Florey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 1466
Autophagy in neurodegeneration: New insights underpinning therapy for neurological diseases
In autophagy long-lived proteins, protein aggregates or damaged organelles are engulfed by vesicles called autophagosomes prior to lysosomal degradation. Autophagy dysfunction is a hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases in which misfolded proteins or dysfunctional mitochondria accumulate. Excessive autophagy can also exacerbate brain injury under certain conditions. In this review, we provide specific examples to illustrate the critical role played by autophagy in pathological conditions affecting the brain and discuss potential therapeutic implications. We show how a singular type of autophagy-dependent cell death termed autosis has attracted attention as a promising target for improving outcomes in perinatal asphyxia and hypoxic-ischaemic injury to the immature brain. We provide evidence that autophagy inhibition may be protective against radiotherapy-induced damage to the young brain. We describe a specialized form of macroautophagy of therapeutic relevance for motoneuron and neuromuscular diseases, known as chaperone-assisted selective autophagy, in which heat shock protein B8 is used to deliver aberrant proteins to autophagosomes. We summarize studies pinpointing mitophagy mediated by the serine/threonine kinase PINK1 and the ubiquitin-protein ligase Parkin as a mechanism potentially relevant to Parkinson's disease, despite debate over the physiological conditions in which it is activated in organisms. Finally, with the example of the autophagy-inducing agent rilmenidine and its discrepant effects in cell culture and mouse models of motor neuron disorders, we illustrate the importance of considering aspects such a disease stage and aggressiveness, type of insult and load of damaged or toxic cellular components, when choosing the appropriate drug, timepoint and duration of treatment.
Learning and reaction times in mouse touchscreen tests are differentially impacted by mutations in genes encoding postsynaptic interacting proteins SYNGAP1, NLGN3, DLGAP1, DLGAP2 and SHANK2
The postsynaptic terminal of vertebrate excitatory synapses contains a highly conserved multiprotein complex that comprises neurotransmitter receptors, cell-adhesion molecules, scaffold proteins and enzymes, which are essential for brain signalling and plasticity underlying behaviour. Increasingly, mutations in genes that encode postsynaptic proteins belonging to the PSD-95 protein complex, continue to be identified in neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) such as autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability and epilepsy. These disorders are highly heterogeneous, sharing genetic aetiology and comorbid cognitive and behavioural symptoms. Here, by using genetically engineered mice and innovative touchscreen-based cognitive testing, we sought to investigate whether loss-of-function mutations in genes encoding key interactors of the PSD-95 protein complex display shared phenotypes in associative learning, updating of learned associations and reaction times. Our genetic dissection of mice with loss-of-function mutations in Syngap1, Nlgn3, Dlgap1, Dlgap2 and Shank2 showed that distinct components of the PSD-95 protein complex differentially regulate learning, cognitive flexibility and reaction times in cognitive processing. These data provide insights for understanding how human mutations in these genes lead to the manifestation of diverse and complex phenotypes in NDDs.
Polypharmacy, functional outcome and treatment effect of intravenous alteplase for acute ischaemic stroke
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Polypharmacy is an important challenge in clinical practice. Our aim was to determine the effect of polypharmacy on functional outcome and treatment effect of alteplase in acute ischaemic stroke. METHODS: This was a post hoc analysis of the randomized, placebo-controlled WAKE-UP trial of magnetic resonance imaging guided intravenous alteplase in unknown onset stroke. Polypharmacy was defined as an intake of five or more medications at baseline. Comorbidities were assessed by the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI). The primary efficacy variable was favourable outcome defined by a score of 0-1 on the modified Rankin Scale at 90 days. Logistic regression analysis was used to test for an association of polypharmacy with functional outcome, and for interaction of polypharmacy and the effect of thrombolysis. RESULTS: Polypharmacy was present in 133/503 (26%) patients. Patients with polypharmacy were older (mean age 70 vs. 64 years; p < 0.0001) and had a higher score on the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale at baseline (median 7 vs. 5; p = 0.0007). A comorbidity load defined by a CCI score ≥ 2 was more frequent in patients with polypharmacy (48% vs. 8%; p < 0.001). Polypharmacy was associated with lower odds of favourable outcome (adjusted odds ratio 0.50, 95% confidence interval 0.30-0.85; p = 0.0099), whilst the CCI score was not. Treatment with alteplase was associated with higher odds of favourable outcome in both groups, with no heterogeneity of treatment effect (test for interaction of treatment and polypharmacy, p = 0.29). CONCLUSION: In stroke patients, polypharmacy is associated with worse functional outcome after intravenous thrombolysis independent of comorbidities. However, polypharmacy does not interact with the beneficial effect of alteplase.
Iron accumulation in skeletal muscles of old mice is associated with impaired regeneration after ischaemia-reperfusion damage
BACKGROUND: Oxidative stress is implicated in the insidious loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with age. However, few studies have investigated the role of iron, which is elevated during ageing, in age-related muscle wasting and blunted repair after injury. We hypothesized that iron accumulation leads to membrane lipid peroxidation, muscle wasting, increased susceptibility to injury, and impaired muscle regeneration. METHODS: To examine the role of iron in age-related muscle atrophy, we compared the skeletal muscles of 3-month-old with 22- to 24-month-old 129SvEv FVBM mice. We assessed iron distribution and total elemental iron using laser ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and Perls' stain on skeletal muscle cross-sections. In addition, old mice underwent ischaemia-reperfusion (IR) injury (90 min ischaemia), and muscle regeneration was assessed 14 days after injury. Immunoblotting was used to determine lipid peroxidation (4HNE) and iron-related proteins. To determine whether muscle iron content can be altered, old mice were treated with deferiprone (DFP) in the drinking water, and we assessed its effects on muscle regeneration after injury. RESULTS: We observed a significant increase in total elemental iron (+43%, P < 0.05) and lipid peroxidation (4HNE: +76%, P < 0.05) in tibialis anterior muscles of old mice. Iron was further increased after injury (adult: +81%, old: +135%, P < 0.05) and associated with increased lipid peroxidation (+41%, P < 0.05). Administration of DFP did not impact iron or measures of lipid peroxidation in skeletal muscle or modulate muscle mass. Increased muscle iron concentration and lipid peroxidation were associated with less efficient regeneration, evident from the smaller fibres in cross-sections of tibialis anterior muscles (-24%, P < 0.05) and an increased percentage of fibres with centralized nuclei (+4124%, P < 0.05) in muscles of old compared with adult mice. Administration of DFP lowered iron after IR injury (PRE: -32%, P < 0.05 and POST: -41%, P < 0.05), but did not translate to structural improvements. CONCLUSIONS: Muscles from old mice have increased iron levels, which are associated with increased lipid peroxidation, increased susceptibility to IR injury, and impaired muscle regeneration. Our results suggest that iron is involved in effective muscle regeneration, highlighting the importance of iron homeostasis in muscle atrophy and muscle repair.
Functional correlates of motor control impairments in multiple sclerosis: A 7 Tesla task functional MRI study
Upper and lower limb impairments are common in people with multiple sclerosis (pwMS), yet difficult to clinically identify in early stages of disease progression. Tasks involving complex motor control can potentially reveal more subtle deficits in early stages, and can be performed during functional MRI (fMRI) acquisition, to investigate underlying neural mechanisms, providing markers for early motor progression. We investigated brain activation during visually guided force matching of hand or foot in 28 minimally disabled pwMS (Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) < 4 and pyramidal and cerebellar Kurtzke Functional Systems Scores ≤ 2) and 17 healthy controls (HC) using ultra-high field 7-Tesla fMRI, allowing us to visualise sensorimotor network activity in high detail. Task activations and performance (tracking lag and error) were compared between groups, and correlations were performed. PwMS showed delayed (+124 s, p = .002) and more erroneous (+0.15 N, p = .001) lower limb tracking, together with lower cerebellar, occipital and superior parietal cortical activation compared to HC. Lower activity within these regions correlated with worse EDSS (p = .034), lower force error (p = .006) and higher lesion load (p < .05). Despite no differences in upper limb task performance, pwMS displayed lower inferior occipital cortical activation. These results demonstrate that ultra-high field fMRI during complex hand and foot tracking can identify subtle impairments in lower limb movements and upper and lower limb brain activity, and differentiates upper and lower limb impairments in minimally disabled pwMS.
