Elizabeth A Roberts

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, United States

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Publications (13)176.15 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An unresolved issue about many neurodegenerative diseases is why neurons are particularly sensitive to defects in ubiquitous cellular processes. One example is Niemann Pick type C1, caused by defects in cholesterol trafficking in all cells, but where neurons are preferentially damaged. Understanding this selective failure is limited by the difficulty in obtaining live human neurons from affected patients. To solve this problem, we generated neurons with decreased function of NPC1 from human embryonic stem cells and used them to test the hypothesis that defective cholesterol handling leads to enhanced pathological phenotypes in neurons. We found that human NPC1 neurons have strong spontaneous activation of autophagy, and, contrary to previous reports in patient fibroblasts, a block of autophagic progression leading to defective mitochondrial clearance. Mitochondrial fragmentation is an exceptionally severe phenotype in NPC1 neurons compared with fibroblasts, causing abnormal accumulation of mitochondrial proteins. Contrary to expectation, these abnormal phenotypes were rescued by treatment with the autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine and by treatment with the potential therapeutic cyclodextrin, which mobilizes cholesterol from the lysosomal compartment. Our findings suggest that neurons are especially sensitive to lysosomal cholesterol accumulation because of autophagy disruption and accumulation of fragmented mitochondria, thus defining a new route to effective drug development for NPC1 disease.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2012 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Overexpression of amyloid precursor protein (APP), as well as mutations in the APP and presenilin genes, causes rare forms of Alzheimer's disease (AD). These genetic changes have been proposed to cause AD by elevating levels of amyloid-beta peptides (Abeta), which are thought to be neurotoxic. Since overexpression of APP also causes defects in axonal transport, we tested whether defects in axonal transport were the result of Abeta poisoning of the axonal transport machinery. Because directly varying APP levels also alters APP domains in addition to Abeta, we perturbed Abeta generation selectively by combining APP transgenes in Drosophila and mice with presenilin-1 (PS1) transgenes harboring mutations that cause familial AD (FAD). We found that combining FAD mutant PS1 with FAD mutant APP increased Abeta42/Abeta40 ratios and enhanced amyloid deposition as previously reported. Surprisingly, however, this combination suppressed rather than increased APP-induced axonal transport defects in both Drosophila and mice. In addition, neuronal apoptosis induced by expression of FAD mutant human APP in Drosophila was suppressed by co-expressing FAD mutant PS1. We also observed that directly elevating Abeta with fusions to the Familial British and Danish Dementia-related BRI protein did not enhance axonal transport phenotypes in APP transgenic mice. Finally, we observed that perturbing Abeta ratios in the mouse by combining FAD mutant PS1 with FAD mutant APP did not enhance APP-induced behavioral defects. A potential mechanism to explain these findings was suggested by direct analysis of axonal transport in the mouse, which revealed that axonal transport or entry of APP into axons is reduced by FAD mutant PS1. Thus, we suggest that APP-induced axonal defects are not caused by Abeta.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2008 · Human Molecular Genetics
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dominant mutations in ubiquitously expressed superoxide dismutase (SOD1) cause familial ALS by provoking premature death of adult motor neurons. To test whether mutant damage to cell types beyond motor neurons is required for the onset of motor neuron disease, we generated chimeric mice in which all motor neurons and oligodendrocytes expressed mutant SOD1 at a level sufficient to cause fatal, early-onset motor neuron disease when expressed ubiquitously, but did so in a cellular environment containing variable numbers of non-mutant, non-motor neurons. Despite high-level mutant expression within 100% of motor neurons and oligodendrocytes, in most of these chimeras, the presence of WT non-motor neurons substantially delayed onset of motor neuron degeneration, increasing disease-free life by 50%. Disease onset is therefore non-cell autonomous, and mutant SOD1 damage within cell types other than motor neurons and oligodendrocytes is a central contributor to initiation of motor neuron degeneration.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2008 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Kinesin-2 function is essential for photoreceptor cell viability. The removal of one of the kinesin-2 motor proteins, KIF3A, by photoreceptor-specific conditional mutagenesis, has been shown to cause rapid photoreceptor cell degeneration. We have explored the possibility that the genes encoding the kinesin-2 motor proteins (KIF3A, KIF3B, and KIF3C)are linked to retinal disease, by examining retinas of knockout mice. We conclude that the reduced KIF3A and KIF3B in heterozygous animals, or the complete absence of KIF3C in homozygous animals does not affect photoreceptor cell survival. Photoreceptor cell death seems to be limited to conditions that, if systemic, are embryonic lethal, indicating that reduced function of the kinesin-2 motor genes is unlikely to underlie inherited retinal degeneration.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2006 · Experimental Eye Research
