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Journal: Neurobiology of disease


Sleep and circadian rhythms are among the most powerful but least understood contributors to cognitive performance and brain health. Here we capitalize on the circadian resetting effect of blue-wavelength light to phase shift the sleep patterns of adult patients (aged 18-48 years) recovering from mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), with the aim of facilitating recovery of brain structure, connectivity, and cognitive performance. During a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 32 adults with a recent mTBI, we compared six-weeks of daily 30-min pulses of blue light (peak λ = 469 nm) each morning versus amber placebo light (peak λ = 578 nm) on neurocognitive and neuroimaging outcomes, including gray matter volume (GMV), resting-state functional connectivity, directed connectivity using Granger causality, and white matter integrity using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Relative to placebo, blue light led to phase-advanced sleep timing, reduced daytime sleepiness, and improved executive functioning, and was associated with increased volume of the posterior thalamus (i.e., pulvinar), greater thalamo-cortical functional connectivity, and increased axonal integrity of these pathways. These findings provide insight into the contributions of the circadian and sleep systems in brain repair and lay the groundwork for interventions targeting the retinohypothalamic system to facilitate injury recovery.


Over-expression of mutant copper, zinc superoxide dismutase (SOD) in mice induces ALS and has become the most widely used model of neurodegeneration. However, no pharmaceutical agent in 20years has extended lifespan by more than a few weeks. The Copper-Chaperone-for-SOD (CCS) protein completes the maturation of SOD by inserting copper, but paradoxically human CCS causes mice co-expressing mutant SOD to die within two weeks of birth. Hypothesizing that co-expression of CCS created copper deficiency in spinal cord, we treated these pups with the PET-imaging agent CuATSM, which is known to deliver copper into the CNS within minutes. CuATSM prevented the early mortality of CCSxSOD mice, while markedly increasing Cu, Zn SOD protein in their ventral spinal cord. Remarkably, continued treatment with CuATSM extended the survival of these mice by an average of 18months. When CuATSM treatment was stopped, these mice developed ALS-related symptoms and died within 3months. Restoring CuATSM treatment could rescue these mice after they became symptomatic, providing a means to start and stop disease progression. All ALS patients also express human CCS, raising the hope that familial SOD ALS patients could respond to CuATSM treatment similarly to the CCSxSOD mice.

Concepts: Spinal cord, Superoxide dismutase, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Zinc, Copper, Motor neuron, SOD1, Copper deficiency


Following stroke, the damaged tissue undergoes liquefactive necrosis, a stage of infarct resolution that lasts for months, although the exact length of time is currently unknown. One method of repair involves reactive astrocytes and microglia forming a glial scar to compartmentalize the area of liquefactive necrosis from the rest of the brain. The formation of the glial scar is a critical component of the healing response to stroke, as well as other central nervous system (CNS) injuries. The goal of this study was to evaluate the toxicity of the extracellular fluid present in areas of liquefactive necrosis and determine how effectively it is segregated from the remainder of the brain. To accomplish this goal, we used a mouse model of stroke in conjunction with an extracellular fluid toxicity assay, fluorescent and electron microscopy, immunostaining, tracer injections into the infarct, and multiplex immunoassays. We confirmed that the extracellular fluid present in areas of liquefactive necrosis following stroke is toxic to primary cortical and hippocampal neurons for at least 7 weeks following stroke, and discovered that although glial scars are robust physical and endocytic barriers, they are nevertheless permeable. We found that molecules present in the area of liquefactive necrosis can leak across the glial scar, and are removed by a combination of paravascular clearance and microglial endocytosis in the adjacent tissue. Despite these mechanisms, there is delayed atrophy, cytotoxic edema, and neuron loss in regions adjacent to the infarct for weeks following stroke. These findings suggest that one mechanism of neurodegeneration following stroke is the failure of glial scars to impermeably segregate areas of liquefactive necrosis from surviving brain tissue.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Myocardial infarction, Neurology, Cerebellum, Necrosis


We have identified a natural Japanese macaque model of the childhood neurodegenerative disorder neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, commonly known as Batten Disease, caused by a homozygous frameshift mutation in the CLN7 gene (CLN7-/-). Affected macaques display progressive neurological deficits including visual impairment, tremor, incoordination, ataxia and impaired balance. Imaging, functional and pathological studies revealed that CLN7-/- macaques have reduced retinal thickness and retinal function early in disease, followed by profound cerebral and cerebellar atrophy that progresses over a five to six-year disease course. Histological analyses showed an accumulation of cerebral, cerebellar and cardiac storage material as well as degeneration of neurons, white matter fragmentation and reactive gliosis throughout the brain of affected animals. This novel CLN7-/- macaque model recapitulates key behavioral and neuropathological features of human Batten Disease and provides novel insights into the pathophysiology linked to CLN7 mutations. These animals will be invaluable for evaluating promising therapeutic strategies for this devastating disease.


The oncogene DJ-1 has been originally identified as a suppressor of PTEN. Further on, loss-of-function mutations have been described as a causative factor in Parkinson’s disease (PD). DJ-1 has an important function in cellular antioxidant responses, but its role in central metabolism of neurons is still elusive. We applied stable isotope assisted metabolic profiling to investigate the effect of a functional loss of DJ-1 and show that DJ-1 deficient neuronal cells exhibit decreased glutamine influx and reduced serine biosynthesis. By providing precursors for GSH synthesis, these two metabolic pathways are important contributors to cellular antioxidant response. Down-regulation of these pathways, as a result of loss of DJ-1 leads to an impaired antioxidant response. Furthermore, DJ-1 deficient mouse microglia showed a weak but constitutive pro-inflammatory activation. The combined effects of altered central metabolism and constitutive activation of glia cells raise the susceptibility of dopaminergic neurons towards degeneration in patients harboring mutated DJ-1. Our work reveals metabolic alterations leading to increased cellular instability and identifies potential new intervention points that can further be studied in the light of novel translational medicine approaches.

Concepts: Neuron, Mutation, Metabolism, Adenosine triphosphate, Antioxidant, DNA repair, Glial cell, Dopamine


Activated microglia and infiltrating lymphocytes are neuropathological hallmarks of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal motoneuron disease. Although both cell types play pivotal roles in the ALS pathogenic process, the interactions between microglia and lymphocytes, specifically regulatory CD4+CD25High T lymphocytes (Tregs) and cytotoxic CD4+CD25- T lymphocytes (Teffs), have not been addressed. When co-cultured with mSOD1 adult microglia, mSOD1 Tregs suppressed the cytotoxic microglial factors NOX2 and iNOS through an IL-4-mediated mechanism, whereas Teffs were only minimally effective; IL-4 inhibitory antibodies blocked the suppressive function of mSOD1 Tregs, and conditioned media from mSOD1 Tregs or the addition of IL-4 reduced microglial NOX2 expression. During the stable disease phase, the total number of Tregs, specifically the numbers of CD4+CD25HighIL-4+, CD4+CD25HighIL-10+ and CD4+CD25HighTGF-β+ Tregs, were increased in ALS mice compared with WT mice; Tregs isolated during this phase reduced Teff proliferation. In contrast, during the rapidly progressing phase, the number of mSOD1 Tregs decreased while the proliferation of mSOD1 Teffs increased. The combination of IL-4, IL-10, and TGF-β was required to inhibit the proliferation of mSOD1 Teffs by mSOD1 Tregs that were isolated during the slow phase, while inhibition of mSOD1 Teffs by mSOD1 Tregs during the rapid phase, as well as WT Teffs, was not dependent on these factors. Thus, mSOD1 Tregs at the slow phase suppressed microglial toxicity and SOD1 Teff proliferation through different mechanisms; microglial activation was suppressed through IL-4 whereas mSOD1 Teffs were suppressed by IL-4, IL-10 and TGF-β. These data suggest that mSOD1 Tregs contribute to the slowly progressing phase in ALS mice and may offer a novel therapeutic option for ALS patients.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Superoxide dismutase, Natural killer cell, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Microglia, SOD1, Minocycline


Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-immunoreactive (ir) neurons have been found in the striatum after dopamine depletion; however, little is known about the mechanism underlying their appearance or their functional significance. We previously showed an increase in striatal TH-ir neurons after L-DOPA treatment in mice with unilateral 6-OHDA lesions in the striatum. In the present study, we further examined the time-course and persistence of the effects of chronic L-DOPA treatment on the appearance and regulation of TH-ir neurons as well as their possible function. We found that the L-DOPA-induced increase in striatal TH-ir neurons is dose-dependent and persists for days after L-DOPA withdrawal, decreasing significantly 10 days after L-DOPA treatment ends. Using hemiparkinsonian D1 receptor knock-out (D1R-/-) and D2 receptor knock-out (D2R-/-) mice, we found that the D1R, but not the D2R, is required for the L-DOPA-induced appearance of TH-ir neurons in the dopamine-depleted striatum. Interestingly, our experiments in aphakia mice, which lack Pitx3 expression in the brain, indicate that the L-DOPA-dependent increase in the number of TH-ir neurons is independent of Pitx3, a transcription factor necessary for the development of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons. To explore the possible function of L-DOPA-induced TH-ir neurons in the striatum, we examined dopamine overflow and forelimb use in L-DOPA-treated parkinsonian mice. These studies revealed a tight spatio-temporal correlation between the presence of striatal TH-ir neurons, the recovery of electrically stimulated dopamine overflow in the lesioned striatum, and the recovery of contralateral forelimb use with chronic L-DOPA treatment. Our results suggest that the presence of TH-ir neurons in the striatum may underlie the long-duration response to L-DOPA following withdrawal. Promotion of these neurons in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, when dopamine denervation is incomplete, may be beneficial for maintaining motor function.

Concepts: Parkinson's disease, Dopamine receptor, Neurotransmitter, Epinephrine, Striatum, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Dopamine receptor D2


Prolonged L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) administration, the gold standard therapy for Parkinson’s disease (PD) is associated with serious motor complications, know as L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia (LID). One of the major molecular changes associated with LID is the increased activity of the extracellular signal-regulated kinases ½ (Erk1/2) signaling in the medium spiny neurons of the striatum induced by malfunctioning in the dopamine D1 receptor (D1R)-mediated transmission. We have previously established that in the striatum, activation of Shp-2, an intracellular tyrosine phosphatase associated with the D1R, is a requisite for the D1R to activate Erk1/2. In this study, we investigated the role of striatal D1R/Shp-2 complex in the molecular event underlying LID in the 6-OHDA-lesioned rat model of PD. We found that in hemiparkinsonian rats experiencing LID, the physiological interaction between D1R and Shp-2 in the striatum was preserved. In these animals, the chronic activation of D1R either by L-DOPA or by the selective D1R agonist SKF 38393 induced both dyskinesia and Shp-2/Erk1/2 activation. These effects were prevented by the selective D1R-antagonist SCH23390 suggesting the involvement of striatal D1R/Shp-2 complex, via Erk1/2 activation, in the molecular events underlying LID. Interestingly, we found that D1R-mediated Shp-2-Erk1/2 activation was persistently detected in the striatum of dyskinetic rats during L-DOPA washout, with a close correlation between LID severity and the extent of long term activation of both Shp-2 and Erk1/2. Taken together, our data show that in hemiparkinsonian rats developing dyskinesia, the aberrant phosphorylation of Shp-2 by D1R activation, represents an upstream molecular event leading to the persistent phosphorylation of Erk1/2 and therefore a novel therapeutic target to counteract LID development and maintenance during L-DOPA therapy.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Parkinson's disease, Substantia nigra, Dopamine receptor, Neurotransmitter, Striatum, Dopamine, Dopamine receptor D1


L-dopa induced dyskinesia (LID) is a debilitating side-effect of the primary treatment used in Parkinson’s disease (PD), l-dopa. Here we investigate the effect of HU-308, a cannabinoid CB2 receptor agonist, on LIDs. Utilizing a mouse model of PD and LIDs, induced by 6-OHDA and subsequent l-dopa treatment, we show that HU-308 reduced LIDs as effectively as amantadine, the current frontline treatment. Furthermore, treatment with HU-308 plus amantadine resulted in a greater anti-dyskinetic effect than maximally achieved with HU-308 alone, potentially suggesting a synergistic effect of these two treatments. Lastly, we demonstrated that treatment with HU-308 and amantadine either alone, or in combination, decreased striatal neuroinflammation, a mechanism which has been suggested to contribute to LIDs. Taken together, our results suggest pharmacological treatments with CB2 agonists merit further investigation as therapies for LIDs in PD patients. Furthermore, since CB2 receptors are thought to be primarily expressed on, and signal through, glia, our data provide weight to suggestion that neuroinflammation, or more specifically, altered glial function, plays a role in development of LIDs.


No single-omic approach completely elucidates the multitude of alterations taking place in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Here, we coupled transcriptomic and phosphoproteomic approaches to determine the temporal sequence of changes in mRNA, protein, and phosphopeptide expression levels from human temporal cortical samples, with varying degree of AD-related pathology. This approach highlighted fluctuation in synaptic and mitochondrial function as the earliest pathological events in brain samples with AD-related pathology. Subsequently, increased expression of inflammation and extracellular matrix-associated gene products was observed. Interaction network assembly for the associated gene products, emphasized the complex interplay between these processes and the role of addressing post-translational modifications in the identification of key regulators. Additionally, we evaluate the use of decision trees and random forests in identifying potential biomarkers differentiating individuals with different degree of AD-related pathology. This multiomic and temporal sequence-based approach provides a better understanding of the sequence of events leading to AD.