Graham Fraser

Medical Research Council (UK), Londinium, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (13)80.48 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Filaments made of alpha-synuclein form the characteristic Lewy pathology in Parkinson's and other diseases. The formation of alpha-synuclein filaments can be reproduced in vitro by incubation of recombinant protein, but the filament growth is very slow and highly variable and so unsuitable for fast high throughput anti-aggregation drug screening. To overcome this obstacle we have investigated whether the protein misfolding cyclic amplification (PMCA) technique, used for fast amplification of prion protein aggregates, could be adapted for growing alpha-synuclein aggregates and thus suitable for screening of drugs to affect alpha-synuclein aggregation for the treatment of the yet incurable alpha-synucleinopathies. Circular dichroism, electron microscopy, native and SDS-PAGE gels were used to demonstrate alpha-synuclein aggregate formation by PMCA and the strain imprint of the alpha-synuclein fibrils was studied by proteinase K digestion. We also demonstrated that alpha-synuclein fibrils are able to seed new alpha-synuclein PMCA reactions and to enter and aggregate in cells in culture. In particular, we have generated a line of ″chronically infected″ cells, which transmit alpha-synuclein aggregates even after multiple passages. To evaluate the sensitivity of the PMCA system as an alpha-synuclein anti-aggregating drug screening assay a panel of 10 drugs was tested. Anti-amyloid compounds proved efficient in inhibiting alpha-synuclein fibril formation induced by PMCA. Our results show that alpha-synuclein PMCA is a fast and reproducible system that could be used as a high throughput screening method for finding new alpha-synuclein anti-aggregating compounds.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2014; · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Filamentous inclusions made of hyperphosphorylated tau are characteristic of numerous human neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, tangle-only dementia, Pick disease, argyrophilic grain disease (AGD), progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration. In Alzheimer's disease and AGD, it has been shown that filamentous tau appears to spread in a stereotypic manner as the disease progresses. We previously demonstrated that the injection of brain extracts from human mutant P301S tau-expressing transgenic mice into the brains of mice transgenic for wild-type human tau (line ALZ17) resulted in the assembly of wild-type human tau into filaments and the spreading of tau inclusions from the injection sites to anatomically connected brain regions. Here we injected brain extracts from humans who had died with various tauopathies into the hippocampus and cerebral cortex of ALZ17 mice. Argyrophilic tau inclusions formed in all cases and following the injection of the corresponding brain extracts, we recapitulated the hallmark lesions of AGD, PSP and CBD. Similar inclusions also formed after intracerebral injection of brain homogenates from human tauopathies into nontransgenic mice. Moreover, the induced formation of tau aggregates could be propagated between mouse brains. These findings suggest that once tau aggregates have formed in discrete brain areas, they become self-propagating and spread in a prion-like manner.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Altered autophagy contributes to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies, for which curative treatment options are still lacking. We have recently shown that trehalose reduces tau pathology in a tauopathy mouse model by stimulation of autophagy. Here, we studied the effect of the autophagy inducing drug rapamycin on the progression of tau pathology in P301S mutant tau transgenic mice. Rapamycin treatment resulted in a significant reduction in cortical tau tangles, less tau hyperphosphorylation, and lowered levels of insoluble tau in the forebrain. The favourable effect of rapamycin on tau pathology was paralleled by a qualitative reduction in astrogliosis. These effects were visible with early preventive or late treatment. We further noted an accumulation of the autophagy associated proteins p62 and LC3 in aged tangle bearing P301S mice that was lowered upon rapamycin treatment. Thus, rapamycin treatment defers the progression of tau pathology in a tauopathy animal model and autophagy stimulation may constitute a therapeutic approach for patients suffering from tauopathies.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(5):e62459. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Filamentous inclusions made of α-synuclein are found in nerve cells and glial cells in a number of human neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy. The assembly and spreading of these inclusions are likely to play an important role in the etiology of common dementias and movement disorders. Both α-synuclein and the homologous β-synuclein are abundantly expressed in the central nervous system; however, β-synuclein is not present in the pathological inclusions. Previously, we observed a poor correlation between filament formation and the presence of residues 73-83 of α-synuclein, which are absent in β-synuclein. Instead, filament formation correlated with the mean β-sheet propensity, charge, and hydrophilicity of the protein (global physicochemical properties) and β-strand contiguity calculated by a simple algorithm of sliding averages (local physicochemical property). In the present study, we rendered β-synuclein fibrillogenic via one set of point mutations engineered to enhance global properties and a second set engineered to enhance predominantly β-strand contiguity. Our findings show that the intrinsic physicochemical properties of synucleins influence their fibrillogenic propensity via two distinct but overlapping modalities. The implications for filament formation and the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases are discussed.