We have identified several growth factors and cytokines that can protect neurons against dysfunction and death in experimental models of Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease and stroke. These trophic factors activate signaling pathways that stimulate the expression of genes whose encoded proteins increase resistance of neurons to oxidative and metabolic stress. Neuroprotective Actions of BDNF. We have found that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a key mediator of the neuroprotective effects of dietary restriction in animal models of Parkinsons and Huntingtons diseases. Parkinson's disease (PD) patients often exhibit impaired regulation of heart rate by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that may precede motor symptoms in many cases. Results of autopsy studies suggest that brainstem pathology, including the accumulation of -synuclein, precedes damage to dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra in PD. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for the early dysfunction of brainstem autonomic neurons are unknown. Here we report that mice expressing a mutant form of -synuclein that causes familial PD exhibit aberrant autonomic control of the heart characterized by elevated resting heart rate and an impaired cardiovascular stress response, associated with reduced parasympathetic activity and accumulation of -synuclein in the brainstem. These ANS abnormalities occur early in the disease process. Adverse effects of -synuclein on the control of heart rate are exacerbated by a high energy diet and ameliorated by intermittent energy restriction. Our findings establish a mouse model of early dysregulation of brainstem control of the cardiovascular system in PD, and further suggest the potential for energy restriction to attenuate ANS dysfunction, particularly in overweight individuals. The Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling pathway is well known in patterning of the neural tube during embryonic development, but its emerging role in differentiated neurons is less understood. Here we report that Shh enhances autophagy in cultured hippocampal neurons. Microarray analysis reveals the upregulation of multiple autophagy-related genes in neurons in response to Shh application. Through analysis of the autophagy-marker LC3 by immunoblot analysis and immunocytochemistry, we confirm activation of the autophagy pathway in Shh-exposed neurons. Using electron microscopy, we find autophagosomes and associated structures with a wide range of morphologies in synaptic terminals of Shh-exposed neurons. Moreover, we show that Shh-triggered autophagy depends on class III Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complexes (PtdIns3K). These results identify a link between Shh and autophagy pathways and, importantly, provide a lead for further understanding the physiology of Shh signaling activity in neurons. Alzheimer's disease (AD) involves progressive accumulation of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) and neurofibrillary pathologies, and glucose hypometabolism in brain regions critical for memory. The 3xTgAD mouse model was used to test the hypothesis that a ketone ester-based diet can ameliorate AD pathogenesis. Beginning at a presymptomatic age, 2 groups of male 3xTgAD mice were fed a diet containing a physiological enantiomeric precursor of ketone bodies (KET) or an isocaloric carbohydrate diet. The results of behavioral tests performed at 4 and 7 months after diet initiation revealed that KET-fed mice exhibited significantly less anxiety in 2 different tests. 3xTgAD mice on the KET diet also exhibited significant, albeit relatively subtle, improvements in performance on learning and memory tests. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed that KET-fed mice exhibited decreased Aβdeposition in the subiculum, CA1 and CA3 regions of the hippocampus, and the amygdala. KET-fed mice exhibited reduced levels of hyperphosphorylated tau deposition in the same regions of the hippocampus, amygdala, and cortex. Thus, a novel ketone ester can ameliorate proteopathic and behavioral deficits in a mouse AD model. The formation, maintenance and reorganization of synapses are critical for brain development and the responses of neuronal circuits to environmental challenges. Here we describe a novel role for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γco-activator 1α, a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, in the formation and maintenance of dendritic spines in hippocampal neurons. In cultured hippocampal neurons, proliferator-activated receptor γco-activator 1αoverexpression increases dendritic spines and enhances the molecular differentiation of synapses, whereas knockdown of proliferator-activated receptor γco-activator 1αinhibits spinogenesis and synaptogenesis. Proliferator-activated receptor γco-activator 1αknockdown also reduces the density of dendritic spines in hippocampal dentate granule neurons in vivo. We further show that brain-derived neurotrophic factor stimulates proliferator-activated receptor γco-activator-1α-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis by activating extracellular signal-regulated kinases and cyclic AMP response element-binding protein. Proliferator-activated receptor γco-activator-1αknockdown inhibits brain-derived neurotrophic factor-induced dendritic spine formation without affecting expression and activation of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor receptor tyrosine receptor kinase B. Our findings suggest that proliferator-activated receptor γco-activator-1αand mitochondrial biogenesis have important roles in the formation and maintenance of hippocampal dendritic spines and synapses. A decline in cognitive ability is a typical feature of the normal aging process, and of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. Although their etiologies differ, all of these disorders involve local activation of innate immune pathways and associated inflammatory cytokines. However, clinical trials of anti-inflammatory agents in neurodegenerative disorders have been disappointing, and it is therefore necessary to better understand the complex roles of the inflammatory process in neurological dysfunction. The dietary phytochemical curcumin can exert anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective actions. Here we provide evidence that curcumin ameliorates cognitive deficits associated with activation of the innate immune response by mechanisms requiring functional tumor necrosis factor αreceptor 2 (TNFR2) signaling. In vivo, the ability of curcumin to counteract hippocampus-dependent spatial memory deficits, to stimulate neuroprotective mechanisms such as upregulation of BDNF, to decrease glutaminase levels, and to modulate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor levels was absent in mice lacking functional TNFRs. Curcumin treatment protected cultured neurons against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity by a mechanism requiring TNFR2 activation. Our results suggest the possibility that therapeutic approaches against cognitive decline designed to selectively enhance TNFR2 signaling are likely to be more beneficial than the use of anti-inflammatory drugs per se.

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Yang, Jenq-Lin; Lin, Yu-Ting; Chuang, Pei-Chin et al. (2014) BDNF and exercise enhance neuronal DNA repair by stimulating CREB-mediated production of apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease 1. Neuromolecular Med 16:161-74
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