NeuroBioBank Publications

All published scientific findings derived from tissues and/or data obtained through the NeuroBioBank must acknowledge the NIH NeuroBioBank as the source.


Coordinate regulation of mutant NPC1 degradation by selective ER autophagy and MARCH6-dependent ERAD.
Sept. 2018

Abstract:

Niemann-Pick type C disease is a fatal, progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations in NPC1, a multipass transmembrane glycoprotein essential for intracellular lipid trafficking. We sought to define the cellular machinery controlling degradation of the most common disease-causing mutant, I1061T NPC1. We show that this mutant is degraded, in part, by the proteasome following MARCH6-dependent ERAD. Unexpectedly, we demonstrate that I1061T NPC1 is also degraded by a recently described autophagic pathway called selective ER autophagy (ER-phagy). We establish the importance of ER-phagy both in vitro and in vivo, and identify I1061T as a misfolded endogenous substrate for this FAM134B-dependent process. Subcellular fractionation of I1061T Npc1 mouse tissues and analysis of human samples show alterations of key components of ER-phagy, including FAM134B. Our data establish that I1061T NPC1 is recognized in the ER and degraded by two different pathways that function in a complementary fashion to regulate protein turnover.

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Mitofusin 2 Regulates Axonal Transport of Calpastatin to Prevent Neuromuscular Synaptic Elimination in Skeletal Muscles.
Sept. 2018

Abstract:

Skeletal muscles undergo atrophy in response to diseases and aging. Here we report that mitofusin 2 (Mfn2) acts as a dominant suppressor of neuromuscular synaptic loss to preserve skeletal muscles. Mfn2 is reduced in spinal cords of transgenic SOD1G93A and aged mice. Through preserving neuromuscular synapses, increasing neuronal Mfn2 prevents skeletal muscle wasting in both SOD1G93A and aged mice, whereas deletion of neuronal Mfn2 produces neuromuscular synaptic dysfunction and skeletal muscle atrophy. Neuromuscular synaptic loss after sciatic nerve transection can also be alleviated by Mfn2. Mfn2 coexists with calpastatin largely in mitochondria-associated membranes (MAMs) to regulate its axonal transport. Genetic inactivation of calpastatin abolishes Mfn2-mediated protection of neuromuscular synapses. Our results suggest that, as a potential key component of a novel and heretofore unrecognized mechanism of cytoplasmic protein transport, Mfn2 may play a general role in preserving neuromuscular synapses and serve as a common therapeutic target for skeletal muscle atrophy.

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Transcriptional profiling of HERV-K(HML-2) in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and potential implications for expression of HML-2 proteins.
Aug. 2018

Abstract:

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. About 90% of ALS cases are without a known genetic cause. The human endogenous retrovirus multi-copy HERV-K(HML-2) group was recently reported to potentially contribute to neurodegeneration and disease pathogenesis in ALS because of transcriptional upregulation and toxic effects of HML-2 Envelope (Env) protein. Env and other proteins are encoded by some transcriptionally active HML-2 loci. However, more detailed information is required regarding which HML-2 loci are transcribed in ALS, which of their proteins are expressed, and differences between the disease and non-disease states. Our results expand and refine recent publications on HERV-K(HML-2) and ALS. Some of our results are in conflict with recent findings and call for further specific analyses. Our profiling of HML-2 transcription in ALS opens up the possibility that HML-2 proteins other than canonical full-length Env may have to be considered when studying the role of HML-2 in ALS disease.

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α2δ-1 Is Essential for Sympathetic Output and NMDA Receptor Activity Potentiated by Angiotensin II in the Hypothalamus.
July 2018

Abstract:

Both the sympathetic nervous system and the renin-angiotensin system are critically involved in hypertension development. Although angiotensin II (Ang II) stimulates hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) neurons to increase sympathetic vasomotor tone, the molecular mechanism mediating this action remains unclear. The glutamate NMDAR in the PVN controls sympathetic outflow in hypertension. In this study, we determined the interaction between α2δ-1 (encoded by Cacna2d1), commonly known as a Ca2+ channel subunit, and NMDARs in the hypothalamus and its role in Ang II-induced synaptic NMDAR activity in PVN presympathetic neurons. Coimmunoprecipitation assays showed that α2δ-1 interacted with the NMDAR in the hypothalamus of male rats and humans (both sexes). Ang II increased the prevalence of synaptic α2δ-1-NMDAR complexes in the hypothalamus. Also, Ang II increased presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDAR activity via AT1 receptors, and such effects were abolished either by treatment with pregabalin, an inhibitory α2δ-1 ligand, or by interrupting the α2δ-1-NMDAR interaction with an α2δ-1 C terminus-interfering peptide. In Cacna2d1 knock-out mice (both sexes), Ang II failed to affect the presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDAR activity of PVN neurons. In addition, the α2δ-1 C terminus-interfering peptide blocked the sympathoexcitatory response to microinjection of Ang II into the PVN. Our findings indicate that Ang II augments sympathetic vasomotor tone and excitatory glutamatergic input to PVN presympathetic neurons by stimulating α2δ-1-bound NMDARs at synapses. This information extends our understanding of the molecular basis for the interaction between the sympathetic nervous and renin-angiotensin systems and suggests new strategies for treating neurogenic hypertension.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Although both the sympathetic nervous system and renin-angiotensin system are closely involved in hypertension development, the molecular mechanisms mediating this involvement remain unclear. We showed that α2δ-1, previously known as a calcium channel subunit, interacts with NMDARs in the hypothalamus of rodents and humans. Angiotensin II (Ang II) increases the synaptic expression level of α2δ-1-NMDAR complexes. Furthermore, inhibiting α2δ-1, interrupting the α2δ-1-NMDAR interaction, or deleting α2δ-1 abolishes the potentiating effects of Ang II on presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDAR activity in the hypothalamus. In addition, the sympathoexcitatory response to Ang II depends on α2δ-1-bound NMDARs. Thus, α2δ-1-NMDAR complexes in the hypothalamus serve as an important molecular substrate for the interaction between the sympathetic nervous system and the renin-angiotensin system. This evidence suggests that α2δ-1 may be a useful target for the treatment neurogenic hypertension.

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Role of miR-146a in neural stem cell differentiation and neural lineage determination: relevance for neurodevelopmental disorders.
June 2018

Abstract:

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small, non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. miRNAs have emerged as important modulators of brain development and neuronal function and are implicated in several neurological diseases. Previous studies found miR-146a upregulation is the most common miRNA deregulation event in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), epilepsy, and intellectual disability (ID). Yet, how miR-146a upregulation affects the developing fetal brain remains unclear. We analyzed the expression of miR-146a in the temporal lobe of ASD children using Taqman assay. To assess the role of miR-146a in early brain development, we generated and characterized stably induced H9 human neural stem cell (H9 hNSC) overexpressing miR-146a using various cell and molecular biology techniques.

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Increased glia density in the caudate nucleus in williams syndrome: Implications for frontostriatal dysfunction in autism.
May 2018

Abstract:

Williams drome (WS) is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder with a well-described, known genetic etiology. In contrast to Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), WS has a unique phenotype characterized by global reductions in IQ and visuospatial ability, with relatively preserved language function, enhanced reactivity to social stimuli and music, and an unusual eagerness to interact socially with strangers. A duplication of the deleted region in WS has been implicated in a subset of ASD cases, defining a spectrum of genetic and behavioral variation at this locus defined by these opposite extremes in social behavior. The hypersociability characteristic of WS may be linked to abnormalities of frontostriatal circuitry that manifest as deficits in inhibitory control of behavior. Here, we examined the density of neurons and glia in associative and limbic territories of the striatum including the caudate, putamen, and nucleus accumbens regions in Nissl stained sections in five pairs of age, sex, and hemisphere-matched WS and typically-developing control (TD) subjects. In contrast to what is reported in ASD, no significant increase in overall neuron density was observed in this study. However, we found a significant increase in the density of glia in the dorsal caudate nucleus, and in the ratio of glia to neurons in the dorsal and medial caudate nucleus in WS, accompanied by a significant increase in density of oligodendrocytes in the medial caudate nucleus. These cellular abnormalities may underlie reduced frontostriatal activity observed in WS, with implications for understanding altered connectivity and function in ASD.

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Identification of novel circulatory microRNA signatures linked to patients with ischemic stroke.
Apr. 2018

Abstract:

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in growth, development, and occurrence and progression of many diseases. MiRNA mediated post-transcriptional regulation is poorly understood in vascular biology and pathology. The purpose of our study is to determine circulatory miRNAs as early detectable peripheral biomarkers in patients with ischemic stroke (IS). MiRNAs expression levels were measured in IS serum samples and healthy controls using Illumina deep sequencing analysis and identified differentially expressed miRNAs. Differentially expressed miRNAs were further validated using SYBR-green based quantitative real-time PCR assay (qRT-PCR) in postmortem IS brains, lymphoblastoid IS cell lines, OGD/R treated human and mouse neuroblastoma cells, and mouse models of hypoxia and ischemia (HI) induced stroke. A total of 4,656 miRNAs were differentially expressed in IS serum samples relative to healthy controls. Out of 4,656 miRNAs, 272 were found to be significantly deregulated in IS patients. Interestingly, we found several novel and previously unreported miRNAs in IS patients relative to healthy controls. Further analyses revealed that some candidate miRNAs and its target genes were involved in the regulation of the stroke. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study identified potential novel candidate miRNAs in IS serum samples from the residents of rural West Texas. MiRNAs identified in the present study could potentially be used as a biomarker and the development of novel therapeutic approaches for stroke. Further studies are necessary to better understand miRNAs-regulated stroke cellular changes.

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Neuron numbers increase in the human amygdala from birth to adulthood, but not in autism.
Apr. 2018

Abstract:

Remarkably little is known about the postnatal cellular development of the human amygdala. It plays a central role in mediating emotional behavior and has an unusually protracted development well into adulthood, increasing in size by 40% from youth to adulthood. Variation from this typical neurodevelopmental trajectory could have profound implications on normal emotional development. We report the results of a stereological analysis of the number of neurons in amygdala nuclei of 52 human brains ranging from 2 to 48 years of age [24 neurotypical and 28 autism spectrum disorder (ASD)]. In neurotypical development, the number of mature neurons in the basal and accessory basal nuclei increases from childhood to adulthood, coinciding with a decrease of immature neurons within the paralaminar nucleus. Individuals with ASD, in contrast, show an initial excess of amygdala neurons during childhood, followed by a reduction in adulthood across nuclei. We propose that there is a long-term contribution of mature neurons from the paralaminar nucleus to other nuclei of the neurotypical human amygdala and that this growth trajectory may be altered in ASD, potentially underlying the volumetric changes detected in ASD and other neurodevelopmental or neuropsychiatric disorders.

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Effect of Postmortem Interval and Years in Storage on RNA Quality of Tissue at a Repository of the NIH NeuroBioBank.
Apr. 2018

Abstract:

Brain tissue from 1068 donors was analyzed for RNA quality as a function of postmortem interval (PMI) and years in storage. Approximately 83% of the cortical and cerebellar samples had an RNA integrity number (RIN) of 6 or greater, indicating their likely suitability for real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction research. The average RIN value was independent of the PMI, up to at least 36 hours. The RNA quality for specific donated brains could not be predicted based on the PMI. Individual samples with a low PMI could have a poor RIN value, while a sample with a PMI over 36 hours may have a high RIN value. The RIN values for control brain donors, all of whom died suddenly and unexpectedly, were marginally higher than for individuals with clinical brain disorders. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis of samples confirmed that RIN values were more critical than PMI for determining suitability of tissue for molecular biological studies and samples should be matched by their RIN values rather than PMI. Importantly, PCR analysis established that tissue stored up to 23 years at -80°C yielded high-quality RNA. These results confirm that postmortem human brain tissue collected by brain and tissue banks over decades can serve as high quality material for the study of human disorders.

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Social deficits in Shank3-deficient mouse models of autism are rescued by histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition
Apr. 2018

Abstract:

Haploinsufficiency of the SHANK3 gene is causally linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and ASD-associated genes are also enriched for chromatin remodelers. Here we found that brief treatment with romidepsin, a highly potent class I histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, alleviated social deficits in Shank3-deficient mice, which persisted for ~3 weeks. HDAC2 transcription was upregulated in these mice, and knockdown of HDAC2 in prefrontal cortex also rescued their social deficits. Nuclear localization of β-catenin, a Shank3-binding protein that regulates cell adhesion and transcription, was increased in Shank3-deficient mice, which induced HDAC2 upregulation and social deficits. At the downstream molecular level, romidepsin treatment elevated the expression and histone acetylation of Grin2a and actin-regulatory genes and restored NMDA-receptor function and actin filaments in Shank3-deficient mice. Taken together, these findings highlight an epigenetic mechanism underlying social deficits linked to Shank3 deficiency, which may suggest potential therapeutic strategies for ASD patients bearing SHANK3 mutations.

