted prions coalesce to define downregulation of Sho as a “tracer” for the formation of misfolded PrP. However, classical BSE and rodent-adapted BSE isolates may behave differently, as they do for other facets of the pathogenic process, and this intriguing variation warrants closer scrutiny. With regards to physiological function, double knockout mice (Sprn0/0/Prnp0/0) mice survived to over 600 d of age. This suggests that Sho is not pi, or, given the accumulating data for many activities for PrPC, that the pi hypothesis invoking a discrete signaling pathway to maintain neuronal viability is no longer tenable.
Sprn; prions; Shadoo; genetic redundancy; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; BSE
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.
autophagy; lysosome; cathepsin; cystatin B; proteolysis; Alzheimer disease; transgenic
Prion diseases are fatal transmissible neurodegenerative disorders. In the pathogenesis of the disease, the cellular prion protein (PrPC) is required for replication of abnormal prion (PrPSc), which results in accumulation of PrPSc. Although there have been extensive studies using Prnp knockout systems, the normal function of PrPC remains ambiguous. Compared with conventional germline knockout technologies and transient naked siRNA-dependent knockdown systems, newly constructed durable chained-miRNA could provide a cell culture model that is closer to the disease status and easier to achieve with no detrimental sequelae. The selective silencing of a target gene by RNA interference (RNAi) is a powerful approach to investigate the unknown function of genes in vitro and in vivo. To reduce PrPC expression, a novel dual targeting-microRNA (miRdual) was constructed. The miRdual, which targets N- and C-termini of Prnp simultaneously, more effectively suppressed PrPC expression compared with conventional single site targeting. Furthermore, to investigate the cellular change following PrPC depletion, gene expression analysis of PrPC interacting and/or associating genes and several assays including proliferation, viability and apoptosis were performed. The transcripts 670460F02Rik and Plk3, Ppp2r2b and Csnk2a1 increase in abundance and are reported to be involved in cell proliferation and mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis. Dual-targeting RNAi with miRdual against Prnp will be useful for analyzing the physiological function of PrPC in neuronal cell lines and may provide a potential therapeutic intervention for prion diseases in the future.
N2a; miRNA; PrPC; Prnp; RNAi
In most transmissible spongiform encephalopathies prions accumulate in the lymphoreticular system (LRS) long before they are detectable in the central nervous system. While a considerable body of evidence showed that B lymphocytes and follicular dendritic cells play a major role in prion colonization of lymphoid organs, the contribution of various other cell types, including antigen-presenting cells, to the accumulation and the spread of prions in the LRS are not well understood. A comprehensive study to compare prion titers of candidate cell types has not been performed to date, mainly due to limitations in the scope of animal bioassays where prohibitively large numbers of mice would be required to obtain sufficiently accurate data. By taking advantage of quantitative in vitro prion determination and magnetic-activated cell sorting, we studied the kinetics of prion accumulation in various splenic cell types at early stages of prion infection. Robust estimates for infectious titers were obtained by statistical modelling using a generalized linear model. Whilst prions were detectable in B and T lymphocytes and in antigen-presenting cells like dendritic cells and macrophages, highest infectious titers were determined in two cell types that have previously not been associated with prion pathogenesis, plasmacytoid dendritic (pDC) and natural killer (NK) cells. At 30 days after infection, NK cells were more than twice, and pDCs about seven-fold, as infectious as lymphocytes respectively. This result was unexpected since, in accordance to previous reports prion protein, an obligate requirement for prion replication, was undetectable in pDCs. This underscores the importance of prion sequestration and dissemination by antigen-presenting cells which are among the first cells of the immune system to encounter pathogens. We furthermore report the first evidence for a release of prions from lymphocytes and DCs of scrapie-infected mice ex vivo, a process that is associated with a release of exosome-like membrane vesicles.
Prions, rogue proteins that cause the fatal brain disease CJD in humans and BSE in cattle are not only found in the brain, but also in other tissues, particularly in lymphoid organs, long before they are detectable in the central nervous system. It is of great interest to better characterize how prions colonize the periphery after an infection and how they ultimately reach the brain, since such knowledge could help to develop treatments. By taking advantage of a technique called magnetic cell isolation we determined the infectious state of various immune cells, isolated from spleens of prion-infected mice. A high proportion of prions was detected in cells of the innate immune system, particularly in dendritic cells and natural killer cells. We furthermore found that small amounts of prions are released from infected cells, a finding which raises the question whether prions could spread in a similar manner to some viruses. These results suggest that prion-carrying immune cells that reside in the periphery may pose a major risk for the dissemination of prions, once they are mobilized, for example by an activation of the immune system.
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.
autophagy; lysosome; cystatin B; cathepsin; Alzheimer’s disease
During prion infections of the central nervous system (CNS) the cellular prion protein, PrPC, is templated to a conformationally distinct form, PrPSc. Recent studies have demonstrated that the Sprn gene encodes a GPI-linked glycoprotein Shadoo (Sho), which localizes to a similar membrane environment as PrPC and is reduced in the brains of rodents with terminal prion disease. Here, analyses of prion-infected mice revealed that down-regulation of Sho protein was not related to Sprn mRNA abundance at any stage in prion infection. Down-regulation was robust upon propagation of a variety of prion strains in Prnpa and Prnpb mice, with the exception of the mouse-adapted BSE strain 301 V. In addition, Sho encoded by a TgSprn transgene was down-regulated to the same extent as endogenous Sho. Reduced Sho levels were not seen in a tauopathy, in chemically induced spongiform degeneration or in transgenic mice expressing the extracellular ADan amyloid peptide of familial Danish dementia. Insofar as prion-infected Prnp hemizygous mice exhibited accumulation of PrPSc and down-regulation of Sho hundreds of days prior to onset of neurologic symptoms, Sho depletion can be excluded as an important trigger for clinical disease or as a simple consequence of neuronal damage. These studies instead define a disease-specific effect, and we hypothesize that membrane-associated Sho comprises a bystander substrate for processes degrading PrPSc. Thus, while protease-resistant PrP detected by in vitro digestion allows post mortem diagnosis, decreased levels of endogenous Sho may trace an early response to PrPSc accumulation that operates in the CNS in vivo. This cellular response may offer new insights into the homeostatic mechanisms involved in detection and clearance of the misfolded proteins that drive prion disease pathogenesis.
In prion infections of the nervous system the cellular prion protein, PrPC, changes to a distinct form, PrPSc. Recent studies have demonstrated that another glycoprotein Shadoo (Sho), which occupies a similar membrane environment as PrPC, is reduced in the brains of rodents with terminal prion disease. Our analyses of prion-infected mice revealed that reduction of Sho protein was not due to reductions in the corresponding messenger RNA. Reduction in Sho was clearly evident upon propagation of a variety of prion strains, but was not seen in mice with other types of neurodegenerative disease. Also, as prion-infected mice with only one copy of the PrP gene exhibited both accumulation of PrPSc and a reduction of Sho protein hundreds of days prior to onset of neurologic symptoms, the drop in Sho protein level can be excluded as an important trigger for clinical disease, or a non-specific consequence of brain cell damage. Instead, our studies define a effect restricted to prion disease and we hypothesize that Sho protein is a “bystander” for degradative processes aimed at destroying PrPSc.
Genetic prion diseases are late onset fatal neurodegenerative disorders linked to pathogenic mutations in the prion protein-encoding gene, PRNP. The most prevalent of these is the substitution of Glutamate for Lysine at codon 200 (E200K), causing genetic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (gCJD) in several clusters, including Jews of Libyan origin. Investigating the pathogenesis of genetic CJD, as well as developing prophylactic treatments for young asymptomatic carriers of this and other PrP mutations, may well depend upon the availability of appropriate animal models in which long term treatments can be evaluated for efficacy and toxicity. Here we present the first effective mouse model for E200KCJD, which expresses chimeric mouse/human (TgMHu2M) E199KPrP on both a null and a wt PrP background, as is the case for heterozygous patients and carriers. Mice from both lines suffered from distinct neurological symptoms as early as 5–6 month of age and deteriorated to death several months thereafter. Histopathological examination of the brain and spinal cord revealed early gliosis and age-related intraneuronal deposition of disease-associated PrP similarly to human E200K gCJD. Concomitantly we detected aggregated, proteinase K resistant, truncated and oxidized PrP forms on immunoblots. Inoculation of brain extracts from TgMHu2ME199K mice readily induced, the first time for any mutant prion transgenic model, a distinct fatal prion disease in wt mice. We believe that these mice may serve as an ideal platform for the investigation of the pathogenesis of genetic prion disease and thus for the monitoring of anti-prion treatments.
Inherited prion diseases, such as genetic CJD, are dominant disorders linked to mutations in the gene encoding the prion protein, PrP. Since therapeutic intervention in all types of human prion diseases has failed, we propose that therapeutic efforts should be directed mostly to the development of preventive treatments for subjects incubating prion diseases, as is the case for asymptomatic carriers of pathogenic PrP mutations. These subjects will develop disease symptoms at some point in their adult life; therefore they should be treated before clinical deterioration. Candidate treatments will need to be tested for efficacy and safety first in animal models that mimic most properties of genetic CJD. In this work, we describe a new transgenic mouse model for E200K genetic CJD, presenting progressive neurodegenerative disease and age related prion disease pathology and biochemistry, as is the case in the human disease. Brain extracts from these mice also transmitted prion disease to wt mice, as shown before for parallel human samples. We propose that these animals will play a significant role in the development of novel anti-prion prophylactic treatments.
The origin, range, and structure of prions causing the most common human prion disease, sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD), are largely unknown. To investigate the molecular mechanism responsible for the broad phenotypic variability of sCJD, we analyzed the conformational characteristics of protease-sensitive and protease-resistant fractions of the pathogenic prion protein (PrPSc) using novel conformational methods derived from a conformation-dependent immunoassay (CDI). In 46 brains of patients homozygous for polymorphisms in the PRNP gene and exhibiting either Type 1 or Type 2 western blot pattern of the PrPSc, we identified an extensive array of PrPSc structures that differ in protease sensitivity, display of critical domains, and conformational stability. Surprisingly, in sCJD cases homozygous for methionine or valine at codon 129 of the PRNP gene, the concentration and stability of protease-sensitive conformers of PrPSc correlated with progression rate of the disease. These data indicate that sCJD brains exhibit a wide spectrum of PrPSc structural states, and accordingly argue for a broad spectrum of prion strains coding for different phenotypes. The link between disease duration, levels, and stability of protease-sensitive conformers of PrPSc suggests that these conformers play an important role in the pathogenesis of sCJD.
Sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) is the most common human prion disease worldwide. This neurodegenerative disease, which is transmissible and invariably fatal, is characterized by the accumulation of an abnormally folded isoform (PrPSc) of a host-encoded protein (PrPC), predominantly in the brain. Most researchers believe that PrPSc is the infectious agent and five or six subtypes of sCJD have been identified. Whether or not these subtypes represent distinct strains of sCJD prions is debated in the context of the extraordinary variability of sCJD phenotypes, frequent co-occurrence of different PrPSc fragments in the same brain, and the fact that up to 90% of protease-sensitive PrPSc eludes the conventional analysis because it is destroyed by protease treatment. Using novel conformational methods, we identified within each clinical and pathological category an array of PrPSc structures that differ in protease-sensitivity, display of critical domains, and conformational stability. Each of these features offers evidence of a distinct conformation. The link between the rate at which the disease progresses, on the one hand, and the concentration and stability of protease-sensitive conformers of PrPSc on the other, suggests that these conformers play an important role in how the disease originates and progresses.
Numerous reports have documented the beneficial effects of dietary docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on beta-amyloid production and Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, none of these studies have examined and compared DHA, in combination with other dietary nutrients, for its effects on plaque pathogenesis. Potential interactions of DHA with other dietary nutrients and fatty acids are conventionally ignored. Here we investigated DHA with two dietary regimes; peptamen (pep+DHA) and low fat diet (low fat+DHA). Peptamen base liquid diet is a standard sole-source nutrition for patients with gastrointestinal dysfunction. Here we demonstrate that a robust AD transgenic mouse model shows an increased tendency to produce beta-amyloid peptides and amyloid plaques when fed a pep+DHA diet. The increase in beta-amyloid peptides was due to an elevated trend in the levels of beta-secretase amyloid precursor protein (APP) cleaving enzyme (BACE), the proteolytic C-terminal fragment beta of APP and reduced levels of insulin degrading enzyme that endoproteolyse beta-amyloid. On the contrary, TgCRND8 mice on low fat+DHA diet (based on an approximately 18% reduction of fat intake) ameliorate the production of abeta peptides and consequently amyloid plaques. Our work not only demonstrates that DHA when taken with peptamen may have a tendency to confer a detrimental affect on the amyloid plaque build up but also reinforces the importance of studying composite lipids or nutrients rather than single lipids or nutrients for their effects on pathways important to plaque development.