Relationship between amyloid and tau levels and its impact on tau spreading
PURPOSE: Previous studies have shown that Aβ-amyloid (Aβ) likely promotes tau to spread beyond the medial temporal lobe. However, the Aβ levels necessary for tau to spread in the neocortex is still unclear. METHODS: Four hundred sixty-six participants underwent tau imaging with [18F]MK6420 and Aβ imaging with [18F]NAV4694. Aβ scans were quantified on the Centiloid (CL) scale with a cut-off of 25 CL for abnormal levels of Aβ (A+). Tau scans were quantified in three regions of interest (ROI) (mesial temporal (Me); temporoparietal neocortex (Te); and rest of neocortex (R)) and four mesial temporal region (entorhinal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and parahippocampus). Regional tau thresholds were established as the 95%ile of the cognitively unimpaired A- subjects. The prevalence of abnormal tau levels (T+) along the Centiloid continuum was determined. RESULTS: The plots of prevalence of T+ show earlier and greater increase along the Centiloid continuum in the medial temporal area compared to neocortex. Prevalence of T+ was low but associated with Aβ level between 10 and 40 CL reaching 23% in Me, 15% in Te, and 11% in R. Between 40 and 70 CL, the prevalence of T+ subjects per CL increased fourfold faster and at 70 CL was 64% in Me, 51% in Te, and 37% in R. In cognitively unimpaired, there were no T+ in R below 50 CL. The highest prevalence of T+ were found in the entorhinal cortex, reaching 40% at 40 CL and 80% at 60 CL. CONCLUSION: Outside the entorhinal cortex, abnormal levels of cortical tau on PET are rarely found with Aβ below 40 CL. Above 40 CL prevalence of T+ accelerates in all areas. Moderate Aβ levels are required before abnormal neocortical tau becomes detectable.
Apathy in small vessel cerebrovascular disease is associated with deficits in effort-based decision making.
(Oxford University Press (OUP), 2021-03-18)
Patients with small vessel cerebrovascular disease frequently suffer from apathy, a debilitating neuropsychiatric syndrome, the underlying mechanisms of which remain to be established. Here we investigated the hypothesis that apathy is associated with disrupted decision making in effort-based decision making, and that these alterations are associated with abnormalities in the white matter network connecting brain regions that underpin such decisions. Eighty-two patients with MRI evidence of small vessel disease were assessed using a behavioural paradigm as well as diffusion weighted MRI. The decision-making task involved accepting or rejecting monetary rewards in return for performing different levels of physical effort (hand grip force). Choice data and reaction times were integrated into a drift diffusion model that framed decisions to accept or reject offers as stochastic processes approaching a decision boundary with a particular drift rate. Tract-based spatial statistics were used to assess the relationship between white matter tract integrity and apathy, while accounting for depression. Overall, patients with apathy accepted significantly fewer offers on this decision-making task. Notably, while apathetic patients were less responsive to low rewards, they were also significantly averse to investing in high effort. Significant reductions in white matter integrity were observed to be specifically related to apathy, but not to depression. These included pathways connecting brain regions previously implicated in effort-based decision making in healthy people. The drift rate to decision parameter was significantly associated with both apathy and altered white matter tracts, suggesting that both brain and behavioural changes in apathy are associated with this single parameter. On the other hand, depression was associated with an increase in the decision boundary, consistent with an increase in the amount of evidence required prior to making a decision. These findings demonstrate altered effort-based decision making for reward in apathy, and also highlight dissociable mechanisms underlying apathy and depression in small vessel disease. They provide clear potential brain and behavioural targets for future therapeutic interventions, as well as modelling parameters that can be used to measure the effects of treatment at the behavioural level.
Recovery of upper limb function is greatest early after stroke but does continue to improve during the chronic phase: a two-year, observational study
(ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2020-06-01)
OBJECTIVES: Investigate upper limb (UL) capacity and performance from <14-days to 24-months post stroke. DESIGN: Longitudinal study of participants with acute stroke, assessed ≤14-days, 6-weeks, 3-, 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-months post stroke. SETTING: Two acute stroke units. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Examination of UL capacity using Chedoke McMaster Stroke Assessment (combined arm and hand scores, 0-14), performance using Motor Activity Log (amount of movement and quality of movement, scored 0-5), and grip strength (kg) using Jamar dynamometer. Random effects regression models were performed to explore the change in outcomes at each time point. Routine clinical imaging was used to describe stroke location as cortical, subcortical or mixed. RESULTS: Thirty-four participants were enrolled: median age 67.7 years (IQR 60.7-76.2), NIHSS 11.5 (IQR 8.5-16), female n=10 (36%). The monthly rate of change for all measures was consistently greatest in the 6-weeks post baseline. On average, significant improvements were observed to 12-months in amount of use (median improvement 1.81, 95% CI 1.35 to 2.27) and strength (median improvement 8.29, 95% CI 5.90 to 10.67); while motor capacity (median improvement 4.70, 95% CI 3.8 to 5.6) and quality of movement (median improvement 1.83, 95% CI 1.37 to 2.3) improved to 18-months post stroke. Some individuals were still demonstrating gains at 24-months post stroke within each stroke location group. CONCLUSION: This study highlights that the greatest rate of improvement of UL capacity and performance occurs early post stroke. At the group level, improvements were evident at 12- to 18-months post stroke, but at the individual level improvements were observed at 24-months. CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: ACTRN12612000123842.
Probing the correlation between ligand efficacy and conformational diversity at the ?(1A)-adrenoreceptor reveals allosteric coupling of its microswitches
(American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2020-05-22)
G protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs) use a series of conserved microswitches to transmit signals across the cell membrane via an allosteric network encompassing the ligand-binding site and the G protein-binding site. Crystal structures of GPCRs provide snapshots of their inactive and active states, but poorly describe the conformational dynamics of the allosteric network that underlies GPCR activation. Here, we analyzed the correlation between ligand binding and receptor conformation of the α1A-adrenoreceptor, a GPCR that stimulates smooth muscle contraction in response to binding noradrenaline. NMR of [13CϵH3]methionine-labeled α1A-adrenoreceptor variants, each exhibiting differing signaling capacities, revealed how different classes of ligands modulate the conformational equilibria of this receptor. [13CϵH3]Methionine residues near the microswitches exhibited distinct states that correlated with ligand efficacies, supporting a conformational selection mechanism. We propose that allosteric coupling among the microswitches controls the conformation of the α1A-adrenoreceptor and underlies the mechanism of ligand modulation of GPCR signaling in cells.
Human Olfaction without Apparent Olfactory Bulbs
(CELL PRESS, 2020-01-08)
The olfactory bulbs (OBs) are the first site of odor representation in the mammalian brain, and their unique ultrastructure is considered a necessary substrate for spatiotemporal coding of smell. Given this, we were struck by the serendipitous observation at MRI of two otherwise healthy young left-handed women, yet with no apparent OBs. Standardized tests revealed normal odor awareness, detection, discrimination, identification, and representation. Functional MRI of these women's brains revealed that odorant-induced activity in piriform cortex, the primary OB target, was similar in its extent to that of intact controls. Finally, review of a public brain-MRI database with 1,113 participants (606 women) also tested for olfactory performance, uncovered olfaction without anatomically defined OBs in ∼0.6% of women and ∼4.25% of left-handed women. Thus, humans can perform the basic facets of olfaction without canonical OBs, implying extreme plasticity in the functional neuroanatomy of this sensory system.
Use of a physiological reflex to standardize vagal nerve stimulation intensity improves data reproducibility in a memory extinction assay
(ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC, 2021-03-01)
BACKGROUND: Modulating brainstem activity, via electrical vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), influences cognitive functions, including memory. However, controlling for changes in stimulus efficacy during chronic studies, and response variability between subjects, is problematic. OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesized that recruitment of an autonomic reflex, the Hering-Breuer reflex, would provide robust confirmation of VNS efficacy. We compared this to measurement of electrode resistance over time. We also examined whether VNS modulates contextual memory extinction. METHODS: Electrodes for VNS and diaphragm electromyography recording were implanted into anesthetized Sprague Dawley rats. When conscious, we measured the electrode resistance as well as the minimum VNS current required to evoke the Hering-Breuer reflex, before, and after, an inhibitory avoidance assay - a two chamber, dark/light model, where the dark compartment was paired with an aversive foot shock. The extinction of this contextual memory was assessed in sham and VNS treated rats, with VNS administered for 30 s at 1.5 times the Hering-Breuer reflex threshold during extinction memory formation. RESULTS: Assessment of VNS-evoked Hering-Breuer reflex successfully identified defective electrodes. VNS accelerated extinction memory and decreased multiple physiological metrics of fear expression. We observed an inverse relationship between memory extinction and respiratory rate during the behavioural assay. Additionally, no current - response relationship between VNS and extinction memory formation was established. CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate that reliable, experimental VNS studies can be produced by verifying reflex initiation as a consequence of stimulation. Further, studies could be standardised by indexing stimulator efficacy to initiation of autonomic reflexes.
Expert Panel Survey to Update the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Definition of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.
(Elsevier BV, 2021-01)
OBJECTIVE: As part of an initiative led by the Brain Injury Special Interest Group Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Task Force of the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine (ACRM) to update the 1993 ACRM definition of mild TBI, the present study aimed to characterize current expert opinion on diagnostic considerations. DESIGN: Cross-sectional web-based survey. SETTING: Not applicable. PARTICIPANTS: An international, interdisciplinary group of clinician-scientists (N=31) with expertise in mild TBI completed the survey by invitation between May and July 2019 (100% completion rate). INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Ratings of agreement with statements related to the diagnosis of mild TBI and ratings of the importance of various clinical signs, symptoms, test findings, and contextual factors for increasing the likelihood that the individual sustained a mild TBI, on a scale ranging from 1 ("not at all important") to 10 ("extremely important"). RESULTS: Men (n=25; 81%) and Americans (n=21; 68%) were over-represented in the sample. The survey revealed areas of expert agreement (eg, acute symptoms are diagnostically useful) and disagreement (eg, whether mild TBI with abnormal structural neuroimaging should be considered the same diagnostic entity as "concussion"). Observable signs were generally rated as more diagnostically important than subjective symptoms (Wilcoxon signed ranks test, Z=3.77; P<.001; r=0.68). Diagnostic importance ratings for individual symptoms varied widely, with some common postconcussion symptoms (eg, fatigue) rated as unhelpful (<75% of respondents indicated at least 5 out of 10 importance). Certain acute test findings (eg, cognitive and balance impairments) and contextual factors (eg, absence of confounds) were consistently rated as highly important for increasing the likelihood of a mild TBI diagnosis (≥75% of respondents indicated at least 7 out of 10). CONCLUSIONS: The expert survey findings identified several potential revisions to consider when updating the ACRM mild TBI definition, including preferentially weighing observable signs in a probabilistic framework, incorporating symptoms and test findings, and adding differential diagnosis considerations.