Synaptic Plasticity Abnormalities in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders
Basavarajappa, Balapal S; Subbanna, Shivakumar
The brain's ability to strengthen or weaken synaptic connections is often termed synaptic plasticity. It has been shown to function in brain remodeling following different types of brain damage (e.g., drugs of abuse, alcohol use disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and inflammatory conditions). Although synaptic plasticity mechanisms have been extensively studied, how neural plasticity can influence neurobehavioral abnormalities in alcohol use disorders (AUDs) is far from being completely understood. Alcohol use during pregnancy and its harmful effects on the developing offspring are major public health, social, and economic challenges. The significant attribute of prenatal alcohol exposure on offspring is damage to the central nervous system (CNS), causing a range of synaptic structural, functional, and behavioral impairments, collectively called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Although the synaptic mechanisms in FASD are limited, emerging evidence suggests that FASD pathogenesis involves altering a set of molecules involved in neurotransmission, myelination, and neuroinflammation. These studies identify several immediate and long-lasting changes using many molecular approaches that are essential for synaptic plasticity and cognitive function. Therefore, they can offer potential synaptic targets for the many neurobehavioral abnormalities observed in FASD. In this review, we discuss the substantial research progress in different aspects of synaptic and molecular changes that can shed light on the mechanism of synaptic dysfunction in FASD. Increasing our understanding of the synaptic changes in FASD will significantly advance our knowledge and could provide a basis for finding novel therapeutic targets and innovative treatment strategies.
Epigenetics in fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
Basavarajappa, Balapal S
During pregnancy, alcohol abuse and its detrimental effects on developing offspring are major public health, economic and social challenges. The prominent characteristic attributes of alcohol (ethanol) abuse during pregnancy in humans are neurobehavioral impairments in offspring due to damage to the central nervous system (CNS), causing structural and behavioral impairments that are together named fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Development-specific alcohol exposure paradigms were established to recapitulate the human FASD phenotypes and establish the underlying mechanisms. These animal studies have offered some critical molecular and cellular underpinnings likely to account for the neurobehavioral impairments associated with prenatal ethanol exposure. Although the pathogenesis of FASD remains unclear, emerging literature proposes that the various genomic and epigenetic components that cause the imbalance in gene expression can significantly contribute to the development of this disease. These studies acknowledged numerous immediate and enduring epigenetic modifications, such as methylation of DNA, post-translational modifications (PTMs) of histone proteins, and regulatory networks related to RNA, using many molecular approaches. Methylated DNA profiles, PTMs of histone proteins, and RNA-regulated expression of genes are essential for synaptic and cognitive behavior. Thus, offering a solution to many neuronal and behavioral impairments reported in FASD. In the current chapter, we review the recent advances in different epigenetic modifications that cause the pathogenesis of FASD. The information discussed can help better explain the pathogenesis of FASD and thereby might provide a basis for finding novel therapeutic targets and innovative treatment strategies.
Molecular Insights into Epigenetics and Cannabinoid Receptors
Basavarajappa, Balapal S; Subbanna, Shivakumar
The actions of cannabis are mediated by G protein-coupled receptors that are part of an endogenous cannabinoid system (ECS). ECS consists of the naturally occurring ligands N-arachidonylethanolamine (anandamide) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), their biosynthetic and degradative enzymes, and the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. Epigenetics are heritable changes that affect gene expression without changing the DNA sequence, transducing external stimuli in stable alterations of the DNA or chromatin structure. Cannabinoid receptors are crucial candidates for exploring their functions through epigenetic approaches due to their significant roles in health and diseases. Epigenetic changes usually promote alterations in the expression of genes and proteins that can be evaluated by various transcriptomic and proteomic analyses. Despite the exponential growth of new evidence on the critical functions of cannabinoid receptors, much is still unknown regarding the contribution of various genetic and epigenetic factors that regulate cannabinoid receptor gene expression. Recent studies have identified several immediate and long-lasting epigenetic changes, such as DNA methylation, DNA-associated histone proteins, and RNA regulatory networks, in cannabinoid receptor function. Thus, they can offer solutions to many cellular, molecular, and behavioral impairments found after modulation of cannabinoid receptor activities. In this review, we discuss the significant research advances in different epigenetic factors contributing to the regulation of cannabinoid receptors and their functions under both physiological and pathological conditions. Increasing our understanding of the epigenetics of cannabinoid receptors will significantly advance our knowledge and could lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets and innovative treatment strategies for diseases associated with altered cannabinoid receptor functions.
