ABSTRACT: Amyloid protein is well known to induce neuronal cell death, whereas only little is known about its effect on astrocytes. We found that amyloid peptides activated caspase 3 and induced apoptosis in primary cultured astrocytes, which was prevented by caspase 3 inhibition. Apoptosis was also prevented by shRNA-mediated down-regulation of PAR-4, a protein sensitizing cells to the sphingolipid ceramide. Consistent with a potentially proapoptotic effect of PAR-4 and ceramide, astrocytes surrounding amyloid plaques in brain sections of the 5xFAD mouse (and Alzheimer disease patient brain) showed caspase 3 activation and were apoptotic when co-expressing PAR-4 and ceramide. Apoptosis was not observed in astrocytes with deficient neutral sphingomyelinase 2 (nSMase2), indicating that ceramide generated by nSMase2 is critical for amyloid-induced apoptosis. Antibodies against PAR-4 and ceramide prevented amyloid-induced apoptosis in vitro and in vivo, suggesting that apoptosis was mediated by exogenous PAR-4 and ceramide, potentially associated with secreted lipid vesicles. This was confirmed by the analysis of lipid vesicles from conditioned medium showing that amyloid peptide induced the secretion of PAR-4 and C18 ceramide-enriched exosomes. Exosomes were not secreted by nSMase2-deficient astrocytes, indicating that ceramide generated by nSMase2 is critical for exosome secretion. Consistent with the ceramide composition in amyloid-induced exosomes, exogenously added C18 ceramide restored PAR-4-containing exosome secretion in nSMase2-deficient astrocytes. Moreover, isolated PAR-4/ceramide-enriched exosomes were taken up by astrocytes and induced apoptosis in the absence of amyloid peptide. Taken together, we report a novel mechanism of apoptosis induction by PAR-4/ceramide-enriched exosomes, which may critically contribute to Alzheimer disease.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 04/2012; 287(25):21384-95. · 4.77 Impact Factor