Previous studies identified two mammalian prion protein (PrP) polybasic domains that bind the disease-associated conformer PrPSc, suggesting that these domains of cellular prion protein (PrPC) serve as docking sites for PrPSc during prion propagation. To examine the role of polybasic domains in the context of full-length PrPC, we used prion proteins lacking one or both polybasic domains expressed from Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells as substrates in serial protein misfolding cyclic amplification (sPMCA) reactions. After ∼5 rounds of sPMCA, PrPSc molecules lacking the central polybasic domain (ΔC) were formed. Surprisingly, in contrast to wild-type prions, ΔC-PrPSc prions could bind to and induce quantitative conversion of all the polybasic domain mutant substrates into PrPSc molecules. Remarkably, ΔC-PrPSc and other polybasic domain PrPSc molecules displayed diminished or absent biological infectivity relative to wild-type PrPSc, despite their ability to seed sPMCA reactions of normal mouse brain homogenate. Thus, ΔC-PrPSc prions interact with PrPC molecules through a novel interaction mechanism, yielding an expanded substrate range and highly efficient PrPSc propagation. Furthermore, polybasic domain deficient PrPSc molecules provide the first example of dissociation between normal brain homogenate sPMCA seeding ability from biological prion infectivity. These results suggest that the propagation of PrPSc molecules may not depend on a single stereotypic mechanism, but that normal PrPC/PrPSc interaction through polybasic domains may be required to generate prion infectivity.
Prions are unconventional infectious agents that cause fatal diseases in humans and other animals. Previous studies have suggested that prion infectivity depends upon the ability of a sample to change the shape of a normal brain protein called the prion protein (PrP) into a disease-associated shape. Other studies have identified a pair of positively charged domains within the structure of PrP that appear to be important for the interaction between the normal and disease-associated shapes of the prion protein. In this report, we show that the shape of normal PrP can change into the disease-associated form through a novel mechanism that does not involve positively charged domains. However, it appears that interaction through the positively charged domains is required to produce infectious prions efficiently. Our results show for the first time that the ability to change the shape of normal PrP into its disease-associated state is not the sole determinant of prion infectivity.
Atypical/Nor98 scrapie was first identified in 1998 in Norway. It is now considered as a worldwide disease of small ruminants and currently represents a significant part of the detected transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) cases in Europe. Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases were reported in ARR/ARR sheep, which are highly resistant to BSE and other small ruminants TSE agents. The biology and pathogenesis of the Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent in its natural host is still poorly understood. However, based on the absence of detectable abnormal PrP in peripheral tissues of affected individuals, human and animal exposure risk to this specific TSE agent has been considered low. In this study we demonstrate that infectivity can accumulate, even if no abnormal PrP is detectable, in lymphoid tissues, nerves, and muscles from natural and/or experimental Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases. Evidence is provided that, in comparison to other TSE agents, samples containing Atypical/Nor98 scrapie infectivity could remain PrPSc negative. This feature will impact detection of Atypical/Nor98 scrapie cases in the field, and highlights the need to review current evaluations of the disease prevalence and potential transmissibility. Finally, an estimate is made of the infectivity loads accumulating in peripheral tissues in both Atypical/Nor98 and classical scrapie cases that currently enter the food chain. The results obtained indicate that dietary exposure risk to small ruminants TSE agents may be higher than commonly believed.
Following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis and the identification of its zoonotic properties, a sanitary policy has been implemented based on both eradication of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) in food-producing animals and exclusion of known infectious materials from the food chain. Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is a prion disease of small ruminants identified worldwide. Currently it represents a significant part of the TSE cases detected in Europe. The restricted tissue distribution of Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent in its natural host and the low detected prevalence of secondary cases in affected flocks meant that it is believed to be a poorly transmissible disease. This has led to the view that Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is a spontaneous disorder for which human and animal exposure risk remains low. In this study we demonstrate that in affected individuals, Atypical/Nor98 scrapie agent can disseminate in lymphoid tissues, nerves, and muscles, challenging the idea that it is a brain-restricted infectious agent. Evidence for the deficiencies in the current methods applied for monitoring Atypical/Nor98 scrapie is provided that would indicate an underestimation in the prevalence in the general population and in the affected flocks. These elements challenge the hypothesis on the biology of this recently identified TSE agent.
Protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) provides faithful replication of mammalian prions in vitro and has numerous applications in prion research. However, the low efficiency of conversion of PrPC into PrPSc in PMCA limits the applicability of PMCA for many uses including structural studies of infectious prions. It also implies that only a small sub-fraction of PrPC may be available for conversion. Here we show that the yield, rate, and robustness of prion conversion and the sensitivity of prion detection are significantly improved by a simple modification of the PMCA format. Conducting PMCA reactions in the presence of Teflon beads (PMCAb) increased the conversion of PrPC into PrPSc from ∼10% to up to 100%. In PMCAb, a single 24-hour round consistently amplified PrPSc by 600-700-fold. Furthermore, the sensitivity of prion detection in one round (24 hours) increased by 2-3 orders of magnitude. Using serial PMCAb, a 1012-fold dilution of scrapie brain material could be amplified to the level detectible by Western blotting in 3 rounds (72 hours). The improvements in amplification efficiency were observed for the commonly used hamster 263K strain and for the synthetic strain SSLOW that otherwise amplifies poorly in PMCA. The increase in the amplification efficiency did not come at the expense of prion replication specificity. The current study demonstrates that poor conversion efficiencies observed previously have not been due to the scarcity of a sub-fraction of PrPC susceptible to conversion nor due to limited concentrations of essential cellular cofactors required for conversion. The new PMCAb format offers immediate practical benefits and opens new avenues for developing fast ultrasensitive assays and for producing abundant quantities of PrPSc in vitro.
Protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) provides faithful replication of mammalian prions in vitro. While PMCA has become an important tool in prion research, its application is limited because of low yield, poor efficiency and, sometimes, stochastic behavior. The current study introduces a new PMCA format that dramatically improves the efficiency, yield, and robustness of prion conversion in vitro and reduces the time of the reaction. These improvements have numerous implications. The method opens new opportunities for improving prion detection and for generating large amounts of PrPSc in vitro. Furthermore, the results demonstrate that in vitro conversion is not limited by lack of convertible PrPC nor by concentrations of cellular cofactors required for prion conversion.
Prions, the agents causing transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, colonize the brain of hosts after oral, parenteral, intralingual, or even transdermal uptake. However, prions are not generally considered to be airborne. Here we report that inbred and crossbred wild-type mice, as well as tga20 transgenic mice overexpressing PrPC, efficiently develop scrapie upon exposure to aerosolized prions. NSE-PrP transgenic mice, which express PrPC selectively in neurons, were also susceptible to airborne prions. Aerogenic infection occurred also in mice lacking B- and T-lymphocytes, NK-cells, follicular dendritic cells or complement components. Brains of diseased mice contained PrPSc and transmitted scrapie when inoculated into further mice. We conclude that aerogenic exposure to prions is very efficacious and can lead to direct invasion of neural pathways without an obligatory replicative phase in lymphoid organs. This previously unappreciated risk for airborne prion transmission may warrant re-thinking on prion biosafety guidelines in research and diagnostic laboratories.
Prions, which are the cause of fatal neurodegenerative disorders termed transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), can be experimentally or naturally transmitted via prion-contaminated food, blood, milk, saliva, feces and urine. Here we demonstrate that prions can be transmitted through aerosols in mice. This also occurs in the absence of immune cells as demonstrated by experiments with mice lacking B-, T-, follicular dendritic cells (FDCs), lymphotoxin signaling or with complement-deficient mice. Therefore, a functionally intact immune system is not strictly needed for aerogenic prion infection. These results suggest that current biosafety guidelines applied in diagnostic and scientific laboratories ought to include prion aerosols as a potential vector for prion infection.