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A Transcriptomic Signature of the Hypothalamic Response to Fasting and BDNF Deficiency in Prader-Willi Syndrome.
Mar. 2018

Abstract:

Transcriptional analysis of brain tissue from people with molecularly defined causes of obesity may highlight disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets. We performed RNA sequencing of hypothalamus from individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), a genetic obesity syndrome characterized by severe hyperphagia. We found that upregulated genes overlap with the transcriptome of mouse Agrp neurons that signal hunger, while downregulated genes overlap with the expression profile of Pomc neurons activated by feeding. Downregulated genes are expressed mainly in neuronal cells and contribute to neurogenesis, neurotransmitter release, and synaptic plasticity, while upregulated, predominantly microglial genes are involved in inflammatory responses. This transcriptional signature may be mediated by reduced brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression. Additionally, we implicate disruption of alternative splicing as a potential molecular mechanism underlying neuronal dysfunction in PWS. Transcriptomic analysis of the human hypothalamus may identify neural mechanisms involved in energy homeostasis and potential therapeutic targets for weight loss.

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Using single nuclei for RNA-seq to capture the transcriptome of postmortem neurons
Mar. 2018

Abstract:

A protocol is described for sequencing the transcriptome of a cell nucleus. Nuclei are isolated from specimens and sorted by FACS, cDNA libraries are constructed and RNA-seq is performed, followed by data analysis. Some steps follow published methods (Smart-seq2 for cDNA synthesis and Nextera XT barcoded library preparation) and are not described in detail here. Previous single-cell approaches for RNA-seq from tissues include cell dissociation using protease treatment at 30 °C, which is known to alter the transcriptome. We isolate nuclei at 4 °C from tissue homogenates, which cause minimal damage. Nuclear transcriptomes can be obtained from postmortem human brain tissue stored at -80 °C, making brain archives accessible for RNA-seq from individual neurons. The method also allows investigation of biological features unique to nuclei, such as enrichment of certain transcripts and precursors of some noncoding RNAs. By following this procedure, it takes about 4 d to construct cDNA libraries that are ready for sequencing.

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Striatal neurons directly converted from Huntington's disease patient fibroblasts recapitulate age-associated disease phenotypes
Mar. 2018

Abstract:

In Huntington's disease (HD), expansion of CAG codons in the huntingtin gene (HTT) leads to the aberrant formation of protein aggregates and the differential degeneration of striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs). Modeling HD using patient-specific MSNs has been challenging, as neurons differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells are free of aggregates and lack an overt cell death phenotype. Here we generated MSNs from HD patient fibroblasts through microRNA-based direct neuronal conversion, bypassing the induction of pluripotency and retaining age signatures of the original fibroblasts. We found that patient MSNs consistently exhibited mutant HTT (mHTT) aggregates, mHTT-dependent DNA damage, mitochondrial dysfunction and spontaneous degeneration in culture over time. We further provide evidence that erasure of age stored in starting fibroblasts or neuronal conversion of presymptomatic HD patient fibroblasts results in differential manifestation of cellular phenotypes associated with HD, highlighting the importance of age in modeling late-onset neurological disorders.

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A potential role for neuronal connexin 36 in the pathogenesis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

Neuronal gap junctional protein connexin 36 (Cx36) contributes to neuronal death following a range of acute brain insults such as ischemia, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy. Whether Cx36 contributes to neuronal death and pathological outcomes in chronic neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is not known. We show here that the expression of Cx36 is significantly decreased in lumbar segments of the spinal cord of both human ALS subjects and SOD1G93A mice as compared to healthy human and wild-type mouse controls, respectively. In purified neuronal cultures prepared from the spinal cord of wild-type mice, knockdown of Cx36 reduces neuronal death caused by overexpression of the mutant human SOD1-G93A protein. Taken together, these data suggest a possible contribution of Cx36 to ALS pathogenesis. A perspective for the use of blockers of Cx36 gap junction channels for ALS therapy is discussed.

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Co-occurrence of mixed proteinopathies in late-stage Huntington's disease.
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

Accumulating evidence highlights the potential role of mixed proteinopathies (i.e., abnormal protein aggregation) in the development of clinical manifestations of neurodegenerative diseases (NDD). Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited NDD caused by autosomal-dominant expanded CAG trinucleotide repeat mutation in the gene coding for Huntingtin (Htt). Previous studies have suggested the coexistence of phosphorylated-Tau, α-synuclein (α-Syn) and TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) inclusions in HD. However, definite evidence that HD pathology in humans can be accompanied by other proteinopathies is still lacking. Using human post-mortem putamen samples from 31 controls and 56 HD individuals, we performed biochemical analyses of the expression, oligomerization and aggregation of Tau, α-Syn, TDP-43, and Amyloid precursor protein (APP)/Aβ. In HD brain, we observed reduced soluble protein (but not mRNA) levels of Htt, α-Syn, and Tau. Our results also support abnormal phosphorylation of Tau in more advanced stages of disease. Aberrant splicing of Tau exons 2, 3 (exclusion) and 10 (inclusion) was also detected in HD patients, leading to higher 0N4R and lower 1N3R isoforms. Finally, following formic acid extraction, we observed increased aggregation of TDP-43, α-Syn, and phosphorylated-Tau during HD progression. Notably, we observed that 88% of HD patients with Vonsattel grade 4 neuropathology displayed at least one non-Htt proteinopathy compared to 29% in controls. Interestingly, α-Syn aggregation correlated with Htt, TDP-43 and phosphorylated-Tau in HD but not in controls. The impact of this work is twofold: (1) it provides compelling evidences that Tau, α-Syn and TDP-43 proteinopathies are increased in HD, and (2) it suggests the involvement of common mechanisms leading to abnormal accumulation of aggregation-prone proteins in NDD. Further studies will be needed to decipher the impact of these proteinopathies on clinical manifestation of HD.

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Aging and neurodegeneration are associated with increased mutations in single human neurons.
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

It has long been hypothesized that aging and neurodegeneration are associated with somatic mutation in neurons; however, methodological hurdles have prevented testing this hypothesis directly. We used single-cell whole-genome sequencing to perform genome-wide somatic single-nucleotide variant (sSNV) identification on DNA from 161 single neurons from the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of 15 normal individuals (aged 4 months to 82 years), as well as 9 individuals affected by early-onset neurodegeneration due to genetic disorders of DNA repair (Cockayne syndrome and xeroderma pigmentosum). sSNVs increased approximately linearly with age in both areas (with a higher rate in hippocampus) and were more abundant in neurodegenerative disease. The accumulation of somatic mutations with age-which we term genosenium-shows age-related, region-related, and disease-related molecular signatures and may be important in other human age-associated conditions.

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FOXO protects against age-progressive axonal degeneration.
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

Neurodegeneration resulting in cognitive and motor impairment is an inevitable consequence of aging. Little is known about the genetic regulation of this process despite its overriding importance in normal aging. Here, we identify the Forkhead Box O (FOXO) transcription factor 1, 3, and 4 isoforms as a guardian of neuronal integrity by inhibiting age-progressive axonal degeneration in mammals. FOXO expression progressively increased in aging human and mouse brains. The nervous system-specific deletion of Foxo transcription factors in mice accelerates aging-related axonal tract degeneration, which is followed by motor dysfunction. This accelerated neurodegeneration is accompanied by levels of white matter astrogliosis and microgliosis in middle-aged Foxo knockout mice that are typically only observed in very old wild-type mice and other aged mammals, including humans. Mechanistically, axonal degeneration in nerve-specific Foxo knockout mice is associated with elevated mTORC1 activity and accompanying proteotoxic stress due to decreased Sestrin3 expression. Inhibition of mTORC1 by rapamycin treatment mimics FOXO action and prevented axonal degeneration in Foxo knockout mice with accelerated nervous system aging. Defining this central role for FOXO in neuroprotection during mammalian aging offers an invaluable window into the aging process itself.

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Orphan receptor GPR158 controls stress-induced depression.
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

Stress can be a motivational force for decisive action and adapting to novel environment; whereas, exposure to chronic stress contributes to the development of depression and anxiety. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying stress-responsive behaviors are not fully understood. Here, we identified the orphan receptor GPR158 as a novel regulator operating in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) that links chronic stress to depression. GPR158 is highly upregulated in the PFC of human subjects with major depressive disorder. Exposure of mice to chronic stress also increased GPR158 protein levels in the PFC in a glucocorticoid-dependent manner. Viral overexpression of GPR158 in the PFC induced depressive-like behaviors. In contrast GPR158 ablation, led to a prominent antidepressant-like phenotype and stress resiliency. We found that GPR158 exerts its effects via modulating synaptic strength altering AMPA receptor activity. Taken together, our findings identify a new player in mood regulation and introduce a pharmacological target for managing depression.

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Elevated nuclear phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) and altered insulin signaling in substantia nigral region of patients with Parkinson's disease.
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

Studies showed that 50-80% of Parkinson's disease (PD) patients have been reported with abnormal glucose tolerance. Alterations in glucose and energy metabolism serve as the early molecular event in PD. Although evidences support that the insulin resistance plays a major role in motor and non-motor complications of PD, the underlying mechanism in the pathogenesis of PD is unclear. To address this issue, we investigated the alterations in major components of insulin signaling in nuclear fraction (NF) and whole tissue homogenate (TH) of substantia nigral (SN) region obtained from postmortem PD brain and their age-matched controls. Pathway components include insulin receptor β (IRβ), IR substrate-1 (IRS1), phosphoinositide 3-kinase p85 (PI3K p85), phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2), phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PIP3), protein kinase B (PKB/Akt1/2/3) and glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β). Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN), a negative regulator of insulin signaling cascade was also studied. A significant decrease in nuclear PI3K p85, Akt1/2/3 and PIP3 levels and significant increase in nuclear PTEN and GSK3β levels were observed in SN region of PD brain when compared to the age-matched controls. Consistently, significant decrease in IRβ, IRS1, PI3K p85, Akt1/2/3 and PIP3 levels and increased GSK3β level were observed in TH obtained from SN region of PD brain compared to the control brain. Data from the study suggest that alterations in insulin signaling may play a vital role in the pathogenesis/progression of PD and other related complications. Thus, decreasing nuclear accumulation of PTEN and/or restoring insulin signaling cascade may halt the neurodegeneration in PD.

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BACE1 elevation engendered by GGA3 deletion increases β-amyloid pathology in association with APP elevation and decreased CHL1 processing in 5XFAD mice
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

β-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1) is the rate-limiting enzyme in the production of amyloid beta (Aβ), the toxic peptide that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. Our previous studies have shown that the clathrin adaptor Golgi-localized γ-ear-containing ARF binding protein 3 (GGA3) plays a key role in the trafficking of BACE1 to lysosomes, where it is normally degraded. GGA3 depletion results in BACE1 stabilization both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, levels of GGA3 are reduced and inversely related to BACE1 levels in post-mortem brains of AD patients.

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The α2δ-1-NMDA Receptor Complex Is Critically Involved in Neuropathic Pain Development and Gabapentin Therapeutic Actions
Feb. 2018

Abstract:

α2δ-1, commonly known as a voltage-activated Ca2+ channel subunit, is a binding site of gabapentinoids used to treat neuropathic pain and epilepsy. However, it is unclear how α2δ-1 contributes to neuropathic pain and gabapentinoid actions. Here, we show that Cacna2d1 overexpression potentiates presynaptic and postsynaptic NMDAR activity of spinal dorsal horn neurons to cause pain hypersensitivity. Conversely, Cacna2d1 knockdown or ablation normalizes synaptic NMDAR activity increased by nerve injury. α2δ-1 forms a heteromeric complex with NMDARs in rodent and human spinal cords. The α2δ-1-NMDAR interaction predominantly occurs through the C terminus of α2δ-1 and promotes surface trafficking and synaptic targeting of NMDARs. Gabapentin or an α2δ-1 C terminus-interfering peptide normalizes NMDAR synaptic targeting and activity increased by nerve injury. Thus, α2δ-1 is an NMDAR-interacting protein that increases NMDAR synaptic delivery in neuropathic pain. Gabapentinoids reduce neuropathic pain by inhibiting forward trafficking of α2δ-1-NMDAR complexes.

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Genomic resources for the study of neuropsychiatric disorders
Dec. 2017

Abstract:

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has made sustained investments in the development of genomic resources over the last two decades. These investments have led to the development of the largest biorepository for psychiatric genetics as a centralized national resource. In the realm of genomic resources, NIMH has been supporting large team science (TS) consortia focused on gene discovery, fine mapping of loci, and functional genomics using state-of-the-art technologies. The scientific output from these efforts has not only begun to transform our understanding of the genetic architecture of neuropsychiatric disorders, but it has also led to a broader cultural change among the investigator community towards deeper collaborations and broad pre-publication sharing of data and resources. The NIMH supported efforts have led to a vast increase in the amount of genetic and genomic resources available to the mental health research community. Here we provide an account of the existing resources and estimates of the scale and scope of what will be available in the near future. All biosamples and data described are intended for broad sharing with researchers worldwide, as allowed by the subject consent and applicable laws.

