For more than 60 years, the mood stabilizer lithium has been used alone or in combination for the treatment of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and other mental illnesses. Despite this long history, the molecular mechanisms trough which lithium regulates behavior are still poorly understood. Among several targets, lithium has been shown to directly inhibit glycogen synthase kinase 3 alpha and beta (GSK3α and GSK3β). However in vivo, lithium also inhibits GSK3 by regulating other mechanisms like the formation of a signaling complex comprised of beta-arrestin 2 (βArr2) and Akt. Here, we provide an overview of in vivo evidence supporting a role for inhibition of GSK3 in some behavioral effects of lithium. We also explore how regulation of GSK3 by lithium within a signaling network involving several molecular targets and cell surface receptors [e.g., G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) and receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs)] may provide cues to its relative pharmacological selectivity and its effects on disease mechanisms. A better understanding of these intricate actions of lithium at a systems level may allow the rational development of better mood stabilizer drugs with enhanced selectivity, efficacy, and lesser side effects.
At least three forms of signaling between pre- and postsynaptic partners are necessary during synapse formation. First, "targeting" signals instruct presynaptic axons to recognize and adhere to the correct portion of a postsynaptic target cell. Second, trans-synaptic "organizing" signals induce differentiation in their synaptic partner so that each side of the synapse is specialized for synaptic transmission. Finally, in many regions of the nervous system an excess of synapses are initially formed, therefore "refinement" signals must either stabilize or destabilize the synapse to reinforce or eliminate connections, respectively. Because of both their importance in processing visual information and their accessibility, retinogeniculate synapses have served as a model for studying synaptic development. Molecular signals that drive retinogeniculate "targeting" and "refinement" have been identified, however, little is known about what "organizing" cues are necessary for the differentiation of retinal axons into presynaptic terminals. To identify such "organizing" cues, we used microarray analysis to assess whether any target-derived "synaptic organizers" were enriched in the mouse dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) during retinogeniculate synapse formation. One candidate "organizing" molecule enriched in perinatal dLGN was FGF22, a secreted cue that induces the formation of excitatory nerve terminals in muscle, hippocampus, and cerebellum. In FGF22 knockout mice, the development of retinal terminals in dLGN was impaired. Thus, FGF22 is an important "organizing" cue for the timely development of retinogeniculate synapses.
The 22q11.2 deletion is the strongest known genetic risk factor for schizophrenia. Research has implicated microRNA-mediated dysregulation in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS) schizophrenia-risk. Primary candidate genes are DGCR8 (DiGeorge syndrome critical region gene 8), which encodes a component of the microprocessor complex essential for microRNA biogenesis, and MIR185, which encodes microRNA 185. Mouse models of 22q11.2DS have demonstrated alterations in brain microRNA biogenesis, and that DGCR8 haploinsufficiency may contribute to these alterations, e.g., via down-regulation of a specific microRNA subset. miR-185 was the top-scoring down-regulated microRNA in both the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, brain areas which are the key foci of schizophrenia research. This reduction in miR-185 expression contributed to dendritic and spine development deficits in hippocampal neurons. In addition, miR-185 has two validated targets (RhoA, Cdc42), both of which have been associated with altered expression levels in schizophrenia. These combined data support the involvement of miR-185 and its down-stream pathways in schizophrenia. This review summarizes evidence implicating microRNA-mediated dysregulation in schizophrenia in both 22q11.2DS-related and idiopathic cases.
Proteasome-mediated proteolysis is important for synaptic plasticity, neuronal development, protein quality control, and many other processes in neurons. To define proteasome composition in brain, we affinity purified 26S proteasomes from cytosolic and synaptic compartments of the rat cortex. Using tandem mass spectrometry, we identified the standard 26S subunits and a set of 28 proteasome-interacting proteins that associated substoichiometrically and may serve as regulators or cofactors. This set differed from those in other tissues and we also found several proteins that associated only with either the cytosolic or the synaptic proteasome. The latter included the ubiquitin-binding factor TAX1BP1 and synaptic vesicle protein SNAP-25. Native gel electrophoresis revealed a higher proportion of doubly-capped 26S proteasome (19S-20S-19S) in the cortex than in the liver or kidney. To investigate the interplay between proteasome regulation and synaptic plasticity, we exposed cultured neurons to glutamate receptor agonist NMDA. Within 4 h, this agent caused a prolonged decrease in the activity of the ubiquitin-proteasome system as shown by disassembly of 26S proteasomes, decrease in ubiquitin-protein conjugates, and dissociation of the ubiquitin ligases UBE3A (E6-AP) and HUWE1 from the proteasome. Surprisingly, the regulatory 19S particles were rapidly degraded by proteasomal, not lysosomal degradation, and the dissociated E3 enzymes also degraded. Thus the content of proteasomes and their set of associated proteins can be altered by neuronal activity, in a manner likely to influence synaptic plasticity and learning.
Calretinin (CR) and calbindin D-28k (CB) are cytosolic EF-hand Ca2+-binding proteins and function as Ca2+ buffers affecting the spatiotemporal aspects of Ca2+ transients and possibly also as Ca2+ sensors modulating signaling cascades. In the adult hippocampal circuitry, CR and CB are expressed in specific principal neurons and subsets of interneurons. In addition, CR is transiently expressed within the neurogenic dentate gyrus (DG) niche. CR and CB expression during adult neurogenesis mark critical transition stages, onset of differentiation for CR and the switch to adult-like connectivity for CB. Absence of either protein during these stages in null-mutant mice may have functional consequences and contribute to some aspects of the identified phenotypes. We report the impact of CR- and CB-deficiency on the proliferation and differentiation of progenitor cells within the subgranular zone (SGZ) neurogenic niche of the DG. Effects were evaluated I) 2 and 4 weeks postnatally, during the transition period of the proliferative matrix to the adult state, and II) in adult animals (3 months) to trace possible permanent changes in adult neurogenesis. The absence of CB from differentiated DG granule cells has no retrograde effect on the proliferative activity of progenitor cells, nor affects survival or migration/differentiation of newborn neurons in the adult DG including the SGZ. On the contrary, lack of CR from immature early postmitotic granule cells causes an early loss in proliferative capacity of the SGZ that is maintained into adult age, when it has a further impact on the migration/survival of newborn granule cells. The transient CR expression at the onset of adult neurogenesis differentiation may thus have two functions: I) to serve as a self-maintenance signal for the pool of cells at the same stage of neurogenesis contributing to their survival/differentiation, and II) it may contribute to retrograde signaling required for maintenance of the progenitor pool.
Many neurons of the vertebrate central nervous system (CNS) express the Ca(2+) binding protein calbindin D-28k (CB), including important projection neurons like cerebellar Purkinje cells but also neocortical interneurons. CB has moderate cytoplasmic mobility and comprises at least four EF-hands that function in Ca(2+) binding with rapid to intermediate kinetics and affinity. Classically it was viewed as a pure Ca(2+) buffer important for neuronal survival. This view was extended by showing that CB is a critical determinant in the control of synaptic Ca(2+) dynamics, presumably with strong impact on plasticity and information processing. Already 30 years ago, in vitro studies suggested that CB could have an additional Ca(2+) sensor function, like its prominent acquaintance calmodulin (CaM). More recent work substantiated this hypothesis, revealing direct CB interactions with several target proteins. Different from a classical sensor, however, CB appears to interact with its targets both, in its Ca(2+)-loaded and Ca(2+)-free forms. Finally, CB has been shown to be involved in buffered transport of Ca(2+), in neurons but also in kidney. Thus, CB serves a threefold function as buffer, transporter and likely as a non-canonical sensor.
Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) is a large family of enzymes that account for the majority of brain Ser/Thr phosphatase activity. While PP2A enzymes collectively modulate most cellular processes, sophisticated regulatory mechanisms are ultimately responsible for ensuring isoform-specific substrate specificity. Of particular interest to the Alzheimer's disease (AD) field, alterations in PP2A regulators and PP2A catalytic activity, subunit expression, methylation and/or phosphorylation, have been reported in AD-affected brain regions. "PP2A" dysfunction has been linked to tau hyperphosphorylation, amyloidogenesis and synaptic deficits that are pathological hallmarks of this neurodegenerative disorder. Deregulation of PP2A enzymes also affects the activity of many Ser/Thr protein kinases implicated in AD. This review will more specifically discuss the role of the PP2A/Bα holoenzyme and PP2A methylation in AD pathogenesis. The PP2A/Bα isoform binds to tau and is the primary tau phosphatase. Its deregulation correlates with increased tau phosphorylation in vivo and in AD. Disruption of PP2A/Bα-tau protein interactions likely contribute to tau deregulation in AD. Significantly, alterations in one-carbon metabolism that impair PP2A methylation are associated with increased risk for sporadic AD, and enhanced AD-like pathology in animal models. Experimental studies have linked deregulation of PP2A methylation with down-regulation of PP2A/Bα, enhanced phosphorylation of tau and amyloid precursor protein, tau mislocalization, microtubule destabilization and neuritic defects. While it remains unclear what are the primary events that underlie "PP2A" dysfunction in AD, deregulation of PP2A enzymes definitely affects key players in the pathogenic process. As such, there is growing interest in developing PP2A-centric therapies for AD, but this may be a daunting task without a better understanding of the regulation and function of specific PP2A enzymes.
Serotonin (5-HT) appears to play a major role in controlling adult hippocampal neurogenesis and thereby it is relevant for theories linking failing adult neurogenesis to the pathogenesis of major depression and the mechanisms of action of antidepressants. Serotonergic drugs lacked acute effects on adult neurogenesis in many studies, which suggested a surprisingly long latency phase. Here we report that the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine, which has no acute effect on precursor cell proliferation, causes the well-described increase in net neurogenesis upon prolonged treatment partly by promoting the survival and maturation of new postmitotic neurons. We hypothesized that this result is the cumulative effect of several 5-HT-dependent events in the course of adult neurogenesis. Thus, we used specific agonists and antagonists to 5-HT1a, 2, and 2c receptor subtypes to analyze their impact on different developmental stages. We found that 5-HT exerts acute and opposing effects on proliferation and survival or differentiation of precursor cells by activating the diverse receptor subtypes on different stages within the neuronal lineage in vivo. This was confirmed in vitro by demonstrating that 5-HT1a receptors are involved in self-renewal of precursor cells, whereas 5-HT2 receptors effect both proliferation and promote neuronal differentiation. We propose that under acute conditions 5-HT2 effects counteract the positive proliferative effect of 5-HT1a receptor activation. However, prolonged 5-HT2c receptor activation fosters an increase in late-stage progenitor cells and early postmitotic neurons, leading to a net increase in adult neurogenesis. Our data indicate that serotonin does not show effect latency in the adult dentate gyrus. Rather, the delayed response to serotonergic drugs with respect to endpoints downstream of the immediate receptor activity is largely due to the initially antagonistic and un-balanced action of different 5-HT receptors.
Circulating microRNAs, present either in the cellular component, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), or in cell-free plasma, have emerged as biomarkers for age-dependent systemic, disease-associated changes in many organs. Previously, we have shown that microRNA (miR)-34a is increased in circulating PBMC of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. In the present study, we show that this microRNA's sister, miR-34c, exhibits even greater increase in both cellular and plasma components of AD circulating blood samples, compared to normal age-matched controls. Statistical analysis shows the accuracy of levels of miR-34c assayed by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis: the area under the curve is 0.99 (p < 0.0001) and the 95% confidence level extends from 0.97 to 1. Pearson correlation between miR-34c levels and mild and moderate AD, as defined by the mini-mental state examination (MMSE), shows an r-value of -0.7, suggesting a relatively strong inverse relationship between the two parameters. These data show that plasma levels of microRNA 34c are much more prominent in AD than those of its sister, miR-34a, or than its own level in PBMC. Transfection studies show that miR-34c, as does its sister miR-34a, represses the expression of several selected genes involved in cell survival and oxidative defense pathways, such as Bcl2, SIRT1, and others, in cultured cells. Taken together, our results indicate that increased levels of miR-34c in both PBMC and plasma may reflect changes in circulating blood samples in AD patients, compared to age-matched normal controls.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that function as key post-transcriptional regulators in neural development, brain function, and neurological diseases. Growing evidence indicates that miRNAs are also important mediators of nerve regeneration, however, the affected signaling mechanisms are not clearly understood. In the present study, we show that nerve injury-induced miR-431 stimulates regenerative axon growth by silencing Kremen1, an antagonist of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling. Both the gain-of-function of miR-431 and knockdown of Kremen1 significantly enhance axon outgrowth in murine dorsal root ganglion neuronal cultures. Using cross-linking with AGO-2 immunoprecipitation, and 3'-untranslated region (UTR) luciferase reporter assay we demonstrate miR-431 direct interaction on the 3'-UTR of Kremen1 mRNA. Together, our results identify miR-431 as an important regulator of axonal regeneration and a promising therapeutic target.
Understanding how the CNS functions poses one of the greatest challenges in modern life science and medicine. Studying the brain is especially challenging because of its complexity, the heterogeneity of its cellular composition, and the substantial changes it undergoes throughout its life-span. The complexity of adult brain neural networks results also from the diversity of properties and functions of neuronal cells, governed, inter alia, by temporally and spatially differential expression of proteins in mammalian brain cell populations. Hence, research into the biology of CNS activity and its implications to human and animal behavior must use novel scientific tools. One source of such tools is the field of molecular genetics-recently utilized more and more frequently in neuroscience research. Transgenic approaches in general, and gene targeting in rodents have become fundamental tools for elucidating gene function in the CNS. Although spectacular progress has been achieved over recent decades by using these approaches, it is important to note that they face a number of restrictions. One of the main challenges is presented by the temporal and spatial regulation of introduced genetic manipulations. Viral vectors provide an alternative approach to temporally regulated, localized delivery of genetic modifications into neurons. In this review we describe available technologies for gene transfer into the adult mammalian CNS that use both viral and non-viral tools. We discuss viral vectors frequently used in neuroscience, with emphasis on lentiviral vector (LV) systems. We consider adverse effects of LVs, and the use of LVs for temporally and spatially controllable manipulations. Especially, we highlight the significance of viral vector-mediated genetic manipulations in studying learning and memory processes, and how they may be effectively used to separate out the various phases of learning: acquisition, consolidation, retrieval, and maintenance.
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE; EC 126.96.36.199) plays a crucial role in the rapid hydrolysis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, in the central and peripheral nervous system and might also participate in non-cholinergic mechanism related to neurodegenerative diseases. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a progressive deterioration of cognitive abilities, amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide accumulation and synaptic alterations. We have previously shown that AChE is able to accelerate the Aβ peptide assembly into Alzheimer-type aggregates increasing its neurotoxicity. Furthermore, AChE activity is altered in brain and blood of Alzheimer's patients. The enzyme associated to amyloid plaques changes its enzymatic and pharmacological properties, as well as, increases its resistant to low pH, inhibitors and excess of substrate. Here, we reviewed the effects of IDN 5706, a hyperforin derivative that has potential preventive effects on the development of AD. Our results show that treatment with IDN 5706 for 10 weeks increases brain AChE activity in 7-month-old double transgenic mice (APP(SWE)-PS1) and decreases the content of AChE associated with different types of amyloid plaques in this Alzheimer's model. We concluded that early treatment with IDN 5706 decreases AChE-Aβ interaction and this effect might be of therapeutic interest in the treatment of AD.
Excitability of individual neurons dictates the overall excitation in specific brain circuits. This process is thought to be regulated by molecules that regulate synapse number, morphology and strength. Neuronal excitation is also influenced by the amounts of neurotransmitter receptors and signaling molecules retained at particular synaptic sites. Recent studies revealed a key role for PSD-95, a scaffolding molecule enriched at glutamatergic synapses, in modulation of clustering of several neurotransmitter receptors, adhesion molecules, ion channels, cytoskeletal elements and signaling molecules at postsynaptic sites. In this review we will highlight mechanisms that control targeting of PSD-95 at the synapse, and discuss how this molecule influences the retention and clustering of diverse synaptic proteins to regulate synaptic structure and strength. We will also discuss how PSD-95 may maintain a balance between excitation and inhibition in the brain and how alterations in this balance may contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders.
Following an injury, central nervous system (CNS) neurons show a very limited regenerative response which results in their failure to successfully form functional connections with their original target. This is due in part to the reduced intrinsic growth state of CNS neurons, which is characterized by their failure to express key regeneration-associated genes (RAGs) and by the presence of growth inhibitory molecules in CNS environment that form a molecular and physical barrier to regeneration. Here we have optimized a 96-well electroporation and neurite outgrowth assay for postnatal rat cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs) cultured upon an inhibitory cellular substrate expressing myelin-associated glycoprotein or a mixture of growth inhibitory chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans. Optimal electroporation parameters resulted in 28% transfection efficiency and 51% viability for postnatal rat CGNs. The neurite outgrowth of transduced neurons was quantitatively measured using a semi-automated image capture and analysis system. The neurite outgrowth was significantly reduced by the inhibitory substrates which we demonstrated could be partially reversed using a Rho Kinase inhibitor. We are now using this assay to screen large sets of RAGs for their ability to increase neurite outgrowth on a variety of growth inhibitory and permissive substrates.
Modulation of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling by local changes in intracellular calcium concentration is an established function of Calmodulin (CaM) which is known to interact with many GPCRs. Less is known about the functional role of the closely related neuronal EF-hand Ca(2+)-sensor proteins that frequently associate with CaM targets with different functional outcome. In the present study we aimed to investigate if a target of CaM-the A(2A) adenosine receptor is able to associate with two other neuronal calcium binding proteins (nCaBPs), namely NCS-1 and caldendrin. Using bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) and co-immunoprecipitation experiments we show the existence of A(2A)-NCS-1 complexes in living cells whereas caldendrin did not associate with A(2A) receptors under the conditions tested. Interestingly, NCS-1 binding modulated downstream A(2A) receptor intracellular signaling in a Ca(2+)-dependent manner. Taken together this study provides further evidence that neuronal Ca(2+)-sensor proteins play an important role in modulation of GPCR signaling.
Gene therapies for neurological diseases with autonomic or gastrointestinal involvement may require global gene expression. Gastrointestinal complications are often associated with Parkinson's disease and autism. Lewy bodies, a pathological hallmark of Parkinson's brains, are routinely identified in the neurons of the enteric nervous system (ENS) following colon biopsies from patients. The ENS is the intrinsic nervous system of the gut, and is responsible for coordinating the secretory and motor functions of the gastrointestinal tract. ENS dysfunction can cause severe patient discomfort, malnourishment, or even death as in intestinal pseudo-obstruction (Ogilvie syndrome). Importantly, ENS transduction following systemic vector administration has not been thoroughly evaluated. Here we show that systemic injection of AAV9 into neonate or juvenile mice results in transduction of 25-57% of ENS myenteric neurons. Transgene expression was prominent in choline acetyltransferase positive cells, but not within vasoactive intestinal peptide or neuronal nitric oxide synthase cells, suggesting a bias for cells involved in excitatory signaling. AAV9 transduction in enteric glia is very low compared to CNS astrocytes. Enteric glial transduction was enhanced by using a glial specific promoter. Furthermore, we show that AAV8 results in comparable transduction in neonatal mice to AAV9 though AAV1, 5, and 6 are less efficient. These data demonstrate that systemic AAV9 has high affinity for peripheral neural tissue and is useful for future therapeutic development and basic studies of the ENS.
Target of rapamycin (TOR) was first identified in yeast as a target molecule of rapamycin, an anti-fugal and immunosuppressant macrolide compound. In mammals, its orthologue is called mammalian TOR (mTOR). mTOR is a serine/threonine kinase that converges different extracellular stimuli, such as nutrients and growth factors, and diverges into several biochemical reactions, including translation, autophagy, transcription, and lipid synthesis among others. These biochemical reactions govern cell growth and cause cells to attain an anabolic state. Thus, the disruption of mTOR signaling is implicated in a wide array of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity. In the central nervous system, the mTOR signaling cascade is activated by nutrients, neurotrophic factors, and neurotransmitters that enhances protein (and possibly lipid) synthesis and suppresses autophagy. These processes contribute to normal neuronal growth by promoting their differentiation, neurite elongation and branching, and synaptic formation during development. Therefore, disruption of mTOR signaling may cause neuronal degeneration and abnormal neural development. While reduced mTOR signaling is associated with neurodegeneration, excess activation of mTOR signaling causes abnormal development of neurons and glia, leading to brain malformation. In this review, we first introduce the current state of molecular knowledge of mTOR complexes and signaling in general. We then describe mTOR activation in neurons, which leads to translational enhancement, and finally discuss the link between mTOR and normal/abnormal neuronal growth during development.
Because of its ability to regulate the abundance of selected proteins the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) plays an important role in neuronal and synaptic plasticity. As a result various stages of learning and memory depend on UPS activity. Drug addiction, another phenomenon that relies on neuroplasticity, shares molecular substrates with memory processes. However, the necessity of proteasome-dependent protein degradation for the development of addiction has been poorly studied. Here we first review evidences from the literature that drugs of abuse regulate the expression and activity of the UPS system in the brain. We then provide a list of proteins which have been shown to be targeted to the proteasome following drug treatment and could thus be involved in neuronal adaptations underlying behaviors associated with drug use and abuse. Finally we describe the few studies that addressed the need for UPS-dependent protein degradation in animal models of addiction-related behaviors.
Local translation of mRNAs is a mechanism by which cells can rapidly remodel synaptic structure and function. There is ample evidence for a role of synaptic translation in the neuroadaptations resulting from chronic drug use and abuse. Persistent and coordinated changes of many mRNAs, globally and locally, may have a causal role in complex disorders such as addiction. In this review we examine the evidence that translational regulation by microRNAs drives synaptic remodeling and mRNA expression, which may regulate the transition from recreational to compulsive drug use. microRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that control the translation of mRNAs in the cell and within spatially restricted sites such as the synapse. microRNAs typically repress the translation of mRNAs into protein by binding to the 3'UTR of their targets. As 'master regulators' of many mRNAs, changes in microRNAs could account for the systemic alterations in mRNA and protein expression observed with drug abuse and dependence. Recent studies indicate that manipulation of microRNAs affects addiction-related behaviors such as the rewarding properties of cocaine, cocaine-seeking behavior, and self-administration rates of alcohol. There is limited evidence, however, regarding how synaptic microRNAs control local mRNA translation during chronic drug exposure and how this contributes to the development of dependence. Here, we discuss research supporting microRNA regulation of local mRNA translation and how drugs of abuse may target this process. The ability of synaptic microRNAs to rapidly regulate mRNAs provides a discrete, localized system that could potentially be used as diagnostic and treatment tools for alcohol and other addiction disorders.
In animal models of drug addiction, cocaine exposure has been shown to increase levels of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors (CP-AMPARs) in two brain regions that are critical for motivation and reward - the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the nucleus accumbens (NAc). This review compares CP-AMPAR plasticity in the two brain regions and addresses its functional significance. In VTA dopamine neurons, cocaine exposure results in synaptic insertion of high conductance CP-AMPARs in exchange for lower conductance calcium-impermeable AMPARs (CI-AMPARs). This plasticity is rapid (hours), GluA2-dependent, and can be observed with a single cocaine injection. In addition to strengthening synapses and altering Ca2+ signaling, CP-AMPAR insertion affects subsequent induction of plasticity at VTA synapses. However, CP-AMPAR insertion is unlikely to mediate the increased dopamine cell activity that occurs during early withdrawal from cocaine exposure. Within the VTA, the group I metabotropic glutamate receptor mGluR1 exerts a negative influence on CP-AMPAR accumulation. Acutely, mGluR1 stimulation elicits a form of LTD resulting from CP-AMPAR removal and CI-AMPAR insertion. In medium spiny neurons (MSNs) of the NAc, extended access cocaine self-administration is required to increase CP-AMPAR levels. This is first detected after approximately a month of withdrawal and then persists. Once present in NAc synapses, CP-AMPARs mediate the expression of incubation of cue-induced cocaine craving. The mechanism of their accumulation may be GluA1-dependent, which differs from that observed in the VTA. However, similar to VTA, mGluR1 stimulation removes CP-AMPARs from MSN synapses. Loss of mGluR1 tone during cocaine withdrawal may contribute to CP-AMPAR accumulation in the NAc. Thus, results in both brain regions point to the possibility of using positive modulators of mGluR1 as a treatment for cocaine addiction.
Exposure to psychostimulants results in structural and synaptic plasticity in striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs). These cellular adaptations arise from alterations in genes that are highly implicated in the rearrangement of the actin-cytoskeleton, such as T-lymphoma invasion and metastasis 1 (Tiam1). Previous studies have demonstrated a crucial role for dopamine receptor 1 (D1)-containing striatal MSNs in mediating psychostimulant induced plasticity changes. These D1-MSNs in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) positively regulate drug seeking, reward, and locomotor behavioral effects as well as the morphological adaptations of psychostimulant drugs. Here, we demonstrate that rats that actively self-administer cocaine display reduced levels of Tiam1 in the NAc. To further examine the cell type-specific contribution to these changes in Tiam1 we used optogenetics to selectively manipulate NAc D1-MSNs or dopamine receptor 2 (D2) expressing MSNs. We find that repeated channelrhodopsin-2 activation of D1-MSNs but not D2-MSNs caused a down-regulation of Tiam1 levels similar to the effects of cocaine. Further, activation of D2-MSNs, which caused a late blunted cocaine-mediated locomotor behavioral response, did not alter Tiam1 levels. We then examined the contribution of D1-MSNs to the cocaine-mediated decrease of Tiam1. Using the light activated chloride pump, eNpHR3.0 (enhanced Natronomonas pharaonis halorhodopsin 3.0), we selectively inhibited D1-MSNs during cocaine exposure, which resulted in a behavioral blockade of cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization. Moreover, inhibiting these NAc D1-MSNs during cocaine exposure reversed the down-regulation of Tiam1 gene expression and protein levels. These data demonstrate that altering activity in specific neural circuits with optogenetics can impact the underlying molecular substrates of psychostimulant-mediated behavior and function.
Brain cells expend large amounts of energy sequestering calcium (Ca(2+)), while loss of Ca(2+) compartmentalization leads to cell damage or death. Upon cell entry, glucose is converted to glucose-6-phosphate (G6P), a parent substrate to several metabolic major pathways, including glycolysis. In several tissues, G6P alters the ability of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to sequester Ca(2+). This led to the hypothesis that G6P regulates Ca(2+) accumulation by acting as an endogenous ligand for sarco-endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase (SERCA). Whole brain ER microsomes were pooled from adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Using radio-isotopic assays, (45)Ca(2+) accumulation was quantified following incubation with increasing amounts of G6P, in the presence or absence of thapsigargin, a potent SERCA inhibitor. To qualitatively assess SERCA activity, the simultaneous release of inorganic phosphate (Pi) coupled with Ca(2+) accumulation was quantified. Addition of G6P significantly and decreased Ca(2+) accumulation in a dose-dependent fashion (1-10 mM). The reduction in Ca(2+) accumulation was not significantly different that seen with addition of thapsigargin. Addition of glucose-1-phosphate or fructose-6-phosphate, or other glucose metabolic pathway intermediates, had no effect on Ca(2+) accumulation. Further, the release of Pi was markedly decreased, indicating G6P-mediated SERCA inhibition as the responsible mechanism for reduced Ca(2+) uptake. Simultaneous addition of thapsigargin and G6P did decrease inorganic phosphate in comparison to either treatment alone, which suggests that the two treatments have different mechanisms of action. Therefore, G6P may be a novel, endogenous regulator of SERCA activity. Additionally, pathological conditions observed during disease states that disrupt glucose homeostasis, may be attributable to Ca(2+) dystasis caused by altered G6P regulation of SERCA activity.
Addictive drugs can activate systems involved in normal reward-related learning, creating long-lasting memories of the drug's reinforcing effects and the environmental cues surrounding the experience. These memories significantly contribute to the maintenance of compulsive drug use as well as cue-induced relapse which can occur even after long periods of abstinence. Synaptic plasticity is thought to be a prominent molecular mechanism underlying drug-induced learning and memories. Ethanol and nicotine are both widely abused drugs that share a common molecular target in the brain, the neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). The nAChRs are ligand-gated ion channels that are vastly distributed throughout the brain and play a key role in synaptic neurotransmission. In this review, we will delineate the role of nAChRs in the development of ethanol and nicotine addiction. We will characterize both ethanol and nicotine's effects on nAChR-mediated synaptic transmission and plasticity in several key brain areas that are important for addiction. Finally, we will discuss some of the behavioral outcomes of drug-induced synaptic plasticity in animal models. An understanding of the molecular and cellular changes that occur following administration of ethanol and nicotine will lead to better therapeutic strategies.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can notably control many targets each and regulate entire cellular pathways, but whether miRNAs can regulate complete neurotransmission processes is largely unknown. Here, we report that miRNAs with complementary sequence motifs to the key genes involved in acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and/or packaging show massive overlap with those regulating ACh degradation. To address this topic, we first searched for miRNAs that could target the 3'-untranslated regions of the choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) gene that controls ACh synthesis; the vesicular ACh transporter (VAChT), encoded from an intron in the ChAT gene and the ACh hydrolyzing genes acetyl- and/or butyrylcholinesterase (AChE, BChE). Intriguingly, we found that many of the miRNAs targeting these genes are primate-specific, and that changes in their levels associate with inflammation, anxiety, brain damage, cardiac, neurodegenerative, or pain-related syndromes. To validate the in vivo relevance of this dual interaction, we selected the evolutionarily conserved miR-186, which targets both the stress-inducible soluble "readthrough" variant AChE-R and the major peripheral cholinesterase BChE. We exposed mice to predator scent stress and searched for potential associations between consequent changes in their miR-186, AChE-R, and BChE levels. Both intestinal miR-186 as well as BChE and AChE-R activities were conspicuously elevated 1 week post-exposure, highlighting the previously unknown involvement of miR-186 and BChE in psychological stress responses. Overlapping miRNA regulation emerges from our findings as a recently evolved surveillance mechanism over cholinergic neurotransmission in health and disease; and the corresponding miRNA details and disease relevance may serve as a useful resource for studying the molecular mechanisms underlying this surveillance.
A common feature in the Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain is the presence of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which is commonly associated with β-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT). Although our understanding of the relationship between AChE and the pathological features of AD is incomplete, increasing evidence suggests that both β-amyloid protein (Aβ) and abnormally hyperphosphorylated tau (P-tau) can influence AChE expression. We also review recent findings which suggest the possible role of AChE in the development of a vicious cycle of Aβ and P-tau dysregulation and discuss the limited and temporary effect of therapeutic intervention with AChE inhibitors.
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is responsible for the hydrolysis of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, in the nervous system. The functional localization and oligomerization of AChE T variant are depending primarily on the association of their anchoring partners, either collagen tail (ColQ) or proline-rich membrane anchor (PRiMA). Complexes with ColQ represent the asymmetric forms (A(12)) in muscle, while complexes with PRiMA represent tetrameric globular forms (G(4)) mainly found in brain and muscle. Apart from these traditional molecular forms, a ColQ-linked asymmetric form and a PRiMA-linked globular form of hybrid cholinesterases (ChEs), having both AChE and BChE catalytic subunits, were revealed in chicken brain and muscle. The similarity of various molecular forms of AChE and BChE raises interesting question regarding to their possible relationship in enzyme assembly and localization. The focus of this review is to provide current findings about the biosynthesis of different forms of ChEs together with their anchoring proteins.
Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) expression was found to be induced in the mammalian CNS, including the retina, by different types of stress leading to cellular apoptosis. Here, we tested possible involvement of AChE in hyperglycemia-induced apoptosis in a retinal cell line. Y79 retinoblastoma cells were incubated in starvation media (1% FBS and 1 mg/ml glucose) for 16-24 h, and then exposed to hyperglycemic environment by raising extracellular glucose concentrations to a final level of 3.5 mg/ml or 6 mg/ml. Similar levels of mannitol were used as control for hyperosmolarity. Cells were harvested at different time intervals for analysis of apoptosis and AChE protein expression. Apoptosis was detected by the cleavage of Poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) using western blot, and by Terminal deoxynucleotidyl-transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end-labeling (TUNEL) assay. AChE protein expression and activity was detected by western blot and by the Karnovsky and Roots method, respectively. Mission(TM) shRNA for AChE was used to inhibit AChE protein expression. Treating Y79 cells with 3.5 mg/ml of glucose, but not with 3.5 mg/ml mannitol, induced apoptosis which was confirmed by TUNEL assay and by cleavage of PARP. A part of the signaling pathway accompanying the apoptotic process involved up-regulation of the AChE-R variant and an N-extended AChE variant as verified at the mRNA and protein level. Inhibition of AChE protein expression by shRNA protected Y79 cell from entering the apoptotic pathway. Our data suggest that expression of an N-extended AChE variant, most probably an R isoform, is involved in the apoptotic pathway caused by hyperglycemia in Y79 cells.
To date, more than 40 different types of cells from primary cultures or cell lines have shown AChE expression during apoptosis and after the induction apoptosis by different stimuli. It has been well-established that increased AChE expression or activity is detected in apoptotic cells after apoptotic stimuli in vitro and in vivo, and AChE could be therefore used as a marker of apoptosis. AChE is not an apoptosis initiator, but the cells in which AChE is overexpressed undergo apoptosis more easily than controls. Interestingly, cells with downregulated levels of AChE are not sensitive to apoptosis induction and AChE deficiency can protect against apoptosis. Some tumor cells do not express AChE, but when AChE is introduced into a tumor cell, the cells cease to proliferate and undergo apoptosis more readily. Therefore, AChE can be classified as a tumor suppressor gene. AChE plays a pivotal role in apoptosome formation, and silencing of the AChE gene prevents caspase-9 activation, with consequent decreased cell viability, nuclear condensation, and poly (adenosine diphosphate-ribose) polymerase cleavage. AChE is translocated into the nucleus, which may be an important event during apoptosis. Several questions still need to be addressed, and further studies that address the non-classical function of AChE in apoptosis are needed.
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) differentiate and generate all blood cell lineages while maintaining self-renewal ability throughout life. Systemic responses to stressful insults, either psychological or physical exert both stimulating and down-regulating effects on these dynamic members of the immune system. Stress-facilitated division and re-oriented differentiation of progenitor cells modifies hematopoietic cell type composition, while enhancing cytokine production and promoting inflammation. Inversely, stress-induced increases in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) act to mitigate inflammatory response and regain homeostasis. This signaling process is terminated when ACh is hydrolyzed by acetylcholinesterase (AChE). Alternative splicing, which is stress-modified, changes the composition of AChE variants, modifying their terminal sequences, susceptibility for microRNA suppression, and sub-cellular localizations. Intriguingly, the effects of stress and AChE variants on hematopoietic development and inflammation in health and disease are both subject to small molecule as well as oligonucleotide-mediated manipulations in vitro and in vivo. The therapeutic agents can thus be targeted to the enzyme protein, its encoding mRNA transcripts, or the regulator microRNA-132, opening new venues for therapeutic interference with multiple nervous and immune system diseases.
The most characterized function of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) is to terminate cholinergic signaling at neuron-neuron and neuro-muscular synapses. In addition, AChE is causally or casually implicated in neuronal development, stress-response, cognition, and neurodegenerative diseases. Given the importance of AChE, many studies have focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms that govern its expression. Despite these efforts, post-transcriptional control of AChE mRNA expression is still relatively unclear. Here, we review the trans-acting factors and cis-acting elements that are known to control AChE pre-mRNA splicing, mature mRNA stability and translation. Moreover, since the Hu/ELAV family of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) have emerged in recent years as "master" post-transcriptional regulators, we discuss the possibility that predominantly neuronal ELAVs (nELAVs) play multiple roles in regulating splicing, stability, localization, and translation of AChE mRNA.
Recent studies show a key role of brain inflammation in epilepsy. However, the mechanisms controlling brain immune response are only partly understood. In the periphery, acetylcholine (ACh) release by the vagus nerve restrains inflammation by inhibiting the activation of leukocytes. Recent reports suggested a similar anti-inflammatory effect for ACh in the brain. Since brain cholinergic dysfunctions are documented in epileptic animals, we explored changes in brain cholinergic gene expression and associated immune response during pilocarpine-induced epileptogenesis. Levels of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and inflammatory markers were measured using real-time RT-PCR, in-situ hybridization and immunostaining in wild type (WT) and transgenic mice over-expressing the "synaptic" splice variant AChE-S (TgS). One month following pilocarpine, mice were video-monitored for spontaneous seizures. To test directly the effect of ACh on the brain's innate immune response, cytokines expression levels were measured in acute brain slices treated with cholinergic agents. We report a robust up-regulation of AChE as early as 48 h following pilocarpine-induced status epilepticus (SE). AChE was expressed in hippocampal neurons, microglia, and endothelial cells but rarely in astrocytes. TgS mice overexpressing AChE showed constitutive increased microglial activation, elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines 48 h after SE and accelerated epileptogenesis compared to their WT counterparts. Finally we show a direct, muscarine-receptor dependant, nicotine-receptor independent anti-inflammatory effect of ACh in brain slices maintained ex vivo. Our work demonstrates for the first time, that ACh directly suppresses brain innate immune response and that AChE up-regulation after SE is associated with enhanced immune response, facilitating the epileptogenic process. Our results highlight the cholinergic system as a potential new target for the prevention of seizures and epilepsy.
Phosphatase and tensin homolog (Pten) catalyzes the reverse reaction of PI3K by dephosphorylating PIP3 to PIP2. This negatively regulates downstream Akt/mTOR/S6 signaling resulting in decreased cellular growth and proliferation. Co-injection of a lentivirus knocking Pten down with a control lentivirus allows us to compare the effects of Pten knockdown between individual neurons within the same animal. We find that knockdown of Pten results in neuronal hypertrophy by 21 days post-injection. This neuronal hypertrophy is correlated with increased p-S6 and p-mTOR in individual neurons. We used this system to test whether an environmental factor that has been implicated in cellular hypertrophy could influence the severity of the Pten knockdown-induced hypertrophy. Implantation of mini-osmotic pumps delivering fatty acids results in increased neuronal hypertrophy and p-S6/p-mTOR staining. These hypertrophic effects were reversed in response to rapamycin treatment. However, we did not observe a similar increase in hypertrophy in response to dietary manipulations of fatty acids. Thus, we conclude that by driving growth signaling with fatty acids and knocking down a critical regulator of growth, Pten, we are able to observe an additive morphological phenotype of increased soma size mediated by the mTOR pathway.
The brain incorporates and coordinates information based on the hormonal environment, receiving information from peripheral tissues through the circulation. Although it was initially thought that hormones only acted on the hypothalamus to perform endocrine functions, it is now known that they in fact exert diverse actions on many different brain regions including the hypothalamus. Ghrelin is a gastric hormone that stimulates growth hormone secretion and food intake to regulate energy homeostasis and body weight by binding to its receptor, growth hormone secretagogues-GH secretagogue-receptor, which is most highly expressed in the pituitary and hypothalamus. In addition, ghrelin has effects on learning and memory, reward and motivation, anxiety, and depression, and could be a potential therapeutic agent in neurodegenerative disorders where excitotoxic neuronal cell death and inflammatory processes are involved.
Repeat sequences that are expanded in copy number are the basis for ~20 dominantly inherited neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington’s Disease. Despite some of the responsible genes being identified as long as 20 years ago, the identity and nature of the disease-causing pathogenic pathway remains a gap in knowledge for these diseases. This understanding is essential for rational approaches to delay onset, slow progression or ultimately effect cure. We have previously hypothesized that an RNA-based pathogenic pathway has a causal role in the dominantly inherited unstable expanded repeat neurodegenerative diseases. In support of this hypothesis we, and others, have characterized rCAG.rCUG100 repeat double-strand RNA (dsRNA) as a previously unidentified agent capable of causing pathogenesis in a Drosophila model of neurodegenerative disease. Dicer, Toll and autophagy pathways have distinct roles in this Drosophila dsRNA pathology. Dicer-dependence is accompanied by cleavage of rCAG.rCUG100 repeat double-strand RNA down to r(CAG)7 21-mers. Among the ‘molecular hallmarks’ of this pathway that have been identified in Drosophila, some [i.e. r(CAG)7 and elevated TNF] correlate with observations in affected people (e.g. HD, ALS) or in related animal models [i.e. autophagy]. The Toll pathway is activated in the presence of repeat-containing double-stranded RNA and toxicity is also dependent on this pathway. How might the endogenously expressed dsRNA mediate Toll-dependent toxicity in neuronal cells? Endogenous RNAs are normally shielded from Toll pathway activation as part of the mechanism to distinguish ‘self’ from ‘non-self’ RNAs. This typically involves post-transcriptional modification of the RNA. Therefore, it is likely that rCAG.rCUG100 repeat double-strand RNA has a characteristic property that interferes with or evades this normal mechanism of shielding. We predict that repeat expansion leads to an alteration in RNA structure and/or form that perturbs RNA mod
Calcium-activated chloride currents (CaCCs) are activated by an increase in intracellular calcium concentration. Peripheral nerve injury induces the expression of CaCCs in a subset of adult sensory neurons in primary culture including mechano- and proprioceptors, though not nociceptors. Functional screenings of potential candidate genes established that Best1 is a molecular determinant for CaCC expression among axotomized sensory neurons, while Tmem16a is acutely activated by inflammatory mediators in nociceptors. In nociceptors, such CaCCs are preferentially activated under receptor-induced calcium mobilization contributing to cell excitability and pain. In axotomized mechano- and proprioceptors, CaCC activation does not promote electrical activity and prevents firing, a finding consistent with electrical silencing for growth competence of adult sensory neurons. In favor of a role in the process of neurite growth, CaCC expression is temporally correlated to neurons displaying a regenerative mode of growth. This perspective focuses on the molecular identity and role of CaCC in axotomized sensory neurons and the future directions to decipher the cellular mechanisms regulating CaCC during neurite (re)growth.
Activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) belongs to the ATF/cyclic AMP responsive element binding family of transcription factors and is often described as an adaptive response gene whose activity is usually regulated by stressful stimuli. Although expressed in a number of splice variants and generally recognized as a transcriptional repressor, ATF3 has the ability to interact with a number of other transcription factors including c-Jun to form complexes which not only repress, but can also activate various genes. ATF3 expression is modulated mainly at the transcriptional level and has markedly different effects in different types of cell. The levels of ATF3 mRNA and protein are normally very low in neurons and glia but their expression is rapidly upregulated in response to injury. ATF3 expression in neurons is closely linked to their survival and the regeneration of their axons following axotomy, and that in peripheral nerves correlates with the generation of a Schwann cell phenotype that is conducive to axonal regeneration. ATF3 is also induced by Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands but acts as a negative regulator of TLR signaling, suppressing the innate immune response which is involved in immuno-surveillance and can enhance or reduce the survival of injured neurons and promote the regeneration of their axons.
Neuronal calcium sensor (NCS) proteins, a sub-branch of the calmodulin superfamily, are expressed in the brain and retina where they transduce calcium signals and are genetically linked to degenerative diseases. The amino acid sequences of NCS proteins are highly conserved but their physiological functions are quite different. Retinal recoverin controls Ca(2) (+)-dependent inactivation of light-excited rhodopsin during phototransduction, guanylyl cyclase activating proteins 1 and 2 (GCAP1 and GCAP2) promote Ca(2) (+)-dependent activation of retinal guanylyl cyclases, and neuronal frequenin (NCS-1) modulates synaptic activity and neuronal secretion. Here we review the molecular structures of myristoylated forms of NCS-1, recoverin, and GCAP1 that all look very different, suggesting that the attached myristoyl group helps to refold these highly homologous proteins into different three-dimensional folds. Ca(2) (+)-binding to both recoverin and NCS-1 cause large protein conformational changes that ejects the covalently attached myristoyl group into the solvent exterior and promotes membrane targeting (Ca(2) (+)-myristoyl switch). The GCAP proteins undergo much smaller Ca(2) (+)-induced conformational changes and do not possess a Ca(2) (+)-myristoyl switch. Recent structures of GCAP1 in both its activator and Ca(2) (+)-bound inhibitory states will be discussed to understand structural determinants that control their Ca(2) (+)-dependent activation of retinal guanylyl cyclases.
PI3K activation promotes the formation of synaptic contacts and dendritic spines, morphological features of glutamatergic synapses that are commonly known to be related to learning processes. In this report, we show that in vivo administration of a peptide that activates the PI3K signaling pathway increases spine density in the rat hippocampus and enhances the animals' cognitive abilities, while in vivo electrophysiological recordings show that PI3K activation results in synaptic enhancement of Schaffer and stratum lacunosum moleculare inputs. Morphological characterization of the spines reveals that subjecting the animals to contextual fear-conditioning training per se promotes the formation of large spines, while PI3K activation reverts this effect and favors a general change toward small head areas. Studies using hippocampal neuronal cultures show that the PI3K spinogenic process is NMDA-dependent and activity-independent. In culture, PI3K activation was followed by mRNA upregulation of glutamate receptor subunits and of the immediate-early gene Arc. Time-lapse studies confirmed the ability of PI3K to induce the formation of small spines. Finally, we demonstrate that the spinogenic effect of PI3K can be induced in the presence of neurodegeneration, such as in the Tg2576 Alzheimer's mouse model. These findings highlight that the PI3K pathway is an important regulator of neuronal connectivity and stress the relationship between spine size and learning processes.
Stefin B (cystatin B) is an endogenous inhibitor of cysteine proteinases localized in the nucleus and the cytosol. Loss-of-function mutations in the stefin B gene (CSTB) gene were reported in patients with Unverricht-Lundborg disease (EPM1). Our previous results showed that thymocytes isolated from stefin B-deficient mice are more sensitive to apoptosis induced by the protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor staurosporin (STS) than the wild-type control cells. We have also shown that the increased expression of stefin B in the nucleus of T98G astrocytoma cells delayed cell cycle progression through the S phase. In the present study we examined if the nuclear or cytosolic functions of stefin B are responsible for the accelerated induction of apoptosis observed in the cells from stefin B-deficient mice. We have shown that the overexpression of stefin B in the nucleus, but not in the cytosol of astrocytoma T98G cells, delayed caspase-3 and -7 activation. Pretreatment of cells with the pan-caspase inhibitor z-Val-Ala-Asp(OMe)-fluoromethylketone completely inhibited caspase activation, while treatment with the inhibitor of calpains- and papain-like cathepsins (2S,3S)-trans-epoxysuccinyl-leucylamido-3-methyl-butane ethyl ester did not prevent caspase activation. We concluded that the delay of caspase activation in T98G cells overexpressing stefin B in the nucleus is independent of cathepsin inhibition.
Early-life adversity increases the vulnerability to develop psychopathologies and cognitive decline later in life. This association is supported by clinical and preclinical studies. Remarkably, experiences of stress during this sensitive period, in the form of abuse or neglect but also early malnutrition or an early immune challenge elicit very similar long-term effects on brain structure and function. During early-life, both exogenous factors like nutrition and maternal care, as well as endogenous modulators, including stress hormones and mediator of immunological activity affect brain development. The interplay of these key elements and their underlying molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. We discuss here the hypothesis that exposure to early-life adversity (specifically stress, under/malnutrition and infection) leads to life-long alterations in hippocampal-related cognitive functions, at least partly via changes in hippocampal neurogenesis. We further discuss how these different key elements of the early-life environment interact and affect one another and suggest that it is a synergistic action of these elements that shapes cognition throughout life. Finally, we consider different intervention studies aiming to prevent these early-life adversity induced consequences. The emerging evidence for the intriguing interplay of stress, nutrition, and immune activity in the early-life programming calls for a more in depth understanding of the interaction of these elements and the underlying mechanisms. This knowledge will help to develop intervention strategies that will converge on a more complete set of changes induced by early-life adversity.
About 15 years ago it was proposed that generation of the truncated protein p25 contributes to toxicity in Alzheimer's disease (AD). p25 is a calcium-dependent degradation product of p35, the principal activator of cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5). The biochemical properties of p25 suggested that its generation would cause Cdk5 overactivation and tau hyperphosphorylation, a prerequisite for neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) formation. Whilst this model was appealing as it explained NFT formation, many laboratories could not confirm the finding of increased p25 generation in brain from AD patients. On the contrary, it emerged that p25 levels are reduced in AD. This reduction occurs primarily in the early stages of the disease. Further, p25 generation in the mouse hippocampus is associated with normal memory formation and p25 overexpression enhances synaptogenesis. Therefore, it transpires that p25 generation is a molecular memory mechanism that is impaired in early AD. I discuss the prospect that investigation of p25-regulated proteins will shed light into mechanisms underlying synaptic degeneration associated with memory decline in AD.
The biological function of the cholinesterase (ChE) enzymes has been studied since the beginning of the twentieth century. Acetylcholinesterase plays a key role in the modulation of neuromuscular impulse transmission in vertebrates, while in invertebrates pseudo cholinesterases are preeminently represented. During the last 40 years, awareness of the role of ChEs role in regulating non-neuromuscular cell-to-cell interactions has been increasing such as the ones occurring during gamete interaction and embryonic development. Moreover, ChE activities are responsible for other relevant biological events, including regulation of the balance between cell proliferation and cell death, as well as the modulation of cell adhesion and cell migration. Understanding the mechanisms of the regulation of these events can help us foresee the possible impact of neurotoxic substances on the environmental and human health.
All-trans retinoic acid (RA) plays important roles in brain development through regulating gene transcription. Recently, a novel post-developmental role of RA in mature brain was proposed. Specifically, RA rapidly enhanced excitatory synaptic transmission independent of transcriptional regulation. RA synthesis was induced when excitatory synaptic transmission was chronically blocked, and RA then activated dendritic protein synthesis and synaptic insertion of homomeric GluA1 AMPA receptors, thereby compensating for the loss of neuronal activity in a homeostatic fashion. This action of RA was suggested to be mediated by its canonical receptor RARα but no genetic evidence was available. Thus, we here tested the fundamental requirement of RARα in homeostatic plasticity using conditional RARα knockout (KO) mice, and additionally performed a structure-function analysis of RARα. We show that acutely deleting RARα in neurons eliminated RA's effect on excitatory synaptic transmission, and inhibited activity blockade-induced homeostatic synaptic plasticity. By expressing various RARα rescue constructs in RARα KO neurons, we found that the DNA-binding domain of RARα was dispensable for its role in regulating synaptic strength, further supporting the notion that RA and RARα act in a non-transcriptional manner in this context. By contrast, the ligand-binding domain (LBD) and the mRNA-binding domain (F-domain) are both necessary and sufficient for the function of RARα in homeostatic plasticity. Furthermore, we found that homeostatic regulation performed by the LBD/F-domains leads to insertion of calcium-permeable AMPA receptors. Our results confirm with unequivocal genetic approaches that RA and RARα perform essential non-transcriptional functions in regulating synaptic strength, and establish a functional link between the various domains of RARα and their involvement in regulating protein synthesis and excitatory synaptic transmission during homeostatic plasticity.
Ketamine is a N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist that produces rapid antidepressant responses in individuals with major depressive disorder. The antidepressant action of ketamine has been linked to blocking NMDAR activation at rest, which inhibits eukaryotic elongation factor 2 kinase leading to desuppression of protein synthesis and synaptic potentiation in the CA1 region of the hippocampus. Here, we investigated ketamine mediated antidepressant response and the resulting synaptic potentiation in juvenile animals. We found that ketamine did not produce an antidepressant response in juvenile animals in the novelty suppressed feeding or the forced swim test. In addition ketamine application failed to trigger synaptic potentiation in hippocampal slices obtained from juvenile animals, unlike its action in slices from adult animals. The inability of ketamine to trigger an antidepressant response or subsequent synaptic plasticity processes suggests a developmental component to ketamine mediated antidepressant efficacy. We also show that the NMDAR antagonist AP5 triggers synaptic potentiation in mature hippocampus similar to the action of ketamine, demonstrating that global competitive blockade of NMDARs is sufficient to trigger this effect. These findings suggest that global blockade of NMDARs in developmentally mature hippocampal synapses are required for the antidepressant efficacy of ketamine.
Guanylyl cyclase activating proteins (GCAPs) are calcium/magnesium binding proteins within neuronal calcium sensor proteins group (NCS) of the EF-hand proteins superfamily. GCAPs activate retinal guanylyl cyclase (RetGC) in vertebrate photoreceptors in response to light-dependent fall of the intracellular free Ca(2+) concentrations. GCAPs consist of four EF-hand domains and contain N-terminal fatty acylated glycine, which in GCAP1 is required for the normal activation of RetGC. We analyzed the effects of a substitution prohibiting N-myristoylation (Gly2 → Ala) on the ability of the recombinant GCAP1 to co-localize with its target enzyme when heterologously expressed in HEK293 cells. We also compared Ca(2+) binding and RetGC-activating properties of the purified non-acylated G2A mutant and C14:0 acylated GCAP1 in vitro. The G2A GCAP1 expressed with a C-terminal GFP tag was able to co-localize with the cyclase, albeit less efficiently than the wild type, but much less effectively stimulated cyclase activity in vitro. Ca(2+) binding isotherm of the G2A GCAP1 was slightly shifted toward higher free Ca(2+) concentrations and so was Ca(2+) sensitivity of RetGC reconstituted with the G2A mutant. At the same time, myristoylation had little effect on the high-affinity Ca(2+)-binding in the EF-hand proximal to the myristoyl residue in three-dimensional GCAP1 structure. These data indicate that the N-terminal fatty acyl group may alter the activity of EF-hands in the distal portion of the GCAP1 molecule via presently unknown intramolecular mechanism.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the most common adult-onset motor neuron disease. More than 90% of ALS cases are sporadic, and the majority of sporadic ALS patients do not carry mutations in genes causative of familial ALS; therefore, investigation specifically targeting sporadic ALS is needed to discover the pathogenesis. The motor neurons of sporadic ALS patients express unedited GluA2 mRNA at the Q/R site in a disease-specific and motor neuron-selective manner. GluA2 is a subunit of the AMPA receptor, and it has a regulatory role in the Ca(2+)-permeability of the AMPA receptor after the genomic Q codon is replaced with the R codon in mRNA by adenosine-inosine conversion, which is mediated by adenosine deaminase acting on RNA 2 (ADAR2). Therefore, ADAR2 activity may not be sufficient to edit all GluA2 mRNA expressed in the motor neurons of ALS patients. To investigate whether deficient ADAR2 activity plays pathogenic roles in sporadic ALS, we generated genetically modified mice (AR2) in which the ADAR2 gene was conditionally knocked out in the motor neurons. AR2 mice showed an ALS-like phenotype with the death of ADAR2-lacking motor neurons. Notably, the motor neurons deficient in ADAR2 survived when they expressed only edited GluA2 in AR2/GluR-B(R/R) (AR2res) mice, in which the endogenous GluA2 alleles were replaced by the GluR-B(R) allele that encoded edited GluA2. In heterozygous AR2 mice with only one ADAR2 allele, approximately 20% of the spinal motor neurons expressed unedited GluA2 and underwent degeneration, indicating that half-normal ADAR2 activity is not sufficient to edit all GluA2 expressed in motor neurons. It is likely therefore that the expression of unedited GluA2 causes the death of motor neurons in sporadic ALS. We hypothesize that a progressive downregulation of ADAR2 activity plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of sporadic ALS and that the pathological process commences when motor neurons express unedited GluA2.
Trinucleotide-repeat expansion diseases (TREDs) are a group of inherited human genetic disorders normally involving late-onset neurological/neurodegenerative affectation. Trinucleotide-repeat expansions occur in coding and non-coding regions of unique genes that typically result in protein and RNA toxic gain of function, respectively. In polyglutamine (polyQ) disorders caused by an expanded CAG repeat in the coding region of specific genes, neuronal dysfunction has been traditionally linked to the long polyQ stretch. However, a number of evidences suggest a detrimental role of the expanded/mutant mRNA, which may contribute to cell function impairment. In this review we describe the mechanisms of RNA-induced toxicity in TREDs with special focus in small-non-coding RNA pathogenic mechanisms and we summarize and comment on translational approaches targeting the expanded trinucleotide-repeat for disease modifying therapies.
Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder which consists of compulsive patterns of drug-seeking and taking that occurs at the expense of other activities. The transition from casual to compulsive drug use and the enduring propensity to relapse is thought to be underpinned by long-lasting neuroadaptations in specific brain circuitry, analogous to those that underlie long-term memory formation. Research spanning the last two decades has made great progress in identifying cellular and molecular mechanisms that contribute to drug-induced changes in plasticity and behavior. Alterations in synaptic transmission within the mesocorticolimbic and corticostriatal pathways, and changes in the transcriptional potential of cells by epigenetic mechanisms are two important means by which drugs of abuse can induce lasting changes in behavior. In this review we provide a summary of more recent research that has furthered our understanding of drug-induced neuroplastic changes both at the level of the synapse, and on a transcriptional level, and how these changes may relate to the human disease of addiction.