A central pathological hallmark of Parkinson's disease (PD) is the presence of proteinaceous depositions known as Lewy bodies, which consist largely of the protein ?-synuclein (aSyn). Mutations, multiplications and polymorphisms in the gene encoding aSyn are associated with familial forms of PD and susceptibility to idiopathic PD. Alterations in aSyn impair neuronal vesicle formation/transport, and likely contribute to PD pathogenesis by neuronal dysfunction and degeneration. aSyn is functionally associated with several Rab family GTPases, which perform various roles in vesicle trafficking. Here, we explore the role of the endosomal recycling factor Rab11 in the pathogenesis of PD using Drosophila models of aSyn toxicity. We find that aSyn induces synaptic potentiation at the larval neuromuscular junction by increasing synaptic vesicle (SV) size, and that these alterations are reversed by Rab11 overexpression. Furthermore, Rab11 decreases aSyn aggregation and ameliorates several aSyn-dependent phenotypes in both larvae and adult fruit flies, including locomotor activity, degeneration of dopaminergic neurons and shortened lifespan. This work emphasizes the importance of Rab11 in the modulation of SV size and consequent enhancement of synaptic function. Our results suggest that targeting Rab11 activity could have a therapeutic value in PD.
Alpha-synuclein (aSyn) misfolding and aggregation are pathological features common to several neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease (PD). Mounting evidence suggests that aSyn can be secreted and transferred from cell to cell, participating in the propagation and spreading of pathological events. Rab11, a small GTPase, is an important regulator in both endocytic and secretory pathways. Here, we show that Rab11 is involved in regulating aSyn secretion. Rab11 knockdown or overexpression of either Rab11a wild-type (Rab11a WT) or Rab11a GDP-bound mutant (Rab11a S25N) increased secretion of aSyn. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Rab11 interacts with aSyn and is present in intracellular inclusions together with aSyn. Moreover, Rab11 reduces aSyn aggregation and toxicity. Our results suggest that Rab11 is involved in modulating the processes of aSyn secretion and aggregation, both of which are important mechanisms in the progression of aSyn pathology in PD and other synucleinopathies.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin (HTT) protein. The expression of mutant HTT in the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae recapitulates many of the cellular phenotypes observed in mammalian HD models. Mutant HTT aggregation and toxicity in yeast is influenced by the presence of the Rnq1p and Sup35p prions, as well as other glutamine/asparagine-rich aggregation-prone proteins. Here we investigated the ability of a subset of these proteins to modulate mutant HTT aggregation and to substitute for the prion form of Rnq1p. We find that overexpression of either the putative prion Ybr016wp or the Sup35p prion restores aggregation of mutant HTT in yeast cells lacking the Rnq1p prion. These results indicate that an interchangeable suite of aggregation-prone proteins regulates mutant HTT aggregation dynamics in yeast, which may have implications for mutant HTT aggregation in human cells.
The yeast Hsp31 minifamily proteins (Hsp31, Hsp32, Hsp33, Hsp34) belong to the highly conserved DJ-1 superfamily. The human DJ-1 protein is associated with cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson disease. However, the precise function of human and yeast DJ-1 proteins is unclear. Here we show that the yeast DJ-1 homologs have a role in diauxic-shift (DS), characterized by metabolic reprogramming because of glucose limitation. We find that the Hsp31 genes are strongly induced in DS and in stationary phase (SP), and that deletion of these genes reduces chronological lifespan, impairs transcriptional reprogramming at DS, and impairs the acquisition of several typical characteristics of SP, including autophagy induction. In addition, under carbon starvation, the HSP31 family gene-deletion strains display impaired autophagy, disrupted target of rapamycin complex 1 (TORC1) localization to P-bodies, and caused abnormal TORC1-mediated Atg13 phosphorylation. Repression of TORC1 by rapamycin in the gene-deletion strains completely reversed their sensitivity to heat shock. Taken together, our data indicate that Hsp31 minifamily is required for DS reprogramming and cell survival in SP, and plays a role upstream of TORC1. The enhanced understanding of the cellular function of these genes sheds light into the biological role of other members of the superfamily, including DJ-1, which is an attractive target for therapeutic intervention in cancer and in Parkinson disease.
Alpha-synuclein (?S) misfolding is associated with Parkinson's disease (PD) but little is known about the mechanisms underlying ?S toxicity. Increasing evidence suggests that defects in membrane transport play an important role in neuronal dysfunction. Here we demonstrate that the GTPase Rab8a interacts with ?S in rodent brain. NMR spectroscopy reveals that the C-terminus of ?S binds to the functionally important switch region as well as the C-terminal tail of Rab8a. In line with a direct Rab8a/?S interaction, Rab8a enhanced ?S aggregation and reduced ?S-induced cellular toxicity. In addition, Rab8 - the Drosophila ortholog of Rab8a - ameliorated ?S-oligomer specific locomotor impairment and neuron loss in fruit flies. In support of the pathogenic relevance of the ?S-Rab8a interaction, phosphorylation of ?S at S129 enhanced binding to Rab8a, increased formation of insoluble ?S aggregates and reduced cellular toxicity. Our study provides novel mechanistic insights into the interplay of the GTPase Rab8a and ?S cytotoxicity, and underscores the therapeutic potential of targeting this interaction.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder which is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. HD is caused by a trinucleotide CAG repeat expansion that encodes a polyglutamine stretch in the huntingtin (HTT) protein. Mutant HTT expression leads to a myriad of cellular dysfunctions culminating in neuronal loss and consequent motor, cognitive and psychiatric disturbances in HD patients. The length of the CAG repeat is inversely correlated with age of onset (AO) in HD patients, while environmental and genetic factors can further modulate this parameter. Here, we explored whether the recently described copy-number variation (CNV) of the gene SLC2A3-which encodes the neuronal glucose transporter GLUT3-could modulate AO in HD. Strikingly, we found that increased dosage of SLC2A3 delayed AO in an HD cohort of 987 individuals, and that this correlated with increased levels of GLUT3 in HD patient cells. To our knowledge this is the first time that CNV of a candidate gene has been found to modulate HD pathogenesis. Furthermore, we found that increasing dosage of Glut1-the Drosophila melanogaster homologue of this glucose transporter-ameliorated HD-relevant phenotypes in fruit flies, including neurodegeneration and life expectancy. As alterations in glucose metabolism have been implicated in HD pathogenesis, this study may have important therapeutic relevance for HD.
Kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), a pivotal enzyme in the kynurenine pathway (KP) of tryptophan degradation, has been suggested to play a major role in physiological and pathological events involving bioactive KP metabolites. To explore this role in greater detail, we generated mice with a targeted genetic disruption of Kmo and present here the first biochemical and neurochemical characterization of these mutant animals. Kmo(-/-) mice lacked KMO activity but showed no obvious abnormalities in the activity of four additional KP enzymes tested. As expected, Kmo(-/-) mice showed substantial reductions in the levels of its enzymatic product, 3-hydroxykynurenine, in liver, brain, and plasma. Compared with wild-type animals, the levels of the downstream metabolite quinolinic acid were also greatly decreased in liver and plasma of the mutant mice but surprisingly were only slightly reduced (by ?20%) in the brain. The levels of three other KP metabolites: kynurenine, kynurenic acid, and anthranilic acid, were substantially, but differentially, elevated in the liver, brain, and plasma of Kmo(-/-) mice, whereas the liver and brain content of the major end product of the enzymatic cascade, NAD(+), did not differ between Kmo(-/-) and wild-type animals. When assessed by in vivo microdialysis, extracellular kynurenic acid levels were found to be significantly elevated in the brains of Kmo(-/-) mice. Taken together, these results provide further evidence that KMO plays a key regulatory role in the KP and indicate that Kmo(-/-) mice will be useful for studying tissue-specific functions of individual KP metabolites in health and disease.
The oxidation-sensitive chaperone protein DJ-1 has been implicated in several human disorders including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. During neurodegeneration associated with protein misfolding, such as that observed in Alzheimers disease and Huntingtons disease (HD), both oxidative stress and protein chaperones have been shown to modulate disease pathways. Therefore, we set out to investigate whether DJ-1 plays a role in HD. We found that DJ-1 expression and its oxidation state are abnormally increased in the human HD brain, as well as in mouse and cell models of HD. Furthermore, overexpression of DJ-1 conferred protection in vivo against neurodegeneration in yeast and Drosophila. Importantly, the DJ-1 protein directly interacted with an expanded fragment of huntingtin Exon 1 (httEx1) in test tube experiments and in cell models and accelerated polyglutamine aggregation and toxicity in an oxidation-sensitive manner. Our findings clearly establish DJ-1 as a potential therapeutic target for HD and provide the basis for further studies into the role of DJ-1 in protein misfolding diseases.
Ceramide is a building block for complex sphingolipids in the plasma membrane, but it also plays a significant role in secondary signalling pathways regulating cell proliferation and apoptosis in response to stress. Ceramide activated protein phosphatase activity has been previously observed in association with the Sit4 protein phosphatase. Here we find that sit4? mutants have decreased ceramide levels and display resistance to exogenous ceramides and phytosphingosine. Mutants lacking SIT4 or KTI12 display a shift towards nonhydroxylated forms of long chain bases and sphingolipids, suggesting regulation of hydroxylase (SUR2) or ceramide synthase by Sit4p. We have identified novel subunits of the Sit4 complex and have also shown that known Sit4 regulatory subunits-SAP proteins-are not involved in the ceramide response. This is the first observation of separation of function between Sit4 and SAP proteins. We also find that the Sit4p target Elongator is not involved in the ceramide response but that cells deficient in Kti12p-an accessory protein with an undefined regulatory role-have similar ceramide phenotypes to sit4? mutants. Therefore, Kti12p may play a similar secondary role in the ceramide response. This evidence points to a novel Sit4-dependent regulatory mechanism in response to ceramide stress.
Huntingtons disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by a CAG repeat expansion encoding a polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin (Htt) protein. Here we report a genome-wide overexpression suppressor screen in which we identified 317 ORFs that ameliorate the toxicity of a mutant Htt fragment in yeast and that have roles in diverse cellular processes, including mitochondrial import and copper metabolism. Two of these suppressors encode glutathione peroxidases (GPxs), which are conserved antioxidant enzymes that catalyze the reduction of hydrogen peroxide and lipid hydroperoxides. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches in yeast, mammalian cells and Drosophila, we found that GPx activity robustly ameliorates Huntingtons disease-relevant metrics and is more protective than other antioxidant approaches tested here. Notably, we found that GPx activity, unlike many antioxidant treatments, does not inhibit autophagy, which is an important mechanism for clearing mutant Htt. Because previous clinical trials have indicated that GPx mimetics are well tolerated in humans, this study may have important implications for treating Huntingtons disease.
Inhibition of kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), an enzyme in the eukaryotic tryptophan catabolic pathway (that is, kynurenine pathway), leads to amelioration of Huntingtons-disease-relevant phenotypes in yeast, fruitfly and mouse models, as well as in a mouse model of Alzheimers disease. KMO is a flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)-dependent monooxygenase and is located in the outer mitochondrial membrane where it converts l-kynurenine to 3-hydroxykynurenine. Perturbations in the levels of kynurenine pathway metabolites have been linked to the pathogenesis of a spectrum of brain disorders, as well as cancer and several peripheral inflammatory conditions. Despite the importance of KMO as a target for neurodegenerative disease, the molecular basis of KMO inhibition by available lead compounds has remained unknown. Here we report the first crystal structure of Saccharomyces cerevisiae KMO, in the free form and in complex with the tight-binding inhibitor UPF 648. UPF 648 binds close to the FAD cofactor and perturbs the local active-site structure, preventing productive binding of the substrate l-kynurenine. Functional assays and targeted mutagenesis reveal that the active-site architecture and UPF 648 binding are essentially identical in human KMO, validating the yeast KMO-UPF 648 structure as a template for structure-based drug design. This will inform the search for new KMO inhibitors that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier in targeted therapies against neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntingtons, Alzheimers and Parkinsons diseases.
Metabolites of the kynurenine pathway (KP), which arise from the degradation of tryptophan, have been studied in detail for over a century and garnered the interest of the neuroscience community in the late 1970s and early 1980s with work uncovering the neuromodulatory potential of this pathway. Much research in the following decades has found that perturbations in the levels of KP metabolites likely contribute to the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases. More recently, it has become apparent that targeting KP enzymes, in particular kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO), may hold substantial therapeutic potential for these disorders. Here we provide an overview of the KP, the neuroactive properties of KP metabolites and their role in neurodegeneration. We also discuss KMO as a therapeutic target for these disorders, and our recent resolution of the crystallographic structure of KMO, which will permit the development of new and improved KMO inhibitors which may ultimately expedite clinical application of these compounds.
Diphthamide is a highly modified histidine residue in eukaryal translation elongation factor 2 (eEF2) that is the target for irreversible ADP ribosylation by diphtheria toxin (DT). In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the initial steps of diphthamide biosynthesis are well characterized and require the DPH1-DPH5 genes. However, the last pathway step-amidation of the intermediate diphthine to diphthamide-is ill-defined. Here we mine the genetic interaction landscapes of DPH1-DPH5 to identify a candidate gene for the elusive amidase (YLR143w/DPH6) and confirm involvement of a second gene (YBR246w/DPH7) in the amidation step. Like dph1-dph5, dph6 and dph7 mutants maintain eEF2 forms that evade inhibition by DT and sordarin, a diphthamide-dependent antifungal. Moreover, mass spectrometry shows that dph6 and dph7 mutants specifically accumulate diphthine-modified eEF2, demonstrating failure to complete the final amidation step. Consistent with an expected requirement for ATP in diphthine amidation, Dph6 contains an essential adenine nucleotide hydrolase domain and binds to eEF2. Dph6 is therefore a candidate for the elusive amidase, while Dph7 apparently couples diphthine synthase (Dph5) to diphthine amidation. The latter conclusion is based on our observation that dph7 mutants show drastically upregulated interaction between Dph5 and eEF2, indicating that their association is kept in check by Dph7. Physiologically, completion of diphthamide synthesis is required for optimal translational accuracy and cell growth, as indicated by shared traits among the dph mutants including increased ribosomal -1 frameshifting and altered responses to translation inhibitors. Through identification of Dph6 and Dph7 as components required for the amidation step of the diphthamide pathway, our work paves the way for a detailed mechanistic understanding of diphthamide formation.
Yeast have been extensively used to model aspects of protein folding diseases, yielding novel mechanistic insights and identifying promising candidate therapeutic targets. In particular, the neurodegenerative disorder Huntington disease (HD), which is caused by the abnormal expansion of a polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin (htt) protein, has been widely studied in yeast. This work has led to the identification of several promising therapeutic targets and compounds that have been validated in mammalian cells, Drosophila and rodent models of HD. Here we discuss the development of yeast models of mutant htt toxicity and misfolding, as well as the mechanistic insights gleaned from this simple model. The role of yeast prions in the toxicity/misfolding of mutant htt is also highlighted. Furthermore, we provide an overview of the application of HD yeast models in both genetic and chemical screens, and the fruitful results obtained from these approaches. Finally, we discuss the future of yeast in neurodegenerative research, in the context of HD and other diseases.
Neuroactive metabolites of the kynurenine pathway (KP) of tryptophan degradation have been implicated in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders, including Huntingtons disease (HD) . A central hallmark of HD is neurodegeneration caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin (htt) protein . Here we exploit a transgenic Drosophila melanogaster model of HD to interrogate the therapeutic potential of KP manipulation. We observe that genetic and pharmacological inhibition of kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO) increases levels of the neuroprotective metabolite kynurenic acid (KYNA) relative to the neurotoxic metabolite 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK) and ameliorates neurodegeneration. We also find that genetic inhibition of tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO), the first and rate-limiting step in the pathway, leads to a similar neuroprotective shift toward KYNA synthesis. Importantly, we demonstrate that the feeding of KYNA and 3-HK to HD model flies directly modulates neurodegeneration, underscoring the causative nature of these metabolites. This study provides the first genetic evidence that inhibition of KMO and TDO activity protects against neurodegenerative disease in an animal model, indicating that strategies targeted at two key points within the KP may have therapeutic relevance in HD, and possibly other neurodegenerative disorders.
