Mechanisms of axon degeneration: from development to disease.
ABSTRACT Axon degeneration is an active, tightly controlled and versatile process of axon segment self-destruction. Although not involving cell death, it resembles apoptosis in its logics. It involves three distinct steps: induction of competence in specific neurons, triggering of degeneration at defined axon segments of competent neurons, and rapid fragmentation and removal of the segments. The mechanisms that initiate degeneration are specific to individual settings, but the final pathway of pruning is shared; it involves microtubule disassembly, axon swellings, axon fragmentation, and removal of the remnants by locally recruited phagocytes. The tight regulatory properties of axon degeneration distinguish it from passive loss phenomena, and confer significance to processes that involve it. Axon degeneration has prominent roles in development, upon lesions and in disease. In development, it couples the progressive specification of neurons and circuits to the removal of defined axon branches. Competence might involve transcriptional switches, and local triggering can involve axon guidance molecules and synaptic activity patterns. Lesion-induced Wallerian degeneration is inhibited in the presence of Wld(S) fusion protein in neurons; it involves early local, and later, distal degeneration. It has recently become clear that like in other settings, axon degeneration in disease is a rapid and specific process, which should not be confused with a variety of disease-related pathologies. Elucidating the specific mechanisms that initiate axon degeneration should open up new avenues to investigate principles of circuit assembly and plasticity, to uncover mechanisms of disease progression, and to identify ways of protecting synapses and axons in disease.
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ABSTRACT: The elimination of large portions of axons is a widespread event in the developing and diseased nervous system. Subsets of axons are selectively destroyed to help fine-tune neural circuit connectivity during development. Axonal degeneration is also an early feature of nearly all neurodegenerative diseases, occurs after most neural injuries, and is a primary driver of functional impairment in patients. In this review we discuss the diversity of cellular mechanisms by which axons degenerate. Initial molecular characterization highlights some similarities in their execution but also argues that unique genetic programs modulate each mode of degeneration. Defining these pathways rigorously will provide new targets for therapeutic intervention after neural injury or in neurodegenerative disease.Trends in cell biology 04/2014; · 12.12 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Axon degeneration is a characteristic feature of multiple neuropathologic states and is also a mechanism of physiological neurodevelopmental pruning. The vast majority of in vivo studies looking at axon degeneration have relied on the use of classical silver degeneration stains, which have many limitations including lack of molecular specificity and incompatibility with immunolabeling methods. Because Wallerian degeneration is well known to involve cytoskeletal disassembly and because caspases are recently implicated in aspects of this process, we asked whether antibodies directed at caspase-generated neoepitopes of beta-actin and alpha-tubulin would be useful immunohistochemical markers of pathological and developmental axon degeneration. Here we demonstrate that several forms of axon degeneration involve caspase-mediated cleavage of these cytoskeletal elements and are well-visualized using this approach. We demonstrate the generation of caspase-induced neoepitopes in a) an in vitro neuronal culture model using nerve growth factor-deprivation-induced degeneration and b) an in vivo model using ethanol-induced neuronal apoptosis, and c) during normal developmental pruning and physiological turnover of neurons. Our findings support recent experimental data that suggests caspase-3 and caspase-6 have specific non-redundant roles in developmental pruning. Finally, these findings may have clinical utility, as these markers highlight degenerating neurites in human hypoxic-ischemic injury. Our work not only confirms a common downstream mechanism involved in axon degeneration, but also illuminates the potential utility of caspase-cleavage-neoepitope antibodies as markers of neurodegeneration.Acta neuropathologica communications. 02/2014; 2(1):16.
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ABSTRACT: Even though many studies have identified roles of proteasomes in axonal degeneration, the molecular mechanisms by which axonal injury regulates proteasome activity are still unclear. In the present study, we found evidence indicating that extracellular calcium influx is an upstream regulator of proteasome activity during axonal degeneration in injured peripheral nerves. In degenerating axons, the increase in proteasome activity and the degradation of ubiquitinated proteins were significantly suppressed by extracellular calcium chelation. In addition, electron microscopic findings revealed selective inhibition of neurofilament degradation, but not microtubule depolymerization or mitochondrial swelling, by the inhibition of calpain and proteasomes. Taken together, our findings suggest that calcium increase and subsequent proteasome activation are an essential initiator of neurofilament degradation in Wallerian degeneration.Neural Regeneration Research 12/2013; 8(36):3401-9. · 0.23 Impact Factor