Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Publications michael-coleman

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Deletions within its subcellular targeting domain enhance the axon protective capacity of Nmnat2 in vivo.
S Milde, AN Fox, MR Freeman, MP Coleman

The NAD-synthesising enzyme Nmnat2 is a critical survival factor for axons in vitro and in vivo. We recently reported that loss of axonal transport vesicle association through mutations in its isoform-specific targeting and interaction domain (ISTID) reduces Nmnat2 ubiquitination, prolongs its half-life and boosts its axon protective capacity in primary culture neurons. Here, we report evidence for a role of ISTID sequences in tuning Nmnat2 localisation, stability and protective capacity in vivo. Deletion of central ISTID sequences abolishes vesicle association and increases protein stability of fluorescently tagged, transgenic Nmnat2 in mouse peripheral axons in vivo. Overexpression of fluorescently tagged Nmnat2 significantly delays Wallerian degeneration in these mice. Furthermore, while mammalian Nmnat2 is unable to protect transected Drosophila olfactory receptor neuron axons in vivo, mutant Nmnat2s lacking ISTID regions substantially delay Wallerian degeneration. Together, our results establish Nmnat2 localisation and turnover as a valuable target for modulating axon degeneration in vivo.

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Scientific reports, 3, , 2567, 2013

PMID: 23995269
DOI: 10.1038/srep02567

Open Access

Rescue of Peripheral and CNS Axon Defects in Mice Lacking NMNAT2.
J Gilley, R Adalbert, G Yu, MP Coleman

NMNAT2 is an NAD(+)-synthesizing enzyme with an essential axon maintenance role in primary culture neurons. We have generated an Nmnat2 gene trap mouse to examine the role of NMNAT2 in vivo. Homozygotes die perinatally with a severe peripheral nerve/axon defect and truncated axons in the optic nerve and other CNS regions. The cause appears to be limited axon extension, rather than dying-back degeneration of existing axons, which was previously proposed for the NMNAT2-deficient Blad mutant mouse. Neurite outgrowth in both PNS and CNS neuronal cultures consistently stalls at 1-2 mm, similar to the length of truncated axons in the embryos. Crucially, this suggests an essential role for NMNAT2 during axon growth. In addition, we show that the Wallerian degeneration slow protein (Wld(S)), a more stable, aberrant NMNAT that can substitute the axon maintenance function of NMNAT2 in primary cultures, can also correct developmental defects associated with NMNAT2 deficiency. This is dose-dependent, with extension of life span to at least 3 months by homozygous levels of Wld(S) the most obvious manifestation. Finally, we propose that endogenous mechanisms also compensate for otherwise limiting levels of NMNAT2. This could explain our finding that conditional silencing of a single Nmnat2 allele triggers substantial degeneration of established neurites, whereas similar, or greater, reduction of NMNAT2 in constitutively depleted neurons is compatible with normal axon growth and survival. A requirement for NMNAT2 for both axon growth and maintenance suggests that reduced levels could impair axon regeneration as well as axon survival in aging and disease.

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The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 33, 33, 13410-24, 2013

PMID: 23946398
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1534-13.2013

Open Access

The challenges of axon survival: introduction to the special issue on axonal degeneration.
MP Coleman

Early axon loss is a common feature of many neurodegenerative disorders. It renders neurons functionally inactive, or less active if axon branches are lost, in a manner that is often irreversible. In the CNS, there is no long-range axon regeneration and even peripheral nerve axons are unlikely to reinnervate their targets while the cause of the problem persists. In most disorders, axon degeneration precedes cell death so it is not simply a consequence of it, and it is now clear that axons have at least one degeneration mechanism that differs from that of the soma. It is important to understand these degeneration mechanisms and their contribution to axon loss in neurodegenerative disorders. In this way, it should become possible to prevent axon loss as well as cell death. This special edition considers the roles and mechanisms of axon degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, hereditary spastic paraplegia, ischemic injury, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's disease, glaucoma, Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease. Using examples from these and other disorders, this introduction considers some of the reasons for axon vulnerability. It also illustrates how molecular genetics and studies of Wallerian degeneration have contributed to our understanding of axon degeneration mechanisms.

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Experimental neurology, 246, , 1-5, 2013

PMID: 23769907
DOI: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2013.06.007

Open Access

Autophagy in axonal and dendritic degeneration.
Y Yang, M Coleman, L Zhang, X Zheng, Z Yue

Degeneration of axons and dendrites is a common and early pathological feature of many neurodegenerative disorders, and is thought to be regulated by mechanisms distinct from those determining death of the cell body. The unique structures of axons and dendrites (collectively neurites) may cause them to be particularly vulnerable to the accumulation of protein aggregates and damaged organelles. Autophagy is a catabolic mechanism in which cells clear protein aggregates and damaged organelles. Basal autophagy occurs continuously as a housekeeping function, and can be acutely expanded in response to stress or injury. Emerging evidence shows that insufficient or excessive autophagy contributes to neuritic degeneration. Here, we review the recent progress that has begun to reveal the role of autophagy in neurite function and degeneration.

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Trends in neurosciences, 36, 7, 418-28, 2013

PMID: 23639383
DOI: 10.1016/j.tins.2013.04.001

Open Access

Subcellular localization determines the stability and axon protective capacity of axon survival factor Nmnat2.
S Milde, J Gilley, MP Coleman

Axons require a constant supply of the labile axon survival factor Nmnat2 from their cell bodies to avoid spontaneous axon degeneration. Here we investigate the mechanism of fast axonal transport of Nmnat2 and its site of action for axon maintenance. Using dual-colour live-cell imaging of axonal transport in SCG primary culture neurons, we find that Nmnat2 is bidirectionally trafficked in axons together with markers of the trans-Golgi network and synaptic vesicles. In contrast, there is little co-migration with mitochondria, lysosomes, and active zone precursor vesicles. Residues encoded by the small, centrally located exon 6 are necessary and sufficient for stable membrane association and vesicular axonal transport of Nmnat2. Within this sequence, a double cysteine palmitoylation motif shared with GAP43 and surrounding basic residues are all required for efficient palmitoylation and stable association with axonal transport vesicles. Interestingly, however, disrupting this membrane association increases the ability of axonally localized Nmnat2 to preserve transected neurites in primary culture, while re-targeting the strongly protective cytosolic mutants back to membranes abolishes this increase. Larger deletions within the central domain including exon 6 further enhance Nmnat2 axon protective capacity to levels that exceed that of the slow Wallerian degeneration protein, Wld(S). The mechanism underlying the increase in axon protection appears to involve an increased half-life of the cytosolic forms, suggesting a role for palmitoylation and membrane attachment in Nmnat2 turnover. We conclude that Nmnat2 activity supports axon survival through a site of action distinct from Nmnat2 transport vesicles and that protein stability, a key determinant of axon protection, is enhanced by mutations that disrupt palmitoylation and dissociate Nmnat2 from these vesicles.

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PLoS biology, 11, 4, e1001539, 2013

PMID: 23610559
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001539

Open Access

Simultaneous single-sample determination of NMNAT isozyme activities in mouse tissues.
G Orsomando, L Cialabrini, A Amici, F Mazzola, S Rugieri, L Conforti, L Janeckova, MP Coleman, G Magni

A novel assay procedure has been developed to allow simultaneous activity discrimination in crude tissue extracts of the three known mammalian nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase (NMNAT, EC 2.7.7.1) isozymes. These enzymes catalyse the same key reaction for NAD biosynthesis in different cellular compartments. The present method has been optimized for NMNAT isozymes derived from Mus musculus, a species often used as a model for NAD-biosynthesis-related physiology and disorders, such as peripheral neuropathies. Suitable assay conditions were initially assessed by exploiting the metal-ion dependence of each isozyme recombinantly expressed in bacteria, and further tested after mixing them in vitro. The variable contributions of the three individual isozymes to total NAD synthesis in the complex mixture was calculated by measuring reaction rates under three selected assay conditions, generating three linear simultaneous equations that can be solved by a substitution matrix calculation. Final assay validation was achieved in a tissue extract by comparing the activity and expression levels of individual isozymes, considering their distinctive catalytic efficiencies. Furthermore, considering the key role played by NMNAT activity in preserving axon integrity and physiological function, this assay procedure was applied to both liver and brain extracts from wild-type and Wallerian degeneration slow (Wld(S)) mouse. Wld(S) is a spontaneous mutation causing overexpression of NMNAT1 as a fusion protein, which protects injured axons through a gain-of-function. The results validate our method as a reliable determination of the contributions of the three isozymes to cellular NAD synthesis in different organelles and tissues, and in mutant animals such as Wld(S).

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PloS one, 7, 12, e53271, 2012

PMID: 23300904
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053271

Open Access

Axon pathology in age-related neurodegenerative disorders.
R Adalbert, MP Coleman

'Dying back' axon degeneration is a prominent feature of many age-related neurodegenerative disorders and is widespread in normal ageing. Although the mechanisms of disease- and age-related losses may differ, both contribute to symptoms. Here, we review recent advances in understanding axon pathology in age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and glaucoma. In particular, we highlight the importance of axonal transport, autophagy, traumatic brain injury, and mitochondrial quality control. We then place these disease mechanisms in the context of changes to axons and dendrites that occur during normal ageing. We discuss what makes ageing such an important risk factor for many neurodegenerative disorders and conclude that the processes of normal ageing and disease combine at the molecular, cellular or systems levels in a range of disorders to produce symptoms. Pathology identical to disease also occurs at the cellular level in most elderly individuals. Thus, normal ageing and age-related disease are inextricably linked and the term 'healthy ageing' downplays the important contributions of cellular pathology. For a full understanding of normal ageing or age-related disease we must study both processes.

