Biochemistry and Pharmacology - Research Publications

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    Glycosaminoglycan Sulphation Affects the Seeded Misfolding of a Mutant Prion Protein
    Lawson, VA ; Lumicisi, B ; Welton, J ; Machalek, D ; Gouramanis, K ; Klemm, HM ; Stewart, JD ; Masters, CL ; Hoke, DE ; Collins, SJ ; Hill, AF ; Ma, J (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2010-08-23)
    BACKGROUND: The accumulation of protease resistant conformers of the prion protein (PrP(res)) is a key pathological feature of prion diseases. Polyanions, including RNA and glycosaminoglycans have been identified as factors that contribute to the propagation, transmission and pathogenesis of prion disease. Recent studies have suggested that the contribution of these cofactors to prion propagation may be species specific. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDING: In this study a cell-free assay was used to investigate the molecular basis of polyanion stimulated PrP(res) formation using brain tissue or cell line derived murine PrP. Enzymatic depletion of endogenous nucleic acids or heparan sulphate (HS) from the PrP(C) substrate was found to specifically prevent PrP(res) formation seeded by mouse derived PrP(Sc). Modification of the negative charge afforded by the sulphation of glycosaminoglycans increased the ability of a familial PrP mutant to act as a substrate for PrP(res) formation, while having no effect on PrP(res) formed by wildtype PrP. This difference may be due to the observed differences in the binding of wild type and mutant PrP for glycosaminoglycans. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Cofactor requirements for PrP(res) formation are host species and prion strain specific and affected by disease associated mutations of the prion protein. This may explain both species and strain dependent propagation characteristics and provide insights into the underlying mechanisms of familial prion disease. It further highlights the challenge of designing effective therapeutics against a disease which effects a range of mammalian species, caused by range of aetiologies and prion strains.
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    A rigorous method to enrich for exosomes from brain tissue
    Vella, LJ ; Scicluna, BJ ; Cheng, L ; Bawden, EG ; Masters, CL ; Ang, C-S ; Willamson, N ; McLean, C ; Barnham, KJ ; Hill, AF (TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2017-07-26)
    Extracellular vesicles, including exosomes, are released by all cells, including those of the nervous system. Capable of delivering lipid, protein and nucleic acids to both nearby and distal cells, exosomes have been hypothesized to play a role in progression of many diseases of the nervous system. To date, most analyses on the role of these vesicles in the healthy and diseased state have relied on studying vesicles from in vitro sources, such as conditioned cell culture media, or body fluids. Here we have taken a critical approach to the enrichment and characterization of exosomes from human frontal cortex. This method maintains the integrity of the vesicles and their cargo, and comprehensive proteomic and genomic characterization confirms the legitimacy of the resulting extracellular vesicles as endosome-derived exosomes. This method will enable neuroscientists to acquire more detailed information about exosomes in the brain and explore the role(s) this form of intercellular communication and unique source of lipid, protein and RNA has in healthy brain function and pathogenic conditions. Furthermore, this method may have important utility in the isolation of exosomes from other tissues.
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    The hypoxia imaging agent Cu-II(atsm) is neuroprotective and improves motor and cognitive functions in multiple animal models of Parkinson's disease
    Hung, LW ; Villemagne, VL ; Cheng, L ; Sherratt, NA ; Ayton, S ; White, AR ; Crouch, PJ ; Lim, S ; Leong, SL ; Wilkins, S ; George, J ; Roberts, BR ; Pham, CLL ; Liu, X ; Chiu, FCK ; Shackleford, DM ; Powell, AK ; Masters, CL ; Bush, AI ; O'Keefe, G ; Culvenor, JG ; Cappai, R ; Cherny, RA ; Donnelly, PS ; Hill, AF ; Finkelstein, DI ; Barnham, KJ (ROCKEFELLER UNIV PRESS, 2012-04-09)
    Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive, chronic disease characterized by dyskinesia, rigidity, instability, and tremors. The disease is defined by the presence of Lewy bodies, which primarily consist of aggregated α-synuclein protein, and is accompanied by the loss of monoaminergic neurons. Current therapeutic strategies only give symptomatic relief of motor impairment and do not address the underlying neurodegeneration. Hence, we have identified Cu(II)(atsm) as a potential therapeutic for PD. Drug administration to four different animal models of PD resulted in improved motor and cognition function, rescued nigral cell loss, and improved dopamine metabolism. In vitro, this compound is able to inhibit the effects of peroxynitrite-driven toxicity, including the formation of nitrated α-synuclein oligomers. Our results show that Cu(II)(atsm) is effective in reversing parkinsonian defects in animal models and has the potential to be a successful treatment of PD.
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    Glycosaminoglycan sulfation determines the biochemical properties of prion protein aggregates
    Ellett, LJ ; Coleman, BM ; Shambrook, MC ; Johanssen, VA ; Collins, SJ ; Masters, CL ; Hill, AF ; Lawson, VA (OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2015-07-01)
    Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative disorders associated with the conversion of the cellular prion protein, PrP(C), to a misfolded isoform called PrP(Sc). Although PrP(Sc) is a necessary component of the infectious prion, additional factors, or cofactors, have been shown to contribute to the efficient formation of transmissible PrP(Sc). Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are attractive cofactor candidates as they can be found associated with PrP(Sc) deposits, have been shown to enhance PrP misfolding in vitro, are found in the same cellular compartments as PrP(C) and have been shown to be disease modifying in vivo. Here we investigated the effects of the sulfated GAGs, heparin and heparan sulfate (HS), on disease associated misfolding of full-length recombinant PrP. More specifically, the degree of sulfation of these molecules was investigated for its role in modulating the disease-associated characteristics of PrP. Both heparin and HS induced a β-sheet conformation in recombinant PrP that was associated with the formation of aggregated species; however, the biochemical properties of the aggregates formed in the presence of heparin or HS varied in solubility and protease resistance. Furthermore, these properties could be modified by changes in GAG sulfation, indicating that subtle changes in the properties of prion disease cofactors could initiate disease associated misfolding.
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    C-terminal peptides modelling constitutive PrPC processing demonstrate ameliorated toxicity predisposition consequent to alpha-cleavage
    Johanssen, VA ; Johanssen, T ; Masters, CL ; Hill, AF ; Barnham, KJ ; Collins, SJ (PORTLAND PRESS LTD, 2014-04-01)
    Misfolding of PrPC (cellular prion protein) to β-strand-rich conformations constitutes a key event in prion disease pathogenesis. PrPC can undergo either of two constitutive endoproteolytic events known as α- and β-cleavage, yielding C-terminal fragments known as C1 and C2 respectively. It is unclear whether C-terminal fragments generated through α- and β-cleavage, especially C2, influence pathogenesis directly. Consequently, we compared the biophysical properties and neurotoxicity of recombinant human PrP fragments recapitulating α- and β-cleavage, namely huPrP-(112-231) (equating to C1) and huPrP-(90-231) (equating to C2). Under conditions we employed, huPrP-(112-231) could not be induced to fold into a β-stranded isoform and neurotoxicity was not a feature for monomeric or multimeric assemblies. In contrast, huPrP-(90-231) easily adopted a β-strand conformation, demonstrated considerable thermostability and was toxic to neurons. Synthetic PrP peptides modelled on α- and β-cleavage of the unique Y145STOP (Tyr145→stop) mutant prion protein corroborated the differential toxicity observed for recombinant huPrP-(112-231) and huPrP-(90-231) and suggested that the persistence of soluble oligomeric β-strand-rich conformers was required for significant neurotoxicity. Our results additionally indicate that α- and β-cleavage of PrPC generate biophysically and biologically non-equivalent C-terminal fragments and that C1 generated through α-cleavage appears to be pathogenesis-averse.
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    Pathogenic Mutations within the Hydrophobic Domain of the Prion Protein Lead to the Formation of Protease-Sensitive Prion Species with Increased Lethality
    Coleman, BM ; Harrison, CF ; Guo, B ; Masters, CL ; Barnham, KJ ; Lawson, VA ; Hill, AF ; Caughey, BW (AMER SOC MICROBIOLOGY, 2014-03-01)
    UNLABELLED: Prion diseases are a group of fatal and incurable neurodegenerative diseases affecting both humans and animals. The principal mechanism of these diseases involves the misfolding the host-encoded cellular prion protein, PrP(C), into the disease-associated isoform, PrP(Sc). Familial forms of human prion disease include those associated with the mutations G114V and A117V, which lie in the hydrophobic domain of PrP. Here we have studied the murine homologues (G113V and A116V) of these mutations using cell-based and animal models of prion infection. Under normal circumstances, the mutant forms of PrP(C) share similar processing, cellular localization, and physicochemical properties with wild-type mouse PrP (MoPrP). However, upon exposure of susceptible cell lines expressing these mutants to infectious prions, very low levels of protease-resistant aggregated PrP(Sc) are formed. Subsequent mouse bioassay revealed high levels of infectivity present in these cells. Thus, these mutations appear to limit the formation of aggregated PrP(Sc), giving rise to the accumulation of a relatively soluble, protease sensitive, prion species that is highly neurotoxic. Given that these mutations lie next to the glycine-rich region of PrP that can abrogate prion infection, these findings provide further support for small, protease-sensitive prion species having a significant role in the progression of prion disease and that the hydrophobic domain is an important determinant of PrP conversion. IMPORTANCE: Prion diseases are transmissible neurodegenerative diseases associated with an infectious agent called a prion. Prions are comprised of an abnormally folded form of the prion protein (PrP) that is normally resistant to enzymes called proteases. In humans, prion disease can occur in individuals who inherited mutations in the prion protein gene. Here we have studied the effects of two of these mutations and show that they influence the properties of the prions that can be formed. We show that the mutants make highly infectious prions that are more sensitive to protease treatment. This study highlights a certain region of the prion protein as being involved in this effect and demonstrates that prions are not always resistant to protease treatment.
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    Prion subcellular fractionation reveals infectivity spectrum, with a high titre-low PrPres level disparity
    Lewis, V ; Haigh, CL ; Masters, CL ; Hill, AF ; Lawson, VA ; Collins, SJ (BMC, 2012-04-26)
    BACKGROUND: Prion disease transmission and pathogenesis are linked to misfolded, typically protease resistant (PrPres) conformers of the normal cellular prion protein (PrPC), with the former posited to be the principal constituent of the infectious 'prion'. Unexplained discrepancies observed between detectable PrPres and infectivity levels exemplify the complexity in deciphering the exact biophysical nature of prions and those host cell factors, if any, which contribute to transmission efficiency. In order to improve our understanding of these important issues, this study utilized a bioassay validated cell culture model of prion infection to investigate discordance between PrPres levels and infectivity titres at a subcellular resolution. FINDINGS: Subcellular fractions enriched in lipid rafts or endoplasmic reticulum/mitochondrial marker proteins were equally highly efficient at prion transmission, despite lipid raft fractions containing up to eight times the levels of detectable PrPres. Brain homogenate infectivity was not differentially enhanced by subcellular fraction-specific co-factors, and proteinase K pre-treatment of selected fractions modestly, but equally reduced infectivity. Only lipid raft associated infectivity was enhanced by sonication. CONCLUSIONS: This study authenticates a subcellular disparity in PrPres and infectivity levels, and eliminates simultaneous divergence of prion strains as the explanation for this phenomenon. On balance, the results align best with the concept that transmission efficiency is influenced more by intrinsic characteristics of the infectious prion, rather than cellular microenvironment conditions or absolute PrPres levels.