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Publications in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 6, 2023

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a lethal malignancy in need of new therapeutic options. Using unbiased analyses of super-enhancers (SEs) as sentinels of core genes involved in cell-specific function, here we uncover a druggable SE-mediated RNA-binding protein (RBP) cascade that supports PDAC growth through enhanced mRNA translation. This cascade is driven by a SE associated with the RBP heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein F, which stabilizes protein arginine methyltransferase 1 (PRMT1) to, in turn, control the translational mediator ubiquitin-associated protein 2-like. All three of these genes and the regulatory SE are essential for PDAC growth and coordinately regulated by the Myc oncogene. In line with this, modulation of the RBP network by PRMT1 inhibition reveals a unique vulnerability in Myc-high PDAC patient organoids and markedly reduces tumor growth in male mice. Our study highlights a functional link between epigenetic regulation and mRNA translation and identifies components that comprise unexpected therapeutic targets for PDAC. © 2023, Springer Nature Limited.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

June 29, 2023

Aims: Psychotic symptoms are increasingly recognized as a distinguishing clinical feature in patients with dementia due to frontotemporal lobar degeneration with TDP-43 pathology (FTLD-TDP). Within this group, carriers of the C9orf72 repeat expansion are particularly prone to develop delusions and hallucinations. Methods: The present retrospective study sought to provide novel details about the relationship between FTLD-TDP pathology and the presence of psychotic symptoms during life. Results: We found that FTLD-TDP subtype B was more frequent in patients with psychotic symptoms than in those without. This relationship was present even when corrected for the presence of C9orf72 mutation, suggesting that pathophysiological processes leading to the development of subtype B pathology may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms. Within the group of FTLD-TDP cases with subtype B pathology, psychotic symptoms tended to be associated with a greater burden of TDP-43 pathology in the white matter and a lower burden in lower motor neurons. When present, pathological involvement of motor neurons was more likely to be asymptomatic in patients with psychosis. Conclusions: This work suggests that psychotic symptoms in patients with FTLD-TDP tend to be associated with subtype B pathology. This relationship is not completely explained by the effects of the C9orf72 mutation and raises the possibility of a direct link between psychotic symptoms and this particular pattern of TDP-43 pathology. © 2023 The Authors. Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Neuropathological Society.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

June 15, 2023

The progressive accumulation of insoluble aggregates of the presynaptic protein alpha-synuclein (α-Syn) is a hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders including Parkinson’s disease (PD), Multiple System Atrophy, and Dementia with Lewy Bodies, commonly referred to as synucleinopathies. Despite considerable progress on the structural biology of these aggregates, the molecular mechanisms mediating their cell-to-cell transmission, propagation, and neurotoxicity remain only partially understood. Numerous studies have highlighted the stereotypical spatiotemporal spreading of pathological α-Syn aggregates across different tissues and anatomically connected brain regions over time. Experimental evidence from various cellular and animal models indicate that α-Syn transfer occurs in two defined steps: the release of pathogenic α-Syn species from infected cells, and their uptake via passive or active endocytic pathways. Once α-Syn aggregates have been internalized, little is known about what drives their toxicity or how they interact with the endogenous protein to promote its misfolding and subsequent aggregation. Similarly, unknown genetic factors modulate different cellular responses to the aggregation and accumulation of pathogenic α-Syn species. Here we discuss the current understanding of the molecular phenomena associated with the intercellular spreading of pathogenic α-Syn seeds and summarize the evidence supporting the transmission hypothesis. Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in α-Syn aggregates transmission is essential to develop novel targeted therapeutics against PD and related synucleinopathies. © 2022 The Author(s)

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Molecular classification of gastric cancer (GC) identified a subgroup of patients showing chemoresistance and poor prognosis, termed SEM (Stem-like/Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition/Mesenchymal) type in this study. Here, we show that SEM-type GC exhibits a distinct metabolic profile characterized by high glutaminase (GLS) levels. Unexpectedly, SEM-type GC cells are resistant to glutaminolysis inhibition. We show that under glutamine starvation, SEM-type GC cells up-regulate the 3 phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (PHGDH)-mediated mitochondrial folate cycle pathway to produce NADPH as a reactive oxygen species scavenger for survival. This metabolic plasticity is associated with globally open chromatin structure in SEM-type GC cells, with ATF4/CEBPB identified as transcriptional drivers of the PHGDH-driven salvage pathway. Single-nucleus transcriptome analysis of patient-derived SEM-type GC organoids revealed intratumoral heterogeneity, with stemness-high subpopulations displaying high GLS expression, a resistance to GLS inhibition, and ATF4/CEBPB activation. Notably, coinhibition of GLS and PHGDH successfully eliminated stemness-high cancer cells. Together, these results provide insight into the metabolic plasticity of aggressive GC cells and suggest a treatment strategy for chemoresistant GC patients. Copyright © 2023 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 9, 2023

Motoneurons are one of the most energy-demanding cell types and a primary target in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating and lethal neurodegenerative disorder without currently available effective treatments. Disruption of mitochondrial ultrastructure, transport, and metabolism is a commonly reported phenotype in ALS models and can critically affect survival and the proper function of motor neurons. However, how changes in metabolic rates contribute to ALS progression is not fully understood yet. Here, we utilize hiPCS-derived motoneuron cultures and live imaging quantitative techniques to evaluate metabolic rates in fused in sarcoma (FUS)-ALS model cells. We show that differentiation and maturation of motoneurons are accompanied by an overall upregulation of mitochondrial components and a significant increase in metabolic rates that correspond to their high energy-demanding state. Detailed compartment-specific live measurements using a fluorescent ATP sensor and FLIM imaging show significantly lower levels of ATP in the somas of cells carrying FUS-ALS mutations. These changes lead to the increased vulnerability of diseased motoneurons to further metabolic challenges with mitochondrial inhibitors and could be due to the disruption of mitochondrial inner membrane integrity and an increase in its proton leakage. Furthermore, our measurements demonstrate heterogeneity between axonal and somatic compartments, with lower relative levels of ATP in axons. Our observations strongly support the hypothesis that mutated FUS impacts the metabolic states of motoneurons and makes them more susceptible to further neurodegenerative mechanisms. © 2023 by the authors.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

The effectiveness of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly variable. As target recognition of mAbs relies on tight binding affinity, we assessed the affinities of five therapeutic mAbs to the receptor binding domain (RBD) of wild type (A), Delta (B.1.617.2), and Omicron BA.1 SARS-CoV-2 (B.1.1.529.1) spike using microfluidic diffusional sizing (MDS). Four therapeutic mAbs showed strongly reduced affinity to Omicron BA.1 RBD, whereas one (sotrovimab) was less impacted. These affinity reductions correlate with reduced antiviral activities suggesting that affinity could serve as a rapid indicator for activity before time-consuming virus neutralization assays are performed. We also compared the same mAbs to serological fingerprints (affinity and concentration) obtained by MDS of antibodies in sera of 65 convalescent individuals. The affinities of the therapeutic mAbs to wild type and Delta RBD were similar to the serum antibody response, indicating high antiviral activities. For Omicron BA.1 RBD, only sotrovimab retained affinities within the range of the serum antibody response, in agreement with high antiviral activity. These results suggest that serological fingerprints provide a route to evaluating affinity and antiviral activity of mAb drugs and could guide the development of new therapeutics.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Trans-activation response DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) regulates RNA processing and forms neuropathological aggregates in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Investigating TDP-43 post-translational modifications, we discovered that K84 acetylation reduced nuclear import whereas K136 acetylation impaired RNA binding and splicing capabilities of TDP-43. Such failure of RNA interaction triggered TDP-43 phase separation mediated by the C-terminal low complexity domain, leading to the formation of insoluble aggregates with pathologically phosphorylated and ubiquitinated TDP-43. Introduction of acetyl-lysine at the identified sites via amber suppression confirmed the results from site-directed mutagenesis. K84-acetylated TDP-43 showed cytoplasmic mislocalization, and the aggregation propensity of K136-acetylated TDP-43 was confirmed. We generated antibodies selective for TDP-43 acetylated at these lysines, and found that sirtuin-1 can potently deacetylate K136-acetylated TDP-43 and reduce its aggregation propensity. Thus, distinct lysine acetylations modulate nuclear import, RNA binding and phase separation of TDP-43, suggesting regulatory mechanisms for TDP-43 pathogenesis.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Heterogenous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNPs) are abundant proteins implicated in various steps of RNA processing that assemble on nuclear RNA into larger complexes termed 40S hnRNP particles. Despite their initial discovery 55 years ago, our understanding of these intriguing macromolecular assemblies remains limited. Here, we report the biochemical purification of native 40S hnRNP particles and the determination of their complete protein composition by label-free quantitative mass spectrometry, identifying A-group and C-group hnRNPs as the major protein constituents. Isolated 40S hnRNP particles dissociate upon RNA digestion and can be reconstituted in vitro on defined RNAs in the presence of the individual protein components, demonstrating a scaffolding role for RNA in nucleating particle formation. Finally, we revealed their nanometer scale, condensate-like nature, promoted by intrinsically disordered regions of A-group hnRNPs. Collectively, we identify nuclear 40S hnRNP particles as novel dynamic biomolecular condensates.