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Neuropathology and applied neurobiology, , , , 2012

PMID: 23046254
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2990.2012.01308.x

Intra-axonal calcium changes after axotomy in wild-type and slow Wallerian degeneration axons.
R Adalbert, G Morreale, M Paizs, L Conforti, SA Walker, HL Roderick, MD Bootman, L Siklós, MP Coleman

Calcium accumulation induces the breakdown of cytoskeleton and axonal fragmentation in the late stages of Wallerian degeneration. In the early stages there is no evidence for any long-lasting, extensive increase in intra-axonal calcium but there does appear to be some redistribution. We hypothesized that changes in calcium distribution could have an early regulatory role in axonal degeneration in addition to the late executionary role of calcium. Schmidt-Lanterman clefts (SLCs), which allow exchange of metabolites and ions between the periaxonal and extracellular space, are likely to have an increased role when axon segments are separated from the cell body, so we used the oxalate-pyroantimonate method to study calcium at SLCs in distal stumps of transected wild-type and slow Wallerian degeneration (Wld(S)) mutant sciatic nerves, in which Wallerian degeneration is greatly delayed. In wild-type nerves most SLCs show a step gradient of calcium distribution, which is lost at around 20% of SLCs within 3mm of the lesion site by 4-24h after nerve transection. To investigate further the association with Wallerian degeneration, we studied nerves from Wld(S) rats. The step gradient of calcium distribution in Wld(S) is absent in around 20% of the intact nerves beneath SLCs but 4-24h following injury, calcium distribution in transected axons remained similar to that in uninjured nerves. We then used calcium indicators to study influx and buffering of calcium in injured neurites in primary culture. Calcium penetration and the early calcium increase in this system were indistinguishable between Wld(S) and wild-type axons. However, a significant difference was observed during the following hours, when calcium increased in wild-type neurites but not in Wld(S) neurites. We conclude that there is little relationship between calcium distribution and the early stages of Wallerian degeneration at the time points studied in vivo or in vitro but that Wld(S) neurites fail to show a later calcium rise that could be a cause or consequence of the later stages of Wallerian degeneration.

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Neuroscience, 225, , 44-54, 2012

PMID: 22960623
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.08.056

Open Access

dSarm/Sarm1 is required for activation of an injury-induced axon death pathway.
JM Osterloh, J Yang, TM Rooney, AN Fox, R Adalbert, EH Powell, AE Sheehan, MA Avery, R Hackett, MA Logan, JM MacDonald, JS Ziegenfuss, S Milde, YJ Hou, C Nathan, A Ding, RH Brown, L Conforti, M Coleman, M Tessier-Lavigne, S Züchner, MR Freeman

Axonal and synaptic degeneration is a hallmark of peripheral neuropathy, brain injury, and neurodegenerative disease. Axonal degeneration has been proposed to be mediated by an active autodestruction program, akin to apoptotic cell death; however, loss-of-function mutations capable of potently blocking axon self-destruction have not been described. Here, we show that loss of the Drosophila Toll receptor adaptor dSarm (sterile α/Armadillo/Toll-Interleukin receptor homology domain protein) cell-autonomously suppresses Wallerian degeneration for weeks after axotomy. Severed mouse Sarm1 null axons exhibit remarkable long-term survival both in vivo and in vitro, indicating that Sarm1 prodegenerative signaling is conserved in mammals. Our results provide direct evidence that axons actively promote their own destruction after injury and identify dSarm/Sarm1 as a member of an ancient axon death signaling pathway.

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Science (New York, N.Y.), 337, 6093, 481-4, 2012

PMID: 22678360
DOI: 10.1126/science.1223899

Open Access

Mitochondria as a central sensor for axonal degenerative stimuli.
FA Court, MP Coleman

Axonal degeneration is a major contributor to neuronal dysfunction in many neurological conditions and has additional roles in development. It can be triggered by divergent stimuli including mechanical, metabolic, infectious, toxic, hereditary and inflammatory stresses. Axonal mitochondria are an important convergence point as regulators of bioenergetic metabolism, reactive oxygen species (ROS), Ca²⁺ homeostasis and protease activation. The challenges likely to render axonal mitochondria more vulnerable than their cellular counterparts are reviewed, including axonal transport, replenishing nuclear-encoded proteins and maintenance of quality control, fusion and fission in locations remote from the cell body. The potential for mitochondria to act as a decision node in axon loss is considered, highlighting the need to understand the biology of axonal mitochondria and their contributions to degenerative mechanisms for novel therapeutic strategies.

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Trends in neurosciences, 35, 6, 364-72, 2012

PMID: 22578891
DOI: 10.1016/j.tins.2012.04.001

Open Access

Modelling early responses to neurodegenerative mutations in mice.
J Gilley, R Adalbert, MP Coleman

Considering the many differences between mice and humans, it is perhaps surprising how well mice model late-onset human neurodegenerative disease. Models of Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease show some striking similarities to the corresponding human pathologies in terms of axonal transport disruption, protein aggregation, synapse loss and some behavioural phenotypes. However, there are also major differences. To extrapolate from mouse models to human disease, we need to understand how these differences relate to intrinsic limitations of the mouse system and to the effects of transgene overexpression. In the present paper, we use examples from an amyloid-overexpression model and a mutant-tau-knockin model to illustrate what we learn from each type of approach and what the limitations are. Finally, we discuss the further contributions that knockin and similar approaches can make to understanding pathogenesis and how best to model disorders of aging in a short-lived mammal.

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Biochemical Society transactions, 39, 4, 933-8, 2011

PMID: 21787326
DOI: 10.1042/BST0390933

Reducing expression of NAD+ synthesizing enzyme NMNAT1 does not affect the rate of Wallerian degeneration.
L Conforti, L Janeckova, D Wagner, F Mazzola, L Cialabrini, M Di Stefano, G Orsomando, G Magni, C Bendotti, N Smyth, M Coleman

NAD(+) synthesizing enzyme NMNAT1 constitutes most of the sequence of neuroprotective protein Wld(S), which delays axon degeneration by 10-fold. NMNAT1 activity is necessary but not sufficient for Wld(S) neuroprotection in mice and 70 amino acids at the N-terminus of Wld(S), derived from polyubiquitination factor Ube4b, enhance axon protection by NMNAT1. NMNAT1 activity can confer neuroprotection when redistributed outside the nucleus or when highly overexpressed in vitro and partially in Drosophila. However, the role of endogenous NMNAT1 in normal axon maintenance and in Wallerian degeneration has not been elucidated yet. To address this question we disrupted the Nmnat1 locus by gene targeting. Homozygous Nmnat1 knockout mice do not survive to birth, indicating that extranuclear NMNAT isoforms cannot compensate for its loss. Heterozygous Nmnat1 knockout mice develop normally and do not show spontaneous neurodegeneration or axon pathology. Wallerian degeneration after sciatic nerve lesion is neither accelerated nor delayed in these mice, consistent with the proposal that other endogenous NMNAT isoforms play a principal role in Wallerian degeneration.

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The FEBS journal, 278, 15, 2666-79, 2011

PMID: 21615689
DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08193.x

Age-dependent axonal transport and locomotor changes and tau hypophosphorylation in a "P301L" tau knockin mouse.
J Gilley, A Seereeram, K Ando, S Mosely, S Andrews, M Kerschensteiner, T Misgeld, JP Brion, B Anderton, DP Hanger, MP Coleman

Tauopathies are characterized by hyperphosphorylation of the microtubule-associated protein tau and its accumulation into fibrillar aggregates. Toxic effects of aggregated tau and/or dysfunction of soluble tau could both contribute to neural defects in these neurodegenerative diseases. We have generated a novel knockin mouse model of an inherited tauopathy, frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonism linked to tau mutations on chromosome 17 (FTDP-17T). We incorporated a single mutation, homologous to the common FTDP-17T P301L mutation, directly into the endogenous mouse gene, mimicking the human disease situation. These mice express P301L-equivalent mutant tau at normal physiological levels from the knockin allele. Importantly, in contrast to existing transgenic mouse models that overexpress human P301L mutant tau, no overt tau pathology developed during the normal lifespan of the knockin mice. In fact, overall phosphorylation of tau was reduced, perhaps due to reduced microtubule binding. However, homozygous knockin mice did display intriguing age-dependent changes in axonal transport of mitochondria, and increased spontaneous locomotor activity in old age. These could represent early consequences of the tau dysfunction that eventually precipitates pathogenesis in humans.