Preclinical and randomized clinical evaluation of the p38Î± kinase inhibitor neflamapimod for basal forebrain cholinergic degeneration
Jiang, Ying; Alam, John J; Gomperts, Stephen N; Maruff, Paul; Lemstra, Afina W; Germann, Ursula A; Stavrides, Philip H; Darji, Sandipkumar; Malampati, Sandeep; Peddy, James; Bleiwas, Cynthia; Pawlik, Monika; Pensalfini, Anna; Yang, Dun-Sheng; Subbanna, Shivakumar; Basavarajappa, Balapal S; Smiley, John F; Gardner, Amanda; Blackburn, Kelly; Chu, Hui-May; Prins, Niels D; Teunissen, Charlotte E; Harrison, John E; Scheltens, Philip; Nixon, Ralph A
The endosome-associated GTPase Rab5 is a central player in the molecular mechanisms leading to degeneration of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN), a long-standing target for drug development. As p38Î± is a Rab5 activator, we hypothesized that inhibition of this kinase holds potential as an approach to treat diseases associated with BFCN loss. Herein, we report that neflamapimod (oral small molecule p38Î± inhibitor) reduces Rab5 activity, reverses endosomal pathology, and restores the numbers and morphology of BFCNs in a mouse model that develops BFCN degeneration. We also report on the results of an exploratory (hypothesis-generating) phase 2a randomized double-blind 16-week placebo-controlled clinical trial (Clinical trial registration: NCT04001517/EudraCT #2019-001566-15) of neflamapimod in mild-to-moderate dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), a disease in which BFCN degeneration is an important driver of disease expression. A total of 91 participants, all receiving background cholinesterase inhibitor therapy, were randomized 1:1 between neflamapimod 40â€‰mg or matching placebo capsules (taken orally twice-daily if weight <80â€‰kg or thrice-daily if weight >80â€‰kg). Neflamapimod does not show an effect in the clinical study on the primary endpoint, a cognitive-test battery. On two secondary endpoints, a measure of functional mobility and a dementia rating-scale, improvements were seen that are consistent with an effect on BFCN function. Neflamapimod treatment is well-tolerated with no study drug associated treatment discontinuations. The combined preclinical and clinical observations inform on the validity of the Rab5-based pathogenic model of cholinergic degeneration and provide a foundation for confirmatory (hypothesis-testing) clinical evaluation of neflamapimod in DLB.
Binge-like Prenatal Ethanol Exposure Causes Impaired Cellular Differentiation in the Embryonic Forebrain and Synaptic and Behavioral Defects in Adult Mice
Subbanna, Shivakumar; Basavarajappa, Balapal S
An embryo's in-utero exposure to ethanol due to a mother's alcohol drinking results in a range of deficits in the child that are collectively termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Prenatal ethanol exposure is one of the leading causes of preventable intellectual disability. Its neurobehavioral underpinnings warrant systematic research. We investigated the immediate effects on embryos of acute prenatal ethanol exposure during gestational days (GDs) and the influence of such exposure on persistent neurobehavioral deficits in adult offspring. We administered pregnant C57BL/6J mice with ethanol (1.75 g/kg) (GDE) or saline (GDS) intraperitoneally (i.p.) at 0 h and again at 2 h intervals on GD 8 and GD 12. Subsequently, we assessed apoptosis, differentiation, and signaling events in embryo forebrains (E13.5; GD13.5). Long-lasting effects of GDE were evaluated via a behavioral test battery. We also determined the long-term potentiation and synaptic plasticity-related protein expression in adult hippocampal tissue. GDE caused apoptosis, inhibited differentiation, and reduced pERK and pCREB signaling and the expression of transcription factors Pax6 and Lhx2. GDE caused persistent spatial and social investigation memory deficits compared with saline controls, regardless of sex. Interestingly, GDE adult mice exhibited enhanced repetitive and anxiety-like behavior, irrespective of sex. GDE reduced synaptic plasticity-related protein expression and caused hippocampal synaptic plasticity (LTP and LTD) deficits in adult offspring. These findings demonstrate that binge-like ethanol exposure at the GD8 and GD12 developmental stages causes defects in pERK-pCREB signaling and reduces the expression of Pax6 and Lhx2, leading to impaired cellular differentiation during the embryonic stage. In the adult stage, binge-like ethanol exposure caused persistent synaptic and behavioral abnormalities in adult mice. Furthermore, the findings suggest that combining ethanol exposure at two sensitive stages (GD8 and GD12) causes deficits in synaptic plasticity-associated proteins (Arc, Egr1, Fgf1, GluR1, and GluN1), leading to persistent FASD-like neurobehavioral deficits in mice.
Histone Methylation Regulation in Neurodegenerative Disorders
Basavarajappa, Balapal S; Subbanna, Shivakumar
Advances achieved with molecular biology and genomics technologies have permitted investigators to discover epigenetic mechanisms, such as DNA methylation and histone posttranslational modifications, which are critical for gene expression in almost all tissues and in brain health and disease. These advances have influenced much interest in understanding the dysregulation of epigenetic mechanisms in neurodegenerative disorders. Although these disorders diverge in their fundamental causes and pathophysiology, several involve the dysregulation of histone methylation-mediated gene expression. Interestingly, epigenetic remodeling via histone methylation in specific brain regions has been suggested to play a critical function in the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders, including that related to neurodegenerative diseases. Prominently, epigenetic dysregulation currently brings considerable interest as an essential player in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), Huntington's disease (HD), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and drugs of abuse, including alcohol abuse disorder, where it may facilitate connections between genetic and environmental risk factors or directly influence disease-specific pathological factors. We have discussed the current state of histone methylation, therapeutic strategies, and future perspectives for these disorders. While not somatically heritable, the enzymes responsible for histone methylation regulation, such as histone methyltransferases and demethylases in neurons, are dynamic and reversible. They have become promising potential therapeutic targets to treat or prevent several neurodegenerative disorders. These findings, along with clinical data, may provide links between molecular-level changes and behavioral differences and provide novel avenues through which the epigenome may be targeted early on in people at risk for neurodegenerative disorders.
Endosomal Dysfunction Induced by Directly Overactivating Rab5 Recapitulates Prodromal and Neurodegenerative Features of Alzheimer's Disease
Pensalfini, Anna; Kim, Seonil; Subbanna, Shivakumar; Bleiwas, Cynthia; Goulbourne, Chris N; Stavrides, Philip H; Jiang, Ying; Lee, Ju-Hyun; Darji, Sandipkumar; Pawlik, Monika; Huo, Chunfeng; Peddy, James; Berg, Martin J; Smiley, John F; Basavarajappa, Balapal S; Nixon, Ralph A
Neuronal endosomal dysfunction, the earliest known pathobiology specific to Alzheimer's disease (AD), is mediated by the aberrant activation of Rab5 triggered by APP-Î² secretase cleaved C-terminal fragment (APP-Î²CTF). To distinguish pathophysiological consequences specific to overactivated Rab5 itself, we activate Rab5 independently from APP-Î²CTF in the PA-Rab5 mouse model. We report that Rab5 overactivation alone recapitulates diverse prodromal and degenerative features of AD. Modest neuron-specific transgenic Rab5 expression inducing hyperactivation of Rab5 comparable to that in AD brain reproduces AD-related Rab5-endosomal enlargement and mistrafficking, hippocampal synaptic plasticity deficits via accelerated AMPAR endocytosis and dendritic spine loss, and tau hyperphosphorylation via activated glycogen synthase kinase-3Î². Importantly, Rab5-mediated endosomal dysfunction induces progressive cholinergic neurodegeneration and impairs hippocampal-dependent memory. Aberrant neuronal Rab5-endosome signaling, therefore, drives a pathogenic cascade distinct from Î²-amyloid-related neurotoxicity, which includes prodromal and neurodegenerative features of AD, and suggests Rab5 overactivation as a potential therapeutic target.