Research field(s)
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

April 1, 2022

Little is known about the early pathogenic events by which mutant superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) causes amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This lack of mechanistic understanding is a major barrier to the development and evaluation of efficient therapies. Although protein aggregation is known to be involved, it is not understood how mutant SOD1 causes degeneration of motoneurons (MNs). Previous research has relied heavily on the overexpression of mutant SOD1, but the clinical relevance of SOD1 overexpression models remains questionable. We used a human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) model of spinal MNs and three different endogenous ALS-associated SOD1 mutations (D90Ahom, R115Ghet or A4Vhet) to investigate early cellular disturbances in MNs. Although enhanced misfolding and aggregation of SOD1 was induced by proteasome inhibition, it was not affected by activation of the stress granule pathway. Interestingly, we identified loss of mitochondrial, but not lysosomal, integrity as the earliest common pathological phenotype, which preceded elevated levels of insoluble, aggregated SOD1. A super-elongated mitochondrial morphology with impaired inner mitochondrial membrane potential was a unifying feature in mutant SOD1 iPSC-derived MNs. Impaired mitochondrial integrity was most prominent in mutant D90Ahom MNs, whereas both soluble disordered and detergent-resistant misfolded SOD1 was more prominent in R115Ghet and A4Vhet mutant lines. Taking advantage of patient-specific models of SOD1-ALS in vitro, our data suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the first crucial steps in the pathogenic cascade that leads to SOD1-ALS and also highlights the need for individualized medical approaches for SOD1-ALS.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

March 1, 2022

Pancreatic β cells secrete insulin in response to glucose, a process that is regulated at multiple levels, including a network of input signals from other organ systems. Impaired islet function contributes to the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), and targeting inter-organ communications, such as GLP-1 signalling, to enhance β-cell function has been proven to be a successful therapeutic strategy in the last decade. In this review, we will discuss recent advances in inter-organ communication from the metabolic, immune and neural system to pancreatic islets, their biological implication in normal pancreas endocrine function and their role in the (mal)adaptive responses of islet to nutrition-induced stress.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2021

Dopaminergic (DA) cell death in Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with the gradual appearance of neuronal protein aggregates termed Lewy bodies (LBs) that are comprised of vesicular membrane structures and dysmorphic organelles in conjunction with the protein alpha-Synuclein (α-Syn). Although the exact mechanism of neuronal aggregate formation and death remains elusive, recent research suggests α-Syn-mediated alterations in the lysosomal degradation of aggregated proteins and organelles – a process termed autophagy. Here, we used a combination of molecular biology and immunochemistry to investigate the effect of α-Syn on autophagy turnover in cultured human DA neurons and in human post-mortem brain tissue. We found α-Syn overexpression to reduce autophagy turnover by compromising the fusion of autophagosomes with lysosomes, thus leading to a decrease in the formation of autolysosomes. In accord with a compensatory increase in the plasma membrane fusion of autophagosomes, α-Syn enhanced the number of extracellular vesicles (EV) and the abundance of autophagy-associated proteins in these EVs. Mechanistically, α-Syn decreased the abundance of the v-SNARE protein SNAP29, a member of the SNARE complex mediating autophagolysosome fusion. In line, SNAP29 knockdown mimicked the effect of α-Syn on autophagy whereas SNAP29 co-expression reversed the α-Syn-induced changes on autophagy turnover and EV release and ameliorated DA neuronal cell death. In accord with our results from cultured neurons, we found a stage-dependent reduction of SNAP29 in SNc DA neurons from human post-mortem brain tissue of Lewy body pathology (LBP) cases. In summary, our results thus demonstrate a previously unknown effect of α-Syn on intracellular autophagy-associated SNARE proteins and, as a consequence, a reduced autolysosome fusion. As such, our findings will therefore support the investigation of autophagy-associated pathological changes in PD

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

November 2, 2021

Glycine-rich regions feature prominently in intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) of proteins that drive phase separation and the regulated formation of membraneless biomolecular condensates. Interestingly, the Gly-rich IDRs seldom feature poly-Gly tracts. The protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) is an exception. This protein includes two 10-residue poly-Gly tracts within the prion-like domain (PLD) and at the interface between the PLD and the RNA binding domain. Poly-Gly tracts are known to be highly insoluble, being potent drivers of self-assembly into solid-like fibrils. Given that the internal concentrations of FUS and FUS-like molecules cross the high micromolar and even millimolar range within condensates, we reasoned that the intrinsic insolubility of poly-Gly tracts might be germane to emergent fluid-to-solid transitions within condensates. To assess this possibility, we characterized the concentration-dependent self-assembly for three non-overlapping 25-residue Gly-rich peptides derived from FUS. Two of the three peptides feature 10-residue poly-Gly tracts. These peptides form either long fibrils based on twisted ribbon-like structures or self-supporting gels based on physical cross-links of fibrils. Conversely, the peptide with similar Gly contents but lacking a poly-Gly tract does not form fibrils or gels. Instead, it remains soluble across a wide range of concentrations. Our findings highlight the ability of poly-Gly tracts within IDRs that drive phase separation to undergo self-assembly. We propose that these tracts are likely to contribute to nucleation of fibrillar solids within dense condensates formed by FUS.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

November 1, 2021

Bile acids (BAs) are a class of hepatically derived metabolite-hormones with prominent roles in nutrient absorption, metabolic and immune homeostasis in the intestine. BAs are ligands for multiple nuclear receptors (NRs), through which they confer transcriptional regulation on target genes that form an enterohepatic hormonal feedback loop to regulate BA synthesis and maintain lipid homeostasis. Endogenous BAs made by the host undergo significant biotransformation by the gut microbiota in the intestine, which diversifies the intestinal BA pool and facilitate host–microbiota cross-talk through BA-mediated signaling. BAs dysregulation contributes to development of metabolic diseases, pathological inflammation and colon cancer. This review provides a brief historic perspective of the study of NR-mediated BA signaling transduction, with a focus on recent advancements in understanding the active role the gut microbiome plays in reshaping intestinal BA landscape, and the implications of novel microbially derived BAs in modulating immune homeostasis and cancer development in the host. Targeting the BA–NR signaling axis for pharmacological intervention provides ample opportunities in the prevention and treatment of intestinal diseases.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

The misfolding and aggregation of the human prion protein (PrP) is associated with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Intermediate conformations forming during the conversion of the cellular form of PrP into its pathological scrapie conformation are key drivers of the misfolding process. Here, we analyzed the properties of the C-terminal domain of the human PrP (huPrP) and its T183A variant, which is associated with familial forms of TSEs. We show that the mutation significantly enhances the aggregation propensity of huPrP, such as to uniquely induce amyloid formation under physiological conditions by the sole C-terminal domain of the protein. Using NMR spectroscopy, biophysics, and metadynamics simulations, we identified the structural characteristics of the misfolded intermediate promoting the aggregation of T183A huPrP and the nature of the interactions that prevent this species to be populated in the wild-type protein. In support of these conclusions, POM antibodies targeting the regions that promote PrP misfolding were shown to potently suppress the aggregation of this amyloidogenic mutant.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

October 1, 2021

GGGGCC (G4C2) repeat expansion in the C9orf72 gene has been shown to cause frontotemporal lobar degeneration and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Dipeptide repeat proteins produced through repeat-associated non-AUG (RAN) translation are recognized as potential drivers for neurodegeneration. Therefore, selective inhibition of RAN translation could be a therapeutic avenue to treat these neurodegenerative diseases. It was previously known that the porphyrin TMPyP4 binds to G4C2 repeat RNA. However, the consequences of this interaction have not been well characterized. Here, we confirmed that TMPyP4 inhibits C9orf72 G4C2 repeat translation in cellular and in in vitro translation systems. An artificial insertion of an AUG codon failed to cancel the translation inhibition, suggesting that TMPyP4 acts downstream of non-AUG translation initiation. Polysome profiling assays also revealed polysome retention on G4C2 repeat RNA, along with inhibition of translation, indicating that elongating ribosomes stall on G4C2 repeat RNA. Urea-resistant interaction between G4C2 repeat RNA and TMPyP4 likely contributes to this ribosome stalling and thus to selective inhibition of RAN translation. Taken together, our data reveal a novel mode of action of TMPyP4 as an inhibitor of G4C2 repeat translation elongation.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) of proteins and RNAs has emerged as the driving force underlying the formation of membrane-less organelles. Such biomolecular condensates have various biological functions and have been linked to disease. The protein Fused in Sarcoma (FUS) undergoes LLPS and mutations in FUS have been causally linked to the motor neuron disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS-FUS). LLPS followed by aggregation of cytoplasmic FUS has been proposed to be a crucial disease mechanism. However, it is currently unclear how LLPS impacts the behaviour of FUS in cells, e.g. its interactome. Hence, we developed a method allowing for the purification of LLPS FUS-containing droplets from cell lysates. We observe substantial alterations in the interactome, depending on its biophysical state. While non-LLPS FUS interacts mainly with factors involved in pre-mRNA processing, LLPS FUS predominantly binds to proteins involved in chromatin remodelling and DNA damage repair. Interestingly, also mitochondrial factors are strongly enriched with LLPS FUS, providing a potential explanation for the observed changes in mitochondrial gene expression in mouse models of ALS-FUS. In summary, we present a methodology to investigate the interactomes of phase separating proteins and provide evidence that LLPS shapes the FUS interactome with implications for function and disease.

Research field(s)
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 1, 2021

Mutations in RNA binding proteins (RBPs) and in genes regulating autophagy are frequent causes of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (fALS). The P56S mutation in vesicle-associated membrane protein-associated protein B (VAPB) leads to fALS (ALS8) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). While VAPB is primarily involved in the unfolded protein response (UPR), vesicular trafficking and in initial steps of the autophagy pathway, the effect of mutant P56S-VAPB on autophagy regulation in connection with RBP homeostasis has not been explored yet. Examining the muscle biopsy of our index ALS8 patient of European origin revealed globular accumulations of VAPB aggregates co-localised with autophagy markers LC3 and p62 in partially atrophic and atrophic muscle fibres. In line with this skin fibroblasts obtained from the same patient showed accumulation of P56S-VAPB aggregates together with LC3 and p62. Detailed investigations of autophagic flux in cell culture models revealed that P56S-VAPB alters both initial and late steps of the autophagy pathway. Accordingly, electron microscopy complemented with live cell imaging highlighted the impaired fusion of accumulated autophagosomes with lysosomes in cells expressing P56S-VAPB. Consistent with these observations, neuropathological studies of brain and spinal cord of P56S-VAPB transgenic mice revealed signs of neurodegeneration associated with altered protein quality control and defective autophagy. Autophagy and RBP homeostasis are interdependent, as demonstrated by the cytoplasmic mis-localisation of several RBPs including pTDP-43, FUS, Matrin 3 which often sequestered with P56S-VAPB aggregates both in cell culture and in the muscle biopsy of the ALS8 patient. Further confirming the notion that aggregation of the RBPs proceeds through the stress granule (SG) pathway, we found persistent G3BP- and TIAR1-positive SGs in P56S-VAPB expressing cells as well as in the ALS8 patient muscle biopsy. We conclude that P56S-VAPB-ALS8 involves a cohesive pathomechanism of aberrant RBP homeostasis together with dysfunctional autophagy.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

August 21, 2020

Uromodulin is the most abundant protein in human urine, and it forms filaments that antagonize the adhesion of uropathogens; however, the filament structure and mechanism of protection remain poorly understood. We used cryo–electron tomography to show that the uromodulin filament consists of a zigzag-shaped backbone with laterally protruding arms. N-glycosylation mapping and biophysical assays revealed that uromodulin acts as a multivalent ligand for the bacterial type 1 pilus adhesin, presenting specific epitopes on the regularly spaced arms. Imaging of uromodulin-uropathogen interactions in vitro and in patient urine showed that uromodulin filaments associate with uropathogens and mediate bacterial aggregation, which likely prevents adhesion and allows clearance by micturition. These results provide a framework for understanding uromodulin in urinary tract infections and in its more enigmatic roles in physiology and disease.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 1, 2020