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The most common form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease affecting adult motor neurons, is caused by dominant mutations in the ubiquitously expressed Cu-Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD1). In chimeric mice that are mixtures of normal and SOD1 mutant–expressing cells, toxicity to motor neurons is shown to require damage from mutant SOD1 acting within nonneuronal cells. Normal motor neurons in SOD1 mutant chimeras develop aspects of ALS pathology. Most important, nonneuronal cells that do not express mutant SOD1 delay degeneration and significantly extend survival of mutant-expressing motor neurons.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2003 · Science
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To test the hypothesis that fast anterograde molecular motor proteins power the slow axonal transport of neurofilaments (NFs), we used homologous recombination to generate mice lacking the neuronal-specific conventional kinesin heavy chain, KIF5A. Because null KIF5A mutants die immediately after birth, a synapsin-promoted Cre-recombinase transgene was used to direct inactivation of KIF5A in neurons postnatally. Three fourths of such mutant mice exhibited seizures and death at around 3 wk of age; the remaining animals survived to 3 mo or longer. In young mutant animals, fast axonal transport appeared to be intact, but NF-H, as well as NF-M and NF-L, accumulated in the cell bodies of peripheral sensory neurons accompanied by a reduction in sensory axon caliber. Older animals also developed age-dependent sensory neuron degeneration, an accumulation of NF subunits in cell bodies and a reduction in axons, loss of large caliber axons, and hind limb paralysis. These data support the hypothesis that a conventional kinesin plays a role in the microtubule-dependent slow axonal transport of at least one cargo, the NF proteins.
    Full-text · Article · May 2003 · The Journal of Cell Biology
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Proteolytic processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP) generates amyloid-beta peptide and has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. However, the normal function of APP, whether this function is related to the proteolytic processing of APP, and where this processing takes place in neurons in vivo remain unknown. We have previously shown that the axonal transport of APP in neurons is mediated by the direct binding of APP to the kinesin light chain subunit of kinesin-I, a microtubule motor protein. Here we identify an axonal membrane compartment that contains APP, beta-secretase and presenilin-1. The fast anterograde axonal transport of this compartment is mediated by APP and kinesin-I. Proteolytic processing of APP can occur in the compartment in vitro and in vivo in axons. This proteolysis generates amyloid-beta and a carboxy-terminal fragment of APP, and liberates kinesin-I from the membrane. These results suggest that APP functions as a kinesin-I membrane receptor, mediating the axonal transport of beta-secretase and presenilin-1, and that processing of APP to amyloid-beta by secretases can occur in an axonal membrane compartment transported by kinesin-I.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2002 · Nature
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Members of the kinesin II family are thought to play essential roles in many types of intracellular transport. One distinguishing feature of kinesin II is that it generally contains two different motor subunits from the Kif3 family. Three Kif3 family members (Kif3A, Kif3B, and Kif3C) have been identified and characterized in mice. Intracellular localization and biochemical studies previously suggested that Kif3C is an anterograde motor involved in anterograde axonal transport. To understand the in vivo function of the Kif3C gene, we used homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells to construct two different knockout mouse strains for the Kif3C gene. Both homozygous Kif3C mutants are viable, reproduce normally, and apparently develop normally. These results suggest that Kif3C is dispensable for normal neural development and behavior in the mouse.
    Preview · Article · Sep 2001 · Molecular and Cellular Biology
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    Zhaohuai Yang · Elizabeth A. Roberts · Lawrence S. B. Goldstein
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Proteins of the kinesin superfamily define a class of microtubule-dependent motors that play crucial roles in cell division and intracellular transport. In the mouse, several kinesin motors have been characterized and are suggested to play roles in axonal and/or dendritic transport. One such kinesin is KifC2. Sequence and secondary structure analysis revealed that KifC2 is a member of the C-terminal motor family. Northern and Western blot analyses indicated that KifC2 is specifically expressed in both the central and peripheral nervous systems. The cellular locations of the KifC2 proteins were found to be mainly in neural cell bodies and dendrites but also in axons. To understand the in vivo function of the KifC2 gene, we used homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells to construct knockout mouse strains for the KifC2 gene. HomozygousKifC2 mutants were viable and reproduced normally, and their development was apparently normal. These results suggest that KifC2 is dispensable for normal neural development and behavior in the mouse.
    Preview · Article · May 2001 · Molecular and Cellular Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Proteins of the kinesin superfamily define a class of microtubule-dependent motors that play crucial roles in cell division and intracellular transport. To study the molecular mechanism of intracellular transport involving microtubule-dependent motors, a cDNA encoding a new kinesin-like protein called KifC3 was cloned from a mouse brain cDNA library. Sequence and secondary structure analysis revealed that KifC3 is a member of the C-terminal motor family. In contrast to other mouse C-terminal motors, KifC3 is apparently ubiquitous and may have a general role in intracellular transport. To understand the in vivo function of the KifC3 gene, we used homologous recombination in embryonic stem cells to construct knockout mouse strains for the KifC3 gene. Homozygous mutants of theKifC3 gene are viable, reproduce normally, and apparently develop normally. These results suggest that KifC3 is dispensable for normal development and reproduction in the mouse.
    Preview · Article · Mar 2001 · Molecular and Cellular Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To test whether kinesin-II is important for transport in the mammalian photoreceptor cilium, and to identify its potential cargoes, we used Cre-loxP mutagenesis to remove the kinesin-II subunit, KIF3A, specifically from photoreceptors. Complete loss of KIF3A caused large accumulations of opsin, arrestin, and membranes within the photoreceptor inner segment, while the localization of alpha-transducin was unaffected. Other membrane, organelle, and transport markers, as well as opsin processing appeared normal. Loss of KIF3A ultimately caused apoptotic photoreceptor cell death similar to a known opsin transport mutant. The data suggest that kinesin-II is required to transport opsin and arrestin from the inner to the outer segment and that blocks in this transport pathway lead to photoreceptor cell death as found in retinitis pigmentosa.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2000 · Cell
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    Amena Rahman · Adeela Kamal · Elizabeth A. Roberts · Lawrence S.B. Goldstein
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Conventional kinesin, kinesin-I, is a heterotetramer of two kinesin heavy chain (KHC) subunits (KIF5A, KIF5B, or KIF5C) and two kinesin light chain (KLC) subunits. While KHC contains the motor activity, the role of KLC remains unknown. It has been suggested that KLC is involved in either modulation of KHC activity or in cargo binding. Previously, we characterized KLC genes in mouse (Rahman, A., D.S. Friedman, and L.S. Goldstein. 1998. J. Biol. Chem. 273:15395-15403). Of the two characterized gene products, KLC1 was predominant in neuronal tissues, whereas KLC2 showed a more ubiquitous pattern of expression. To define the in vivo role of KLC, we generated KLC1 gene-targeted mice. Removal of functional KLC1 resulted in significantly smaller mutant mice that also exhibited pronounced motor disabilities. Biochemical analyses demonstrated that KLC1 mutant mice have a pool of KIF5A not associated with any known KLC subunit. Immunofluorescence studies of sensory and motor neuron cell bodies in KLC1 mutants revealed that KIF5A colocalized aberrantly with the peripheral cis-Golgi marker giantin in mutant cells. Striking changes and aberrant colocalization were also observed in the intracellular distribution of KIF5B and beta'-COP, a component of COP1 coatomer. Taken together, these data best support models that suggest that KLC1 is essential for proper KHC activation or targeting.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 1999 · The Journal of Cell Biology
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The embryonic cellular events that set the asymmetry of the genetic control circuit controlling left-right (L-R) axis determination in mammals are poorly understood. New insight into this problem was obtained by analyzing mouse mutants lacking the KIF3A motor subunit of the kinesin-II motor complex. Embryos lacking KIF3A die at 10 days postcoitum, exhibit randomized establishment of L-R asymmetry, and display numerous structural abnormalities. The earliest detectable abnormality in KIF3A mutant embryos is found at day 7.5, where scanning electron microscopy reveals loss of cilia ordinarily present on cells of the wild-type embryonic node, which is thought to play an important role in setting the initial L-R asymmetry. This cellular phenotype is observed before the earliest reported time of asymmetric expression of markers of the L-R signaling pathway. These observations demonstrate that the kinesin-based transport pathway needed for flagellar and ciliary morphogenesis is conserved from Chlamydomonas to mammals and support the view that embryonic cilia play a role in the earliest cellular determinative events establishing L-R asymmetry.
    Full-text · Article · May 1999 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences