Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a heterogeneous group of heritable neurodevelopmental disorders. Symptoms of ASD, which include deficits in social interaction skills, impaired communication ability, and ritualistic-like repetitive behaviors, appear in early childhood and continue throughout life. Genetic studies have revealed at least two clusters of genes frequently associated with ASD and intellectual disability: those encoding proteins involved in translational control and those encoding proteins involved in synaptic function. We hypothesize that mutations occurring in these two clusters of genes interfere with interconnected downstream signaling pathways in neuronal cells to cause ASD symptomatology. In this review, we discuss the monogenic forms of ASD caused by mutations in genes encoding for proteins that regulate translation and synaptic function. Specifically, we describe the function of these proteins, the intracellular signaling pathways that they regulate, and the current mouse models used to characterize the synaptic and behavioral features associated with their mutation. Finally, we summarize recent studies that have established a connection between mRNA translation and synaptic function in models of ASD and propose that dysregulation of one has a detrimental impact on the other.
Measuring the synthesis of new proteins in the context of a much greater number of pre-existing proteins can be difficult. To overcome this obstacle, bioorthogonal noncanonical amino acid tagging (BONCAT) can be combined with stable isotope labeling by amino acid in cell culture (SILAC) for comparative proteomic analysis of de novo protein synthesis (BONLAC). In the present study, we show that alkyne resin-based isolation of l-azidohomoalanine (AHA)-labeled proteins using azide/alkyne cycloaddition minimizes contamination from pre-existing proteins. Using this approach, we isolated and identified 7414 BONCAT-labeled proteins. The nascent proteome isolated by BONCAT was very similar to the steady-state proteome, although transcription factors were highly enriched by BONCAT. About 30% of the methionine residues were replaced by AHA in our BONCAT samples, which allowed for identification of methionine-containing peptides. There was no bias against low-methionine proteins by BONCAT at the proteome level. When we applied the BONLAC approach to screen for brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-induced protein synthesis, 53 proteins were found to be significantly changed 2 h after BDNF stimulation. Our study demonstrated that the newly synthesized proteome, even after a short period of stimulation, can be efficiently isolated by BONCAT and analyzed to a depth that is similar to that of the steady-state proteome.
In this issue of Neuron, Tang et al. (2014) explore the relationship between developmental dendritic pruning, elevated mTORC1 signaling, macroautophagy, and autism spectrum disorder. The study provides valuable new insight into mTORC1-dependent cellular dysfunction and neurodevelopmental disorders.
The AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a Ser/Thr kinase that is activated in response to low-energy states to coordinate multiple signaling pathways to maintain cellular energy homeostasis. Dysregulation of AMPK signaling has been observed in Alzheimer's disease (AD), which is associated with abnormal neuronal energy metabolism. In the current study we tested the hypothesis that aberrant AMPK signaling underlies AD-associated synaptic plasticity impairments by using pharmacological and genetic approaches. We found that amyloid ? (A?)-induced inhibition of long-term potentiation (LTP) and enhancement of long-term depression were corrected by the AMPK inhibitor compound C (CC). Similarly, LTP impairments in APP/PS1 transgenic mice that model AD were improved by CC treatment. In addition, A?-induced LTP failure was prevented in mice with genetic deletion of the AMPK ?2-subunit, the predominant AMPK catalytic subunit in the brain. Furthermore, we found that eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2) and its kinase eEF2K are key downstream effectors that mediate the detrimental effects of hyperactive AMPK in AD pathophysiology. Our findings describe a previously unrecognized role of aberrant AMPK signaling in AD-related synaptic pathophysiology and reveal a potential therapeutic target for AD.
Memory retrieval, often termed reconsolidation, can render previously consolidated memories susceptible to manipulation that can lead to alterations in memory strength. Although it is known that reconsolidation requires mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1)-dependent translation, the specific contributions of its downstream effectors in reconsolidation are unclear. Using auditory fear conditioning in mice, we investigated the role of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E)-eIF4G interactions and p70 S6 kinase polypeptide 1 (S6K1) in reconsolidation. We found that neither 4EGI-1 (2-[(4-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-thiazol-2-ylhydrazono)-3-(2-nitrophenyl)]propionic acid), an inhibitor of eFI4E-eIF4G interactions, nor PF-4708671 [2-((4-(5-ethylpyrimidin-4-yl)piperazin-1-yl)methyl)-5-(trifluoromethyl)-1H-benzo[d]imidazole], an inhibitor of S6K1, alone blocked the reconsolidation of auditory fear memory. In contrast, using these drugs in concert to simultaneously block eIF4E-eIF4G interactions and S6K1 immediately after memory reactivation significantly attenuated fear memory reconsolidation. Moreover, the combination of 4EGI-1 and PF-4708671 further destabilized fear memory 10 d after memory reactivation, which was consistent with experiments using rapamycin, an mTORC1 inhibitor. Furthermore, inhibition of S6K1 immediately after retrieval resulted in memory destabilization 10 d after reactivation, whereas inhibition of eIF4E-eIF4G interactions did not. These results indicate that the reconsolidation of fear memory requires concomitant association of eIF4E to eIF4G as well as S6K1 activity and that the persistence of memory at longer intervals after memory reactivation also requires mTORC1-dependent processes that involve S6K1. These findings suggest a potential mechanism for how mTORC1-dependent translation is fine tuned to alter memory persistence.
Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the most frequent cause of inherited intellectual disability and autism. It is caused by the absence of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene product, FMRP, an RNA-binding protein involved in the regulation of translation of a subset of brain mRNAs. In Fmr1 knockout (KO) mice, the absence of FMRP results in elevated protein synthesis in the brain as well as increased signaling of many translational regulators. Whether protein synthesis is also dysregulated in FXS patients is not firmly established. Here, we demonstrate that fibroblasts from FXS patients have significantly elevated rates of basal protein synthesis along with increased levels of phosphorylated mechanistic target of rapamycin (p-mTOR), phosphorylated extracellular signal regulated kinase 1/2 (p-ERK 1/2) and phosphorylated p70 ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (p-S6K1). Treatment with small molecules that inhibit S6K1, and a known FMRP target, phosphoinositide 3-kinase (P13K) catalytic subunit p110?, lowered the rates of protein synthesis in both control and patient fibroblasts. Our data thus demonstrate that fibroblasts from FXS patients may be a useful in vitro model to test the efficacy and toxicity of potential therapeutics prior to clinical trials, as well as for drug screening and designing personalized treatment approaches. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Sleep supports the formation of a variety of declarative and non-declarative memories, and sleep deprivation often impairs these types of memories. In human subjects, natural sleep either during a nap or overnight leads to long-lasting improvements in visuomotor and fine motor tasks, but rodent models recapitulating these findings have been scarce. Here we present evidence that 5h of acute sleep deprivation impairs mouse skilled reach learning compared to a matched period of ad libitum sleep. In sleeping mice, the duration of total sleep time during the 5h of sleep opportunity or during the first bout of sleep did not correlate with ultimate gain in motor performance. In addition, we observed that reversal learning during the skilled reaching task was also affected by sleep deprivation. Consistent with this observation, 5h of sleep deprivation also impaired reversal learning in the water-based Y-maze. In conclusion, acute sleep deprivation negatively impacts subsequent motor and reversal learning and memory.
The proper regulation of translation is required for the expression of long-lasting synaptic plasticity. A major site of translational control involves the phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 ? (eIF2?) by PKR-like endoplasmic reticulum (ER) kinase (PERK). To determine the role of PERK in hippocampal synaptic plasticity, we used the Cre-lox expression system to selectively disrupt PERK expression in the adult mouse forebrain. Here, we demonstrate that in hippocampal area CA1, metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR)-dependent long-term depression (LTD) is associated with increased eIF2? phosphorylation, whereas stimulation of early- and late-phase long-term potentiation (E-LTP and L-LTP, respectively) is associated with decreased eIF2? phosphorylation. Interesting, although PERK-deficient mice exhibit exaggerated mGluR-LTD, both E-LTP and L-LTP remained intact. We also found that mGluR-LTD is associated with a PERK-dependent increase in eIF2? phosphorylation. Our findings are consistent with the notion that eIF2? phosphorylation is a key site for the bidirectional control of persistent forms of synaptic LTP and LTD and suggest a distinct role for PERK in mGluR-LTD.
Prohibitin is a multi-functional protein involved in numerous cellular activities. Prohibitin overexpression protects neurons from injury in vitro, but it is unclear whether prohibitin can protect selectively vulnerable hippocampal CA1 neurons in a clinically relevant injury model in vivo and, if so, whether the salvaged neurons remain functional.
The complexity of memory formation and its persistence is a phenomenon that has been studied intensely for centuries. Memory exists in many forms and is stored in various brain regions. Generally speaking, memories are reorganized into broadly distributed cortical networks over time through systems level consolidation. At the cellular level, storage of information is believed to initially occur via altered synaptic strength by processes such as long-term potentiation. New protein synthesis is required for long-lasting synaptic plasticity as well as for the formation of long-term memory. The mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) is a critical regulator of cap-dependent protein synthesis and is required for numerous forms of long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory. As such, the study of mTORC1 and protein factors that control translation initiation and elongation has enhanced our understanding of how the process of protein synthesis is regulated during memory formation. Herein we discuss the molecular mechanisms that regulate protein synthesis as well as pharmacological and genetic manipulations that demonstrate the requirement for proper translational control in long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory formation.
Although antipsychotic drugs can reduce psychotic behavior within a few hours, full efficacy is not achieved for several weeks, implying that there may be rapid, short-term changes in neuronal function, which are consolidated into long-lasting changes. We showed that the antipsychotic drug haloperidol, a dopamine receptor type 2 (D?R) antagonist, stimulated the kinase Akt to activate the mRNA translation pathway mediated by the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). In primary striatal D?R-positive neurons, haloperidol-mediated activation of mTORC1 resulted in increased phosphorylation of ribosomal protein S6 (S6) and eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E-binding protein (4E-BP). Proteomic mass spectrometry revealed marked changes in the pattern of protein synthesis after acute exposure of cultured striatal neurons to haloperidol, including increased abundance of cytoskeletal proteins and proteins associated with translation machinery. These proteomic changes coincided with increased morphological complexity of neurons that was diminished by inhibition of downstream effectors of mTORC1, suggesting that mTORC1-dependent translation enhances neuronal complexity in response to haloperidol. In vivo, we observed rapid morphological changes with a concomitant increase in the abundance of cytoskeletal proteins in cortical neurons of haloperidol-injected mice. These results suggest a mechanism for both the acute and long-term actions of antipsychotics.
Identification of therapeutic targets based on novel mechanistic studies is urgently needed for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and prion disease. Multiple lines of evidence have emerged to suggest that inhibition of the stress-induced endoplasmic reticulum kinase PERK (protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase) is a potential therapeutic strategy for these diseases. A recently published study demonstrated that oral treatment with a newly characterized PERK inhibitor was able to rescue disease phenotypes displayed in prion disease model mice. Here, we discuss the background and rationale for targeting PERK as a viable therapeutic approach as well as implications of these findings for other neurodegenerative diseases. The promise and caveats of applying this strategy for disease therapy also are discussed.
Regulator of calcineurin 1 (RCAN1) controls the activity of calcium/calmodulin-dependent phosphatase calcineurin (CaN), which has been implicated in human anxiety disorders. Previously, we reported that RCAN1 functioned as an inhibitor of CaN activity in the brain. However, we now find enhanced phosphorylation of a CaN substrate, cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), in the brains of Rcan1 knock-out (KO) mice. Consistent with enhanced CREB activation, we also observe enhanced expression of a CREB transcriptional target, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in Rcan1 KO mice. We also discovered that RCAN1 deletion or blockade of RCAN1-CaN interaction reduced CaN and protein phosphatase-1 localization to nuclear-enriched protein fractions and promoted CREB activation. Because of the potential links between CREB, BDNF, and anxiety, we examined the role of RCAN1 in the expression of innate anxiety. Rcan1 KO mice displayed reduced anxiety in several tests of unconditioned anxiety. Acute pharmacological inhibition of CaN rescued these deficits while transgenic overexpression of human RCAN1 increased anxiety. Finally, we found that Rcan1 KO mice lacked the early anxiogenic response to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine and had improved latency for its therapeutic anxiolytic effects. Together, our study suggests that RCAN1 plays an important role in the expression of anxiety-related and SSRI-related behaviors through CaN-dependent signaling pathways. These results identify RCAN1 as a mediator of innate emotional states and possible therapeutic target for anxiety.
Macroautophagy is a conserved mechanism for the bulk degradation of proteins and organelles. Pathological studies have implicated defective macroautophagy in neurodegeneration, but physiological functions of macroautophagy in adult neurons remain unclear. Here we show that Atg7, an essential macroautophagy component, regulates dopaminergic axon terminal morphology. Mature Atg7-deficient midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons harbored selectively enlarged axonal terminals. This contrasted with the phenotype of DA neurons deficient in Pten - a key negative regulator of the mTOR kinase signaling pathway and neuron size - that displayed enlarged soma but unaltered axon terminals. Surprisingly, concomitant deficiency of both Atg7 and Pten led to a dramatic enhancement of axon terminal enlargement relative to Atg7 deletion alone. Similar genetic interactions between Atg7 and Pten were observed in the context of DA turnover and DA-dependent locomotor behaviors. These data suggest a model for morphological regulation of mature dopaminergic axon terminals whereby the impact of mTOR pathway is suppressed by macroautophagy.
Much of what is known about the neurobiology of learning and memory comes from studies of the average behavior. In contrast, intersubject differences that emerge within groups are difficult to study systematically and are often excluded from scientific discussion. Nevertheless, population-wide variability is a virtually universal feature of both complex traits, such as intelligence, and hardwired responses, such as defensive behaviors. Here, we use outbred rats to investigate if cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), a transcription factor that has long been known in experimental settings to be crucial for associative plasticity, participates in natural memory phenotypes. Using a combination of behavioral, biochemical, and viral techniques, we show that a subset of rats with trait-like deficits in aversive memory have basally reduced CREB activity in the lateral amygdala but can be induced to perform at average levels by directly or indirectly enhancing pretraining CREB phosphorylation. These data suggest that endogenous CREB activity in the amygdala may set a critical threshold for plasticity during memory formation.
The CYFIP1/SRA1 gene is located in a chromosomal region linked to various neurological disorders, including intellectual disability, autism, and schizophrenia. CYFIP1 plays a dual role in two apparently unrelated processes, inhibiting local protein synthesis and favoring actin remodeling. Here, we show that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)-driven synaptic signaling releases CYFIP1 from the translational inhibitory complex, triggering translation of target mRNAs and shifting CYFIP1 into the WAVE regulatory complex. Active Rac1 alters the CYFIP1 conformation, as demonstrated by intramolecular FRET, and is key in changing the equilibrium of the two complexes. CYFIP1 thus orchestrates the two molecular cascades, protein translation and actin polymerization, each of which is necessary for correct spine morphology in neurons. The CYFIP1 interactome reveals many interactors associated with brain disorders, opening new perspectives to define regulatory pathways shared by neurological disabilities characterized by spine dysmorphogenesis.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common cause of inherited mental retardation and autism, is caused by transcriptional silencing of FMR1, which encodes the translational repressor fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). FMRP and cytoplasmic polyadenylation element-binding protein (CPEB), an activator of translation, are present in neuronal dendrites, are predicted to bind many of the same mRNAs and may mediate a translational homeostasis that, when imbalanced, results in FXS. Consistent with this possibility, Fmr1(-/y); Cpeb1(-/-) double-knockout mice displayed amelioration of biochemical, morphological, electrophysiological and behavioral phenotypes associated with FXS. Acute depletion of CPEB1 in the hippocampus of adult Fmr1(-/y) mice rescued working memory deficits, demonstrating reversal of this FXS phenotype. Finally, we find that FMRP and CPEB1 balance translation at the level of polypeptide elongation. Our results suggest that disruption of translational homeostasis is causal for FXS and that the maintenance of this homeostasis by FMRP and CPEB1 is necessary for normal neurologic function.
Expression of long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory requires protein synthesis, which can be repressed by phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 ?-subunit (eIF2?). Elevated phosphorylation of eIF2? has been observed in the brains of Alzheimers disease patients and Alzheimers disease model mice. Therefore, we tested whether suppressing eIF2? kinases could alleviate synaptic plasticity and memory deficits in Alzheimers disease model mice. Genetic deletion of eIF2? kinase PERK prevented enhanced phosphorylation of eIF2? and deficits in protein synthesis, synaptic plasticity and spatial memory in mice that express familial Alzheimers disease-related mutations in APP and PSEN1. Similarly, deletion of another eIF2? kinase, GCN2, prevented impairments of synaptic plasticity and defects in spatial memory exhibited by the Alzheimers disease model mice. Our findings implicate aberrant eIF2? phosphorylation as a previously unidentified molecular mechanism underlying Alzheimers disease-related synaptic pathophysioloy and memory dysfunction and suggest that PERK and GCN2 are potential therapeutic targets for treatment of individuals with Alzheimers disease.
De novo protein synthesis is necessary for long-lasting modifications in synaptic strength and dendritic spine dynamics that underlie cognition. Fragile X syndrome (FXS), characterized by intellectual disability and autistic behaviors, holds promise for revealing the molecular basis for these long-term changes in neuronal function. Loss of function of the fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) results in defects in synaptic plasticity and cognition in many models of the disease. FMRP is a polyribosome-associated RNA-binding protein that regulates the synthesis of a set of plasticity-reated proteins by stalling ribosomal translocation on target mRNAs. The recent identification of mRNA targets of FMRP and its upstream regulators, and the use of small molecules to stall ribosomes in the absence of FMRP, have the potential to be translated into new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of FXS.
Although the requirement for new protein synthesis in synaptic plasticity and memory has been well established, recent genetic, molecular, electrophysiological, and pharmacological studies have broadened our understanding of the translational control mechanisms that are involved in these processes. One of the critical translational control points mediating general and gene-specific translation depends on the phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2?) by four regulatory kinases. Here, we review the literature highlighting the important role for proper translational control via regulation of eIF2? phosphorylation by its kinases in long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory.
Angelman syndrome (AS) is associated with symptoms that include autism, intellectual disability, motor abnormalities, and epilepsy. We recently showed that AS model mice have increased expression of the alpha1 subunit of Na/K-ATPase (?1-NaKA) in the hippocampus, which was correlated with increased expression of axon initial segment (AIS) proteins. Our developmental analysis revealed that the increase in ?1-NaKA expression preceded that of the AIS proteins. Therefore, we hypothesized that ?1-NaKA overexpression drives AIS abnormalities and that by reducing its expression these and other phenotypes could be corrected in AS model mice. Herein, we report that the genetic normalization of ?1-NaKA levels in AS model mice corrects multiple hippocampal phenotypes, including alterations in the AIS, aberrant intrinsic membrane properties, impaired synaptic plasticity, and memory deficits. These findings strongly suggest that increased expression of ?1-NaKA plays an important role in a broad range of abnormalities in the hippocampus of AS model mice.
The axon initial segment (AIS) is the site of action potential initiation in neurons. Recent studies have demonstrated activity-dependent regulation of the AIS, including homeostatic changes in AIS length, membrane excitability, and the localization of voltage-gated Na(+) channels. The neurodevelopmental disorder Angelman syndrome (AS) is usually caused by the deletion of small portions of the maternal copy of chromosome 15, which includes the UBE3A gene. A mouse model of AS has been generated and these mice exhibit multiple neurological abnormalities similar to those observed in humans. We examined intrinsic properties of pyramidal neurons in hippocampal area CA1 from AS model mice and observed alterations in resting membrane potential, threshold potential, and action potential amplitude. The altered intrinsic properties in the AS mice were correlated with significant increases in the expression of the ?1 subunit of Na/K-ATPase (?1-NaKA), the Na(+) channel NaV1.6, and the AIS anchoring protein ankyrin-G, as well as an increase in length of the AIS. These findings are the first evidence for pathology of intrinsic membrane properties and AIS-specific changes in AS, a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with autism.
Mounting evidence suggests that amyloid beta-induced impairments in synaptic plasticity that is accompanied by cognitive decline and dementia represent key pathogenic steps of Alzheimers disease. In this study, we review recent advances in the study of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying Alzheimers disease-associated synaptic dysfunction and memory deficits, and how these mechanisms could provide novel avenues for therapeutic intervention to treat this devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Local regulation of protein synthesis in neurons has emerged as a leading research focus because of its importance in synaptic plasticity and neurological diseases. The complexity of neuronal subcellular domains and their distance from the soma demand local spatial and temporal control of protein synthesis. Synthesis of many synaptic proteins, such as GluR and PSD-95, is under local control. mRNA binding proteins (RBPs), such as FMRP, function as key regulators of local RNA translation, and the mTORC1 pathway acts as a primary signaling cascade for regulation of these proteins. Much of the regulation occurs through structures termed RNA granules, which are based on reversible aggregation of the RBPs, some of which have aggregation prone domains with sequence features similar to yeast prion proteins. Mutations in many of these RBPs are associated with neurological diseases, including FMRP in fragile X syndrome; TDP-43, FUS (fused in sarcoma), angiogenin, and ataxin-2 in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ataxin-2 in spinocerebellar ataxia; and SMN (survival of motor neuron protein) in spinal muscular atrophy.
Administration of typical antipsychotic drugs, such as haloperidol, promotes cAMP-dependent signaling in the medium spiny neurons (MSNs) of the striatum. In this study, we have examined the effect of haloperidol on the state of phosphorylation of the ribosomal protein S6 (rpS6), a component of the small 40S ribosomal subunit. We found that haloperidol increases the phosphorylation of rpS6 at the dual site Ser235/236, which is involved in the regulation of mRNA translation. This effect was exerted in the MSNs of the indirect pathway, which express specifically dopamine D2 receptors (D2Rs) and adenosine A2 receptors (A2ARs). The effect of haloperidol was decreased by blockade of A2ARs or by genetic attenuation of the G?(olf) protein, which couples A2ARs to activation of adenylyl cyclase. Moreover, stimulation of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A (PKA) increased Ser235/236 phosphorylation in cultured striatal neurons. The ability of haloperidol to promote rpS6 phosphorylation was abolished in knock-in mice deficient for PKA activation of the protein phosphatase-1 inhibitor, dopamine- and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein of 32?kDa. In contrast, pharmacological or genetic inactivation of p70 rpS6 kinase 1, or extracellular signal-regulated kinases did not affect haloperidol-induced rpS6 phosphorylation. These results identify PKA as a major rpS6 kinase in neuronal cells and suggest that regulation of protein synthesis through rpS6 may be a potential target of antipsychotic drugs.
In the last decade, a plethora of studies utilizing pharmacological, biochemical, and genetic approaches have shown that precise translational control is required for long-lasting synaptic plasticity and the formation of long-term memory. Moreover, more recent studies indicate that alterations in translational control are a common pathophysiological feature of human neurological disorders, including developmental disorders, neuropsychiatric disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. Finally, translational control mechanisms are susceptible to modification by psychoactive drugs. Taken together, these findings point to a central role for translational control in the regulation of synaptic function and behavior.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) and fragile X syndrome (FXS) are caused by mutations in negative regulators of translation. FXS model mice exhibit enhanced metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent long-term depression (mGluR-LTD). Therefore, we hypothesized that a mouse model of TSC, ?RG transgenic mice, also would exhibit enhanced mGluR-LTD. We measured the impact of TSC2-GAP mutations on the mTORC1 and ERK signaling pathways and protein synthesis-dependent hippocampal synaptic plasticity in ?RG transgenic mice. These mice express a dominant/negative TSC2 that binds to TSC1, but has a deletion and substitution mutation in its GAP-domain, resulting in inactivation of the complex. Consistent with previous studies of several other lines of TSC model mice, we observed elevated S6 phosphorylation in the brains of ?RG mice, suggesting upregulated translation. Surprisingly, mGluR-LTD was not enhanced, but rather was impaired in the ?RG transgenic mice, indicating that TSC and FXS have divergent synaptic plasticity phenotypes. Similar to patients with TSC, the ?RG transgenic mice exhibit elevated ERK signaling. Moreover, the mGluR-LTD impairment displayed by the ?RG transgenic mice was rescued with the MEK-ERK inhibitor U0126. Our results suggest that the mGluR-LTD impairment observed in ?RG mice involves aberrant TSC1/2-ERK signaling.
Generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) causes cellular oxidative damage and has been implicated in the etiology of Alzheimers disease (AD). In contrast, multiple lines of evidence indicate that ROS can normally modulate long-term potentiation (LTP), a cellular model for memory formation. We recently showed that decreasing the level of superoxide through the overexpression of mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD-2) prevents memory deficits in the Tg2576 mouse model of AD. In the current study, we explored whether AD-related LTP impairments could be prevented when ROS generation from mitochondria was diminished either pharmacologically or via genetic manipulation. In wild-type hippocampal slices treated with exogenous amyloid ? peptide (A?1-42) and in slices from APP/PS1 mutant mice that model AD, LTP was impaired. The LTP impairments were prevented by MitoQ, a mitochondria-targeted antioxidant, and EUK134, an SOD and catalase mimetic. In contrast, inhibition of NADPH oxidase either by diphenyliodonium (DPI) or by genetically deleting gp91(phox), the key enzymatic component of NADPH oxidase, had no effect on A?-induced LTP blockade. Moreover, live staining with MitoSOX Red, a mitochondrial superoxide indicator, combined with confocal microscopy, revealed that A?-induced superoxide production could be blunted by MitoQ, but not DPI, in agreement with our electrophysiological findings. Finally, in transgenic mice overexpressing SOD-2, A?-induced LTP impairments and superoxide generation were prevented. Our data suggest a causal relationship between mitochondrial ROS imbalance and A?-induced impairments in hippocampal synaptic plasticity.
Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a genetic disorder characterized by the development of hamartomas in multiple organs. Neurological manifestation includes cortical dysplasia, epilepsy, and cognitive deficits such as mental impairment and autism. We measured the impact of TSC2-GAP mutations on cognitive processes and behavior in, ?RG transgenic mice that express a dominant/negative TSC2 that binds to TSC1, but has mutations affecting its GAP domain and its rabaptin-5 binding motif, resulting in inactivation of the TSC1/2 complex. We performed a behavioral characterization of the ?RG transgenic mice and found that they display mild, but significant impairments in social behavior and rotarod motor learning. These findings suggest that the ?RG transgenic mice recapitulate some behavioral abnormalities observed in human TSC patients.
Considerable evidence indicates that the general blockade of protein synthesis prevents both the initial consolidation and the postretrieval reconsolidation of long-term memories. These findings come largely from studies of drugs that block ribosomal function, so as to globally interfere with both cap-dependent and -independent forms of translation. Here we show that intra-amygdala microinfusions of 4EGI-1, a small molecule inhibitor of cap-dependent translation that selectively disrupts the interaction between eukaryotic initiation factors (eIF) 4E and 4G, attenuates fear memory consolidation but not reconsolidation. Using a combination of behavioral and biochemical techniques, we provide both in vitro and in vivo evidence that the eIF4E-eIF4G complex is more stringently required for plasticity induced by initial learning than for that triggered by reactivation of an existing memory.
Silencing of a single gene, FMR1, is linked to a highly prevalent form of mental retardation, characterized by social and cognitive impairments, known as fragile X syndrome (FXS). The FMR1 gene encodes fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), which negatively regulates translation. Knockout of Fmr1 in mice results in enhanced long-term depression (LTD) induced by metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) activation. Despite the evidence implicating FMRP in LTD, the role of FMRP in long-term potentiation (LTP) is less clear. Synaptic strength can be augmented heterosynaptically through the generation and sequestration of plasticity-related proteins, in a cell-wide manner. If heterosynaptic plasticity is altered in Fmr1 knockout (KO) mice, this may explain the cognitive deficits associated with FXS. We induced homosynaptic plasticity using the ?-adrenergic receptor (?-AR) agonist, isoproterenol (ISO), which facilitated heterosynaptic LTP that was enhanced in Fmr1 KO mice relative to wild-type (WT) controls. To determine if enhanced heterosynaptic LTP in Fmr1 KO mouse hippocampus requires protein synthesis, we applied a translation inhibitor, emetine (EME). EME blocked homo- and heterosynaptic LTP in both genotypes. We also probed the roles of mTOR and ERK in boosting heterosynaptic LTP in Fmr1 KO mice. Although heterosynaptic LTP was blocked in both WT and KOs by inhibitors of mTOR and ERK, homosynaptic LTP was still enhanced following mTOR inhibition in slices from Fmr1 KO mice. Because mTOR will normally stimulate translation initiation, our results suggest that ?-AR stimulation paired with derepression of translation results in enhanced heterosynaptic plasticity.
The brain is a metabolically active organ exhibiting high oxygen consumption and robust production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The large amounts of ROS are kept in check by an elaborate network of antioxidants, which sometimes fail and lead to neuronal oxidative stress. Thus, ROS are typically categorized as neurotoxic molecules and typically exert their detrimental effects via oxidation of essential macromolecules such as enzymes and cytoskeletal proteins. Most importantly, excessive ROS are associated with decreased performance in cognitive function. However, at physiological concentrations, ROS are involved in functional changes necessary for synaptic plasticity and hence, for normal cognitive function. The fine line of role reversal of ROS from good molecules to bad molecules is far from being fully understood. This review focuses on identifying the multiple sources of ROS in the mammalian nervous system and on presenting evidence for the critical and essential role of ROS in synaptic plasticity and memory. The review also shows that the inability to restrain either age- or pathology-related increases in ROS levels leads to opposite, detrimental effects that are involved in impairments in synaptic plasticity and memory function.
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is an evolutionarily conserved Ser/Thr protein kinase that plays a pivotal role in multiple fundamental biological processes, including synaptic plasticity. We explored the relationship between the mTOR pathway and ?-amyloid (A?)-induced synaptic dysfunction, which is considered to be critical in the pathogenesis of Alzheimers disease (AD).
Fragile X syndrome (FXS), a common inherited form of mental impairment and autism, is caused by transcriptional silencing of the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. Earlier studies have identified a role for aberrant synaptic plasticity mediated by the metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in FXS. However, many of these observations are derived primarily from studies in the hippocampus. The strong emotional symptoms of FXS, on the other hand, are likely to involve the amygdala. Unfortunately, little is known about how exactly FXS affects synaptic function in the amygdala. Here, using whole-cell recordings in brain slices from adult Fmr1 knockout mice, we find mGluR-dependent long-term potentiation to be impaired at thalamic inputs to principal neurons in the lateral amygdala. Consistent with this long-term potentiation deficit, surface expression of the AMPA receptor subunit, GluR1, is reduced in the lateral amygdala of knockout mice. In addition to these postsynaptic deficits, lower presynaptic release was manifested by a decrease in the frequency of spontaneous miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs), increased paired-pulse ratio, and slower use-dependent block of NMDA receptor currents. Strikingly, pharmacological inactivation of mGluR5 with 2-methyl-6-phenylethynyl-pyridine (MPEP) fails to rescue either the deficit in long-term potentiation or surface GluR1. However, the same acute MPEP treatment reverses the decrease in mEPSC frequency, a finding of potential therapeutic relevance. Therefore, our results suggest that synaptic defects in the amygdala of knockout mice are still amenable to pharmacological interventions against mGluR5, albeit in a manner not envisioned in the original hippocampal framework.
Alzheimers disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive decline in cognitive functions and the deposition of aggregated amyloid beta (Abeta) into senile plaques and the protein tau into tangles. In addition, a general state of oxidation has long been known to be a major hallmark of the disease. What is not known however, are the mechanisms by which oxidative stress contributes to the pathology of AD.
Fragile X syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation and leading genetic cause of autism, is caused by transcriptional silencing of the Fmr1 gene. The fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), the gene product of Fmr1, is an RNA binding protein that negatively regulates translation in neurons. The Fmr1 knock-out mouse, a model of fragile X syndrome, exhibits cognitive deficits and exaggerated metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR)-dependent long-term depression at CA1 synapses. However, the molecular mechanisms that link loss of function of FMRP to aberrant synaptic plasticity remain unclear. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling cascade controls initiation of cap-dependent translation and is under control of mGluRs. Here we show that mTOR phosphorylation and activity are elevated in hippocampus of juvenile Fmr1 knock-out mice by four functional readouts: (1) association of mTOR with regulatory associated protein of mTOR; (2) mTOR kinase activity; (3) phosphorylation of mTOR downstream targets S6 kinase and 4E-binding protein; and (4) formation of eukaryotic initiation factor complex 4F, a critical first step in cap-dependent translation. Consistent with this, mGluR long-term depression at CA1 synapses of FMRP-deficient mice is exaggerated and rapamycin insensitive. We further show that the p110 subunit of the upstream kinase phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and its upstream activator PI3K enhancer PIKE, predicted targets of FMRP, are upregulated in knock-out mice. Elevated mTOR signaling may provide a functional link between overactivation of group I mGluRs and aberrant synaptic plasticity in the fragile X mouse, mechanisms relevant to impaired cognition in fragile X syndrome.
Sandhoffs disease is a lysosomal storage disease in which the ganglioside GM2 accumulates in lysosomes. It has been reported that MRI cannot detect abnormalities in spin echo images in clinically presymptomatic Sandhoffs disease patients. Because one of the results of GM2 accumulation is cell swelling and lysosomal distension, our goal was to determine if changes in the diffusion of water is perturbed. We utilized the MRI imaging modality diffusion-weighted imaging to measure the apparent diffusion coefficient in a mouse models of Sandhoffs disease, the hexb-/- mouse, and determined if diffusion-weighted imaging could be utilized to detect early changes prior to behavioral or overt disease symptom onset. Here we report for the first time a comprehensive behavioral characterization of the hexb-/- mouse in conjunction with the apparent diffusion coefficient measurement. Our data indicate that the apparent diffusion coefficient decreases in the hexb-/- mouse in many but not all brain regions prior to disease symptoms (<3.5 to 4 months of age) and behavioral deficits (3 months of age). The magnitude of the decrease ranged from 4-18%.
Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a protein kinase involved in translation control and long-lasting synaptic plasticity. mTOR functions as the central component of two multi-protein signaling complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, which can be distinguished from each other based on their unique compositions and substrates. Although the majority of evidence linking mTOR function to synaptic plasticity comes from studies utilizing rapamycin, studies in genetically modified mice also suggest that mTOR couples receptors to the translation machinery for establishing long-lasting synaptic changes that are the basis for higher order brain function, including long-term memory. Finally, perturbation of the mTOR signaling cascade appears to be a common pathophysiological feature of human neurological disorders, including mental retardation syndromes and autism spectrum disorders.
Alzheimers disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease characterized by impaired cognitive function and the deposition of extracellular amyloid plaques and intracellular tangles. Although the proximal cause of AD is not well understood, it is clear that amyloid-beta (Abeta) plays a critical role in AD pathology. Recent studies also implicate mitochondrial abnormalities in AD. We investigated this idea by crossing mice that overexpress mitochondrial superoxide dismutase (SOD-2) with the Tg2576 mouse model of AD that overexpresses the human amyloid precursor protein carrying the Swedish mutation (K670N:M671L). We found that overexpression of SOD-2 decreased hippocampal superoxide, prevented AD-related learning and memory deficits, and reduced Abeta plaques. Interestingly, SOD-2 overexpression did not affect the absolute levels of Abeta(1-40) and Abeta(1-42), but did significantly reduce the Abeta(1-42) to Abeta(1-40) ratio, thereby shifting the balance toward a less amyloidogenic Abeta composition. These findings directly link mitochondrial superoxide to AD pathology and demonstrate the beneficial effects of a mitochondrial anti-oxidant enzyme, hence offering significant therapeutic implications for AD.
In a mouse model of Parkinsons disease, new evidence shows that l-DOPA, which is used to treat the symptoms of the disease but also causes dyskinesia, results in a persistent activation of the protein kinase mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) in a subset of striatal medium spiny neurons. Moreover, blockade of a specific type of mTOR signaling (mTORC1) prevents the development of dyskinesia, but not the antiakinetic benefits produced by l-DOPA. Thus, mTORC1 may be a viable therapeutic target for dyskinesia caused by l-DOPA treatment in patients with Parkinsons disease.
Previous studies have shown that beta amyloid (Abeta) peptide triggers the activation of several signal transduction cascades in the hippocampus, including the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) cascade. In this study we sought to characterize the cellular localization of phosphorylated, active ERK in organotypic hippocampal cultures after acute exposure to either Abeta (1-42) or nicotine.
Dysregulation of the fear system is at the core of many psychiatric disorders. Much progress has been made in uncovering the neural basis of fear learning through studies in which associative emotional memories are formed by pairing an initially neutral stimulus (conditioned stimulus, CS; e.g., a tone) to an unconditioned stimulus (US; e.g., a shock). Despite recent advances, the question of how to persistently weaken aversive CS-US associations, or dampen traumatic memories in pathological cases, remains a major dilemma. Two paradigms (blockade of reconsolidation and extinction) have been used in the laboratory to reduce acquired fear. Unfortunately, their clinical efficacy is limited: Reconsolidation blockade typically requires potentially toxic drugs, and extinction is not permanent. Here, we describe a behavioral design in which a fear memory in rats is destabilized and reinterpreted as safe by presenting an isolated retrieval trial before an extinction session. This procedure permanently attenuates the fear memory without the use of drugs.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common form of inherited mental retardation. The syndrome results from the absence of the fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP), which is encoded by the fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. FMR1 and its two paralogs, fragile X-related genes 1 and 2 (FXR1 and -2), form the Fmr1 gene family. Here, we examined long-lasting synaptic plasticity in Fmr1 knockout, Fxr2 knockout, and Fmr1/Fxr2 double knockout mice. We found that metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent long-term depression (mGluR-LTD) in the hippocampus was affected in Fmr1 knockout, Fxr2 knockout, and Fmr1/Fxr2 double knockout mice at young ages (4-6 wk old). In addition, Fmr1/Fxr2 double knockout mice showed significant deficiencies relative to either Fmr1 or Fxr2 knockout mice in baseline synaptic transmission and short-term presynaptic plasticity, suggesting FMRP and FXR2P may contribute in a cooperative manner to pathways regulating presynaptic plasticity. However, compared with wild-type littermates, late-phase long-term potentiation (L-LTP) was unaltered in all knockout mice at 4-6 mo of age. Interestingly, although Fmr1/Fxr2 double knockout mice exhibited a more robust enhancement in mGluR-LTD compared with that in Fmr1 knockout mice, Fxr2 knockout mice exhibited reduced mGluR-LTD. Furthermore, unlike Fmr1 knockout mice, mGluR-LTD in Fxr2 knockout mice required new protein synthesis, whereas mGluR-LTD in Fmr1/Fxr2 double knockout mice was partially dependent on protein synthesis. These results indicated that both FMRP and FXR2P function in synaptic plasticity and that they likely operate in related but independent pathways.
Long-lasting forms of synaptic plasticity and memory are dependent on new protein synthesis. Recent advances obtained from genetic, physiological, pharmacological, and biochemical studies provide strong evidence that translational control plays a key role in regulating long-term changes in neural circuits and thus long-term modifications in behavior. Translational control is important for regulating both general protein synthesis and synthesis of specific proteins in response to neuronal activity. In this review, we summarize and discuss recent progress in the field and highlight the prospects for better understanding of long-lasting changes in synaptic strength, learning, and memory and implications for neurological diseases.
Synaptic transmission in neurons is a measure of communication at synapses, the points of contact between axons and dendrites. The magnitude of synaptic transmission is a reflection of the strength of these synaptic connections, which in turn can be altered by the frequency with which the synapses are stimulated, the arrival of stimuli from other neurons in the appropriate temporal window, and by neurotrophic factors and neuromodulators. The ability of synapses to undergo lasting biochemical and morphological changes in response to these types of stimuli and neuromodulators is known as synaptic plasticity, which likely forms the cellular basis for learning and memory, although the relationship between any one form synaptic plasticity and a particular type of memory is unclear. RNA metabolism, particularly translational control at or near the synapse, is one process that controls long-lasting synaptic plasticity and, by extension, several types of memory formation and consolidation. Here, we review recent studies that reflect the importance and challenges of investigating the role of mRNA translation in synaptic plasticity and memory formation.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavengers have been shown to relieve persistent pain; however, the mechanism is not clearly understood. Superoxide produced from mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation is considered the major source of ROS in neurons during excitation where mitochondrial superoxide levels are normally controlled by superoxide dismutase (SOD-2). The present study hypothesizes that capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia is a consequence of superoxide build-up in spinal dorsal horn neurons and SOD-2 is a major determinant. To test this hypothesis, the spinal levels of SOD-2 activity, inactivated SOD-2 proteins, and mitochondrial superoxide were measured and correlated to the levels of capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia in mice with and without SOD-2 manipulations. The data suggest that superoxide accumulation is a culprit in the abnormal sensory processing in the spinal cord in capsaicin-induced secondary hyperalgesia. Our studies also support the notion that SOD-2 nitration is a critical mechanism that maintains elevated superoxide levels in the spinal cord after capsaicin treatment. Finally, our findings suggest a therapeutic potential for the manipulation of spinal SOD-2 activity in pain conditions.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are an early onset, heterogeneous group of heritable neuropsychiatric disorders with symptoms that include deficits in social interaction skills, impaired communication abilities, and ritualistic-like repetitive behaviours. One of the hypotheses for a common molecular mechanism underlying ASDs is altered translational control resulting in exaggerated protein synthesis. Genetic variants in chromosome 4q, which contains the EIF4E locus, have been described in patients with autism. Importantly, a rare single nucleotide polymorphism has been identified in autism that is associated with increased promoter activity in the EIF4E gene. Here we show that genetically increasing the levels of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 4E (eIF4E) in mice results in exaggerated cap-dependent translation and aberrant behaviours reminiscent of autism, including repetitive and perseverative behaviours and social interaction deficits. Moreover, these autistic-like behaviours are accompanied by synaptic pathophysiology in the medial prefrontal cortex, striatum and hippocampus. The autistic-like behaviours displayed by the eIF4E-transgenic mice are corrected by intracerebroventricular infusions of the cap-dependent translation inhibitor 4EGI-1. Our findings demonstrate a causal relationship between exaggerated cap-dependent translation, synaptic dysfunction and aberrant behaviours associated with autism.
The anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) is an E3 ligase regulated by Cdh1. Beyond its role in controlling cell cycle progression, APC/C-Cdh1 has been detected in neurons and plays a role in long-lasting synaptic plasticity and long-term memory. Herein, we further examined the role of Cdh1 in synaptic plasticity and memory by generating knockout mice where Cdh1 was conditionally eliminated from the forebrain post-developmentally. Although spatial learning and memory in the Morris water maze (MWM) was normal, the Cdh1 conditional knockout (cKO) mice displayed enhanced reversal learning in the MWM and in a water-based Y maze. In addition, we found that the Cdh1 cKO mice had impaired associative fear memory and exhibited impaired long-term potentiation (LTP) in amygdala slices. Finally, we observed increased expression of Shank1 and NR2A expression in amygdalar slices from the Cdh1 cKO mice following the induction of LTP, suggesting a possible molecular mechanism underlying the behavioral and synaptic plasticity impairments displayed in these mice. Our findings are consistent with a role for the APC/C-Cdh1 in fear memory and synaptic plasticity in the amygdala.
Cdh1 is a regulatory subunit of the Anaphase Promoting Complex/Cyclosome (APC/C), a ubiquitin E3 ligase known to be involved in regulating cell cycle progression. Recent studies have demonstrated a role for Cdh1 in neurons during developmental and adult synaptic plasticity, as well as memory. In order to better characterize the contribution of Cdh1 in synaptic plasticity and memory, we generated conditional knockout mice using a neuron-specific enolase (Nse) promoter where Cdh1 was eliminated in neurons from the onset of differentiation. Although we detected impaired long-term potentiation (LTP) in hippocampal slices from the Nse-Cdh1 knockout (KO) mice, performance on several hippocampus-dependent memory tasks remained intact. However, the Nse-Cdh1 KO mice exhibited impaired behavioral flexibility and extinction of previously consolidated memories. These findings suggest a role for Cdh1 in regulating the updating of consolidated memories.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the leading inherited cause of autism and intellectual disability. Aberrant synaptic translation has been implicated in the etiology of FXS, but most lines of research on therapeutic strategies have targeted protein synthesis indirectly, far upstream of the translation machinery. We sought to perturb p70 ribosomal S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), a key translation initiation and elongation regulator, in FXS model mice. We found that genetic reduction of S6K1 prevented elevated phosphorylation of translational control molecules, exaggerated protein synthesis, enhanced mGluR-dependent long-term depression (LTD), weight gain, and macro-orchidism in FXS model mice. In addition, S6K1 deletion prevented immature dendritic spine morphology and multiple behavioral phenotypes, including social interaction deficits, impaired novel object recognition, and behavioral inflexibility. Our results support the model that dysregulated protein synthesis is the key causal factor in FXS and that restoration of normal translation can stabilize peripheral and neurological function in FXS.
Persistent forms of synaptic plasticity are widely thought to require the synthesis of new proteins. This feature of long-lasting forms of plasticity largely has been demonstrated using inhibitors of general protein synthesis, such as either anisomycin or emetine. However, these drugs, which inhibit elongation, cannot address detailed questions about the regulation of translation initiation, where the majority of translational control occurs. Moreover, general protein synthesis inhibitors cannot distinguish between cap-dependent and cap-independent modes of translation initiation. In the present study, we took advantage of two novel compounds, 4EGI-1 and hippuristanol, each of which targets a different component of the eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF)4F initiation complex, and investigated their effects on long-term potentiation (LTP) at CA3-CA1 synapses in the hippocampus. We found that 4EGI-1 and hippuristanol both attenuated long-lasting late-phase LTP induced by two different stimulation paradigms. We also found that 4EGI-1 and hippuristanol each were capable of blocking the expression of newly synthesized proteins immediately after the induction of late-phase LTP. These new pharmacological tools allow for a more precise dissection of the role played by translational control pathways in synaptic plasticity and demonstrate the importance of multiple aspects of eIF4F in processes underlying hippocampal LTP, laying the foundation for future studies investigating the role of eIF4F in hippocampus-dependent memory processes.
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is an endogenous intestinal peptide that enhances glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. Its natural cleavage product GLP-1(9-36)(amide) possesses distinct properties and does not affect insulin secretion. Here we report that pretreatment of hippocampal slices with GLP-1(9-36)(amide) prevented impaired long-term potentiation (LTP) and enhanced long-term depression induced by exogenous amyloid ? peptide A?((1-42)). Similarly, hippocampal LTP impairments in amyloid precursor protein/presenilin 1 (APP/PS1) mutant mice that model Alzheimers disease (AD) were prevented by GLP-1(9-36)(amide). In addition, treatment of APP/PS1 mice with GLP-1(9-36)(amide) at an age at which they display impaired spatial and contextual fear memory resulted in a reversal of their memory defects. At the molecular level, GLP-1(9-36)(amide) reduced elevated levels of mitochondrial-derived reactive oxygen species and restored dysregulated Akt-glycogen synthase kinase-3? signaling in the hippocampus of APP/PS1 mice. Our findings suggest that GLP-1(9-36)(amide) treatment may have therapeutic potential for AD and other diseases associated with cognitive dysfunction.
Macroautophagy is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for bulk intracellular degradation of proteins and organelles. Pathological studies have implicated macroautophagy defects in human neurodegenerative disorders of aging including Alzheimers disease and tauopathies. Neuronal deficiency of macroautophagy throughout mouse embryonic development results in neurodevelopmental defects and early postnatal mortality. However, the role of macroautophagy in mature CNS neurons, and the relationship with human disease neuropathology, remains unclear. Here we describe mice deficient in an essential macroautophagy component, Atg7, specifically within postnatal CNS neurons.
Persons with pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) exhibit a range of cognitive deficits that hamper their quality of life, including difficulties involving communication, sociability, and perspective-taking. In recent years, a variety of studies in mice that model genetic syndromes with a high risk of PDD have provided insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms associated with these disorders. What is less appreciated is how the molecular anomalies affect neuronal and circuit function to give rise to the cognitive deficits associated with PDD. In this review, we describe genetic mutations that cause PDD and discuss how they alter fundamental social and cognitive processes. We then describe efforts to correct cognitive impairments associated with these disorders and identify areas of further inquiry in the search for molecular targets for therapeutics for PDD.
Translational control depends on phosphorylation of eIF2? by PKR-like ER kinase (PERK). To examine the role of PERK in cognitive function, we selectively disrupted PERK expression in the adult mouse forebrain. In the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of PERK-deficient mice, eIF2? phosphorylation and ATF4 expression were diminished and were associated with enhanced behavioral perseveration, decreased prepulse inhibition, reduced fear extinction, and impaired behavioral flexibility. Treatment with the glycine transporter inhibitor SSR504734 normalized eIF2? phosphorylation, ATF4 expression, and behavioral flexibility in PERK-deficient mice. Moreover, the expression levels of PERK and ATF4 were reduced in the frontal cortex of human patients with schizophrenia. Together, our findings reveal that PERK plays a critical role in information processing and cognitive function and that modulation of eIF2? phosphorylation and ATF4 expression may represent an effective strategy for treating behavioral inflexibility associated with several neurological disorders such as schizophrenia.
Treatment for fragile X syndrome and related autism spectrum disorders has long been thought to be effective only during a narrow window early in development. In this issue of Neuron, Michalon et al. (2012) dispel this myth.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a developmental disorder caused by the loss of Fragile X Mental Retardation 1 (FMR1) gene function because of a CGG repeat expansion (> 200 repeats) in the gene. The molecular mechanism(s) linking loss of FMR1 function to the molecular pathology and cognitive/behavioral disability remain unclear. Given the critical role of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in synaptic plasticity and neurodevelopment, a number of recent studies have investigated ERK phosphorylation under basal conditions or upon mGluR-induction using neuronal and peripheral tissues from Fmr1 knockout mice and peripheral tissues from FXS patients. However, these reports have presented conflicting results. The current study is the first to focus on the levels of ERK phosphorylation in brain tissue from human FXS patients. In both human brain tissue and brain tissue from Fmr1 knockout mice there was significantly increased phosphorylation of MEK1/2 and ERK. Indeed, treating Fmr1 knockout mice with the MEK1/2 inhibitor SL327 abrogated audiogenic seizure activity, a feature of the Fmr1 knockout mice that replicates the symptom in patients with FXS. These findings suggest that activation of the ERK pathway results in some cardinal cognitive and clinical features in FXS patients and likely have profound translational implications.
Angelman syndrome (AS) is a human neuropsychiatric disorder associated with autism, mental retardation, motor abnormalities, and epilepsy. In most cases, AS is caused by the deletion of the maternal copy of UBE3A gene, which encodes the enzyme ubiquitin ligase E3A, also termed E6-AP. A mouse model of AS has been generated and these mice exhibit many of the observed neurological alterations in humans. Because of clinical and neuroanatomical similarities between AS and schizophrenia, we examined AS model mice for alterations in the neuregulin-ErbB4 pathway, which has been implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. We focused our studies on the hippocampus, one of the major brain loci impaired in AS mice.
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