Table of contents

Volume 2, Issue 11, pp. 282 - 331, November 2018

Issue cover
Cover: This month in Cell Stress: Gamma secretase in Alzheimer's disease. Image depicts a transmembrane surface display of the human gamma-secretase structure. Image from the RCSB PDB of PDB ID 5A63 by Bai, X., Yan, C., Yang, G., Lu, P., Ma, D., Sun, L., Zhou, R., Scheres, S.H.W., Shi, Y. (2015) Cryo-EM structure of the human gamma-secretase complex at 3.4 angstrom resolution. Nature 525: 212. Background image from Images modified by Cell Stress. The cover is published under the CC BY 4.0 license. Enlarge issue cover


Mechanisms and therapeutic significance of autophagy modulation by antipsychotic drugs

Ljubica Vucicevic, Maja Misirkic-Marjanovic, Ljubica Harhaji-Trajkovic, Nadja Maric and Vladimir Trajkovic

page 282-291 | 10.15698/cst2018.11.161 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

In this review we analyze the ability of antipsychotic medications to modulate macroautophagy, a process of controlled lysosomal digestion of cellular macromolecules and organelles. We focus on its molecular mechanisms, consequences for the function/survival of neuronal and other cells, and the contribution to the beneficial and side-effects of antipsychotics in the treatment of schizophrenia, neurodegeneration, and cancer. A wide range of antipsychotics was able to induce neuronal autophagy as a part of the adaptive stress response apparently independent of mammalian target of rapamycin and dopamine receptor blockade. Autophagy induction by antipsychotics could contribute to reducing neuronal dysfunction in schizophrenia, but also to the adverse effects associated with their long-term use, such as brain volume loss and weight gain. In neurodegenerative diseases, antipsychotic-stimulated autophagy might help to increase the clearance and reduce neurotoxicity of aggregated proteotoxins. However, the possibility that some antipsychotics might block autophagic flux and potentially contribute to proteotoxin-mediated neurodegeneration must be considered. Finally, the anticancer effects of autophagy induction by antipsychotics make plausible their repurposing as adjuncts to standard cancer therapy.

Making the final cut: pathogenic amyloid-β peptide generation by γ-secretase

Harald Steiner, Akio Fukumori, Shinji Tagami and Masayasu Okochi

page 292-310 | 10.15698/cst2018.11.162 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Alzheimer´s disease (AD) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease of the elderly population. Genetic evidence strongly suggests that aberrant generation and/or clearance of the neurotoxic amyloid-β peptide (Aβ) is triggering the disease. Aβ is generated from the amyloid precursor protein (APP) by the sequential cleavages of β- and γ-secretase. The latter cleavage by γ-secretase, a unique and fascinating four-component protease complex, occurs in the APP transmembrane domain thereby releasing Aβ species of 37-43 amino acids in length including the longer, highly pathogenic peptides Aβ42 and Aβ43. The lack of a precise understanding of Aβ generation as well as of the functions of other γ-secretase substrates has been one factor underlying the disappointing failure of γ-secretase inhibitors in clinical trials, but on the other side also been a major driving force for structural and in depth mechanistic studies on this key AD drug target in the past few years. Here we review recent breakthroughs in our understanding of how the γ-secretase complex recognizes substrates, of how it binds and processes β-secretase cleaved APP into different Aβ species, as well as the progress made on a question of outstanding interest, namely how clinical AD mutations in the catalytic subunit presenilin and the γ-secretase cleavage region of APP lead to relative increases of Aβ42/43. Finally, we discuss how the knowledge emerging from these studies could be used to therapeutically target this enzyme in a safe way.

Research Articles

p38β MAPK mediates ULK1-dependent induction of autophagy in skeletal muscle of tumor-bearing mice

Zhelong Liu, Ka Wai Thomas Sin, Hui Ding, HoangAnh Amy Doan, Song Gao, Hongyu Miao, Yahui Wei, Yiman Wang, Guohua Zhang, and Yi-Ping Li

page 311-324 | 10.15698/cst2018.11.163 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Muscle wasting is the key manifestation of cancer-associated cachexia, a lethal metabolic disorder seen in over 50% of cancer patients. Autophagy is activated in cachectic muscle of cancer hosts along with the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway (UPP), contributing to accelerated protein degradation and muscle wasting. However, established signaling mechanism that activates autophagy in response to fasting or denervation does not seem to mediate cancer-provoked autophagy in skeletal myocytes. Here, we show that p38β MAPK mediates autophagy activation in cachectic muscle of tumor-bearing mice via novel mechanisms. Complementary genetic and pharmacological manipulations reveal that activation of p38β MAPK, but not p38α MAPK, is necessary and sufficient for Lewis lung carcinoma (LLC)-induced autophagy activation in skeletal muscle cells. Particularly, muscle-specific knockout of p38β MAPK abrogates LLC tumor-induced activation of autophagy and UPP, sparing tumor-bearing mice from muscle wasting. Mechanistically, p38β MAPK-mediated activation of transcription factor C/EBPβ is required for LLC-induced autophagy activation, and upregulation of autophagy-related genes LC3b and Gabarapl1. Surprisingly, ULK1 activation (phosphorylation at S555) by cancer requires p38β MAPK, rather than AMPK. Activated ULK1 forms a complex with p38β MAPK in myocytes, which is markedly increased by a tumor burden. Overexpression of a constitutively active p38β MAPK in HEK293 cells increases phosphorylation at S555 and other amino acid residues of ULK1, but not several of AMPK-mediated sites. Finally, ULK1 activation is abrogated in tumor-bearing mice with muscle-specific knockout of p38β MAPK. Thus, p38β MAPK appears a key mediator of cancer-provoked autophagy activation, and a therapeutic target of cancer-induced muscle wasting.


Attenuating MKRN1 E3 ligase-mediated AMPKα suppression increases tolerance against metabolic stresses in mice

Hyunji Han, Sehyun Chae, Daehee Hwang and Jaewhan Song

page 325-328 | 10.15698/cst2018.11.164 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

The 5′ adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is an essential energy sensor in the cell, which, at low energy levels, instigates the cellular energy-generating systems along with suppression of the anabolic signaling pathways. The activation of AMPK through phosphorylation is a well-known process; however, activation alone is not sufficient, and knowledge about the other regulatory networks of post-translational modifications connecting the activities of AMPK to systemic metabolic syndromes is important, which is still lacking. The recent studies on Makorin Ring Finger Protein 1 (MKRN1) mediating the ubiquitination and proteasome-dependent degradation of AMPKa implicate that the post-translational modification of AMPK, regulating its protein homeostasis, could impose significant systemic metabolic effects (Lee et al. Nat Commun 9:3404). In this study, MKRN1 was identified as a novel E3 ligase for both AMPKα1 and α2. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts, genetically deleted for Mkrmn1, and Ampkα1 and α2, became stabilized with the suppression of lipogenesis pathways and an increase in nutrient consumption and mitochondria regeneration. Of note, the Mkrn1 knockout mice fed normal chow displayed no obvious phenotypic defects or abnormality, whereas the Mkrn1-null mice exhibited strong tolerance to metabolic stresses induced by high-fat diet (HFD). Thus, these mice, when compared with the HFD-induced wild type, were resistant to obesity, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Interestingly, in whole-body Mkrn1 knockout mouse, only the liver and white and brown adipose tissues displayed anincrease in the active phosphorylated AMPK levels, but no other organs, such as the hypothalamus, skeletal muscles, or pancreas, displayed such increases. Specific ablation of MKRN1 in the mouse liver using adenovirus prevented HFD-induced lipid accumulation in the liver and blood, implicating MKRN1 as a possible therapeutic target for metabolic syndromes, such as obesity, type II diabetes, and fat liver diseases. This study would provide a crucial perspective on the importance of post-translational regulation of AMPK in metabolic pathways and will help researchers develop novel therapeutic strategies that target not only AMPK but also its regulators.

p53 and energy balance: meeting hypothalamic AgRP neurons

Omar Al-Massadi, Mar Quiñones, Ruben Nogueiras

page 329-331 | 10.15698/cst2018.11.165 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Cancer cells feature strong metabolic changes to cope with the high energy demand for cell growth and division. Given the importance of metabolic reprogramming in tumor development, it seems logical that tumor suppressors and oncogenes are also regulating the molecular pathways controlling these processes. The p53 tumor suppressor gene has been extensively studied for its role in responding to DNA damage, hypoxia, and oncogenic activation. During the last years, we have learnt that p53 has also the capacity to modulate metabolic changes in cells by regulating a large variety of pathways such as glycolysis, oxidative phosphorylation or fatty acid metabolism. Our group has recently found that the lack of p53 in AgRP neurons, but not POMC neurons, causes that mice are more prone to develop diet-induced obesity (Nat Commun. 9(1):3432). The reason for this is that these mice showed a late increase in food intake and especially because they had a reduced thermogenic activity in BAT. The mechanism modulating these actions involves the upregulation of MKK7 that activates c-Jun N-terminal kinase.

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