Postnatal Ethanol Exposure Activates HDAC-Mediated Histone Deacetylation, Impairs Synaptic Plasticity Gene Expression and Behavior in Mice
Shivakumar, Madhu; Subbanna, Shivakumar; Joshi, Vikram; Basavarajappa, Balapal S
BACKGROUND:Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is widespread and contributes to pediatric neurological defects including hippocampal and neocortex dysfunction, causing cognitive deficits termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). However, the critical mechanisms underlying these brain abnormalities remain poorly described. METHODS:Using a postnatal ethanol exposure (PEE) animal model and pharmacological, epigenetic, synaptic plasticity-related and behavioral approaches, we discovered a novel persistent epigenetic mechanism of neurodegeneration in neonatal hippocampus and neocortex brain regions and of cognitive decline in adult animals. RESULTS:PEE, which activates caspase-3 (CC3, a neurodegeneration marker), enhanced histone deacetylase (HDAC1-HDAC3) levels and reduced histone 3 (H3) and 4 (H4) acetylation (ac) in mature neurons. PEE repressed the expression of several synaptic plasticity genes, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf), C-Fos, early growth response 1 (Egr1) and activity-regulated cytoskeleton-associated protein (Arc). Detailed studies on Egr1 and Arc expression revealed HDAC enrichment at their promoter regions. HDAC inhibition with trichostatin A (TSA) before PEE rescued H3ac/H4ac levels and prevented CC3 formation. Antagonism/null mutation of cannabinoid receptor type-1 (CB1R) before PEE to inhibit CC3 production prevented Egr1 and Arc loss via epigenetic events. TSA administration before PEE prevented PE-induced loss of Egr1 and Arc expression and neurobehavioral defects in adult mice via epigenetic remodeling. In adult mice, three-day TSA administration attenuated PEE-induced behavioral defects. CONCLUSIONS:These findings demonstrate that CB1R/HDAC-mediated epigenetic remodeling disrupts gene expression and is a critical step in FASD-associated cognitive decline but is reversed by restoration of histone acetylation in the brain.
Postnatal Ethanol-Induced Neurodegeneration Involves CB1R-Mediated Î²-Catenin Degradation in Neonatal Mice
Subbanna, Shivakumar; Basavarajappa, Balapal S
Alcohol consumption by pregnant women may produce neurological abnormalities that affect cognitive processes in children and are together defined as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). However, the molecular underpinnings are still poorly defined. In our earlier studies, we found that ethanol exposure of postnatal day 7 (P7) mice significantly induced widespread neurodegeneration mediated via endocannabinoids (eCBs)/cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1R). In the current study, we examined changes in the Î²-catenin protein levels that are involved in the regulation of neuronal function including neuronal death and survival. We found that moderate- and high-dose postnatal ethanol exposure (PEE) significantly reduced active-Î²-catenin (ABC) (non-phosphorylated form) protein levels in the hippocampus (HP) and neocortex (NC). In addition, we found that moderate- and high-dose PEE significantly increased the phosphorylated-Î²-catenin (p-Î²-catenin)/ABC ratios in the HP and NC. Antagonism/null mutation of CB1R before PEE to inhibit CC3 production mitigated the loss of ABC protein levels. Collectively, these findings demonstrated that the CB1R/Î²-catenin signaling mechanism causes neurodegeneration in neonatal mouse brains following PEE.
Distinct functions of endogenous cannabinoid system in alcohol abuse disorders
Basavarajappa, Balapal S; Joshi, Vikram; Shivakumar, Madhu; Subbanna, Shivakumar
Î”9 -tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal active component in Cannabis sativa extracts such as marijuana, participates in cell signalling by binding to cannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors on the cell surface. The CB1 receptors are present in both inhibitory and excitatory presynaptic terminals and the CB2 receptors are found in neuronal subpopulations in addition to microglial cells and astrocytes and are present in both presynaptic and postsynaptic terminals. Subsequent to the discovery of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, studies have suggested that alcohol alters the eCB system and that this system plays a major role in the motivation to abuse alcohol. Preclinical studies have provided evidence that chronic alcohol consumption modulates eCBs and expression of CB1 receptors in brain addiction circuits. In addition, studies have further established the distinct function of the eCB system in the development of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This review provides a recent and comprehensive assessment of the literature related to the function of the eCB system in alcohol abuse disorders.