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Michelle E Ehrlich - Top 30 Publications

Buprenorphine for the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Deficiency of TYROBP, an adapter protein for TREM2 and CR3 receptors, is neuroprotective in a mouse model of early Alzheimer's pathology.

Conventional genetic approaches and computational strategies have converged on immune-inflammatory pathways as key events in the pathogenesis of late onset sporadic Alzheimer's disease (LOAD). Mutations and/or differential expression of microglial specific receptors such as TREM2, CD33, and CR3 have been associated with strong increased risk for developing Alzheimer's disease (AD). DAP12 (DNAX-activating protein 12)/TYROBP, a molecule localized to microglia, is a direct partner/adapter for TREM2, CD33, and CR3. We and others have previously shown that TYROBP expression is increased in AD patients and in mouse models. Moreover, missense mutations in the coding region of TYROBP have recently been identified in some AD patients. These lines of evidence, along with computational analysis of LOAD brain gene expression, point to DAP12/TYROBP as a potential hub or driver protein in the pathogenesis of AD. Using a comprehensive panel of biochemical, physiological, behavioral, and transcriptomic assays, we evaluated in a mouse model the role of TYROBP in early stage AD. We crossed an Alzheimer's model mutant APP (KM670/671NL) /PSEN1 (Δexon9) (APP/PSEN1) mouse model with Tyrobp (-/-) mice to generate AD model mice deficient or null for TYROBP (APP/PSEN1; Tyrobp (+/-) or APP/PSEN1; Tyrobp (-/-)). While we observed relatively minor effects of TYROBP deficiency on steady-state levels of amyloid-β peptides, there was an effect of Tyrobp deficiency on the morphology of amyloid deposits resembling that reported by others for Trem2 (-/-) mice. We identified modulatory effects of TYROBP deficiency on the level of phosphorylation of TAU that was accompanied by a reduction in the severity of neuritic dystrophy. TYROBP deficiency also altered the expression of several AD related genes, including Cd33. Electrophysiological abnormalities and learning behavior deficits associated with APP/PSEN1 transgenes were greatly attenuated on a Tyrobp-null background. Some modulatory effects of TYROBP on Alzheimer's-related genes were only apparent on a background of mice with cerebral amyloidosis due to overexpression of mutant APP/PSEN1. These results suggest that reduction of TYROBP gene expression and/or protein levels could represent an immune-inflammatory therapeutic opportunity for modulating early stage LOAD, potentially leading to slowing or arresting the progression to full-blown clinical and pathological LOAD.

THAP1: Role in Mouse Embryonic Stem Cell Survival and Differentiation.

THAP1 (THAP [Thanatos-associated protein] domain-containing, apoptosis-associated protein 1) is a ubiquitously expressed member of a family of transcription factors with highly conserved DNA-binding and protein-interacting regions. Mutations in THAP1 cause dystonia, DYT6, a neurologic movement disorder. THAP1 downstream targets and the mechanism via which it causes dystonia are largely unknown. Here, we show that wild-type THAP1 regulates embryonic stem cell (ESC) potential, survival, and proliferation. Our findings identify THAP1 as an essential factor underlying mouse ESC survival and to some extent, differentiation, particularly neuroectodermal. Loss of THAP1 or replacement with a disease-causing mutation results in an enhanced rate of cell death, prolongs Nanog, Prdm14, and/or Rex1 expression upon differentiation, and results in failure to upregulate ectodermal genes. ChIP-Seq reveals that these activities are likely due in part to indirect regulation of gene expression.

Buprenorphine for the Treatment of the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Current pharmacologic treatment of the neonatal abstinence syndrome with morphine is associated with a lengthy duration of therapy and hospitalization. Buprenorphine may be more effective than morphine for this indication.

Disruption of Protein Processing in the Endoplasmic Reticulum of DYT1 Knock-in Mice Implicates Novel Pathways in Dystonia Pathogenesis.

Dystonia type 1 (DYT1) is a dominantly inherited neurological disease caused by mutations in TOR1A, the gene encoding the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident protein torsinA. Previous work mostly completed in cell-based systems suggests that mutant torsinA alters protein processing in the secretory pathway. We hypothesized that inducing ER stress in the mammalian brain in vivo would trigger or exacerbate mutant torsinA-induced dysfunction. To test this hypothesis, we crossed DYT1 knock-in with p58(IPK)-null mice. The ER co-chaperone p58(IPK) interacts with BiP and assists in protein maturation by helping to fold ER cargo. Its deletion increases the cellular sensitivity to ER stress. We found a lower generation of DYT1 knock-in/p58 knock-out mice than expected from this cross, suggesting a developmental interaction that influences viability. However, surviving animals did not exhibit abnormal motor function. Analysis of brain tissue uncovered dysregulation of eiF2α and Akt/mTOR translational control pathways in the DYT1 brain, a finding confirmed in a second rodent model and in human brain. Finally, an unbiased proteomic analysis identified relevant changes in the neuronal protein landscape suggesting abnormal ER protein metabolism and calcium dysregulation. Functional studies confirmed the interaction between the DYT1 genotype and neuronal calcium dynamics. Overall, these findings advance our knowledge on dystonia, linking translational control pathways and calcium physiology to dystonia pathogenesis and identifying potential new pharmacological targets.

Unexpected partial correction of metabolic and behavioral phenotypes of Alzheimer's APP/PSEN1 mice by gene targeting of diabetes/Alzheimer's-related Sorcs1.

Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) are associated with increased risk for cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's disease (AD) and vascular dementia. SORCS1 encodes a protein-sorting molecule genetically linked to both T2D and AD. The association of SORCS1 with both AD and T2D is sexually dimorphic in humans, with both disease associations showing more robust effects in females. Based on published evidence that manipulation of the mouse genome combining multiple genes related to cerebral amyloidosis, to T2D, or both, might provide novel mouse models with exacerbated amyloid and/or diabetes phenotypes, we assessed memory, glucose homeostasis, and brain biochemistry and pathology in male and female wild-type, Sorcs1 -/-, APP/PSEN1, and Sorcs1 -/- X APP/PSEN1 mice.

Stable G protein-effector complexes in striatal neurons: mechanism of assembly and role in neurotransmitter signaling.

In the striatum, signaling via G protein-coupled neurotransmitter receptors is essential for motor control. Critical to this process is the effector enzyme adenylyl cyclase type 5 (AC5) that produces second messenger cAMP upon receptor-mediated activation by G protein Golf. However, the molecular organization of the Golf-AC5 signaling axis is not well understood. In this study, we report that in the striatum AC5 exists in a stable pre-coupled complex with subunits of Golf heterotrimer. We use genetic mouse models with disruption in individual components of the complex to reveal hierarchical order of interactions required for AC5-Golf stability. We further identify that the assembly of AC5-Golf complex is mediated by PhLP1 chaperone that plays central role in neurotransmitter receptor coupling to cAMP production motor learning. These findings provide evidence for the existence of stable G protein-effector signaling complexes and identify a new component essential for their assembly.

Physiologically generated presenilin 1 lacking exon 8 fails to rescue brain PS1-/- phenotype and forms complexes with wildtype PS1 and nicastrin.

The presenilin 1 (PSEN1) L271V mutation causes early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease by disrupting the alternative splicing of the PSEN1 gene, producing some transcripts harboring the L271V point mutation and other transcripts lacking exon 8 (PS1(∆exon8)). We previously reported that PS1 L271V increased amyloid beta (Aβ) 42/40 ratios, while PS1(∆exon8) reduced Aβ42/40 ratios, indicating that the former and not the exon 8 deletion transcript is amyloidogenic. Also, PS1(∆exon8) did not rescue Aβ generation in PS1/2 double knockout cells indicating its identity as a severe loss-of-function splice form. PS1(∆exon8) is generated physiologically raising the possibility that we had identified the first physiological inactive PS1 isoform. We studied PS1(∆exon8) in vivo by crossing PS1(∆exon8) transgenics with either PS1-null or Dutch APP(E693Q) mice. As a control, we crossed APP(E693Q) with mice expressing a deletion in an adjacent exon (PS1(∆exon9)). PS1(∆exon8) did not rescue embryonic lethality or Notch-deficient phenotypes of PS1-null mice displaying severe loss of function in vivo. We also demonstrate that this splice form can interact with wildtype PS1 using cultured cells and co-immunoprecipitation (co-IP)/bimolecular fluorescence complementation. Further co-IP demonstrates that PS1(∆exon8) interacts with nicastrin, participating in the γ-secretase complex formation. These data support that catalytically inactive PS1(∆exon8) is generated physiologically and participates in protein-protein interactions.

Protection by dietary restriction in the YAC128 mouse model of Huntington's disease: Relation to genes regulating histone acetylation and HTT.

Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by metabolic, cognitive, and motor deficits. HD is caused by an expanded CAG repeat in the first exon of the HTT gene, resulting in an expanded polyglutamine section. Dietary restriction (DR) increases lifespan and ameliorates age-related pathologies, including in a model of HD, but the mechanisms mediating these protective effects are unknown. We report metabolic and behavioral effects of DR in the full-length YAC128 HD mouse model, and associated transcriptional changes in hypothalamus and striatum. DR corrected many effects of the transgene including increased body weight, decreased blood glucose, and impaired motor function. These changes were associated with reduced striatal human (but not mouse) HTT expression, as well as alteration in gene expression regulating histone acetylation modifications, particularly Hdac2. Other mRNAs related to Huntington's pathology in striatal tissue showed significant modulation by the transgene, dietary restriction or both. These results establish a protective role of DR in a transgenic model that contains the complete human HTT gene and for the first time suggest a role for DR in lowering HTT level, which correlates with severity of symptoms.

Abnormalities of motor function, transcription and cerebellar structure in mouse models of THAP1 dystonia.

DYT6 dystonia is caused by mutations in THAP1 [Thanatos-associated (THAP) domain-containing apoptosis-associated protein] and is autosomal dominant and partially penetrant. Like other genetic primary dystonias, DYT6 patients have no characteristic neuropathology, and mechanisms by which mutations in THAP1 cause dystonia are unknown. Thap1 is a zinc-finger transcription factor, and most pathogenic THAP1 mutations are missense and are located in the DNA-binding domain. There are also nonsense mutations, which act as the equivalent of a null allele because they result in the generation of small mRNA species that are likely rapidly degraded via nonsense-mediated decay. The function of Thap1 in neurons is unknown, but there is a unique, neuronal 50-kDa Thap1 species, and Thap1 levels are auto-regulated on the mRNA level. Herein, we present the first characterization of two mouse models of DYT6, including a pathogenic knockin mutation, C54Y and a null mutation. Alterations in motor behaviors, transcription and brain structure are demonstrated. The projection neurons of the deep cerebellar nuclei are especially altered. Abnormalities vary according to genotype, sex, age and/or brain region, but importantly, overlap with those of other dystonia mouse models. These data highlight the similarities and differences in age- and cell-specific effects of a Thap1 mutation, indicating that the pathophysiology of THAP1 mutations should be assayed at multiple ages and neuronal types and support the notion of final common pathways in the pathophysiology of dystonia arising from disparate mutations.

Motor and behavioral phenotype in conditional mutants with targeted ablation of cortical D1 dopamine receptor-expressing cells.

D1-dopamine receptors (Drd1a) are highly expressed in the deep layers of the cerebral cortex and the striatum. A number of human diseases such as Huntington disease and schizophrenia are known to have cortical pathology involving dopamine receptor expressing neurons. To illuminate their functional role, we exploited a Cre/Lox molecular paradigm to generate Emx-1(tox) MUT mice, a transgenic line in which cortical Drd1a-expressing pyramidal neurons were selectively ablated. Emx-1(tox) MUT mice displayed prominent forelimb dystonia, hyperkinesia, ataxia on rotarod testing, heightened anxiety-like behavior, and age-dependent abnormalities in a test of social interaction. The latter occurred in the context of normal working memory on testing in the Y-maze and for novel object recognition. Some motor and behavioral abnormalities in Emx-1(tox) MUT mice overlapped with those in CamKIIα(tox) MUT transgenic mice, a line in which both striatal and cortical Drd1a-expressing cells were ablated. Although Emx-1(tox) MUT mice had normal striatal anatomy, both Emx-1(tox) MUT and CamKIIα(tox) MUT mice displayed selective neuronal loss in cortical layers V and VI. This study shows that loss of cortical Drd1a-expressing cells is sufficient to produce deficits in multiple motor and behavioral domains, independent of striatal mechanisms. Primary cortical changes in the D1 dopamine receptor compartment are therefore likely to model a number of core clinical features in disorders such as Huntington disease and schizophrenia.

Altered synaptic structure in the hippocampus in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease with soluble amyloid-β oligomers and no plaque pathology.

Mounting evidence suggests that soluble oligomers of amyloid-β (oAβ) represent the pertinent synaptotoxic form of Aβ in sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD); however, the mechanistic links between oAβ and synaptic degeneration remain elusive. Most in vivo experiments to date have been limited to examining the toxicity of oAβ in mouse models that also possess insoluble fibrillar Aβ (fAβ), and data generated from these models can lead to ambiguous interpretations. Our goal in the present study was to examine the effects of soluble oAβ on neuronal and synaptic structure in the amyloid precursor protein (APP) E693Q ("Dutch") mouse model of AD, which develops intraneuronal accumulation of soluble oAβ with no detectable plaques in AD-relevant brain regions. We performed quantitative analyses of neuronal pathology, including dendrite morphology, spine density, and synapse ultrastructure in individual hippocampal CA1 neurons.

Dystonia type 6 gene product Thap1: identification of a 50 kDa DNA-binding species in neuronal nuclear fractions.

Mutations in THAP1 result in dystonia type 6, with partial penetrance and variable phenotype. The goal of this study was to examine the nature and expression pattern of the protein product(s) of the Thap1 transcription factor (DYT6 gene) in mouse neurons, and to study the regional and developmental distribution, and subcellular localization of Thap1 protein. The goal was accomplished via overexpression and knock-down of Thap1 in the HEK293T cell line and in mouse striatal primary cultures and western blotting of embryonic Thap1-null tissue. The endogenous and transduced Thap1 isoforms were characterized using three different commercially available anti-Thap1 antibodies and validated by immunoprecipitation and DNA oligonucleotide affinity chromatography. We identified multiple, novel Thap1 species of apparent Mr 32 kDa, 47 kDa, and 50-52 kDa in vitro and in vivo, and verified the previously identified species at 29-30 kDa in neurons. The Thap1 species at the 50 kDa size range was exclusively detected in murine brain and testes and were located in the nuclear compartment. Thus, in addition to the predicted 25 kDa apparent Mr, we identified Thap1 species with greater apparent Mr that we speculate may be a result of posttranslational modifications. The neural localization of the 50 kDa species and its nuclear compartmentalization suggests that these may be key Thap1 species controlling neuronal gene transcription. Dysfunction of the neuronal 50 kDa species may therefore be implicated in the pathogenesis of DYT6.

Behavioral and transcriptome alterations in male and female mice with postnatal deletion of TrkB in dorsal striatal medium spiny neurons.

The high affinity tyrosine kinase receptor, TrkB, is the primary receptor for brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and plays an important role in development, maintenance and plasticity of the striatal output medium size spiny neuron. The striatal BDNF/TrkB system is thereby implicated in many physiologic and pathophysiologic processes, the latter including mood disorders, addiction, and Huntington's disease. We crossed a mouse harboring a transgene directing cre-recombinase expression primarily to postnatal, dorsal striatal medium spiny neurons, to a mouse containing a floxed TrkB allele (fB) mouse designed for deletion of TrkB to determine its role in the adult striatum.

Induction of DARPP-32 by brain-derived neurotrophic factor in striatal neurons in vitro is modified by histone deacetylase inhibitors and Nab2.

Neurotrophins and modifiers of chromatin acetylation and deacetylation participate in regulation of transcription during neuronal maturation and maintenance. The striatal medium spiny neuron is supported by cortically-derived brain derived neurotrophic factor and is the most vulnerable neuron in Huntington's disease, in which growth factor and histone deacetylase activity are both disrupted. We examined the ability of three histone deacetylase inhibitors, trichostatin A, valproic acid and Compound 4 b, alone and combined with brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), to promote phenotypic maturation of striatal medium spiny neurons in vitro. Exposure of these neurons to each of the three compounds led to an increase in overall histone H3 and H4 acetylation, dopamine and cyclic AMP-regulated phosphoprotein, 32 kDa (DARPP-32) mRNA and protein, and mRNA levels of other markers of medium spiny neuron maturation. We were, however, unable to prove that HDAC inhibitors directly lead to remodeling of Ppp1r1b chromatin. In addition, induction of DARPP-32 by brain-derived neurotrophic factor was inhibited by histone deacetylase inhibitors. Although BDNF-induced increases in pTrkB, pAkt, pERK and Egr-1 were unchanged by combined application with VPA, the increase in DARPP-32 was relatively diminished. Strikingly, the NGF1A-binding protein, Nab2, was induced by BDNF, but not in the presence of VPA or TSA. Gel shift analysis showed that α-Nab2 super-shifted a band that is more prominent with extract derived from BDNF-treated neurons than with extracts from cultures treated with VPA alone or VPA plus BDNF. In addition, overexpression of Nab2 induced DARPP-32. We conclude that histone deacetylase inhibitors inhibit the induction of Nab2 by BDNF, and thereby the relative induction of DARPP-32.

