Posttranscriptional regulation of neurofilament proteins and tau in health and disease
Neurofilament and tau proteins are neuron-specific cytoskeletal proteins that are enriched in axons, regulated by many of the same protein kinases, interact physically, and are the principal constituents of neurofibrillary lesions in major adult-onset dementias. Both proteins share functions related to the modulation of stability and functions of the microtubule network in axons, axonal transport and scaffolding of organelles, long-term synaptic potentiation, and learning and memory. Expression of these proteins is regulated not only at the transcriptional level but also through posttranscriptional control of pre-mRNA splicing, mRNA stability, transport, localization, local translation and degradation. Current evidence suggests that posttranscriptional determinants of their levels are usually regulated by RNA-binding proteins and microRNAs primarily through 3'-untranslated regions of neurofilament and tau mRNAs. Dysregulations of neurofilament and tau expression caused by mutations or pathologies of RNA-binding proteins such as TDP43, FUS and microRNAs are increasingly recognized in association with varied neurological disorders. In this review, we summarize the current understanding of posttranscriptional control of neurofilament and tau by examining the posttranscriptional regulation of neurofilament and tau by RNA-binding proteins and microRNAs implicated in health and diseases.
Autophagy is a novel pathway for neurofilament protein degradation in vivo
How macroautophagy/autophagy influences neurofilament (NF) proteins in neurons, a frequent target in neurodegenerative diseases and injury, is not known. NFs in axons have exceptionally long half-lives in vivo enabling formation of large stable supporting networks, but they can be rapidly degraded during Wallerian degeneration initiated by a limited calpain cleavage. Here, we identify autophagy as a previously unrecognized pathway for NF subunit protein degradation that modulates constitutive and inducible NF turnover in vivo. Levels of NEFL/NF-L, NEFM/NF-M, and NEFH/NF-H subunits rise substantially in neuroblastoma (N2a) cells after blocking autophagy either with the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PtdIns3K) inhibitor 3-methyladenine (3-MA), by depleting ATG5 expression with shRNA, or by using both treatments. In contrast, activating autophagy with rapamycin significantly lowers NF levels in N2a cells. In the mouse brain, NF subunit levels increase in vivo after intracerebroventricular infusion of 3-MA. Furthermore, using tomographic confocal microscopy, immunoelectron microscopy, and biochemical fractionation, we demonstrate the presence of NF proteins intra-lumenally within autophagosomes (APs), autolysosomes (ALs), and lysosomes (LYs). Our findings establish a prominent role for autophagy in NF proteolysis. Autophagy may regulate axon cytoskeleton size and responses of the NF cytoskeleton to injury and disease.
Neurofilament Proteins as Biomarkers to Monitor Neurological Diseases and the Efficacy of Therapies
Biomarkers of neurodegeneration and neuronal injury have the potential to improve diagnostic accuracy, disease monitoring, prognosis, and measure treatment efficacy. Neurofilament proteins (NfPs) are well suited as biomarkers in these contexts because they are major neuron-specific components that maintain structural integrity and are sensitive to neurodegeneration and neuronal injury across a wide range of neurologic diseases. Low levels of NfPs are constantly released from neurons into the extracellular space and ultimately reach the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and blood under physiological conditions throughout normal brain development, maturation, and aging. NfP levels in CSF and blood rise above normal in response to neuronal injury and neurodegeneration independently of cause. NfPs in CSF measured by lumbar puncture are about 40-fold more concentrated than in blood in healthy individuals. New ultra-sensitive methods now allow minimally invasive measurement of these low levels of NfPs in serum or plasma to track disease onset and progression in neurological disorders or nervous system injury and assess responses to therapeutic interventions. Any of the five Nf subunits - neurofilament light chain (NfL), neurofilament medium chain (NfM), neurofilament heavy chain (NfH), alpha-internexin (INA) and peripherin (PRPH) may be altered in a given neuropathological condition. In familial and sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD), plasma NfL levels may rise as early as 22 years before clinical onset in familial AD and 10 years before sporadic AD. The major determinants of elevated levels of NfPs and degradation fragments in CSF and blood are the magnitude of damaged or degenerating axons of fiber tracks, the affected axon caliber sizes and the rate of release of NfP and fragments at different stages of a given neurological disease or condition directly or indirectly affecting central nervous system (CNS) and/or peripheral nervous system (PNS). NfPs are rapidly emerging as transformative blood biomarkers in neurology providing novel insights into a wide range of neurological diseases and advancing clinical trials. Here we summarize the current understanding of intracellular NfP physiology, pathophysiology and extracellular kinetics of NfPs in biofluids and review the value and limitations of NfPs and degradation fragments as biomarkers of neurodegeneration and neuronal injury.