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 12/2010; 285(49):38555-67. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hyperphosphorylated tau makes up the filamentous intracellular inclusions of several neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. In the disease process, neuronal tau inclusions first appear in the transentorhinal cortex from where they seem to spread to the hippocampal formation and neocortex. Cognitive impairment becomes manifest when inclusions reach the hippocampus, with abundant neocortical tau inclusions and extracellular beta-amyloid deposits being the defining pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. An abundance of tau inclusions, in the absence of beta-amyloid deposits, defines Pick's disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, corticobasal degeneration and other diseases. Tau mutations cause familial forms of frontotemporal dementia, establishing that tau protein dysfunction is sufficient to cause neurodegeneration and dementia. Thus, transgenic mice expressing mutant (for example, P301S) human tau in nerve cells show the essential features of tauopathies, including neurodegeneration and abundant filaments made of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. By contrast, mouse lines expressing single isoforms of wild-type human tau do not produce tau filaments or show neurodegeneration. Here we have used tau-expressing lines to investigate whether experimental tauopathy can be transmitted. We show that injection of brain extract from mutant P301S tau-expressing mice into the brain of transgenic wild-type tau-expressing animals induces assembly of wild-type human tau into filaments and spreading of pathology from the site of injection to neighbouring brain regions.
    Nature Cell Biology 07/2009; 11(7):909-13. · 20.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Frontotemporal lobar degenerations are a group of disorders characterized by circumscribed degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes and diverse histopathologic features. We report clinical, neuropathologic, ultrastructural, biochemical, and genetic data on 7 individuals with a 4-repeat tauopathy characterized by the presence of globular glial inclusions (GGIs) in brain white matter. Clinical manifestations were compatible with the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia and included motor neuron symptoms; there was prominent neuronal loss in the frontal and temporal cortex, subiculum, and amygdala. The surrounding white matter showed abundant GGIs composed of abnormal filaments present mostly in oligodendrocytes. The severity of white matter tau abnormalities correlated with a reduction in myelin and axons and with microglial activation. Western blotting of sarkosyl-insoluble tau demonstrated the presence of 2 major tau bands of 64 and 68 kd. No mutations in the microtubule-associated protein tau gene were detected in 2 affected individuals. We propose that 4-repeat tau-immunoreactive GGIs are the neuropathologic hallmark of a distinct sporadic tauopathy with variable clinical presentations that include frontotemporal dementia and occasionally upper motor neuron disease. This type of tauopathy with GGIs expands the group of neurodegenerativedisorders in which oligodendroglial pathology predominates, beyond the synucleinopathy multiple system atrophy disorders.
    Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology 10/2008; 67(10):963-75. · 4.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Amyloid containing deposits are a defining neuropathological feature of a wide range of dementias and movement disorders. The positron emission tomography tracer PIB (Pittsburgh Compound-B, 2-[4'-(methylamino)phenyl]-6-hydroxybenzothiazole) was developed to target senile plaques, an amyloid containing pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease, formed from the amyloid-beta peptide. Despite the fact that PIB was developed from the pan-amyloid staining dye thioflavin T, no detailed characterisation of its interaction with other amyloid structures has been reported. In this study, we demonstrate the presence of a high affinity binding site (K(d) approximately 4 nM) for benzothiazole derivatives, including [3H]-PIB, on alpha-synuclein (AS) filaments generated in vitro, and further characterise this binding site through the use of radioligand displacement assays employing 4-N-methylamino-4'-hydroxystilbene (SB13) (K(i) = 87 nM) and 2-(1-{6-[(2-fluoroethyl(methyl)amino]-2-naphthyl}ethylidene)malononitrile (FDDNP) (K(i) = 210 nM). Despite the presence of a high-affinity binding site on AS filaments, no discernible interaction of [3H]-PIB was detected with amygdala sections from Parkinson's disease cases containing frequent AS-immunoreactive Lewy bodies and related neurities. These findings suggest that the density and/or accessibility of AS binding sites in vivo are significantly less than those associated with amyloid-beta peptide lesions. Lewy bodies pathology is therefore unlikely to contribute significantly to the retention of PIB in positron emission tomography imaging studies.
