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1.  IDE (rs6583817) Polymorphism and Pulse Pressure are Independently and Interactively Associated with Level and Change in Executive Function in Older Adults 
Psychology and aging  2014;29(2):418-430.
We report a gene x environment (health) study focusing on concurrent performance and longitudinal change in a latent-variable executive function (EF) phenotype. Specifically, we tested the independent and interactive effects of a recently identified insulin degrading enzyme genetic polymorphism (IDE rs6583817) and pulse pressure (PP) (one prominent aging-related vascular health indicator) across up to 9 years of EF data in a sample of older adults from the Victoria Longitudinal Study. Both factors vary across a continuum of risk-elevating to risk-reducing and have been recently linked to normal and impaired cognitive aging.
We assembled a genotyped and typically aging group of older adults (n=599, M age=66 years at baseline), following them for up to three longitudinal waves (M interval=4.4 years). We used confirmatory factor analyses, latent growth modeling, and path analyses to pursue three main research goals.
First, the EF single factor model was confirmed as comprised of 4 executive function tasks and it demonstrated measurement invariance across the waves. Second, older adults with the major IDE G allele exhibited better EF outcomes than homozygotes for the minor A allele at the centering age of 75 years. Adults with higher PP performed more poorly on EF tasks at age 75 years and exhibited greater EF longitudinal decline. Third, gene x health interaction analyses showed that worsening vascular health (higher PP) differentially affected EF performance in older adults with the IDE G allele.
Genetic interaction analyses can reveal differential and magnifying effects on cognitive phenotypes in aging. In the present case, pulse pressure is confirmed as a risk factor for concurrent and changing cognitive health in aging, but the effects operate differently across the risk and protective allelic distribution of this IDE gene.
PMCID: PMC4069225  PMID: 24660790
Executive functions; gene x health analyses; insulin degrading enzyme; pulse pressure; Victoria Longitudinal Study
2.  Prion disease tempo determined by host-dependent substrate reduction 
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.
PMCID: PMC3904628  PMID: 24430187
3.  Infectious Prions Accumulate to High Levels in Non Proliferative C2C12 Myotubes 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(11):e1003755.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3820720  PMID: 24244171
4.  The P’s and Q’s of cellular PrP-Aβ interactions 
Prion  2012;6(4):359-363.
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.
PMCID: PMC3609064  PMID: 22874673
APP; Alzheimer disease; BSE; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; GPI-anchored glycoprotein; amyloid; prionoids; prions; protein misfolding
5.  Latrepirdine improves cognition and arrests progression of neuropathology in an Alzheimer’s mouse model 
Molecular psychiatry  2012;18(8):889-897.
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.
PMCID: PMC3625697  PMID: 22850627
autophagy; amyloid; Alzheimer’s disease; therapeutics
6.  VEGF significantly restores impaired memory behavior in Alzheimer's mice by improvement of vascular survival 
Scientific Reports  2013;3:2053.
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.
PMCID: PMC3690383  PMID: 23792494
7.  Role of p73 in Alzheimer disease: lack of association in mouse models or in human cohorts 
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.
PMCID: PMC3614544  PMID: 23414597
P73; Alzheimer’s disease; Animal models; GWAS
8.  The isotropic fractionator provides evidence for differential loss of hippocampal neurons in two mouse models of Alzheimer's disease 
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.
PMCID: PMC3551697  PMID: 23173713
Alzheimer’s disease; Mouse models; Amyloid beta (Aβ); Isotropic fractionator; Neuronal loss
9.  Shadoo/PrP (Sprn0/0/Prnp0/0) double knockout mice 
Prion  2012;6(5):420-424.
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.
PMCID: PMC3510864  PMID: 22929230
Sprn; prions; Shadoo; genetic redundancy; Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease; BSE
10.  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
11.  Establishment and characterization of Prnp knockdown neuroblastoma cells using dual microRNA-mediated RNA interference 
Prion  2011;5(2):93-102.
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.
