Cerebrovascular amyloidosis is caused by amyloid accumulation in walls of blood vessel walls leading to hemorrhagic stroke and cognitive impairment. Transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) expression levels correlate with the degree of cerebrovascular amyloid deposition in Alzheimer s disease (AD) and TGF-β1 immunoreactivity in such cases is increased along the cerebral blood vessels. Here we show that a nasally administered proteosome-based adjuvant activates macrophages and decreases vascular amyloid in TGF-β1 mice. Animals were nasally treated with a proteosome-based adjuvant on a weekly basis for three months beginning at age 13 months. Using MRI we found that while control animals showed a significant cerebrovascular pathology, proteosome-based adjuvant prevents further brain damage and prevents pathological changes in the blood-brain barrier. Using an object recognition test and Y-maze, we found significant improvement in cognition in the treated group. Our findings support the potential use of a macrophage immuno-modulator as a novel approach to reduce cerebrovascular amyloid, prevent microhemorrhage and improve cognition.
cerebrovascular disease; congnitive impairment; intracerebral hemorrhage; macrophage; MRI; vaccine; therapy
While immune responses in neurodegeneration were regarded as little more than a curiosity a decade ago, they are now increasingly moving toward center stage. Factors driving this movement include the recognition that most of the relevant immune molecules are produced within the brain, that microglia are proficient immune cells shaping neuronal circuitry and fate, and that systemic immune responses affect brain function. We will review this complex field from the perspective of neurons, extra-neuronal brain cells, and the systemic environment and highlight the possibility that cell intrinsic innate immune molecules in neurons may function in neurodegenerative processes.
The neuronal microtubule-associated protein tau becomes hyperphosphorylated and forms aggregates in tauopathies but the processes leading to this pathological hallmark are not understood. Because tauopathies are accompanied by neuroinflammation and the complement cascade forms a key innate immune pathway, we asked whether the complement system has a role in the development of tau pathology.
We tested this hypothesis in two mouse models, which expressed either a central inhibitor of complement or lacked an inhibitor of the terminal complement pathway. Complement receptor-related gene/protein y is the natural inhibitor of the central complement component C3 in rodents. Expressing a soluble variant (sCrry) reduced the number of phospho-tau (AT8 epitope) positive neurons in the brain stem, cerebellum, cortex, and hippocampus of aged P301L mutant tau/sCrry double-transgenic mice compared with tau single-transgenic littermates (JNPL3 line). CD59a is the major inhibitor of formation of the membrane attack complex in mice. Intrahippocampal injection of adeno-associated virus encoding mutant human P301L tau into Cd59a−/− mice resulted in increased numbers of AT8-positive cells compared with wild-type controls. This was accompanied by neuronal and synaptic loss and reduced dendritic integrity.
Our data in two independent mouse models with genetic changes in key regulators of the complement system support the hypothesis that the terminal pathway has an active role in the development of tau pathology. We propose that inhibition of the terminal pathway may be beneficial in tauopathies.
Age-related neurodegeneration; Alzheimer’s disease; Complement system; Frontotemporal lobar degeneration; Innate immune system; Mouse models of tau pathology; Tauopathy
Osteoarthritis, characterized by the breakdown of articular cartilage in synovial joints, has long been viewed as the result of “wear and tear”1. Although low-grade inflammation is detected in osteoarthritis, its role is unclear2–4. Here we identify a central role for the inflammatory complement system in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis. Through proteomic and transcriptomic analyses of synovial fluids and membranes from individuals with osteoarthritis, we find that expression and activation of complement is abnormally high in human osteoarthritic joints. Using mice genetically deficient in C5, C6, or CD59a, we show that complement, and specifically the membrane attack complex (MAC)-mediated arm of complement, is critical to the development of arthritis in three different mouse models of osteoarthritis. Pharmacological modulation of complement in wild-type mice confirmed the results obtained with genetically deficient mice. Expression of inflammatory and degradative molecules was lower in chondrocytes from destabilized joints of C5-deficient mice than C5-sufficient mice, and MAC induced production of these molecules in cultured chondrocytes. Furthermore, MAC co-localized with matrix metalloprotease (MMP)-13 and with activated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) around chondrocytes in human osteoarthritic cartilage. Our findings indicate that dysregulation of complement in synovial joints plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis.
In the central nervous system (CNS), aging results in a precipitous decline in adult neural stem/progenitor cells (NPCs) and neurogenesis, with concomitant impairments in cognitive functions1. Interestingly, such impairments can be ameliorated through systemic perturbations such as exercise1. Here, using heterochronic parabiosis we show that blood-borne factors present in the systemic milieu can inhibit or promote adult neurogenesis in an age dependent fashion in mice. Accordingly, exposing a young animal to an old systemic environment, or to plasma from old mice, decreased synaptic plasticity and impaired contextual fear conditioning and spatial learning and memory. We identify chemokines - including CCL11/Eotaxin – whose plasma levels correlate with reduced neurogenesis in heterochronic parabionts and aged mice, and whose levels are increased in plasma and cerebral spinal fluid of healthy aging humans. Finally, increasing peripheral CCL11 chemokine levels in vivo in young mice decreased adult neurogenesis and impaired learning and memory. Together our data indicate that the decline in neurogenesis, and cognitive impairments, observed during aging can be in part attributed to changes in blood-borne factors.
Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common form of dementia, is an age-dependent progressive neurodegenerative disorder. β-amyloid, a metabolic product of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), plays an important role in the pathogenesis of AD. The Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe+ (line 41) transgenic mouse overexpresses human APP751 and contains the London (V717I) and Swedish (K670M/N671L) mutations. Here, we used a battery of behavioral tests to evaluate general activity, cognition, and social behavior in six-month-old male Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe+ mice. We found hyperactivity in a novel environment as well as significant deficits in spontaneous alternation behavior. In fear conditioning (FC), Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe+ mice did not display deficits in acquisition or in memory retrieval in novel context of tone-cued FC, but they showed significant memory retrieval impairment during contextual testing in an identical environment. Surprisingly, in a standard hidden platform water maze, no significant deficit was detected in mutant mice. However, a delayed-matching-to-place paradigm revealed a significant deficit in Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe+ mice. Lastly, in the social novelty session of a three-chamber test, Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe+ mice exhibited a significantly decreased interest in a novel versus a familiar stranger compared to control mice. This could possibly be explained by decreased social memory or discrimination and may parallel disturbances in social functioning in human AD patients. In conclusion, the Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe+ mouse model of AD displayed a behavioral phenotype that resembles, in part, the cognitive and psychiatric symptoms experienced in AD patients.
Alzheimer's disease; amyloid precursor protein; behavior; learning and memory; neurodegenerative disorder; social interaction
Biochemical and neuropathological studies of brains from individuals with Alzheimer disease (AD) provide clear evidence for an activation of inflammatory pathways, and long-term use of anti-inflammatory drugs is linked with reduced risk to develop the disease. As cause and effect relationships between inflammation and AD are being worked out, there is a realization that some components of this complex molecular and cellular machinery are most likely promoting pathological processes leading to AD, whereas other components serve to do the opposite. The challenge will be to find ways of fine tuning inflammation to delay, prevent, or treat AD.
Complex immune and inflammatory processes are activated during Alzheimer disease progression. Future trials of rationally selected anti-inflammatory drugs may help delay, prevent, or treat the disease.
Injury and inflammation are potent regulators of adult neurogenesis. As the complement system forms a key immune pathway that may also exert critical functions in neural development and neurodegeneration, we asked if complement receptors regulate neurogenesis. We discovered that complement receptor 2 (CR2), classically known as a co-receptor of the B lymphocyte antigen receptor, is expressed in adult neural progenitor cells (NPCs) of the dentate gyrus. Two of its ligands, C3d and interferon-α (IFN-α), inhibited proliferation of wildtype NPCs but not NPCs derived from mice lacking Cr2 (Cr2−/−) indicating functional Cr2 expression. Young and old Cr2−/− mice exhibited prominent increases in basal neurogenesis compared with wildtype littermates, while intracerebral injection of C3d resulted in fewer proliferating neuroblasts in wildtype than in Cr2−/− mice. We conclude that Cr2 regulates hippocampal neurogenesis and propose that increased C3d and IFN-α production associated with brain injury or viral infections may inhibit neurogenesis.
Until recently the brain was studied almost exclusively by neuroscientists and the immune system by immunologists, fuelling the notion that these systems represented two isolated entities. However, as more data suggest an important role of the immune system in regulating the progression of brain aging and neurodegenerative disease, it has become clear that the crosstalk between these systems can no longer be ignored and a new interdisciplinary approach is necessary. A central question that emerges is whether immune and inflammatory pathways become hyperactivated with age and promote degeneration or whether insufficient immune responses, which fail to cope with age-related stress may contribute to disease. We try to explore here the consequences of gain- versus loss-of-function with an emphasis on microglia as sensors and effectors of immune function in the brain and we discuss the potential role of the peripheral environment in neurodegenerative diseases.
neurodegenerative disease; neuroimmunology; neuroinflammation; microglia
Transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) has central functions in development, tissue maintenance, and repair and has been implicated in major diseases. We discovered that TGF-β1 contains several amphipathic helices and hydrophobic domains similar to apolipoprotein E (apoE), a protein involved in lipoprotein metabolism. Indeed, TGF-β1 associates with lipoproteins isolated from human plasma, cultured liver cells, or astrocytes, and its bioactivity was highest in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) preparations. Importantly, lipoproteins containing the apoE3 isoform had higher TGF-β levels and bioactivity than those containing apoE4, a major genetic risk factor for atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Because TGF-β1 can be protective in these diseases an association with apoE3 may be beneficial. Association of TGF-β with different types of lipoproteins may facilitate its diffusion, regulate signaling, and offer additional specificity for this important growth factor.
The renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) is a key hormonal system regulating blood pressure. However, expression of RAAS components has recently been detected in immune cells, and the RAAS has been implicated in several mouse models of autoimmune disease. Here, we have identified Ang II as a paracrine mediator, sustaining inflammation in the CNS in the EAE mouse model of MS via TGF-β. Ang II type 1 receptors (AT1Rs) were found to be primarily expressed in CNS-resident cells during EAE. In vitro, astrocytes and microglia responded to Ang II treatment by inducing TGF-β expression via a pathway involving the TGF-β–activating protease thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1). TGF-β upregulation in astrocytes and microglia during EAE was blocked with candesartan (CA), an inhibitor of AT1R. Treatment of EAE with CA ameliorated paralysis and blunted lymphocyte infiltration into the CNS, outcomes that were also seen with genetic ablation of AT1Ra and treatment with an inhibitor of TSP-1. These data suggest that AT1R antagonists, frequently prescribed as antihypertensives, may be useful to interrupt this proinflammatory, CNS-specific pathway in individuals with MS.
Autophagy is an intracellular degradation pathway that functions in protein and organelle turnover in response to starvation and cellular stress. Autophagy is initiated by the formation of a complex containing Beclin 1 (BECN1) and its binding partner Phosphoinositide-3-kinase, class 3 (PIK3C3). Recently, BECN1 deficiency was shown to enhance the pathology of a mouse model of Alzheimer Disease (AD). However, the mechanism by which BECN1 or autophagy mediate these effects are unknown. Here, we report that the levels of Amyloid precursor protein (APP) and its metabolites can be reduced through autophagy activation, indicating that they are a substrate for autophagy. Furthermore, we find that knockdown of Becn1 in cell culture increases the levels of APP and its metabolites. Accumulation of APP and APP C-terminal fragments (APP-CTF) are accompanied by impaired autophagosomal clearance. Pharmacological inhibition of autophagosomal-lysosomal degradation causes a comparable accumulation of APP and APP-metabolites in autophagosomes. Becn1 reduction in cell culture leads to lower levels of its binding partner Pik3c3 and increased presence of Microtubule-associated protein 1, light chain 3 (LC3). Overexpression of Becn1, on the other hand, reduces cellular APP levels. In line with these observations, we detected less BECN1 and PIK3C3 but more LC3 protein in brains of AD patients. We conclude that BECN1 regulates APP processing and turnover. BECN1 is involved in autophagy initiation and autophagosome clearance. Accordingly, BECN1 deficiency disrupts cellular autophagy and autophagosomal-lysosomal degradation and alters APP metabolism. Together, our findings suggest that autophagy and the BECN1-PIK3C3 complex regulate APP processing and play an important role in AD pathology.
Accumulation of the synaptic protein α-synuclein (α-syn) is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Lewy body disease (LBD); a heterogeneous group of disorders with dementia and parkinsonism, where Alzheimer’s Disease and PD interact. Accumulation of α-syn in these patients might be associated with alterations in the autophagy pathway. Therefore, we postulate that delivery of beclin 1, a regulator of the autophagy pathway, might constitute a strategy toward developing a therapy for LBD/PD. Overexpression of α-syn from lentivirus transduction in a neuronal cell line resulted in lysosomal accumulation and alterations in autophagy. Co-expression of beclin 1 activated autophagy, reduced accumulation of α-syn and ameliorated associated neuritic alterations. The effects of beclin 1 overexpression on LC3 and α-syn accumulation were partially blocked by 3-MA and completely blocked by bafilomycin A1. In contrast, rapamycin enhanced the effects of beclin 1. To evaluate the potential effects of activating autophagy in vivo, a lentivirus expressing beclin 1 was delivered to the brain of a α-syn transgenic mouse. Neuropathological analysis demonstrated that beclin 1 injections ameliorated the synaptic and dendritic pathology in the tg mice and reduced the accumulation of α-syn in the limbic system without any significant deleterious effects. This was accompanied by enhanced lysosomal activation and reduced alterations in the autophagy pathway. Thus, beclin1 plays an important role in the intra-cellular degradation of α-syn either directly or indirectly through the autophagy pathway and may present a novel therapeutic target for LBD/PD.
Beclin1; Parkinson’s Disease; Lewy Body Disease; Autophagy; Gene Therapy; Lentivirus
Oligomeric forms of amyloid-β(1–42) (Aβ) are thought to play a causal role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) has been implicated in Aβ-induced neurodegeneration. To further define the functions of p75NTR in AD, we examined the interaction of oligomeric Aβ with p75NTR, and the effects of that interaction on neurite integrity in neuron cultures and in a chronic AD mouse model. Atomic force microscopy was used to ascertain the aggregated state of Aβ, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) analysis revealed that Aβ oligomers interact with the extracellular domain of p75NTR. In vitro studies of Aβ-induced death in neuron cultures isolated from wildtype and p75NTR −/− mice, in which the p75NTR extracellular domain is deleted, showed reduced sensitivity of mutant cells to Aβ-induced cell death. Interestingly, Aβ-induced neuritic dystrophy and activation of c-Jun, a known mediator of Aβ-induced deleterious signaling, were completely prevented in p75NTR −/− neuron cultures. Thy1-hAPPLond/Swe X p75NTR−/− mice exhibited significantly diminished hippocampal neuritic dystrophy and complete reversal of basal forebrain cholinergic neurite degeneration relative to those expressing wild type p75NTR. Aβ levels were not affected, suggesting that removal of p75NTR extracellular domain reduced the ability of excess Aβ to promote neuritic degeneration. These findings indicate that while p75NTR likely does not mediate all Aβ effects, it does play a significant role in enabling Aβ-induced neurodegeneration in vitro and in vivo, establishing p75NTR as an important therapeutic target for AD.
p75NTR; amyloid-β; Alzheimer’s disease; neuritic dystrophy; neurodegeneration; basal forebrain cholinergic neurons
Prion diseases are caused by conversion of a normally folded, nonpathogenic isoform of the prion protein (PrPC) to a misfolded, pathogenic isoform (PrPSc). Prion inoculation experiments in mice expressing homologous PrPC molecules on different genetic backgrounds displayed different incubation times, indicating that the conversion reaction may be influenced by other gene products. To identify genes that contribute to prion pathogenesis, we analyzed prion incubation times in mice in which the gene product was inactivated, knocked out or overexpressed. We tested 20 gene candidates, because their products either colocalize with PrP, are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, are elevated during prion disease, or function in PrP-mediated signaling, PrP glycosylation, or protein maintenance. Whereas some of the candidates tested may have a role in the normal function of PrPC, our data show that many genes previously implicated in prion replication have no discernable effect on the pathogenesis of prion disease. While most genes tested did not significantly affect survival times, ablation of amyloid beta (A4) precursor protein (App) or interleukin 1 receptor, type I (Il1r1), and transgenic overexpression of human superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) prolonged incubation times by 13%, 16%, and 19%, respectively.
Amyloid-β (Aβ) peptides, widely presumed to cause Alzheimer’s disease, increased mouse neuronal expression of collagen VI through a mechanism involving transforming growth factor signaling. Reduction of collagen VI augmented Aβ neurotoxicity, whereas treatment of neurons with soluble collagen VI blocked the association of Aβ oligomers with neurons, enhanced Aβ aggregation and prevented neurotoxicity. These results identify collagen VI as an important component of the neuronal injury response and demonstrate its neuroprotective potential.
Autophagy is the major pathway involved in the degradation of proteins and organelles, cellular remodeling, and survival during nutrient starvation. Autophagosomal dysfunction has been implicated in an increasing number of diseases from cancer to bacterial and viral infections and more recently in neurodegeneration. While a decrease in autophagic activity appears to interfere with protein degradation and possibly organelle turnover, increased autophagy has been shown to facilitate the clearance of aggregation-prone proteins and promote neuronal survival in a number of disease models. On the other hand, too much autophagic activity can be detrimental as well and lead to cell death, suggesting the regulation of autophagy has an important role in cell fate decisions. An increasing number of model systems are now available to study the role of autophagy in the central nervous system and how it might be exploited to treat disease. We will review here the current knowledge of autophagy in the central nervous system and provide an overview of the various models that have been used to study acute and chronic neurodegeneration.
Autophagy is the principal cellular pathway for degradation of long-lived proteins and organelles and regulates cell fate in response to stress. Recently, autophagy has been implicated in neurodegeneration, but whether it is detrimental or protective remains unclear. Here we report that beclin 1, a protein with a key role in autophagy, was decreased in affected brain regions of patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) early in the disease process. Heterozygous deletion of beclin 1 (Becn1) in mice decreased neuronal autophagy and resulted in neurodegeneration and disruption of lysosomes. In transgenic mice that express human amyloid precursor protein (APP), a model for AD, genetic reduction of Becn1 expression increased intraneuronal amyloid β (Aβ) accumulation, extracellular Aβ deposition, and neurodegeneration and caused microglial changes and profound neuronal ultrastructural abnormalities. Administration of a lentiviral vector expressing beclin 1 reduced both intracellular and extracellular amyloid pathology in APP transgenic mice. We conclude that beclin 1 deficiency disrupts neuronal autophagy, modulates APP metabolism, and promotes neurodegeneration in mice and that increasing beclin 1 levels may have therapeutic potential in AD.
Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis is a widely used animal model to understand not only multiple sclerosis but also basic principles of immunity. The disease is scored typically by observing signs of paralysis, which do not always correspond with pathological changes.
Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis was induced in transgenic mice expressing an injury responsive luciferase reporter in astrocytes (GFAP-luc). Bioluminescence in the brain and spinal cord was measured non-invasively in living mice. Mice were sacrificed at different time points to evaluate clinical and pathological changes. The correlation between bioluminescence and clinical and pathological EAE was statistically analyzed by Pearson correlation analysis.
Bioluminescence from the brain and spinal cord correlates strongly with severity of clinical disease and a number of pathological changes in the brain in EAE. Bioluminescence at early time points also predicts severity of disease.
These results highlight the potential use of bioluminescence imaging to monitor neuroinflammation for rapid drug screening and immunological studies in EAE and suggest that similar approaches could be applied to other animal models of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders.
Autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a mouse model for multiple sclerosis, is characterized by the activation of immune cells, demyelination of axons in the CNS, and paralysis. We found that TGF-β1 synthesis in glial cells and TGF-β–induced signaling in the CNS were activated several days before the onset of paralysis in mice with autoimmune encephalomyelitis. While early production of TGF-β1 was observed in glial cells TGF-β signaling was activated in neurons and later in infiltrating T cells in inflammatory lesions. Systemic treatment with a pharmacological inhibitor of TGF-β signaling ameliorated the paralytic disease and reduced the accumulation of pathogenic T cells and expression of IL-6 in the CNS. Priming of peripheral T cells was not altered, nor was the generation of TH17 cells, indicating that this effect was directed within the brain, yet affected the immune system. These results suggest that early production of TGF-β1 in the CNS creates a permissive and dangerous environment for the initiation of autoimmune inflammation, providing a rare example of the brain modulating the immune system. Importantly, inhibition of TGF-β signaling may have benefits in the treatment of the acute phase of autoimmune CNS inflammation.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by progressive neurodegeneration and cerebral accumulation of the β-amyloid peptide (Aβ), but it is unknown what makes neurons susceptible to degeneration. We report that the TGF-β type II receptor (TβRII) is mainly expressed by neurons, and that TβRII levels are reduced in human AD brain and correlate with pathological hallmarks of the disease. Reducing neuronal TGF-β signaling in mice resulted in age-dependent neurodegeneration and promoted Aβ accumulation and dendritic loss in a mouse model of AD. In cultured cells, reduced TGF-β signaling caused neuronal degeneration and resulted in increased levels of secreted Aβ and β-secretase–cleaved soluble amyloid precursor protein. These results show that reduced neuronal TGF-β signaling increases age-dependent neurodegeneration and AD-like disease in vivo. Increasing neuronal TGF-β signaling may thus reduce neurodegeneration and be beneficial in AD.
Transforming Growth Factor-β (TGF-β) regulates key biological processes during development and in adult tissues and has been implicated in many diseases. To study the biological functions of TGF-β, sensitive, specific, and convenient bioassays are necessary. Here we describe a new cell-based bioassay that fulfills these requirements.
Embryonic fibroblasts from Tgfb1-/- mice were stably transfected with a reporter plasmid consisting of TGF-β responsive Smad-binding elements coupled to a secreted alkaline phosphatase reporter gene (SBE-SEAP). Clone MFB-F11 showed more than 1000-fold induction after stimulation with 1 ng/ml TGF-β1, and detected as little as 1 pg/ml TGF-β1. MFB-F11 cells were highly induced by TGF-β1, TGF-β2 and TGF-β3, but did not show induction with related family members activin, nodal, BMP-2 and BMP-6 or with trophic factors bFGF and BDNF. MFB-F11 cells can detect and quantify TGF-β in biological samples without prior enrichment of TGF-βs, and can detect biologically activated TGF-β in a cell co-culture system.
MFB-F11 cells can be used to rapidly and specifically measure TGF-β with high sensitivity.
Inflammation of the central nervous system is an important but poorly understood part of neurological disease. After acute brain injury or infection there is a complex inflammatory response that involves activation of microglia and astrocytes and increased production of cytokines, chemokines, acute phase proteins, and complement factors. Antibodies and T lymphocytes may be involved in the response as well. In neurodegenerative disease, where injury is more subtle but consistent, the inflammatory response is continuous. The purpose of this prolonged response is unclear, but it is likely that some of its components are beneficial and others are harmful. Animal models of neurological disease can be used to dissect the specific role of individual mediators of the inflammatory response and assess their potential benefit. To illustrate this approach, we discuss how mutant mice expressing different levels of the cytokine transforming growth factor β-1 (TGF-β1), a major modulator of inflammation, produce important neuroinflammatory phenotypes. We then demonstrate how crosses of TGF-β1 mutant mice with mouse models of Alzheimer's disease (AD) produced important new information on the role of inflammation in AD and on the expression of different neuropathological phenotypes that characterize this disease.