[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: There is an urgent need of neuronal cell models to be applied to high-throughput screening settings while recapitulating physiological and/or pathological events occurring in the Central Nervous System (CNS). Stem cells offer a great opportunity in this direction since their self renewal capacity allows for large scale expansion. Protocols for directed differentiation also promise to generate populations of biochemically homogenous neuronal progenies. NS (Neural Stem) cells are a novel population of stem cells that undergo symmetric cell division in monolayer and chemically defined media, while remaining highly neurogenic.
We report the full adaptation of the NS cell systems for their growth and neuronal differentiation to 96- and 384-well microplates. This optimized system has also been exploited in homogeneous and high-content assays.
Our results show that these mouse NS cells may be suitable for a series of applications in high-throughput format.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: REST/NRSF is a transcription factor that represses transcription of several neuronal genes by binding to a DNA regulatory motif known as Repressor Element 1/Neuron-restrictive silencer element (RE1/NRSE). In Huntington's Disease, an inherited degenerative disease affecting the brain, REST/NRSF enters pathologically into the nucleus of affected cells, leading to the activation of the RE1/NRSE sites and causing decreased transcription of several important neuronal genes. Following this discovery, an effort has begun by some of the authors aimed at identifying compounds capable of antagonizing REST/NRSF silencing activity. Here we will review the underlying basis for focusing pharmaceutical efforts on REST/NRSF-RE1/NRSE system as well as some of the strategies for a rational drug design approach. We will highlight approaches aimed at identifying or designing small molecules able to impact REST/NRSF nuclear translocation, its DNA binding or, more generally, the formation of the REST/NRSF transcriptional complex, in the attempt to restore neuronal gene transcription in pathological conditions of the brain.
Current pharmaceutical design 09/2009; 15(34):3958-67. · 4.41 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Temozolomide (TMZ) and carmustine (BCNU), cancer-drugs usually used in the treatment of gliomas, are DNA-methylating agents producing O6-methylguanine. It has been shown that 06-methylguanine triggers DNA mismatch repair and in turn induce apoptosis and senescence, respectively, over a 4 and 6 days period [Y. Hirose, M.S. Berger, R.O. Pieper, p53 effects both the duration of G2/M arrest and the fate of temozolomide-treated human glioblastoma cells, Cancer Res. 61 (2001) 1957-1963; W. Roos, M. Baumgartner, B. Kaina, Apoptosis triggered by DNA damage O6-methylguanine in human lymphocytes requires DNA replication and is mediated by p53 and Fas/CD95/Apo-1, Oncogene 23 (2004) 359-367]. Here we show that TMZ and BCNU have an earlier effect on nuclear organization and chromatin structure. In particular, we report that TMZ and BCNU induce clustering of pericentromeric heterochromatin regions and increase the amount of heterochromatic proteins MeCP2 and HP1alpha bound to chromatin. These drugs also decrease global levels of histone H3 acetylation and increase levels of histone H3 trimethylated on lysine 9 (H3-triMeK9). These events precede the senescence status. We conclude that TMZ and BCNU efficacy in glioma treatment may implicate a first event characterized by changes in heterochromatin organization and its silencing which is then followed by apoptosis and senescence.
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 01/2009; 379(2):434-9. · 2.41 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: REST/NRSF is a multifunctional transcription factor that represses or silences many neuron-specific genes in both neural and non-neural cells by recruitment to its cognate RE1/NRSE regulatory sites. An increase in RE1/NRSE genomic binding is found in Huntington's disease (HD), resulting in the repression of REST/NRSF regulated gene transcription, among which BDNF, thus representing one of the possible detrimental effectors in HD. Three 2-aminothiazole derivatives were recently identified as potent modulators of the RE1/NRSE silencing activity through a cell-based gene reporter assay. In this study, the structure-activity relationships (SAR) of a library of commercially available 2-aminoisothiazoles diversely substituted at the amino group or at position 4 has been evaluated. A quantitative structure-activity relationship analysis performed using the Phase strategy yielded highly predictive 3D-QSAR pharmacophore model for in silico drug screening.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Increased levels of the repressor element 1/neuron restrictive silencer element (RE1/NRSE) silencing activity promoter, and a consequent reduction in the transcription of many RE1/NRSE-bearing neuronal genes, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), have been demonstrated in Huntington disease (HD) and represent one possible effector of its selective neuronal vulnerability. Restoring the expression levels of neuronal genes in diseased neurons therefore seems to be an attractive therapeutic approach. To this end, we have developed a cell-based reporter assay for monitoring RE1/NRSE silencing activity and validated it by genetically inactivating the RE1/NRSE or pharmacologically stimulating global transcription. In a pilot compound screen, we identified three closely related structural analogues that up-regulate reporter expression at low nanomolar concentrations, and follow-up studies have shown that they efficaciously increase endogenous BDNF levels in HD cells. Moreover, one of the compounds increases the viability of HD cells. Our findings suggest a new avenue for the development of drugs for HD and other neurodegenerative disorders based on the pharmacological up-regulation of the production of the neuronal survival factor BDNF and of other RE1/NRSE-regulated neuronal genes.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 09/2007; 282(34):24554-62. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: CARD only protein (Cop) was recently identified as a protein with significant homology with the CARD of caspase-1. We have conducted functional studies on Cop and report on its role as an inhibitor of cell death in a broad range of cell death paradigms. A notable exception in the ability of Cop to inhibit cell death pertains to its inability to inhibit ER stress-mediated cell death. Furthermore, in addition to the known interaction of Cop and caspase-1, we demonstrated a novel interaction of Cop with caspase-4. We propose that Cop's action to prevent TNF-alpha-induced cell death may operate independently of the mitochondrial death pathway. Furthermore, Cop overexpression inhibits Bid cleavage. In summary, Cop inhibition of cell death, at least to a certain extent, results from its interference with the activation of caspase-1 and caspase-4. Understanding the mechanistic details modulating caspase cell death pathways should provide important information for the development of therapies for diseases featuring aberrant caspase activation. Cop, as an inhibitor of an important apical caspase cell death axis, may provide a tool for modulating pathological cell death.
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 09/2006; 1762(8):742-54. · 4.66 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The expansion of a polyglutamine tract in the ubiquitously expressed huntingtin protein causes Huntington's disease (HD), a dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disease. We show that the activity of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway is altered in HD. In particular, the transcription of key genes of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway is severely affected in vivo in brain tissue from HD mice and in human postmortem striatal and cortical tissue; this molecular dysfunction is biologically relevant because cholesterol biosynthesis is reduced in cultured human HD cells, and total cholesterol mass is significantly decreased in the CNS of HD mice and in brain-derived ST14A cells in which the expression of mutant huntingtin has been turned on. The transcription of the genes of the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway is regulated via the activity of sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs), and we found an approximately 50% reduction in the amount of the active nuclear form of SREBP in HD cells and mouse brain tissue. As a consequence, mutant huntingtin reduces the transactivation of an SRE-luciferase construct even under conditions of SREBP overexpression or in the presence of an exogenous N-terminal active form of SREBP. Finally, the addition of exogenous cholesterol to striatal neurons expressing mutant huntingtin prevents their death in a dose-dependent manner. We conclude that the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway is impaired in HD cells, mice, and human subjects, and that the search for HD therapies should also consider cholesterol levels as both a potential target and disease biomarker.
Journal of Neuroscience 11/2005; 25(43):9932-9. · 6.91 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Treatment of neurodegenerative diseases represents a major challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. Key to developing novel and efficacious therapeutics is the discovery of new druggable targets. Toward this aim, the current drug discovery process is strongly relying on the improved understanding of disease mechanisms and on a synergistic approach with chemistry, molecular biology and robotics. In this scenario, we present the case of a newly discovered molecular mechanism that may be of interest for drug discovery programmes in Huntington's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Pharmacological Research 10/2005; 52(3):245-51. · 4.35 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntingtin is a protein of 348 kDa that is mutated in Huntington's disease (HD), a dominantly inherited neurodegenerative disorder. Previous data have led us to propose that aspects of the disease arise from both a loss of the neuroprotective function of the wild-type protein, and a toxic activity gained by the mutant protein. In particular, we have shown that wild-type huntingtin stimulates the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a pro-survival factor for the striatal neurons that die in the pathology. Wild-type huntingtin controls BDNF gene transcription in cerebral cortex, which is then delivered to its striatal targets. In the disease state, supply of cortical BDNF to the striatum is strongly reduced, possibly leading to striatal vulnerability. Here we show that a reduction in cortical BDNF messenger level correlates with the progression of the disease in a mouse model of HD. In particular, we show that the progressive loss of mRNAs transcribed from BDNF exon II, III and IV follows a different pattern that may reflect different upstream mechanisms impaired by mutation in huntingtin. On this basis, we also discuss the possibility that delivery of BDNF may represent an useful strategy for Huntington's disease treatment.
Pharmacological Research 09/2005; 52(2):133-9. · 4.35 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's Disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by an abnormally expanded polyglutamine trait in the amino-terminal region of huntingtin. Pathogenic mechanisms involve a gained toxicity of mutant huntingtin and a potentially reduced neuroprotective function of the wild-type allele. Among the molecular abnormalities reported, HD cells are characterized by the presence of aggregates, transcriptional dysregulation, altered mitochondrial membrane potential and aberrant Ca++ handling. In addition, upon exposure to toxic stimuli, increased mitochondrial release of cytochrome C and activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3 are found in HD cells and tissue. Here we report that HTRA2 and Smac/DIABLO, two additional mitochondrial pro-apoptotic factors, are aberrantly released from brain-derived cells expressing mutant huntingtin. This event causes a reduction in levels of the cytosolic IAP1 (Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein-1) and XIAP (X-linked inhibitor apoptosis) antiapoptotic IAP family members. Reduced IAP levels are also found in post-mortem HD brain tissue. Treatment with ucf101, a serine protease HTRA2 specific inhibitor, counteracts IAPs degradation in HD cells and increases their survival. These results point to the IAPs as potential pharmacological targets in Huntington's Disease.
Pharmacological Research 09/2005; 52(2):140-50. · 4.35 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: JNCL is a recessively inherited, childhood-onset neurodegenerative disease most-commonly caused by a approximately 1 kb CLN3 mutation. The resulting loss of battenin activity leads to deposition of mitochondrial ATP synthase, subunit c and a specific loss of CNS neurons. We previously generated Cln3Deltaex7/8 knock-in mice, which replicate the common JNCL mutation, express mutant battenin and display JNCL-like pathology.
To elucidate the consequences of the common JNCL mutation in neuronal cells, we used P4 knock-in mouse cerebella to establish conditionally immortalized CbCln3 wild-type, heterozygous, and homozygous neuronal precursor cell lines, which can be differentiated into MAP-2 and NeuN-positive, neuron-like cells. Homozygous CbCln3Deltaex7/8 precursor cells express low levels of mutant battenin and, when aged at confluency, accumulate ATPase subunit c. Recessive phenotypes are also observed at sub-confluent growth; cathepsin D transport and processing are altered, although enzyme activity is not significantly affected, lysosomal size and distribution are altered, and endocytosis is reduced. In addition, mitochondria are abnormally elongated, cellular ATP levels are decreased, and survival following oxidative stress is reduced.
These findings reveal that battenin is required for intracellular membrane trafficking and mitochondrial function. Moreover, these deficiencies are likely to be early events in the JNCL disease process and may particularly impact neuronal survival.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntingtin protein is mutated in Huntington disease. We previously reported that wild-type but not mutant huntingtin stimulates transcription of the gene encoding brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF; ref. 2). Here we show that the neuron restrictive silencer element (NRSE) is the target of wild-type huntingtin activity on BDNF promoter II. Wild-type huntingtin inhibits the silencing activity of NRSE, increasing transcription of BDNF. We show that this effect occurs through cytoplasmic sequestering of repressor element-1 transcription factor/neuron restrictive silencer factor (REST/NRSF), the transcription factor that binds to NRSE. In contrast, aberrant accumulation of REST/NRSF in the nucleus is present in Huntington disease. We show that wild-type huntingtin coimmunoprecipitates with REST/NRSF and that less immunoprecipitated material is found in brain tissue with Huntington disease. We also report that wild-type huntingtin acts as a positive transcriptional regulator for other NRSE-containing genes involved in the maintenance of the neuronal phenotype. Consistently, loss of expression of NRSE-controlled neuronal genes is shown in cells, mice and human brain with Huntington disease. We conclude that wild-type huntingtin acts in the cytoplasm of neurons to regulate the availability of REST/NRSF to its nuclear NRSE-binding site and that this control is lost in the pathology of Huntington disease. These data identify a new mechanism by which mutation of huntingtin causes loss of transcription of neuronal genes.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the amino-terminal region of huntingtin. Mutant huntingtin is proteolytically cleaved by caspases, generating amino-terminal aggregates that are toxic for cells. The addition of calpains to total brain homogenates also leads to cleavage of wild-type huntingtin, indicating that proteolysis of mutant and wild-type huntingtin may play a role in HD. Here we report that endogenous wild-type huntingtin is promptly cleaved by calpains in primary neurons. Exposure of primary neurons to glutamate or 3-nitropropionic acid increases intracellular calcium concentration, leading to loss of intact full-length wild-type huntingtin. This cleavage could be prevented by calcium chelators and calpain inhibitors. Degradation of wild-type huntingtin by calcium-dependent proteases thus occurs in HD neurons, leading to loss of wild-type huntingtin neuroprotective activity.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 11/2002; 277(42):39594-8. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Gene expression studies conducted with mouse models of Huntington's disease (HD) have revealed profound modifications in gene transcription. However, the complexity of in vivo tissue hampers definition of very early transcriptional modifications and does not allow discrimination between cell-autonomous changes and those resulting from intercellular activity processes. To identify early, cell-autonomous transcriptional changes, we compared gene expression profiles of clonal striata-derived cells expressing different N-terminal 548-amino-acid huntingtin fragments (with 26, 67, 105 or 118 glutamines) under the control of a doxycycline-regulated promoter. In these cells, mutant huntingtin did not form aggregates or cause cell death; therefore, the gene expression profiles report transcriptional changes reflecting early pathogenic events. We found that genes involved in cell signaling, transcription, lipid metabolism and vesicle trafficking were affected, in some cases, within 12 hours of mutant protein induction. Interestingly, this study revealed differential expression of a number of genes involved in cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism, suggesting that these metabolic pathways may play a role in HD pathogenesis.
Human Molecular Genetics 09/2002; 11(17):1953-65. · 7.69 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntingtin is a 350-kilodalton protein of unknown function that is mutated in Huntington's disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disorder. The mutant protein is presumed to acquire a toxic gain of function that is detrimental to striatal neurons in the brain. However, loss of a beneficial activity of wild-type huntingtin may also cause the death of striatal neurons. Here we demonstrate that wild-type huntingtin up-regulates transcription of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a pro-survival factor produced by cortical neurons that is necessary for survival of striatal neurons in the brain. We show that this beneficial activity of huntingtin is lost when the protein becomes mutated, resulting in decreased production of cortical BDNF. This leads to insufficient neurotrophic support for striatal neurons, which then die. Restoring wild-type huntingtin activity and increasing BDNF production may be therapeutic approaches for treating HD.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Previously we found that the availability of ShcA adapter is maximal in neural stem cells but that it is absent in mature neurons. Here we report that ShcC, unlike ShcA, is not present in neural stem/progenitor cells, but is expressed after cessation of their division and becomes selectively enriched in mature neurons. Analyses of its activity in differentiating neural stem/progenitor cells revealed that ShcC positively affects their viability and neuronal maturation via recruitment of the PI3K-Akt-Bad pathway and persistent activation of the MAPK pathway. We suggest that the switch from ShcA to ShcC modifies the responsiveness of neural stem/progenitor cells to extracellular stimuli, generating proliferation (with ShcA) or survival/differentiation (with ShcC).
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's Disease is an inherited neurodegenerative disease that affects the medium spiny neurons in the striatum. The disease is caused by the expansion of a polyglutamine sequence in the N terminus of Huntingtin (Htt), a widely expressed protein. Recently, we have found that Htt is an antiapoptotic protein in striatal cells and acts by preventing caspase-3 activity. Here we report that Htt overexpression in other CNS-derived cells can protect them from more than 20 days exposure to fatal stimuli. In particular, we found that cytochrome c continues to be released from mitochondria into the cytosol of cells that overexpress normal Htt. However, procaspase-9 is not processed, indicating that wild-type Htt (wtHtt) acts downstream of cytochrome c release. These data show that Htt inhibits neuronal cell death by interfering with the activity of the apoptosome complex.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 06/2001; 276(18):14545-8. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Huntington's disease is characterized by a loss of brain striatal neurons that occurs as a consequence of an expansion of a CAG repeat in the huntingtin protein. The resulting extended polyglutamine stretch confers a deleterious gain-of-function to the protein. Analysis of the mutant protein has attracted most of the research activity in the field, however re-examination of earlier data and new results on the beneficial functions of normal huntingtin indicate that loss of the normal protein function might actually equally contribute to the pathology. Thus, complete elucidation of the physiological role(s) of huntingtin and its mode of action are essential and could lead to new therapeutic approaches.
Trends in Neurosciences 04/2001; · 13.58 Impact Factor