Metabolites in the kynurenine pathway, generated by tryptophan degradation, are thought to play an important role in neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimers and Huntingtons diseases. In these disorders, glutamate receptor-mediated excitotoxicity and free radical formation have been correlated with decreased levels of the neuroprotective metabolite kynurenic acid. Here, we describe the synthesis and characterization of JM6, a small-molecule prodrug inhibitor of kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO). Chronic oral administration of JM6 inhibits KMO in the blood, increasing kynurenic acid levels and reducing extracellular glutamate in the brain. In a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimers disease, JM6 prevents spatial memory deficits, anxiety-related behavior, and synaptic loss. JM6 also extends life span, prevents synaptic loss, and decreases microglial activation in a mouse model of Huntingtons disease. These findings support a critical link between tryptophan metabolism in the blood and neurodegeneration, and they provide a foundation for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by the expansion of a polyglutamine tract in the huntingtin (htt) protein. To uncover candidate therapeutic targets and networks involved in pathogenesis, we integrated gene expression profiling and functional genetic screening to identify genes critical for mutant htt toxicity in yeast. Using mRNA profiling, we have identified genes differentially expressed in wild-type yeast in response to mutant htt toxicity as well as in three toxicity suppressor strains: bna4?, mbf1?, and ume1?. BNA4 encodes the yeast homolog of kynurenine 3-monooxygenase, a promising drug target for HD. Intriguingly, despite playing diverse cellular roles, these three suppressors share common differentially expressed genes involved in stress response, translation elongation, and mitochondrial transport. We then systematically tested the ability of the differentially expressed genes to suppress mutant htt toxicity when overexpressed and have thereby identified 12 novel suppressors, including genes that play a role in stress response, Golgi to endosome transport, and rRNA processing. Integrating the mRNA profiling data and the genetic screening data, we have generated a robust network that shows enrichment in genes involved in rRNA processing and ribosome biogenesis. Strikingly, these observations implicate dysfunction of translation in the pathology of HD. Recent work has shown that regulation of translation is critical for life span extension in Drosophila and that manipulation of this process is protective in Parkinson disease models. In total, these observations suggest that pharmacological manipulation of translation may have therapeutic value in HD.
HD (Huntingtons disease) is caused by a polyQ (polyglutamine) expansion in the huntingtin protein, which leads to protein misfolding and aggregation of this protein. Abnormal copper accumulation in the HD brain was first reported more than 15 years ago. Recent findings show that copper-regulatory genes are induced during HD and copper binds to an N-terminal fragment of huntingtin, supporting the involvement of abnormal copper metabolism in HD. We have demonstrated that in vitro copper accelerates the fibrillization of an N-terminal fragment of huntingtin with an expanded polyQ stretch (httExon1). As we found that copper also increases polyQ aggregation and toxicity in mammalian cells expressing httExon1, we investigated further whether overexpression of genes involved in copper metabolism, notably MTs (metallothioneins) known to bind copper, protect against httExon1 toxicity. Using a yeast model of HD, we have shown that overexpression of several genes involved in copper metabolism reduces polyQ-mediated toxicity. Overexpression of MT-3 in mammalian cells significantly reduced polyQ aggregation and toxicity. We propose that copper-binding and/or -chaperoning proteins, especially MTs, are potential therapeutic targets for HD.
Huntingtons disease (HD) is an adult onset neurodegenerative disease caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein. Recent work has shown that perturbation of kynurenine pathway (KP) metabolism is a hallmark of HD pathology, and that changes in brain levels of KP metabolites may play a causative role in this disease. The KP contains three neuroactive metabolites, the neurotoxins 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK) and quinolinic acid (QUIN), and the neuroprotectant kynurenic acid (KYNA). In model systems in vitro and in vivo, 3-HK and QUIN have been shown to cause neurodegeneration via a combination of excitotoxic mechanisms and oxidative stress. Recent studies with HD patient samples and in HD model systems have supported the idea that a shift away from the synthesis of KYNA and towards the formation of 3-HK and QUIN may trigger the neuropathological features observed in HD. The enzyme kynurenine 3-monooxygenase (KMO) is located at a critical branching point in the KP such that inhibition of this enzyme by either pharmacological or genetic means shifts the flux in the pathway towards the formation of KYNA. This intervention ameliorates disease-relevant phenotypes in HD models. Here we review the work implicating the KP in HD pathology and discuss the potential of KMO as a therapeutic target for this disorder. As several neurodegenerative diseases exhibit alterations in KP metabolism, this concept has broader implications for the treatment of brain diseases.
Endogenous protein quality control machinery has long been suspected of influencing the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by accumulation of misfolded proteins. Huntingtons disease (HD) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by an expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) tract in the protein huntingtin (htt), which leads to its aggregation and accumulation in inclusion bodies. Here, we demonstrate in a mouse model of HD that deletion of the molecular chaperones Hsp70.1 and Hsp70.3 significantly exacerbated numerous physical, behavioral and neuropathological outcome measures, including survival, body weight, tremor, limb clasping and open field activities. Deletion of Hsp70.1 and Hsp70.3 significantly increased the size of inclusion bodies formed by mutant htt exon 1, but surprisingly did not affect the levels of fibrillar aggregates. Moreover, the lack of Hsp70s significantly decreased levels of the calcium regulated protein c-Fos, a marker for neuronal activity. In contrast, deletion of Hsp70s did not accelerate disease in a mouse model of infectious prion-mediated neurodegeneration, ruling out the possibility that the Hsp70.1/70.3 mice are nonspecifically sensitized to all protein misfolding disorders. Thus, endogenous Hsp70s are a critical component of the cellular defense against the toxic effects of misfolded htt protein in neurons, but buffer toxicity by mechanisms independent of the deposition of fibrillar aggregates.
Huntingtons disease (HD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder that is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion and is caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the protein huntingtin (htt). In recent years, modeling of various aspects of HD in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has provided insight into the conserved mechanisms of mutant htt toxicity in eukaryotic cells. The high degree of conservation of cellular and molecular processes between yeast and mammalian cells have made it a valuable system for studying basic mechanisms underlying human disease. Yeast models of HD recapitulate conserved disease-relevant phenotypes and can be used for drug discovery efforts as well as to gain mechanistic and genetic insights into candidate drugs. Here we provide a detailed overview of yeast models of mutant htt misfolding and toxicity and the molecular and phenotypic characterization of these models. We also review how these models identified novel therapeutic targets and compounds for HD and discuss the benefits and limitations of this model genetic system. Finally, we discuss how yeast may be used to provide further insight into the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying HD and treatment strategies for this devastating disorder.
Mutations in the protein DJ-1 cause recessive forms of early onset familial Parkinsons disease (PD). To date, most of the causative mutations studied destabilize formation of DJ-1 homodimers, which appears to be closely linked to its normal function in oxidative stress and other cellular processes. Despite the importance of understanding the dimerization dynamics of this protein, this aspect of DJ-1 biology has not previously been directly studied in living cells. Here, we use bimolecular fluorescence complementation to study DJ-1 dimerization and find not only that DJ-1 forms homodimers in living cells but that most PD causative DJ-1 mutations disrupt this process, including the L166P, M26I, L10P, and P158? mutations. Interestingly, the E64D mutant form of DJ-1 retains the ability to form homodimers. However, while wild-type DJ-1 dimers are stabilized under oxidative stress conditions, we find that the E64D mutation blocks this stabilization. Furthermore, our data show that the E64D mutation potentiates the formation of aggresomes containing DJ-1. We also observe that while the widely studied L166P mutation prevents DJ-1 from forming homodimers or heterodimers with wild-type protein, the mutant protein is able to partially disrupt formation of wild-type homodimers. In summary, by investigating DJ-1 dimerization in living cells, we have uncovered several novel properties of PD causative mutations in DJ-1, which may ultimately provide novel insight into PD pathogenesis and possible therapeutic options.
In Huntington disease (HD), immune cells are activated before symptoms arise; however, it is unclear how the expression of mutant huntingtin (htt) compromises the normal functions of immune cells. Here we report that primary microglia from early postnatal HD mice were profoundly impaired in their migration to chemotactic stimuli, and expression of a mutant htt fragment in microglial cell lines was sufficient to reproduce these deficits. Microglia expressing mutant htt had a retarded response to a laser-induced brain injury in vivo. Leukocyte recruitment was defective upon induction of peritonitis in HD mice at early disease stages and was normalized upon genetic deletion of mutant htt in immune cells. Migration was also strongly impaired in peripheral immune cells from pre-manifest human HD patients. Defective actin remodeling in immune cells expressing mutant htt likely contributed to their migration deficit. Our results suggest that these functional changes may contribute to immune dysfunction and neurodegeneration in HD, and may have implications for other polyglutamine expansion diseases in which mutant proteins are ubiquitously expressed.
HD (Huntingtons disease) is a fatal inherited gain-of-function disorder caused by a polyQ (polyglutamine) expansion in the htt (huntingtin protein). Expression of mutant htt in model organisms is sufficient to recapitulate many of the cellular defects found in HD patients. Many groups have independently developed Drosophila models of HD, taking advantage of its rapid life cycle, carefully annotated genome and well-established molecular toolkits. Furthermore, unlike simpler models, Drosophila have a complex nervous system, displaying a range of carefully co-ordinated behaviours which offer an exquisitely sensitive readout of neuronal disruption. Measuring HD-associated changes in behaviour in Drosophila therefore offers a window into the earliest stages of HD, when therapeutic interventions might be particularly effective. The present review describes a number of recently developed Drosophila models of HD and offers practical guidance on the advantages and disadvantages of various experimental approaches that can be used to screen these models for modifiers of mutant htt-mediated toxicity.
Huntington disease (HD) is a fatal inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by a polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin protein (htt). A pathological hallmark of the disease is the loss of a specific population of striatal neurons, and considerable attention has been paid to the role of the kynurenine pathway (KP) of tryptophan (TRP) degradation in this process. The KP contains three neuroactive metabolites: 3-hydroxykynurenine (3-HK), quinolinic acid (QUIN), and kynurenic acid (KYNA). 3-HK and QUIN are neurotoxic, and are increased in the brains of early stage HD patients, as well as in yeast and mouse models of HD. Conversely, KYNA is neuroprotective and has been shown to be decreased in HD patient brains. We recently used a Drosophila model of HD to measure the neuroprotective effect of genetic and pharmacological inhibition of kynurenine monoxygenase (KMO)-the enzyme catalyzing the formation of 3-HK at a pivotal branch point in the KP. We found that KMO inhibition in Drosophila robustly attenuated neurodegeneration, and that this neuroprotection was correlated with reduced levels of 3-HK relative to KYNA. Importantly, we showed that KP metabolites are causative in this process, as 3-HK and KYNA feeding experiments modulated neurodegeneration. We also found that genetic inhibition of the upstream KP enzyme tryptophan-2,3-dioxygenase (TDO) was neuroprotective in flies. Here, we extend these results by reporting that genetic impairment of KMO or TDO is protective against the eclosion defect in HD model fruit flies. Our results provide further support for the possibility of therapeutic KP interventions in HD.
Synapse abnormalities in Huntingtons disease (HD) patients can precede clinical diagnosis and neuron loss by decades. The polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin (htt) protein that underlies this disorder leads to perturbations in many cellular pathways, including the disruption of Rab11-dependent endosomal recycling. Impairment of the small GTPase Rab11 leads to the defective formation of vesicles in HD models and may thus contribute to the early stages of the synaptic dysfunction in this disorder. Here, we employ transgenic Drosophila melanogaster models of HD to investigate anomalies at the synapse and the role of Rab11 in this pathology. We find that the expression of mutant htt in the larval neuromuscular junction decreases the presynaptic vesicle size, reduces quantal amplitudes and evoked synaptic transmission and alters larval crawling behaviour. Furthermore, these indicators of early synaptic dysfunction are reversed by the overexpression of Rab11. This work highlights a potential novel HD therapeutic strategy for early intervention, prior to neuronal loss and clinical manifestation of disease.
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