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Neurobiology of aging, 33, 3, 621.e1-621.e15, 2012

PMID: 21492964
DOI: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.02.014

Molecular signaling how do axons die?
M Coleman

Axons depend critically on axonal transport both for supplying materials and for communicating with cell bodies. This chapter looks at each activity, asking what aspects are essential for axon survival. Axonal transport declines in neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis, and in normal ageing, but whether all cargoes are equally affected and what limits axon survival remains unclear. Cargoes can be differentially blocked in some disorders, either individually or in groups. Each missing protein cargo results in localized loss-of-function that can be partially modeled by disrupting the corresponding gene, sometimes with surprising results. The axonal response to losing specific proteins also depends on the rates of protein turnover and on whether the protein can be locally synthesized. Among cargoes with important axonal roles are components of the PI3 kinase, Mek/Erk, and Jnk signaling pathways, which help to communicate with cell bodies and to regulate axonal transport itself. Bidirectional trafficking of Bdnf, NT-3, and other neurotrophic factors contribute to intra- and intercellular signaling, affecting the axon's cellular environment and survival. Finally, several adhesion molecules and gangliosides are key determinants of axon survival, probably by mediating axon-glia interactions. Thus, failure of long-distance intracellular transport can deprive axons of one, few, or many cargoes. This can lead to axon degeneration either directly, through the absence of essential axonal proteins, or indirectly, through failures in communication with cell bodies and nonneuronal cells.

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Advances in genetics, 73, , 185-217, 2011

PMID: 21310297
DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-380860-8.00005-7

The Wlds transgene reduces axon loss in a Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease 1A rat model and nicotinamide delays post-traumatic axonal degeneration.
G Meyer zu Horste, TA Miesbach, JI Muller, R Fledrich, RM Stassart, BC Kieseier, MP Coleman, MW Sereda

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is the most common inherited neuropathy and a duplication of the peripheral myelin protein of 22 kDa (PMP22) gene causes the most frequent subform CMT1A. Clinical impairments are determined by the amount of axonal loss. Axons of the spontaneous mouse mutant Wallerian degeneration slow (Wlds) show markedly reduced degeneration following various types of injuries. Protection is conferred by a chimeric Wlds gene encoding an N-terminal part of ubiquitination factor Ube4b and full length nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyl transferase 1 (Nmnat1). Nmnat1 enzyme generates nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) from nicotinamide mononucleotide. Here, in a Pmp22 transgenic animal model of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 1A (CMT rat), the Wlds transgene reduced axonal loss and clinical impairments without altering demyelination. Furthermore, nicotinamide - substrate precursor of the Nmnat1 enzyme - transiently delayed posttraumatic axonal degeneration in an in vivo model of acute peripheral nerve injury, but to a lower extent than Wlds. In contrast, 8 weeks of nicotinamide treatment did not influence axonal loss or clinical manifestations in the CMT rat. Therefore, nicotinamide can partially substitute for the protective Wlds effect in acute traumatic, but not in chronic secondary axonal injury. Future studies are needed to develop axon protective therapy in CMT1A which may be combined with therapeutic strategies aimed at downregulation of toxic PMP22 overexpression.

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Neurobiology of disease, 42, 1, 1-8, 2011

PMID: 21168501
DOI: 10.1016/j.nbd.2010.12.006

Targeting NMNAT1 to axons and synapses transforms its neuroprotective potency in vivo.
E Babetto, B Beirowski, L Janeckova, R Brown, J Gilley, D Thomson, RR Ribchester, MP Coleman

Axon and synapse degeneration are common components of many neurodegenerative diseases, and their rescue is essential for effective neuroprotection. The chimeric Wallerian degeneration slow protein (Wld(S)) protects axons dose dependently, but its mechanism is still elusive. We recently showed that Wld(S) acts at a non-nuclear location and is present in axons. This and other recent reports support a model in which Wld(S) protects by extranuclear redistribution of its nuclear NMNAT1 portion. However, it remains unclear whether cytoplasmic NMNAT1 acts locally in axons and synapses or at a non-nuclear site within cell bodies. The potency of axon protection by non-nuclear NMNAT1 relative to Wld(S) also needs to be established in vivo. Because the N-terminal portion of Wld(S) (N70) localized to axons, we hypothesized that it mediates the trafficking of the NMNAT1 portion. To test this, we substituted N70 with an axonal targeting peptide derived from amyloid precursor protein, and fused this to NMNAT1 with disrupted nuclear targeting. In transgenic mice, this transformed NMNAT1 from a molecule unable to inhibit Wallerian degeneration, even at high expression levels, into a protein more potent than Wld(S), able to preserve injured axons for several weeks at undetectable expression levels. Preventing NMNAT1 axonal delivery abolished its protective effect. Axonally targeted NMNAT1 localized to vesicular structures, colocalizing with extranuclear Wld(S), and was cotransported at least partially with mitochondria. We conclude that axonal targeting of NMNAT activity is both necessary and sufficient to delay Wallerian degeneration, and that promoting axonal and synaptic delivery greatly enhances the effectiveness.

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The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 30, 40, 13291-304, 2010

PMID: 20926655
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1189-10.2010

Open Access

Difference Tracker: ImageJ plugins for fully automated analysis of multiple axonal transport parameters.
S Andrews, J Gilley, MP Coleman

Studies of axonal transport are critical, not only to understand its normal regulation, but also to determine the roles of transport impairment in disease. Exciting new resources have recently become available allowing live imaging of axonal transport in physiologically relevant settings, such as mammalian nerves. Thus the effects of disease, ageing and therapies can now be assessed directly in nervous system tissue. However, these imaging studies present new challenges. Manual or semi-automated analysis of the range of transport parameters required for a suitably complete evaluation is very time-consuming and can be subjective due to the complexity of the particle movements in axons in ex vivo explants or in vivo. We have developed Difference Tracker, a program combining two new plugins for the ImageJ image-analysis freeware, to provide fast, fully automated and objective analysis of a number of relevant measures of trafficking of fluorescently labeled particles so that axonal transport in different situations can be easily compared. We confirm that Difference Tracker can accurately track moving particles in highly simplified, artificial simulations. It can also identify and track multiple motile fluorescently labeled mitochondria simultaneously in time-lapse image stacks from live imaging of tibial nerve axons, reporting values for a number of parameters that are comparable to those obtained through manual analysis of the same axons. Difference Tracker therefore represents a useful free resource for the comparative analysis of axonal transport under different conditions, and could potentially be used and developed further in many other studies requiring quantification of particle movements.

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Journal of neuroscience methods, 193, 2, 281-7, 2010

PMID: 20869987
DOI: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2010.09.007

Mechanisms of axonal spheroid formation in central nervous system Wallerian degeneration.
B Beirowski, A Nógrádi, E Babetto, G Garcia-Alias, MP Coleman

Wallerian degeneration of the CNS is accompanied by axonal dystrophy or swelling. To understand the mechanisms by which swellings arise, we studied their spatiotemporal dynamics, ultrastructure, composition, and the conditions that affect their formation in vivo and ex vivo. In contrast to peripheral nerve axons, lesioned optic nerve (ON) axons in vivo developed focal swellings asynchronously within 6 hours, long before there is any axon fragmentation. Axons in ON, spinal cord dorsal column, and corpus callosum all showed marked gradients with more swellings in proximal regions of their distal stumps early after lesion. Time-lapse imaging of a validated ex vivo system showed that multiple focal swellings arise after around 1 hour close to the injury site, followed by anterograde wave-like progression on continuous ON axon stumps. Swellings were largely stable but occasionally seemed to fuse with neighboring swellings. Their ultrastructural appearances resembled disease-associated spheroids. Although accumulation of axonal markers suggested transport deficits, large accumulations of mitochondria were not observed. Early swelling formation was decreased in Wld gene-expressing rodents and by removing extracellular calcium. Several pharmacologic agents that inhibit axon loss in vitro and/or in vivo also prevented early formation of axonal spheroids in acute ON explants. Because axonal swellings are hallmarks of many neurodegenerative conditions, these data suggest that they are a manifestation of Wallerian-like degeneration in some cases. Thus, Wallerian-like degeneration may be a more common component mechanism in CNS diseases than previously thought.

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Journal of neuropathology and experimental neurology, 69, 5, 455-72, 2010

PMID: 20418780
DOI: 10.1097/NEN.0b013e3181da84db

Wallerian degeneration, wld(s), and nmnat.
MP Coleman, MR Freeman

Traditionally, researchers have believed that axons are highly dependent on their cell bodies for long-term survival. However, recent studies point to the existence of axon-autonomous mechanism(s) that regulate rapid axon degeneration after axotomy. Here, we review the cellular and molecular events that underlie this process, termed Wallerian degeneration. We describe the biphasic nature of axon degeneration after axotomy and our current understanding of how Wld(S)--an extraordinary protein formed by fusing a Ube4b sequence to Nmnat1--acts to protect severed axons. Interestingly, the neuroprotective effects of Wld(S) span all species tested, which suggests that there is an ancient, Wld(S)-sensitive axon destruction program. Recent studies with Wld(S) also reveal that Wallerian degeneration is genetically related to several dying back axonopathies, thus arguing that Wallerian degeneration can serve as a useful model to understand, and potentially treat, axon degeneration in diverse traumatic or disease contexts.

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Annual review of neuroscience, 33, , 245-67, 2010

PMID: 20345246
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-060909-153248

Endogenous Nmnat2 is an essential survival factor for maintenance of healthy axons.
J Gilley, MP Coleman

The molecular triggers for axon degeneration remain unknown. We identify endogenous Nmnat2 as a labile axon survival factor whose constant replenishment by anterograde axonal transport is a limiting factor for axon survival. Specific depletion of Nmnat2 is sufficient to induce Wallerian-like degeneration of uninjured axons which endogenous Nmnat1 and Nmnat3 cannot prevent. Nmnat2 is by far the most labile Nmnat isoform and is depleted in distal stumps of injured neurites before Wallerian degeneration begins. Nmnat2 turnover is equally rapid in injured Wld(S) neurites, despite delayed neurite degeneration, showing it is not a consequence of degeneration and also that Wld(S) does not stabilize Nmnat2. Depletion of Nmnat2 below a threshold level is necessary for axon degeneration since exogenous Nmnat2 can protect injured neurites when expressed at high enough levels to overcome its short half-life. Furthermore, proteasome inhibition slows both Nmnat2 turnover and neurite degeneration. We conclude that endogenous Nmnat2 prevents spontaneous degeneration of healthy axons and propose that, when present, the more long-lived, functionally related Wld(S) protein substitutes for Nmnat2 loss after axon injury. Endogenous Nmnat2 represents an exciting new therapeutic target for axonal disorders.

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PLoS biology, 8, 1, e1000300, 2010

PMID: 20126265
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000300

Open Access

WldS can delay Wallerian degeneration in mice when interaction with valosin-containing protein is weakened.
B Beirowski, G Morreale, L Conforti, F Mazzola, M Di Stefano, A Wilbrey, E Babetto, L Janeckova, G Magni, MP Coleman

Axon degeneration is an early event in many neurodegenerative disorders. In some, the mechanism is related to injury-induced Wallerian degeneration, a proactive death program that can be strongly delayed by the neuroprotective slow Wallerian degeneration protein (Wld(S)) protein. Thus, it is important to understand the Wallerian degeneration mechanism and how Wld(S) blocks it. Wld(S) location is influenced by binding to valosin-containing protein (VCP), an essential protein for many cellular processes including membrane fusion and endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation. In mice, the N-terminal 16 amino acids (N16), which mediate VCP binding, are essential for Wld(S) to protect axons, a role which another VCP binding sequence can substitute. In Drosophila, the Wld(S) phenotype is weakened by a similar N-terminal truncation and by knocking down the VCP homologue ter94. Neither null nor floxed VCP mice are viable so it is difficult to confirm the requirement for VCP binding in mammals in vivo. However, the hypothesis can be tested further by introducing a Wld(S) missense mutation, altering its affinity for VCP but minimizing the risk of disturbing other aspects of its structure or function. We introduced the R10A mutation, which weakens VCP binding in vitro, and expressed it in transgenic mice. R10AWld(S) fails to co-immunoprecipitate VCP from mouse brain, and only occasionally and faintly accumulates in nuclear foci for which VCP binding is necessary but not sufficient. Surprisingly however, axon protection remains robust and indistinguishable from that in spontaneous Wld(S) mice. We suggest that either N16 has an additional, VCP-independent function in mammals, or that the phenotype requires only weak VCP binding which may be driven forwards in vivo by the high VCP concentration.

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Neuroscience, 166, 1, 201-11, 2010

PMID: 20018231
DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.12.024

Axonal and neuromuscular synaptic phenotypes in Wld(S), SOD1(G93A) and ostes mutant mice identified by fiber-optic confocal microendoscopy.
F Wong, L Fan, S Wells, R Hartley, FE Mackenzie, O Oyebode, R Brown, D Thomson, MP Coleman, G Blanco, RR Ribchester

We used live imaging by fiber-optic confocal microendoscopy (CME) of yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) expression in motor neurons to observe and monitor axonal and neuromuscular synaptic phenotypes in mutant mice. First, we visualized slow degeneration of axons and motor nerve terminals at neuromuscular junctions following sciatic nerve injury in Wld(S) mice with slow Wallerian degeneration. Protection of axotomized motor nerve terminals was much weaker in Wld(S) heterozygotes than in homozygotes. We then induced covert modifiers of axonal and synaptic degeneration in heterozygous Wld(S) mice, by N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) mutagenesis, and used CME to identify candidate mutants that either enhanced or suppressed axonal or synaptic degeneration. From 219 of the F1 progeny of ENU-mutagenized BALB/c mice and thy1.2-YFP16/Wld(S) mice, CME revealed six phenodeviants with suppression of synaptic degeneration. Inheritance of synaptic protection was confirmed in three of these founders, with evidence of Mendelian inheritance of a dominant mutation in one of them (designated CEMOP_S5). We next applied CME repeatedly to living Wld(S) mice and to SOD1(G93A) mice, an animal model of motor neuron disease, and observed degeneration of identified neuromuscular synapses over a 1-4day period in both of these mutant lines. Finally, we used CME to observe slow axonal regeneration in the ENU-mutant ostes mouse strain. The data show that CME can be used to monitor covert axonal and neuromuscular synaptic pathology and, when combined with mutagenesis, to identify genetic modifiers of its progression in vivo.

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Molecular and cellular neurosciences, 42, 4, 296-307, 2009

PMID: 19683573
DOI: 10.1016/j.mcn.2009.08.002

Tau inclusions in retinal ganglion cells of human P301S tau transgenic mice: effects on axonal viability.
L Gasparini, RA Crowther, KR Martin, N Berg, M Coleman, M Goedert, MG Spillantini

Tau inclusions play a key role in the pathogenesis of tauopathies. Altered tau levels have been detected in retina and optic nerve of patients with glaucoma, suggesting the possibility of shared pathogenic mechanisms with tauopathies. Here we report that hyperphosphorylated transgenic tau accumulates in the nerve fibre layer and, from 2 months of age, aggregates into filamentous inclusions in retinal ganglion cells of human P301S tau transgenic mice. Axonopathy and accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau in the nerve fibre layer preceded inclusion formation. Hyperphosphorylated tau and tau inclusions were also detected in cultured retinal explants from 5-month-old transgenic mice. Axonal outgrowth was similar in transgenic and wild-type retinal explants under basal conditions. However, when exposed to growth-promoting stimuli, axon elongation was enhanced in explants from wild-type but not transgenic mice, indicating that the presence of abnormal tau can impair stimulated axonal outgrowth. These findings suggest that the retina is a good model system for investigating tau-driven neurodegeneration and for assessing potential pharmacological modifiers for tauopathies.

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Neurobiology of aging, 32, 3, 419-33, 2011

PMID: 19356824
DOI: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2009.03.002

Wld S protein requires Nmnat activity and a short N-terminal sequence to protect axons in mice.
L Conforti, A Wilbrey, G Morreale, L Janeckova, B Beirowski, R Adalbert, F Mazzola, M Di Stefano, R Hartley, E Babetto, T Smith, J Gilley, RA Billington, AA Genazzani, RR Ribchester, G Magni, M Coleman

The slow Wallerian degeneration (Wld(S)) protein protects injured axons from degeneration. This unusual chimeric protein fuses a 70-amino acid N-terminal sequence from the Ube4b multiubiquitination factor with the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide-synthesizing enzyme nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyl transferase 1. The requirement for these components and the mechanism of Wld(S)-mediated neuroprotection remain highly controversial. The Ube4b domain is necessary for the protective phenotype in mice, but precisely which sequence is essential and why are unclear. Binding to the AAA adenosine triphosphatase valosin-containing protein (VCP)/p97 is the only known biochemical property of the Ube4b domain. Using an in vivo approach, we show that removing the VCP-binding sequence abolishes axon protection. Replacing the Wld(S) VCP-binding domain with an alternative ataxin-3-derived VCP-binding sequence restores its protective function. Enzyme-dead Wld(S) is unable to delay Wallerian degeneration in mice. Thus, neither domain is effective without the function of the other. Wld(S) requires both of its components to protect axons from degeneration.

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The Journal of cell biology, 184, 4, 491-500, 2009

PMID: 19237596
DOI: 10.1083/jcb.200807175

Open Access

Evolutionary divergence of valosin-containing protein/cell division cycle protein 48 binding interactions among endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation proteins.
G Morreale, L Conforti, J Coadwell, AL Wilbrey, MP Coleman

Endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-associated degradation (ERAD) is a cell-autonomous process that eliminates large quantities of misfolded, newly synthesized protein, and is thus essential for the survival of any basic eukaryotic cell. Accordingly, the proteins involved and their interaction partners are well conserved from yeast to mammals, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae is widely used as a model system with which to investigate this fundamental cellular process. For example, valosin-containing protein (VCP) and its yeast homologue cell division cycle protein 48 (Cdc48p), which help to direct polyubiquitinated proteins for proteasome-mediated degradation, interact with an equivalent group of ubiquitin ligases in mouse and in S. cerevisiae. A conserved structural motif for cofactor binding would therefore be expected. We report a VCP-binding motif (VBM) shared by mammalian ubiquitin ligase E4b (Ube4b)-ubiquitin fusion degradation protein 2a (Ufd2a), hydroxymethylglutaryl reductase degradation protein 1 (Hrd1)-synoviolin and ataxin 3, and a related sequence in M(r) 78,000 glycoprotein-Amfr with slightly different binding properties, and show that Ube4b and Hrd1 compete for binding to the N-terminal domain of VCP. Each of these proteins is involved in ERAD, but none has an S. cerevisiae homologue containing the VBM. Some other invertebrate model organisms also lack the VBM in one or more of these proteins, in contrast to vertebrates, where the VBM is widely conserved. Thus, consistent with their importance in ERAD, evolution has developed at least two ways to bring these proteins together with VCP-Cdc48p. However, the differing molecular architecture of VCP-Cdc48p complexes indicates a key point of divergence in the molecular details of ERAD mechanisms.

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The FEBS journal, 276, 5, 1208-20, 2009

PMID: 19175675
DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2008.06858.x