[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Progranulin (PGRN) encoded by the GRN gene, is a secreted glycoprotein growth factor that has been implicated in many physiological and pathophysiological processes. PGRN haploinsufficiency caused by autosomal dominant mutations within the GRN gene leads to progressive neuronal atrophy in the form of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). This form of the disease is associated with neuronal inclusions that bear the ubiquitinated TAR DNA Binding Protein-43 (TDP-43) molecular signature (FTLD-U). The neurotrophic properties of PGRN in vitro have recently been reported but the role of PGRN in neurons is not well understood. Here we document the neuronal expression and functions of PGRN in spinal cord motoneuron (MN) maturation and branching in vivo using zebrafish, a well established model of vertebrate embryonic development.
Whole-mount in situ hybridization and immunohistochemical analyses of zebrafish embryos revealed that zfPGRN-A is expressed within the peripheral and central nervous systems including the caudal primary (CaP) MNs within the spinal cord. Knockdown of zfPGRN-A mRNA translation mediated by antisense morpholino oligonucleotides disrupted normal CaP MN development resulting in both truncated MNs and inappropriate early branching. Ectopic over-expression of zfPGRN-A mRNA resulted in increased MN branching and rescued the truncation defects brought about by knockdown of zfPGRN-A expression. The ability of PGRN to interact with established MN developmental pathways was tested. PGRN over-expression was found to reverse the truncation defect resulting from knockdown of Survival of motor neuron 1 (smn1). This is involved in small ribonucleoprotein biogenesis RNA processing, mutations of which cause Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) in humans. It did not reverse the MN defects caused by interfering with the neuronal guidance pathway by knockdown of expression of NRP-1, a semaphorin co-receptor.
Expression of PGRN within MNs and the observed phenotypes resulting from mRNA knockdown and over-expression are consistent with a role in the regulation of spinal cord MN development and branching. This study presents the first in vivo demonstration of the neurotrophic properties of PGRN and suggests possible future therapeutic applications in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Progranulin is a secreted high molecular weight growth factor bearing seven and one half copies of the cysteine-rich granulin-epithelin motif. While inappropriate over-expression of the progranulin gene has been associated with many cancers, haploinsufficiency leads to atrophy of the frontotemporal lobes and development of a form of dementia (frontotemporal lobar degeneration with ubiquitin positive inclusions, FTLD-U) associated with the formation of ubiquitinated inclusions. Recent reports indicate that progranulin has neurotrophic effects, which, if confirmed would make progranulin the only neuroprotective growth factor that has been associated genetically with a neurological disease in humans. Preliminary studies indicated high progranulin gene expression in spinal cord motor neurons. However, it is uncertain what the role of Progranulin is in normal or diseased motor neuron function. We have investigated progranulin gene expression and subcellular localization in cultured mouse embryonic motor neurons and examined the effect of progranulin over-expression and knockdown in the NSC-34 immortalized motor neuron cell line upon proliferation and survival.
In situ hybridisation and immunohistochemical techniques revealed that the progranulin gene is highly expressed by motor neurons within the mouse spinal cord and in primary cultures of dissociated mouse embryonic spinal cord-dorsal root ganglia. Confocal microscopy coupled to immunocytochemistry together with the use of a progranulin-green fluorescent protein fusion construct revealed progranulin to be located within compartments of the secretory pathway including the Golgi apparatus. Stable transfection of the human progranulin gene into the NSC-34 motor neuron cell line stimulates the appearance of dendritic structures and provides sufficient trophic stimulus to survive serum deprivation for long periods (up to two months). This is mediated at least in part through an anti-apoptotic mechanism. Control cells, while expressing basal levels of progranulin do not survive in serum free conditions. Knockdown of progranulin expression using shRNA technology further reduced cell survival.
Neurons are among the most long-lived cells in the body and are subject to low levels of toxic challenges throughout life. We have demonstrated that progranulin is abundantly expressed in motor neurons and is cytoprotective over prolonged periods when over-expressed in a neuronal cell line. This work highlights the importance of progranulin as neuroprotective growth factor and may represent a therapeutic target for neurodegenerative diseases including motor neuron disease.