    Journal of Neurochemistry 06/2008; 105(4):1428-37. · 3.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Filamentous inclusions made of the microtubule-associated protein tau in a hyperphosphorylated state are a defining feature of a large number of human neurodegenerative diseases. Here we show that (trans,trans)-1-fluoro-2,5-bis(3-hydroxycarbonyl-4-hydroxy)styrylbenzene (FSB), a fluorescent Congo red derivative, labels tau inclusions in tissue sections from a mouse line transgenic for human P301S tau and in cases of familial frontotemporal dementia and sporadic Pick's disease. Labelling by FSB required the presence of tau filaments. More importantly, tau inclusions in the spinal cord of human P301S tau transgenic mice were labelled following a single intravenous injection of FSB. These findings indicate that FSB can be used to detect filamentous tau in vivo.
    FEBS Letters 04/2008; 582(6):901-6. · 3.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Recent evidence has suggested that truncation of tau protein at the caspase cleavage site D421 precedes hyperphosphorylation and may be necessary for the assembly of tau into filaments in Alzheimer's disease and other tauopathies. Here we have investigated the time course of the appearance of phosphorylated and truncated tau in the brain and spinal cord of mice transgenic for mutant human P301S tau protein. This mouse line recapitulates the essential molecular and cellular features of the human tauopathies, including tau hyperphosphorylation, tau filament formation, and neurodegeneration. Soluble tau was strongly phosphorylated at 1 to 6 months of age. Low levels of phosphorylated, sarkosyl-insoluble tau were detected at 2 months, with a steady increase up to 6 months of age. Tau truncated at D421 was detected at low levels in Tris-soluble and detergent-soluble tau at 3 to 6 months of age. By immunoblotting, it was not detected in sarkosyl-insoluble tau. However, by immunoelectron microscopy, a small percentage of tau in filaments from brain and spinal cord of transgenic mice was truncated at D421. Similar findings were obtained using dispersed filaments from Alzheimer's disease and FTDP-17 brains. The late appearance and low abundance of tau ending at D421 indicate that it is unlikely that truncation at this site is necessary for the assembly of tau into filaments.
    American Journal Of Pathology 02/2008; 172(1):123-31. · 4.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Multiple system tauopathy with presenile dementia (MSTD) is an inherited disease caused by a (g) to (a) transition at position +3 in intron 10 of Tau. It belongs to the spectrum of frontotemporal dementia and parkinsonism linked to chromosome 17 with mutations in Tau (FTDP-17T). Here we present the longitudinal clinical, neuropsychological, neuroimaging, neuropathological, biochemical and genetic characterization of the MSTD family. Presenting signs were consistent with the behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia in 17 of 21 patients. Two individuals presented with an atypical form of progressive supranuclear palsy and two others with either severe postural imbalance or an isolated short-term memory deficit. Memory impairment was present at the onset in 15 patients, with word finding difficulties and stereotyped speech also being common. Parkinsonism was first noted 3 years after the onset of symptoms. Neuroimaging showed the most extensive grey matter loss in the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus and frontal operculum/insular cortex of the right hemisphere and, to a lesser extent, in the anterior cingulate gyrus, head of the caudate nucleus and the posterolateral orbitofrontal cortex and insular cortex bilaterally. Neuropathologically, progressive nerve cell loss, gliosis and coexistent neuronal and/or glial deposits consisting mostly of 4-repeat tau were present in frontal, cingulate, temporal and insular cortices, white matter, hippocampus, parahippocampus, basal ganglia, selected brainstem nuclei and spinal cord. Tau haplotyping indicated that specific haplotypes of the wild-type allele may act as modifiers of disease presentation. Quantitative neuroimaging has been used to analyse the progression of atrophy in affected individuals and for predicting disease onset in an asymptomatic mutation carrier. This multidisciplinary study provides a comprehensive description of the natural history of disease in one of the largest known families with FTDP-17T.
    Brain 02/2008; 131(Pt 1):72-89. · 9.92 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Parkinson's disease (PD) and dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) are characterized by the presence of filamentous inclusions in nerve cells. These filaments are amyloid fibrils that are made of the protein alpha-synuclein, which is genetically linked to rare cases of PD and DLB. beta-Synuclein, which shares 60% identity with alpha-synuclein, is not found in the inclusions. Furthermore, while recombinant alpha-synuclein readily assembles into amyloid fibrils, beta-synuclein fails to do so. It has been suggested that this may be due to the lack in beta-synuclein of a hydrophobic region that spans residues 73-83 of alpha-synuclein. Here, fibril assembly of recombinant human alpha-synuclein, alpha-synuclein deletion mutants, beta-synuclein and beta/alpha-synuclein chimeras was assayed quantitatively by thioflavin T fluorescence and semi-quantitatively by transmission electron microscopy. Deletion of residues 73-83 from alpha-synuclein did not abolish filament formation. Furthermore, a chimera of beta-synuclein with alpha-synuclein(73-83) inserted was significantly less fibrillogenic than wild-type alpha-synuclein. These findings, together with results obtained using a number of recombinant synucleins, showed a correlation between fibrillogenesis and mean beta-strand propensity, hydrophilicity and charge of the amino acid sequences. The combination of these simple physicochemical properties with a previously described calculation of beta-strand contiguity allowed us to design mutations that changed the fibrillogenic propensity of alpha-synuclein in predictable ways.
    Journal of Molecular Biology 12/2007; 374(2):454-64. · 3.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alpha-synuclein is a small cytosolic protein involved in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. Recent studies suggested a lipid-related function for this brain-enriched protein. Since the brain carries a high level of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and since the extent of alpha-synuclein gene expression increases in response to DHA intake, we have investigated the interaction of alpha-synuclein with this essential omega-3 fatty acid. We show that alpha-synuclein allows DHA to be present in a soluble rather than micellar form. Upon interaction with DHA, the normally unstructured alpha-synuclein rapidly adopts an alpha-helical conformation. Prolonged exposure to DHA, however, gradually converts alpha-synuclein into amyloid-like fibrils. These results identify a potential biological function for alpha-synuclein and define an omega-3-linked pathway leading to alpha-synuclein aggregation.
    Biochemistry 01/2007; 45(51):15610-6. · 3.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In humans, three genes encode the related alpha-, beta-, and gamma-synucleins, which function as lipid-binding proteins in vitro. They are being widely studied, mainly because of the central involvement of alpha-synuclein in a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple system atrophy. In these diseases, the normally soluble alpha-synuclein assembles into abnormal filaments. Here, we have identified and characterized the synuclein gene family from the pufferfish Fugu rubripes. It consists of four genes, which encode alpha-, beta-, gamma1-, and gamma2-synucleins. They range from 113 to 127 amino acids in length and share many of the characteristics of human synucleins, including the presence of imperfect amino-terminal repeats of 11 amino acids, a hydrophobic middle region, and a negatively charged carboxy-terminus. All four synucleins are expressed in the Fugu brain. Recombinant Fugu synucleins exhibited differential liposome binding, which was strongest for alpha-synuclein, followed by beta-, gamma2-, and gamma1-synucleins. In assembly experiments, Fugu alpha-, gamma1-, and gamma2-synucleins formed filaments more readily than human alpha-synuclein. Fugu beta-synuclein, by contrast, failed to assemble in bulk. Filament assembly of synucleins was directly proportional to their degree of hydrophobicity and their tendency to form beta-sheet structure, and correlated inversely with their net charge.
    Biochemistry 03/2006; 45(8):2599-607. · 3.38 Impact Factor