Diminished trkA receptor signaling reveals cholinergic-attentional vulnerability of aging.
ABSTRACT: The cellular mechanisms underlying the exceptional vulnerability of the basal forebrain (BF) cholinergic neurons during pathological aging have remained elusive. Here we employed an adeno-associated viral vector-based RNA interference (AAV-RNAi) strategy to suppress the expression of tropomyosin-related kinase A (trkA) receptors by cholinergic neurons in the nucleus basalis of Meynert/substantia innominata (nMB/SI) of adult and aged rats. Suppression of trkA receptor expression impaired attentional performance selectively in aged rats. Performance correlated with trkA levels in the nMB/SI. trkA knockdown neither affected nMB/SI cholinergic cell counts nor the decrease in cholinergic cell size observed in aged rats. However, trkA suppression augmented an age-related decrease in the density of cortical cholinergic processes and attenuated the capacity of cholinergic neurons to release acetylcholine (ACh). The capacity of cortical synapses to release ACh in vivo was also lower in aged/trkA-AAV-infused rats than in aged or young controls, and it correlated with their attentional performance. Furthermore, age-related increases in cortical proNGF and p75 receptor levels interacted with the vector-induced loss of trkA receptors to shift NGF signaling toward p75-mediated suppression of the cholinergic phenotype, thereby attenuating cholinergic function and impairing attentional performance. These effects model the abnormal trophic regulation of cholinergic neurons and cognitive impairments in patients with early Alzheimer's disease. This rat model is useful for identifying the mechanisms rendering aging cholinergic neurons vulnerable as well as for studying the neuropathological mechanisms that are triggered by disrupted trophic signaling.
Project description:Substantial evidence suggests that cerebral deposition of the neurotoxic fibrillar form of amyloid precursor protein, ?-amyloid (A?), plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Yet, many aspects of AD pathology including the cognitive symptoms and selective vulnerability of cortically projecting basal forebrain (BF) cholinergic neurons are not well explained by this hypothesis. Specifically, it is not clear why cognitive decline appears early when the loss of BF cholinergic neurons and plaque deposition are manifested late in AD. Soluble oligomeric forms of A? are proposed to appear early in the pathology and to be better predictors of synaptic loss and cognitive deficits. The present study was designed to examine the impact of A? oligomers on attentional functions and presynaptic cholinergic transmission in young and aged rats. Chronic intracranial infusions of A? oligomers produced subtle decrements in the ability of rats to sustain attentional performance with time on task, irrespective of the age of the animals. However, A? oligomers produced robust detrimental effects on performance under conditions of enhanced attentional load in aged animals. In vivo electrochemical recordings show reduced depolarization-evoked cholinergic signals in A?-infused aged rats. Moreover, soluble A? disrupted the capacity of cholinergic synapses to clear exogenous choline from the extracellular space in both young and aged rats, reflecting impairments in the choline transport process that is critical for acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and release. Although aging per se reduced the cross-sectional area of BF cholinergic neurons and presynaptic cholinergic proteins in the cortex, attentional performance and ACh release remained unaffected in aged rats infused with the control peptide. Taken together, these data suggest that soluble A? may marginally influence attentional functions at young ages primarily by interfering with the choline uptake processes. However, age-related weakening of the cholinergic system may synergistically interact with these disruptive presynaptic mechanisms to make this neurotransmitter system vulnerable to the toxic effects of oligomeric A? in robustly impeding attentional capacities.
Project description:We demonstrate the role of molecular switching of TrkA/p75(NTR) signaling cascade in organophosphate pesticide-Monocrotophos (MCP) induced neurotoxicity in stem cell derived cholinergic neurons and in rat brain. Our in-silico studies reveal that MCP followed the similar pattern of binding as staurosporine and AG-879 (known inhibitors of TrkA) with TrkA protein (PDB ID: 4AOJ) at the ATP binding sites. This binding of MCP to TrkA led to the conformational change in this protein and triggers the cell death cascades. The in-silico findings are validated by observing the down regulated levels of phosphorylated TrkA and its downstream molecules viz., pERK1/2, pAkt and pCREB in MCP-exposed cells. We observe that these MCP induced alterations in pTrkA and downstream signaling molecules are found to be associated with apoptosis and injury to neurons. The down-regulation of TrkA could be linked to increased p75(NTR). The in-vitro studies could be correlated in the rat model. The switching of TrkA/p75(NTR) signaling plays a central role in MCP-induced neural injury in rBNSCs and behavioral changes in exposed rats. Our studies significantly advance the understanding of the switching of TrkA/p75(NTR) that may pave the way for the application of TrkA inducer/p75(NTR) inhibitor for potential therapeutic intervention in various neurodegenerative disorders.
Project description:Acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and release from basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN) innervating the cerebral cortex and hippocampus are essential processes for normal learning, memory and attention. Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) 9 is a cholinergic differentiation factor in the developing septum that increases ACh synthesis and choline acetyltransferase (Chat) gene expression both in vivo and in vitro. We investigated the possible induction of cholinergic trophic factors by BMP9 in murine septal cells. Nerve growth factor (NGF) protein expression and secretion into the medium was increased in cultured embryonic septal cells treated with BMP9, and partially mediated BMP9-induced acetylcholine production and Chat gene expression. BMP9-induced Ngf gene expression was detected in postmitotic cells, required new protein synthesis and was blocked by BMP type I receptor inhibition. Cholinergic neurons were isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting based on either transgenic expression of green fluorescent protein driven by the Chat promoter or NGF receptor (p75) immunostaining. Although both noncholinergic and cholinergic neurons in untreated cultures expressed similar low levels of Ngf, increased Ngf gene expression was restricted to Chat-positive neurons in BMP9-treated cultures. Likewise, similar levels of Ngf mRNA were detected in p75-negative and p75-positive septal cells, yet only p75-positive BFCN increased their Ngf gene expression when treated with BMP9, and only these cells expressed the Alk1 BMP receptor. The data suggest an autocrine/paracrine role for NGF in the development and/or maintenance of BFCN and imply that the stimulation of NGF production and release contributes to the cholinergic-supportive properties of BMP9.
Project description:The degeneration of cholinergic neurons of the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) in the basal forebrain (BF) is associated to the cognitive decline of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. To date no resolutive therapies exist. Cell-based replacement therapy is a strategy currently under consideration, although the mechanisms underlying the generation of stem cell-derived NBM cholinergic neurons able of functional integration remain to be clarified. Since fetal brain is an optimal source of neuronal cells committed towards a specific phenotype, this study is aimed at isolating cholinergic neurons from the human fetal NBM (hfNBMs) in order to study their phenotypic, maturational and functional properties. Extensive characterization confirmed the cholinergic identity of hfNBMs, including positivity for specific markers (such as choline acetyltransferase) and acetylcholine (Ach) release. Electrophysiological measurements provided the functional validation of hfNBM cells, which exhibited the activation of peculiar sodium (INa) and potassium (IK) currents, as well as the presence of functional cholinergic receptors. Accordingly, hfNBMs express both nicotinic and muscarinic receptors, which were activated by Ach. The hfNBMs cholinergic phenotype was regulated by the nerve growth factor (NGF), through the activation of the high-affinity NGF receptor TrkA, as well as by 17-?-estradiol through a peculiar recruitment of its own receptors. When intravenously administered in NBM-lesioned rats, hfNBMs determined a significant improvement in memory functions. Histological examination of brain sections showed that hfNBMs (labeled with PKH26 fluorescent dye prior to administration) reached the damaged brain areas. The study provides a useful model to study the ontogenetic mechanisms regulating the development and maintenance of the human brain cholinergic system and to assess new lines of research, including disease modeling, drug discovery and cell-based therapy for AD.
Project description:Nerve growth factor (NGF) stimulates the expression of the cholinergic gene locus, which encodes choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) and vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT), the proteins necessary for the synthesis and storage of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). To determine whether this action of NGF is mediated by the p140TrkA NGF receptor (a member of the Trk tyrosine kinase family) we used a murine basal forebrain cholinergic cell line, SN56, stably transfected with rat trkA cDNA. Treatment of these transfectants with NGF activated mitogen-activated protein kinase and increased cytosolic free calcium concentrations, confirming the reconstitution of TrkA-mediated signalling pathways. The expression of ChAT and VAChT mRNA, as well as ACh content, were coordinately up-regulated by NGF in SN56-trkA transfectants. None of these responses occurred in the parental SN56 cells, which do not express endogenous TrkA, indicating that these actions of NGF required TrkA. We previously reported that ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) upregulates the expression of ChAT and VAChT, as well as ACh production, in SN56 cells. The combined treatment of SN56-trkA cells with CNTF and NGF revealed a complex interaction of these factors in the regulation of cholinergic gene locus expression. At low concentrations of CNTF (<1 ng/ml), the upregulation of ACh synthesis evoked by these factors was additive. However, at higher concentrations of CNTF (>1 ng/ml), NGF attenuated the stimulatory effect of CNTF on ChAT and VAChT mRNA and ACh content. This attenuation was not due to interference with early steps of CNTF receptor signalling, as pre-treatment of SN56-trkA cells with NGF did not affect the nuclear translocation of the transcription factor, Stat3, evoked by CNTF.
Project description:NGF, the principal neurotrophic factor for basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs), has been correlated to Alzheimer's disease (AD) because of the selective vulnerability of BFCNs in AD. These correlative links do not substantiate a comprehensive cause-effect mechanism connecting NGF deficit to overall AD neurodegeneration. A demonstration that neutralizing NGF activity could have consequences beyond a direct interference with the cholinergic system came from studies in the AD11 mouse model, in which the expression of a highly specific anti-NGF antibody determines a neurodegeneration that encompasses several features of human AD. Because the transgenic antibody binds to mature NGF much more strongly than to proNGF and prevents binding of mature NGF to the tropomyosin-related kinase A (TrkA) receptor and to p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR), we postulated that neurodegeneration in AD11 mice is provoked by an imbalance of proNGF/NGF signaling and, consequently, of TrkA/p75NTR signaling. To test this hypothesis, in this study we characterize the phenotype of two lines of transgenic mice, one in which TrkA signaling is inhibited by neutralizing anti-TrkA antibodies and a second one in which anti-NGF mice were crossed to p75NTR(exonIII(-/-)) mice to abrogate p75NTR signaling. TrkA neutralization determines a strong cholinergic deficit and the appearance of beta-amyloid peptide (Abeta) but no tau-related pathology. In contrast, abrogating p75NTR signaling determines a full rescue of the cholinergic and Abeta phenotype of anti-NGF mice, but tau hyperphosphorylation is exacerbated. Thus, we demonstrate that inhibiting TrkA signaling activates Abeta accumulation and that different streams of AD neurodegeneration are related in complex ways to TrkA versus p75NTR signaling.
Project description:Some rats [sign-trackers (STs)] are prone to attribute incentive salience to reward cues, which can manifest as a propensity to approach and contact pavlovian cues, and for addiction-like behavior. STs also exhibit poor attentional performance, relative to goal-trackers (GTs), which is associated with attenuated acetylcholine (ACh) levels in prefrontal cortex (Paolone et al., 2013). Here, we demonstrate a cellular mechanism, linked to ACh synthesis, that accounts for attenuated cholinergic capacity in STs. First, we found that electrical stimulation of the basal forebrain increased cortical choline transporter (CHT)-mediated choline transport in GTs, paralleled by a redistribution of CHTs to the synaptic plasma membrane. Neither increases in choline uptake nor translocation of CHTs occurred in STs. Second, and consistent with uptake/translocation alterations, STs demonstrated a reduced ability to support cortical ACh release in vivo compared with GTs after reverse-dialysis to elevate extracellular potassium levels. Third, rats were significantly more likely to develop sign-tracking behavior if treated systemically before pavlovian conditioned approach training with the CHT inhibitor VU6001221. Consistent with its proposed mechanisms, administration of VU6001221 attenuated potassium-evoked ACh levels in prefrontal cortex measured with in vivo microdialysis. We propose that loss of CHT-dependent activation of cortical cholinergic activity in STs degrades top-down executive control over behavior, producing a bias for bottom-up or stimulus-driven attention. Such an attentional bias contributes to nonadaptive reward processing and thus identifies a novel mechanism that can support psychopathology, including addiction.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The vulnerability for addiction-like behavior has been associated with psychological traits, such as the propensity to attribute incentive salience to reward cues that is modeled in rats by sign-tracking behavior. Sign-trackers tend to approach and contact cues associated with reward, whereas their counterparts, the goal-trackers, have a preference for approaching the location of the reward. Here, we show that the capacity of presynaptic cholinergic synapses to respond to stimulation by elevating presynaptic choline uptake and releasing acetylcholine is attenuated in sign-trackers. Furthermore, pharmacological inhibition of choline transport induced sign-tracking behavior. Our findings suggest that reduced levels of cholinergic neuromodulation can mediate an attentional bias toward reward-related cues, thereby allowing such cues to exert relatively greater control over behavior.
Project description:The presence of novel or degraded communication sounds likely results in activation of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons increasing release of ACh onto presynaptic and postsynaptic nAChRs in primary auditory cortex (A1). nAChR subtypes include high-affinity heteromeric nAChRs commonly composed of ?4 and ?2 subunits and low-affinity homomeric nAChRs composed of ?7 subunits. In young male FBN rats, we detail the following: (1) the distribution/expression of nAChR subunit transcripts in excitatory (VGluT1) and inhibitory (VGAT) neurons across A1 layers; (2) heteromeric nAChR binding across A1 layers; and (3) nAChR excitability in A1 layer (L) 5 cells. In aged rats, we detailed the impact of aging on A1 nAChR subunit expression across layers, heteromeric nAChR receptor binding, and nAChR excitability of A1 L5 cells. A majority of A1 cells coexpressed transcripts for ?2 and ?4 with or without ?7, while dispersed subpopulations expressed ?2 and ?7 or ?7 alone. nAChR subunit transcripts were expressed in young excitatory and inhibitory neurons across L2-L6. Transcript abundance varied across layers, and was highest for ?2 and ?4. Significant age-related decreases in nAChR subunit transcript expression (message) and receptor binding (protein) were observed in L2-6, most pronounced in infragranular layers. <i>In vitro</i> patch-clamp recordings from L5B pyramidal output neurons showed age-related nAChR subunit-selective reductions in postsynaptic responses to ACh. Age-related losses of nAChR subunits likely impact ways in which A1 neurons respond to ACh release. While the elderly require additional resources to disambiguate degraded speech codes, resources mediated by nAChRs may be compromised with aging.<b>SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT</b> When attention is required, cholinergic basal forebrain neurons may trigger increased release of ACh onto auditory neurons in primary auditory cortex (A1). Laminar and phenotypic differences in neuronal nAChR expression determine ways in which A1 neurons respond to release of ACh in challenging acoustic environments. This study detailed the distribution and expression of nAChR subunit transcript and protein across A1 layers in young and aged rats. Results showed a differential distribution of nAChR subunits across A1 layers. Age-related decreases in transcript/protein expression were reflected in age-related subunit specific functional loss of nAChR signaling to ACh application in A1 layer 5. Together, these findings could reflect the age-related decline in selective attention observed in the elderly.
Project description:Facilitation of nerve growth factor (NGF) signaling by the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75(NTR)) is critical for neuronal survival and differentiation. However, the interaction between p75(NTR) and TrkA receptors required for this activity is not understood. Here, we report that a specific 29-amino acid peptide derived from the intracellular domain fragment of p75(NTR) interacts with and potentiates binding of NGF to TrkA-expressing cells, leading to increased neurite outgrowth in sympathetic neurons as a result of enhanced Erk1/2 and Akt signaling. An endogenous intracellular domain fragment of p75(NTR) (p75(ICD)) containing these 29 amino acids is produced by regulated proteolysis of the full-length receptor. We demonstrate that generation of this fragment is a requirement for p75(NTR) to facilitate TrkA signaling in neurons and propose that the juxtamembrane region of p75(ICD) acts to cause a conformational change within the extracellular domain of TrkA. This finding provides new insight into the mechanism by which p75(NTR) and TrkA interact to enhance neurotrophic signaling.
Project description:Cholinergic basal forebrain (cBF) neurons are defined by their expression of the p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) and tropomyosin-related kinase (Trk) neurotrophin receptors in addition to cholinergic markers. It is known that the neurotrophins, particularly nerve growth factor (NGF), mediate cholinergic neuronal development and maintenance. However, the role of neurotrophin signalling in regulating adult cBF function is less clear, although in dementia, trophic signalling is reduced and p75NTR mediates neurodegeneration of cBF neurons. Here we review the current understanding of how cBF neurons are regulated by neurotrophins which activate p75NTR and TrkA, B or C to influence the critical role that these neurons play in normal cortical function, particularly higher order cognition. Specifically, we describe the current evidence that neurotrophins regulate the development of basal forebrain neurons and their role in maintaining and modifying mature basal forebrain synaptic and cortical microcircuit connectivity. Understanding the role neurotrophin signalling plays in regulating the precision of cholinergic connectivity will contribute to the understanding of normal cognitive processes and will likely provide additional ideas for designing improved therapies for the treatment of neurological disease in which cholinergic dysfunction has been demonstrated.