Neuron-to-neuron propagation of neurodegenerative proteins; relation to degradative systems
Abstract: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) are defined by neurodegeneration and accumulations of misfolded proteins that spread through the brain in a well characterized manner. In AD these accumulations consist mainly of β-amyloid (Aβ) and tau, while in PD, α-synuclein (α-syn) make up the characteristic lewy pathology. The general aim of this thesis was to investigate mechanisms associated with neurotoxic peptide activity by Aβ, tau and α-syn in relation to cellular degradation and transfer with a cell-to-cell transfer model system. We found that intercellular transfer of oligomeric Aβ occurs independently of isoform. However, the amount of transfer correlates with each isoforms ability to resist degradation or cellular clearance. The Aβ1-42 isoform showed particular resistance to clearance, which resulted in higher levels of cell-to-cell transfer of the isoform and lysosomal stress caused by accumulation. As Aβ accumulations can inhibit the proteasomal degradation we investigated how reduced proteasomal degradation affected neuron-like cells. We found increased levels of phosphorylated tau protein, disturbed microtubule stability and impaired neuritic transport after reduced proteasomal activity. These changes was partly linked to c-Jun and ERK 1/2 kinase activity. We could also show that α-syn transferred from cell-to-cell in our model system, with a higher degree of transfer for the larger oligomer and fibrillar species. Similar to Aβ, α-syn mainly colocalized with lysosomes, before and after transfer. Lastly, we have developed our cell-to-cell transfer system into a model suitable for high throughput screening (HTS). The type of cells have been upgraded from SH-SY5Y cells to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), with a differentiation profile more similar to mature neurons. The next step will be screening a small molecular library for substances with inhibitory effect on cell-to-cell transfer of Aβ peptides. The importance of the degradative systems in maintaining protein homeostasis and prevent toxic accumulations in general is well known. Our findings shows the importance of these systems for neurodegenerative diseases and also highlight the link between degradation and cell-to-cell transfer. To restore or enhance the degradative systems would be an interesting avenue to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Another way would be to inhibit the transfer of misfolded protein aggregates. By using the HTS model we developed, a candidate substance with good inhibitory effect on transfer can hopefully be found.
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