bims-axbals Biomed News
on Axonal Biology and ALS
Issue of 2024‒05‒12
28 papers selected by
TJ Krzystek, ALS Therapy Development Institute

  1. Mol Neurobiol. 2024 May 09.
      Hexanucleotide repeat expansions (HREs) in the chromosome 9 open reading frame 72 (C9orf72) gene are the most frequent genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Both are debilitating neurodegenerative conditions affecting either motor neurons (ALS) in the brain and spinal cord or neurons in the frontal and/or temporal cortical lobes (FTD). HREs undergo repeat-associated non-ATG (RAN) translation on both sense and anti-sense strands, generating five distinct dipeptide repeat proteins (DPRs), poly-GA, -GR, -GP, -PA and -PR. Perturbed proteostasis is well-recognised in ALS pathogenesis, including processes affecting the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Golgi compartments. However, these mechanisms have not been well characterised for C9orf72-mediated ALS/FTD. In this study we demonstrate that C9orf72 DPRs polyGA, polyGR and polyGP (× 40 repeats) disrupt secretory protein transport from the ER to the Golgi apparatus in neuronal cells. Consistent with this finding, these DPRs also induce fragmentation of the Golgi apparatus, activate ER stress, and inhibit the formation of the omegasome, the precursor of the autophagosome that originates from ER membranes. We also demonstrate Golgi fragmentation in cells undergoing RAN translation that express polyGP. Furthermore, dysregulated ER-Golgi transport was confirmed in C9orf72 patient dermal fibroblasts. Evidence of aberrant ER-derived vesicles in spinal cord motor neurons from C9orf72 ALS patients compared to controls was also obtained. These data thus confirm that ER proteostasis and ER-Golgi transport is perturbed in C9orf72-ALS in the absence of protein over-expression. Hence this study identifies novel molecular mechanisms associated with the ER and Golgi compartments induced by the C9orf72 HRE.
    Keywords:  ALS; C9orf72; ER stress; ER-Golgi transport; Omegasome
  2. Brain. 2024 May 04. pii: awae140. [Epub ahead of print]
      Pathogenic variants in the UBQLN2 gene cause X-linked dominant amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and/or frontotemporal dementia characterised by ubiquilin 2 aggregates in neurons of the motor cortex, hippocampus, and spinal cord. However, ubiquilin 2 neuropathology is also seen in sporadic and familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and/or frontotemporal dementia cases not caused by UBQLN2 pathogenic variants, particularly C9orf72-linked cases. This makes the mechanistic role of mutant ubiquilin 2 protein and the value of ubiquilin 2 pathology for predicting genotype unclear. Here we examine a cohort of 44 genotypically diverse amyotrophic lateral sclerosis cases with or without frontotemporal dementia, including eight cases with UBQLN2 variants (resulting in p.S222G, p.P497H, p.P506S, p.T487I (two cases), and p.P497L (three cases)). Using multiplexed (5-label) fluorescent immunohistochemistry, we mapped the co-localisation of ubiquilin 2 with phosphorylated TDP-43, dipeptide repeat aggregates, and p62, in the hippocampus of controls (n = 6), or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with or without frontotemporal dementia in sporadic (n = 20), unknown familial (n = 3), SOD1-linked (n = 1), FUS-linked (n = 1), C9orf72-linked (n = 5), and UBQLN2-linked (n = 8) cases. We differentiate between i) ubiquilin 2 aggregation together with phosphorylated TDP-43 or dipeptide repeat proteins, and ii) ubiquilin 2 self-aggregation promoted by UBQLN2 pathogenic variants that cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/and frontotemporal dementia. Overall, we describe a hippocampal protein aggregation signature that fully distinguishes mutant from wildtype ubiquilin 2 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis with or without frontotemporal dementia, whereby mutant ubiquilin 2 is more prone than wildtype to aggregate independently of driving factors. This neuropathological signature can be used to assess the pathogenicity of UBQLN2 gene variants and to understand the mechanisms of UBQLN2-linked disease.
    Keywords:   UBQLN2 ; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); frontotemporal dementia (FTD); hippocampus; neuropathology; ubiquilin 2
  3. Neurosci Res. 2024 May 07. pii: S0168-0102(24)00063-4. [Epub ahead of print]
      Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are characterized by nuclear depletion and cytoplasmic aggregation of TAR DNA-binding protein-43 (TDP-43). TDP-43 plays a key role in regulating the splicing of numerous genes, including TARDBP. This review aims to delineate two aspects of ALS/FTD pathogenesis associated with TDP-43 function. First, we provide novel mechanistic insights into the splicing of UNC13A, a TDP-43 target gene. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in UNC13A are the most common risk factors for ALS/FTD. We found that TDP-43 represses "cryptic exon" inclusion during UNC13A RNA splicing. A risk-associated SNP in this exon results in increased RNA levels of UNC13A retaining the cryptic exon. Second, we described the perturbation of the TDP-43 autoregulatory mechanism caused by age-related DNA demethylation. Aging is a major risk factor for sporadic ALS/FTD. Typically, TDP-43 levels are regulated via alternative splicing of TARDBP mRNA. We hypothesized that TARDBP methylation is altered by aging, thereby disrupting TDP-43 autoregulation. We found that demethylation reduces the efficiency of alternative splicing and increases TARDBP mRNA levels. Moreover, we demonstrated that, with aging, this region is demethylated in the human motor cortex and is associated with the early onset of ALS.
    Keywords:  ALS/FTD; DNA methylation; SNPs; TDP-43; TDP-43 autoregulatory mechanism; UNC13A; cryptic exon; loss of function
  4. Bioessays. 2024 May 07. e2400054
      Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease, primarily leading to the degeneration of motor neurons. The traditional focus on motor neuron-centric mechanisms has recently shifted towards understanding the contribution of non-neuronal cells, such as microglia, in ALS pathophysiology. Advances in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology have enabled the generation of iPSC-derived microglia monocultures and co-cultures to investigate their role in ALS pathogenesis. Here, we briefly review the insights gained from these studies into the role of microglia in ALS. While iPSC-derived microglia monocultures have revealed intrinsic cellular dysfunction due to ALS-associated mutations, microglia-motor neuron co-culture studies have demonstrated neurotoxic effects of mutant microglia on motor neurons. Based on these findings, we briefly discuss currently unresolved questions and how they could be addressed in future studies. iPSC models hold promise for uncovering disease-relevant pathways in ALS and identifying potential therapeutic targets.
  5. Front Cell Neurosci. 2024 ;18 1364164
      Introduction: Fused in sarcoma (FUS) mutations represent the most common genetic etiology of juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (JALS), for which effective treatments are lacking. In a prior report, we identified a novel FUS mutation, c.1509dupA: p. R503fs (FUSR503fs), in a sporadic JALS patient.Methods: The physicochemical properties and structure of FUSR503fs protein were analyzed by software: Multi-electrode array (MEA) assay, calcium activity imaging assay and transcriptome analysis were used to explore the pathophysiological mechanism of iPSC derived motor neurons.
    Results: Structural analysis and predictions regarding physical and chemical properties of this mutation suggest that the reduction of phosphorylation and glycosylation sites, along with alterations in the amino acid sequence, may contribute to abnormal FUS accumulation within the cytoplasm and nucleus of induced pluripotent stem cell- derived motor neurons (MNs). Multi-electrode array and calcium activity imaging indicate diminished spontaneous electrical and calcium activity signals in MNs harboring the FUSR503fs mutation. Transcriptomic analysis reveals upregulation of genes associated with viral infection and downregulation of genes involved in neural function maintenance, such as the ATP6V1C2 gene. Treatment with ropinirole marginally mitigates the electrophysiological decline in FUSR503fs MNs, suggesting the utility of this cell model for mechanistic exploration and drug screening.
    Discussion: iPSCs-derived motor neurons from JALS patients are promising tools for drug screening. The pathological changes in motor neurons of FUSR503fs may occur earlier than in other known mutation types that have been reported.
    Keywords:  calcium activity imaging; fused in sarcoma; juvenile amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; neuroelectrophysiology; physicochemical properties
  6. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2024 Apr 26. pii: S0006-291X(24)00546-1. [Epub ahead of print]716 150010
      Calcium (Ca2+) in mitochondria plays crucial roles in neurons including modulating metabolic processes. Moreover, excessive Ca2+ in mitochondria can lead to cell death. Thus, altered mitochondrial Ca2+ regulation has been implicated in several neurodegenerative diseases including Huntington's disease (HD). HD is a progressive hereditary neurodegenerative disorder that results from abnormally expanded cytosine-adenine-guanine trinucleotide repeats in the huntingtin gene. One neuropathological hallmark of HD is neuronal loss in the striatum and cortex. However, mechanisms underlying selective loss of striatal and cortical neurons in HD remain elusive. Here, we measured the basal Ca2+ levels and Ca2+ uptake in single presynaptic mitochondria during 100 external electrical stimuli using highly sensitive mitochondria-targeted Ca2+ indicators in cultured cortical and striatal neurons of a knock-in mouse model of HD (zQ175 mice). We observed elevated presynaptic mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake during 100 electrical stimuli in HD cortical neurons compared with wild-type (WT) cortical neurons. We also found the highly elevated presynaptic mitochondrial basal Ca2+ level and Ca2+ uptake during 100 stimuli in HD striatal neurons. The elevated presynaptic mitochondrial basal Ca2+ level in HD striatal neurons and Ca2+ uptake during stimulation in HD striatal and cortical neurons can disrupt neurotransmission and induce mitochondrial Ca2+ overload, eventually leading to neuronal death in the striatum and cortex of HD.
    Keywords:  Calcium; Homeostasis; Huntington's disease; Mitochondria; Neurodegeneration; Neurodegenerative disease
  7. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2024 May 14. 121(20): e2316266121
      Neurons regulate the microtubule-based transport of certain vesicles selectively into axons or dendrites to ensure proper polarization of function. The mechanism of this polarized vesicle transport is still not fully elucidated, though it is known to involve kinesins, which drive anterograde transport on microtubules. Here, we explore how the kinesin-3 family member KIF13A is regulated such that vesicles containing transferrin receptor (TfR) travel only to dendrites. In experiments involving live-cell imaging, knockout of KIF13A, BioID assay, we found that the kinase MARK2 phosphorylates KIF13A at a 14-3-3 binding motif, strengthening interaction of KIF13A with 14-3-3 such that it dissociates from TfR-containing vesicles, which therefore cannot enter axons. Overexpression of KIF13A or knockout of MARK2 leads to axonal transport of TfR-containing vesicles. These results suggest a unique kinesin-based mechanism for polarized transport of vesicles to dendrites.
    Keywords:  KIF13A; MARK2; TfR vesicle; neuron polarity; selective transport
  8. Acta Neuropathol. 2024 May 09. 147(1): 82
      Aging affects all cell types in the CNS and plays an important role in CNS diseases. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms driving these age-associated changes and their contribution to diseases are only poorly understood. The white matter in the aging brain as well as in diseases, such as Multiple sclerosis is characterized by subtle abnormalities in myelin sheaths and paranodes, suggesting that oligodendrocytes, the myelin-maintaining cells of the CNS, lose the capacity to preserve a proper myelin structure and potentially function in age and certain diseases. Here, we made use of directly converted oligodendrocytes (dchiOL) from young, adult and old human donors to study age-associated changes. dchiOL from all three age groups differentiated in an comparable manner into O4 + immature oligodendrocytes, but the proportion of MBP + mature dchiOL decreased with increasing donor age. This was associated with an increased ROS production and upregulation of cellular senescence markers such as CDKN1A, CDKN2A in old dchiOL. Comparison of the transcriptomic profiles of dchiOL from adult and old donors revealed 1324 differentially regulated genes with limited overlap with transcriptomic profiles of the donors' fibroblasts or published data sets from directly converted human neurons or primary rodent oligodendroglial lineage cells. Methylome analyses of dchiOL and human white matter tissue samples demonstrate that chronological and epigenetic age correlate in CNS white matter as well as in dchiOL and resulted in the identification of an age-specific epigenetic signature. Furthermore, we observed an accelerated epigenetic aging of the myelinated, normal appearing white matter of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients compared to healthy individuals. Impaired differentiation and upregulation of cellular senescence markers could be induced in young dchiOL in vitro using supernatants from pro-inflammatory microglia. In summary, our data suggest that physiological aging as well as inflammation-induced cellular senescence contribute to oligodendroglial pathology in inflammatory demyelinating diseases such as MS.
    Keywords:  Aging; Direct conversion; Human oligodendrocytes; Multiple sclerosis
  9. Methods Mol Biol. 2024 ;2799 47-54
      Transfection allows the introduction of foreign nucleic acid into eukaryotic cells. It is an important tool in understanding the roles of NMDARs in neurons. Here we describe using lipofection-mediated transfection to introduce cDNA encoding NMDAR subunits into postmitotic rodent primary cortical neurons maintained in culture.
    Keywords:  Culture; Lipofection; NMDA; Neuron; Transfection
  10. Amyotroph Lateral Scler Frontotemporal Degener. 2024 May 10. 1-4
      In patients of Asian ancestry, a heterozygous CGG repeat expansion of >100 units in LRP12 is the cause of oculopharyngodistal myopathy type 1 (OPDM1). Repeat lengths of between 61 and 100 units have been associated with rare amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) cases of Asian ancestry, although with unusually long disease duration and without significant upper motor neuron involvement. This study sought to determine whether LRP12 CGG repeat expansions were also present in ALS patients of European ancestry. Whole-genome sequencing data from 608 sporadic ALS patients, 35 familial ALS probands, and 4703 neurologically normal controls were screened for LRP12 CGG expansions using ExpansionHunter v4. All individuals had LRP12 CGG repeat lengths within the normal range of 3-25 units. To date, LRP12 CGG repeat expansions have not been reported in ALS patients of European ancestry and may be limited to rare ALS patients of Asian ancestry and atypical clinical presentations.
    Keywords:  Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; LRP12; short tandem repeat expansions
  11. Sci Signal. 2024 May 07. 17(835): eadj0032
      Serum response factor (SRF) is an essential transcription factor for brain development and function. Here, we explored how an SRF cofactor, the actin monomer-sensing myocardin-related transcription factor MRTF, is regulated in mouse cortical neurons. We found that MRTF-dependent SRF activity in vitro and in vivo was repressed by cyclase-associated protein CAP1. Inactivation of the actin-binding protein CAP1 reduced the amount of actin monomers in the cytoplasm, which promoted nuclear MRTF translocation and MRTF-SRF activation. This function was independent of cofilin1 and actin-depolymerizing factor, and CAP1 loss of function in cortical neurons was not compensated by endogenous CAP2. Transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of cerebral cortex lysates from wild-type and Cap1 knockout mice supported the role of CAP1 in repressing MRTF-SRF-dependent signaling in vivo. Bioinformatic analysis identified likely MRTF-SRF target genes, which aligned with the transcriptomic and proteomic results. Together with our previous studies that implicated CAP1 in axonal growth cone function as well as the morphology and plasticity of excitatory synapses, our findings establish CAP1 as a crucial actin regulator in the brain relevant for formation of neuronal networks.
  12. Cell Rep Med. 2024 Apr 29. pii: S2666-3791(24)00238-6. [Epub ahead of print] 101546
      Mutations in SOD1 cause amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease characterized by motor neuron (MN) loss. We previously discovered that macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), whose levels are extremely low in spinal MNs, inhibits mutant SOD1 misfolding and toxicity. In this study, we show that a single peripheral injection of adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivering MIF into adult SOD1G37R mice significantly improves their motor function, delays disease progression, and extends survival. Moreover, MIF treatment reduces neuroinflammation and misfolded SOD1 accumulation, rescues MNs, and corrects dysregulated pathways as observed by proteomics and transcriptomics. Furthermore, we reveal low MIF levels in human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived MNs from familial ALS patients with different genetic mutations, as well as in post mortem tissues of sporadic ALS patients. Our findings indicate that peripheral MIF administration may provide a potential therapeutic mechanism for modulating misfolded SOD1 in vivo and disease outcome in ALS patients.
    Keywords:  AAV; ALS; MIF; familial ALS; iPSCs; misfolded SOD1; motor neurons; mutant SOD1; mutant SOD1 mouse; sporadic ALS
  13. bioRxiv. 2024 Apr 23. pii: 2024.04.21.590488. [Epub ahead of print]
      Corticospinal neurons (CSN) centrally degenerate in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), along with spinal motor neurons, and loss of voluntary motor function in spinal cord injury (SCI) results from damage to CSN axons. For functional regeneration of specifically affected neuronal circuitry in vivo , or for optimally informative disease modeling and/or therapeutic screening in vitro , it is important to reproduce the type or subtype of neurons involved. No such appropriate in vitro models exist with which to investigate CSN selective vulnerability and degeneration in ALS, or to investigate routes to regeneration of CSN circuitry for ALS or SCI, critically limiting the relevance of much research. Here, we identify that the HMG-domain transcription factor Sox6 is expressed by a subset of NG2+ endogenous cortical progenitors in postnatal and adult cortex, and that Sox6 suppresses a latent neurogenic program by repressing inappropriate proneural Neurog2 expression by progenitors. We FACS-purify these genetically accessible progenitors from postnatal mouse cortex and establish a pure culture system to investigate their potential for directed differentiation into CSN. We then employ a multi-component construct with complementary and differentiation-sharpening transcriptional controls (activating Neurog2, Fezf2 , while antagonizing Olig2 with VP16:Olig2 ). We generate corticospinal-like neurons from SOX6+/NG2+ cortical progenitors, and find that these neurons differentiate with remarkable fidelity compared with corticospinal neurons in vivo . They possess appropriate morphological, molecular, transcriptomic, and electrophysiological characteristics, without characteristics of the alternate intracortical or other neuronal subtypes. We identify that these critical specifics of differentiation are not reproduced by commonly employed Neurog2 -driven differentiation. Neurons induced by Neurog2 instead exhibit aberrant multi-axon morphology and express molecular hallmarks of alternate cortical projection subtypes, often in mixed form. Together, this developmentally-based directed differentiation from genetically accessible cortical progenitors sets a precedent and foundation for in vitro mechanistic and therapeutic disease modeling, and toward regenerative neuronal repopulation and circuit repair.
  14. Brain Commun. 2024 ;6(3): fcae132
      Neurofilament light chain is an established marker of neuroaxonal injury that is elevated in CSF and blood across various neurological diseases. It is increasingly used in clinical practice to aid diagnosis and monitor progression and as an outcome measure to assess safety and efficacy of disease-modifying therapies across the clinical translational neuroscience field. Quantitative methods for neurofilament light chain in human biofluids have relied on immunoassays, which have limited capacity to describe the structure of the protein in CSF and how this might vary in different neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we characterized and quantified neurofilament light chain species in CSF across neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases and healthy controls using targeted mass spectrometry. We show that the quantitative immunoprecipitation-tandem mass spectrometry method developed in this study strongly correlates to single-molecule array measurements in CSF across the broad spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases and was replicable across mass spectrometry methods and centres. In summary, we have created an accurate and cost-effective assay for measuring a key biomarker in translational neuroscience research and clinical practice, which can be easily multiplexed and translated into clinical laboratories for the screening and monitoring of neurodegenerative disease or acute brain injury.
    Keywords:  mass spectrometry; neurodegenerative diseases; neurofilament light chain
  15. Acta Neuropathol Commun. 2024 May 05. 12(1): 71
      Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is a highly aggressive and fatal pediatric brain cancer. One pre-requisite for tumor cells to infiltrate is adhesion to extracellular matrix (ECM) components. However, it remains largely unknown which ECM proteins are critical in enabling DIPG adhesion and migration and which integrin receptors mediate these processes. Here, we identify laminin as a key ECM protein that supports robust DIPG cell adhesion and migration. To study DIPG infiltration, we developed a DIPG-neural assembloid model, which is composed of a DIPG spheroid fused to a human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural organoid. Using this assembloid model, we demonstrate that knockdown of laminin-associated integrins significantly impedes DIPG infiltration. Moreover, laminin-associated integrin knockdown improves DIPG response to radiation and HDAC inhibitor treatment within the DIPG-neural assembloids. These findings reveal the critical role of laminin-associated integrins in mediating DIPG progression and drug response. The results also provide evidence that disrupting integrin receptors may offer a novel therapeutic strategy to enhance DIPG treatment outcomes. Finally, these results establish DIPG-neural assembloid models as a powerful tool to study DIPG disease progression and enable drug discovery.
    Keywords:  Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma; Extracellular matrix; Integrins; Laminin; Neural organoids
  16. J Cell Biol. 2024 Jul 01. pii: e202309015. [Epub ahead of print]223(7):
      Activation of PINK1 and Parkin in response to mitochondrial damage initiates a response that includes phosphorylation of RAB7A at Ser72. Rubicon is a RAB7A binding negative regulator of autophagy. The structure of the Rubicon:RAB7A complex suggests that phosphorylation of RAB7A at Ser72 would block Rubicon binding. Indeed, in vitro phosphorylation of RAB7A by TBK1 abrogates Rubicon:RAB7A binding. Pacer, a positive regulator of autophagy, has an RH domain with a basic triad predicted to bind an introduced phosphate. Consistent with this, Pacer-RH binds to phosho-RAB7A but not to unphosphorylated RAB7A. In cells, mitochondrial depolarization reduces Rubicon:RAB7A colocalization whilst recruiting Pacer to phospho-RAB7A-positive puncta. Pacer knockout reduces Parkin mitophagy with little effect on bulk autophagy or Parkin-independent mitophagy. Rescue of Parkin-dependent mitophagy requires the intact pRAB7A phosphate-binding basic triad of Pacer. Together these structural and functional data support a model in which the TBK1-dependent phosphorylation of RAB7A serves as a switch, promoting mitophagy by relieving Rubicon inhibition and favoring Pacer activation.
  17. J Cell Signal. 2023 ;4(4): 151-162
      Mitochondrial dysfunction underlines neurodegenerative diseases which are mostly characterized by progressive degeneration of neurons. We previously reported that Cellular retinoic acid Binding protein 1 (Crabp1) knockout (CKO) mice spontaneously developed age-dependent motor degeneration, with defects accumulated in spinal motor neurons (MNs), the only cell type in spinal cord that expresses CRABP1. Here we uncovered that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) content and the expression of genes involved in respiration were significantly reduced in CKO mouse spinal cord, accompanied by significantly elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) and unfolded protein load, indicating that CRABP1 deficiency caused mitochondrial dysfunction. Further analyses of spinal cord tissues revealed significant reduction in the expression and activity of superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2), as well as defected mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt) pathway, specifically an increase in ATF5 mRNA but not its protein level, which suggested failure in the translational response of ATF5 in CKO. Consistently, eukaryotic initiation factor-2α, (eIF2α) phosphorylation was reduced in CKO spinal cord. In a CRABP1 knockdown MN1 model, siCrabp1-MN1, we validated the cell-autonomous function of CRABP1 in modulating the execution of UPRmt. This study reveals a new functional role for CRABP1 in the execution of mitochondrial stress response, that CRABP1 modulates eIF2α phosphorylation thereby contributing to ATF5 translational response that is needed to mitigate mitochondria stress.
    Keywords:  Crabp1; Reactive oxygen species; Unfolded protein response; eIF2α
  18. FASEB J. 2024 May 15. 38(9): e23654
      Heart failure and cardiac remodeling are both characterized by mitochondrial dysfunction. Healthy mitochondria are required for adequate contractile activity and appropriate regulation of cell survival. In the mammalian heart, enhancement of the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt) is cardioprotective under pressure overload conditions. We explored the UPRmt and the underlying regulatory mechanism in terms of hypertension-induced cardiac remodeling and the cardioprotective effect of metformin. Male spontaneously hypertensive rats and angiotensin II-treated neonatal rat cardiomyocytes were used to induce cardiac hypertrophy. The results showed that hypertension induced the formation of aberrant mitochondria, characterized by a reduced mtDNA/nDNA ratio and swelling, as well as lower levels of mitochondrial complexes I to V and inhibition of the expression of one protein subunit of each of complexes I to IV. Such changes eventually enlarged cardiomyocytes and increased cardiac fibrosis. Metformin treatment increased the mtDNA/nDNA ratio and regulated the UPRmt, as indicated by increased expression of activating transcription factor 5, Lon protease 1, and heat shock protein 60, and decreased expression of C/EBP homologous protein. Thus, metformin improved mitochondrial ultrastructure and function in spontaneously hypertensive rats. In vitro analyses revealed that metformin reduced the high levels of angiotensin II-induced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species in such animals and stimulated nuclear translocation of heat shock factor 1 (HSF1). Moreover, HSF1 small-interfering RNA reduced the metformin-mediated improvements in mitochondrial morphology and the UPRmt by suppressing hypertrophic signals and cardiomyocyte apoptosis. These results suggest that HSF1/UPRmt signaling contributes to the beneficial effects of metformin. Metformin-mediated targeting of mitochondrial protein homeostasis and modulation of HSF1 levels have potential therapeutic implications in terms of cardiac remodeling.
    Keywords:  cardiac remodeling; heat shock factor 1; hypertension; metformin; mitochondrial unfolded protein response
  19. Neurobiol Dis. 2024 May 03. pii: S0969-9961(24)00121-9. [Epub ahead of print]196 106522
      Idiopathic Parkinson's disease (PD) is epidemiologically linked with exposure to toxicants such as pesticides and solvents, which comprise a wide array of chemicals that pollute our environment. While most are structurally distinct, a common cellular target for their toxicity is mitochondrial dysfunction, a key pathological trigger involved in the selective vulnerability of dopaminergic neurons. We and others have shown that environmental mitochondrial toxicants such as the pesticides rotenone and paraquat, and the organic solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) appear to be influenced by the protein LRRK2, a genetic risk factor for PD. As LRRK2 mediates vesicular trafficking and influences endolysosomal function, we postulated that LRRK2 kinase activity may inhibit the autophagic removal of toxicant damaged mitochondria, resulting in elevated oxidative stress. Conversely, we suspected that inhibition of LRRK2, which has been shown to be protective against dopaminergic neurodegeneration caused by mitochondrial toxicants, would reduce the intracellular production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and prevent mitochondrial toxicity from inducing cell death. To do this, we tested in vitro if genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of LRRK2 (MLi2) protected against ROS caused by four toxicants associated with PD risk - rotenone, paraquat, TCE, and tetrachloroethylene (PERC). In parallel, we assessed if LRRK2 inhibition with MLi2 could protect against TCE-induced toxicity in vivo, in a follow up study from our observation that TCE elevated LRRK2 kinase activity in the nigrostriatal tract of rats prior to dopaminergic neurodegeneration. We found that LRRK2 inhibition blocked toxicant-induced ROS and promoted mitophagy in vitro, and protected against dopaminergic neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, and mitochondrial damage caused by TCE in vivo. We also found that cells with the LRRK2 G2019S mutation displayed exacerbated levels of toxicant induced ROS, but this was ameliorated by LRRK2 inhibition with MLi2. Collectively, these data support a role for LRRK2 in toxicant-induced mitochondrial dysfunction linked to PD risk through oxidative stress and the autophagic removal of damaged mitochondria.
    Keywords:  Environmental toxicants; Gene x environment (GxE); Leucine rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2); Mitochondria; Parkinson's disease (PD)
  20. Mol Biol Rep. 2024 May 05. 51(1): 606
      BACKGROUND: Recent in vitro studies using RB1+/- fibroblasts and MSCs have shown molecular and functional disruptions without the need for biallelic loss of RB1. However, this was not reflected in the recent in vitro studies employing RB1+/- retinal organoids. To gain further insights into the molecular disruptions in the RB1+/- retinal organoids, we performed a high throughput RNA sequencing analysis.METHODS AND RESULTS: iPSCs were generated from RB1+/+ and RB1+/- OAMSCs derived from retinoblastoma patients. RB1+/+ and RB1+/- iPSCs were subjected to a step-wise retinal differentiation protocol. Retinal differentiation was evaluated by Real-time PCR and flow cytometry analysis of the retinal markers. To gain further insights into the molecular differences in RB1+/- retinal organoids, a high throughput RNA sequencing followed by differential gene expression analysis and gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was performed. The analysis revealed a shift from the regular metabolic process of glycolysis to oxidative phosphorylation in the RB1+/- retinal organoids. To investigate further, we performed assays to determine the levels of pyruvate, lactate and ATP in the retinal organoids. The results revealed significant increase in ATP and pyruvate levels in RB1+/- retinal organoids of day 120 compared to that of the RB1+/+. The results thus revealed enhanced ATP production in the RB1+/- retinal organoids.
    CONCLUSION: The study provides novel insights into the metabolic phenotype of heterozygous RB1 mutant suggesting dysregulation of energy metabolism and glycolytic pathways to be first step even before the changes in cellular proliferation or other phenotypic consequences ensue.
    Keywords:  Heterozygous; Patient-derived; RB1 mutation; RNA sequencing; Retinal organoid; Retinoblastoma
  21. Methods Mol Biol. 2024 ;2800 67-74
      The study of cell signaling within tissues can be enhanced using highly multiplexed immunohistochemistry to localize the presence and spatial distribution of numerous pathways of interest simultaneously. Additional data can also be gained by placing the identified proteins into the context of adjacent structures, stroma, and interacting partners. Here, we outline a protocol for using the recently described IBEX method on tissues. This is an open and simple cyclic immunohistochemistry approach suited to this application. We describe a simplified protocol and provide guidance on the method, using a 12-marker panel on human retina to demonstrate the approach.
    Keywords:  Cell signaling; IBEX; Immunofluorescence; Immunohistochemistry; Retina
  22. Nat Commun. 2024 May 08. 15(1): 3894
      The F-box domain is a highly conserved structural motif that defines the largest class of ubiquitin ligases, Skp1/Cullin1/F-box protein (SCF) complexes. The only known function of the F-box motif is to form the protein interaction surface with Skp1. Here we show that the F-box domain can function as an environmental sensor. We demonstrate that the F-box domain of Met30 is a cadmium sensor that blocks the activity of the SCFMet30 ubiquitin ligase during cadmium stress. Several highly conserved cysteine residues within the Met30 F-box contribute to binding of cadmium with a KD of 8 µM. Binding induces a conformational change that allows for Met30 autoubiquitylation, which in turn leads to recruitment of the segregase Cdc48/p97/VCP followed by active SCFMet30 disassembly. The resulting inactivation of SCFMet30 protects cells from cadmium stress. Our results show that F-box domains participate in regulation of SCF ligases beyond formation of the Skp1 binding interface.
  23. Sci Rep. 2024 May 09. 14(1): 10621
      Asymptomatic Leucine-Rich Repeat Kinase 2 Gene (LRRK2) carriers are at risk for developing Parkinson's disease (PD). We studied presymptomatic substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) regional neurodegeneration in asymptomatic LRRK2 carriers compared to idiopathic PD patients using neuromelanin-sensitive MRI technique (NM-MRI). Fifteen asymptomatic LRRK2 carriers, 22 idiopathic PD patients, and 30 healthy controls (HCs) were scanned using NM-MRI. We computed volume and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) derived from the whole SNc and the sensorimotor, associative, and limbic SNc regions. An analysis of covariance was performed to explore the differences of whole and regional NM-MRI values among the groups while controlling the effect of age and sex. In whole SNc, LRRK2 had significantly lower CNR than HCs but non-significantly higher volume and CNR than PD patients, and PD patients significantly lower volume and CNR compared to HCs. Inside SNc regions, there were significant group effects for CNR in all regions and for volumes in the associative region, with a trend in the sensorimotor region but no significant changes in the limbic region. PD had reduced volume and CNR in all regions compared to HCs. Asymptomatic LRRK2 carriers showed globally decreased SNc volume and CNR suggesting early nigral neurodegeneration in these subjects at risk of developing PD.
    Keywords:  Asymptomatic leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) gene carrier; MRI; Neuromelanin; Parkinson’s disease (PD); Substantia nigra (SN)
  24. Cell Death Differ. 2024 May 08.
      The dynamic balance of DNA methylation and demethylation is required for erythropoiesis. Our previous transcriptomic analyses revealed that DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) is abundantly expressed in erythroid cells at all developmental stages. However, the role and molecular mechanisms of DNMT1 in human erythropoiesis remain unknown. Here we found that DNMT1 deficiency led to cell cycle arrest of erythroid progenitors which was partially rescued by treatment with a p21 inhibitor UC2288. Mechanically, this is due to decreased DNA methylation of p21 promoter, leading to upregulation of p21 expression. In contrast, DNMT1 deficiency led to increased apoptosis during terminal stage by inducing endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in a p21 independent manner. ER stress was attributed to the upregulation of RPL15 expression due to the decreased DNA methylation at RPL15 promoter. The upregulated RPL15 expression subsequently caused a significant upregulation of core ribosomal proteins (RPs) and thus ultimately activated all branches of unfolded protein response (UPR) leading to the excessive ER stress, suggesting a role of DNMT1 in maintaining protein homeostasis during terminal erythroid differentiation. Furthermore, the increased apoptosis was significantly rescued by the treatment of ER stress inhibitor TUDCA. Our findings demonstrate the stage-specific role of DNMT1 in regulating human erythropoiesis and provide new insights into regulation of human erythropoiesis.
  25. J Neurosci. 2024 May 09. pii: e0971232024. [Epub ahead of print]
      Understanding the function of the human brain requires determining basic properties of synaptic transmission in human neurons. One of the most fundamental parameters controlling neurotransmitter release is the presynaptic action potential, but its amplitude and duration remain controversial. Presynaptic action potentials have so far been measured with high temporal resolution only in a limited number of vertebrate but not in human neurons. To uncover properties of human presynaptic action potentials, we exploited recently developed tools to generate human glutamatergic neurons by transient expression of Neurogenin 2 (Ngn2) in pluripotent stem cells. During maturation for 3 to 9 weeks of culturing in different established media, the proportion of cells with multiple axon initial segments decreased, while the amount of axonal tau protein and neuronal excitability increased. Super-resolution microscopy revealed the alignment of the pre- and postsynaptic proteins, Bassoon and Homer. Synaptic transmission was surprisingly reliable at frequencies of 20, 50, and 100 Hz. The synchronicity of synaptic transmission during high-frequency transmission increased during 9 weeks of neuronal maturation. To analyze the mechanisms of synchronous high-frequency glutamate release, we developed direct presynaptic patch-clamp recordings from human neurons. The presynaptic action potentials had large overshoots to ∼25 mV and short durations of ∼0.5 ms. Our findings show that Ngn2-induced neurons represent an elegant model system allowing for functional, structural, and molecular analyses of glutamatergic synaptic transmission with high spatio-temporal resolution in human neurons. Furthermore, our data predict that glutamatergic transmission is mediated by large and rapid presynaptic action potentials in the human brain.Significance statement Presynaptic physiology remains poorly understood despite its relevance to neurological and psychiatric diseases. Studying presynaptic functions in human iPSC-derived neurons offers the important advantage of characterizing molecular mechanisms of neurotransmitter release in neurons derived from diseased patients. As a first step towards this goal, we established direct presynaptic whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from human glutamatergic neurons induced by transient Neurogenin 2 overexpression. We furthermore analyzed the structure of the synapses with super-resolution light microscopy and the synaptic short-term plasticity during high-frequency transmission. Our findings show that synchronous high-frequency transmission is mediated by rapid and large presynaptic action potentials in human neurons, similar to small conventional nerve terminals of rodent neurons.
  26. J Cell Biol. 2024 Aug 05. pii: e202206046. [Epub ahead of print]223(8):
      Whether, to what extent, and how the axons in the central nervous system (CNS) can withstand sudden mechanical impacts remain unclear. By using a microfluidic device to apply controlled transverse mechanical stress to axons, we determined the stress levels that most axons can withstand and explored their instant responses at nanoscale resolution. We found mild stress triggers a highly reversible, rapid axon beading response, driven by actomyosin-II-dependent dynamic diameter modulations. This mechanism contributes to hindering the long-range spread of stress-induced Ca2+ elevations into non-stressed neuronal regions. Through pharmacological and molecular manipulations in vitro, we found that actomyosin-II inactivation diminishes the reversible beading process, fostering progressive Ca2+ spreading and thereby increasing acute axonal degeneration in stressed axons. Conversely, upregulating actomyosin-II activity prevents the progression of initial injury, protecting stressed axons from acute degeneration both in vitro and in vivo. Our study unveils the periodic actomyosin-II in axon shafts cortex as a novel protective mechanism, shielding neurons from detrimental effects caused by mechanical stress.
  27. Methods Cell Biol. 2024 ;pii: S0091-679X(24)00059-1. [Epub ahead of print]187 249-292
      Cryogenic ultrastructural imaging techniques such as cryo-electron tomography have produced a revolution in how the structure of biological systems is investigated by enabling the determination of structures of protein complexes immersed in a complex biological matrix within vitrified cell and model organisms. However, so far, the portfolio of successes has been mostly limited to highly abundant complexes or to structures that are relatively unambiguous and easy to identify through electron microscopy. In order to realize the full potential of this revolution, researchers would have to be able to pinpoint lower abundance species and obtain functional annotations on the state of objects of interest which would then be correlated to ultrastructural information to build a complete picture of the structure-function relationships underpinning biological processes. Fluorescence imaging at cryogenic conditions has the potential to be able to meet these demands. However, wide-field images acquired at low numeric aperture (NA) using air immersion objective have a low resolving power and cannot provide accurate enough three-dimensional (3D) localization to enable the assignment of functional annotations to individual objects of interest or target sample debulking to ensure the preservation of the structures of interest. It is therefore necessary to develop super-resolved cryo-fluorescence workflows capable of fulfilling this role and enabling new biological discoveries. In this chapter, we present the current state of development of two super-resolution cryogenic fluorescence techniques, superSIL-STORM and astigmatism-based 3D STORM, show their application to a variety of biological systems and discuss their advantages and limitations. We further discuss the future applicability to cryo-CLEM workflows though examples of practical application to the study of membrane protein complexes both in mammalian cells and in Escherichia coli.
    Keywords:  3D STORM; Bacterial biology; CLEM; Clustering analysis; Drift correction; Membrane proteins; STORM; SuperSIL STORM; cryo-CLEM; cryo-STORM; cryo-fluorescence microscopy