Application of a C. elegans dopamine neuron degeneration assay for the validation of potential Parkinson's disease genes.
ABSTRACT Improvements to the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson's disease (PD) are dependent upon knowledge about susceptibility factors that render populations at risk. In the process of attempting to identify novel genetic factors associated with PD, scientists have generated many lists of candidate genes, polymorphisms, and proteins that represent important advances, but these leads remain mechanistically undefined. Our work is aimed toward significantly narrowing such lists by exploiting the advantages of a simple animal model system. While humans have billions of neurons, the microscopic roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans has precisely 302, of which only eight produce dopamine (DA) in hemaphrodites. Expression of a human gene encoding the PD-associated protein, alpha-synuclein, in C. elegans DA neurons results in dosage and age-dependent neurodegeneration. Worms expressing human alpha-synuclein in DA neurons are isogenic and express both GFP and human alpha-synuclein under the DA transporter promoter (Pdat-1). The presence of GFP serves as a readily visualized marker for following DA neurodegeneration in these animals. We initially demonstrated that alpha-synuclein-induced DA neurodegeneration could be rescued in these animals by torsinA, a protein with molecular chaperone activity. Further, candidate PD-related genes identified in our lab via large-scale RNAi screening efforts using an alpha-synuclein misfolding assay were then over-expressed in C. elegans DA neurons. We determined that five of seven genes tested represented significant candidate modulators of PD as they rescued alpha-synuclein-induced DA neurodegeneration. Additionally, the Lindquist Lab (this issue of JoVE) has performed yeast screens whereby alpha-synuclein-dependent toxicity is used as a readout for genes that can enhance or suppress cytotoxicity. We subsequently examined the yeast candidate genes in our C. elegans alpha-synuclein-induced neurodegeneration assay and successfully validated many of these targets. Our methodology involves generation of a C. elegans DA neuron-specific expression vector using recombinational cloning of candidate gene cDNAs under control of the Pdat-1 promoter. These plasmids are then microinjected in wild-type (N2) worms, along with a selectable marker for successful transformation. Multiple stable transgenic lines producing the candidate protein in DA neurons are obtained and then independently crossed into the alpha-synuclein degenerative strain and assessed for neurodegeneration, at both the animal and individual neuron level, over the course of aging.
Full-textDOI: · Available from: Guy A Caldwell, Jul 01, 2015
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ABSTRACT: Mutations in LRRK2 are thus far the most frequent known cause of autosomal dominant and idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) with prevalent mutations being found within the GTPase (R1441C/G) and kinase (G2019S) domains. Previous in vitro studies have revealed that R1441C and G2019S mutations are associated with increased kinase activity. To better understand LRRK2-linked PD pathogenesis in vivo, we have generated transgenic C. elegans overexpressing human LRRK2 wild type, R1441C and G2019S in dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Overexpression of these LRRK2 proteins causes age-dependent DA neurodegeneration, behavioral deficits, and locomotor dysfunction that are accompanied by a reduction of dopamine levels in vivo. In comparison, R1441C and G2019S mutants cause more severe phenotypes than the wild type protein. Interestingly, treatment with exogenous dopamine rescues the LRRK2-induced behavioral and locomotor phenotypes. In contrast, expression of the GTP binding defective mutant, K1347A, or knockout of the C. elegans LRRK2 homolog, LRK-1, prevents the LRRK2-induced neurodegeneration and behavioral abnormalities. Hence, our transgenic LRRK2 C. elegans models recapitulate key features of PD including progressive neurodegeneration, impairment of dopamine-dependent behavior and locomotor function, and reduction in dopamine levels. Furthermore, our findings provide strong support for the critical role of GTPase/kinase activity in LRRK2-linked pathologies. These invertebrate models will be useful for studying pathogenesis of PD and for development of potential therapeutics for the disease.Neurobiology of Disease 04/2010; 40(1):73-81. DOI:10.1016/j.nbd.2010.04.002 · 5.20 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The understanding of how environmental exposures interact with genetics in central nervous system dysfunction has gained great momentum in the last decade. Seminal findings have been uncovered in both mammalian and non-mammalian model in large result of the extraordinary conservation of both genetic elements and differentiation processes between mammals and non-mammalians. Emerging model organisms, such as the nematode and zebrafish have made it possible to assess the effects of small molecules rapidly, inexpensively, and on a miniaturized scale. By combining the scale and throughput of in vitro screens with the physiological complexity and traditional animal studies, these models are providing relevant information on molecular events in the etiology of neurodegenerative disorders. The utility of these models is largely driven by the functional conservation seen between them and higher organisms, including humans so that knowledge obtained using non-mammalian model systems can often provide a better understanding of equivalent processes, pathways, and mechanisms in man. Understanding the molecular events that trigger neurodegeneration has also greatly relied upon the use of tissue culture models. The purpose of this summary is to provide-state-of-the-art review of recent developments of non-mammalian experimental models and their utility in addressing issues pertinent to neurotoxicity (Caenorhabditis elegans and Danio rerio). The synopses by Aschner and Levin summarize how genetic mutants of these species can be used to complement the understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms associated with neurobehavioral toxicity and neurodegeneration. Next, studies by Suñol and Olopade detail the predictive value of cultures in assessing neurotoxicity. Suñol and colleagues summarize present novel information strategies based on in vitro toxicity assays that are predictive of cellular effects that can be extrapolated to effects on individuals. Olopade and colleagues describe cellular changes caused by sodium metavanadate (SMV) and demonstrate how rat primary astrocyte cultures can be used as predicitive tools to assess the neuroprotective effects of antidotes on vanadium-induced astrogliosis and demyelination.NeuroToxicology 03/2010; 31(5):582-8. DOI:10.1016/j.neuro.2010.03.008 · 3.05 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Considerable progress has been made over the past couple of decades concerning the molecular bases of neurobehavioral function and dysfunction. The field of neurobehavioral genetics is becoming mature. Genetic factors contributing to neurologic diseases such as Alzheimer's disease have been found and evidence for genetic factors contributing to other diseases such as schizophrenia and autism are likely. This genetic approach can also benefit the field of behavioral neurotoxicology. It is clear that there is substantial heterogeneity of response with behavioral impairments resulting from neurotoxicants. Many factors contribute to differential sensitivity, but it is likely that genetic variability plays a prominent role. Important discoveries concerning genetics and behavioral neurotoxicity are being made on a broad front from work with invertebrate and piscine mutant models to classic mouse knockout models and human epidemiologic studies of polymorphisms. Discovering genetic factors of susceptibility to neurobehavioral toxicity not only helps identify those at special risk, it also advances our understanding of the mechanisms by which toxicants impair neurobehavioral function in the larger population. This symposium organized by Edward Levin and Annette Kirshner, brought together researchers from the laboratories of Michael Aschner, Douglas Ruden, Ulrike Heberlein, Edward Levin and Kathleen Welsh-Bohmer conducting studies with Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila, fish, rodents and humans studies to determine the role of genetic factors in susceptibility to behavioral impairment from neurotoxic exposure.NeuroToxicology 08/2009; 30(5):741-53. DOI:10.1016/j.neuro.2009.07.014 · 3.05 Impact Factor