Inhibition of the NFAT pathway alleviates amyloid β neurotoxicity in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.

Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Neurology/Alzheimer's Disease Research Laboratory, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.
Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 02/2012; 32(9):3176-92.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Amyloid β (Aβ) peptides, the main pathological species associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD), disturb intracellular calcium homeostasis, which in turn activates the calcium-dependent phosphatase calcineurin (CaN). CaN activation induced by Aβ leads to pathological morphological changes in neurons, and overexpression of constitutively active calcineurin is sufficient to generate a similar phenotype, even without Aβ. Here, we tested the hypothesis that calcineurin mediates neurodegenerative effects via activation of the nuclear transcription factor of activated T-cells (NFAT). We found that both spine loss and dendritic branching simplification induced by Aβ exposure were mimicked by constitutively active NFAT, and abolished when NFAT activation was blocked using the genetically encoded inhibitor VIVIT. When VIVIT was specifically addressed to the nucleus, identical beneficial effects were observed, thus enforcing the role of NFAT transcriptional activity in Aβ-related neurotoxicity. In vivo, when VIVIT or its nuclear counterpart were overexpressed in a transgenic model of Alzheimer's disease via a gene therapy approach, the spine loss and neuritic abnormalities observed in the vicinity of amyloid plaques were blocked. Overall, these results suggest that NFAT/calcineurin transcriptional cascades contribute to Aβ synaptotoxicity, and may provide a new specific set of pathways for neuroprotective strategies.

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    ABSTRACT: Similar to peripheral immune/inflammatory cells, neuroglial cells appear to rely on calcineurin (CN) signaling pathways to regulate cytokine production and cellular activation. Several studies suggest that harmful immune/inflammatory responses may be the most impactful consequence of aberrant CN activity in glial cells. However, newly identified roles for CN in glutamate uptake, gap junction regulation, Ca2+ dyshomeostasis, and amyloid production suggest that CN¿s influence in glia may extend well beyond neuroinflammation. The following review will discuss the various actions of CN in glial cells, with particular emphasis on astrocytes, and consider the implications for neurologic dysfunction arising with aging, injury, and/or neurodegenerative disease.
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    ABSTRACT: The Ca2+/calcineurin-dependent transcription factor NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T-cells) plays an important role in regulating many neuronal functions, including excitability, axonal growth, synaptogenesis and neuronal survival. NFAT can be activated by action potential firing or depolarization that leads to Ca2+/calcineurin-dependent dephosphorylation of NFAT and its translocation to the nucleus. Recent data suggest that NFAT and NFAT-dependent functions in neurons can also be potently regulated by nerve growth factor (NGF) and other neurotrophins. However, the mechanisms of NFAT regulation by neurotrophins are not well understood. Here, we show that in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) sensory neurons, NGF markedly facilitates NFAT-mediated gene expression induced by mild depolarization. The effects of NGF were not associated with changes in intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) and were independent of phospholipase C (PLC) activity. Instead, the facilitatory effect of NGF depended on activation of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway downstream of the TrkA receptor, and on inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), a protein kinase known to phosphorylate NFAT and promote its nuclear export. Knockdown or knockout of NFATc3 eliminated this facilitatory effect. Simultaneous monitoring of EGFP-NFATc3 nuclear translocation and [Ca2+]i changes in DRG neurons indicated that NGF slowed the rate of NFATc3 nuclear export, but did not affect its nuclear import rate. Collectively, our data suggest that NGF facilitates depolarization-induced NFAT activation by stimulating PI3K/Akt signaling, inactivating GSK3β, and thereby slowing NFATc3 export from the nucleus. We propose that NFAT serves as an integrator of neurotrophin action and depolarization-driven calcium signaling to regulate neuronal gene expression.
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    ABSTRACT: Calcium signals trigger the translocation of the Prz1 transcription factor from the cytoplasm to the nucleus. The process is regulated by the calcium-activated phosphatase calcineurin, which activates Prz1 thereby maintaining active transcription during calcium signalling. When calcium signalling ceases, Prz1 is inactivated by phosphorylation and exported to the cytoplasm. In budding yeast and mammalian cells, different kinases have been reported to counter calcineurin activity and regulate nuclear export. Here, we show that the Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent kinase Cmk1 is first phosphorylated and activated by the newly identified kinase CaMKK2 homologue, Ckk2, in response to Ca(2+). Then, active Cmk1 binds, phosphorylates and inactivates Prz1 transcription activity whilst at the same time cmk1 expression is enhanced by Prz1 in response to Ca(2+). Furthermore, Cdc25 phosphatase is also phosphorylated by Cmk1, inducing cell cycle arrest in response to an increase in Ca(2+). Moreover, cmk1 deletion shows a high tolerance to chronic exposure to Ca(2+), due to the lack of cell cycle inhibition and elevated Prz1 activity. This work reveals that Cmk1 kinase activated by the newly identified Ckk2 counteracts calcineurin function by negatively regulating Prz1 activity which in turn is involved in activating cmk1 gene transcription. These results are the first insights into Cmk1 and Ckk2 function in Schizosaccharomyces pombe.
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