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Transient neurones match the spontaneous and sensory driven activities to shape cortical circuits: a landmark collaborative review published in Science from Professor Zoltán Molnár, Professor Patrick Kanold and Professor Heiko Luhmann.
<jats:p>Neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) are incurable and debilitating conditions that result in progressive degeneration and/or death of nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS). Identification of viable therapeutic targets and new treatments for CNS disorders and in particular, for NDDs is a major challenge in the field of drug discovery. These difficulties can be attributed to the diversity of cells involved, extreme complexity of the neural circuits, the limited capacity for tissue regeneration, and our incomplete understanding of the underlying pathological processes. Drug discovery is a complex and multidisciplinary process. The screening attrition rate in current drug discovery protocols mean that only one viable drug may arise from millions of screened compounds resulting in the need to improve discovery technologies and protocols to address the multiple causes of attrition. This has identified the need to screen larger libraries where the use of efficient high-throughput screening (HTS) becomes key in the discovery process. HTS can investigate hundreds of thousands of compounds per day. However, if fewer compounds could be screened without compromising the probability of success, the cost and time would be largely reduced. To that end, recent advances in computer-aided design, in silico libraries, and molecular docking software combined with the upscaling of cell-based platforms have evolved to improve screening efficiency with higher predictability and clinical applicability. We review, here, the increasing role of HTS in contemporary drug discovery processes, in particular for NDDs, and evaluate the criteria underlying its successful application. We also discuss the requirement of HTS for novel NDD therapies and examine the major current challenges in validating new drug targets and developing new treatments for NDDs.</jats:p>
A chromosome-level genome of Astyanax mexicanus surface fish for comparing population-specific genetic differences contributing to trait evolution.
Identifying the genetic factors that underlie complex traits is central to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of evolution. Cave-dwelling Astyanax mexicanus populations are well adapted to subterranean life and many populations appear to have evolved troglomorphic traits independently, while the surface-dwelling populations can be used as a proxy for the ancestral form. Here we present a high-resolution, chromosome-level surface fish genome, enabling the first genome-wide comparison between surface fish and cavefish populations. Using this resource, we performed quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping analyses and found new candidate genes for eye loss such as dusp26. We used CRISPR gene editing in A. mexicanus to confirm the essential role of a gene within an eye size QTL, rx3, in eye formation. We also generated the first genome-wide evaluation of deletion variability across cavefish populations to gain insight into this potential source of cave adaptation. The surface fish genome reference now provides a more complete resource for comparative, functional and genetic studies of drastic trait differences within a species.
REST protects dopaminergic neurons from mitochondrial and α-synuclein oligomer pathology in an alpha synuclein overexpressing BAC-transgenic mouse model.
Alpha-synuclein pathology is associated with dopaminergic neuronal loss in the substantia nigra (SN) of Parkinson's patients. Working across human and mouse models, we investigated mechanisms by which the accumulation of soluble α-synuclein oligomers leads to neurodegeneration. Biochemical analysis of the midbrain of α-synuclein overexpressing BAC-transgenic male and female mice revealed age- and region-dependent mitochondrial dysfunction and accumulation of damaged proteins downstream of the RE1 Silencing Transcription Factor (REST). Vulnerable SN dopaminergic neurons displayed low REST levels compared to neighbouring protected SN GABAergic neurons, which correlated with the accumulation of α-synuclein oligomers and disrupted mitochondrial morphology. Consistent with a protective role, REST levels were reduced in patient iPSC-derived dopaminergic neurons carrying the SNCA-Triplication mutation, which accumulated α-synuclein oligomers and mitochondrial damage, and displayed REST target gene dysregulation. Furthermore, CRISPR-mediated REST knockout induced mitochondrial dysfunction and impaired mitophagy in vitro. Conversely, REST overexpression attenuated mitochondrial toxicity and mitochondrial morphology disruption through the transcription factor PGC-1α. Finally, decreased α-synuclein oligomer accumulation and mitochondrial dysfunction in mice correlated with nuclear REST and PGC-1α in protected SN GABAergic neurons, when compared to vulnerable dopaminergic neurons. Our findings show that increased levels of α-synuclein oligomers cause dopaminergic neuronal-specific dysfunction through mitochondrial toxicity, which can be attenuated by REST in an early model of Parkinsonian pathology. These findings highlight REST as a mediator of dopaminergic vulnerability in PD.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:Understanding early Parkinsonian pathophysiology through studies of advanced pre-clinical models is fundamental to the translation of disease-modifying therapies. Here we show disease-relevant levels of α-synuclein expression in mice leads to accumulation of α-synuclein oligomers in the absence of overt aggregation, and mitochondrial dysfunction in dopaminergic neurons lacking the RE1 Silencing Transcription Factor (REST). Our findings identify the mechanism of action of REST and PGC-1α as mediators of dopaminergic vulnerability in α-synuclein BAC-transgenic mice and iPSC-derived dopaminergic cultures, highlighting their potential as therapeutic targets.
Tissue-resident macrophages regulate lymphatic vessel growth and patterning in the developing heart.
Macrophages are components of the innate immune system with key roles in tissue inflammation and repair. It is now evident that macrophages also support organogenesis, but few studies have characterized their identity, ontogeny and function during heart development. Here, we show that the distribution and prevalence of resident macrophages in the subepicardial compartment of the developing heart coincides with the emergence of new lymphatics, and that macrophages interact closely with the nascent lymphatic capillaries. Consequently, global macrophage deficiency led to extensive vessel disruption, with mutant hearts exhibiting shortened and mis-patterned lymphatics. The origin of cardiac macrophages was linked to the yolk sac and foetal liver. Moreover, the Cx3cr1+ myeloid lineage was found to play essential functions in the remodelling of the lymphatic endothelium. Mechanistically, macrophage hyaluronan was required for lymphatic sprouting by mediating direct macrophage-lymphatic endothelial cell interactions. Together, these findings reveal insight into the role of macrophages as indispensable mediators of lymphatic growth during the development of the mammalian cardiac vasculature.
The formation of new blood vessels after myocardial infarction (MI) is essential for the survival of existing and regenerated cardiac tissue. However, the extent of endogenous revascularization after MI is insufficient, and MI can often result in ventricular remodelling, progression to heart failure and premature death. The neutral results of numerous clinical trials that have evaluated the efficacy of angiogenic therapy to revascularize the infarcted heart reflect our poor understanding of the processes required to form a functional coronary vasculature. In this Review, we describe the latest advances in our understanding of the processes involved in coronary vessel formation, with mechanistic insights taken from developmental studies. Coronary vessels originate from multiple cellular sources during development and form through a number of distinct and carefully orchestrated processes. The ectopic reactivation of developmental programmes has been proposed as a new paradigm for regenerative medicine, therefore, a complete understanding of these processes is crucial. Furthermore, knowledge of how these processes differ between the embryonic and adult heart, and how they might be more closely recapitulated after injury are critical for our understanding of regenerative biology, and might facilitate the identification of tractable molecular targets to therapeutically promote neovascularization and regeneration of the infarcted heart.
Spatiotemporal Analysis Reveals Overlap of Key Proepicardial Markers in the Developing Murine Heart.
The embryonic epicardium, originating from the proepicardial organ (PEO), provides a source of multipotent progenitors for cardiac lineages, including pericytes, fibroblasts, and vascular smooth muscle cells. Maximizing the regenerative capacity of the adult epicardium depends on recapitulating embryonic cell fates. The potential of the epicardium to contribute coronary endothelium is unclear, due to conflicting Cre-based lineage trace data. Controversy also surrounds when epicardial cell fate becomes restricted. Here, we systematically investigate expression of five widely used epicardial markers, Wt1, Tcf21, Tbx18, Sema3d, and Scx, over the course of development. We show overlap of markers in all PEO and epicardial cells until E13.5, and find no evidence for discrete proepicardial sub-compartments that might contribute coronary endothelium via the epicardial layer. Our findings clarify a number of prevailing discrepancies and support the notion that epicardium-derived cell fate, to form fibroblasts or mural cells, is specified after epithelial-mesenchymal transition, not pre-determined within the PEO.
Genetic markers used to deﬁne discrete cell populations are seldom expressed exclusively in the population of interest and are, thus, unsuitable when evaluated individually, especially in the absence of spatial and morphological information. Here, we present ﬂuorescence in situ hybridization for ﬂow cytometry to allow simultaneous analysis of multiple marker genes at the single whole-cell level, exempliﬁed by application to the embryonic epicardium. The protocol facilitates multiplexed quantiﬁcation of gene and protein expression and temporal changes across speciﬁc cell populations.
ER Stress and Autophagic Perturbations Lead to Elevated Extracellular α-Synuclein in GBA-N370S Parkinson's iPSC-Derived Dopamine Neurons.
Heterozygous mutations in the glucocerebrosidase gene (GBA) represent the strongest common genetic risk factor for Parkinson's disease (PD), the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying this association are still poorly understood. Here, we have analyzed ten independent induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from three controls and three unrelated PD patients heterozygous for the GBA-N370S mutation, and identified relevant disease mechanisms. After differentiation into dopaminergic neurons, we observed misprocessing of mutant glucocerebrosidase protein in the ER, associated with activation of ER stress and abnormal cellular lipid profiles. Furthermore, we observed autophagic perturbations and an enlargement of the lysosomal compartment specifically in dopamine neurons. Finally, we found increased extracellular α-synuclein in patient-derived neuronal culture medium, which was not associated with exosomes. Overall, ER stress, autophagic/lysosomal perturbations, and elevated extracellular α-synuclein likely represent critical early cellular phenotypes of PD, which might offer multiple therapeutic targets.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most common neurodegenerative movement disorder, affecting 1% of the population over 65 years characterized clinically by both motor and non-motor symptoms accompanied by the preferential loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta. Here, we sequenced the exomes of 244 Parkinson's patients selected from the Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre Discovery Cohort and, after quality control, 228 exomes were available for analyses. The PD patient exomes were compared to 884 control exomes selected from the UK10K datasets. No single non-synonymous (NS) single nucleotide variant (SNV) nor any gene carrying a higher burden of NS SNVs was significantly associated with PD status after multiple-testing correction. However, significant enrichments of genes whose proteins have roles in the extracellular matrix were amongst the top 300 genes with the most significantly associated NS SNVs, while regions associated with PD by a recent Genome Wide Association (GWA) study were enriched in genes containing PD-associated NS SNVs. By examining genes within GWA regions possessing rare PD-associated SNVs, we identified RAD51B. The protein-product of RAD51B interacts with that of its paralogue RAD51, which is associated with congenital mirror movements phenotypes, a phenotype also comorbid with PD.
Transcriptomic profiling of purified patient-derived dopamine neurons identifies convergent perturbations and therapeutics for Parkinson's disease.
While induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technologies enable the study of inaccessible patient cell types, cellular heterogeneity can confound the comparison of gene expression profiles between iPSC-derived cell lines. Here, we purified iPSC-derived human dopaminergic neurons (DaNs) using the intracellular marker, tyrosine hydroxylase. Once purified, the transcriptomic profiles of iPSC-derived DaNs appear remarkably similar to profiles obtained from mature post-mortem DaNs. Comparison of the profiles of purified iPSC-derived DaNs derived from Parkinson's disease (PD) patients carrying LRRK2 G2019S variants to controls identified significant functional convergence amongst differentially-expressed (DE) genes. The PD LRRK2-G2019S associated profile was positively matched with expression changes induced by the Parkinsonian neurotoxin rotenone and opposed by those induced by clioquinol, a compound with demonstrated therapeutic efficacy in multiple PD models. No functional convergence amongst DE genes was observed following a similar comparison using non-purified iPSC-derived DaN-containing populations, with cellular heterogeneity appearing a greater confound than genotypic background.
The influence of age and gender on motor and non-motor features of early Parkinson's disease: initial findings from the Oxford Parkinson Disease Center (OPDC) discovery cohort.
BACKGROUND: Identifying factors influencing phenotypic heterogeneity in Parkinson's Disease is crucial for understanding variability in disease severity and progression. Age and gender are two most basic epidemiological characteristics, yet their effect on expression of PD symptoms is not fully defined. We aimed to delineate effects of age and gender on the phenotype in an incident cohort of PD patients and healthy controls from the Oxford Parkinson Disease Centre (OPDC). METHODS: Clinical features, including demographic and medical characteristics and non-motor and motor symptoms, were analyzed in a group of PD patients within 3 years of diagnosis and a group of healthy controls from the OPDC cohort. Disease features were stratified according to age and compared between genders, controlling for effects of common covariates. RESULTS: 490 PD patients and 176 healthy controls were analyzed. Stratification by age showed increased disease severity with age on motor scales. Some non-motor features showed similar trend, including cognition and autonomic features. Comparison across genders highlighted a pattern of increased severity and greater symptom symmetricality in the face, neck and arms in men with women having more postural problems. Amongst the non-motor symptoms, men had more cognitive impairment, greater rate of REM behavior disorder (RBD), more orthostatic hypotension and sexual dysfunction. CONCLUSIONS: Age in PD is a strong factor contributing to disease severity even after controlling for the effect of disease duration. Gender-related motor phenotype can be defined by a vertical split into more symmetrical upper-body disease in men and disease dominated by postural symptoms in women.
The influence of age and gender on motor and non-motor features of early Parkinson's disease: Initial findings from the Oxford Parkinson Disease Center (OPDC) discovery cohort
Background: Identifying factors influencing phenotypic heterogeneity in Parkinson's Disease is crucial for understanding variability in disease severity and progression. Age and gender are two most basic epidemiological characteristics, yet their effect on expression of PD symptoms is not fully defined. We aimed to delineate effects of age and gender on the phenotype in an incident cohort of PD patients and healthy controls from the Oxford Parkinson Disease Centre (OPDC). Methods: Clinical features, including demographic and medical characteristics and non-motor and motor symptoms, were analyzed in a group of PD patients within 3 years of diagnosis and a group of healthy controls from the OPDC cohort. Disease features were stratified according to age and compared between genders, controlling for effects of common covariates. Results: 490 PD patients and 176 healthy controls were analyzed. Stratification by age showed increased disease severity with age on motor scales. Some non-motor features showed similar trend, including cognition and autonomic features. Comparison across genders highlighted a pattern of increased severity and greater symptom symmetricality in the face, neck and arms in men with women having more postural problems. Amongst the non-motor symptoms, men had more cognitive impairment, greater rate of REM behavior disorder (RBD), more orthostatic hypotension and sexual dysfunction. Conclusions: Age in PD is a strong factor contributing to disease severity even after controlling for the effect of disease duration. Gender-related motor phenotype can be defined by a vertical split into more symmetrical upper-body disease in men and disease dominated by postural symptoms in women. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
© 2014 The Royal Society of Chemistry. α-Synuclein (α-Syn), a protein synthesized by neurons, as the major protein component of Lewy body inclusions, undoubtedly has a prominent role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's Disease (PD). In an attempt to enable pre-symptomatic and definitive diagnosis, numerous attempts have been made to align assayed total α-Syn levels in serum (where there is a native presence) to PD disease status. Results have been conflicting. The status of circulating and potentially neuroprotective α-Syn autoantibodies in PD subjects is also unclear. In previous work we demonstrated that electrochemically assayed autoantibody levels were higher in PD patients compared to controls and, significantly, noted that this differentiation was most marked early in disease. Herein we report a robust (coefficient of variation 3.0%) single step and label free analysis of 90 subjects, including 60 PD patients, with a mean disease duration of 1.4 years and 29 control subjects. In this cross sectional cohort we observe a statistically significant (p < 0.05; Mann-Whitney U test) difference in autoantibody levels in PD patients versus controls, although there was no resolved scaling with symptomatic disease stage (p > 0.05; Kruskal-Wallis test).
OBJECTIVE: Whether circulating microvesicles convey bioactive signals in neurodegenerative diseases remains currently unknown. In this study, we investigated the biochemical composition and biological function of exosomes isolated from sera of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). METHODS: Proteomic analysis was performed on microvesicle preparations from grouped samples of patients with genetic and sporadic forms of PD, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and healthy subjects. Nanoparticle-tracking analysis was used to assess the number and size of exosomes between patient groups. To interrogate their biological effect, microvesicles were added to primary rat cortical neurons subjected to either nutrient deprivation or sodium arsenite. RESULTS: Among 1033 proteins identified, 23 exosome-associated proteins were differentially abundant in PD, including the regulator of exosome biogenesis syntenin 1. These protein changes were detected despite similar exosome numbers across groups suggesting that they may reflect exosome subpopulations with distinct functions. Accordingly, we showed in models of neuronal stress that Parkinson's-derived microvesicles have a protective effect. INTERPRETATION: Collectively, these data suggest for the first time that immunophenotyping of circulating exosome subpopulations in PD may lead to a better understanding of the systemic response to neurodegeneration and the development of novel therapeutics.
OBJECTIVE: We sought to identify motor features that would allow the delineation of individuals with sleep study-confirmed idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder (iRBD) from controls and Parkinson disease (PD) using a customized smartphone application. METHODS: A total of 334 PD, 104 iRBD, and 84 control participants performed 7 tasks to evaluate voice, balance, gait, finger tapping, reaction time, rest tremor, and postural tremor. Smartphone recordings were collected both in clinic and at home under noncontrolled conditions over several days. All participants underwent detailed parallel in-clinic assessments. Using only the smartphone sensor recordings, we sought to (1) discriminate whether the participant had iRBD or PD and (2) identify which of the above 7 motor tasks were most salient in distinguishing groups. RESULTS: Statistically significant differences based on these 7 tasks were observed between the 3 groups. For the 3 pairwise discriminatory comparisons, (1) controls vs iRBD, (2) controls vs PD, and (3) iRBD vs PD, the mean sensitivity and specificity values ranged from 84.6% to 91.9%. Postural tremor, rest tremor, and voice were the most discriminatory tasks overall, whereas the reaction time was least discriminatory. CONCLUSIONS: Prodromal forms of PD include the sleep disorder iRBD, where subtle motor impairment can be detected using clinician-based rating scales (e.g., Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale), which may lack the sensitivity to detect and track granular change. Consumer grade smartphones can be used to accurately separate not only iRBD from controls but also iRBD from PD participants, providing a growing consensus for the utility of digital biomarkers in early and prodromal PD.
The Dementias Platform UK Data Portal is a data repository facilitating access to data for 3 370 929 individuals in 42 cohorts. The Data Portal is an end-to-end data management solution providing a secure, fully auditable, remote access environment for the analysis of cohort data. All projects utilising the data are by default collaborations with the cohort research teams generating the data. The Data Portal uses UK Secure eResearch Platform infrastructure to provide three core utilities: data discovery, access, and analysis. These are delivered using a 7 layered architecture comprising: data ingestion, data curation, platform interoperability, data discovery, access brokerage, data analysis and knowledge preservation. Automated, streamlined, and standardised procedures reduce the administrative burden for all stakeholders, particularly for requests involving multiple independent datasets, where a single request may be forwarded to multiple data controllers. Researchers are provided with their own secure 'lab' using VMware which is accessed using two factor authentication. Over the last 2 years, 160 project proposals involving 579 individual cohort data access requests were received. These were received from 268 applicants spanning 72 institutions (56 academic, 13 commercial, 3 government) in 16 countries with 84 requests involving multiple cohorts. Projects are varied including multi-modal, machine learning, and Mendelian randomisation analyses. Data access is usually free at point of use although a small number of cohorts require a data access fee.
