Amyloid-β is a peptide released by synapses in physiological conditions and its pathological accumulation in brain structures necessary for memory processing represents a key toxic hallmark underlying Alzheimer's disease. The oligomeric form of Amyloid-β (Aβο) is now believed to represent the main Amyloid-β species affecting synapse function. Yet, the exact molecular mechanism by which Aβο modifies synapse function remains to be fully elucidated. There is accumulating evidence that glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) might participate in Aβο generation and activity in the brain. Here, we provide evidence for an acute functional cross-talk between Aβ and GRs at hippocampal excitatory synapses. Using live imaging and biochemical analysis of post-synaptic densities (PSD) in cultured hippocampal neurons, we show that synthetic Aβo (100 nM) increases GR levels in spines and PSD. Also, in these cultured neurons, blocking GRs with two different GR antagonists prevents Aβo-mediated PSD95 increase within the PSD. By analyzing long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) in ex vivo hippocampal slices after pharmacologically blocking GR, we also show that GR signaling is necessary for Aβo-mediated LTP impairment, but not Aβo-mediated LTD induction. The necessity of neuronal GRs for Aβo-mediated LTP was confirmed by genetically removing GRs in vivo from CA1 neurons using conditional GR mutant mice. These results indicate a tight functional interplay between GR and Aβ activities at excitatory synapses.
In search for drugs to treat neuropsychiatric disorders wherein neurotrophic and neurogenic properties are affected, two neurotrophically active small molecules specially crafted following natural product leads based on 2-oxa-spiro[5.5]-undecane scaffold, have been thoroughly evaluated for their neurotrophic, neurogenic and neuroprotective potential in ex vivo primary culture and in vivo zebrafish and mouse models. The outcome of in vivo investigations suggest that one of these molecules is more neurotrophic than neurogenic while the other one is more neurogenic than neurotrophic and the former exhibits remarkable neuroprotection in a mouse acute ischemic stroke model. The molecular mechanisms of action of these compounds appear to be through the TrkB-MEK-ERK-CREB-BDNF pathway as pre-treatment with neurotrophin receptor TrkB inhibitor ANA-12 and MEK inhibitor PD98059 attenuates the neurotrophic action of compounds.
Alzheimer disease (AD) is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid plaques, which are predominantly composed of amyloid-β peptide. Two principal physiological pathways either prevent or promote amyloid-β generation from its precursor, β-amyloid precursor protein (APP), in a competitive manner. Although APP processing has been studied in great detail, unknown proteolytic events seem to hinder stoichiometric analyses of APP metabolism in vivo. Here we describe a new physiological APP processing pathway, which generates proteolytic fragments capable of inhibiting neuronal activity within the hippocampus. We identify higher molecular mass carboxy-terminal fragments (CTFs) of APP, termed CTF-η, in addition to the long-known CTF-α and CTF-β fragments generated by the α- and β-secretases ADAM10 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase 10) and BACE1 (β-site APP cleaving enzyme 1), respectively. CTF-η generation is mediated in part by membrane-bound matrix metalloproteinases such as MT5-MMP, referred to as η-secretase activity. η-Secretase cleavage occurs primarily at amino acids 504-505 of APP695, releasing a truncated ectodomain. After shedding of this ectodomain, CTF-η is further processed by ADAM10 and BACE1 to release long and short Aη peptides (termed Aη-α and Aη-β). CTFs produced by η-secretase are enriched in dystrophic neurites in an AD mouse model and in human AD brains. Genetic and pharmacological inhibition of BACE1 activity results in robust accumulation of CTF-η and Aη-α. In mice treated with a potent BACE1 inhibitor, hippocampal long-term potentiation was reduced. Notably, when recombinant or synthetic Aη-α was applied on hippocampal slices ex vivo, long-term potentiation was lowered. Furthermore, in vivo single-cell two-photon calcium imaging showed that hippocampal neuronal activity was attenuated by Aη-α. These findings not only demonstrate a major functionally relevant APP processing pathway, but may also indicate potential translational relevance for therapeutic strategies targeting APP processing.
The early phase of Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by hippocampus-dependent memory deficits and impaired synaptic plasticity. Increasing evidence suggests that stress and dysregulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, marked by the elevated circulating glucocorticoids, are risk factors for AD onset. How these changes contribute to early hippocampal dysfunction remains unclear. Using an elaborated version of the object recognition task, we carefully monitored alterations in key components of episodic memory, the first type of memory altered in AD patients, in early symptomatic Tg2576 AD mice. We also combined biochemical and ex vivo electrophysiological analyses to reveal novel cellular and molecular dysregulations underpinning the onset of the pathology. We show that HPA axis, circadian rhythm, and feedback mechanisms, as well as episodic memory, are compromised in this early symptomatic phase, reminiscent of human AD pathology. The cognitive decline could be rescued by subchronic in vivo treatment with RU486, a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist. These observed phenotypes were paralleled by a specific enhancement of N-Methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor (NMDAR)-dependent LTD in CA1 pyramidal neurons, whereas LTP and metabotropic glutamate receptor-dependent LTD remain unchanged. NMDAR transmission was also enhanced. Finally, we show that, as for the behavioral deficit, RU486 treatment rescues this abnormal synaptic phenotype. These preclinical results define glucocorticoid signaling as a contributing factor to both episodic memory loss and early synaptic failure in this AD mouse model, and suggest that glucocorticoid receptor targeting strategies could be beneficial to delay AD onset.
Activation of P2X(7) receptor (P2X(7)R) and pannexin have been implicated in membrane permeabilization associated with ischemic cell death and many other inflammatory processes. P2X(7)R has a unique property of forming large pore upon repeated or prolonged application of agonist like ATP or 2', 3'-(4-benzoyl) benzoyl ATP. It has been proposed that pannexin 1 (panx1) hemichannel associates with P2X(7)R to form large pore, though the actual mechanism is not yet understood. Calcium concentration in extracellular milieu drops in many patho-physiological conditions, e.g. ischemia, when P2X(7)R/pannexin is also known to be activated. Therefore, we hypothesize that extracellular calcium ([Ca(2+)](o)) plays an important role in the coupling of P2X(7)R-panx1 and subsequent membrane permeabilization. In this study we show that membrane permeability of the P2X(7)R and panx1 expressing N2A cell increases in ([Ca(2+)](o))-free solution. In [Ca(2+)](o)-free solution, fluorescent dye calcein trapped cells exhibited time-dependent dye leakage resulting in about 50% decrease of fluorescence intensity in 30 min. Control cells in 2 mM [Ca(2+)](o) did not show such leakage. Like N2A cells, mixed culture of neuron and glia, derived from hippocampal progenitor cells showed similar dye leakage. Dye leakage was blocked either by pannexin-specific blocker, carbenoxolone or P2X(7)R antagonists, Brilliant Blue G, and oxidized ATP. Furthermore P2X(7)R and panx1 were co-immunoprecipitated. The amount of P2X(7)R protein pulled-down with panx1, increased by twofold when cells were incubated 30 min in [Ca(2+)](o)-free buffer. Taken together, the results of this study demonstrate the activation and association of P2X(7)R-panx1, triggered by the removal of [Ca(2+)](o).