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1.  The Gdap1 knockout mouse mechanistically links redox control to Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease 
Brain  2014;137(3):668-682.
Mutations in the mitochondrial fission factor GDAP1 are associated with severe peripheral neuropathies, but why the CNS remains unaffected is unclear. Using a Gdap1−/− mouse, Niemann et al. demonstrate that a CNS-expressed Gdap1 paralogue changes its subcellular localisation under oxidative stress conditions to also act as a mitochondrial fission factor.
The ganglioside-induced differentiation-associated protein 1 (GDAP1) is a mitochondrial fission factor and mutations in GDAP1 cause Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease. We found that Gdap1 knockout mice (Gdap1−/−), mimicking genetic alterations of patients suffering from severe forms of Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, develop an age-related, hypomyelinating peripheral neuropathy. Ablation of Gdap1 expression in Schwann cells recapitulates this phenotype. Additionally, intra-axonal mitochondria of peripheral neurons are larger in Gdap1−/− mice and mitochondrial transport is impaired in cultured sensory neurons of Gdap1−/− mice compared with controls. These changes in mitochondrial morphology and dynamics also influence mitochondrial biogenesis. We demonstrate that mitochondrial DNA biogenesis and content is increased in the peripheral nervous system but not in the central nervous system of Gdap1−/− mice compared with control littermates. In search for a molecular mechanism we turned to the paralogue of GDAP1, GDAP1L1, which is mainly expressed in the unaffected central nervous system. GDAP1L1 responds to elevated levels of oxidized glutathione by translocating from the cytosol to mitochondria, where it inserts into the mitochondrial outer membrane. This translocation is necessary to substitute for loss of GDAP1 expression. Accordingly, more GDAP1L1 was associated with mitochondria in the spinal cord of aged Gdap1−/− mice compared with controls. Our findings demonstrate that Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease caused by mutations in GDAP1 leads to mild, persistent oxidative stress in the peripheral nervous system, which can be compensated by GDAP1L1 in the unaffected central nervous system. We conclude that members of the GDAP1 family are responsive and protective against stress associated with increased levels of oxidized glutathione.
PMCID: PMC3927703  PMID: 24480485
animal models; Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease; mitochondria; axonal transport; demyelinating disease
2.  The Lateral Thoracic Nerve and The Cutaneous Maximus Muscle – A Novel In Vivo Model System For Nerve Degeneration And Regeneration Studies 
Experimental Neurology  2012;236(1):6-18.
We report a novel in vivo mouse model system to study regeneration of injured motor nerve and spatiotemporal pattern of denervation in experimental nerve diseases. The lateral thoracic nerve (LTN), as a pure motor nerve, innervates the cutaneous maximus muscle (CMM) by some of the shortest and the longest motor nerve fibers in the mouse body. Its branches and nerve terminals can be imaged in whole mount preparations. Here we describe the branching pattern of the LTN and its innervation of the CMM, and characterize degeneration and regeneration over time after a LTN crush by morphological and electrophysiological analyses. We demonstrate the utility of this model in a well-established neurotoxicity paradigm and in a genetic disease model of the peripheral neuropathy. Furthermore, this system enables punch biopsies that allow repeated and multi-location examinations for LTN regeneration and CMM reinnervation over time. The presence of the LTN and the CMM in a variety of species and its easy accessibility suggests that this in vivo model system offers considerable promise for future nerve degeneration and regeneration research.
PMCID: PMC3367078  PMID: 22361024
lateral thoracic nerve; cutaneous maximus muscle; cutaneous sensory nerve; nerve regeneration; nerve degeneration; neuromuscular junction
3.  Myelin is dependent on the Charcot–Marie–Tooth Type 4H disease culprit protein FRABIN/FGD4 in Schwann cells 
Brain  2012;135(12):3567-3583.
Studying the function and malfunction of genes and proteins associated with inherited forms of peripheral neuropathies has provided multiple clues to our understanding of myelinated nerves in health and disease. Here, we have generated a mouse model for the peripheral neuropathy Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease type 4H by constitutively disrupting the mouse orthologue of the suspected culprit gene FGD4 that encodes the small RhoGTPase Cdc42-guanine nucleotide exchange factor Frabin. Lack of Frabin/Fgd4 causes dysmyelination in mice in early peripheral nerve development, followed by profound myelin abnormalities and demyelination at later stages. At the age of 60 weeks, this was accompanied by electrophysiological deficits. By crossing mice carrying alleles of Frabin/Fgd4 flanked by loxP sequences with animals expressing Cre recombinase in a cell type-specific manner, we show that Schwann cell-autonomous Frabin/Fgd4 function is essential for proper myelination without detectable primary contributions from neurons. Deletion of Frabin/Fgd4 in Schwann cells of fully myelinated nerve fibres revealed that this protein is not only required for correct nerve development but also for accurate myelin maintenance. Moreover, we established that correct activation of Cdc42 is dependent on Frabin/Fgd4 function in healthy peripheral nerves. Genetic disruption of Cdc42 in Schwann cells of adult myelinated nerves resulted in myelin alterations similar to those observed in Frabin/Fgd4-deficient mice, indicating that Cdc42 and the Frabin/Fgd4–Cdc42 axis are critical for myelin homeostasis. In line with known regulatory roles of Cdc42, we found that Frabin/Fgd4 regulates Schwann cell endocytosis, a process that is increasingly recognized as a relevant mechanism in peripheral nerve pathophysiology. Taken together, our results indicate that regulation of Cdc42 by Frabin/Fgd4 in Schwann cells is critical for the structure and function of the peripheral nervous system. In particular, this regulatory link is continuously required in adult fully myelinated nerve fibres. Thus, mechanisms regulated by Frabin/Fgd4–Cdc42 are promising targets that can help to identify additional regulators of myelin development and homeostasis, which may crucially contribute also to malfunctions in different types of peripheral neuropathies.
PMCID: PMC3525053  PMID: 23171661
Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease; hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy; myelination; Rho-GTPase Cdc42; Frabin/Fgd4
4.  Excitability decreasing central motor plasticity is retained in multiple sclerosis patients 
BMC Neurology  2012;12:92.
Compensation of brain injury in multiple sclerosis (MS) may in part work through mechanisms involving neuronal plasticity on local and interregional scales. Mechanisms limiting excessive neuronal activity may have special significance for retention and (re-)acquisition of lost motor skills in brain injury. However, previous neurophysiological studies of plasticity in MS have investigated only excitability enhancing plasticity and results from neuroimaging are ambiguous. Thus, the aim of this study was to probe long-term depression-like central motor plasticity utilizing continuous theta-burst stimulation (cTBS), a non-invasive brain stimulation protocol. Because cTBS also may trigger behavioral effects through local interference with neuronal circuits, this approach also permitted investigating the functional role of the primary motor cortex (M1) in force control in patients with MS.
We used cTBS and force recordings to examine long-term depression-like central motor plasticity and behavioral consequences of a M1 lesion in 14 patients with stable mild-to-moderate MS (median EDSS 1.5, range 0 to 3.5) and 14 age-matched healthy controls. cTBS consisted of bursts (50 Hz) of three subthreshold biphasic magnetic stimuli repeated at 5 Hz for 40 s over the hand area of the left M1. Corticospinal excitability was probed via motor-evoked potentials (MEP) in the abductor pollicis brevis muscle over M1 before and after cTBS. Force production performance was assessed in an isometric right thumb abduction task by recording the number of hits into a predefined force window.
cTBS reduced MEP amplitudes in the contralateral abductor pollicis brevis muscle to a comparable extent in control subjects (69 ± 22% of baseline amplitude, p < 0.001) and in MS patients (69 ± 18%, p < 0.001). In contrast, post-cTBS force production performance was only impaired in controls (2.2 ± 2.8, p = 0.011), but not in MS patients (2.0 ± 4.4, p = 0.108). The decline in force production performance following cTBS correlated with corticomuscular latencies (CML) in MS patients, but did not correlate with MEP amplitude reduction in patients or controls.
Long-term depression-like plasticity remains largely intact in mild-to-moderate MS. Increasing brain injury may render the neuronal networks less responsive toward lesion-induction by cTBS.
PMCID: PMC3488470  PMID: 22974055
Multiple sclerosis; LTD; Motor plasticity; TMS; Motor cortex
5.  Human Stiff-Person Syndrome IgG Induces Anxious Behavior in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(2):e16775.
Anxiety is a heterogeneous behavioral domain playing a role in a variety of neuropsychiatric diseases. While anxiety is the cardinal symptom in disorders such as panic disorder, co-morbid anxious behavior can occur in a variety of diseases. Stiff person syndrome (SPS) is a CNS disorder characterized by increased muscle tone and prominent agoraphobia and anxiety. Most patients have high-titer antibodies against glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) 65. The pathogenic role of these autoantibodies is unclear.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We re-investigated a 53 year old woman with SPS and profound anxiety for GABA-A receptor binding in the amygdala with (11)C-flumazenil PET scan and studied the potential pathogenic role of purified IgG from her plasma filtrates containing high-titer antibodies against GAD 65. We passively transferred the IgG fraction intrathecally into rats and analyzed the effects using behavioral and in vivo electrophysiological methods. In cell culture, we measured the effect of patient IgG on GABA release from hippocampal neurons. Repetitive intrathecal application of purified patient IgG in rats resulted in an anxious phenotype resembling the core symptoms of the patient. Patient IgG selectively bound to rat amygdala, hippocampus, and frontal cortical areas. In cultured rat hippocampal neurons, patient IgG inhibited GABA release. In line with these experimental results, the GABA-A receptor binding potential was reduced in the patient's amygdala/hippocampus complex. No motor abnormalities were found in recipient rats.
The observations in rats after passive transfer lead us to propose that anxiety-like behavior can be induced in rats by passive transfer of IgG from a SPS patient positive for anti-GAD 65 antibodies. Anxiety, in this case, thus may be an antibody-mediated phenomenon with consecutive disturbance of GABAergic signaling in the amygdala region.
PMCID: PMC3035624  PMID: 21346811
6.  Correction: Effects of Natalizumab Treatment on Foxp3+ T Regulatory Cells 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):10.1371/annotation/d0ea7ce8-836e-428d-bdfa-5d07bc1b3af2.
PMCID: PMC3012825
7.  Effects of Natalizumab Treatment on Foxp3+ T Regulatory Cells 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3319.
Natalizumab, a monoclonal humanized antibody targeting the alpha-4 chain of very late activation antigen 4 (VLA-4) exerts impressive therapeutic effects in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Our objective was to study impacts of Natalizumab therapy on Foxp3+ T regulatory cells (Tregs) in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
A combined approach of in vitro and ex vivo experiments using T cells isolated from the peripheral blood of healthy donors and Natalizumab treated MS patients was chosen. We determined binding of Natalizumab and its effects on the frequency, transmigratory behaviour and suppressive function of Tregs.
Principal Findings
Binding of Natalizumab and expression of CD49d (alpha-4 chain of VLA-4) differed between non-regulatory and regulatory cells. Albeit Foxp3+ Tregs had lower levels of CD49d, Natalizumab blocked the transmigration of Foxp3+ Tregs similar to non-regulatory T cells. The frequency of peripheral blood Tregs was unaffected by Natalizumab treatment. Natalizumab does not alter the suppressive capacity of CD4+CD25highCD127lowFoxp3+ Tregs under in vitro conditions. Furthermore, the impaired function of Tregs in MS patients is not restored by Natalizumab treatment.
We provide a first detailed analysis of Natalizumab effects on the regulatory T cell population. Our prospective study shows that Foxp3+ Tregs express lower levels of VLA-4 and bind less Natalizumab. We further the understanding of the mechanisms of action of Natalizumab by demonstrating that unlike other immunomodulatory drugs the beneficial therapeutic effects of the monoclonal antibody are largely independent of alterations in Treg frequency or function.
PMCID: PMC2553177  PMID: 18836525
8.  Anti-ganglioside antibodies alter presynaptic release and calcium influx 
Neurobiology of disease  2007;28(1):113-121.
Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) variant of Guillain-Barré syndrome is often associated with IgG anti-GM1 and -GD1a antibodies. The pathophysiological basis of antibody-mediated selective motor nerve dysfunction remains unclear. We investigated the effects of IgG anti-GM1 and -GD1a monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) on neuromuscular transmission and calcium influx in hemidiaphragm preparations and in cultured neurons, respectively, to elucidate mechanisms of Ab-mediated muscle weakness. Anti-GM1 and -GD1a mAbs depressed evoked quantal release to a significant yet different extent, without affecting postsynaptic currents. At equivalent concentrations, anti-GD1b, -GT1b, or sham mAbs did not affect neuromuscular transmission. At fourfold higher concentration, an anti-GD1b mAb (specificity described in immune sensory neuropathies) induced completely reversible blockade. In neuronal cultures, anti-GM1 and -GD1a mAbs significantly reduced depolarization-induced calcium influx. In conclusion, different anti-gangliosde mAbs induce distinct effects on presynaptic transmitter release by reducing calcium influx, suggesting that this is one mechanism of antibody-mediated muscle weakness in AMAN.
PMCID: PMC2094038  PMID: 17720506
Guillain-Barré syndrome; AMAN; anti-ganglioside antibodies; gangliosides; immune neuropathies; neuromuscular junction; calcium influx
9.  Progress in the Treatment of Myasthenia Gravis 
Substantial therapeutic progress has been made in myasthenia gravis (MG) even before the era of molecular medicine. Here we characterize modern treatment algorithms that are adapted to disease severity and introduce the principle of escalating treatment strategies for MG. In very mild cases and in some ocular forms of MG, treatment with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors may be sufficient, at least temporarily, but commonly some kind of immunologically active treatment is needed. In generalized MG, a wide array of immunosuppressive treatments has been established through observational studies, some prospective, but most of them have never been tested in a double-blind, prospective and randomized trial. Within the immunologically active drugs, glucocorticosteroids (GCS) and the immunosuppressive drug azathioprine (Aza) have been studied the longest. Aza is still the standard base-line treatment, in particular in cases where high doses of GCS would be needed to maintain remission. If Aza is not tolerated, several alternatives are available including cyclosporine A (Cic A), mycophenolate mofetil, cyclophosphamide, and methotrexate, all of them off-label in most western countries. Tacrolimus is under investigation. More severe cases may profit from drug combinations in which compounds with more rapidly acting drugs (GCS, Cic A) are combined with others showing a more delayed action (Aza). All such combination therapies need to be supervised by an experienced neuroimmunological center because of potentially serious adverse reactions. Serial measurements of anti-acetylcholine receptor antibodies, once these are elevated, is a useful adjunct for monitoring long-term treatment success and may help in weaning from higher to lower doses or to single drugs rather than combinations. For very severe and treatment-resistant cases, co-treatment with intravenous immunoglobulins or different modalities of plasmapheresis may be considered on the short term while the humanized monoclonal anti-CD 20 antibody (rituximab) is a candidate for the long term. In highly refractory cases also immuno-ablation via high-dose cyclophosphamide, followed by hematologic trophic factors such as G-CSF, has been tried successfully. Future developments may include other immunologically active monoclonal antibodies (e.g., anti-CD 52, Campath-1). Up to 10% of patients with MG are associated with a malignant thymoma, often referred to as paraneoplastic MG, as detected by CT scan or MRI, and these patients require thymomectomy and sometimes postsurgical chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In nonthymoma patients with generalised MG, including older children and adults up to the 5th decade, a complete transsternal thymectomy is recommended based on available open trials and expert opinion, preferentially during the first year of disease. Endoscopic surgery may also be effective. Before surgery, pretreatment with immunosuppressive medication or plasmapheresis is usually recommended to ameliorate MG and subsequently reduce perioperative morbidity and mortality which is now near zero in experienced centers. Myasthenic crisis is the life-threatening exacerbation of MG and is best treated by plasmapheresis, mostly combined with immunoadsorption techniques. Intravenous immunoglobulins are a reasonable alternative, but a shortage in supplies and high prices limit its use.
PMCID: PMC3002545  PMID: 21180568
immunosuppression; immunoglobulins; plasmapheresis; immuno-adsorption; acetylcholine receptor; muscle specific kinase; thymoma
10.  Selective targeting of regulatory T cells with CD28 superagonists allows effective therapy of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis 
CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (T reg cells) play a key role in controlling autoimmunity and inflammation. Therefore, therapeutic agents that are capable of elevating numbers or increasing effector functions of this T cell subset are highly desirable. In a previous report we showed that a superagonistic monoclonal antibody specific for rat CD28 (JJ316) expands and activates T reg cells in vivo and upon short-term in vitro culture. Here we demonstrate that application of very low dosages of the CD28 superagonist into normal Lewis rats is sufficient to induce T reg cell expansion in vivo without the generalized lymphocytosis observed with high dosages of JJ316. Single i.v. administration of a low dose of the CD28 superagonist into Dark Agouti (DA) rats or Lewis rats that suffered from experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) proved to be highly and equally efficacious as high-dose treatment. Finally, we show that T reg cells that were isolated from CD28-treated animals displayed enhanced suppressive activity toward myelin basic protein–specific T cells in vitro, and, upon adoptive transfer, protected recipients from EAE. Our data indicate that this class of CD28-specific monoclonal antibodies targets CD4+CD25+ T reg cells and provides a novel means for the effective treatment of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC2213080  PMID: 16061730
11.  The Role of Macrophages in Demyelinating Peripheral Nervous System of Mice Heterozygously Deficient in P0 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2001;152(2):301-308.
Mice heterozygously deficient in the p0 gene (P0+/−) are animal models for some forms of inherited neuropathies. They display a progressive demyelinating phenotype in motor nerves, accompanied by mild infiltration of lymphocytes and increase in macrophages. We have shown previously that the T lymphocytes are instrumental in the demyelination process. This study addresses the functional role of the macrophage in this monogenic myelin disorder.
In motor nerves of P0+/− mice, the number of macrophages in demyelinated peripheral nerves was increased by a factor of five when compared with motor nerves of wild-type mice. Immunoelectron microscopy, using a specific marker for mouse macrophages, displayed macrophages not only in the endoneurium of the myelin mutants, but also within endoneurial tubes, suggesting an active role in demyelination. To elucidate the roles of the macrophages, we crossbred the myelin mutants with a spontaneous mouse mutant deficient in macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF), hence displaying impaired macrophage activation. In the P0-deficient double mutants also deficient in M-CSF, the numbers of macrophages were not elevated in the demyelinating motor nerves and demyelination was less severe. These findings demonstrate an active role of macrophages during pathogenesis of inherited demyelination with putative impact on future treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC2199607  PMID: 11266447
macrophage; macrophage colony-stimulating factor; myelin degeneration; Schwann cell; inherited neuropathies
12.  Motor neuropathy in porphobilinogen deaminase–deficient mice imitates the peripheral neuropathy of human acute porphyria 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;103(8):1127-1134.
Acute porphyrias are inherited disorders caused by partial deficiency of specific heme biosynthesis enzymes. Clinically, porphyrias are manifested by a neuropsychiatric syndrome that includes peripheral neuropathy. Although much is known about the porphyrias’ enzyme defects and their biochemical consequences, the cause of the neurological manifestations remains unresolved. We have studied porphyric neuropathy in mice with a partial deficiency of porphobilinogen deaminase (PBGD). PBGD-deficient mice (PBGD–/–) imitate acute porphyria through massive induction of hepatic δ-aminolevulinic acid synthase by drugs such as phenobarbital. Here we show that PBGD–/– mice develop impairment of motor coordination and muscle weakness. Histologically femoral nerves of PBGD–/– mice exhibit a marked decrease in large-caliber (>8 μm) axons and ultrastructural changes consistent with primary motor axon degeneration, secondary Schwann cell reactions, and axonal regeneration. These findings resemble those found in studies of affected nerves of patients with acute porphyria and thus provide strong evidence that PBGD deficiency causes degeneration of motor axons without signs of primary demyelination, thereby resolving a long-standing controversy. Interestingly, the neuropathy in PBGD–/– mice developed chronically and progressively and in the presence of normal or only slightly (twofold) increased plasma and urinary levels of the putative neurotoxic heme precursor δ-aminolevulinic acid. These data suggest that heme deficiency and consequent dysfunction of hemeproteins can cause porphyric neuropathy.
PMCID: PMC408280  PMID: 10207164

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