One of the proteins most frequently found in neuropathological lesions is the ubiquitin binding protein p62 (sequestosome 1). Post-mortem analysis of p62 is a defining diagnostic marker in several neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and inclusion body myositis. Since p62 functions in protein degradation pathways including autophagy, the build-up of p62-positive inclusions suggests defects in protein clearance. p62 was expressed unilaterally in the rat substantia nigra with an adeno-associated virus vector (AAV9) in order to study p62 neuropathology. Inclusions formed within neurons from several days to several weeks after gene transfer. By electron microscopy, the inclusions were found to contain packed 10 nm thick filaments, and mitochondria cristae structure was disrupted, resulting in the formation of empty spaces. In corollary cell culture transfections, p62 clearly impaired mitochondrial function. To probe for potential effects on macroautophagy, we co-expressed p62 with a double fluorescent tagged reporter for the autophagosome protein LC3 in the rat. p62 induced a dramatic and specific dissociation of the two tags. By 12 weeks, a rotational behavior phenotype manifested, consistent with a significant loss of dopaminergic neurons analyzed post-mortem. p62 overexpression resulted in a progressive and robust pathology model with neuronal inclusions and neurodegeneration. p62 gene transfer could be a novel methodological probe to disrupt mitochondrial function or autophagy in the brain and other tissues in vivo.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences