Free D-aspartate triggers NMDA receptor-dependent cell death in primary cortical neurons and perturbs JNK activation, Tau phosphorylation, and protein SUMOylation in the cerebral cortex of mice lacking D-aspartate oxidase activity

Tommaso Nuzzo, Marco Feligioni, Luigia Cristino, Ilaria Pagano, Serena Marcelli, Filomena Iannuzzi, Roberta Imperatore, Livia D'Angelo, Carla Petrella, Massimo Carella, Loredano Pollegioni, Silvia Sacchi, Daniela Punzo, Paolo De Girolamo, Francesco Errico, Nadia Canu, Alessandro Usiello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In mammals, free D-aspartate (D-Asp) is abundant in the embryonic brain, while levels remain very low during adulthood as a result of the postnatal expression and activity of the catabolizing enzyme D-aspartate oxidase (DDO). Previous studies have shown that long-lasting exposure to nonphysiological, higher D-Asp concentrations in Ddo knockout (Ddo −/− ) mice elicits a precocious decay of synaptic plasticity and cognitive functions, along with a dramatic age-dependent expression of active caspase 3, associated with increased cell death in different brain regions, including hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and substantia nigra pars compacta. Here, we investigate the yet unclear molecular and cellular events associated with the exposure of abnormally high D-Asp concentrations in cortical primary neurons and in the brain of Ddo −/− mice. For the first time, our in vitro findings document that D-Asp induces in a time-, dose-, and NMDA receptor-dependent manner alterations in JNK and Tau phosphorylation levels, associated with pronounced cell death in primary cortical neurons. Moreover, observations obtained in Ddo −/− animals confirmed that high in vivo levels of D-Asp altered cortical JNK signaling, Tau phosphorylation and enhanced protein SUMOylation, indicating a robust indirect role of DDO activity in regulating these biochemical NMDA receptor-related processes. Finally, no gross modifications in D-Asp concentrations and DDO mRNA expression were detected in the cortex of patients with Alzheimer's disease when compared to age-matched healthy controls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-65
Number of pages15
JournalExperimental Neurology
Volume317
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2019

Keywords

  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • D-aspartate
  • D-aspartate oxidase
  • JNK
  • Mouse models
  • NMDA receptor
  • SUMOylation
  • Tau
  • β-Amiloyd

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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