mTOR Attenuation with Rapamycin Reverses Neurovascular Uncoupling and Memory Deficits in Mice Modeling Alzheimer’s Disease
Candice E Van Skike, Stacy A Hussong, Stephen F Hernandez, Andy Q Banh, Nicholas DeRosa, Veronica Galvan
Journal of Neuroscience. 2021 May 12;41(19):4305-4320. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2144-20.2021.


Vascular dysfunction is a universal feature of aging and decreased cerebral blood flow has been identified as an early event in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Cerebrovascular dysfunction in AD includes deficits in neurovascular coupling (NVC), a mechanism that ensures rapid delivery of energy substrates to active neurons through the blood supply. The mechanisms underlying NVC impairment in AD, however, are not well understood. We have previously shown that mechanistic/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) drives cerebrovascular dysfunction in models of AD by reducing the activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), and that attenuation of mTOR activity with rapamycin is sufficient to restore eNOS-dependent cerebrovascular function. Here we show mTOR drives NVC impairments in an AD model through the inhibition of neuronal NOS (nNOS)- and non-NOS-dependent components of NVC, and that mTOR attenuation with rapamycin is sufficient to restore NVC and even enhance it above WT responses. Restoration of NVC and concomitant reduction of cortical amyloid-β levels effectively treated memory deficits in 12-month-old hAPP(J20) mice. These data indicate that mTOR is a critical driver of NVC dysfunction and underlies cognitive impairment in an AD model. Together with our previous findings, the present studies suggest that mTOR promotes cerebrovascular dysfunction in AD, which is associated with early disruption of nNOS activation, through its broad negative impact on nNOS as well as on non-NOS components of NVC. Our studies highlight the potential of mTOR attenuation as an efficacious treatment for AD and potentially other neurologic diseases of aging.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Failure of the blood flow response to neuronal activation [neurovascular coupling (NVC)] in a model of AD precedes the onset of AD-like cognitive symptoms and is driven, to a large extent, by mammalian/mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR)-dependent inhibition of nitric oxide synthase activity. Our studies show that mTOR also drives AD-like failure of non-nitric oxide (NO)-mediated components of NVC. Thus, mTOR attenuation may serve to treat AD, where we find that neuronal NO synthase is profoundly reduced early in disease progression, and potentially other neurologic diseases of aging with cerebrovascular dysfunction as part of their etiology.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; cerebral blood flow; cerebrovascular dysfunction; mTOR; nNOS; neurovascular coupling.

Beta-guanidinopropionic acid has age-specific effects on markers of health and function in mice
Jonathan D Dorigatti, Kevin M Thyne, Brett C Ginsburg, Adam B Salmon
Geroscience. 2021 Jun;43(3):1497-1511. doi: 10.1007/s11357-021-00372-8. Epub 2021 Apr 23.


AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a central regulator of both lifespan and health across multiple model organisms. β-Guanidinopropionic acid (GPA) is an endogenous AMPK activator previously shown to improve metabolic function in young and obese mice. In this study, we tested whether age of administration significantly affects the physiological outcomes of GPA administration in mice. We report that intervention starting at 7-8 months (young) results in activation of AMPK signaling and a phenotype consisting of lower body mass, improved glucose control, enhanced exercise tolerance, and altered mitochondrial electron transport chain flux similar to previous reports. When GPA treatment is started at 18-19 months (old), the effect of GPA on AMPK signaling is blunted compared to younger mice despite similar accumulation of GPA in skeletal muscle. Even so, GPA administration in older animals delayed age-related declines in lean mass, improved measures of gait performance and circadian rhythm, and increased fat metabolism as measured by respiratory exchange ratio. These results are likely partially driven by the relative difference in basal function and metabolic plasticity between young and old mice. Our results suggest that age-related declines in AMPK sensitivity may limit potential strategies targeting AMPK signaling in older subjects and suggest that further research and development is required for AMPK activators to realize their full potential.

Keywords: AMPK; Aging; Beta-guanidinopropionic acid; Healthspan.

In Vivo Generation of Lung and Thyroid Tissues from Embryonic Stem Cells Using Blastocyst Complementation.
Bingqiang Wen, Enhong Li, Vladimir Ustiyan, Guolun Wang, Minzhe Guo, Cheng-Lun Na, Gregory T Kalin, Veronica Galvan, Yan Xu, Timothy E Weaver, Tanya V Kalin, Jeffrey A Whitsett, Vladimir V Kalinichenko .
Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2021 Feb 15;203(4):471-483. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201909-1836OC.