Neurofilament light interaction with GluN1 modulates neurotransmission and schizophrenia-associated behaviors
Neurofilament (NFL) proteins have recently been found to play unique roles in synapses. NFL is known to interact with the GluN1 subunit of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDAR) and be reduced in schizophrenia though functional consequences are unknown. Here we investigated whether the interaction of NFL with GluN1 modulates synaptic transmission and schizophrenia-associated behaviors. The interaction of NFL with GluN1 was assessed by means of molecular, pharmacological, electrophysiological, magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and schizophrenia-associated behavior analyses. NFL deficits cause an NMDAR hypofunction phenotype including abnormal hippocampal function, as seen in schizophrenia. NFL-/- deletion in mice reduces dendritic spines and GluN1 protein levels, elevates ubiquitin-dependent turnover of GluN1 and hippocampal glutamate measured by MRS, and depresses hippocampal long-term potentiation. NMDAR-related behaviors are also impaired, including pup retrieval, spatial and social memory, prepulse inhibition, night-time activity, and response to NMDAR antagonist, whereas motor deficits are minimal. Importantly, partially lowering NFL in NFL+/- mice to levels seen regionally in schizophrenia, induced similar but milder NMDAR-related synaptic and behavioral deficits. Our findings support an emerging view that central nervous system neurofilament subunits including NFL in the present report, serve distinctive, critical roles in synapses relevant to neuropsychiatric diseases.
Neurofilaments and Neurofilament Proteins in Health and Disease
SUMMARYNeurofilaments (NFs) are unique among tissue-specific classes of intermediate filaments (IFs) in being heteropolymers composed of four subunits (NF-L [neurofilament light]; NF-M [neurofilament middle]; NF-H [neurofilament heavy]; and alpha-internexin or peripherin), each having different domain structures and functions. Here, we review how NFs provide structural support for the highly asymmetric geometries of neurons and, especially, for the marked radial expansion of myelinated axons crucial for effective nerve conduction velocity. NFs in axons extensively cross-bridge and interconnect with other non-IF components of the cytoskeleton, including microtubules, actin filaments, and other fibrous cytoskeletal elements, to establish a regionally specialized network that undergoes exceptionally slow local turnover and serves as a docking platform to organize other organelles and proteins. We also discuss how a small pool of oligomeric and short filamentous precursors in the slow phase of axonal transport maintains this network. A complex pattern of phosphorylation and dephosphorylation events on each subunit modulates filament assembly, turnover, and organization within the axonal cytoskeleton. Multiple factors, and especially turnover rate, determine the size of the network, which can vary substantially along the axon. NF gene mutations cause several neuroaxonal disorders characterized by disrupted subunit assembly and NF aggregation. Additional NF alterations are associated with varied neuropsychiatric disorders. New evidence that subunits of NFs exist within postsynaptic terminal boutons and influence neurotransmission suggests how NF proteins might contribute to normal synaptic function and neuropsychiatric disease states.
Specialized Roles of Neurofilament Proteins in Synapses: Relevance to Neuropsychiatric Disorders
Neurofilaments are uniquely complex among classes of intermediate filaments in being composed of four subunits (NFL, NFM, NFH and alpha-internexin in the CNS) that differ in structure, regulation, and function. Although neurofilaments have been traditionally viewed as axonal structural components, recent evidence has revealed that distinctive assemblies of neurofilament subunits are integral components of synapses, especially at postsynaptic sites. Within the synaptic compartment, the individual subunits differentially modulate neurotransmission and behavior through interactions with specific neurotransmitter receptors. These newly uncovered functions suggest that alterations of neurofilament proteins not only underlie axonopathy in various neurological disorders but also may play vital roles in cognition and neuropsychiatric diseases. Here, we review evidence that synaptic neurofilament proteins are a sizable population in the CNS and we advance the concept that changes in the levels or post-translational modification of individual NF subunits contribute to synaptic and behavioral dysfunction in certain neuropsychiatric conditions.
Initial increase of Klf5 and ppara expression after myocardial ischemia/reperfusion in mice appears to be critical for survival [Meeting Abstract]
Kruppel-like factors (KLF) have important roles in metabolism. We previously found that KLF5 is a positive transcriptional regulator of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (Ppara), a central regulator of cardiac fatty acid oxidation (FAO). Mice with cardiomyocyte-specific Klf5 ablation (alphaMHCKlf5 ) had reduced cardiac Ppara expression and FAO. At age 6-12 months these mice develop distinct cardiac dysfunction. The role of PPARalpha activation in I/R injury is unclear as both beneficial and detrimental effects have been reported. We aimed to study if Ppara expression changes during I/R are driven by KLF5 and explore its protective or detrimental role. Wild type mice were subjected to in vivo I/R or sham surgery. I/R resulted in an initial increase in Ppara, and its target gene pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (Pdk4) mRNA after 2h reperfusion, followed by decreased expression after 24h reperfusion. The Ppara expression is associated with parallel changes in cardiac Klf5 mRNA expression. Concurrent, there was a decrease of cardiac FAO-related genes carnitine palmitoyl-transferase 1beta (Cpt1b), very long chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (Vlcad), and acyl-CoA oxidase (Aox) in mice with I/R. To define the cell type causing the temporal changes in Klf5 and Ppara after I/R we isolated primary cardiomyocytes and fibroblasts. Our data suggest a similar effect in primary isolated cardiomyocytes only. Klf5 mRNA expression is increased after 2 hour hypoxia and normalized after 4 hour re-oxygenation in cardiomyocytes, whereas there are no changes after hypoxia/normoxia in fibroblasts. To assess the importance of cardiomyocyte KLF5 in I/R we used alphaMHC-Klf5 mice. Interestingly, despite reduced FAO, 7 month old alphaMHC-Klf5 mice subjected to I/R had a marked increase in mortality; 4 of 7 alphaMHCKlf5 mice died within the first 24h of reperfusion while no mortality was observed in age-matched wild type mice that underwent I/R. In conclusion, I/R is associated with an increase in Klf5 and Ppara in the first hours of reperfusion followed by a decrease in Klf5 and Ppara, likely accounted for by cardiomyocytes. Increased mortality for alphaMHC-Klf5 mice with I/R injury suggests that the initial increase may be an adaptive response that is critical for survival
Neurofilament subunits are integral components of synapses and modulate neurotransmission and behavior in vivo
Synaptic roles for neurofilament (NF) proteins have rarely been considered. Here, we establish all four NF subunits as integral resident proteins of synapses. Compared with the population in axons, NF subunits isolated from synapses have distinctive stoichiometry and phosphorylation state, and respond differently to perturbations in vivo. Completely eliminating NF proteins from brain by genetically deleting three subunits (alpha-internexin, NFH and NFL) markedly depresses hippocampal long-term potentiation induction without detectably altering synapse morphology. Deletion of NFM in mice, but not the deletion of any other NF subunit, amplifies dopamine D1-receptor-mediated motor responses to cocaine while redistributing postsynaptic D1-receptors from endosomes to plasma membrane, consistent with a specific modulatory role of NFM in D1-receptor recycling. These results identify a distinct pool of synaptic NF subunits and establish their key role in neurotransmission in vivo, suggesting potential novel influences of NF proteins in psychiatric as well as neurological states.
Functions of neurofilaments in synapses
Dissociation of Axonal Neurofilament Content from Its Transport Rate
The axonal cytoskeleton of neurofilament (NF) is a long-lived network of fibrous elements believed to be a stationary structure maintained by a small pool of transported cytoskeletal precursors. Accordingly, it may be predicted that NF content in axons can vary independently from the transport rate of NF. In the present report, we confirm this prediction by showing that human NFH transgenic mice and transgenic mice expressing human NFL Ser55 (Asp) develop nearly identical abnormal patterns of NF accumulation and distribution in association with opposite changes in NF slow transport rates. We also show that the rate of NF transport in wild-type mice remains constant along a length of the optic axon where NF content varies 3-fold. Moreover, knockout mice lacking NFH develop even more extreme (6-fold) proximal to distal variation in NF number, which is associated with a normal wild-type rate of NF transport. The independence of regional NF content and NF transport is consistent with previous evidence suggesting that the rate of incorporation of transported NF precursors into a metabolically stable stationary cytoskeletal network is the major determinant of axonal NF content, enabling the generation of the striking local variations in NF number seen along axons.