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1.  Prions and the like 
Brain  2013;137(1):301-305.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt179
PMCID: PMC3891441
2.  Stimulation of autophagy reduces neurodegeneration in a mouse model of human tauopathy 
Brain  2012;135(7):2169-2177.
The accumulation of insoluble proteins is a pathological hallmark of several neurodegenerative disorders. Tauopathies are caused by the dysfunction and aggregation of tau protein and an impairment of cellular protein degradation pathways may contribute to their pathogenesis. Thus, a deficiency in autophagy can cause neurodegeneration, while activation of autophagy is protective against some proteinopathies. Little is known about the role of autophagy in animal models of human tauopathy. In the present report, we assessed the effects of autophagy stimulation by trehalose in a transgenic mouse model of tauopathy, the human mutant P301S tau mouse, using biochemical and immunohistochemical analyses. Neuronal survival was evaluated by stereology. Autophagy was activated in the brain, where the number of neurons containing tau inclusions was significantly reduced, as was the amount of insoluble tau protein. This reduction in tau aggregates was associated with improved neuronal survival in the cerebral cortex and the brainstem. We also observed a decrease of p62 protein, suggesting that it may contribute to the removal of tau inclusions. Trehalose failed to activate autophagy in the spinal cord, where it had no impact on the level of sarkosyl-insoluble tau. Accordingly, trehalose had no effect on the motor impairment of human mutant P301S tau transgenic mice. Our findings provide direct evidence in favour of the degradation of tau aggregates by autophagy. Activation of autophagy may be worth investigating in the context of therapies for human tauopathies.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws143
PMCID: PMC3381726  PMID: 22689910
autophagy; neurodegenerative disorders; neuroprotection; protein aggregation; tau
3.  SNARE protein redistribution and synaptic failure in a transgenic mouse model of Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2010;133(7):2032-2044.
The pre-synaptic protein α-synuclein is the main component of Lewy bodies and Lewy neurites, the defining neuropathological characteristics of Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. Mutations in the α-synuclein gene cause familial forms of Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. We previously described a transgenic mouse line expressing truncated human α-synuclein(1-120) that develops α-synuclein aggregates, striatal dopamine deficiency and reduced locomotion, similar to Parkinson’s disease. We now show that in the striatum of these mice, as in Parkinson’s disease, synaptic accumulation of α-synuclein is accompanied by an age-dependent redistribution of the synaptic SNARE proteins SNAP-25, syntaxin-1 and synaptobrevin-2, as well as by an age-dependent reduction in dopamine release. Furthermore, the release of FM1-43 dye from PC12 cells expressing either human full-length α-synuclein(1–140) or truncated α-synuclein(1-120) was reduced. These findings reveal a novel gain of toxic function of α-synuclein at the synapse, which may be an early event in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/awq132
PMCID: PMC2892942  PMID: 20534649
SNARE proteins; Parkinson’s disease; alpha-synuclein; dopamine; neurodegenerative diseases
4.  Oskar Fischer and the study of dementia 
Brain  2008;132(4):1102-1111.
The centenary of Alois Alzheimer's description of the case of Auguste Deter has renewed interest in the early history of dementia research. In his 1907 paper Alzheimer described the presence of plaques and tangles in one case of presenile dementia. In the same year, Oskar Fischer reported neuritic plaques in 12 cases of senile dementia. These were landmark findings in the history of research in dementia because they delineated the clinicopathological entity that is now known as Alzheimer's disease. Although much has been written about Alzheimer, only little is known about Fischer. The present article discusses Fischer's work on dementia in the context of his life and time.
doi:10.1093/brain/awn256
PMCID: PMC2668940  PMID: 18952676
Alzheimer; dementia; Fischer; Kraepelin; presbyophrenia
5.  The tauopathy associated with mutation +3 in intron 10 of Tau: characterization of the MSTD family 
Brain  2007;131(1):72-89.
Multiple system tauopathy with presenile dementia (MSTD) is an inherited disease caused by a (g) to (a) transition at position +3 in intron 10 of Tau. It belongs to the spectrum of frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 with mutations in Tau (FTDP-17T). Here we present the longitudinal clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging, neuropathological, biochemical and genetic characterization of the MSTD family. Presenting signs were consistent with the behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia in 17 of 21 patients. Two individuals presented with an atypical form of progressive supranuclear palsy and two others with either severe postural imbalance or an isolated short-term memory deficit. Memory impairment was present at the onset in 15 patients, with word finding difficulties and stereotyped speech also being common. Parkinsonism was first noted 3 years after the onset of symptoms. Neuroimaging showed the most extensive grey matter loss in the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus and frontal operculum/insular cortex of the right hemisphere and, to a lesser extent, in the anterior cingulate gyrus, head of the caudate nucleus and the posterolateral orbitofrontal cortex and insular cortex bilaterally. Neuropathologically, progressive nerve cell loss, gliosis and coexistent neuronal and/or glial deposits consisting mostly of 4-repeat tau were present in frontal, cingulate, temporal and insular cortices, white matter, hippocampus, parahippocampus, basal ganglia, selected brainstem nuclei and spinal cord. Tau haplotyping indicated that specific haplotypes of the wild-type allele may act as modifiers of disease presentation. Quantitative neuroimaging has been used to analyse the progression of atrophy in affected individuals and for predicting disease onset in an asymptomatic mutation carrier. This multidisciplinary study provides a comprehensive description of the natural history of disease in one of the largest known families with FTDP-17T.
doi:10.1093/brain/awm280
PMCID: PMC2702832  PMID: 18065436
frontotemporal dementia; progressive supranuclear palsy; hippocampus; voxel-based morphometry; Tau haplotype

Results 1-5 (5)