Resolving pathobiological mechanisms relating to Huntington disease: gait, balance, and involuntary movements in mice with targeted ablation of striatal D1 dopamine receptor cells.

Progressive cell loss is observed in the striatum, cerebral cortex, thalamus, hypothalamus, subthalamic nucleus and hippocampus in Huntington disease. In the striatum, dopamine-responsive medium spiny neurons are preferentially lost. Clinical features include involuntary movements, gait and orofacial impairments in addition to cognitive deficits and psychosis, anxiety and mood disorders. We utilized the Cre-LoxP system to generate mutant mice with selective postnatal ablation of D1 dopamine receptor-expressing striatal neurons to determine which elements of the complex Huntington disease phenotype relate to loss of this neuronal subpopulation. Mutant mice had reduced body weight, locomotor slowing, reduced rearing, ataxia, a short stride length wide-based erratic gait, impairment in orofacial movements and displayed haloperidol-suppressible tic-like movements. The mutation was associated with an anxiolytic profile. Mutant mice had significant striatal-specific atrophy and astrogliosis. D1-expressing cell number was reduced throughout the rostrocaudal extent of the dorsal striatum consistent with partial destruction of the striatonigral pathway. Additional striatal changes included up-regulated D2 and enkephalin mRNA, and an increased density of D2 and preproenkephalin-expressing projection neurons, and striatal neuropeptide Y and cholinergic interneurons. These data suggest that striatal D1-cell-ablation alone may account for the involuntary movements and locomotor, balance and orofacial deficits seen not only in HD but also in HD phenocopy syndromes with striatal atrophy. Therapeutic strategies would therefore need to target striatal D1 cells to ameliorate deficits especially when the clinical presentation is dominated by a bradykinetic/ataxic phenotype with involuntary movements.

Phenotyping dividing cells in mouse models of neurodegenerative basal ganglia diseases.

Mice generated by a Cre/LoxP transgenic paradigm were used to model neurodegenerative basal ganglia disease of which Huntington disease (HD) is the prototypical example. In HD, death occurs in striatal projection neurons as well as cortical neurons. Cortical and striatal neurons that express the D1 dopamine receptor (Drd1a) degenerate in HD. The contribution that death of specific neuronal cell populations makes to the HD disease phenotype and the response of the brain to loss of defined cell subtypes is largely unknown.

Reduction of synaptojanin 1 accelerates Aβ clearance and attenuates cognitive deterioration in an Alzheimer mouse model.

Recent studies link synaptojanin 1 (synj1), the main phosphoinositol (4,5)-biphosphate phosphatase (PI(4,5)P2-degrading enzyme) in the brain and synapses, to Alzheimer disease. Here we report a novel mechanism by which synj1 reversely regulates cellular clearance of amyloid-β (Aβ). Genetic down-regulation of synj1 reduces both extracellular and intracellular Aβ levels in N2a cells stably expressing the Swedish mutant of amyloid precursor protein (APP). Moreover, synj1 haploinsufficiency in an Alzheimer disease transgenic mouse model expressing the Swedish mutant APP and the presenilin-1 mutant ΔE9 reduces amyloid plaque load, as well as Aβ40 and Aβ42 levels in hippocampus of 9-month-old animals. Reduced expression of synj1 attenuates cognitive deficits in these transgenic mice. However, reduction of synj1 does not affect levels of full-length APP and the C-terminal fragment, suggesting that Aβ generation by β- and γ-secretase cleavage is not affected. Instead, synj1 knockdown increases Aβ uptake and cellular degradation through accelerated delivery to lysosomes. These effects are partially dependent upon elevated PI(4,5)P2 with synj1 down-regulation. In summary, our data suggest a novel mechanism by which reduction of a PI(4,5)P2-degrading enzyme, synj1, improves amyloid-induced neuropathology and behavior deficits through accelerating cellular Aβ clearance.

Protein sorting motifs in the cytoplasmic tail of SorCS1 control generation of Alzheimer's amyloid-β peptide.

Endosomal sorting of the Alzheimer amyloid precursor protein (APP) plays a key role in the biogenesis of the amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide. Genetic lesions underlying Alzheimer's disease (AD) can act by interfering with this physiological process. Specifically, proteins involved in trafficking between endosomal compartments and the trans-Golgi network (TGN) [including the retromer complex (Vps35, Vps26) and its putative receptors (sortilin, SorL1, SorCS1)] have been implicated in the molecular pathology of late-onset AD. Previously, we demonstrated a role for SorCS1 in APP metabolism and Aβ production and, while we implicated a role for the retromer in this regulation, the underlying mechanism remained poorly understood. Here, we provide evidence for a motif within the SorCS1c cytoplasmic tail that, when manipulated, results in perturbed sorting of APP and/or its fragments to endosomal compartments, decreased retrograde TGN trafficking, and increased Aβ production in H4 neuroglioma cells. These perturbations apparently do not involve turnover of the cell surface APP pool, but rather they involve intracellular APP and/or its fragments, downstream of APP endocytosis.

Mutations in GNAL cause primary torsion dystonia.

Dystonia is a movement disorder characterized by repetitive twisting muscle contractions and postures. Its molecular pathophysiology is poorly understood, in part owing to limited knowledge of the genetic basis of the disorder. Only three genes for primary torsion dystonia (PTD), TOR1A (DYT1), THAP1 (DYT6) and CIZ1 (ref. 5), have been identified. Using exome sequencing in two families with PTD, we identified a new causative gene, GNAL, with a nonsense mutation encoding p.Ser293* resulting in a premature stop codon in one family and a missense mutation encoding p.Val137Met in the other. Screening of GNAL in 39 families with PTD identified 6 additional new mutations in this gene. Impaired function of several of the mutants was shown by bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) assays.

Msh2 acts in medium-spiny striatal neurons as an enhancer of CAG instability and mutant huntingtin phenotypes in Huntington's disease knock-in mice.

The CAG trinucleotide repeat mutation in the Huntington's disease gene (HTT) exhibits age-dependent tissue-specific expansion that correlates with disease onset in patients, implicating somatic expansion as a disease modifier and potential therapeutic target. Somatic HTT CAG expansion is critically dependent on proteins in the mismatch repair (MMR) pathway. To gain further insight into mechanisms of somatic expansion and the relationship of somatic expansion to the disease process in selectively vulnerable MSNs we have crossed HTT CAG knock-in mice (HdhQ111) with mice carrying a conditional (floxed) Msh2 allele and D9-Cre transgenic mice, in which Cre recombinase is expressed specifically in MSNs within the striatum. Deletion of Msh2 in MSNs eliminated Msh2 protein in those neurons. We demonstrate that MSN-specific deletion of Msh2 was sufficient to eliminate the vast majority of striatal HTT CAG expansions in HdhQ111 mice. Furthermore, MSN-specific deletion of Msh2 modified two mutant huntingtin phenotypes: the early nuclear localization of diffusely immunostaining mutant huntingtin was slowed; and the later development of intranuclear huntingtin inclusions was dramatically inhibited. Therefore, Msh2 acts within MSNs as a genetic enhancer both of somatic HTT CAG expansions and of HTT CAG-dependent phenotypes in mice. These data suggest that the selective vulnerability of MSNs may be at least in part contributed by the propensity for somatic expansion in these neurons, and imply that intervening in the expansion process is likely to have therapeutic benefit.

Latrepirdine (dimebon) enhances autophagy and reduces intracellular GFP-Aβ42 levels in yeast.

Latrepirdine (Dimebon), an anti-histamine, has shown some benefits in trials of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by accumulation of aggregated or misfolded protein such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and has been shown to promote the removal of α-synuclein protein aggregates in vivo. An important pathway for removal of aggregated or misfolded proteins is the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, which has been implicated in AD pathogenesis, and enhancing this pathway has been shown to have therapeutic potential in AD and other proteinopathies. Here we use a yeast model, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to investigate whether latrepirdine can enhance autophagy and reduce levels of amyloid-β (Aβ)42 aggregates. Latrepirdine was shown to upregulate yeast vacuolar (lysosomal) activity and promote transport of the autophagic marker (Atg8) to the vacuole. Using an in vitro green fluorescent protein (GFP) tagged Aβ yeast expression system, we investigated whether latrepirdine-enhanced autophagy was associated with a reduction in levels of intracellular GFP-Aβ42. GFP-Aβ42 was localized into punctate patterns compared to the diffuse cytosolic pattern of GFP and the GFP-Aβ42 (19:34), which does not aggregate. In the autophagy deficient mutant (Atg8Δ), GFP-Aβ42 showed a more diffuse cytosolic localization, reflecting the inability of this mutant to sequester GFP-Aβ42. Similar to rapamycin, we observed that latrepirdine significantly reduced GFP-Aβ42 in wild-type compared to the Atg8Δ mutant. Further, latrepirdine treatment attenuated Aβ42-induced toxicity in wild-type cells but not in the Atg8Δ mutant. Together, our findings provide evidence for a novel mechanism of action for latrepirdine in inducing autophagy and reducing intracellular levels of GFP-Aβ42.

Egr-1 induces DARPP-32 expression in striatal medium spiny neurons via a conserved intragenic element.

DARPP-32 (dopamine and adenosine 3', 5'-cyclic monophosphate cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein, 32 kDa) is a striatal-enriched protein that mediates signaling by dopamine and other first messengers in the medium spiny neurons. The transcriptional mechanisms that regulate striatal DARPP-32 expression remain enigmatic and are a subject of much interest in the efforts to induce a striatal phenotype in stem cells. We report the identification and characterization of a conserved region, also known as H10, in intron IV of the gene that codes for DARPP-32 (Ppp1r1b). This DNA sequence forms multiunit complexes with nuclear proteins from adult and embryonic striata of mice and rats. Purification of proteins from these complexes identified early growth response-1 (Egr-1). The interaction between Egr-1 and H10 was confirmed in vitro and in vivo by super-shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, respectively. Importantly, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a known inducer of DARPP-32 and Egr-1 expression, enhanced Egr-1 binding to H10 in vitro. Moreover, overexpression of Egr-1 in primary striatal neurons induced the expression of DARPP-32, whereas a dominant-negative Egr-1 blocked DARPP-32 induction by BDNF. Together, this study identifies Egr-1 as a transcriptional activator of the Ppp1r1b gene and provides insight into the molecular mechanisms that regulate medium spiny neuron maturation.

Red/ET recombination with chimeric oligonucleotides allows rapid generation of BAC transgenes harboring full-length or truncated huntingtin cDNA.

Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder that is caused by a CAG repeat expansion encoding a polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin (htt) gene. None of the existing HD mouse models recapitulate the exact disease symptoms and course as it is seen in humans and the generation of further HD disease models is challenging because of the size and complexity of the htt gene locus. Starting from a single substrate plasmid harboring human htt cDNA comprising 98 glutamine (Q) residues, we applied Red/ET recombination to generate four BDNF-BAC transgenes harboring full-length or truncated (N171) htt cDNA comprising 98 or 15 Q residues. BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is expressed in the cortical neurons projecting to the striatal medium spiny neurons, and was used to direct htt transgene expression to investigate the contribution of these cell types to HD.

Huntington's disease and the striatal medium spiny neuron: cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous mechanisms of disease.

Huntington's disease is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by a mutation in the gene encoding the protein huntingtin on chromosome 4. The mutation is an expanded CAG repeat in the first exon, encoding a polyglutamine tract. If the polyglutamine tract is > 40, penetrance is 100% and death is inevitable. Despite the widespread expression of huntingtin, HD has long been considered primarily as a disease of the striatum. It is characterized by selective vulnerability with dysfunction followed by death of the medium size spiny neuron. Considerable effort is being expended to determine whether striatal damage is cell-autonomous, non-cell-autonomous, requiring cell-cell and region to region communication, or both. We review data supporting both mechanisms. We also attempt to organize the data into common mechanisms that may arise outside the medium, spiny neuron, but ultimately have their greatest impact in the striatum.

Chromatin plasticity and the pathogenesis of Huntington disease.

Forebrain striatal-specific expression of mutant huntingtin protein in vivo induces cell-autonomous age-dependent alterations in sensitivity to excitotoxicity and mitochondrial function.

HD (Huntington's disease) is characterized by dysfunction and death of striatal MSNs (medium-sized spiny neurons). Excitotoxicity, transcriptional dysregulation and mitochondrial abnormalities are among the mechanisms that are proposed to play roles in HD pathogenesis. To determine the extent of cell-autonomous effects of mhtt (mutant huntingtin) protein on vulnerability to excitotoxic insult in MSNs in vivo, we measured the number of degenerating neurons in response to intrastriatal injection of QA (quinolinic acid) in presymptomatic and symptomatic transgenic (D9-N171-98Q, also known as DE5) mice that express mhtt in MSNs but not in cortex. After QA, the number of degenerating neurons in presymptomatic DE5 mice was not significantly different from the number in WT (wild-type) controls, suggesting the early, increased vulnerability to excitotoxicity demonstrated in other HD mouse models has a largely non-cell-autonomous component. Conversely, symptomatic DE5 mice showed significantly fewer degenerating neurons relative to WT, implying the resistance to excitotoxicity observed at later ages has a primarily cell-autonomous origin. Interestingly, mitochondrial complex II respiration was enhanced in striatum of symptomatic mice, whereas it was reduced in presymptomatic mice, both relative to their age-matched controls. Consistent with the QA data, MSNs from symptomatic mice showed decreased NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartate) currents compared with age-matched controls, suggesting that in addition to aging, cell-autonomous mechanisms mitigate susceptibility to excitotoxicity in the symptomatic stage. Also, symptomatic DE5 mice did not display some of the electrophysiological alterations present in other HD models, suggesting that blocking the expression of mhtt in cortical neurons may restore corticostriatal function in HD.

Phenotypic disruption to orofacial movement topography in conditional mutants with generalized CamKIIa/Cre D1Tox versus striatal-specific DARPP-32/Cre D1Tox ablation of D1 dopamine receptor-expressing cells.

Orofacial movements were quantified in (a) DARPP-32/Cre D1Tox mutants, having progressive loss of D1 dopamine receptor expressing striatal medium spiny neurons and (b) CamKIIa/Cre D1Tox mutants, having progressive, generalized loss of forebrain D1 receptor expressing cells. Horizontal jaw movements and tongue protrusions were reduced in DARPP-32/Cre but not in CamKIIa/Cre mutants; head and vibrissae movements were increased in DARPP-32/Cre but decreased in CamKIIa/Cre mutants. In drug challenge studies, tongue protrusions were increased in CamKIIa/Cre mutants following vehicle, suggesting a stress-related phenotype. These findings indicate that mice with progressive loss of striatal-specific D1 receptor expressing cells have an orofacial phenotype that may be modulated by the loss of extrastriatal D1 receptor expressing cells. As progressive loss of D1 dopamine receptor-expressing cells is a hallmark feature of Huntington's disease (HD), these findings may inform the functional role of loss of this cell population in the overall pathobiology of HD.

Protein kinase C and rho activated coiled coil protein kinase 2 (ROCK2) modulate Alzheimer's APP metabolism and phosphorylation of the Vps10-domain protein, SorL1.

Generation of the amyloid β (Aβ) peptide of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is differentially regulated through the intracellular trafficking of the amyloid β precursor protein (APP) within the secretory and endocytic pathways. Protein kinase C (PKC) and rho-activated coiled-coil kinases (ROCKs) are two "third messenger" signaling molecules that control the relative utilization of these two pathways. Several members of the Vps family of receptors (Vps35, SorL1, SorCS1) play important roles in post-trans-Golgi network (TGN) sorting and generation of APP derivatives, including Aβ at the TGN, endosome and the plasma membrane. We now report that Vps10-domain proteins are candidate substrates for PKC and/or ROCK2 and act as phospho-state-sensitive physiological effectors for post-TGN sorting of APP and its derivatives.

In vivo cell-autonomous transcriptional abnormalities revealed in mice expressing mutant huntingtin in striatal but not cortical neurons.

Huntington's disease (HD), caused by a CAG repeat expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) gene, is characterized by abnormal protein aggregates and motor and cognitive dysfunction. Htt protein is ubiquitously expressed, but the striatal medium spiny neuron (MSN) is most susceptible to dysfunction and death. Abnormal gene expression represents a core pathogenic feature of HD, but the relative roles of cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous effects on transcription remain unclear. To determine the extent of cell-autonomous dysregulation in the striatum in vivo, we examined genome-wide RNA expression in symptomatic D9-N171-98Q (a.k.a. DE5) transgenic mice in which the forebrain expression of the first 171 amino acids of human Htt with a 98Q repeat expansion is limited to MSNs. Microarray data generated from these mice were compared with those generated on the identical array platform from a pan-neuronal HD mouse model, R6/2, carrying two different CAG repeat lengths, and a relatively high degree of overlap of changes in gene expression was revealed. We further focused on known canonical pathways associated with excitotoxicity, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, dopamine signaling and trophic support. While genes related to excitotoxicity, dopamine signaling and trophic support were altered in both DE5 and R6/2 mice, which may be either cell autonomous or non-cell autonomous, genes related to mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor are primarily affected in DE5 transgenic mice, indicating cell-autonomous mechanisms. Overall, HD-induced dysregulation of the striatal transcriptome can be largely attributed to intrinsic effects of mutant Htt, in the absence of expression in cortical neurons.