OBJECTIVE: We sought to identify an abbreviated test of impaired olfaction, amenable for use in busy clinical environments in prodromal (isolated REM sleep Behavior Disorder (iRBD)) and manifest Parkinson's disease (PD). METHODS: 890 PD and 313 control participants in the Discovery cohort study underwent Sniffin' stick odour identification assessment. Random forests were initially trained to distinguish individuals with poor (functional anosmia/hyposmia) and good (normosmia/super-smeller) smell ability using all 16 Sniffin' sticks. Models were retrained using the top 3 sticks ranked by order of predictor importance. One randomly selected 3-stick model was tested in a second independent PD dataset (n=452) and in two iRBD datasets (Discovery n=241; Marburg n=37) before being compared to previously described abbreviated Sniffin' stick combinations. RESULTS: In differentiating poor from good smell ability, the overall area under the curve (AUC) value associated with the top 3 sticks (Anise/Licorice/Banana) was 0.95 in the development dataset (sensitivity:90%, specificity:92%, positive predictive value:92%, negative predictive value:90%). Internal and external validation confirmed AUCs≥0.90. The combination of 3-stick model determined poor smell and an RBD screening questionnaire score of ≥5, separated iRBD from controls with a sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV of 65%, 100%, 100% and 30%. CONCLUSIONS: Our 3-Sniffin'-stick model holds potential utility as a brief screening test in the stratification of individuals with PD and iRBD according to olfactory dysfunction. CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE: This study provides Class III evidence that a 3-Sniffin'-stick model distinguishes individuals with poor and good smell ability and can be used to screen for individuals with iRBD.
Deep phenotyping of peripheral tissue facilitates mechanistic disease stratification in sporadic Parkinson's disease.
Mechanistic disease stratification will be crucial to develop a precision medicine approach for future disease modifying therapy in sporadic Parkinson's disease (sPD). Mitochondrial and lysosomal dysfunction are key mechanisms in the pathogenesis of sPD and therefore promising targets for therapeutic intervention. We investigated mitochondrial and lysosomal function in skin fibroblasts of 100 sPD patients and 50 age-matched controls. A combination of cellular assays, RNA-seq based pathway analysis and genotyping was applied. Distinct subgroups with mitochondrial (mito-sPD) or lysosomal (lyso-sPD) dysfunction were identified. Mitochondrial dysfunction correlated with reduction in complex I and IV protein levels. RNA-seq based pathway analysis revealed marked activation of the lysosomal pathway with enrichment for lysosomal disease gene variants in lyso-sPD. Conversion of fibroblasts to induced neuronal progenitor cells and subsequent differentiation into tyrosine hydroxylase positive neurons confirmed and further enhanced both mitochondrial and lysosomal abnormalities. Treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid improved mitochondrial membrane potential and intracellular ATP levels even in sPD patient fibroblast lines with comparatively mild mitochondrial dysfunction. The results of our study suggest that in-depth phenotyping and focussed assessment of putative neuroprotective compounds in peripheral tissue are a promising approach towards disease stratification and precision medicine in sPD.
Single-Cell Sequencing of iPSC-Dopamine Neurons Reconstructs Disease Progression and Identifies HDAC4 as a Regulator of Parkinson Cell Phenotypes.
Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived dopamine neurons provide an opportunity to model Parkinson's disease (PD), but neuronal cultures are confounded by asynchronous and heterogeneous appearance of disease phenotypes in vitro. Using high-resolution, single-cell transcriptomic analyses of iPSC-derived dopamine neurons carrying the GBA-N370S PD risk variant, we identified a progressive axis of gene expression variation leading to endoplasmic reticulum stress. Pseudotime analysis of genes differentially expressed (DE) along this axis identified the transcriptional repressor histone deacetylase 4 (HDAC4) as an upstream regulator of disease progression. HDAC4 was mislocalized to the nucleus in PD iPSC-derived dopamine neurons and repressed genes early in the disease axis, leading to late deficits in protein homeostasis. Treatment of iPSC-derived dopamine neurons with HDAC4-modulating compounds upregulated genes early in the DE axis and corrected PD-related cellular phenotypes. Our study demonstrates how single-cell transcriptomics can exploit cellular heterogeneity to reveal disease mechanisms and identify therapeutic targets.