Increased excitatory amino acid transport into murine prion protein knockout astrocytes cultured in vitro

Laboratory of Persistent Viral Diseases, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, National Institute of Health, Hamilton, Montana, USA.
Glia (Impact Factor: 5.47). 11/2011; 59(11):1684-94. DOI: 10.1002/glia.21215
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Prion protein (PrP) is expressed on a wide variety of cells and plays an important role in the pathogenesis of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. However, its normal function remains unclear. Mice that do not express PrP exhibit deficits in spatial memory and abnormalities in excitatory neurotransmission suggestive that PrP may function in the glutamatergic synapse. Here, we show that transport of D-aspartate, a nonmetabolized L-glutamate analog, through excitatory amino acid transporters (EAATs) was faster in astrocytes from PrP knockout (PrPKO) mice than in astrocytes from C57BL/10SnJ wild-type (WT) mice. Experiments using EAAT subtype-specific inhibitors demonstrated that in both WT and PrPKO astrocytes, the majority of transport was mediated by EAAT1. Furthermore, PrPKO astrocytes were more effective than WT astrocytes at alleviating L-glutamate-mediated excitotoxic damage in both WT and PrPKO neuronal cultures. Thus, in this in vitro model, PrPKO astrocytes exerted a functional influence on neuronal survival and may therefore influence regulation of glutamatergic neurotransmission in vivo.

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    ABSTRACT: Prion protein (PrP) is a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchored cell surface protein expressed by many cells, including those of the mammalian nervous system. At present the physiologic functions of PrP remain unclear. Deletion of Prnp, the gene encoding PrP in mice, has been shown to alter normal synaptic and electrophysiologic activities, indicating a potential role in seizure susceptibility. However, published efforts to link PrP with seizures, using both in vivo and in vitro models, are conflicting and difficult to interpret due to use of various mouse backgrounds and seizure induction techniques. Here we investigated the role of PrP in kainic acid (KA)-induced seizure sensitivity, using three types of mice. In contrast to previous published results, Prnp-/- mice on the C57BL/10SnJ background had a significant decrease in KA-induced seizure susceptibility. In genetic complementation experiments using a PrP-expressing transgene, genes derived from strain 129/Ola, which flanked the Prnp-/- locus in C57BL/10SnJ mice, rather than Prnp itself, appeared to account for this effect. Furthermore, using coisogenic 129/Ola mice differing only at Prnp, this difference was not reproduced when comparing PrP-negative and PrP-positive mice. In contrast, substrains of PrP-expressing C57BL mice, showed large variations in KA-induced seizure sensitivity. The magnitude of these differences in susceptibility was larger than that associated with the presence of the Prnp gene, suggesting extensive influence of genes other than Prnp on seizure sensitivity in this system.
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    ABSTRACT: Knowledge of the natural roles of cellular prion protein (PrP (C) ) is essential to an understanding of the molecular basis of prion pathologies. This GPI-anchored protein has been described in synaptic contacts, and loss of its synaptic function in complex systems may contribute to the synaptic loss and neuronal degeneration observed in prionopathy. In addition, Prnp knockout mice show enhanced susceptibility to several excitotoxic insults, GABAA receptor-mediated fast inhibition was weakened, LTP was modified and cellular stress increased. Although little is known about how PrP (C) exerts its function at the synapse or the downstream events leading to PrP (C) -mediated neuroprotection against excitotoxic insults, PrP (C) has recently been reported to interact with two glutamate receptor subunits (NR2D and GluR6/7). In both cases the presence of PrP (C) blocks the neurotoxicity induced by NMDA and Kainate respectively. Furthermore, signals for seizure and neuronal cell death in response to Kainate in Prnp knockout mouse are associated with JNK3 activity, through enhancing the interaction of GluR6 with PSD-95. In combination with previous data, these results shed light on the molecular mechanisms behind the role of PrP (C) in excitotoxicity. Future experimental approaches are suggested and discussed.
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