5 research outputs found

    Membrane lipid raft homeostasis is directly linked to neurodegeneration

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    Age-associated neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease (PD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) are an unmet health need, with significant economic and societal implications, and an ever-increasing prevalence. Membrane lipid rafts (MLRs) are specialised plasma membrane microdomains that provide a platform for intracellular trafficking and signal transduction, particularly within neurons. Dysregulation of MLRs leads to disruption of neurotrophic signalling and excessive apoptosis which mirrors the final common pathway for neuronal death in ALS, PD and AD. Sphingomyelinase (SMase) and phospholipase (PL) enzymes process components of MLRs and therefore play central roles in MLR homeostasis and in neurotrophic signalling. We review the literature linking SMase and PL enzymes to ALS, AD and PD with particular attention to attractive therapeutic targets, where functional manipulation has been successful in preclinical studies. We propose that dysfunction of these enzymes is upstream in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases and to support this we provide new evidence that ALS risk genes are enriched with genes involved in ceramide metabolism (P=0.019, OR = 2.54, Fisher exact test). Ceramide is a product of SMase action upon sphingomyelin within MLRs, and it also has a role as a second messenger in intracellular signalling pathways important for neuronal survival. Genetic risk is necessarily upstream in a late age of onset disease such as ALS. We propose that manipulation of MLR structure and function should be a focus of future translational research seeking to ameliorate neurodegenerative disorders

    A polymorphic transcriptional regulatory domain in the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis risk gene CFAP410 correlates with differential isoform expression

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    We describe the characterisation of a variable number tandem repeat (VNTR) domain within intron 1 of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) risk gene CFAP410 (Cilia and flagella associated protein 410) (previously known as C21orf2), providing insight into how this domain could support differential gene expression and thus be a modulator of ALS progression or risk. We demonstrated the VNTR was functional in a reporter gene assay in the HEK293 cell line, exhibiting both the properties of an activator domain and a transcriptional start site, and that the differential expression was directed by distinct repeat number in the VNTR. These properties embedded in the VNTR demonstrated the potential for this VNTR to modulate CFAP410 expression. We extrapolated these findings in silico by utilisation of tagging SNPs for the two most common VNTR alleles to establish a correlation with endogenous gene expression. Consistent with in vitro data, CFAP410 isoform expression was found to be variable in the brain. Furthermore, although the number of matched controls was low, there was evidence for one specific isoform being correlated with lower expression in those with ALS. To address if the genotype of the VNTR was associated with ALS risk, we characterised the variation of the CFAP410 VNTR in ALS cases and matched controls by PCR analysis of the VNTR length, defining eight alleles of the VNTR. No significant difference was observed between cases and controls, we noted, however, the cohort was unlikely to contain sufficient power to enable any firm conclusion to be drawn from this analysis. This data demonstrated that the VNTR domain has the potential to modulate CFAP410 expression as a regulatory element that could play a role in its tissue-specific and stimulus-inducible regulation that could impact the mechanism by which CFAP410 is involved in ALS

    Unbiased metabolome screen leads to personalized medicine strategy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects 1/350 individuals in the United Kingdom. The cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is unknown in the majority of cases. Two-sample Mendelian randomization enables causal inference between an exposure, such as the serum concentration of a specific metabolite, and disease risk. We obtained genome-wide association study summary statistics for serum concentrations of 566 metabolites which were population matched with a genome-wide association study of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. For each metabolite, we performed Mendelian randomization using an inverse variance weighted estimate for significance testing. After stringent Bonferroni multiple testing correction, our unbiased screen revealed three metabolites that were significantly linked to the risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: Estrone-3-sulphate and bradykinin were protective, which is consistent with literature describing a male preponderance of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and a preventive effect of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors which inhibit the breakdown of bradykinin. Serum isoleucine was positively associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis risk. All three metabolites were supported by robust Mendelian randomization measures and sensitivity analyses; estrone-3-sulphate and isoleucine were confirmed in a validation amyotrophic lateral sclerosis genome-wide association study. Estrone-3-sulphate is metabolized to the more active estradiol by the enzyme 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1; further, Mendelian randomization demonstrated a protective effect of estradiol and rare variant analysis showed that missense variants within HSD17B1, the gene encoding 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1, modify risk for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Finally, in a zebrafish model of C9ORF72-amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, we present evidence that estradiol is neuroprotective. Isoleucine is metabolized via methylmalonyl-CoA mutase encoded by the gene MMUT in a reaction that consumes vitamin B12. Multivariable Mendelian randomization revealed that the toxic effect of isoleucine is dependent on the depletion of vitamin B12; consistent with this, rare variants which reduce the function of MMUT are protective against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We propose that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients and family members with high serum isoleucine levels should be offered supplementation with vitamin B12

    Genome-wide identification of the genetic basis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

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    Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a complex disease that leads to motor neuron death. Despite heritability estimates of 52%, genome-wide association studies (GWASs) have discovered relatively few loci. We developed a machine learning approach called RefMap, which integrates functional genomics with GWAS summary statistics for gene discovery. With transcriptomic and epigenetic profiling of motor neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), RefMap identified 690 ALS-associated genes that represent a 5-fold increase in recovered heritability. Extensive conservation, transcriptome, network, and rare variant analyses demonstrated the functional significance of candidate genes in healthy and diseased motor neurons and brain tissues. Genetic convergence between common and rare variation highlighted KANK1 as a new ALS gene. Reproducing KANK1 patient mutations in human neurons led to neurotoxicity and demonstrated that TDP-43 mislocalization, a hallmark pathology of ALS, is downstream of axonal dysfunction. RefMap can be readily applied to other complex diseases