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Endogenous Alpha-Synuclein Protein Analysis from Human Brain Tissues Using Single-Molecule Pull-Down Assay
Dec. 2017

Abstract:

Alpha-synuclein (α-SYN) is a central molecule in Parkinson's disease pathogenesis. Despite several studies, the molecular nature of endogenous α-SYN especially in human brain samples is still not well understood due to the lack of reliable methods and the limited amount of biospecimens. Here, we introduce α-SYN single-molecule pull-down (α-SYN SiMPull) assay combined with in vivo protein crosslinking to count individual α-SYN protein and assess its native oligomerization states from biological samples including human postmortem brains. This powerful single-molecule assay can be highly useful in diagnostic applications using various specimens for neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

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ER-associated degradation regulates Alzheimer's amyloid pathology and memory function by modulating γ-secretase activity
Nov. 2017

Abstract:

Endoplasmic-reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD) is an important protein quality control system which maintains protein homeostasis. Constituents of the ERAD complex and its role in neurodegeneration are not yet fully understood. Here, using proteomic and FRET analyses, we demonstrate that the ER protein membralin is an ERAD component, which mediates degradation of ER luminal and membrane substrates. Interestingly, we identify nicastrin, a key component of the γ-secretase complex, as a membralin binding protein and membralin-associated ERAD substrate. We demonstrate a reduction of membralin mRNA and protein levels in Alzheimer's disease (AD) brain, the latter of which inversely correlates with nicastrin abundance. Furthermore, membralin deficiency enhances γ-secretase activity and neuronal degeneration. In a mouse AD model, downregulating membralin results in β-amyloid pathology, neuronal death, and exacerbates synaptic/memory deficits. Our results identify membralin as an ERAD component and demonstrate a critical role for ERAD in AD pathogenesis.

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Altered behavioral responses to gamma-aminobutyric acid pharmacological agents in a mouse model of Huntington's disease.
Nov. 2017

Abstract:

Disruptions in gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) acid signaling are believed to be involved in Huntington's disease pathogenesis, but the regulation of GABAergic signaling remains elusive. Here we evaluated GABAergic signaling by examining the function of GABAergic drugs in Huntington's disease and the expression of GABAergic molecules using mouse models and human brain tissues from Huntington's disease.

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Human Endogenous Retrovirus-K and TDP-43 Expression Bridges ALS and HIV Neuropathology.
Oct. 2017

Abstract:

Despite the repetitive association of endogenous retroviruses in human disease, the mechanisms behind their pathological contributions remain to be resolved. Here we discuss how neuronal human endogenous retrovirus-K (HERV-K) expression in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals is a distinct pathological aspect of HIV-associated neurological conditions, such as HIV encephalitis and HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders. Enhanced neuronal HERV-K levels were observed in the majority of HIV-infected individuals, and to a higher degree in brain tissue marked by HIV replication. Moreover, we highlight an important neuropathological overlap between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and HIV encephalitis, that being the formation of neurotoxic TDP-43 deposits in neurons. Herein, we argue for enhanced transdisciplinary research in the field of ERV biology, using an example of how HERV-K expression has novel mechanistic and therapeutic implications for HIV neuropathology.

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Reducing sarcolipin expression mitigates Duchenne muscular dystrophy and associated cardiomyopathy in mice
Oct. 2017

Abstract:

Sarcolipin (SLN) is an inhibitor of the sarco/endoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ ATPase (SERCA) and is abnormally elevated in the muscle of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) patients and animal models. Here we show that reducing SLN levels ameliorates dystrophic pathology in the severe dystrophin/utrophin double mutant (mdx:utr -/-) mouse model of DMD. Germline inactivation of one allele of the SLN gene normalizes SLN expression, restores SERCA function, mitigates skeletal muscle and cardiac pathology, improves muscle regeneration, and extends the lifespan. To translate our findings into a therapeutic strategy, we knock down SLN expression in 1-month old mdx:utr -/- mice via adeno-associated virus (AAV) 9-mediated RNA interference. The AAV treatment markedly reduces SLN expression, attenuates muscle pathology and improves diaphragm, skeletal muscle and cardiac function. Taken together, our findings suggest that SLN reduction is a promising therapeutic approach for DMD.

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Aqua-soluble DDQ reduces the levels of Drp1 and Aβ and inhibits abnormal interactions between Aβ and Drp1 and protects Alzheimer's disease neurons from Aβ- and Drp1-induced mitochondrial and synaptic toxicities.
Sept. 2017

Abstract:

The purpose of our study was to develop a therapeutic target that can reduce Aβ and Drp1 levels, and also can inhibit abnormal interactions between Aβ and Drp1 in AD neurons. To achieve this objective, we designed various compounds and their 3-dimensional molecular structures were introduced into Aβ and Drp1 complex and identified their inhibitory properties against Aβ-Drp1 interaction. Among all, DDQ was selected for further investigation because of 1) its best docking score and 2) its binding capability at interacting sites of Drp1 and Aβ complex. We synthesized DDQ using retro-synthesis and analyzed its structure spectrally. Using biochemical, molecular biology, immunostaining and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) methods, we studied DDQ's beneficial effects in AD neurons. We measured the levels of Aβ and Drp1, Aβ and Drp1 interaction, mRNA and protein levels of mitochondrial dynamics, biogenesis and synaptic genes, mitochondrial function and cell viability and mitochondrial number in DDQ-treated and untreated AD neurons. Our qRT-PCR and immunoblotting analysis revealed that reduced levels of mitochondrial fission and increased fusion, biogenesis and synaptic genes in DDQ-treated AD neurons. Our immunoblotting and immunostaining analyses revealed that Aβ and Drp1 levels were reduced in DDQ-treated AD neurons. Interaction between Aβ and Drp1 is reduced in DDQ-treated AD neurons. Aβ42 levels were significantly reduced in DDQ-treated mutant APPSwe/Ind cells. Mitochondrial number is significantly reduced and mitochondrial length is significantly increased. Mitochondrial function and cell viability were maintained in AD neurons treated with DDQ. These observations indicate that DDQ reduces excessive mitochondrial fragmentation, enhances fusion, biogenesis and synaptic activity and reduces Aβ42 levels and protects AD neurons against Aβ-induced mitochondrial and synaptic toxicities.

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Immature Midbrain Dopaminergic Neurons Derived from Floor-Plate Method Improve Cell Transplantation Therapy Efficacy for Parkinson's Disease
Sept. 2017

Abstract:

Recent reports have indicated human embryonic stem cells-derived midbrain dopamine (mDA) neurons as proper cell resources for use in Parkinson's disease (PD) therapy. Nevertheless, no detailed and systematic study has been conducted to identify which differentiation stages of mDA cells are most suitable for transplantation in PD therapy. Here, we transplanted three types of mDA cells, DA progenitors (differentiated in vitro for 16 days [D16]), immature DA neurons (D25), and DA neurons (D35), into PD mice and found that all three types of cells showed high viability and strong neuronal differentiation in vivo. Both D25 and D35 cells showed neuronal maturation and differentiation toward TH+ cells and, accordingly, satisfactory behavioral functional recovery. However, transplanted D16 cells were less capable of producing functional recovery. These findings provide a valuable guideline for standardizing the differentiation stage of the transplantable cells used in clinical cell therapy for PD. Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2017;6:1803-1814.

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The critical role of Nramp1 in degrading α-synuclein oligomers in microglia under iron overload condition.
Aug. 2017

Abstract:

Oligomeric α-synuclein is a key mediator in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD) and is mainly cleared by autophagy-lysosomal pathway, whose dysfunction results in the accumulation and cell-to-cell transmission of α-synuclein. In this study, concomitant with the accumulation of iron and oligomeric α-synuclein, higher expression of a lysosomal iron transporter, natural resistance-associated macrophage protein-1 (Nramp1), was observed in microglia in post-mortem striatum of sporadic PD patients. Using Nramp1-deficient macrophage (RAW264.7) and microglial (BV-2) cells as in-vitro models, iron exposure significantly reduced the degradation rate of the administered human α-synuclein oligomers, which can be restored by the expression of the wild-type, but not mutant (D543N), Nramp1. Likewise, under iron overload condition, mice with functional Nramp1 (DBA/2 and C57BL/6 congenic mice carrying functional Nramp1) had a better ability to degrade infused human α-synuclein oligomers than mice with nonfunctional Nramp1 (C57BL/6) in the brain and microglia. The interplay between iron and Nramp1 exhibited parallel effects on the clearance of α-synuclein and the activity of lysosomal cathepsin D in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, these findings suggest that the function of Nramp1 contributes to microglial degradation of oligomeric α-synuclein under iron overload condition and may be implicated in the pathogenesis of PD.

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mGlu7 potentiation rescues cognitive, social, and respiratory phenotypes in a mouse model of Rett syndrome
Aug. 2017

Abstract:

Rett syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in the methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MECP2) gene. The cognitive impairments seen in mouse models of RTT correlate with deficits in long-term potentiation (LTP) at Schaffer collateral (SC)-CA1 synapses in the hippocampus. Metabotropic glutamate receptor 7 (mGlu7) is the predominant mGlu receptor expressed presynaptically at SC-CA1 synapses in adult mice, and its activation on GABAergic interneurons is necessary for induction of LTP. We demonstrate that pathogenic mutations in MECP2 reduce mGlu7 protein expression in brain tissue from RTT patients and in MECP2-deficient mouse models. In rodents, this reduction impairs mGlu7-mediated control of synaptic transmission. We show that positive allosteric modulation of mGlu7 activity restores LTP and improves contextual fear learning, novel object recognition, and social memory. Furthermore, mGlu7 positive allosteric modulation decreases apneas in Mecp2+/- mice, suggesting that mGlu7 may be a potential therapeutic target for multiple aspects of the RTT phenotype.

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Varied pathological and therapeutic response effects associated with CHCHD2 mutant and risk variants
Aug. 2017

Abstract:

Mutations and polymorphic risk variant of coiled-coil-helix-coiled-coil-helix domain containing 2 (CHCHD2) have been associated with late-onset Parkinson disease. In vivo pathological evidence of CHCHD2 mutations is currently lacking. Utilizing transgenic Drosophila model, we examined the relative pathophysiologic effect of the pathogenic (c.182C>T, p.Thr61Ile and c.434G>A, p.Arg145Gln) and the risk (c.5C>T, p.Pro2Leu) CHCHD2 variants. All the transgenic models exhibited locomotor dysfunction that could be exacerbated by rotenone exposure, dopaminergic neuron degeneration, reduction in lifespan, mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and impairment in synaptic transmission. However, both mutants showed more severe early motor dysfunction, dopaminergic neuronal loss, and higher hydrogen peroxide production compared with the risk variant. p.Thr61Ile (co-segregated in three independent PD families) displayed the most severe phenotype followed by p.Arg145Gln (present only in index patient). We treated the transgenic flies with Ebselen, a mitochondrial hydrogen peroxide scavenger compound; Ebselen appears to be more effective in ameliorating motor function in the mutant than the risk variant models. We provide the first in vivo evidence of the pathological effects associated with CHCHD2 mutations. There was a difference in the pathological and drug response effects between the pathogenic and the risk variants. Ebselen may be a useful neuroprotective drug for carriers of CHCHD2 mutations.

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Heterotopic Purkinje Cells: a Comparative Postmortem Study of Essential Tremor and Spinocerebellar Ataxias 1, 2, 3, and 6
Aug. 2017

Abstract:

Essential tremor (ET) is among the most common neurological diseases. Postmortem studies have noted a series of pathological changes in the ET cerebellum. Heterotopic Purkinje cells (PCs) are those whose cell body is mis-localized in the molecular layer. In neurodegenerative settings, these are viewed as a marker of the progression of neuronal degeneration. We (1) quantify heterotopias in ET cases vs. controls, (2) compare ET cases to other cerebellar degenerative conditions (spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) 1, 2, 3, and 6), (3) compare these SCAs to one another, and (4) assess heterotopia within the context of associated PC loss in each disease. Heterotopic PCs were quantified using a standard LH&E-stained section of the neocerebellum. Counts were normalized to PC layer length (n-heterotopia count). It is also valuable to consider PC counts when assessing heterotopia, as loss of PCs extends both to normally located as well as heterotopic PCs. Therefore, we divided n-heterotopias by PC counts. There were 96 brains (43 ET, 31 SCA [12 SCA1, 7 SCA2, 7 SCA3, 5 SCA6], and 22 controls). The median number of n-heterotopias in ET cases was two times higher than that of the controls (2.6 vs. 1.2, p < 0.05). The median number of n-heterotopias in the various SCAs formed a spectrum, with counts being highest in SCA3 and SCA1.

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Phosphorylation of amyloid precursor protein by mutant LRRK2 promotes AICD activity and neurotoxicity in Parkinson's disease
July 2017

Abstract:

Mutations in LRRK2, which encodes leucine-rich repeat kinase 2, are the most common genetic cause of familial and sporadic Parkinson's disease (PD), a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that causes impaired motor function and, in advanced stages, dementia. Dementia is a common symptom of another neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer's disease, and research suggests that there may be pathophysiological and genetic links between the two diseases. Aggregates of β amyloid [a protein produced through cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP)] are seen in both diseases and in PD patients carrying G2019S-mutant LRRK2. Using patient-derived cells, brain tissue, and PD model mice, we found that LRRK2 interacted with and phosphorylated APP at Thr668 within its intracellular domain (AICD). Phosphorylation of APP at Thr668 promoted AICD transcriptional activity and correlated with increased nuclear abundance of AICD and decreased abundance of a dopaminergic neuron marker in cultures and brain tissue. The AICD regulates the transcription of genes involved in cytoskeletal dynamics and apoptosis. Overexpression of AICD, but not a phosphodeficient mutant (AICDT668A), increased the loss of dopaminergic neurons in older mice expressing LRRK2G2019S Moreover, the amount of Thr668-phosphorylated APP was substantially greater in postmortem brain tissue and dopaminergic neurons (generated by reprogramming skin cells) from LRRK2G2019S patients than in those from healthy individuals. LRRK2 inhibitors reduced the phosphorylation of APP at Thr668 in the patient-derived dopaminergic neurons and in the midbrains of LRRK2G2019S mice. Thus, APP is a substrate of LRRK2, and its phosphorylation promotes AICD function and neurotoxicity in PD.

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p62-Mediated mitochondrial clustering attenuates apoptosis induced by mitochondrial depolarization
July 2017

Abstract:

Parkin/PINK1-mediated mitophagy is implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD). Prior to elimination of damaged mitochondria, Parkin translocates to mitochondria and induces mitochondrial clustering. While the mechanism of PINK1-dependent Parkin redistribution to mitochondria is now becoming clear, the role of mitochondrial clustering has been less well understood. In our study, we found that loss of p62 disrupted mitochondrial aggregation and specifically sensitized Parkin-expressing cells to apoptosis induced by mitochondrial depolarization. Notably, altering mitochondrial aggregation through regulating p62 or other methods was sufficient to affect such apoptosis. Moreover, disruption of mitochondrial aggregation promoted proteasome-dependent degradation of outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM) proteins. The accelerated degradation in turn facilitated cytochrome c release from mitochondria, leading to apoptosis. Together, our study demonstrates a protective role of mitochondrial clustering in mitophagy and helps in understanding how aggregation defends cells against stress.

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Reduced Expression of Foxp1 as a Contributing Factor in Huntington's Disease
July 2017

Abstract:

Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the huntington protein (htt). The neuropathological hallmark of HD is the loss of neurons in the striatum and, to a lesser extent, in the cortex. Foxp1 is a member of the Forkhead family of transcription factors expressed selectively in the striatum and the cortex. In the brain, three major Foxp1 isoforms are expressed: isoform-A (∼90 kDa), isoform-D (∼70 kDa), and isoform-C (∼50 kDa). We find that expression of Foxp1 isoform-A and -D is selectively reduced in the striatum and cortex of R6/2 HD mice as well as in the striatum of HD patients. Furthermore, expression of mutant htt in neurons results in the downregulation of Foxp1 Elevating expression of isoform-A or -D protects cortical neurons from death caused by the expression of mutant htt On the other hand, knockdown of Foxp1 promotes death in otherwise healthy neurons. Neuroprotection by Foxp1 is likely to be mediated by the transcriptional stimulation of the cell-cycle inhibitory protein p21Waf1/Cip1 Consistently, Foxp1 activates transcription of the p21Waf1/Cip1 gene promoter, and overexpression of Foxp1 in neurons results in the elevation of p21 expression. Moreover, knocking down of p21Waf1/Cip1 blocks the ability of Foxp1 to protect neurons from mut-Htt-induced neurotoxicity. We propose that the selective vulnerability of neurons of the striatum and cortex in HD is related to the loss of expression of Foxp1, a protein that is highly expressed in these neurons and required for their survival.

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The genomic landscape of tuberous sclerosis complex
June 2017

Abstract:

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a rare genetic disease causing multisystem growth of benign tumours and other hamartomatous lesions, which leads to diverse and debilitating clinical symptoms. Patients are born with TSC1 or TSC2 mutations, and somatic inactivation of wild-type alleles drives MTOR activation; however, second hits to TSC1/TSC2 are not always observed. Here, we present the genomic landscape of TSC hamartomas. We determine that TSC lesions contain a low somatic mutational burden relative to carcinomas, a subset feature large-scale chromosomal aberrations, and highly conserved molecular signatures for each type exist. Analysis of the molecular signatures coupled with computational approaches reveals unique aspects of cellular heterogeneity and cell origin. Using immune data sets, we identify significant neuroinflammation in TSC-associated brain tumours. Taken together, this molecular catalogue of TSC serves as a resource into the origin of these hamartomas and provides a framework that unifies genomic and transcriptomic dimensions for complex tumours.

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Down syndrome: age-dependence of PiB binding in postmortem frontal cortex across the lifespan
June 2017

Abstract:

Beta-amyloid (Aβ) deposition in brain accumulates as a function of age in people with Down syndrome (DS) with subsequent development into Alzheimer disease neuropathology, typically by 40 years of age. In vivo imaging using the Pittsburgh compound B (PiB) ligand has facilitated studies linking Aβ, cognition, and dementia in DS. However, there are no studies of PiB binding across the lifespan in DS. The current study describes in vitro 3H-PiB binding in the frontal cortex of autopsy cases with DS compared to non-DS controls. Tissue from 64 cases included controls (n = 25) and DS (n = 39). In DS, 3H-PiB binding was significantly associated with age. After age 40 years in DS, 3H-PiB binding rose dramatically along with increasing individual variability. 3H-PiB binding correlated with the amount of Aβ42. Using fixed frontal tissue and fluorescent 6-CN-PiB, neuritic and cored plaques along with extensive cerebral amyloid angiopathy showed 6-CN-PiB binding. These results suggest that cortical PiB binding as shown by positron emission tomography imaging reflects plaques and cerebral amyloid angiopathy in DS brain.

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Effects of obesogenic diet and estradiol on dorsal raphe gene expression in old female macaques.
June 2017

Abstract:

The beneficial effects of bioidentical ovarian steroid hormone therapy (HT) during the perimenopause are gaining recognition. However, the positive effects of estrogen (E) plus or minus progesterone (P) administration to ovariectomized (Ovx) lab animals were recognized in multiple systems for years before clinical trials could adequately duplicate the results. Moreover, very large numbers of women are often needed to find statistically significant results in clinical trials of HT; and there are still opposing results being published, especially in neural and cardiovascular systems. One of the obvious differences between human and animal studies is diet. Laboratory animals are fed a diet that is low in fat and refined sugar, but high in micronutrients. In the US, a large portion of the population eats what is known as a "western style diet" or WSD that provides calories from 36% fat, 44% carbohydrates (includes 18.5% sugars) and 18% protein. Unfortunately, obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions and the percentage of obese women in clinical trials may be overlooked. We questioned whether WSD and obesity could decrease the positive neural effects of estradiol (E) in the serotonin system of old macaques that were surgically menopausal. Old ovo-hysterectomized female monkeys were fed WSD for 2.5 years, and treated with placebo, Immediate E (ImE) or Delayed E (DE). Compared to old Ovx macaques on primate chow and treated with placebo or E, the WSD-fed monkeys exhibited greater individual variance and blunted responses to E-treatment in the expression of genes related to serotonin neurotransmission, CRH components in the midbrain, synapse assembly, DNA repair, protein folding, ubiquitylation, transport and neurodegeneration. For many of the genes examined, transcript abundance was lower in WSD-fed than chow-fed monkeys. In summary, an obesogenic diet for 2.5 years in old surgically menopausal macaques blunted or increased variability in E-induced gene expression in the dorsal raphe. These results suggest that with regard to function and viability in the dorsal raphe, HT may not be as beneficial for obese women as normal weight women.

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A microRNA-129-5p/Rbfox crosstalk coordinates homeostatic downscaling of excitatory synapses
June 2017

Abstract:

Synaptic downscaling is a homeostatic mechanism that allows neurons to reduce firing rates during chronically elevated network activity. Although synaptic downscaling is important in neural circuit development and epilepsy, the underlying mechanisms are poorly described. We performed small RNA profiling in picrotoxin (PTX)-treated hippocampal neurons, a model of synaptic downscaling. Thereby, we identified eight microRNAs (miRNAs) that were increased in response to PTX, including miR-129-5p, whose inhibition blocked synaptic downscaling in vitro and reduced epileptic seizure severity in vivo Using transcriptome, proteome, and bioinformatic analysis, we identified the calcium pump Atp2b4 and doublecortin (Dcx) as miR-129-5p targets. Restoring Atp2b4 and Dcx expression was sufficient to prevent synaptic downscaling in PTX-treated neurons. Furthermore, we characterized a functional crosstalk between miR-129-5p and the RNA-binding protein (RBP) Rbfox1. In the absence of PTX, Rbfox1 promoted the expression of Atp2b4 and Dcx. Upon PTX treatment, Rbfox1 expression was downregulated by miR-129-5p, thereby allowing the repression of Atp2b4 and Dcx. We therefore identified a novel activity-dependent miRNA/RBP crosstalk during synaptic scaling, with potential implications for neural network homeostasis and epileptogenesis.

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Potential energy landscapes identify the information-theoretic nature of the epigenome
May 2017

Abstract:

Epigenetics is the study of biochemical modifications carrying information independent of DNA sequence, which are heritable through cell division. In 1940, Waddington coined the term "epigenetic landscape" as a metaphor for pluripotency and differentiation, but methylation landscapes have not yet been rigorously computed. Using principles from statistical physics and information theory, we derive epigenetic energy landscapes from whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) data that enable us to quantify methylation stochasticity genome-wide using Shannon's entropy, associating it with chromatin structure. Moreover, we consider the Jensen-Shannon distance between sample-specific energy landscapes as a measure of epigenetic dissimilarity and demonstrate its effectiveness for discerning epigenetic differences. By viewing methylation maintenance as a communications system, we introduce methylation channels and show that higher-order chromatin organization can be predicted from their informational properties. Our results provide a fundamental understanding of the information-theoretic nature of the epigenome that leads to a powerful approach for studying its role in disease and aging.

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Serotonergic Projections Govern Postnatal Neuroblast Migration
May 2017

Abstract:

In many vertebrates, postnatally generated neurons often migrate long distances to reach their final destination, where they help shape local circuit activity. Concerted action of extrinsic stimuli is required to regulate long-distance migration. Some migratory principles are evolutionarily conserved, whereas others are species and cell type specific. Here we identified a serotonergic mechanism that governs migration of postnatally generated neurons in the mouse brain. Serotonergic axons originating from the raphe nuclei exhibit a conspicuous alignment with subventricular zone-derived neuroblasts. Optogenetic axonal activation provides functional evidence for serotonergic modulation of neuroblast migration. Furthermore, we show that the underlying mechanism involves serotonin receptor 3A (5HT3A)-mediated calcium influx. Thus, 5HT3A receptor deletion in neuroblasts impaired speed and directionality of migration and abolished calcium spikes. We speculate that serotonergic modulation of postnatally generated neuroblast migration is evolutionarily conserved as indicated by the presence of serotonergic axons in migratory paths in other vertebrates.

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Ayurvedic Profiling of Alzheimer's Disease
May 2017

Abstract:

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is an age-associated, progressive neurodegenerative disease that is characterized by severe memory loss, personality changes, and an overall decline in cognitive function. The cause of AD is not yet completely defined and efforts to find a cure for it have so far been disappointing. AD is one of the most significant health care problems nationally and globally. Recently, we described a personalized therapeutic approach called metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration (MEND) that successfully reversed the cognitive decline in patients with early AD. The magnitude of the improvement was exceptional, providing testimony to the fact that a personalized and programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective. Ayurveda is a personalized system of traditional medicine native to India and the Indian subcontinent. Although a direct reference to AD in the ancient Ayurvedic literature is missing, concepts including forgetfulness, memory loss, and brain cell loss have been described. Using the clinical information and the metabolic profiling of AD individuals we recently reported using the MEND program, we now describe in this commentary, 3 subtypes of AD based on the Ayurvedic interpretation. Ayurvedic profiling of patients with AD reveals 3 readily distinguishable subtypes, namely Vata, Pitta, and Krimi, which will prove useful in patients with cognitive decline and those at risk for such decline from the standpoint of specific subtype-based Ayurvedic intervention.

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Serotonergic Projections Govern Postnatal Neuroblast Migration
May 2017

Abstract:

In many vertebrates, postnatally generated neurons often migrate long distances to reach their final destination, where they help shape local circuit activity. Concerted action of extrinsic stimuli is required to regulate long-distance migration. Some migratory principles are evolutionarily conserved, whereas others are species and cell type specific. Here we identified a serotonergic mechanism that governs migration of postnatally generated neurons in the mouse brain. Serotonergic axons originating from the raphe nuclei exhibit a conspicuous alignment with subventricular zone-derived neuroblasts. Optogenetic axonal activation provides functional evidence for serotonergic modulation of neuroblast migration. Furthermore, we show that the underlying mechanism involves serotonin receptor 3A (5HT3A)-mediated calcium influx. Thus, 5HT3A receptor deletion in neuroblasts impaired speed and directionality of migration and abolished calcium spikes. We speculate that serotonergic modulation of postnatally generated neuroblast migration is evolutionarily conserved as indicated by the presence of serotonergic axons in migratory paths in other vertebrates.

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Pathology of callosal damage in ALS: An ex-vivo, 7 T diffusion tensor MRI study
Apr. 2017

Abstract:

The goal of this study was to better understand the changes in tissue microstructure that underlie white matter diffusion changes in ALS patients. Diffusion tensor imaging was carried out in postmortem brains of 4 ALS patients and two subjects without neurological disease on a 7 T MRI scanner using steady-state free precession sequences. Fractional anisotropy (FA) was measured in the genu, body, and splenium of the corpus callosum in formalin-fixed hemispheres. FA of the body and genu was expressed as ratio to FA of the splenium, a region unaffected in ALS. After imaging, tissue sections of the same segments of the callosum were stained for markers of different tissue components. Coded image fields were rated for pathological changes by blinded raters.

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Rapid Testing for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in Donors of Cornea
Apr. 2017

Abstract:

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) has been accidentally transmitted by contaminated corneal transplants. Eye donors are not ordinarily tested for CJD, in part because an easy test is not available. We propose a relatively simple postmortem procedure to collect brain samples without performing full autopsy and show that a test currently marketed for veterinary diagnosis would offer an effective screening test.

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Expression of HDAC2 but Not HDAC1 Transcript Is Reduced in Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex of Patients with Schizophrenia
Mar. 2017

Abstract:

Postmortem brain studies support dysregulated expression of the histone deacetylase enzymes, HDAC1 and HDAC2, as a central feature in diseases including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Our objective was to investigate HDAC expression in a large postmortem sample set representing healthy and disease brains. We used >700 well-characterized samples from patients diagnosed with schizophrenia (n = 175), major depressive disorder (n = 135), and bipolar disorder (n = 61) to measure HDAC1 and HDAC2 transcript levels by quantitative real-time PCR in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and caudate compared to control samples. HDAC expression was calculated relative to the geometric mean of β-2-microglobulin, β-glucuronidase, and β-actin. In adult-age DLPFC, HDAC2 was decreased by 34% in schizophrenia samples compared to controls (p < 10-4). HDAC2 was significantly upregulated in major depressive disorder samples by 17% versus controls (p = 0.002). Neither smoking history nor therapeutic drugs impacted HDAC2 levels and no HDAC1 patient-control differences were observed. In caudate, HDAC levels were unchanged between patient and control groups. In control DLPFC, age fetal week 14 to 97 years (n = 326), both HDAC1 and HDAC2 levels sharply declined around birth and stabilized thereafter. Using by far the largest postmortem sample set on this topic, our major finding (decreased HDAC2 transcript) showed notable specificity in disease (schizophrenia but not major depressive disorder), HDAC subtype (HDAC2 but not HDAC1) and brain region (DLPFC but not caudate). These differences shape understanding of regional components of neural circuitry in the diseased brain and set a benchmark to quantify HDAC density and distribution using in vivo neuroimaging tools.

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Polyubiquitinylation Profile in Down Syndrome Brain Before and After the Development of Alzheimer Neuropathology
Mar. 2017

Abstract:

Among the putative mechanisms proposed to be common factors in Down syndrome (DS) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology, deficits in protein quality control (PQC) have emerged as a unifying mechanism of neurodegeneration. Considering that disturbance of protein degradation systems is present in DS and that oxidized/misfolded proteins require polyubiquitinylation for degradation via the ubiquitin proteasome system, this study investigated if dysregulation of protein polyubiquitinylation is associated with AD neurodegeneration in DS.

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Potent Anti-seizure Effects of Locked Nucleic Acid Antagomirs Targeting miR-134 in Multiple Mouse and Rat Models of Epilepsy
Mar. 2017

Abstract:

Current anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) act on a limited set of neuronal targets, are ineffective in a third of patients with epilepsy, and do not show disease-modifying properties. MicroRNAs are small noncoding RNAs that regulate levels of proteins by post-transcriptional control of mRNA stability and translation. MicroRNA-134 is involved in controlling neuronal microstructure and brain excitability and previous studies showed that intracerebroventricular injections of locked nucleic acid (LNA), cholesterol-tagged antagomirs targeting microRNA-134 (Ant-134) reduced evoked and spontaneous seizures in mouse models of status epilepticus. Translation of these findings would benefit from evidence of efficacy in non-status epilepticus models and validation in another species. Here, we report that electrographic seizures and convulsive behavior are strongly reduced in adult mice pre-treated with Ant-134 in the pentylenetetrazol model. Pre-treatment with Ant-134 did not affect the severity of status epilepticus induced by perforant pathway stimulation in adult rats, a toxin-free model of acquired epilepsy. Nevertheless, Ant-134 post-treatment reduced the number of rats developing spontaneous seizures by 86% in the perforant pathway stimulation model and Ant-134 delayed epileptiform activity in a rat ex vivo hippocampal slice model. The potent anticonvulsant effects of Ant-134 in multiple models may encourage pre-clinical development of this approach to epilepsy therapy.

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Genome-wide identification of splicing QTLs in the human brain and their enrichment among schizophrenia-associated loci
Feb. 2017

Abstract:

Detailed analyses of transcriptome have revealed complexity in regulation of alternative splicing (AS). These AS events often undergo modulation by genetic variants. Here we analyse RNA-sequencing data of prefrontal cortex from 206 individuals in combination with their genotypes and identify cis-acting splicing quantitative trait loci (sQTLs) throughout the genome. These sQTLs are enriched among exonic and H3K4me3-marked regions. Moreover, we observe significant enrichment of sQTLs among disease-associated loci identified by GWAS, especially in schizophrenia risk loci. Closer examination of each schizophrenia-associated loci revealed four regions (each encompasses NEK4, FXR1, SNAP91 or APOPT1), where the index SNP in GWAS is in strong linkage disequilibrium with sQTL SNP(s), suggesting dysregulation of AS as the underlying mechanism of the association signal. Our study provides an informative resource of sQTL SNPs in the human brain, which can facilitate understanding of the genetic architecture of complex brain disorders such as schizophrenia.

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MicroRNAs, Aging, Cellular Senescence, and Alzheimer's Disease.
Feb. 2017

Abstract:

Aging is a normal process of living being. It has been reported that multiple cellular changes, including oxidative damage/mitochondrial dysfunction, telomere shortening, inflammation, may accelerate the aging process, leading to cellular senescence. These cellular changes induce age-related human diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cardiovascular, cancer, and skin diseases. Changes in somatic and germ-line DNA and epigenetics are reported to play large roles in accelerating the onset of human diseases. Cellular mechanisms of aging and age-related diseases are not completely understood. However, recent discoveries in molecular biology have revealed that microRNAs (miRNAs) are potential indicators of aging, cellular senescence, and Alzheimer's disease (AD). The purpose of our chapter is to highlight recent advancements in miRNAs and their involvement in cellular changes in aging, cellular senescence, and AD. This chapter also critically evaluates miRNA-based therapeutic drug targets for aging and age-related diseases, particularly Alzheimer's.

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Mitochondria-Targeted Molecules as Potential Drugs to Treat Patients With Alzheimer's Disease.
Feb. 2017

Abstract:

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common multifactorial mental illness affecting the elderly population in the world. Its prevalence increases as person ages. There is no known drug or agent that can delay or prevent the AD and its progression. Extensive research has revealed that multiple cellular pathways involved, including amyloid beta production, mitochondrial structural and functional changes, hyperphosphorylation of Tau and NFT formation, inflammatory responses, and neuronal loss in AD pathogenesis. Amyloid beta-induced synaptic damage, mitochondrial abnormalities, and phosphorylated Tau are major areas of present research investigations. Synaptic pathology and mitochondrial oxidative damage are early events in disease process. In this chapter, a systematic literature survey has been conducted and presented a summary of antioxidants used in (1) AD mouse models, (2) elderly populations, and (3) randomized clinical trials in AD patients. This chapter highlights the recent progress in developing and testing mitochondria-targeted molecules using AD cell cultures and AD mouse models. This chapter also discusses recent research on AD pathogenesis and therapeutics, focusing on mitochondria-targeted molecules as potential therapeutic targets to delay or prevent AD progression.

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Apolipoprotein E-mediated modulation of ADAM10 in Alzheimer's disease
Feb. 2017

Abstract:

The APOE4 allele is the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD). It has been associated with an accumulation of amyloid-β (Aβ) in the brain, which is produced through the sequential cleavage of the amyloid-β precursor protein (AβPP) by β- and γ-secretases. Alternatively, AβPP is also cleaved by α-secretases such as A Disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain-containing protein 10 (ADAM10).

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A critical evaluation of neuroprotective and neurodegenerative MicroRNAs in Alzheimer's disease
Feb. 2017

Abstract:

Currently, 5.4 million Americans suffer from AD, and these numbers are expected to increase up to 16 million by 2050. Despite tremendous research efforts, we still do not have drugs or agents that can delay, or prevent AD and its progression, and we still do not have early detectable biomarkers for AD. Multiple cellular changes have been implicated in AD, including synaptic damage, mitochondrial damage, production and accumulation of Aβ and phosphorylated tau, inflammatory response, deficits in neurotransmitters, deregulation of the cell cycle, and hormonal imbalance. Research into AD has revealed that miRNAs are involved in each of these cellular changes and interfere with gene regulation and translation. Recent discoveries in molecular biology have also revealed that microRNAs play a major role in post-translational regulation of gene expression. The purpose of this article is to review research that has assessed neuroprotective and neurodegenerative characteristics of microRNAs in brain samples from AD transgenic mouse models and patients with AD.

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Hypomethylation of intron1 of α-synuclein gene does not correlate with Parkinson's disease
Feb. 2017

Abstract:

Deregulation of α-synuclein encoding gene (SNCA) is one of the important facets of Parkinson's disease (PD) research. DNA methylation status of SNCA-intron1 has been shown to regulate the α-synuclein expression. The present study is aimed at investigating whether methylation of SNCA-intron1 is associated with higher expression of α-synuclein in PD. We have investigated the intron1 methylation status from 16 post-mortem brain samples comprised of 8 PD and 8 control subjects using bisulfite sequencing. We further correlated this methylation status with α-synuclein protein levels in substantia nigra of that individual using western blot analysis. We did not observe any significant difference in methylation of SNCA-intron1 region between PD and control samples. Moreover, no correlation was observed between methylation of SNCA-intron1 with α-synuclein level. Methylation of SNCA-intron1 region does not correlate with α-synuclein expression in PD samples.

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Metabolomic profiling of brain from infants who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome reveals novel predictive biomarkers
Jan. 2017

Abstract:

OBJECTIVE: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as the sudden death of an infant <1 year of age that cannot be explained following a thorough investigation. Currently, no reliable clinical biomarkers are available for the prediction of infants who will die of SIDS.

STUDY DESIGN: This study aimed to profile the medulla oblongata from postmortem human brain from SIDS victims (n=16) and compare their profiles with that of age-matched controls (n=7).

RESULTS: Using LC-Orbitrap-MS, we detected 12 710 features in electrospray ionization positive (ESI+) mode and 8243 in ESI- mode from polar extracts of brain. Five features acquired in ESI+ mode produced a predictive model for SIDS with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 1 (confidence interval (CI): 0.995-1) and a predictive power of 97.4%. Three biomarkers acquired in ESI- mode produced a predictive model with an AUC of 0.866 (CI: 0.767-0.942) and a predictive power of 77.6%. We confidently identified 5 of these features (l-(+)-ergothioneine, nicotinic acid, succinic acid, adenosine monophosphate and azelaic acid) and putatively identify another 4 out of the 15 in total.

CONCLUSIONS: This study underscores the potential value of metabolomics for studying SIDS. Further characterization of the metabolome of postmortem SIDS brains could lead to the identification of potential antemortem biomarkers for novel prevention strategies for SIDS.

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Abnormal neurogenesis and cortical growth in congenital heart disease
Jan. 2017

Abstract:

Long-term neurological deficits due to immature cortical development are emerging as a major challenge in congenital heart disease (CHD). However, cellular mechanisms underlying dysregulation of perinatal corticogenesis in CHD remain elusive. The subventricular zone (SVZ) represents the largest postnatal niche of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs). We show that the piglet SVZ resembles its human counterpart and displays robust postnatal neurogenesis. We present evidence that SVZ NSPCs migrate to the frontal cortex and differentiate into interneurons in a region-specific manner. Hypoxic exposure of the gyrencephalic piglet brain recapitulates CHD-induced impaired cortical development. Hypoxia reduces proliferation and neurogenesis in the SVZ, which is accompanied by reduced cortical growth. We demonstrate a similar reduction in neuroblasts within the SVZ of human infants born with CHD. Our findings demonstrate that SVZ NSPCs contribute to perinatal corticogenesis and suggest that restoration of SVZ NSPCs' neurogenic potential is a candidate therapeutic target for improving cortical growth in CHD.

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How Studies of the Serotonin System in Macaque Models of Menopause Relate to Alzheimer's Disease1
Jan. 2017

Abstract:

Serotonin plays a key role in mood or affect, and dysfunction of the serotonin system has been linked to depression in humans and animal models. Depression appears prior to or coincident with overt symptoms of Alzheimer's disease (AD) in about 50% of patients, and some experts consider it a risk factor for the development of AD. In addition, AD is more prevalent in women, who also show increased incidence of depression. Indeed, it has been proposed that mechanisms underlying depression overlap the mechanisms thought to hasten AD. Women undergo ovarian failure and cessation of ovarian steroid production in middle age and the postmenopausal period correlates with an increase in the onset of depression and AD. This laboratory has examined the many actions of ovarian steroids in the serotonin system of non-human primates using a rhesus macaque model of surgical menopause with short or long-term estradiol (E) or estradiol plus progesterone (E+P) replacement therapy. In this mini-review, we present a brief synopsis of the relevant literature concerning AD, depression, and serotonin. We also present some of our data on serotonin neuron viability, the involvement of the caspase-independent pathway, and apoptosis-inducing factor in serotonin-neuron viability, as well as gene expression related to neurodegeneration and neuron viability in serotonin neurons from adult and aged surgical menopausal macaques. We show that ovarian steroids, particularly E, are crucial for serotonin neuron function and health. In the absence of E, serotonin neurons are endangered and deteriorating toward apoptosis. The possibility that this scenario may proceed or accompany AD in postmenopausal women seems likely.

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Neuron density is decreased in the prefrontal cortex in Williams syndrome
Jan. 2017

Abstract:

Williams Syndrome (WS) is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder associated with a hemideletion in chromosome 7, which manifests a distinct behavioral phenotype characterized by a hyperaffiliative social drive, in striking contrast to the social avoidance behaviors that are common in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). MRI studies have observed structural and functional abnormalities in WS cortex, including the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a region implicated in social cognition. This study utilizes the Bellugi Williams Syndrome Brain Collection, a unique resource that comprises the largest WS postmortem brain collection in existence, and is the first to quantitatively examine WS PFC cytoarchitecture. We measured neuron density in layers II/III and V/VI of five cortical areas: PFC areas BA 10 and BA 11, primary motor BA 4, primary somatosensory BA 3, and visual area BA 18 in six matched pairs of WS and typically developing (TD) controls. Neuron density in PFC was lower in WS relative to TD, with layers V/VI demonstrating the largest decrease in density, reaching statistical significance in BA 10. In contrast, BA 3 and BA 18 demonstrated a higher density in WS compared to TD, although this difference was not statistically significant. Neuron density in BA 4 was similar in WS and TD. While other cortical areas were altered in WS, prefrontal areas appeared to be most affected. Neuron density is also altered in the PFC of individuals with ASD. Together these findings suggest that the PFC is targeted in neurodevelopmental disorders associated with sociobehavioral alterations.

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Genome-wide changes in lncRNA, splicing, and regional gene expression patterns in autism
Dec. 2016

Abstract:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involves substantial genetic contributions. These contributions are profoundly heterogeneous but may converge on common pathways that are not yet well understood. Here, through post-mortem genome-wide transcriptome analysis of the largest cohort of samples analysed so far, to our knowledge, we interrogate the noncoding transcriptome, alternative splicing, and upstream molecular regulators to broaden our understanding of molecular convergence in ASD. Our analysis reveals ASD-associated dysregulation of primate-specific long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), downregulation of the alternative splicing of activity-dependent neuron-specific exons, and attenuation of normal differences in gene expression between the frontal and temporal lobes. Our data suggest that SOX5, a transcription factor involved in neuron fate specification, contributes to this reduction in regional differences. We further demonstrate that a genetically defined subtype of ASD, chromosome 15q11.2-13.1 duplication syndrome (dup15q), shares the core transcriptomic signature observed in idiopathic ASD. Co-expression network analysis reveals that individuals with ASD show age-related changes in the trajectory of microglial and synaptic function over the first two decades, and suggests that genetic risk for ASD may influence changes in regional cortical gene expression. Our findings illustrate how diverse genetic perturbations can lead to phenotypic convergence at multiple biological levels in a complex neuropsychiatric disorder.

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A Compendium of Chromatin Contact Maps Reveals Spatially Active Regions in the Human Genome
Nov. 2016

Abstract:

The three-dimensional configuration of DNA is integral to all nuclear processes in eukaryotes, yet our knowledge of the chromosome architecture is still limited. Genome-wide chromosome conformation capture studies have uncovered features of chromatin organization in cultured cells, but genome architecture in human tissues has yet to be explored. Here, we report the most comprehensive survey to date of chromatin organization in human tissues. Through integrative analysis of chromatin contact maps in 21 primary human tissues and cell types, we find topologically associating domains highly conserved in different tissues. We also discover genomic regions that exhibit unusually high levels of local chromatin interactions. These frequently interacting regions (FIREs) are enriched for super-enhancers and are near tissue-specifically expressed genes. They display strong tissue-specificity in local chromatin interactions. Additionally, FIRE formation is partially dependent on CTCF and the Cohesin complex. We further show that FIREs can help annotate the function of non-coding sequence variants.

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Blood-brain barrier and intestinal epithelial barrier alterations in autism spectrum disorders
Nov. 2016

Abstract:

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are complex conditions whose pathogenesis may be attributed to gene-environment interactions. There are no definitive mechanisms explaining how environmental triggers can lead to ASD although the involvement of inflammation and immunity has been suggested. Inappropriate antigen trafficking through an impaired intestinal barrier, followed by passage of these antigens or immune-activated complexes through a permissive blood-brain barrier (BBB), can be part of the chain of events leading to these disorders. Our goal was to investigate whether an altered BBB and gut permeability is part of the pathophysiology of ASD.

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Potential biomarkers to follow the progression and treatment response of Huntington's disease
Nov. 2016

Abstract:

Huntington's disease (HD) is a rare genetic disease caused by expanded polyglutamine repeats in the huntingtin protein resulting in selective neuronal loss. Although genetic testing readily identifies those who will be affected, current pharmacological treatments do not prevent or slow down disease progression. A major challenge is the slow clinical progression and the inability to biopsy the affected tissue, the brain, making it difficult to design short and effective proof of concept clinical trials to assess treatment benefit. In this study, we focus on identifying peripheral biomarkers that correlate with the progression of the disease and treatment benefit. We recently developed an inhibitor of pathological mitochondrial fragmentation, P110, to inhibit neurotoxicity in HD. Changes in levels of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and inflammation markers in plasma, a product of DNA oxidation in urine, mutant huntingtin aggregates, and 4-hydroxynonenal adducts in muscle and skin tissues were all noted in HD R6/2 mice relative to wild-type mice. Importantly, P110 treatment effectively reduced the levels of these biomarkers. Finally, abnormal levels of mtDNA were also found in plasma of HD patients relative to control subjects. Therefore, we identified several potential peripheral biomarkers as candidates to assess HD progression and the benefit of intervention for future clinical trials.

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Chromosome conformation elucidates regulatory relationships in developing human brain
Oct. 2016

Abstract:

Three-dimensional physical interactions within chromosomes dynamically regulate gene expression in a tissue-specific manner. However, the 3D organization of chromosomes during human brain development and its role in regulating gene networks dysregulated in neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism or schizophrenia, are unknown. Here we generate high-resolution 3D maps of chromatin contacts during human corticogenesis, permitting large-scale annotation of previously uncharacterized regulatory relationships relevant to the evolution of human cognition and disease. Our analyses identify hundreds of genes that physically interact with enhancers gained on the human lineage, many of which are under purifying selection and associated with human cognitive function. We integrate chromatin contacts with non-coding variants identified in schizophrenia genome-wide association studies (GWAS), highlighting multiple candidate schizophrenia risk genes and pathways, including transcription factors involved in neurogenesis, and cholinergic signalling molecules, several of which are supported by independent expression quantitative trait loci and gene expression analyses. Genome editing in human neural progenitors suggests that one of these distal schizophrenia GWAS loci regulates FOXG1 expression, supporting its potential role as a schizophrenia risk gene. This work provides a framework for understanding the effect of non-coding regulatory elements on human brain development and the evolution of cognition, and highlights novel mechanisms underlying neuropsychiatric disorders.

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TDP-43 regulates endogenous retrovirus-K viral protein accumulation
Oct. 2016

Abstract:

The concomitant expression of neuronal TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) and human endogenous retrovirus-K (ERVK) is a hallmark of ALS. Since the involvement of TDP-43 in retrovirus replication remains controversial, we sought to evaluate whether TDP-43 exerts an effect on ERVK expression. In this study, TDP-43 bound the ERVK promoter in the context of inflammation or proteasome inhibition, with no effect on ERVK transcription. However, over-expression of ALS-associated aggregating forms of TDP-43, but not wild-type TDP-43, significantly enhanced ERVK viral protein accumulation. Human astrocytes and neurons further demonstrated cell-type specific differences in their ability to express and clear ERVK proteins during inflammation and proteasome inhibition. Astrocytes, but not neurons, were able to clear excess ERVK proteins through stress granule formation and autophagy. In vitro findings were validated in autopsy motor cortex tissue from patients with ALS and neuro-normal controls. We further confirmed marked enhancement of ERVK in cortical neurons of patients with ALS. Despite evidence of enhanced stress granule and autophagic response in ALS cortical neurons, these cells failed to clear excess ERVK protein accumulation. This highlights how multiple cellular pathways, in conjunction with disease-associated mutations, can converge to modulate the expression and clearance of viral gene products from genomic elements such as ERVK. In ALS, ERVK protein aggregation is a novel aspect of TDP-43 misregulation contributing towards the pathology of this neurodegenerative disease.

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NF-κB and IRF1 Induce Endogenous Retrovirus K Expression via Interferon-Stimulated Response Elements in Its 5' Long Terminal Repeat
Sept. 2016

Abstract:

Thousands of endogenous retroviruses (ERV), viral fossils of ancient germ line infections, reside within the human genome. Evidence of ERV activity has been observed widely in both health and disease. While this is most often cited as a bystander effect of cell culture or disease states, it is unclear which signals control ERV transcription. Bioinformatic analysis suggests that the viral promoter of endogenous retrovirus K (ERVK) is responsive to inflammatory transcription factors. Here we show that one reason for ERVK upregulation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is the presence of functional interferon-stimulated response elements (ISREs) in the viral promoter. Transcription factor overexpression assays revealed independent and synergistic upregulation of ERVK by interferon regulatory factor 1 (IRF1) and NF-κB isoforms. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and LIGHT cytokine treatments of human astrocytes and neurons enhanced ERVK transcription and protein levels through IRF1 and NF-κB binding to the ISREs. We further show that in ALS brain tissue, neuronal ERVK reactivation is associated with the nuclear translocation of IRF1 and NF-κB isoforms p50 and p65. ERVK overexpression can cause motor neuron pathology in murine models. Our results implicate neuroinflammation as a key trigger of ERVK provirus reactivation in ALS. These molecular mechanisms may also extend to the pathobiology of other ERVK-associated inflammatory diseases, such as cancers, HIV infection, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia.

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Gene expression elucidates functional impact of polygenic risk for schizophrenia
Sept. 2016

Abstract:

Over 100 genetic loci harbor schizophrenia-associated variants, yet how these variants confer liability is uncertain. The CommonMind Consortium sequenced RNA from dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of people with schizophrenia (N = 258) and control subjects (N = 279), creating a resource of gene expression and its genetic regulation. Using this resource, ~20% of schizophrenia loci have variants that could contribute to altered gene expression and liability. In five loci, only a single gene was involved: FURIN, TSNARE1, CNTN4, CLCN3 or SNAP91. Altering expression of FURIN, TSNARE1 or CNTN4 changed neurodevelopment in zebrafish; knockdown of FURIN in human neural progenitor cells yielded abnormal migration. Of 693 genes showing significant case-versus-control differential expression, their fold changes were ≤ 1.33, and an independent cohort yielded similar results. Gene co-expression implicates a network relevant for schizophrenia. Our findings show that schizophrenia is polygenic and highlight the utility of this resource for mechanistic interpretations of genetic liability for brain diseases.

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Activation of p53 in Down Syndrome and in the Ts65Dn Mouse Brain is Associated with a Pro-Apoptotic Phenotype
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

Down syndrome (DS) is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability, resulting from trisomy of chromosome 21. The main feature of DS neuropathology includes early onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD), with deposition of senile plaques and tangles. We hypothesized that apoptosis may be activated in the presence of AD neuropathology in DS, thus we measured proteins associated with upstream and downstream pathways of p53 in the frontal cortex from DS cases with and without AD pathology and from Ts65Dn mice, at different ages. We observed increased acetylation and phosphorylation of p53, coupled to reduced MDM2/p53 complex level and lower levels of SIRT1. Activation of p53 was associated with a number of targets (BAX, PARP1, caspase-3, p21, heat shock proteins, and PGC1α) that were modulated in both DS and DS/AD compared with age-matched controls. In particular, the most relevant changes (increased p-p53 and acetyl-p53 and reduced formation of MDM2/p53 complex) were found to be modified only in the presence of AD pathology in DS. In addition, a similar pattern of alterations in the p53 pathway was found in Ts65Dn mice. These results suggest that p53 may integrate different signals, which can result in a pro-apoptotic-phenotype contributing to AD neuropathology in people with DS.

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Alterations of miRNAs reveal a dysregulated molecular regulatory network in Parkinson's disease striatum.
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

Molecular adaptations in the striatum mediated by dopamine (DA) denervation and/or levodopa (L-dopa) treatments have been implicated in the motor deficits found in Parkinson's disease (PD). Alterations in inflammatory response mechanisms and glutamatergic neurotransmission are reported to play important roles in mediating these changes. However, the mechanisms mediating the molecular adaptations in the striatum are not well understood. Small non-coding microRNAs (miRNAs) influence numerous biological processes including the development and maintenance of striatal neurons by regulating gene expression post-transcriptionally. To investigate miRNA function in human PD striatum, we examined the global expression of miRNAs in postmortem putamen (putamen along with caudate forms the striatum) tissues obtained from PD patients and neurologically normal controls using Nanostring miRNA assays. We found that 6 miRNAs were significantly (p≤0.05) upregulated and 7 miRNAs were downregulated in PD putamen when compared with control. The differential expression (DE) of the 4 highest scoring miRNAs was further confirmed by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Ingenuity pathway analysis demonstrated that these miRNAs are enriched in the processes of inflammatory responses. We found that the expression of DE miRNAs in PD putamen negatively correlates with the expression of gene transcripts implicated in inflammatory response with p53 and NF-kB as central signaling molecules. Taken together, our results suggest that in PD striatum, the DE miRNAs are associated with the oxidative stress pathway. This mechanism may contribute to the molecular adaptations and related motor complications found in PD.

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Genome-wide quantification of rare somatic mutations in normal human tissues using massively parallel sequencing
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

We present the bottleneck sequencing system (BotSeqS), a next-generation sequencing method that simultaneously quantifies rare somatic point mutations across the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. BotSeqS combines molecular barcoding with a simple dilution step immediately before library amplification. We use BotSeqS to show age- and tissue-dependent accumulations of rare mutations and demonstrate that somatic mutational burden in normal human tissues can vary by several orders of magnitude, depending on biologic and environmental factors. We further show major differences between the mutational patterns of the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes in normal tissues. Lastly, the mutation spectra of normal tissues were different from each other, but similar to those of the cancers that arose in them. This technology can provide insights into the number and nature of genetic alterations in normal tissues and can be used to address a variety of fundamental questions about the genomes of diseased tissues.

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Predominant expression of Alzheimer's disease-associated BIN1 in mature oligodendrocytes and localization to white matter tracts
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

Genome-wide association studies have identified BIN1 within the second most significant susceptibility locus in late-onset Alzheimer's disease (AD). BIN1 undergoes complex alternative splicing to generate multiple isoforms with diverse functions in multiple cellular processes including endocytosis and membrane remodeling. An increase in BIN1 expression in AD and an interaction between BIN1 and Tau have been reported. However, disparate descriptions of BIN1 expression and localization in the brain previously reported in the literature and the lack of clarity on brain BIN1 isoforms present formidable challenges to our understanding of how genetic variants in BIN1 increase the risk for AD.

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Characterisation of interface astroglial scarring in the human brain after blast exposure: a post-mortem case series
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

No evidence-based guidelines are available for the definitive diagnosis or directed treatment of most blast-associated traumatic brain injuries, partly because the underlying pathology is unknown. Moreover, few neuropathological studies have addressed whether blast exposure produces unique lesions in the human brain, and if those lesions are comparable with impact-induced traumatic brain injury. We aimed to test the hypothesis that blast exposure produces unique patterns of damage, differing from that associated with impact-induced, non-blast traumatic brain injuries.

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Insights into neuroepigenetics through human histone deacetylase PET imaging
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

Epigenetic dysfunction is implicated in many neurological and psychiatric diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Consequently, histone deacetylases (HDACs) are being aggressively pursued as therapeutic targets. However, a fundamental knowledge gap exists regarding the expression and distribution of HDACs in healthy individuals for comparison to disease states. Here, we report the first-in-human evaluation of neuroepigenetic regulation in vivo. Using positron emission tomography with [(11)C]Martinostat, an imaging probe selective for class I HDACs (isoforms 1, 2, and 3), we found that HDAC expression is higher in cortical gray matter than in white matter, with conserved regional distribution patterns within and between healthy individuals. Among gray matter regions, HDAC expression was lowest in the hippocampus and amygdala. Through biochemical profiling of postmortem human brain tissue, we confirmed that [(11)C]Martinostat selectively binds HDAC isoforms 1, 2, and 3, the HDAC subtypes most implicated in regulating neuroplasticity and cognitive function. In human stem cell-derived neural progenitor cells, pharmacologic-level doses of Martinostat induced changes in genes closely associated with synaptic plasticity, including BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and SYP (synaptophysin), as well as genes implicated in neurodegeneration, including GRN (progranulin), at the transcript level, in concert with increased acetylation at both histone H3 lysine 9 and histone H4 lysine 12. This study quantifies HDAC expression in the living human brain and provides the foundation for gaining unprecedented in vivo epigenetic information in health and disease.

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The neural chaperone proSAAS blocks α-synuclein fibrillation and neurotoxicity
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

Emerging evidence strongly suggests that chaperone proteins are cytoprotective in neurodegenerative proteinopathies involving protein aggregation; for example, in the accumulation of aggregated α-synuclein into the Lewy bodies present in Parkinson's disease. Of the various chaperones known to be associated with neurodegenerative disease, the small secretory chaperone known as proSAAS (named after four residues in the amino terminal region) has many attractive properties. We show here that proSAAS, widely expressed in neurons throughout the brain, is associated with aggregated synuclein deposits in the substantia nigra of patients with Parkinson's disease. Recombinant proSAAS potently inhibits the fibrillation of α-synuclein in an in vitro assay; residues 158-180, containing a largely conserved element, are critical to this bioactivity. ProSAAS also exhibits a neuroprotective function; proSAAS-encoding lentivirus blocks α-synuclein-induced cytotoxicity in primary cultures of nigral dopaminergic neurons, and recombinant proSAAS blocks α-synuclein-induced cytotoxicity in SH-SY5Y cells. Four independent proteomics studies have previously identified proSAAS as a potential cerebrospinal fluid biomarker in various neurodegenerative diseases. Coupled with prior work showing that proSAAS blocks β-amyloid aggregation into fibrils, this study supports the idea that neuronal proSAAS plays an important role in proteostatic processes. ProSAAS thus represents a possible therapeutic target in neurodegenerative disease.

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VCP recruitment to mitochondria causes mitophagy impairment and neurodegeneration in models of Huntington's disease
Aug. 2016

Abstract:

Mutant Huntingtin (mtHtt) causes neurodegeneration in Huntington's disease (HD) by evoking defects in the mitochondria, but the underlying mechanisms remains elusive. Our proteomic analysis identifies valosin-containing protein (VCP) as an mtHtt-binding protein on the mitochondria. Here we show that VCP is selectively translocated to the mitochondria, where it is bound to mtHtt in various HD models. Mitochondria-accumulated VCP elicits excessive mitophagy, causing neuronal cell death. Blocking mtHtt/VCP mitochondrial interaction with a peptide, HV-3, abolishes VCP translocation to the mitochondria, corrects excessive mitophagy and reduces cell death in HD mouse- and patient-derived cells and HD transgenic mouse brains. Treatment with HV-3 reduces behavioural and neuropathological phenotypes of HD in both fragment- and full-length mtHtt transgenic mice. Our findings demonstrate a causal role of mtHtt-induced VCP mitochondrial accumulation in HD pathogenesis and suggest that the peptide HV-3 might be a useful tool for developing new therapeutics to treat HD.

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Hedgehog signaling promotes basal progenitor expansion and the growth and folding of the neocortex
July 2016

Abstract:

The unique mental abilities of humans are rooted in the immensely expanded and folded neocortex, which reflects the expansion of neural progenitors, especially basal progenitors including basal radial glia (bRGs) and intermediate progenitor cells (IPCs). We found that constitutively active Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling expanded bRGs and IPCs and induced folding in the otherwise smooth mouse neocortex, whereas the loss of Shh signaling decreased the number of bRGs and IPCs and the size of the neocortex. SHH signaling was strongly active in the human fetal neocortex but Shh signaling was not strongly active in the mouse embryonic neocortex, and blocking SHH signaling in human cerebral organoids decreased the number of bRGs. Mechanistically, Shh signaling increased the initial generation and self-renewal of bRGs and IPC proliferation in mice and the initial generation of bRGs in human cerebral organoids. Thus, robust SHH signaling in the human fetal neocortex may contribute to bRG and IPC expansion and neocortical growth and folding.

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Finding novel distinctions between the sAPPα-mediated anabolic biochemical pathways in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fragile X Syndrome plasma and brain tissue.
May 2016

Abstract:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Fragile X syndrome (FXS) are developmental disorders. No validated blood-based biomarkers exist for either, which impedes bench-to-bedside approaches. Amyloid-β (Aβ) precursor protein (APP) and metabolites are usually associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). APP cleavage by α-secretase produces potentially neurotrophic secreted APPα (sAPPα) and the P3 peptide fragment. β-site APP cleaving enzyme (BACE1) cleavage produces secreted APPβ (sAPPβ) and intact Aβ. Excess Aβ is potentially neurotoxic and can lead to atrophy of brain regions such as amygdala in AD. By contrast, amygdala is enlarged in ASD but not FXS. We previously reported elevated levels of sAPPα in ASD and FXS vs.

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mGlu5 positive allosteric modulation normalizes synaptic plasticity defects and motor phenotypes in a mouse model of Rett syndrome
May 2016

Abstract:

Rett syndrome (RS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that shares many symptomatic and pathological commonalities with idiopathic autism. Alterations in protein synthesis-dependent synaptic plasticity (PSDSP) are a hallmark of a number of syndromic forms of autism; in the present work, we explore the consequences of disruption and rescue of PSDSP in a mouse model of RS. We report that expression of a key regulator of synaptic protein synthesis, the metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGlu5) protein, is significantly reduced in both the brains of RS model mice and in the motor cortex of human RS autopsy samples. Furthermore, we demonstrate that reduced mGlu5 expression correlates with attenuated DHPG-induced long-term depression in the hippocampus of RS model mice, and that administration of a novel mGlu5 positive allosteric modulator (PAM), termed VU0462807, can rescue synaptic plasticity defects. Additionally, treatment of Mecp2-deficient mice with VU0462807 improves motor performance (open-field behavior and gait dynamics), corrects repetitive clasping behavior, as well as normalizes cued fear-conditioning defects. Importantly, due to the rationale drug discovery approach used in its development, our novel mGlu5 PAM improves RS phenotypes and synaptic plasticity defects without evoking the overt adverse effects commonly associated with potentiation of mGlu5 signaling (i.e. seizures), or affecting cardiorespiratory defects in RS model mice. These findings provide strong support for the continued development of mGlu5 PAMs as potential therapeutic agents for use in RS, and, more broadly, for utility in idiopathic autism.

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Ethanol-mediated activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in iPS cells and iPS cells-derived neural progenitor cells.
May 2016

Abstract:

Alcohol abuse produces an enormous impact on health, society, and the economy. Currently, there are very limited therapies available, largely due to the poor understanding of mechanisms underlying alcohol use disorders (AUDs) in humans. Oxidative damage of mitochondria and cellular proteins aggravates the progression of neuroinflammation and neurological disorders initiated by alcohol abuse.

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Linking F-box protein 7 and parkin to neuronal degeneration in Parkinson's disease (PD)
Apr. 2016

Abstract:

Mutations of F-box protein 7 (FBXO7) and Parkin, two proteins in ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS), are both implicated in pathogenesis of dopamine (DA) neuron degeneration in Parkinson's disease (PD). Parkin is a HECT/RING hybrid ligase that physically receives ubiquitin on its catalytic centre and passes ubiquitin onto its substrates, whereas FBXO7 is an adaptor protein in Skp-Cullin-F-box (SCF) SCF(FBXO7) ubiquitin E3 ligase complex to recognize substrates and mediate substrates ubiquitination by SCF(FBXO7) E3 ligase. Here, we discuss the overlapping pathophysiologic mechanisms and clinical features linking Parkin and FBXO7 with autosomal recessive PD. Both proteins play an important role in neuroprotective mitophagy to clear away impaired mitochondria. Parkin can be recruited to impaired mitochondria whereas cellular stress can promote FBXO7 mitochondrial translocation. PD-linked FBXO7 can recruit Parkin into damaged mitochondria and facilitate its aggregation. WT FBXO7, but not PD-linked FBXO7 mutants can rescue DA neuron degeneration in Parkin null Drosophila. A better understanding of the common pathophysiologic mechanisms of these two proteins could unravel specific pathways for targeted therapy in PD.

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MDM2 inhibition rescues neurogenic and cognitive deficits in a mouse model of fragile X syndrome
Apr. 2016

Abstract:

Fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited intellectual disability, is caused by loss of the fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). However, the mechanism remains unclear, and effective treatment is lacking. We show that loss of FMRP leads to activation of adult mouse neural stem cells (NSCs) and a subsequent reduction in the production of neurons. We identified the ubiquitin ligase mouse double minute 2 homolog (MDM2) as a target of FMRP. FMRP regulates Mdm2 mRNA stability, and loss of FMRP resulted in elevated MDM2 mRNA and protein. Further, we found that increased MDM2 expression led to reduced P53 expression in adult mouse NSCs, leading to alterations in NSC proliferation and differentiation. Treatment with Nutlin-3, a small molecule undergoing clinical trials for treating cancer, specifically inhibited the interaction of MDM2 with P53, and rescued neurogenic and cognitive deficits in FMRP-deficient mice. Our data reveal a potential regulatory role for FMRP in the balance between adult NSC activation and quiescence, and identify a potential new treatment for fragile X syndrome.

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Novel, primate-specific PDE10A isoform highlights gene expression complexity in human striatum with implications on the molecular pathology of bipolar disorder
Feb. 2016

Abstract:

Bipolar disorder is a highly heritable neuropsychiatric disorder affecting nearly 2.5% of the population. Prior genetic studies identified a panel of common and rare single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with the disease that map to the first intron of the PDE10A gene. RNA sequencing of striatal brain tissue from bipolar and healthy control subjects identified a novel transcript of PDE10A, named PDE10A19, that codes for a PDE10A isoform with a unique N terminus. Genomic sequences that can encode the novel N terminus were conserved in other primates but not rodents. The RNA transcript was expressed at equal or greater levels in the human striatum compared with the two annotated transcripts, PDE10A1 and PDE10A2. The PDE10A19 transcript was detected in polysomal fractions; western blotting experiments confirmed that the RNA transcript is translated into protein. Immunocytochemistry studies using transfected mouse striatal and cortical neurons demonstrated that the PDE10A19 protein distributes to the cytosol, like PDE10A1, and unlike PDE10A2, which is associated with plasma membranes. Immunoprecipitation and immunocytochemical experiments revealed that the PDE10A19 isoform interacts physically with PDE10A2 and, when expressed at elevated levels, interferes with the plasma membrane localization of PDE10A2. These studies illustrate the complexity of PDE10A gene expression in the human brain and highlight the need to unravel the gene's complex and complete coding capabilities along with its transcriptional and translational regulation to guide the development of therapeutic agents that target the protein for the treatment of neuropsychiatric illness.

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Parkinson's disease-associated mutant VPS35 causes mitochondrial dysfunction by recycling DLP1 complexes
Jan. 2016

Abstract:

Mitochondrial dysfunction represents a critical step during the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD), and increasing evidence suggests abnormal mitochondrial dynamics and quality control as important underlying mechanisms. The VPS35 gene, which encodes a key component of the membrane protein-recycling retromer complex, is the third autosomal-dominant gene associated with PD. However, how VPS35 mutations lead to neurodegeneration remains unclear. Here we demonstrate that PD-associated VPS35 mutations caused mitochondrial fragmentation and cell death in cultured neurons in vitro, in mouse substantia nigra neurons in vivo and in human fibroblasts from an individual with PD who has the VPS35(D620N) mutation. VPS35-induced mitochondrial deficits and neuronal dysfunction could be prevented by inhibition of mitochondrial fission. VPS35 mutants showed increased interaction with dynamin-like protein (DLP) 1, which enhanced turnover of the mitochondrial DLP1 complexes via the mitochondria-derived vesicle-dependent trafficking of the complexes to lysosomes for degradation. Notably, oxidative stress increased the VPS35-DLP1 interaction, which we also found to be increased in the brains of sporadic PD cases. These results revealed a novel cellular mechanism for the involvement of VPS35 in mitochondrial fission, dysregulation of which is probably involved in the pathogenesis of familial, and possibly sporadic, PD.

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RCAN1 links impaired neurotrophin trafficking to aberrant development of the sympathetic nervous system in Down syndrome
Dec. 2015

Abstract:

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder affecting the nervous system in humans. To date, investigations of neural anomalies in Down syndrome have focused on the central nervous system, although dysfunction of the peripheral nervous system is a common manifestation. The molecular and cellular bases underlying peripheral abnormalities have remained undefined. Here, we report the developmental loss of sympathetic innervation in human Down syndrome organs and in a mouse model. We show that excess regulator of calcineurin 1 (RCAN1), an endogenous inhibitor of the calcineurin phosphatase that is triplicated in Down syndrome, impairs neurotrophic support of sympathetic neurons by inhibiting endocytosis of the nerve growth factor (NGF) receptor, TrkA. Genetically correcting RCAN1 levels in Down syndrome mice markedly improves NGF-dependent receptor trafficking, neuronal survival and innervation. These results uncover a critical link between calcineurin signalling, impaired neurotrophin trafficking and neurodevelopmental deficits in the peripheral nervous system in Down syndrome.

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Targeted DNA Sequencing from Autism Spectrum Disorder Brains Implicates Multiple Genetic Mechanisms
Dec. 2015

Abstract:

Single nucleotide variants (SNVs), particularly loss-of-function mutations, are significant contributors to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk. Here we report the first systematic deep sequencing study of 55 postmortem ASD brains for SNVs in 78 known ASD candidate genes. Remarkably, even without parental samples, we find more ASD brains with mutations that are protein-altering (26/55 cases versus 12/50 controls, p = 0.015), deleterious (16/55 versus 5/50, p = 0.016), or loss-of-function (6/55 versus 0/50, p = 0.028) compared to controls, with recurrent deleterious mutations in ARID1B, SCN1A, SCN2A, and SETD2, suggesting these mutations contribute to ASD risk. In several cases, the identified mutations and medical records suggest syndromic ASD diagnoses. Two ASD and one Fragile X premutation case showed deleterious somatic mutations, providing evidence that somatic mutations occur in ASD cases, and supporting a model in which a combination of germline and/or somatic mutations may contribute to ASD risk on a case-by-case basis.

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Elevated GFAP Protein in Anterior Cingulate Cortical White Matter in Males With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Dec. 2015

Abstract:

Based on evidence of abnormalities in axon thickness and neuronal disorganization, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is commonly considered to be a condition resulting from neuronal dysfunction. Yet, recent findings suggest that non-neuronal cell types also contribute to ASD pathology. To investigate the role of glial cells in ASD, a combination of protein and gene expression analyses were used to determine levels of two glial markers, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), in the postmortem brain tissue from control and ASD donors. Levels of GFAP immunoreactivity (ir) were significantly elevated (P = 0.008) in anterior cingulate cortex (Brodmann area 24; BA24) white matter of ASD donors compared to control donors. In contrast, GFAP-ir levels were similar in BA24 gray matter from ASD and control donors. MOG-ir was also similar in both BA24 white and gray matter from ASD and control donors. In anterior prefrontal cortex (BA10), there were no significant differences in GFAP-ir or MOG-ir in either white or gray matter comparing ASD to control donors. Levels of expression of the genes GFAP and MOG also showed no differences between control and ASD donors in BA24 and BA10 white and gray matter. Collectively, these data imply that ASD is associated with an activation of white matter astrocytes in the anterior cingulate cortex as a result of a yet undefined cellular insult. Research is needed to investigate the molecular pathways that underlie this astrocyte reaction and such research may yield important clues regarding the etiology of ASD.

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Pallidal neuronal apolipoprotein E in pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration recapitulates ischemic injury to the globus pallidus.
Dec. 2015

Abstract:

Pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration (PKAN) is a progressive movement disorder that is due to mutations in PANK2. Pathologically, it is a member of a class of diseases known as neurodegeneration with brain iron accumulation (NBIA) and features increased tissue iron and ubiquitinated proteinaceous aggregates in the globus pallidus. We have previously determined that these aggregates represent condensed residue derived from degenerated pallidal neurons. However, the protein content, other than ubiquitin, of these aggregates remains unknown. In the present study, we performed biochemical and immunohistochemical studies to characterize these aggregates and found them to be enriched in apolipoprotein E that is poorly soluble in detergent solutions. However, we did not determine a significant association between APOE genotype and the clinical phenotype of disease in our database of 81 cases. Rather, we frequently identified similar ubiquitin- and apolipoprotein E-enriched lesions in these neurons in non-PKAN patients in the penumbrae of remote infarcts that involve the globus pallidus, and occasionally in other brain sites that contain large γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic neurons. Our findings, taken together, suggest that tissue or cellular hypoxic/ischemic injury within the globus pallidus may underlie the pathogenesis of PKAN.

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F-box protein 7 mutations promote protein aggregation in mitochondria and inhibit mitophagy
Nov. 2015

Abstract:

The mutations of F-box protein 7 (FBXO7) gene (T22M, R378G and R498X) are associated with a severe form of autosomal recessive juvenile-onset Parkinson's disease (PD) (PARK 15). Here we demonstrated that wild-type (WT) FBXO7 is a stress response protein and it can play both cytoprotective and neurotoxic roles. The WT FBXO7 protein is vital to cell mitophagy and can facilitate mitophagy to protect cells, whereas mutant FBXO7 inhibits mitophagy. Upon stress, the endogenous WT FBXO7 gets up-regulated, concentrates into mitochondria and forms FBXO7 aggregates in mitochondria. However, FBXO7 mutations aggravate deleterious FBXO7 aggregation in mitochondria. The FBXO7 aggregation and toxicity can be alleviated by Proline, glutathione (GSH) and coenzyme Q10, whereas deleterious FBXO7 aggregation in mitochondria can be aggravated by prohibitin 1 (PHB1), a mitochondrial protease inhibitor. The overexpression of WT FBXO7 could lead to FBXO7 protein aggregation and dopamine neuron degeneration in transgenic Drosophila heads. The elevated FBXO7 expression and aggregation were identified in human fibroblast cells from PD patients. FBXO7 can also form aggregates in brains of PD and Alzheimer's disease. Our study provides novel pathophysiologic insights and suggests that FBXO7 may be a potential therapeutic target in FBXO7-linked neuron degeneration in PD.

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Somatic mutation in single human neurons tracks developmental and transcriptional history
Oct. 2015

Abstract:

Neurons live for decades in a postmitotic state, their genomes susceptible to DNA damage. Here we survey the landscape of somatic single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) in the human brain. We identified thousands of somatic SNVs by single-cell sequencing of 36 neurons from the cerebral cortex of three normal individuals. Unlike germline and cancer SNVs, which are often caused by errors in DNA replication, neuronal mutations appear to reflect damage during active transcription. Somatic mutations create nested lineage trees, allowing them to be dated relative to developmental landmarks and revealing a polyclonal architecture of the human cerebral cortex. Thus, somatic mutations in the brain represent a durable and ongoing record of neuronal life history, from development through postmitotic function.

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Down syndrome individuals with Alzheimer's disease have a distinct neuroinflammatory phenotype compared to sporadic Alzheimer's disease
Sept. 2015

Abstract:

Down syndrome (DS) is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and is primarily caused by the triplication of chromosome 21. The overexpression of amyloid precursor protein gene may be sufficient to drive Alzheimer's disease (AD) neuropathology that is observed in virtually all individuals with DS by the age of 40 years. There is relatively little information about inflammation in the DS brain and how the genetics of DS may alter inflammatory responses and modify the course of AD pathogenesis in this disorder. Using the macrophage classification system of M1, M2a, M2b, and M2c inflammatory phenotypes, we have shown that the early stages of AD are associated with a bias toward an M1 or M2a phenotype. In later stages of AD, markers of M1, M2a and M2c are elevated. We now report the inflammatory phenotype in a DS autopsy series to compare this with the progression in sporadic AD. Tissue from young DS cases (under 40 years of age, pre-AD) show a bias toward M1 and M2b states with little M2a or M2c observed. Older DS cases (over 40 with AD pathology) show a distinct bias toward an M2b phenotype. Importantly, this is distinct from sporadic AD where the M2b phenotype has been rarely, if ever observed in postmortem studies. Stimulated by immune complex activation of microglial cells and toll-like receptor activation, the M2b phenotype represents a unique neuroinflammatory state in diseased brain and may have significant implications for therapeutic intervention for persons with DS.

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Sex differences in glutamate receptor gene expression in major depression and suicide
Sept. 2015

Abstract:

Accumulating data indicate that the glutamate system is disrupted in major depressive disorder (MDD), and recent clinical research suggests that ketamine, an antagonist of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor (GluR), has rapid antidepressant efficacy. Here we report findings from gene expression studies of a large cohort of postmortem subjects, including subjects with MDD and controls. Our data reveal higher expression levels of the majority of glutamatergic genes tested in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in MDD (F21,59=2.32, P=0.006). Posthoc data indicate that these gene expression differences occurred mostly in the female subjects. Higher expression levels of GRIN1, GRIN2A-D, GRIA2-4, GRIK1-2, GRM1, GRM4, GRM5 and GRM7 were detected in the female patients with MDD. In contrast, GRM5 expression was lower in male MDD patients relative to male controls. When MDD suicides were compared with MDD non-suicides, GRIN2B, GRIK3 and GRM2 were expressed at higher levels in the suicides. Higher expression levels were detected for several additional genes, but these were not statistically significant after correction for multiple comparisons. In summary, our analyses indicate a generalized disruption of the regulation of the GluRs in the DLPFC of females with MDD, with more specific GluR alterations in the suicides and in the male groups. These data reveal further evidence that, in addition to the NMDA receptor, the AMPA, kainate and the metabotropic GluRs may be targets for the development of rapidly acting antidepressant drugs.

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Selective Connexin43 Inhibition Prevents Isoproterenol-Induced Arrhythmias and Lethality in Muscular Dystrophy Mice
Aug. 2015

Abstract:

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by an X-linked mutation that leads to the absence of dystrophin, resulting in life-threatening arrhythmogenesis and associated heart failure. We targeted the gap junction protein connexin43 (Cx43) responsible for maintaining cardiac conduction. In mild mdx and severe mdx:utr mouse models of DMD, and human DMD tissues, Cx43 was found to be pathologically mislocalized to lateral sides of cardiomyocytes. In addition, overall Cx43 protein levels were markedly increased in mouse and human DMD heart tissues examined. Electrocardiography on isoproterenol challenged mice showed that both models developed arrhythmias and died within 24 hours, while wild-type mice were free of pathology. Administering peptide mimetics to inhibit lateralized Cx43 function prior to challenge protected mdx mice from arrhythmogenesis and death, while mdx:utr mice displayed markedly improved ECG scores. These findings suggest that Cx43 lateralization contributes significantly to DMD arrhythmogenesis and that selective inhibition may provide substantial benefit.

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NTRK2 expression levels are reduced in laser captured pyramidal neurons from the anterior cingulate cortex in males with autism spectrum disorder
May 2015

Abstract:

The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) is a brain area involved in modulating behavior associated with social interaction, disruption of which is a core feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Functional brain imaging studies demonstrate abnormalities of the ACC in ASD as compared to typically developing control patients. However, little is known regarding the cellular basis of these functional deficits in ASD. Pyramidal neurons in the ACC are excitatory glutamatergic neurons and key cellular mediators of the neural output of the ACC. This study was designed to investigate the potential role of ACC pyramidal neurons in ASD brain pathology.

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