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1.  Copper: from neurotransmission to neuroproteostasis 
Copper is critical for the Central Nervous System (CNS) development and function. In particular, different studies have shown the effect of copper at brain synapses, where it inhibits Long Term Potentation (LTP) and receptor pharmacology. Paradoxically, according to recent studies copper is required for a normal LTP response. Copper is released at the synaptic cleft, where it blocks glutamate receptors, which explain its blocking effects on excitatory neurotransmission. Our results indicate that copper also enhances neurotransmission through the accumulation of PSD95 protein, which increase the levels of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors located at the plasma membrane of the post-synaptic density. Thus, our findings represent a novel mechanism for the action of copper, which may have implications for the neurophysiology and neuropathology of the CNS. These data indicate that synaptic configuration is sensitive to transient changes in transition metal homeostasis. Our results suggest that copper increases GluA1 subunit levels of the AMPA receptor through the anchorage of AMPA receptors to the plasma membrane as a result of PSD-95 accumulation. Here, we will review the role of copper on neurotransmission of CNS neurons. In addition, we will discuss the potential mechanisms by which copper could modulate neuronal proteostasis (“neuroproteostasis”) in the CNS with focus in the Ubiquitin Proteasome System (UPS), which is particularly relevant to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD) where copper and protein dyshomeostasis may contribute to neurodegeneration. An understanding of these mechanisms may ultimately lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches to control metal and synaptic alterations observed in AD patients.
PMCID: PMC4080678  PMID: 25071552
copper; E-ligases; neurotransmission; proteasome; synaptic activity; ubiquitination; hippocampal neurons; AMPA
3.  Iron Accumulates in Huntington’s Disease Neurons: Protection by Deferoxamine  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77023.
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by a polyglutamine-encoding CAG expansion in the huntingtin gene. Iron accumulates in the brains of HD patients and mouse disease models. However, the cellular and subcellular sites of iron accumulation, as well as significance to disease progression are not well understood. We used independent approaches to investigate the location of brain iron accumulation. In R6/2 HD mouse brain, synchotron x-ray fluorescence analysis revealed iron accumulation as discrete puncta in the perinuclear cytoplasm of striatal neurons. Further, perfusion Turnbull’s staining for ferrous iron (II) combined with transmission electron microscope ultra-structural analysis revealed increased staining in membrane bound peri-nuclear vesicles in R6/2 HD striatal neurons. Analysis of iron homeostatic proteins in R6/2 HD mice revealed decreased levels of the iron response proteins (IRPs 1 and 2) and accordingly decreased expression of iron uptake transferrin receptor (TfR) and increased levels of neuronal iron export protein ferroportin (FPN). Finally, we show that intra-ventricular delivery of the iron chelator deferoxamine results in an improvement of the motor phenotype in R6/2 HD mice. Our data supports accumulation of redox-active ferrous iron in the endocytic / lysosomal compartment in mouse HD neurons. Expression changes of IRPs, TfR and FPN are consistent with a compensatory response to an increased intra-neuronal labile iron pool leading to increased susceptibility to iron-associated oxidative stress. These findings, together with protection by deferoxamine, support a potentiating role of neuronal iron accumulation in HD.
PMCID: PMC3795666  PMID: 24146952
4.  Amyloid β-Mediated Zn2+ Influx into Dentate Granule Cells Transiently Induces a Short-Term Cognitive Deficit 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115923.
We examined an idea that short-term cognition is transiently affected by a state of confusion in Zn2+ transport system due to a local increase in amyloid-β (Aβ) concentration. A single injection of Aβ (25 pmol) into the dentate gyrus affected dentate gyrus long-term potentiation (LTP) 1 h after the injection, but not 4 h after the injection. Simultaneously, 1-h memory of object recognition was affected when the training was performed 1 h after the injection, but not 4 h after the injection. Aβ-mediated impairments of LTP and memory were rescued in the presence of zinc chelators, suggesting that Zn2+ is involved in Aβ action. When Aβ was injected into the dentate gyrus, intracellular Zn2+ levels were increased only in the injected area in the dentate gyrus, suggesting that Aβ induces the influx of Zn2+ into cells in the injected area. When Aβ was added to hippocampal slices, Aβ did not increase intracellular Zn2+ levels in the dentate granule cell layer in ACSF without Zn2+, but in ACSF containing Zn2+. The increase in intracellular Zn2+ levels was inhibited in the presence of CaEDTA, an extracellular zinc chelator, but not in the presence of CNQX, an AMPA receptor antagonist. The present study indicates that Aβ-mediated Zn2+ influx into dentate granule cells, which may occur without AMPA receptor activation, transiently induces a short-term cognitive deficit. Extracellular Zn2+ may play a key role for transiently Aβ-induced cognition deficits.
PMCID: PMC4275254  PMID: 25536033
5.  β-Amyloid Precursor Protein Does Not Possess Ferroxidase Activity but Does Stabilize the Cell Surface Ferrous Iron Exporter Ferroportin 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e114174.
Ceruloplasmin is a ferroxidase that interacts with ferroportin to export cellular iron, but is not expressed in neurons. We recently reported that the amyloid precursor protein (APP) is the analogous iron-exporting chaperone for neurons and other cells. The ferroxidase activity of APP has since been called into question. Using a triplex Fe2+ oxidation assay, we analyzed the activity of a soluble form of APP (sAPPα) within a buffer of physiological pH and anionic charge, and determined that iron oxidation originated from phosphate. Using various techniques such as flow-cytometry to measure surface presented proteins, we confirmed that endogenous APP is essential for ferroportin persistence on the neuronal surface. Therefore, despite lacking ferroxidase activity, APP still supports iron export from neurons.
PMCID: PMC4252103  PMID: 25464026
6.  Increased Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Patients With Diabetes Is Associated With Metformin 
Diabetes Care  2013;36(10):2981-2987.
To investigate the associations of metformin, serum vitamin B12, calcium supplements, and cognitive impairment in patients with diabetes.
Participants were recruited from the Primary Research in Memory (PRIME) clinics study, the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) study of aging, and the Barwon region of southeastern Australia. Patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) (n = 480) or mild cognitive impairment (n = 187) and those who were cognitively intact (n = 687) were included; patients with stroke or with neurodegenerative diseases other than AD were excluded. Subgroup analyses were performed for participants who had either type 2 diabetes (n = 104) or impaired glucose tolerance (n = 22).
Participants with diabetes (n = 126) had worse cognitive performance than participants who did not have diabetes (n = 1,228; adjusted odds ratio 1.51 [95% CI 1.03–2.21]). Among participants with diabetes, worse cognitive performance was associated with metformin use (2.23 [1.05–4.75]). After adjusting for age, sex, level of education, history of depression, serum vitamin B12, and metformin use, participants with diabetes who were taking calcium supplements had better cognitive performance (0.41 [0.19–0.92]).
Metformin use was associated with impaired cognitive performance. Vitamin B12 and calcium supplements may alleviate metformin-induced vitamin B12 deficiency and were associated with better cognitive outcomes. Prospective trials are warranted to assess the beneficial effects of vitamin B12 and calcium use on cognition in older people with diabetes who are taking metformin.
PMCID: PMC3781568  PMID: 24009301
7.  Motor and cognitive deficits in aged tau knockout mice in two background strains 
We recently reported that Parkinsonian and dementia phenotypes emerge between 7-12 months of age in tau-/- mice on a Bl6/129sv mixed background. These observations were partially replicated by another group using pure Bl6 background tau-/- mice, but notably they did not observe a cognitive phenotype. A third group using Bl6 background tau-/- mice found cognitive impairment at 20-months of age.
To reconcile the observations, here we considered the genetic, dietary and environmental variables in both studies, and performed an extended set of behavioral studies on 12-month old tau+/+, tau+/-, and tau-/- mice comparing Bl6/129sv to Bl6 backgrounds. We found that tau-/- in both backgrounds exhibited reduced tyrosine hydroxylase-positive nigral neuron and impaired motor function in all assays used, which was ameliorated by oral treatment with L-DOPA, and not confounded by changes in body weight. Tau-/- in the C57BL6/SV129 background exhibited deficits in the Y-maze cognition task, but the mice on the Bl6 background did not.
These results validate our previous report on the neurodegenerative phenotypes of aged tau-/- mice, and show that genetic background may impact the extent of cognitive impairment in these mice. Therefore excessive lowering of tau should be avoided in therapeutic strategies for AD.
PMCID: PMC4141346  PMID: 25124182
Tau; Parkinson’s disease; Alzheimer’s disease; Dementia; Knockout; Aging
8.  Iron accumulation confers neurotoxicity to a vulnerable population of nigral neurons: implications for Parkinson’s disease 
The substantia nigra (SN) midbrain nucleus is constitutively iron rich. Iron levels elevate further with age, and pathologically in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Iron accumulation in PD SN involves dysfunction of ceruloplasmin (CP), which normally promotes iron export. We previously showed that ceruloplasmin knockout (CP KO) mice exhibit Parkinsonian neurodegeneration (~30% nigral loss) by 6 months, which is prevented by iron chelation. Here, we explored whether known iron-stressors of the SN (1) aging and (2) MPTP, would exaggerate the lesion severity of CP KO mice.
We show that while 5 month old CP KO mice exhibited nigral iron elevation and loss of SN neurons, surprisingly, aging CP KO mice to 14 months did not exacerbate iron elevation or SN neuronal loss. Unlike young mice, iron chelation therapy in CP KO mice between 9–14 months did not rescue neuronal loss. MPTP exaggerated iron elevation in young CP KO mice but did not increase cell death when compared to WTs.
We conclude that there may exist a proportion of substantia nigra neurons that depend on CP for protection against iron neurotoxicity and could be protected by iron-based therapeutics. Death of the remaining neurons in Parkinson’s disease is likely caused by parallel disease mechanisms, which may call for additional therapeutic options.
PMCID: PMC4114139  PMID: 25011704
Parkinson’s disease; Iron; Ceruloplasmin; Age
9.  Zinc and Copper Modulate Alzheimer Aβ Levels in Human Cerebrospinal Fluid 
Neurobiology of aging  2007;30(7):1069-1077.
Abnormal interaction of β-amyloid 42 (Aβ42) with copper, zinc and iron induce peptide aggregation and oxidation in Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, in health, Aβ degradation is mediated by extracellular metalloproteinases, neprilysin, insulin degrading enzyme (IDE) and matrix metalloproteinases. We investigated the relationship between levels of Aβ and biological metals in CSF. We assayed CSF copper, zinc, other metals and Aβ42 in ventricular autopsy samples of Japanese American men (N= 131) from the population-based Honolulu–Asia Aging Study. There was a significant inverse correlation of CSF Aβ42 with copper, zinc, iron, manganese and chromium. The association was particularly strong in the subgroup with high levels of both zinc and copper. Selenium and aluminum levels were not associated to CSF Aβ42. In vitro, the degradation of synthetic Aβ substrate added to CSF was markedly accelerated by low levels (2 μM) of exogenous zinc and copper. While excessive interaction with copper and zinc may induce neocortical Aβ precipitation in AD, soluble Aβ degradation is normally promoted by physiological copper and zinc concentrations.
PMCID: PMC2709821  PMID: 18068270
amyloid; Alzheimer's disease; metalloproteinase; cerebrospinal fluid; zinc; copper; iron; manganese; chromium
10.  Therapeutics for Alzheimer’s Disease Based on the Metal Hypothesis 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia in the elderly, is characterized by elevated brain iron levels and accumulation of copper and zinc in cerebral β-amyloid deposits; e.g., senile plaques. Both ionic zinc and copper are able to accelerate the aggregation of Aβ, the principle component of β-amyloid deposits. Copper (and iron) can also promote the neurotoxic redox activity of Aβ and induce oxidative cross-linking of the peptide into stable oligomers. Recent reports have documented the release of Aβ together with ionic zinc and copper in cortical glutamatergic synapses following excitation. This, in turn, leads to the formation of Aβ oligomers, which, in turn, modulate long-term potentiation (by controlling synaptic levels of the NMDA receptor). The excessive accumulation of Aβ oligomers in the synaptic cleft would then be predicted to adversely affect synaptic neurotransmisson. Based on these findings, we have proposed the “Metal Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease” which stipulates that the neuropathogenic effects of Aβ in AD are promoted by, and possibly even dependent upon Aβ-metal interactions. Increasingly sophisticated pharmaceutical approaches are now being implemented to attenuate abnormal Aβ-metal interactions without causing systemic disturbance of essential metals. Small molecules targeting Aβ–metal interactions, e.g. PBT2, are currently advancing through clinical trials and show increasing promise as disease-modifying agents for AD based on the “metal hypothesis”.
PMCID: PMC2518205  PMID: 18625454
copper; zinc; amyloid; free radical; oxidation; PBT2
11.  A novel approach to rapidly prevent age-related cognitive decline 
Aging Cell  2013;13(2):351-359.
The loss of cognitive function is a pervasive and often debilitating feature of the aging process for which there are no effective therapeutics. We hypothesized that a novel metal chaperone (PBT2; Prana Biotechnology, Parkville, Victoria, Australia) would enhance cognition in aged rodents. We show here that PBT2 rapidly improves the performance of aged C57Bl/6 mice in the Morris water maze, concomitant with increases in dendritic spine density, hippocampal neuron number and markers of neurogenesis. There were also increased levels of specific glutamate receptors (alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid and N-methyl-d-aspartate), the glutamate transporter (VGLUT1) and glutamate itself. Markers of synaptic plasticity [calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) and phosphorylated CaMKII, CREB, synaptophysin] were also increased following PBT2 treatment. We also demonstrate that PBT2 treatment results in a subregion-specific increase in hippocampal zinc, which is increasingly recognized as a potent neuromodulator. These data demonstrate that metal chaperones are a novel approach to the treatment of age-related cognitive decline.
PMCID: PMC4331782  PMID: 24305557
aging; anti-aging; cognition; PBT2; zinc
12.  Effect of BDNF Val66Met on Memory Decline and Hippocampal Atrophy in Prodromal Alzheimer’s Disease: A Preliminary Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86498.
Cross-sectional genetic association studies have reported equivocal results on the relationship between the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) Val66Met and risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). As AD is a neurodegenerative disease, genetic influences may become clearer from prospective study. We aimed to determine whether BDNF Val66Met polymorphism influences changes in memory performance, hippocampal volume, and Aβ accumulation in adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and high Aβ.
Thirty-four adults with aMCI were recruited from the Australian, Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) Study. Participants underwent PiB-PET and structural MRI neuroimaging, neuropsychological assessments and BDNF genotyping at baseline, 18 month, and 36 month assessments.
In individuals with aMCI and high Aβ, Met carriers showed significant and large decline in episodic memory (d = 0.90, p = .020) and hippocampal volume (d = 0.98, p = .035). BDNF Val66Met was unrelated to the rate of Aβ accumulation (d = −0.35, p = .401).
Although preliminary due to the small sample size, results of this study suggest that high Aβ levels and Met carriage may be useful prognostic markers of accelerated decline in episodic memory, and reductions in hippocampal volume in individuals in the prodromal or MCI stage of AD.
PMCID: PMC3903533  PMID: 24475133
13.  Alzheimer disease β-amyloid activity mimics cholesterol oxidase 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2005;115(9):2556-2563.
The abnormal accumulation of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) in the form of senile (or amyloid) plaques is one of the main characteristics of Alzheimer disease (AD). Both cholesterol and Cu2+ have been implicated in AD pathogenesis and plaque formation. Aβ binds Cu2+ with very high affinity, forming a redox-active complex that catalyzes H2O2 production from O2 and cholesterol. Here we show that Aβ:Cu2+ complexes oxidize cholesterol selectively at the C-3 hydroxyl group, catalytically producing 4-cholesten-3-one and therefore mimicking the activity of cholesterol oxidase, which is implicated in cardiovascular disease. Aβ toxicity in neuronal cultures correlated with this activity, which was inhibited by Cu2+ chelators including clioquinol. Cell death induced by staurosporine or H2O2 did not elevate 4-cholesten-3-one levels. Brain tissue from AD subjects had 98% more 4-cholesten-3-one than tissue from age-matched control subjects. We observed a similar increase in the brains of Tg2576 transgenic mice compared with nontransgenic littermates; the increase was inhibited by in vivo treatment with clioquinol, which suggests that brain Aβ accumulation elevates 4-cholesten-3-one levels in AD. Cu2+-mediated oxidation of cholesterol may be a pathogenic mechanism common to atherosclerosis and AD.
PMCID: PMC1190368  PMID: 16127459
14.  Metals and cholesterol: two sides of the same coin in Alzheimer’s disease pathology 
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a multifactorial neurodegenerative disease. It begins years prior to the onset of clinical symptoms, such as memory loss and cognitive decline. Pathological hallmarks of AD include the accumulation of β-amyloid in plaques and hyperphosphorylated tau in neurofibrillary tangles. Copper, iron, and zinc are abnormally accumulated and distributed in the aging brain. These metal ions can adversely contribute to the progression of AD. Dysregulation of cholesterol metabolism has also been implicated in the development of AD pathology. To date, large bodies of research have been carried out independently to elucidate the role of metals or cholesterol on AD pathology. Interestingly, metals and cholesterol affect parallel molecular and biochemical pathways involved in AD pathology. The possible links between metal dyshomeostasis and altered brain cholesterol metabolism in AD are reviewed.
PMCID: PMC4030154  PMID: 24860500
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid precursor protein; Aβ; cholesterol; metals; iron; copper; zinc
15.  β-amyloid in biological samples: not all Aβ detection methods are created equal 
PMCID: PMC4131196  PMID: 25165449
amyloid; detection; ELISA; western blot; mass spectrometry
16.  A review of β-amyloid neuroimaging in Alzheimer's disease 
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia worldwide. As advancing age is the greatest risk factor for developing AD, the number of those afflicted is expected to increase markedly with the aging of the world's population. The inability to definitively diagnose AD until autopsy remains an impediment to establishing effective targeted treatments. Neuroimaging has enabled in vivo visualization of pathological changes in the brain associated with the disease, providing a greater understanding of its pathophysiological development and progression. However, neuroimaging biomarkers do not yet offer clear advantages over current clinical diagnostic criteria for them to be accepted into routine clinical use. Nonetheless, current insights from neuroimaging combined with the elucidation of biochemical and molecular processes in AD are informing the ongoing development of new imaging techniques and their application. Much of this research has been greatly assisted by the availability of transgenic mouse models of AD. In this review we summarize the main efforts of neuroimaging in AD in humans and in mouse models, with a specific focus on β-amyloid, and discuss the potential of new applications and novel approaches.
PMCID: PMC4215612  PMID: 25400539
neuroimaging; Alzheimer's disease; MRI; PET; mouse models; CT; biomarkers
17.  Copper-uptake is critical for the down regulation of synapsin and dynamin induced by neocuproine: modulation of synaptic activity in hippocampal neurons 
Extracellular and intracellular copper and zinc regulate synaptic activity and plasticity, which may impact brain functionality and human behavior. We have found that a metal coordinating molecule, Neocuproine, transiently increases free intracellular copper and zinc levels (i.e., min) in hippocampal neurons as monitored by Phen Green and FluoZin-3 fluorescence, respectively. The changes in free intracellular zinc induced by Neocuproine were abolished by the presence of a non-permeant copper chelator, Bathocuproine (BC), indicating that copper influx is needed for the action of Neocuproine on intracellular Zn levels. Moreover, Neocuproine decreased the mRNA levels of Synapsin and Dynamin, and did not affect the expression of Bassoon, tubulin or superoxide dismutase (SOD). Western blot analysis showed that protein levels of synapsin and dynamin were also down regulated in the presence of Neocuproine and that these changes were accompanied by a decrease in calcium transients and neuronal activity. Furthermore, Neocuproine decreased the number of active neurons, effect that was blocked by the presence of BC, indicating that copper influx is needed for the action of Neocuproine. We finally show that Neocuproine blocks the epileptiform-like activity induced by bicuculline in hippocampal neurons. Collectively, our data indicates that presynaptic protein configuration and function of primary hippocampal neurons is sensitive to transient changes in transition metal homeostasis. Therefore, small molecules able to coordinate transition metals and penetrate the blood-brain barrier might modify neurotransmission at the Central Nervous System (CNS). This might be useful to establish therapeutic approaches to control the neuronal hyperexcitabiltity observed in brain conditions that are associated to copper dyshomeotasis such as Alzheimer’s and Menkes diseases. Our work also opens a new avenue to find novel and effective antiepilepsy drugs based in metal coordinating molecules.
PMCID: PMC4253966  PMID: 25520655
copper; zinc; neocuproine; synaptic activity; dynamin; synapsin; hyperexcitability; epileptiform-like activity
18.  Clinical utility of the cogstate brief battery in identifying cognitive impairment in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease 
BMC psychology  2013;1(1):30.
Previous studies have demonstrated the utility and sensitivity of the CogState Brief Battery (CBB) in detecting cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and in assessing cognitive changes in the preclinical stages of AD. Thus, the CBB may be a useful screening tool to assist in the management of cognitive function in clinical settings. In this study, we aimed to determine the utility of the CBB in identifying the nature and magnitude of cognitive impairments in MCI and AD.
Healthy adults (n = 653) adults with amnestic MCI (n = 107), and adults with AD (n = 44) who completed the CBB participated in this study. Composite Psychomotor/Attention and Learning/Working Memory scores were computed from the individual CBB tests. Differences in composite scores were then examined between the three groups; and sensitivity and specificity analyses were conducted to determine cut scores for the composite scores that were optimal in identifying MCI- and AD-related cognitive impairment.
Large magnitude impairments in MCI (g = 2.2) and AD (g = 3.3) were identified for the learning/working memory composite, and smaller impairments were observed for the attention/psychomotor composite (g’s = 0.5 and 1, respectively). The cut-score associated with optimal sensitivity and specificity in identifying MCI-related cognitive impairment on the learning/working memory composite was -1SD, and in the AD group, this optimal value was -1.7SD. Both composite scores showed high test-retest reliability (r = 0.95) over four months. Poorer performance on the memory composite was also associated with worse performance on the Mini Mental State Exam and increasing severity on the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale sum of boxes score.
Results of this study suggest that the CogState learning/working memory composite score is reduced significantly in CI and AD, correlate well with measures of disease classification and are useful in identifying memory impairment related to MCI- and AD.
PMCID: PMC4269990  PMID: 25566378
19.  Correction: Iron Accumulates in Huntington’s Disease Neurons: Protection by Deferoxamine  
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):10.1371/annotation/67f555f5-35b7-4468-8bab-26d518942803.
PMCID: PMC3829977  PMID: 24250777
20.  Decreased Copper in Alzheimer's Disease Brain Is Predominantly in the Soluble Extractable Fraction 
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia and represents a significant burden on the global economy and society. The role of transition metals, in particular copper (Cu), in AD has become of significant interest due to the dyshomeostasis of these essential elements, which can impart profound effects on cell viability and neuronal function. We tested the hypothesis that there is a systemic perturbation in Cu compartmentalization in AD, within the brain as well as in the periphery, specifically within erythrocytes. Our results showed that the previously reported decrease in Cu within the human frontal cortex was confined to the soluble (P < 0.05) and total homogenate (P < 0.05) fractions. No differences were observed in Cu concentration in erythrocytes. Our data indicate that there is a brain specific alteration in Cu levels in AD localized to the soluble extracted material, which is not reflected in erythrocytes. Further studies using metalloproteomics approaches will be able to elucidate the metabolic mechanism(s) that results in the decreased brain Cu levels during the progression of AD.
PMCID: PMC3818847  PMID: 24228186
21.  Clioquinol Synergistically Augments Rescue by Zinc Supplementation in a Mouse Model of Acrodermatitis Enteropathica 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72543.
Zinc deficiency due to poor nutrition or genetic mutations in zinc transporters is a global health problem and approaches to providing effective dietary zinc supplementation while avoiding potential toxic side effects are needed.
Methods/Principal Findings
Conditional knockout of the intestinal zinc transporter Zip4 (Slc39a4) in mice creates a model of the lethal human genetic disease acrodermatitis enteropathica (AE). This knockout leads to acute zinc deficiency resulting in rapid weight loss, disrupted intestine integrity and eventually lethality, and therefore provides a model system in which to examine novel approaches to zinc supplementation. We examined the efficacy of dietary clioquinol (CQ), a well characterized zinc chelator/ionophore, in rescuing the Zip4intest KO phenotype. By 8 days after initiation of the knockout neither dietary CQ nor zinc supplementation in the drinking water was found to be effective at improving this phenotype. In contrast, dietary CQ in conjunction with zinc supplementation was highly effective. Dietary CQ with zinc supplementation rapidly restored intestine stem cell division and differentiation of secretory and the absorptive cells. These changes were accompanied by rapid growth and dramatically increased longevity in the majority of mice, as well as the apparent restoration of the homeostasis of several essential metals in the liver.
These studies suggest that oral CQ (or other 8-hydroxyquinolines) coupled with zinc supplementation could provide a facile approach toward treating zinc deficiency in humans by stimulating stem cell proliferation and differentiation of intestinal epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3755987  PMID: 24015258
22.  Links between copper and cholesterol in Alzheimer's disease 
Altered copper homeostasis and hypercholesterolemia have been identified independently as risk factors for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Abnormal copper and cholesterol metabolism are implicated in the genesis of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT), which are two key pathological signatures of AD. Amyloidogenic processing of a sub-population of amyloid precursor protein (APP) that produces Aβ occurs in cholesterol-rich lipid rafts in copper deficient AD brains. Co-localization of Aβ and a paradoxical high concentration of copper in lipid rafts fosters the formation of neurotoxic Aβ:copper complexes. These complexes can catalytically oxidize cholesterol to generate H2O2, oxysterols and other lipid peroxidation products that accumulate in brains of AD cases and transgenic mouse models. Tau, the core protein component of NFTs, is sensitive to interactions with copper and cholesterol, which trigger a cascade of hyperphosphorylation and aggregation preceding the generation of NFTs. Here we present an overview of copper and cholesterol metabolism in the brain, and how their integrated failure contributes to development of AD.
PMCID: PMC3655288  PMID: 23720634
copper; cholesterol; Alzheimer's disease; ApoE; amyloid precursor protein; Aβ; tau; lipid rafts
23.  Presenilin Promotes Dietary Copper Uptake 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e62811.
Dietary copper is essential for multicellular organisms. Copper is redox active and required as a cofactor for enzymes such as the antioxidant Superoxide Dismutase 1 (SOD1). Copper dyshomeostasis has been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Mutations in the presenilin genes encoding PS1 and PS2 are major causes of early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease. PS1 and PS2 are required for efficient copper uptake in mammalian systems. Here we demonstrate a conserved role for presenilin in dietary copper uptake in the fly Drosophila melanogaster. Ubiquitous RNA interference-mediated knockdown of the single Drosophila presenilin (PSN) gene is lethal. However, PSN knockdown in the midgut produces viable flies. These flies have reduced copper levels and are more tolerant to excess dietary copper. Expression of a copper-responsive EYFP construct was also lower in the midgut of these larvae, indicative of reduced dietary copper uptake. SOD activity was reduced by midgut PSN knockdown, and these flies were sensitive to the superoxide-inducing chemical paraquat. These data support presenilin being needed for dietary copper uptake in the gut and so impacting on SOD activity and tolerance to oxidative stress. These results are consistent with previous studies of mammalian presenilins, supporting a conserved role for these proteins in mediating copper uptake.
PMCID: PMC3646984  PMID: 23667524
24.  Utility of an improved model of amyloid-beta (Aβ1-42) toxicity in Caenorhabditis elegans for drug screening for Alzheimer’s disease 
The definitive indicator of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathology is the profuse accumulation of amyloid-ß (Aß) within the brain. Various in vitro and cell-based models have been proposed for high throughput drug screening for potential therapeutic benefit in diseases of protein misfolding. Caenorhabditis elegans offers a convenient in vivo system for examination of Aß accumulation and toxicity in a complex multicellular organism. Ease of culturing and a short life cycle make this animal model well suited to rapid screening of candidate compounds.
We have generated a new transgenic strain of C. elegans that expresses full length Aß1-42. This strain differs from existing Aß models that predominantly express amino-truncated Aß3-42. The Aß1-42 is expressed in body wall muscle cells, where it oligomerizes, aggregates and results in severe, and fully penetrant, age progressive-paralysis. The in vivo accumulation of Aß1-42 also stains positive for amyloid dyes, consistent with in vivo fibril formation. The utility of this model for identification of potential protective compounds was examined using the investigational Alzheimer’s therapeutic PBT2, shown to be neuroprotective in mouse models of AD and significantly improve cognition in AD patients. We observed that treatment with PBT2 provided rapid and significant protection against the Aß-induced toxicity in C. elegans.
This C. elegans model of full length Aß1-42 expression can now be adopted for use in screens to rapidly identify and assist in development of potential therapeutics and to study underlying toxic mechanism(s) of Aß.
PMCID: PMC3519830  PMID: 23171715
Amyloid beta peptide; Alzheimer’s disease; Caenorhabditis elegans; 8-hydroxyquinoline; PBT2 and drug screen
25.  The Neurophysiology and Pathology of Brain Zinc 
Our understanding of the roles played by zinc in the physiological and pathological functioning of the brain is rapidly expanding. The increased availability of genetically modified animal models, selective zinc-sensitive fluorescent probes, and novel chelators is producing a remarkable body of exciting new data that clearly establishes this metal ion as a key modulator of intracellular and intercellular neuronal signaling. In this Mini-Symposium, we will review and discuss the most recent findings that link zinc to synaptic function as well as the injurious effects of zinc dyshomeostasis within the context of neuronal death associated with major human neurological disorders, including stroke, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC3223736  PMID: 22072659

Results 1-25 (44)