The Biophysics of Na+,K+-ATPase in neuronal health and disease

Abstract: Na+,K+-ATPase is one of the most important proteins in the mammalian cell. It creates sodium and potassium gradients which are fundamental for the membrane potential and sodium-dependent secondary active transport. It has a second role in the cell as a receptor that by binding chemicals from the cardiotonic steroids family, the most knowledgeable of them is ouabain, triggers various signaling pathways in the cell which regulate gene activation, proliferation, apoptosis, etc. It has been shown that several severe neurological diseases are associated with mutations in the Na+,K+-ATPase encoding genes. Although Na+,K+-ATPase was discovered already in 1957 by the Danish scientist Jens Skou, the knowledge about the function of this enzyme  is still not complete. In the studies included in the thesis, we have learned more about the function of Na+,K+-ATPase in different aspects of health and disease. In study I we showed a mechanism of ouabain-dependent regulation of the NMDA receptor, one of the most important receptors in the nervous system, via binding with Na+,K+-ATPase. This allows us to look at the Na+,K+-ATPase as regulator via protein-protein interaction. In study II we investigated a different aspect of Na+,K+-ATPase functioning – to look at how binding of ouabain to Na+,K+-ATPase activates a number of signaling cascades by looking at the phosphoproteome status of the cells. This allows us to see the whole picture of ouabain-mediated cascades and further characterize them. In study III we focused on the role of Na+,K+-ATPase in severe epileptic encephalopathy caused by a mutation in the ATP1A1 gene. We performed a molecular and cellular study to describe how mutations affects protein structure and function and found that this mutation converts the ion pump to a nonspecific leak channel. In study IV we performed a translational study of the most common mutation for rapid-onset dystonia-parkinsonism. We studied how this mutation affects the nervous system on the protein-, cellular-, and organism level and found that the complete absence of ultraslow afterhyperpolarization (usAHP) could explain gait disturbances found in patients. In the on-going study we showed that Na+,K+-ATPase can oligomerize and that this effect is triggered by ouabain binding to the Na+,K+-ATPase. In this study, we utilized a novel fluorescence labelling approach and used biophysical techniques with single molecule sensitivity to track Na+,K+-ATPase interactions. In summary, we applied biophysical and molecular methods to study different aspects of the function of Na+,K+-ATPase, and gained insights that could be helpful not only for answering fundamental questions about Na+,K+-ATPase but also to find a treatment for patients with diseases associated with mutations in this protein.