Rationale: The regeneration and replacement of lung cells or tissues from induced pluripotent stem cell- or embryonic stem cell-derived cells represent future therapies for life-threatening pulmonary disorders but are limited by technical challenges to produce highly differentiated cells able to maintain lung function. Functional lung tissue-containing airways, alveoli, vasculature, and stroma have never been produced via directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) or induced pluripotent stem cells. We sought to produce all tissue components of the lung from bronchi to alveoli by embryo complementation.

Objectives: To determine whether ESCs are capable of generating lung tissue in Nkx2-1-/- mouse embryos with lung agenesis.

Methods: Blastocyst complementation was used to produce chimeras from normal mouse ESCs and Nkx2-1-/- embryos, which lack pulmonary tissues. Nkx2-1-/- chimeras were examined using immunostaining, transmission electronic microscopy, fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis, and single-cell RNA sequencing.

Measurements and Main Results: Although peripheral pulmonary and thyroid tissues are entirely lacking in Nkx2-1 gene-deleted embryos, pulmonary and thyroid structures in Nkx2-1-/- chimeras were restored after ESC complementation. Respiratory epithelial cell lineages in restored lungs of Nkx2-1-/- chimeras were derived almost entirely from ESCs, whereas endothelial, immune, and stromal cells were mosaic. ESC-derived cells from multiple respiratory cell lineages were highly differentiated and indistinguishable from endogenous cells based on morphology, ultrastructure, gene expression signatures, and cell surface proteins used to identify cell types by fluorescence-activated cell sorter.

Conclusions: Lung and thyroid tissues were generated in vivo from ESCs by blastocyst complementation. Nkx2-1-/- chimeras can be used as “bioreactors” for in vivo differentiation and functional studies of ESC-derived progenitor cells.

Proximal tubular epithelial insulin receptor mediates high fat diet-induced kidney injury
Hak Joo Lee, Meenalakshmi M Mariappan, Luke Norton, Terry Bakewell, Denis Feliers, Sae Byeol Oh, Andrew Donati, Cherubina S Rubannelsonkumar, Manjeri A Venkatachalam, Stephen E Harris, Isabelle Rubera, Michel Tauc, Goutam Ghosh Choudhury, C Ronald Kahn, Kumar Sharma, Ralph A DeFronzo, Balakuntalam S Kasinath
JCI Insight. 2021 Feb 8;6(3):e143619. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.143619.


The role of insulin receptor (IR) activated by hyperinsulinemia in obesity-induced kidney injury is not well understood. We hypothesized that activation of kidney proximal tubule epithelial IR contributes to obesity-induced kidney injury. We administered normal-fat diet (NFD) or high-fat diet (HFD) to control and kidney proximal tubule IR-knockout (KPTIRKO) mice for 4 months. Renal cortical IR expression was decreased by 60% in male and female KPTIRKO mice. Baseline serum glucose, serum creatinine, and the ratio of urinary albumin to creatinine (ACR) were similar in KPTIRKO mice compared to those of controls. On HFD, weight gain and increase in serum cholesterol were similar in control and KPTIRKO mice; blood glucose did not change. HFD increased the following parameters in the male control mice: renal cortical contents of phosphorylated IR and Akt, matrix proteins, urinary ACR, urinary kidney injury molecule-1-to-creatinine ratio, and systolic blood pressure. Renal cortical generation of hydrogen sulfide was reduced in HFD-fed male control mice. All of these parameters were ameliorated in male KPTIRKO mice. Interestingly, female mice were resistant to HFD-induced kidney injury in both genotypes. We conclude that HFD-induced kidney injury requires renal proximal tubule IR activation in male mice.

Keywords: Insulin signaling; Nephrology; Obesity.

TREX2 Exonuclease Causes Spontaneous Mutations and Stress-Induced Replication Fork Defects in Cells Expressing RAD51K133A
Jun Ho Ko, Mi Young Son, Qing Zhou, Lucia Molnarova, Lambert Song, Jarmila Mlcouskova, Atis Jekabsons, Cristina Montagna, Lumir Krejci, Paul Hasty
Cell Reports. Volume 33, Issue 12, 22 December 2020, 108543. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108543.


DNA damage tolerance (DDT) and homologous recombination (HR) stabilize replication forks (RFs). RAD18/UBC13/three prime repair exonuclease 2 (TREX2)-mediated proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) ubiquitination is central to DDT, an error-prone lesion bypass pathway. RAD51 is the recombinase for HR. The RAD51 K133A mutation increased spontaneous mutations and stress-induced RF stalls and nascent strand degradation. Here, we report in RAD51K133A cells that this phenotype is reduced by expressing a TREX2 H188A mutation that deletes its exonuclease activity. In RAD51K133A cells, knocking out RAD18 or overexpressing PCNA reduces spontaneous mutations, while expressing ubiquitination-incompetent PCNAK164R increases mutations, indicating DDT as causal. Deleting TREX2 in cells deficient for the RF maintenance proteins poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) or FANCB increased nascent strand degradation that was rescued by TREX2H188A, implying that TREX2 prohibits degradation independent of catalytic activity. A possible explanation for this occurrence is that TREX2H188A associates with UBC13 and ubiquitinates PCNA, suggesting a dual role for TREX2 in RF maintenance.

Early disruption of nerve mitochondrial and myelin lipid homeostasis in obesity-induced diabetes.
Juan P Palavicini, Juan Chen, Chunyan Wang, Jianing Wang, Chao Qin, Eric Baeuerle, Xinming Wang, Jung A Woo, David E Kang, Nicolas Musi, Jeffrey L Dupree, Xianlin Han.
JCI Insight. 2020 Nov 5;5(21):137286. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.137286.


Diabetic neuropathy is a major complication of diabetes. Current treatment options alleviate pain but do not stop the progression of the disease. At present, there are no approved disease-modifying therapies. Thus, developing more effective therapies remains a major unmet medical need. Seeking to better understand the molecular mechanisms driving peripheral neuropathy, as well as other neurological complications associated with diabetes, we performed spatiotemporal lipidomics, biochemical, ultrastructural, and physiological studies on PNS and CNS tissue from multiple diabetic preclinical models. We unraveled potentially novel molecular fingerprints underlying nerve damage in obesity-induced diabetes, including an early loss of nerve mitochondrial (cardiolipin) and myelin signature (galactosylceramide, sulfatide, and plasmalogen phosphatidylethanolamine) lipids that preceded mitochondrial, myelin, and axonal structural/functional defects; started in the PNS; and progressed to the CNS at advanced diabetic stages. Mechanistically, we provided substantial evidence indicating that these nerve mitochondrial/myelin lipid abnormalities are (surprisingly) not driven by hyperglycemia, dysinsulinemia, or insulin resistance, but rather associate with obesity/hyperlipidemia. Importantly, our findings have major clinical implications as they open the door to novel lipid-based biomarkers to diagnose and distinguish different subtypes of diabetic neuropathy (obese vs. nonobese diabetics), as well as to lipid-lowering therapeutic strategies for treatment of obesity/diabetes-associated neurological complications and for glycemic control.

Aster-B Coordinates with Arf1 to Regulate Mitochondrial Cholesterol Transport
John-Paul Andersen, Jun Zhang, Haoran Sun, Xuyun Liu, Jiankang Liu, Jia Nie, Yuguang Shi
Molecular Metabolism. 2020 Dec;42:101055. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2020.101055. Epub 2020 Jul 29.


Objective: Cholesterol plays a pivotal role in mitochondrial steroidogenesis, membrane structure, and respiration. Mitochondrial membranes are intrinsically low in cholesterol content and therefore must be replenished with cholesterol from other subcellular membranes. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying mitochondrial cholesterol transport remains poorly understood. The Aster-B gene encodes a cholesterol binding protein recently implicated in cholesterol trafficking from the plasma membrane to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). In this study, we investigated the function and underlying mechanism of Aster-B in mediating mitochondrial cholesterol transport.

Methods: CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing was carried out to generate cell lines deficient in Aster-B expression. The effect of Aster-B deficiency on mitochondrial cholesterol transport was examined by both confocal imaging analysis and biochemical assays. Deletion mutational analysis was also carried out to identify the function of a putative mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) at the N-terminus of Aster-B for its role in targeting Aster-B to mitochondria and in mediating mitochondrial cholesterol trafficking.

Results: Ablation of Aster-B impaired cholesterol transport from the ER to mitochondria, leading to a significant decrease in mitochondrial cholesterol content. Aster-B is also required for mitochondrial transport of fatty acids derived from hydrolysis of cholesterol esters. A putative MTS at the N-terminus of Aster-B mediates the mitochondrial cholesterol uptake. Deletion of the MTS or ablation of Arf1 GTPase which is required for mitochondrial translocation of ER proteins prevented mitochondrial cholesterol transport, leading to mitochondrial dysfunction.

Conclusions: We identified Aster-B as a key regulator of cholesterol transport from the ER to mitochondria. Aster-B also coordinates mitochondrial cholesterol trafficking with uptake of fatty acids derived from cholesterol esters, implicating the Aster-B protein as a novel regulator of steroidogenesis.

Keywords: Arf1; Cholesterol transport; Fatty acids; GRAMD1b; Mitochondria.

Pathogenic Tau Causes a Toxic Depletion of Nuclear Calcium.
Rebekah Mahoney, Elizabeth Ochoa Thomas, Paulino Ramirez, Henry E Miller, Adrian Beckmann, Gabrielle Zuniga, Radek Dobrowolski, Bess Frost.
Cell Reports. 2020 Jul 14;32(2):107900. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.107900.


Synaptic activity-induced calcium (Ca2+) influx and subsequent propagation into the nucleus is a major way in which synapses communicate with the nucleus to regulate transcriptional programs important for activity-dependent survival and memory formation. Nuclear Ca2+ shapes the transcriptome by regulating cyclic AMP (cAMP) response element-binding protein (CREB). Here, we utilize a Drosophila model of tauopathy and induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived neurons from humans with Alzheimer’s disease to study the effects of pathogenic tau, a pathological hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease and related tauopathies, on nuclear Ca2+. We find that pathogenic tau depletes nuclear Ca2+ and CREB to drive neuronal death, that CREB-regulated genes are over-represented among differentially expressed genes in tau transgenic Drosophila, and that activation of big potassium (BK) channels elevates nuclear Ca2+ and suppresses tau-induced neurotoxicity. Our studies identify nuclear Ca2+ depletion as a mechanism contributing to tau-induced neurotoxicity, adding an important dimension to the calcium hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Aster-C coordinates with COP I vesicles to regulate lysosomal trafficking and activation of mTORC1
Jun Zhang, John-Paul Andersen, Haoran Sun, Xuyun Liu, Nahum Sonenberg, Jia Nie, Yuguang Shi
EMBO Rep. 2020 Sep 3;21(9):e49898. doi: 10.15252/embr.201949898. Epub 2020 Jul 9.


Nutrient sensing by the mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1) requires its translocation to the lysosomal membrane. Upon amino acids removal, mTORC1 becomes cytosolic and inactive, yet its precise subcellular localization and the mechanism of inhibition remain elusive. Here, we identified Aster-C as a negative regulator of mTORC1 signaling. Aster-C earmarked a special rough ER subdomain where it sequestered mTOR together with the GATOR2 complex to prevent mTORC1 activation during nutrient starvation. Amino acids stimulated rapid disassociation of mTORC1 from Aster-C concurrently with assembly of COP I vesicles which escorted mTORC1 to the lysosomal membrane. Consequently, ablation of Aster-C led to spontaneous activation of mTORC1 and dissociation of TSC2 from lysosomes, whereas inhibition of COP I vesicle biogenesis or actin dynamics prevented mTORC1 activation. Together, these findings identified Aster-C as a missing link between lysosomal trafficking and mTORC1 activation by revealing an unexpected role of COP I vesicles in mTORC1 signaling.

Keywords: ARF1; COP I; GRAMD1C; lysosomes; mTORC1.

Enhancer reprogramming driven by high-order assemblies of transcription factors promotes phenotypic plasticity and breast cancer endocrine resistance
Mingjun Bi, Zhao Zhang, Yi-Zhou Jiang, Pengya Xue, Hu Wang, Zhao Lai, Xiaoyong Fu, Carmine De Angelis, Yue Gong, Zhen Gao, Jianhua Ruan, Victor X Jin, Elisabetta Marangoni, Elodie Montaudon, Christopher K Glass, Wei Li, Tim Hui-Ming Huang, Zhi-Ming Shao, Rachel Schiff, Lizhen Chen, Zhijie Liu
Nature Cell Biology. 2020 Jun;22(6):701-715. doi: 10.1038/s41556-020-0514-z. Epub 2020 May 18.


Acquired therapy resistance is a major problem for anticancer treatment, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Using an established breast cancer cellular model, we show that endocrine resistance is associated with enhanced phenotypic plasticity, indicated by a general downregulation of luminal/epithelial differentiation markers and upregulation of basal/mesenchymal invasive markers. Consistently, similar gene expression changes are found in clinical breast tumours and patient-derived xenograft samples that are resistant to endocrine therapies. Mechanistically, the differential interactions between oestrogen receptor α and other oncogenic transcription factors, exemplified by GATA3 and AP1, drive global enhancer gain/loss reprogramming, profoundly altering breast cancer transcriptional programs. Our functional studies in multiple culture and xenograft models reveal a coordinated role of GATA3 and AP1 in re-organizing enhancer landscapes and regulating cancer phenotypes. Collectively, our study suggests that differential high-order assemblies of transcription factors on enhancers trigger genome-wide enhancer reprogramming, resulting in transcriptional transitions that promote tumour phenotypic plasticity and therapy resistance.

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