Pathways to neurodegeneration: Mechanistic insights from GWAS in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and related disorders

ArticleinAmerican Journal of Neurodegenerative Diseases 2(3):145-175 · October 2013with73 Reads
Source: PubMed
The discovery of causative genetic mutations in affected family members has historically dominated our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Nevertheless, most cases of neurodegenerative disease are not explained by Mendelian inheritance of known genetic variants, but instead are thought to have a complex etiology with numerous genetic and environmental factors contributing to susceptibility. Although unbiased genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified novel associations to neurodegenerative diseases, most of these hits explain only modest fractions of disease heritability. In addition, despite the substantial overlap of clinical and pathologic features among major neurodegenerative diseases, surprisingly few GWAS-implicated variants appear to exhibit cross-disease association. These realities suggest limitations of the focus on individual genetic variants and create challenges for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, which traditionally target an isolated molecule or mechanistic step. Recently, GWAS of complex diseases and traits have focused less on individual susceptibility variants and instead have emphasized the biological pathways and networks revealed by genetic associations. This new paradigm draws on the hypothesis that fundamental disease processes may be influenced on a personalized basis by a combination of variants - some common and others rare, some protective and others deleterious - in key genes and pathways. Here, we review and synthesize the major pathways implicated in neurodegeneration, focusing on GWAS from the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders, AD and PD. Using literature mining, we also discover a novel regulatory network that is enriched with AD- and PD-associated genes and centered on the SP1 and AP-1 (Jun/Fos) transcription factors. Overall, this pathway- and network-driven model highlights several potential shared mechanisms in AD and PD that will inform future studies of these and other neurodegenerative disorders. These insights also suggest that biomarker and treatment strategies may require simultaneous targeting of multiple components, including some specific to disease stage, in order to assess and modulate neurodegeneration. Pathways and networks will provide ideal vehicles for integrating relevant findings from GWAS and other modalities to enhance clinical translation.
    • "Sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD) represents the most prevalent form of dementia in the elderly, with several hypotheses being proposed to explain its etiopathogenesis. These hypotheses have focused either on the role of amyloid β, hyperphosphorylated and truncated tau protein, neuroinflammation, altered insulin signalization, impaired blood-brain barrier permeability, or other related factors and mechanisms [1, 2]. However, despite such enormous scientific effort, the primary factors responsible for the development of AD still remain only vaguely defined. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Brain norepinephrine (NE) plays an important role in the modulation of stress response and neuroinflammation. Recent studies indicate that in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the tau neuropathology begins in the locus coeruleus (LC) which is the main source of brain NE. Therefore, we investigated the changes in brain NE system and also the immune status under basal and stress conditions in transgenic rats over-expressing the human truncated tau protein. Brainstem catecholaminergic cell groups (LC, A1, and A2) and forebrain subcortical (nucleus basalis of Meynert), hippocampal (cornu ammonis, dentate gyrus), and neocortical areas (frontal and temporal association cortices) were analyzed for NE and interleukin 6 (IL-6) mRNA levels in unstressed rats and also in rats exposed to single or repeated immobilization. Moreover, gene expression of NE-biosynthetic enzyme, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), and several pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators were determined in the LC. It was found that tauopathy reduced basal NE levels in forebrain areas, while the gene expression of IL-6 was increased in all selected areas at the same time. The differences between wild-type and transgenic rats in brain NE and IL-6 mRNA levels were observed in stressed animals as well. Tauopathy increased also the gene expression of TH in the LC. In addition, the LC exhibited exaggerated expression of pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators (IL-6, TNFα, inducible nitric oxide synthases 2 (iNOS2), and interleukin 10 (IL-10)) in transgenic rats suggesting that tauopathy affects also the immune background in LC. Positive correlation between NE and IL-6 mRNA levels in cornu ammonis in stressed transgenic animals indicated the reduction of anti-inflammatory effect of NE. Our data thus showed that tauopathy alters the functions of LC further leading to the reduction of NE levels and exaggeration of neuroinflammation in forebrain. These findings support the assumption that tau-related dysfunction of LC activates the vicious circle perpetuating neurodegeneration leading to the development of AD.
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    • "Despite enormous advances in brain research, brain and CNS disorders remain the world's leading cause of disability, and account for more hospitalizations and prolonged care than almost all other diseases combined. Similarly to oncology, one of the main issues is inadequacy of currently available clinical treatments due to poor predictability of animal models for human CNS diseases [1][2][3][4][5]. The brain is a delicate organ which is protected by the dynamic blood-brain barrier (BBB) not only against the entry of intrusive chemicals (unwanted substances) but also the transport of drugs from the blood circulation (influx and efflux transporter mechanisms) [6]. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: For several decades, the treatment of central nervous system (CNS) disorders such as, for instance, Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Huntington’s disease (HD), and Parkinson’s disease (PD) represented an important challenge due to the difficulty in delivering drug molecules and imaging agents to the brain. Two strategies have been developed aimed at achieving the efficient delivery of drugs to the brain: invasive (e.g., temporary osmotic Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) opening, direct local delivery of nanoparticles with encapsulated CNS drugs etc.) and noninvasive approaches. As a part of the noninvasive approach among systemic delivery of drug molecules across BBB using nanocarriers, dendrimers represent promising therapeutics agents per se or nanocarriers of CNS drugs and for gene therapies. This original review emphasizes and analyzes the use of dendrimers as promising systems in the treatment of AD and PD, ischemia/reperfusion injury, neuroinflammation including cerebral palsy, neurological injury after cardiac surgery and particularly after hypothermic circulatory arrest, and for retinal degeneration purposes.
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    • "Of most importance, genetic factors (copy number variants and alternative splicing) and epigenetic factors (DNA methylation, histone modification and small nuclear RNAs) have also been found to be implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases [8]. In association to the conventional techniques, the involvement of genetic and epigenetic factors in mediating AD and PD have been extensively studied using genome wide association studies and next generation sequencing [9]. These processes not only helped examining several mechanistic events in the pathobiology of the neurodegenerative diseases, but also provided a clear path to the future therapeutics. "
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