PMCID: PMC3166508  PMID: 21494092
N2a; miRNA; PrPC; Prnp; RNAi
12.  Reversal of autophagy dysfunction in the TgCRND8 mouse model of Alzheimer's disease ameliorates amyloid pathologies and memory deficits 
Brain  2010;134(1):258-277.
Autophagy, a major degradative pathway for proteins and organelles, is essential for survival of mature neurons. Extensive autophagic-lysosomal pathology in Alzheimer’s disease brain contributes to Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis, although the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Here, we identified and characterized marked intraneuronal amyloid-β peptide/amyloid and lysosomal system pathology in the Alzheimer’s disease mouse model TgCRND8 similar to that previously described in Alzheimer’s disease brains. We further establish that the basis for these pathologies involves defective proteolytic clearance of neuronal autophagic substrates including amyloid-β peptide. To establish the pathogenic significance of these abnormalities, we enhanced lysosomal cathepsin activities and rates of autophagic protein turnover in TgCRND8 mice by genetically deleting cystatin B, an endogenous inhibitor of lysosomal cysteine proteases. Cystatin B deletion rescued autophagic-lysosomal pathology, reduced abnormal accumulations of amyloid-β peptide, ubiquitinated proteins and other autophagic substrates within autolysosomes/lysosomes and reduced intraneuronal amyloid-β peptide. The amelioration of lysosomal function in TgCRND8 markedly decreased extracellular amyloid deposition and total brain amyloid-β peptide 40 and 42 levels, and prevented the development of deficits of learning and memory in fear conditioning and olfactory habituation tests. Our findings support the pathogenic significance of autophagic-lysosomal dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease and indicate the potential value of restoring normal autophagy as an innovative therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3009842  PMID: 21186265
autophagy; lysosome; cystatin B; cathepsin; Alzheimer’s disease
13.  Down-Regulation of Shadoo in Prion Infections Traces a Pre-Clinical Event Inversely Related to PrPSc Accumulation 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(11):e1002391.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3219720  PMID: 22114562
14.  DHA Supplemented in Peptamen Diet Offers No Advantage in Pathways to Amyloidosis: Is It Time to Evaluate Composite Lipid Diet? 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24094.
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.
PMCID: PMC3169579  PMID: 21931647
15.  Group II metabotropic glutamate receptor stimulation triggers production and release of Alzheimer’s amyloid β 42 from isolated intact nerve terminals 
Aberrant accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) oligomers may underlie the cognitive failure of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). All species of Aβ peptides are produced physiologically during normal brain activity. Therefore, elucidation of mechanisms that interconnect excitatory glutamatergic neurotransmission, synaptic amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing and production of its metabolite Aβ may reveal synapse-specific strategies for suppressing the pathological accumulation of Aβ oligomers and fibrils that characterize AD. In order to study synaptic APP processing, we used isolated intact nerve terminals (cortical synaptoneurosomes) from TgCRND8 mice, which express a human APP with familial AD mutations. Potassium chloride depolarization caused sustained release from synaptoneurosomes of Aβ42 as well as Aβ40 and appeared to co-activate α-, β- and γ-secretases, which are known to generate a family of released peptides, including Aβ40 and Aβ42. Stimulation of postsynaptic Group I mGluRs with DHPG induced a rapid accumulation of APP carboxy terminal fragments (CTFs) in the synaptoneurosomes, a family of membrane-bound intermediates generated from APP metabolized by α- and β-secretases. Following stimulation with the Group II mGluR agonist DCG-IV, levels of APP CTFs in the synaptoneurosomes initially increased, but then returned to baseline by 10 minutes after stimulation. This APP CTF degradation phase was accompanied by sustained accumulation of Aβ42 in the releasate, which was blocked by the Group II mGluR antagonist LY341495. These data suggest that Group II mGluR may trigger synaptic activation of all three secretases and that suppression of Group II mGluR signaling may be a therapeutic strategy for selectively reducing synaptic generation of Aβ42.
PMCID: PMC2857209  PMID: 20237257
metabotropic glutamate receptor; depolarization; amyloid β; Alzheimer’s disease; synapse; synaptosome
16.  Acute dosing of latrepirdine (Dimebon™), a possible Alzheimer therapeutic, elevates extracellular amyloid-β levels in vitro and in vivo 
Recent reports suggest that latrepirdine (Dimebon™, dimebolin), a retired Russian antihistamine, improves cognitive function in aged rodents and in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, the mechanism(s) underlying this benefit remain elusive. AD is characterized by extracellular accumulation of the amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide in the brain, and Aβ-lowering drugs are currently among the most popular anti-amyloid agents under development for the treatment of AD. In the current study, we assessed the effect of acute dosing of latrepirdine on levels of extracellular Aβ using in vitro and in vivo experimental systems.
We evaluated extracellular levels of Aβ in three experimental systems, under basal conditions and after treatment with latrepirdine. Mouse N2a neuroblastoma cells overexpressing Swedish APP were incubated for 6 hr in the presence of either vehicle or vehicle + latrepirdine (500pM-5 μM). Synaptoneurosomes were isolated from TgCRND8 mutant APP-overexpressing transgenic mice and incubated for 0 to 10 min in the absence or presence of latrepirdine (1 μM or 10 μM). Drug-naïve Tg2576 Swedish mutant APP overexpressing transgenic mice received a single intraperitoneal injection of either vehicle or vehicle + latrepirdine (3.5 mg/kg). Picomolar to nanomolar concentrations of acutely administered latrepirdine increased the extracellular concentration of Aβ in the conditioned media from Swedish mutant APP-overexpressing N2a cells by up to 64% (p = 0.01), while a clinically relevant acute dose of latrepirdine administered i.p. led to an increase in the interstitial fluid of freely moving APP transgenic mice by up to 40% (p = 0.01). Reconstitution of membrane protein trafficking and processing is frequently inefficient, and, consistent with this interpretation, latrepirdine treatment of isolated TgCRND8 synaptoneurosomes involved higher concentrations of drug (1-10 μM) and led to more modest increases in extracellular Aβx-42 levels (+10%; p = 0.001); of note, however, was the observation that extracellular Aβx-40 levels did not change.
Here, we report the surprising association of acute latrepirdine dosing with elevated levels of extracellular Aβ as measured in three independent neuron-related or neuron-derived systems, including the hippocampus of freely moving Tg2576 mice. Given the reported association of chronic latrepirdine treatment with improvement in cognitive function, the effects of chronic latrepirdine treatment on extracellular Aβ levels must now be determined.
PMCID: PMC2806870  PMID: 20017949
18.  Dietary composition modulates brain mass and solubilizable Aβ levels in a mouse model of aggressive Alzheimer's amyloid pathology 
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Recently, an increased interest in the role diet plays in the pathology of AD has resulted in a focus on the detrimental effects of diets high in cholesterol and fat and the beneficial effects of caloric restriction. The current study examines how dietary composition modulates cerebral amyloidosis and neuronal integrity in the TgCRND8 mouse model of AD.
From 4 wks until 18 wks of age, male and female TgCRND8 mice were maintained on one of four diets: (1) reference (regular) commercial chow; (2) high fat/low carbohydrate custom chow (60 kcal% fat/30 kcal% protein/10 kcal% carbohydrate); (3) high protein/low carbohydrate custom chow (60 kcal% protein/30 kcal% fat/10 kcal% carbohydrate); or (4) high carbohydrate/low fat custom chow (60 kcal% carbohydrate/30 kcal% protein/10 kcal% fat). At age 18 wks, mice were sacrificed, and brains studied for (a) wet weight; (b) solubilizable Aβ content by ELISA; (c) amyloid plaque burden; (d) stereologic analysis of selected hippocampal subregions.
Animals receiving a high fat diet showed increased brain levels of solubilizable Aβ, although we detected no effect on plaque burden. Unexpectedly, brains of mice fed a high protein/low carbohydrate diet were 5% lower in weight than brains from all other mice. In an effort to identify regions that might link loss of brain mass to cognitive function, we studied neuronal density and volume in hippocampal subregions. Neuronal density and volume in the hippocampal CA3 region of TgCRND8 mice tended to be lower in TgCRND8 mice receiving the high protein/low carbohydrate diet than in those receiving the regular chow. Neuronal density and volume were preserved in CA1 and in the dentate gyrus.
Dissociation of Aβ changes from brain mass changes raises the possibility that diet plays a role not only in modulating amyloidosis but also in modulating neuronal vulnerability. However, in the absence of a study of the effects of a high protein/low carbohydrate diet on nontransgenic mice, one cannot be certain how much, if any, of the loss of brain mass exhibited by high protein/low carbohydrate diet-fed TgCRND8 mice was due to an interaction between cerebral amyloidosis and diet. Given the recent evidence that certain factors favor the maintenance of cognitive function in the face of substantial structural neuropathology, we propose that there might also exist factors that sensitize brain neurons to some forms of neurotoxicity, including, perhaps, amyloid neurotoxicity. Identification of these factors could help reconcile the poor clinicopathological correlation between cognitive status and structural neuropathology, including amyloid pathology.
PMCID: PMC2775731  PMID: 19845940
19.  Interactome Analyses Identify Ties of PrPC and Its Mammalian Paralogs to Oligomannosidic N-Glycans and Endoplasmic Reticulum-Derived Chaperones 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(10):e1000608.
The physiological environment which hosts the conformational conversion of the cellular prion protein (PrPC) to disease-associated isoforms has remained enigmatic. A quantitative investigation of the PrPC interactome was conducted in a cell culture model permissive to prion replication. To facilitate recognition of relevant interactors, the study was extended to Doppel (Prnd) and Shadoo (Sprn), two mammalian PrPC paralogs. Interestingly, this work not only established a similar physiological environment for the three prion protein family members in neuroblastoma cells, but also suggested direct interactions amongst them. Furthermore, multiple interactions between PrPC and the neural cell adhesion molecule, the laminin receptor precursor, Na/K ATPases and protein disulfide isomerases (PDI) were confirmed, thereby reconciling previously separate findings. Subsequent validation experiments established that interactions of PrPC with PDIs may extend beyond the endoplasmic reticulum and may play a hitherto unrecognized role in the accumulation of PrPSc. A simple hypothesis is presented which accounts for the majority of interactions observed in uninfected cells and suggests that PrPC organizes its molecular environment on account of its ability to bind to adhesion molecules harboring immunoglobulin-like domains, which in turn recognize oligomannose-bearing membrane proteins.
Author Summary
Prions underlie rare but invariably fatal neurodegenerative diseases in humans and other mammals. Public awareness of these diseases has grown with the occurrence of cases of BSE (also known as “Mad Cow Disease”) and the realization that this disease can, in rare instances, be transmitted to humans. The normal cellular prion protein is found in most cell types within the body. In disease, this protein acquires a different shape which tends to aggregate and poison nearby cells. The disease-associated conversion of the prion protein appears to require its localization to specialized cellular membrane regions rich in cholesterol; however, the precise molecular environment which hosts this event has remained elusive. We used a cell-based disease model to identify proteins which reside in close proximity to the prion protein and two closely related mammalian proteins. We demonstrate that these three proteins may not only populate highly similar environments but may also interact with each other. We further identified an extended molecular network in proximity of these proteins which supports functions in adhesion control, lactate metabolism and cell fusion events. It is anticipated that these insights will contribute to efforts to rationally interfere with aberrant protein-protein interactions underlying these diseases.
PMCID: PMC2749441  PMID: 19798432
20.  Evolutionary Descent of Prion Genes from the ZIP Family of Metal Ion Transporters 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e7208.
In the more than twenty years since its discovery, both the phylogenetic origin and cellular function of the prion protein (PrP) have remained enigmatic. Insights into a possible function of PrP may be obtained through the characterization of its molecular neighborhood in cells. Quantitative interactome data demonstrated the spatial proximity of two metal ion transporters of the ZIP family, ZIP6 and ZIP10, to mammalian prion proteins in vivo. A subsequent bioinformatic analysis revealed the unexpected presence of a PrP-like amino acid sequence within the N-terminal, extracellular domain of a distinct sub-branch of the ZIP protein family that includes ZIP5, ZIP6 and ZIP10. Additional structural threading and orthologous sequence alignment analyses argued that the prion gene family is phylogenetically derived from a ZIP-like ancestral molecule. The level of sequence homology and the presence of prion protein genes in most chordate species place the split from the ZIP-like ancestor gene at the base of the chordate lineage. This relationship explains structural and functional features found within mammalian prion proteins as elements of an ancient involvement in the transmembrane transport of divalent cations. The phylogenetic and spatial connection to ZIP proteins is expected to open new avenues of research to elucidate the biology of the prion protein in health and disease.
PMCID: PMC2745754  PMID: 19784368
21.  Frequent Missense and Insertion/Deletion Polymorphisms in the Ovine Shadoo Gene Parallel Species-Specific Variation in PrP 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6538.
The cellular prion protein PrPC is encoded by the Prnp gene. This protein is expressed in the central nervous system (CNS) and serves as a precursor to the misfolded PrPSc isoform in prion diseases. The prototype prion disease is scrapie in sheep, and whereas Prnp exhibits common missense polymorphisms for V136A, R154H and Q171R in ovine populations, genetic variation in mouse Prnp is limited. Recently the CNS glycoprotein Shadoo (Sho) has been shown to resemble PrPC both in a central hydrophobic domain and in activity in a toxicity assay performed in cerebellar neurons. Sho protein levels are reduced in prion infections in rodents. Prompted by these properties of the Sho protein we investigated the extent of natural variation in SPRN.
Principal Findings
Paralleling the case for ovine versus human and murine PRNP, we failed to detect significant coding polymorphisms that alter the mature Sho protein in a sample of neurologically normal humans, or in diverse strains of mice. However, ovine SPRN exhibited 4 missense mutations and expansion/contraction in a series of 5 tandem Ala/Gly-containing repeats R1-R5 encoding Sho's hydrophobic domain. A Val71Ala polymorphism and polymorphic expansion of wt 67(Ala)3Gly70 to 67(Ala)5Gly72 reached frequencies of 20%, with other alleles including Δ67–70 and a 67(Ala)6Gly73 expansion. Sheep V71, A71, Δ67–70 and 67(Ala)6Gly73 SPRN alleles encoded proteins with similar stability and posttranslational processing in transfected neuroblastoma cells.
Frequent coding polymorphisms are a hallmark of the sheep PRNP gene and our data indicate a similar situation applies to ovine SPRN. Whether a common selection pressure balances diversity at both loci remains to be established.
PMCID: PMC2716538  PMID: 19657386
22.  The CNS glycoprotein Shadoo has PrPC-like protective properties and displays reduced levels in prion infections 
The EMBO Journal  2007;26(17):4038-4050.
The cellular prion protein, PrPC, is neuroprotective in a number of settings and in particular prevents cerebellar degeneration mediated by CNS-expressed Doppel or internally deleted PrP (‘ΔPrP'). This paradigm has facilitated mapping of activity determinants in PrPC and implicated a cryptic PrPC-like protein, ‘π'. Shadoo (Sho) is a hypothetical GPI-anchored protein encoded by the Sprn gene, exhibiting homology and domain organization similar to the N-terminus of PrP. Here we demonstrate Sprn expression and Sho protein in the adult CNS. Sho expression overlaps PrPC, but is low in cerebellar granular neurons (CGNs) containing PrPC and high in PrPC-deficient dendritic processes. In Prnp0/0 CGNs, Sho transgenes were PrPC-like in their ability to counteract neurotoxic effects of either Doppel or ΔPrP. Additionally, prion-infected mice exhibit a dramatic reduction in endogenous Sho protein. Sho is a candidate for π, and since it engenders a PrPC-like neuroprotective activity, compromised neuroprotective activity resulting from reduced levels may exacerbate damage in prion infections. Sho may prove useful in deciphering several unresolved facets of prion biology.
PMCID: PMC1950727  PMID: 17703189
neuroprotection; prions; PrP; scrapie
23.  The Expanding Universe of Prion Diseases 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(3):e26.
Prions cause fatal and transmissible neurodegenerative disease. These etiological infectious agents are formed in greater part from a misfolded cell-surface protein called PrPC. Several mammalian species are affected by the diseases, and in the case of “mad cow disease” (BSE) the agent has a tropism for humans, with negative consequences for agribusiness and public health. Unfortunately, the known universe of prion diseases is expanding. At least four novel prion diseases—including human diseases variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) and sporadic fatal insomnia (sFI), bovine amyloidotic spongiform encephalopathy (BASE), and Nor98 of sheep—have been identified in the last ten years, and chronic wasting disease (CWD) of North American deer (Odocoileus Specis) and Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) is undergoing a dramatic spread across North America. While amplification (BSE) and dissemination (CWD, commercial sourcing of cervids from the wild and movement of farmed elk) can be attributed to human activity, the origins of emergent prion diseases cannot always be laid at the door of humankind. Instead, the continued appearance of new outbreaks in the form of “sporadic” disease may be an inevitable outcome in a situation where the replicating pathogen is host-encoded.
PMCID: PMC1434791  PMID: 16609731
24.  Interactions between β-amyloid and central cholinergic neurons: implications for Alzheimer's disease 
Alzheimer's disease is an age-related neurodegenerative disorder that is characterized by a progressive loss of memory and deterioration of higher cognitive functions. The brain of an individual with Alzheimer's disease exhibits extracellular plaques of aggregated β-amyloid protein (Aβ), intracellular neurofibrillary tangles that contain hyperphosphorylated tau protein and a profound loss of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons that innervate the hippocampus and the neocortex. Aβ accumulation may trigger or contribute to the process of neurodegeneration. However, the mechanisms whereby Aβ induces basal forebrain cholinergic cell loss and cognitive impairment remain obscure. Physiologically relevant concentrations of Aβ-related peptides have acute, negative effects on multiple aspects of acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and release, without inducing toxicity. These data suggest a neuromodulatory influence of the peptides on central cholinergic functions. Long-term exposure to micromolar Aβ induces cholinergic cell toxicity, possibly via hyperphosphorylation of tau protein. Conversely, activation of selected cholinergic receptors has been shown to alter the processing of the amyloid precursor protein as well as phosphorylation of tau protein. A direct interaction between Aβ and nicotinic ACh receptors has also been demonstrated. This review addresses the role of Aβ-related peptides in regulating the function and survival of central cholinergic neurons and the relevance of these effects to cholinergic deficits in Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the functional interrelations between Aβ peptides, cholinergic neurons and tau phosphorylation will unravel the biologic events that precede neurodegeneration and may lead to the development of more effective pharmacotherapies for Alzheimer's disease.
La maladie d'Alzheimer est une maladie neurodégénérative reliée à l'âge caractérisée par une perte progressive de la mémoire et la détérioration des fonctions cognitives supérieures. Le cerveau d'une personne atteinte de la maladie d'Alzheimer contient des plaques extracellulaires de protéine β-amyloïde (Aβ) agrégée et des enchevêtrements neurofibrillaires intracellulaires qui contiennent de la protéine tau hyperphosphorylée, et présente une perte profonde de neurones cholinergiques du cerveau antérieur basal qui innervent l'hippocampe et le néocortex. L'accumulation de protéine Aβ peut déclencher le processus de neurodégénération ou y contribuer. Les mécanismes par lesquels la protéine Aβ provoque la perte de cellules cholinergiques du cerveau antérieur basal et la déficience de la cognition demeurent toutefois obscurs. Des concentrations physiologiquement pertinentes de peptides reliés à la protéine Aβont des effets négatifs aigus sur de multiples aspects de la synthèse et de la libération de l'acétylcholine (ACh) sans provoquer de toxicité. Ces données indiquent que les peptides ont peut-être une influence neuromodulatrice sur les fonctions cholinergiques centrales. L'exposition chronique à des protéines Aβmicromolaires provoque la toxicité des cellules cholinergiques, peut-être par l'hyperphosphorylation de la protéine tau. On a par ailleurs démontré que l'activation de certains récepteurs cholinergiques altère la transformation de la protéine précurseur amyloïde, ainsi que la phosphorylation de la protéine tau. On a aussi démontré l'existence d'un lien direct entre la protéine Aβ et les récepteurs de l'ACh nicotiniques. Cette étude porte sur le rôle des peptides reliés à la protéine Aβ dans la régulation de la fonction et de la survie des neurones cholinergiques centraux et la pertinence de ces effets pour les déficits cholinergiques dans les cas de maladie d'Alzheimer. La compréhension des liens fonctionnels entre les peptides Aβ, les neurones cholinergiques et la phosphorylation de la protéine tau précisera les éléments biologiques qui précèdent la neurodégénération et pourra peut-être déboucher sur la mise au point de pharmacothérapies plus efficaces contre la maladie d'Alzheimer.
PMCID: PMC524960  PMID: 15644984
acetylcholine; Alzheimer disease; amyloid; models, animal; neurodegenerative diseases; neuromodulation
25.  Presenilin 1 Controls γ-Secretase Processing of Amyloid Precursor Protein in Pre-Golgi Compartments of Hippocampal Neurons 
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;147(2):277-294.
Mutations of presenilin 1 (PS1) causing Alzheimer's disease selectively increase the secretion of the amyloidogenic βA4(1-42), whereas knocking out the gene results in decreased production of both βA4(1-40) and (1-42) amyloid peptides (De Strooper et al. 1998). Therefore, PS1 function is closely linked to the γ-secretase processing of the amyloid precursor protein (APP). Given the ongoing controversy on the subcellular localization of PS1, it remains unclear at what level of the secretory and endocytic pathways PS1 exerts its activity on APP and on the APP carboxy-terminal fragments that are the direct substrates for γ-secretase. Therefore, we have reinvestigated the subcellular localization of endogenously expressed PS1 in neurons in vitro and in vivo using confocal microscopy and fine-tuned subcellular fractionation. We show that uncleaved PS1 holoprotein is recovered in the nuclear envelope fraction, whereas the cleaved PS fragments are found mainly in post-ER membranes including the intermediate compartment (IC). PS1 is concentrated in discrete sec23p- and p58/ERGIC-53–positive patches, suggesting its localization in subdomains involved in ER export. PS1 is not found to significant amounts beyond the cis-Golgi. Surprisingly, we found that APP carboxy-terminal fragments also coenrich in the pre-Golgi membrane fractions, consistent with the idea that these fragments are the real substrates for γ-secretase. Functional evidence that PS1 exerts its effects on γ-secretase processing of APP in the ER/IC was obtained using a series of APP trafficking mutants. These mutants were investigated in hippocampal neurons derived from transgenic mice expressing PS1wt or PS1 containing clinical mutations (PS1M146L and PS1L286V) at physiologically relevant levels. We demonstrate that the APP-London and PS1 mutations have additive effects on the increased secretion of βA4(1-42) relative to βA4(1-40), indicating that both mutations operate independently. Overall, our data clearly establish that PS1 controls γ42-secretase activity in pre-Golgi compartments. We discuss models that reconcile this conclusion with the effects of PS1 deficiency on the generation of βA4(1-40) peptide in the late biosynthetic and endocytic pathways.
PMCID: PMC2174229  PMID: 10525535
Alzheimer's disease; presenilin 1; APP processing; hippocampal neuron; γ-secretase

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