Aggregation of alpha-synuclein (αSyn) is a crucial event underlying the pathophysiology of synucleinopathies. The existence of various intracellular and extracellular αSyn species, including cleaved αSyn, complicates the quest for an appropriate therapeutic target. Hence, to develop efficient disease-modifying strategies, it is fundamental to achieve a deeper understanding of the relevant spreading and toxic αSyn species. Here, we describe comparative and proof-of-principle approaches to determine the involvement of αSyn fragments in intercellular spreading. We demonstrate that two different αSyn fragments (1–95 and 61–140) fulfill the criteria of spreading species. They efficiently instigate formation of proteinase-K-resistant aggregates from cell-endogenous full-length αSyn, and drive it into different aggregation pathways. The resulting aggregates induce cellular toxicity. Strikingly, these aggregates are only detectable by specific antibodies. Our results suggest that αSyn fragments might be relevant not only for spreading, but also for aggregation-fate determination and differential strain formation.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

January 17, 2020

Insoluble, hyperubiquitylated TAR DNA-binding protein of 43 kDa (TDP-43) in the central nervous system characterizes frontotemporal dementia and ALS in many individuals with these neurodegenerative diseases. The causes for neuropathological TDP-43 aggregation are unknown, but it has been suggested that stress granule (SG) formation is important in this process. Indeed, in human embryonic kidney HEK293E cells, various SG-forming conditions induced very strong TDP-43 ubiquitylation, insolubility, and reduced splicing activity. Osmotic stress-induced SG formation and TDP-43 ubiquitylation occurred rapidly and coincided with colocalization of TDP-43 and SG markers. Washout experiments confirmed the rapid dissolution of SGs, accompanied by normalization of TDP-43 ubiquitylation and solubility. Surprisingly, interference with the SG process using a protein kinase R-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase inhibitor (GSK2606414) or the translation blocker emetine did not prevent TDP-43 ubiquitylation and insolubility. Thus, parallel pathways may lead to pathological TDP-43 modifications independent of SG formation. Using a panel of kinase inhibitors targeting signaling pathways of the osmotic shock inducer sorbitol, we could largely rule out the stress-activated and extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase modules and glycogen synthase kinase 3β. For arsenite, but not for sorbitol, quenching oxidative stress with N-acetylcysteine did suppress both SG formation and TDP-43 ubiquitylation and insolubility. Thus, sodium arsenite appears to promote SG formation and TDP-43 modifications via oxidative stress, but sorbitol stimulates TDP-43 ubiquitylation and insolubility via a novel pathway(s) independent of SG formation. In conclusion, pathological TDP-43 modifications can be mediated via multiple distinct pathways for which SGs are not essential.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

January 1, 2020

Upregulation of heat shock proteins (HSPs) is an approach to treatment of neurodegenerative disorders with impaired proteostasis. Many neurons, including motor neurons affected in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are relatively resistant to stress-induced upregulation of HSPs. This study demonstrated that histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors enable the heat shock response in cultured spinal motor neurons, in a stress-dependent manner, and can improve the efficacy of HSP-inducing drugs in murine spinal cord cultures subjected to thermal or proteotoxic stress. The effect of particular HDAC inhibitors differed with the stress paradigm. The HDAC6 (class IIb) inhibitor, tubastatin A, acted as a co-inducer of Hsp70 (HSPA1A) expression with heat shock, but not with proteotoxic stress induced by expression of mutant SOD1 linked to familial ALS. Certain HDAC class I inhibitors (the pan inhibitor, SAHA, or the HDAC1/3 inhibitor, RGFP109) were HSP co-inducers comparable to the hydroxyamine arimoclomol in response to proteotoxic stress, but not thermal stress. Regardless, stress-induced Hsp70 expression could be enhanced by combining an HDAC inhibitor with either arimoclomol or with an HSP90 inhibitor that constitutively induced HSPs. HDAC inhibition failed to induce Hsp70 in motor neurons expressing ALS-linked mutant FUS, in which the heat shock response was suppressed; yet SAHA, RGFP109, and arimoclomol did reduce loss of nuclear FUS, a disease hallmark, and HDAC inhibition rescued the DNA repair response in iPSC-derived motor neurons carrying the FUSP525Lmutation, pointing to multiple mechanisms of neuroprotection by both HDAC inhibiting drugs and arimoclomol.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology