Scientists from Bern have discovered a mechanism which is responsible for the degeneration of Purkinje cells in the cerebellum in a neurodegenerative disease called Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1. The results of their study open up new avenues for the future treatment of cerebellum associated degenerative disorders.
Damage, degeneration or loss of neurons in the region of the brain that controls muscle coordination (cerebellum), results in ataxia. The symptoms include loss of voluntary coordination of muscle movements and the appearance of gait abnormality, loss of balance and speech problems.
Cerebellar ataxias are progressive degenerative disorders which occur in adults either sporadically or can be inherited from parents. Unfortunately, the large majority of cerebellar ataxia cases are sporadic in nature and the causative mechanism for the development of ataxia remains largely unknown, which eventually hinders the development of therapy and negatively influences the quality of patient’s life.
However, both the sporadic and inherited cases of cerebellar ataxia exhibit common pathophysiological characteristics such as the specific degeneration of the main cerebellar neurons; the Purkinje cells. Therefore, the team of Smita Saxena from the Institute of Cell Biology at the University of Bern set out to understand the potential mechanism involved in the development of ataxia and degeneration of Purkinje cells in Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA1), a rare, incurable, inheritable neurodegenerative disease that can be modeled in mice.
Together with first author Céline Ruegsegger, a protein based screening of Purkinje cells was performed to identify changes that occur in these neurons at the time of ataxia appearance. The team discovered wide spread alterations in proteins which function at the synapse and identified a synaptic protein Homer-3 that is mainly present in Purkinje cell synapses to be reduced.
Further, they found that Homer-3 decrease was related to the alteration in an important signaling pathway; mTORC1. This signaling pathway was responsible for regulating the expression of synaptic proteins such as Homer-3. Saxena and her team have discovered a cellular mechanism in the cerebellum of SCA1 mice that specifically targets the degeneration of Purkinje cells and the findings present a promising future therapeutic target. The study was published in the scientific journal «Neuron».
The team investigated why mTORC1 signaling was altered in the cerebellar Purkinje cells and not in other regions of the brain. By measuring activation state of Purkinje cells, they found that impaired mTORC1 signaling was due to defects in Purkinje cell associated neuronal circuitry mainly involving the climbing fibers.
“In this context, the identification of circuit related alterations which play an important role in determining pathological alterations in Purkinje cells is important in understanding how the disease mechanism works and targets vulnerable components in defined neurons; in this case Purkinje cells,” says Saxena.
Reinstating Homer-3 expression can ameliorate symptoms and delay pathology
After the identification of Homer-3 as being reduced early in the disease course, Céline Ruegsegger and Saxena tried to establish its causal role in the development of disease. By using a gene therapy approach they reintroduced Homer-3 expression in Purkinje cells of SCA1 mice. This slowed down the development of ataxia, ameliorated symptoms associated with loss of motor coordination and balance and restored Purkinje cell functionality.
“Interestingly, it has been known for some time that alterations in mTORC1 signaling in the cerebellum during development is associated with autistic behavior and intellectual disorder,” said Saxena. “In our study, the novel finding is that similar signaling pathways can also be involved in adult cerebellar associated degenerative disorders such as SCA1. This is an important step forward in understanding the process involved in developmental and degenerative disorders and identifies a potentially new therapeutic target for the future.”
Céline Ruegsegger, David M. Stucki, Silvio Steiner, Nico Angliker, Julika Radecke, Eva Keller, Benoît Zuber, Markus A. Rüegg and Smita Saxena
Impaired mTORC1-dependent expression of Homer-3 influences SCA1 pathophysiology. Neuron, 2016 (in press)
Nathalie Matter | Universität Bern
Nanoparticle Exposure Can Awaken Dormant Viruses in the Lungs
16.01.2017 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Cholera bacteria infect more effectively with a simple twist of shape
13.01.2017 | Princeton University
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction