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Staff member

José Antonio Del Río Fernández
Group Leader
+34 934 020 296
jadelrioibecbarcelona.eu
CV Summary
Prof. José Antonio del Río, has been working for more than 30 years on Developmental Neurobiology, Neural Regeneration and Neurodegeneration. After obtaining his PhD in 1994 from the University of Barcelona, he worked in some international Universities and research centers, including, Univ. Valencia, Basque Country University (in Spain) and Frankfurt and Freiburg Universities (in Germany) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharma at Princeton (NJ, USA). Moreover, he has been honored with many national awards, including the Fundación Francisco Cobos CSIC Award (2001) and the Generalitat of Catalunya Award of Young Researcher (2003). He has published more than 170 articles in international scientific journals, including Acta Neuroptahol., Nat Cell Biology, EMBO J, Prog. Neurobiology, Nat. Comm., Sci. Reports, J. Neurosci., Neuron, Development, Curr. Biol., or Nature. Thus, the career development of the students who have worked in his group is a reflection of his commitment with the student and postdoctoral training. As bibliometric indicators, he has published more than 160 papers in refereed journals and books, with an H-index of 48 in WoS and 47 in Scopus and 55 in Google scholar with a total of more than 7000 citations. He has directed 24 PhD theses, and 26 Master theses, and supervised 15 postdoctoral fellows. As PI he has achieved, since 1989, 10 National projects from public competitive calls and 9 from foundations and private calls, 2 European grants and 2 MSC actions. He is member of editorial boards of the journals: Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience and Cells. Lastly, he was founder member and coordinator of the Spanish Prion network and of the XTReg network of regenerative neuroscience in Catalonia. He is an invited member of the SEBBM, SENC, FENS and Prionet Spain scientific societies.
Staff member publications

Ferrer I, Andrés-Benito P, Carmona M, Del Rio JA, (2022). Common and Specific Marks of Different Tau Strains Following Intra-Hippocampal Injection of AD, PiD, and GGT Inoculum in hTau Transgenic Mice International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 15940

Mesquida-Veny, Francina, Martínez-Torres, Sara, Del Río, José Antonio, Hervera, Arnau, (2022). Genetic control of neuronal activity enhances axonal growth only on permissive substrates Molecular Medicine 28, 97

Abstract Background Neural tissue has limited regenerative ability. To cope with that, in recent years a diverse set of novel tools has been used to tailor neurostimulation therapies and promote functional regeneration after axonal injuries. Method In this report, we explore cell-specific methods to modulate neuronal activity, including opto- and chemogenetics to assess the effect of specific neuronal stimulation in the promotion of axonal regeneration after injury. Results Opto- and chemogenetic stimulations of neuronal activity elicited increased in vitro neurite outgrowth in both sensory and cortical neurons, as well as in vivo regeneration in the sciatic nerve, but not after spinal cord injury. Mechanistically, inhibitory substrates such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans block the activity induced increase in axonal growth. Conclusions We found that genetic modulations of neuronal activity on both dorsal root ganglia and corticospinal motor neurons increase their axonal growth capacity but only on permissive environments.

JTD Keywords: activation, chemogenetics, electrical-stimulation, expression, functional recovery, increases, injury, motor cortex, neuronal activity, permissive substrate, promotes recovery, regeneration, Optogenetics, Spinal-cord


Sala-Jarque, J, Zimkowska, K, Avila, J, Ferrer, I, del Rio, JA, (2022). Towards a Mechanistic Model of Tau-Mediated Pathology in Tauopathies: What Can We Learn from Cell-Based In Vitro Assays? International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 11527

Tauopathies are a group of neurodegenerative diseases characterized by the hyperphosphorylation and deposition of tau proteins in the brain. In Alzheimer's disease, and other related tauopathies, the pattern of tau deposition follows a stereotypical progression between anatomically connected brain regions. Increasing evidence suggests that tau behaves in a "prion-like" manner, and that seeding and spreading of pathological tau drive progressive neurodegeneration. Although several advances have been made in recent years, the exact cellular and molecular mechanisms involved remain largely unknown. Since there are no effective therapies for any tauopathy, there is a growing need for reliable experimental models that would provide us with better knowledge and understanding of their etiology and identify novel molecular targets. In this review, we will summarize the development of cellular models for modeling tau pathology. We will discuss their different applications and contributions to our current understanding of the "prion-like" nature of pathological tau.

JTD Keywords: Culture model, Efficient generation, Extracellular tau, Familial alzheimers-disease, Microtubule-associated protein, Mouse model, Neurodegeneration, Neurofibrillary tangles, Paired helical filaments, Pathogenic tau, Pluripotent stem-cells, Seeding, Spreading, Tauopathies


Martínez-Torres S, Bergadà-Martínez A, Ortega JE, Galera-López L, Hervera A, de Los Reyes-Ramírez L, Ortega-Álvaro A, Remmers F, Muñoz-Moreno E, Soria G, Del Río JA, Lutz B, Ruíz-Ortega JÁ, Meana JJ, Maldonado R, Ozaita A, (2022). Peripheral CB1 receptor blockade acts as a memory enhancer through a noradrenergic mechanism Neuropsychopharmacology 48, 341-350

Peripheral inputs continuously shape brain function and can influence memory acquisition, but the underlying mechanisms have not been fully understood. Cannabinoid type-1 receptor (CB1R) is a well-recognized player in memory performance, and its systemic modulation significantly influences memory function. By assessing low arousal/non-emotional recognition memory in mice, we found a relevant role of peripheral CB1R in memory persistence. Indeed, the peripherally-restricted CB1R specific antagonist AM6545 showed significant mnemonic effects that were occluded in adrenalectomized mice, and after peripheral adrenergic blockade. AM6545 also transiently impaired contextual fear memory extinction. Vagus nerve chemogenetic inhibition reduced AM6545-induced mnemonic effect. Genetic CB1R deletion in dopamine β-hydroxylase-expressing cells enhanced recognition memory persistence. These observations support a role of peripheral CB1R modulating adrenergic tone relevant for cognition. Furthermore, AM6545 acutely improved brain connectivity and enhanced extracellular hippocampal norepinephrine. In agreement, intra-hippocampal β-adrenergic blockade prevented AM6545 mnemonic effects. Altogether, we disclose a novel CB1R-dependent peripheral mechanism with implications relevant for lengthening the duration of non-emotional memory.© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

JTD Keywords: antagonist, consolidation, contextual fear memory, electrical-stimulation, hippocampal function, improves memory, locus-coeruleus, reconsolidation, stress, Vagus nerve-stimulation


Ferrer, I, Andres-Benito, P, Ausin, K, Cartas-Cejudo, P, Lachen-Montes, M, del Rio, JA, Fernandez-Irigoyen, J, Santamaria, E, (2022). Dysregulated Protein Phosphorylation in a Mouse Model of FTLD-Tau Journal Of Neuropathology And Experimental Neurology 81, 696-706

The neocortex of P301S mice, used as a model of fronto-temporal lobar degeneration linked to tau mutation (FTLD-tau), and wild-type mice, both aged 9 months, were analyzed with conventional label-free phosphoproteomics and SWATH-MS (sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) to assess the (phospho)proteomes. The total number of identified dysregulated phosphoproteins was 328 corresponding to 524 phosphorylation sites. The majority of dysregulated phosphoproteins, most of them hyperphosphorylated, were proteins of the membranes, synapses, membrane trafficking, membrane vesicles linked to endo- and exocytosis, cytoplasmic vesicles, and cytoskeleton. Another group was composed of kinases. In contrast, proteins linked to DNA, RNA metabolism, RNA splicing, and protein synthesis were hypophosphorylated. Other pathways modulating energy metabolism, cell signaling, Golgi apparatus, carbohydrates, and lipids are also targets of dysregulated protein phosphorylation in P301S mice. The present results, together with accompanying immunohistochemical and Western-blotting studies, show widespread abnormal phosphorylation of proteins, in addition to protein tau, in P301S mice. These observations point to dysregulated protein phosphorylation as a relevant contributory pathogenic component of tauopathies.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Networks, Oxidative stress, Pathology, Phosphoproteome analysis, Tau, Tauopathy


Wells-Cembrano, Karen, Sala-Jarque, Júlia, del Rio, Jose A., (2022). Development of a simple and versatile in vitro method for production, stimulation, and analysis of bioengineered muscle Plos One 17, e0272610

In recent years, 3D in vitro modeling of human skeletal muscle has emerged as a subject of increasing interest, due to its applicability in basic studies or screening platforms. These models strive to recapitulate key features of muscle architecture and function, such as cell alignment, maturation, and contractility in response to different stimuli. To this end, it is required to culture cells in biomimetic hydrogels suspended between two anchors. Currently available protocols are often complex to produce, have a high rate of breakage, or are not adapted to imaging and stimulation. Therefore, we sought to develop a simplified and reliable protocol, which still enabled versatility in the study of muscle function. In our method, we have used human immortalized myoblasts cultured in a hydrogel composed of MatrigelTM and fibrinogen, to create muscle strips suspended between two VELCROTM anchors. The resulting muscle constructs show a differentiated phenotype and contractile activity in response to electrical, chemical and optical stimulation. This activity is analyzed by two alternative methods, namely contraction analysis and calcium analysis with Fluo-4 AM. In all, our protocol provides an optimized version of previously published methods, enabling individual imaging of muscle bundles and straightforward analysis of muscle response with standard image analysis software. This system provides a start-to-finish guide on how to produce, validate, stimulate, and analyze bioengineered muscle. This ensures that the system can be quickly established by researchers with varying degrees of expertise, while maintaining reliability and similarity to native muscle.

JTD


Mesquida-Veny, F, Martinez-Torres, S, Del Rio, JA, Hervera, A, (2022). Nociception-Dependent CCL21 Induces Dorsal Root Ganglia Axonal Growth via CCR7-ERK Activation Frontiers In Immunology 13, 880647

While chemokines were originally described for their ability to induce cell migration, many studies show how these proteins also take part in many other cell functions, acting as adaptable messengers in the communication between a diversity of cell types. In the nervous system, chemokines participate both in physiological and pathological processes, and while their expression is often described on glial and immune cells, growing evidence describes the expression of chemokines and their receptors in neurons, highlighting their potential in auto- and paracrine signalling. In this study we analysed the role of nociception in the neuronal chemokinome, and in turn their role in axonal growth. We found that stimulating TRPV1(+) nociceptors induces a transient increase in CCL21. Interestingly we also found that CCL21 enhances neurite growth of large diameter proprioceptors in vitro. Consistent with this, we show that proprioceptors express the CCL21 receptor CCR7, and a CCR7 neutralizing antibody dose-dependently attenuates CCL21-induced neurite outgrowth. Mechanistically, we found that CCL21 binds locally to its receptor CCR7 at the growth cone, activating the downstream MEK-ERK pathway, that in turn activates N-WASP, triggering actin filament ramification in the growth cone, resulting in increased axonal growth.

JTD Keywords: Actin dynamics, Axonal growth, Ccl21, Ccr7, Cell-migration, Central-nervous-system, Chemokine, Ligands, Mek-erk, Microglia, Neurons, Neuropathic pain, Nociception, Phosphorylation, Regeneration


Ferrer, I, Andres-Benito, P, Ausin, K, Cartas-Cejudo, P, Lachen-Montes, M, del Rio, JA, Fernandez-Irigoyen, J, Santamaria, E, (2022). Dysregulated Brain Protein Phosphorylation Linked to Increased Human Tau Expression in the hTau Transgenic Mouse Model International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 6427

Altered protein phosphorylation is a major pathologic modification in tauopathies and Alzheimer's disease (AD) linked to abnormal tau fibrillar deposits in neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) and pre-tangles and beta-amyloid deposits in AD. hTau transgenic mice, which express 3R and less 4R human tau with no mutations in a murine knock-out background, show increased tau deposition in neurons but not NFTs and pre-tangles at the age of nine months. Label-free (phospho)proteomics and SWATH-MS identified 2065 proteins in hTau and wild-type (WT) mice. Only six proteins showed increased levels in hTau; no proteins were down-regulated. Increased tau phosphorylation in hTau was detected at Ser199, Ser202, Ser214, Ser396, Ser400, Thr403, Ser404, Ser413, Ser416, Ser422, Ser491, and Ser494, in addition to Thr181, Thr231, Ser396/Ser404, but not at Ser202/Thr205. In addition, 4578 phosphopeptides (corresponding to 1622 phosphoproteins) were identified in hTau and WT mice; 64 proteins were differentially phosphorylated in hTau. Sixty proteins were grouped into components of membranes, membrane signaling, synapses, vesicles, cytoskeleton, DNA/RNA/protein metabolism, ubiquitin/proteasome system, cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and cell signaling. These results showed that over-expression of human tau without pre-tangle and NFT formation preferentially triggers an imbalance in the phosphorylation profile of specific proteins involved in the cytoskeletal-membrane-signaling axis.

JTD Keywords: Aggregation, Alzheimers-disease, Animal-models, Cytoskeleton, Htau, Membrane, Mice, Networks, Pathology, Phosphoproteome analysis, Phosphorylation, Synapsis, Tau, Tauopathies, Tauopathy


Lopez-Mengual, A, Segura-Feliu, M, Sunyer, R, Sanz-Fraile, H, Otero, J, Mesquida-Veny, F, Gil, V, Hervera, A, Ferrer, I, Soriano, J, Trepat, X, Farre, R, Navajas, D, del Rio, JA, (2022). Involvement of Mechanical Cues in the Migration of Cajal-Retzius Cells in the Marginal Zone During Neocortical Development Frontiers In Cell And Developmental Biology 10, 886110

Emerging evidence points to coordinated action of chemical and mechanical cues during brain development. At early stages of neocortical development, angiogenic factors and chemokines such as CXCL12, ephrins, and semaphorins assume crucial roles in orchestrating neuronal migration and axon elongation of postmitotic neurons. Here we explore the intrinsic mechanical properties of the developing marginal zone of the pallium in the migratory pathways and brain distribution of the pioneer Cajal-Retzius cells. These neurons are generated in several proliferative regions in the developing brain (e.g., the cortical hem and the pallial subpallial boundary) and migrate tangentially in the preplate/marginal zone covering the upper portion of the developing cortex. These cells play crucial roles in correct neocortical layer formation by secreting several molecules such as Reelin. Our results indicate that the motogenic properties of Cajal-Retzius cells and their perinatal distribution in the marginal zone are modulated by both chemical and mechanical factors, by the specific mechanical properties of Cajal-Retzius cells, and by the differential stiffness of the migratory routes. Indeed, cells originating in the cortical hem display higher migratory capacities than those generated in the pallial subpallial boundary which may be involved in the differential distribution of these cells in the dorsal-lateral axis in the developing marginal zone.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Cajal-retzius cells, Central-nervous-system, Cortical development, Cortical hem, Developing cerebral-cortex, Expression, Growth, Marginal zone, Mechanical cues, Mouse, Neuronal migration, Nogo receptor, Olfactory ensheathing cells, Tangential migration, Traction force microscopy


Hernández F, Ferrer I, Pérez M, Zabala JC, Del Rio JA, Avila J, (2022). Tau Aggregation Neuroscience , S0306-2

Here we revisit tau protein aggregation at primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary structures. In addition, the presence of non-aggregated tau protein, which has been recently discovered, is also commented on.Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: Microtubule-binding repeats, Tau, Tau conformations, W-tau isoform


Ferrer I, Andrés-Benito P, Garcia-Esparcia P, López-Gonzalez I, Valiente D, Jordán-Pirla M, Carmona M, Sala-Jarque J, Gil V, Del Rio JA, (2022). Differences in Tau Seeding in Newborn and Adult Wild-Type Mice International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 4789

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other tauopathies are common neurodegenerative diseases in older adults; in contrast, abnormal tau deposition in neurons and glial cells occurs only exceptionally in children. Sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from sporadic AD (sAD) containing paired helical filaments (PHFs) were inoculated unilaterally into the thalamus in newborn and three-month-old wild-type C57BL/6 mice, which were killed at different intervals from 24 h to six months after inoculation. Tau-positive cells were scanty and practically disappeared at three months in mice inoculated at the age of a newborn. In contrast, large numbers of tau-positive cells, including neurons and oligodendrocytes, were found in the thalamus of mice inoculated at three months and killed at the ages of six months and nine months. Mice inoculated at the age of newborn and re-inoculated at the age of three months showed similar numbers and distribution of positive cells in the thalamus at six months and nine months. This study shows that (a) differences in tau seeding between newborn and young adults may be related to the ratios between 3Rtau and 4Rtau, and the shift to 4Rtau predominance in adults, together with the immaturity of connections in newborn mice, and (b) intracerebral inoculation of sAD PHFs in newborn mice does not protect from tau seeding following intracerebral inoculation of sAD PHFs in young/adult mice.

JTD Keywords: alzheimer's disease, alzheimer-disease, expression, mouse tau, neurofibrillary tangles, newborn, pathological tau, propagation, protein-tau, spread, thalamus, transgenic mice, Paired helical filaments, Tau seeding and spreading


Pellegrini P, Hervera A, Varea O, Brewer MK, López-Soldado I, Guitart A, Aguilera M, Prats N, del Río JA, Guinovart JJ, Duran J, (2022). Lack of p62 Impairs Glycogen Aggregation and Exacerbates Pathology in a Mouse Model of Myoclonic Epilepsy of Lafora Molecular Neurobiology 59, 1214-1229

Lafora disease (LD) is a fatal childhood-onset dementia characterized by the extensive accumulation of glycogen aggregates—the so-called Lafora Bodies (LBs)—in several organs. The accumulation of LBs in the brain underlies the neurological phenotype of the disease. LBs are composed of abnormal glycogen and various associated proteins, including p62, an autophagy adaptor that participates in the aggregation and clearance of misfolded proteins. To study the role of p62 in the formation of LBs and its participation in the pathology of LD, we generated a mouse model of the disease (malinKO) lacking p62. Deletion of p62 prevented LB accumulation in skeletal muscle and cardiac tissue. In the brain, the absence of p62 altered LB morphology and increased susceptibility to epilepsy. These results demonstrate that p62 participates in the formation of LBs and suggest that the sequestration of abnormal glycogen into LBs is a protective mechanism through which it reduces the deleterious consequences of its accumulation in the brain. © 2021, The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: accumulation, astrocytes, autophagy receptors, contributes, deficient mice, epilepsy, glycogen, lafora bodies, lafora disease, malin, metabolism, neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, p62, polyglucosan bodies, temporal-lobe epilepsy, Epilepsy, Glycogen, Inclusion-body formation, Lafora bodies, Lafora disease, Malin, Neuroinflammation, P62


Matamoros-Angles, A, Hervera, A, Soriano, J, Marti, E, Carulla, P, Llorens, F, Nuvolone, M, Aguzzi, A, Ferrer, I, Gruart, A, Delgado-Garcia, JM, Del Rio, JA, (2022). Analysis of co-isogenic prion protein deficient mice reveals behavioral deficits, learning impairment, and enhanced hippocampal excitability Bmc Biology 20, 17

Background Cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is a cell surface GPI-anchored protein, usually known for its role in the pathogenesis of human and animal prionopathies. However, increasing knowledge about the participation of PrP(C) in prion pathogenesis contrasts with puzzling data regarding its natural physiological role. PrP(C) is expressed in a number of tissues, including at high levels in the nervous system, especially in neurons and glial cells, and while previous studies have established a neuroprotective role, conflicting evidence for a synaptic function has revealed both reduced and enhanced long-term potentiation, and variable observations on memory, learning, and behavior. Such evidence has been confounded by the absence of an appropriate knock-out mouse model to dissect the biological relevance of PrP(C), with some functions recently shown to be misattributed to PrP(C) due to the presence of genetic artifacts in mouse models. Here we elucidate the role of PrP(C) in the hippocampal circuitry and its related functions, such as learning and memory, using a recently available strictly co-isogenic Prnp(0/0) mouse model (Prnp(ZH3/ZH3)). Results We performed behavioral and operant conditioning tests to evaluate memory and learning capabilities, with results showing decreased motility, impaired operant conditioning learning, and anxiety-related behavior in Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) animals. We also carried in vivo electrophysiological recordings on CA3-CA1 synapses in living behaving mice and monitored spontaneous neuronal firing and network formation in primary neuronal cultures of Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) vs wildtype mice. PrP(C) absence enhanced susceptibility to high-intensity stimulations and kainate-induced seizures. However, long-term potentiation (LTP) was not enhanced in the Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) hippocampus. In addition, we observed a delay in neuronal maturation and network formation in Prnp(ZH3/ZH3) cultures. Conclusion Our results demonstrate that PrP(C) promotes neuronal network formation and connectivity. PrP(C) mediates synaptic function and protects the synapse from excitotoxic insults. Its deletion may underlie an epileptogenic-susceptible brain that fails to perform highly cognitive-demanding tasks such as associative learning and anxiety-like behaviors.

JTD Keywords: anxiety, behavior, cellular prion protein, epilepsy, hippocampus, Anxiety, Behavior, Cellular prion protein, Developmental expression, Epilepsy, Gene-expression, Hippocampus, Kainate-induced seizures, Lacking, Ltp, Memory, Messenger-rna, Motor behavior, Mouse, Prp


Andrés-Benito P, Carmona M, Pirla MJ, Torrejón-Escribano B, del Rio JA, Ferrer I, (2022). Dysregulated Protein Phosphorylation as Main Contributor of Granulovacuolar Degeneration at the First Stages of Neurofibrillary Tangles Pathology Neuroscience ,

The hippocampus of cases with neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) pathology classified as stages I–II, III–IV, and V–VI without comorbidities, and middle-aged (MA) individuals with no NFT pathology, were examined to learn about the composition of granulovacuolar degeneration (GVD). Our results confirm the presence of CK1-?, p38-P Thr180/Tyr182, SAPK/JNK-P Thr183/Thr185, GSK-3?/?-P Tyr279/Tyr216, and GSK-3? Ser9 in the cytoplasmic granules in a subset of neurons of the CA1 and CA2 subfields of the hippocampus. Also, we identify the presence of PKA ?/?-P Thr197, SRC-P Tyr416, PAK1-P Ser199/Ser204, CAMK2A-P Tyr197, and PKCG-P Thr655 in cytoplasmic granules in cases with NFT pathology, but not in MA cases. Our results also confirm the presence of ?-catenin-P Ser45/Thr41, IRE?-P Ser274, eIF2?-P Ser51, TDP-43-P Ser403-404 (but absent TDP-43), and ubiquitin in cytoplasmic granules. Other components of the cytoplasmic granules are MAP2-P Thr1620/1623, MAP1B-P Thr1265, ADD1-P Ser726, and ADD1/ADD1-P Ser726/Ser713, in addition to several tau species including 3Rtau, 4Rtau, and tau-P Ser262. The analysis of GVD at progressive stages of NFT pathology reveals the early appearance of phosphorylated kinases and proteins in cytoplasmic granules at stages I–II, before the appearance of pre-tangles and NFTs. Most of these granules are not surrounded by LAMP1-positive membranes. Markers of impaired ubiquitin-protesome system, abnormal reticulum stress response, and altered endocytic and autophagic pathways occur in a subpopulation of neurons containing cytoplasmic granules, and they appear later. These observations suggest early phosphorylation of kinases leading to their activation, and resulting in the abnormal phosphorylation of various substrates, including tau, as a main alteration at the first stages of GVD. © 2021 The Author(s)

JTD Keywords: alzheimer’s disease, brain aging, granulovacuolar degeneration, kinases, protein phosphorylation, Alzheimer's disease, Brain aging, Granulovacuolar degeneration, Kinases, Protein phosphorylation, Tau


Ferrer I, Andrés-Benito P, Ausín K, Pamplona R, del Rio JA, Fernández-Irigoyen J, Santamaría E, (2021). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation: A determining condition in the continuum of brain aging and Alzheimer's disease Brain Pathology 31,

Tau hyperphosphorylation is the first step of neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) formation. In the present study, samples of the entorhinal cortex (EC) and frontal cortex area 8 (FC) of cases with NFT pathology classified as stages I–II, III–IV, and V–VI without comorbidities, and of middle-aged (MA) individuals with no NFT pathology, were analyzed by conventional label-free and SWATH-MS (sequential window acquisition of all theoretical fragment ion spectra mass spectrometry) to assess the (phospho)proteomes. The total number of identified dysregulated phosphoproteins was 214 in the EC, 65 of which were dysregulated at the first stages (I–II) of NFT pathology; 167 phosphoproteins were dysregulated in the FC, 81 of them at stages I–II of NFT pathology. A large percentage of dysregulated phosphoproteins were identified in the two regions and at different stages of NFT progression. The main group of dysregulated phosphoproteins was made up of components of the membranes, cytoskeleton, synapses, proteins linked to membrane transport and ion channels, and kinases. The present results show abnormal phosphorylation of proteins at the first stages of NFT pathology in the elderly (in individuals clinically considered representative of normal aging) and sporadic Alzheimer's disease (sAD). Dysregulated protein phosphorylation in the FC precedes the formation of NFTs and SPs. The most active period of dysregulated phosphorylation is at stages III–IV when a subpopulation of individuals might be clinically categorized as suffering from mild cognitive impairment which is a preceding determinant stage in the progression to dementia. Altered phosphorylation of selected proteins, carried out by activation of several kinases, may alter membrane and cytoskeletal functions, among them synaptic transmission and membrane/cytoskeleton signaling. Besides their implications in sAD, the present observations suggest a molecular substrate for “benign” cognitive deterioration in “normal” brain aging.

JTD Keywords: (phospho)proteomics, alzheimer's disease, amyloid-beta, association guidelines, brain aging, cytoskeleton, frontal-cortex, kinases, lipid rafts, membranes, national institute, neuropathologic assessment, pathological process, protein phosphorylation, synapse pathology, synapses, tau, tau pathology, (phospho)proteomics, Age-related tauopathy, Alzheimer's disease, Brain aging, Cytoskeleton, Kinases, Membranes, Protein phosphorylation, Synapses, Tau


Duran, J, Hervera, A, Markussen, KH, Varea, O, Lopez-Soldado, I, Sun, RC, del Rio, JA, Gentry, MS, Guinovart, JJ, (2021). Astrocytic glycogen accumulation drives the pathophysiology of neurodegeneration in Lafora disease Brain 144, 2349-2360

The hallmark of Lafora disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, is the accumulation of intracellular glycogen aggregates called Lafora bodies. Until recently, it was widely believed that brain Lafora bodies were present exclusively in neurons and thus that Lafora disease pathology derived from their accumulation in this cell population. However, recent evidence indicates that Lafora bodies are also present in astrocytes. To define the role of astrocytic Lafora bodies in Lafora disease pathology, we deleted glycogen synthase specifically from astrocytes in a mouse model of the disease (malin(KO)). Strikingly, blocking glycogen synthesis in astrocytes-thus impeding Lafora bodies accumulation in this cell type-prevented the increase in neurodegeneration markers, autophagy impairment, and metabolic changes characteristic of the malin(KO) model. Conversely, mice that over-accumulate glycogen in astrocytes showed an increase in these markers. These results unveil the deleterious consequences of the deregulation of glycogen metabolism in astrocytes and change the perspective that Lafora disease is caused solely by alterations in neurons.

JTD Keywords: Bodies, Deficient mice, Epilepsy, Glycogen, Impairment, Lafora disease, Malin, Modulation, Mouse model, Neurodegeneration, Neuroinflammation, Neurons, Progressive myoclonus epilepsy, Seizure susceptibility, Synthase


Diaz-Lucena D, Kruse N, Thüne K, Schmitz M, Villar-Piqué A, da Cunha JEG, Hermann P, López-Pérez Ó, Andrés-Benito P, Ladogana A, Calero M, Vidal E, Riggert J, Pineau H, Sim V, Zetterberg H, Blennow K, del Río JA, Marín-Moreno A, Espinosa JC, Torres JM, Sánchez-Valle R, Mollenhauer B, Ferrer I, Zerr I, Llorens F, (2021). TREM2 expression in the brain and biological fluids in prion diseases Acta Neuropathologica 141, 841-859

Triggering receptor expressed on myeloid cells 2 (TREM2) is an innate immune cell surface receptor that regulates microglial function and is involved in the pathophysiology of several neurodegenerative diseases. Its soluble form (sTREM2) results from shedding of the TREM2 ectodomain. The role of TREM2 in prion diseases, a group of rapidly progressive dementias remains to be elucidated. In the present study, we analysed the expression of TREM2 and its main sheddase ADAM10 in the brain of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) patients and evaluated the role of CSF and plasma sTREM2 as a potential diagnostic marker of prion disease. Our data indicate that, compared to controls, TREM2 is increased in sCJD patient brains at the mRNA and protein levels in a regional and subtype dependent fashion, and expressed in a subpopulation of microglia. In contrast, ADAM10 is increased at the protein, but not the mRNA level, with a restricted neuronal expression. Elevated CSF sTREM2 is found in sCJD, genetic CJD with mutations E200K and V210I in the prion protein gene (PRNP), and iatrogenic CJD, as compared to healthy controls (HC) (AUC = 0.78–0.90) and neurological controls (AUC = 0.73–0.85), while CSF sTREM2 is unchanged in fatal familial insomnia. sTREM2 in the CSF of cases with Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis was not significantly altered in our series. CSF sTREM2 concentrations in sCJD are PRNP codon 129 and subtype-related, correlate with CSF 14-3-3 positivity, total-tau and YKL-40, and increase with disease progression. In plasma, sTREM2 is increased in sCJD compared with HC (AUC = 0.80), displaying positive correlations with plasma total-tau, neurofilament light, and YKL-40. We conclude that comparative study of TREM2 in brain and biological fluids of prion diseases reveals TREM2 to be altered in human prion diseases with a potential value in target engagement, patient stratification, and disease monitoring.

JTD Keywords: cerebrospinal fluid, creutzfeldt-jakob disease, microglia, plasma, prion diseases, Cerebrospinal fluid, Creutzfeldt-jakob disease, Microglia, Plasma, Prion diseases, Trem2


Mesquida-Veny F, Del Río JA, Hervera A, (2021). Macrophagic and microglial complexity after neuronal injury Progress In Neurobiology 200

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Central nervous system (CNS) injuries do not heal properly in contrast to normal tissue repair, in which functional recovery typically occurs. The reason for this dichotomy in wound repair is explained in part by macrophage and microglial malfunction, affecting both the extrinsic and intrinsic barriers to appropriate axonal regeneration. In normal healing tissue, macrophages promote the repair of injured tissue by regulating transitions through different phases of the healing response. In contrast, inflammation dominates the outcome of CNS injury, often leading to secondary damage. Therefore, an understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying this dichotomy is critical to advance in neuronal repair therapies. Recent studies highlight the plasticity and complexity of macrophages and microglia beyond the classical view of the M1/M2 polarization paradigm. This plasticity represents an in vivo continuous spectrum of phenotypes with overlapping functions and markers. Moreover, macrophage and microglial plasticity affect many events essential for neuronal regeneration after injury, such as myelin and cell debris clearance, inflammation, release of cytokines, and trophic factors, affecting both intrinsic neuronal properties and extracellular matrix deposition. Until recently, this complexity was overlooked in the translation of therapies modulating these responses for the treatment of neuronal injuries. However, recent studies have shed important light on the underlying molecular mechanisms of this complexity and its transitions and effects on regenerative events. Here we review the complexity of macrophages and microglia after neuronal injury and their roles in regeneration, as well as the underlying molecular mechanisms, and we discuss current challenges and future opportunities for treatment.

JTD Keywords: chemokines and cytokines, macrophages, microglia, neuroinflammation, neuronal injury, regeneration, Chemokines and cytokines, Macrophages, Microglia, Neuroinflammation, Neuronal injury, Regeneration


Lidón L, Llaó-Hierro L, Nuvolone M, Aguzzi A, Ávila J, Ferrer I, Del Río JA, Gavín R, (2021). Tau exon 10 inclusion by prpc through downregulating gsk3? activity International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 22,

Tau protein is largely responsible for tauopathies, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), where it accumulates in the brain as insoluble aggregates. Tau mRNA is regulated by alternative splicing, and inclusion or exclusion of exon 10 gives rise to the 3R and 4R isoforms respectively, whose balance is physiologically regulated. In this sense, one of the several factors that regulate alternative splicing of tau is GSK3?, whose activity is inhibited by the cellular prion protein (PrPC), which has different physiological functions in neuroprotection and neuronal differentiation. Moreover, a relationship between PrPC and tau expression levels has been reported during AD evolution. For this reason, in this study we aimed to analyze the role of PrPC and the implication of GSK3? in the regulation of tau exon 10 alternative splicing. We used AD human samples and mouse models of PrPC ablation and tau overexpression. In addition, we used primary neuronal cultures to develop functional studies. Our results revealed a paralleled association between PrPC expression and tau 4R isoforms in all models analyzed. In this sense, reduction or ablation of PrPC levels induces an increase in tau 3R/4R balance. More relevantly, our data points to GSK3? activity downstream from PrPC in this phenomenon. Our results indicate that PrPC plays a role in tau exon 10 inclusion through the inhibitory capacity of GSK3?. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

JTD Keywords: alternative splicing, alzheimer's disease, alzheimers-disease, alzheimer’s disease, amyloid-beta, cellular prion protein, frontotemporal dementia, glycogen-synthase kinase-3, gsk3 beta, gsk3?, messenger-rna, microtubule-associated protein tau, neurofibrillary tangles, progressive supranuclear palsy, promotes neuronal differentiation, stem-cells, tauopathies, Alternative splicing, Alzheimer’s disease, Cellular prion protein, Gsk3?, Microtubule-associated protein tau, Tauopathies


Castaño O, López-Mengual A, Reginensi D, Matamoros-Angles A, Engel E, del Rio JA, (2021). Chemotactic TEG3 Cells’ Guiding Platforms Based on PLA Fibers Functionalized With the SDF-1α/CXCL12 Chemokine for Neural Regeneration Therapy Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 9,

(Following spinal cord injury, olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) transplantation is a promising therapeutic approach in promoting functional improvement. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical concentration differences. Here we compare the attachment, morphology, and directionality of an OEC-derived cell line, TEG3 cells, seeded on functionalized nanoscale meshes of Poly(l/dl-lactic acid; PLA) nanofibers. The size of the nanofibers has a strong effect on TEG3 cell adhesion and migration, with the PLA nanofibers having a 950 nm diameter being the ones that show the best results. TEG3 cells are capable of adopting a bipolar morphology on 950 nm fiber surfaces, as well as a highly dynamic behavior in migratory terms. Finally, we observe that functionalized nanofibers, with a chemical concentration increment of SDF-1α/CXCL12, strongly enhance the migratory characteristics of TEG3 cells over inhibitory substrates.

JTD Keywords: cell migration, cxcl12, electrospinning, gradients, pla nanofibers, sdf-1alpha, Cell migration, Cxcl12, Electrospinning, Gradients, Olfactory ensheathing cells, Pla nanofibers, Sdf-1alpha


Moya-Andérico L, Vukomanovic M, Cendra MdM, Segura-Feliu M, Gil V, del Río JA, Torrents E, (2021). Utility of Galleria mellonella larvae for evaluating nanoparticle toxicology Chemosphere 266,

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd The use of nanoparticles in consumer products is currently on the rise, so it is important to have reliable methods to predict any associated toxicity effects. Traditional in vitro assays fail to mimic true physiological responses of living organisms against nanoparticles whereas murine in vivo models are costly and ethically controversial. For these reasons, this study aimed to evaluate the efficacy of Galleria mellonella as an alternative, non-rodent in vivo model for examining nanoparticle toxicity. Silver, selenium, and functionalized gold nanoparticles were synthesized, and their toxicity was assessed in G. mellonella larvae. The degree of acute toxicity effects caused by each type of NP was efficiently detected by an array of indicators within the larvae: LD50 calculation, hemocyte proliferation, NP distribution, behavioral changes, and histological alterations. G. mellonella larvae are proposed as a nanotoxicological model that can be used as a bridge between in vitro and in vivo murine assays in order to obtain better predictions of NP toxicity.

JTD Keywords: cellular uptake, cytotoxicity, galleria mellonella, gold nanoparticles, hemocytes, nanoparticles, nanotoxicity, non-rodent in vivo model, non-rodent in vivo model, oxidative stress, selenium-compounds, silica nanoparticles, silver nanoparticles, toxicity, toxicity screening, vitro, Galleria mellonella, Hemocytes, In-vivo model, Nanoparticles, Nanotoxicity, Non-rodent in vivo model, Toxicity screening


Lidón, Laia, Urrea, Laura, Llorens, Franc, Gil, Vanessa, Alvarez, Ignacio, Diez-Fairen, Monica, Aguilar, Miguel, Pastor, Pau, Zerr, Inga, Alcolea, Daniel, Lleó, Alberto, Vidal, Enric, Gavín, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidre, Del Rio, Jose Antonio, (2020). Disease-specific changes in Reelin protein and mRNA in Nnurodegenerative diseases Cells 9, (5), 1252

Reelin is an extracellular glycoprotein that modulates neuronal function and synaptic plasticity in the adult brain. Decreased levels of Reelin activity have been postulated as a key factor during neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and in aging. Thus, changes in levels of full-length Reelin and Reelin fragments have been revealed in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and in post-mortem brains samples of AD patients with respect to non-AD patients. However, conflicting studies have reported decreased or unchanged levels of full-length Reelin in AD patients compared to control (nND) cases in post-mortem brains and CSF samples. In addition, a compelling analysis of Reelin levels in neurodegenerative diseases other than AD is missing. In this study, we analyzed brain levels of RELN mRNA and Reelin protein in post-mortem frontal cortex samples from different sporadic AD stages, Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD), and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD), obtained from five different Biobanks. In addition, we measured Reelin protein levels in CSF samples of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia, or sCJD diagnosis and a group of neurologically healthy cases. The results indicate an increase in RELN mRNA in the frontal cortex of advanced stages of AD and in sCJD(I) compared to controls. This was not observed in PDD and early AD stages. However, Reelin protein levels in frontal cortex samples were unchanged between nND and advanced AD stages and PDD. Nevertheless, they decreased in the CSF of patients with dementia in comparison to those not suffering with dementia and patients with MCI. With respect to sCJD, there was a tendency to increase in brain samples in comparison to nND and to decrease in the CSF with respect to nND. In conclusion, Reelin levels in CSF cannot be considered as a diagnostic biomarker for AD or PDD. However, we feel that the CSF Reelin changes observed between MCI, patients with dementia, and sCJD might be helpful in generating a biomarker signature in prodromal studies of unidentified dementia and sCJD.

JTD Keywords: Reelin, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease dementia, a-synucleopathies, Cerebrospinal fluid


Ferrer, Isidro, Andrés-Benito, Pol, Zelaya, Maria Victoria, Aguirre, Maria Elena Erro, Carmona, Margarita, Ausín, Karina, Lachén-Montes, Mercedes, Fernández-Irigoyen, Joaquín, Santamaría, Enrique, del Río, José Antonio, (2020). Familial globular glial tauopathy linked to MAPT mutations: molecular neuropathology and seeding capacity of a prototypical mixed neuronal and glial tauopathy Acta Neuropathologica 139, (4), 735-771

Globular glial tauopathy (GGT) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease involving the grey matter and white matter (WM) and characterized by neuronal deposition of hyper-phosphorylated, abnormally conformed, truncated, oligomeric 4Rtau in neurons and in glial cells forming typical globular astrocyte and oligodendrocyte inclusions (GAIs and GOIs, respectively) and coiled bodies. Present studies centre on four genetic GGT cases from two unrelated families bearing the P301T mutation in MAPT and one case of sporadic GGT (sGGT) and one case of GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation, for comparative purposes. Clinical and neuropathological manifestations and biochemical profiles of phospho-tau are subjected to individual variations in patients carrying the same mutation, even in carriers of the same family, independently of the age of onset, gender, and duration of the disease. Immunohistochemistry, western blotting, transcriptomic, proteomics and phosphoproteomics, and intra-cerebral inoculation of brain homogenates to wild-type (WT) mice were the methods employed. In GGT cases linked to MAPT P301T mutation, astrocyte markers GFAP, ALDH1L1, YKL40 mRNA and protein, GJA1 mRNA, and AQ4 protein are significantly increased; glutamate transporter GLT1 (EAAT2) and glucose transporter (SLC2A1) decreased; mitochondrial pyruvate carrier 1 (MPC1) increased, and mitochondrial uncoupling protein 5 (UCP5) almost absent in GAIs in frontal cortex (FC). Expression of oligodendrocyte markers OLIG1 and OLIG2mRNA, and myelin-related genes MBP, PLP1, CNP, MAG, MAL, MOG, and MOBP are significantly decreased in WM; CNPase, PLP1, and MBP antibodies reveal reduction and disruption of myelinated fibres; and SMI31 antibodies mark axonal damage in the WM. Altered expression of AQ4, GLUC-t, and GLT-1 is also observed in sGGT and in GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation. These alterations point to primary astrogliopathy and oligodendrogliopathy in GGT. In addition, GGT linked to MAPT P301T mutation proteotypes unveil a proteostatic imbalance due to widespread (phospho)proteomic dearrangement in the FC and WM, triggering a disruption of neuron projection morphogenesis and synaptic transmission. Identification of hyper-phosphorylation of variegated proteins calls into question the concept of phospho-tau-only alteration in the pathogenesis of GGT. Finally, unilateral inoculation of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions of GGT homogenates from GGT linked to MAPT P301T, sGGT, and GGT linked to MAPT K317M mutation in the hippocampus, corpus callosum, or caudate/putamen in wild-type mice produces seeding, and time- and region-dependent spreading of phosphorylated, non-oligomeric, and non-truncated 4Rtau and 3Rtau, without GAIs and GOIs but only of coiled bodies. These experiments prove that host tau strains are important in the modulation of cellular vulnerability and phenotypes of phospho-tau aggregates.

JTD Keywords: Globular glial tauopathy, Tau, Astrogliopathy, Oligodendrogliopathy, Phosphoproteome, Seeding and spreading


Eixarch, Herena, Calvo-Barreiro, Laura, Costa, Carme, Reverter-Vives, Gemma, Castillo, Mireia, Gil, Vanessa, Del Río, José Antonio, Montalban, Xavier, Espejo, Carmen, (2020). Inhibition of the BMP signaling pathway ameliorated established clinical symptoms of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis Neurotherapeutics 17, 1988–2003

Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are secreted growth factors that belong to the transforming growth factor beta superfamily. BMPs have been implicated in physiological processes, but they are also involved in many pathological conditions. Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an immune-mediated disease of the central nervous system (CNS); however, its etiology remains elusive. Some evidence points to BMPs as important players in the pathogenesis of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. In the present work, we studied the expression of BMP2, BMP4, BMP5, BMP6, BMP7, BMP type II receptor, and noggin in the immune system during different phases of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Major changes in the expression of BMPs took place in the initial phases of EAE. Indeed, those changes mainly affected BMP6 (whose expression was abrogated), BMP2, and BMP7 (whose expression was increased). In addition, we showed that in vivo inhibition of the BMP signaling pathway with small molecules ameliorated the already established clinical symptoms of EAE, as well as the CNS histopathological features. At the immune level, we observed an expansion of plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) in mice treated with small molecules that inhibit the BMP signaling pathway. pDCs could play an important role in promoting the expansion of antigen-specific regulatory T cells. Altogether, our data suggest a role for BMPs in early immune events that take place in myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-induced EAE. In addition, the clinical outcome of the disease was improved when the BMP signaling pathway was inhibited in mice that presented established EAE symptoms.

JTD Keywords: Bone morphogenetic protein, DMH1, Dorsomorphin, Experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, Immune response, Multiple sclerosis.


Duran, Jordi, Brewer, M. Kathryn, Hervera, Arnau, Gruart, Agnès, del Rio, Jose Antonio, Delgado-García, José M., Guinovart, Joan J., (2020). Lack of astrocytic glycogen alters synaptic plasticity but not seizure susceptibility Molecular Neurobiology 57, 4657–4666

Brain glycogen is mainly stored in astrocytes. However, recent studies both in vitro and in vivo indicate that glycogen also plays important roles in neurons. By conditional deletion of glycogen synthase (GYS1), we previously developed a mouse model entirely devoid of glycogen in the central nervous system (GYS1Nestin-KO). These mice displayed altered electrophysiological properties in the hippocampus and increased susceptibility to kainate-induced seizures. To understand which of these functions are related to astrocytic glycogen, in the present study, we generated a mouse model in which glycogen synthesis is eliminated specifically in astrocytes (GYS1Gfap-KO). Electrophysiological recordings of awake behaving mice revealed alterations in input/output curves and impaired long-term potentiation, similar, but to a lesser extent, to those obtained with GYS1Nestin-KO mice. Surprisingly, GYS1Gfap-KO mice displayed no change in susceptibility to kainate-induced seizures as determined by fEPSP recordings and video monitoring. These results confirm the importance of astrocytic glycogen in synaptic plasticity.

JTD Keywords: Astrocyte, Epilepsy, Glycogen, Long-term potentiation, Metabolism, Plasticity.


Sala-Jarque, Julia, Mesquida-Veny, Francina, Badiola-Mateos, Maider, Samitier, Josep, Hervera, Arnau, del Río, José Antonio, (2020). Neuromuscular activity induces paracrine signaling and triggers axonal regrowth after injury in microfluidic lab-on-chip devices Cells 9, (2), 302

Peripheral nerve injuries, including motor neuron axonal injury, often lead to functional impairments. Current therapies are mostly limited to surgical intervention after lesion, yet these interventions have limited success in restoring functionality. Current activity-based therapies after axonal injuries are based on trial-error approaches in which the details of the underlying cellular and molecular processes are largely unknown. Here we show the effects of the modulation of both neuronal and muscular activity with optogenetic approaches to assess the regenerative capacity of cultured motor neuron (MN) after lesion in a compartmentalized microfluidic-assisted axotomy device. With increased neuronal activity, we observed an increase in the ratio of regrowing axons after injury in our peripheral-injury model. Moreover, increasing muscular activity induces the liberation of leukemia inhibitory factor and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in a paracrine fashion that in turn triggers axonal regrowth of lesioned MN in our 3D hydrogel cultures. The relevance of our findings as well as the novel approaches used in this study could be useful not only after axotomy events but also in diseases affecting MN survival.

JTD Keywords: Neuromuscular junction, Microfluidics, Axotomy, Paracrine signaling


del Rio, Jose A., Ferrer, Isidre, (2020). Potential of microfluidics and lab-on-chip platforms to improve understanding of “prion-like” protein assembly and behavior Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 8, 570692

Human aging is accompanied by a relevant increase in age-associated chronic pathologies, including neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. The appearance and evolution of numerous neurodegenerative diseases is paralleled by the appearance of intracellular and extracellular accumulation of misfolded proteins in affected brains. In addition, recent evidence suggests that most of these amyloid proteins can behave and propagate among neural cells similarly to infective prions. In order to improve understanding of the seeding and spreading processes of these “prion-like” amyloids, microfluidics and 3D lab-on-chip approaches have been developed as highly valuable tools. These techniques allow us to monitor changes in cellular and molecular processes responsible for amyloid seeding and cell spreading and their parallel effects in neural physiology. Their compatibility with new optical and biochemical techniques and their relative availability have increased interest in them and in their use in numerous laboratories. In addition, recent advances in stem cell research in combination with microfluidic platforms have opened new humanized in vitro models for myriad neurodegenerative diseases affecting different cellular targets of the vascular, muscular, and nervous systems, and glial cells. These new platforms help reduce the use of animal experimentation. They are more reproducible and represent a potential alternative to classical approaches to understanding neurodegeneration. In this review, we summarize recent progress in neurobiological research in “prion-like” protein using microfluidic and 3D lab-on-chip approaches. These approaches are driven by various fields, including chemistry, biochemistry, and cell biology, and they serve to facilitate the development of more precise human brain models for basic mechanistic studies of cell-to-cell interactions and drug discovery.

JTD Keywords: Lab-On-Chip, Amyloid propagation, Microfluidics, Fibril, Seeding, Spreading, Prion-like, Prionoid


Gavín, Rosalina, Lidón, Laia, Ferrer, Isidre, del Río, José Antonio, (2020). The quest for cellular prion protein functions in the aged and neurodegenerating brain Cells 9, (3), 591

Cellular (also termed ‘natural’) prion protein has been extensively studied for many years for its pathogenic role in prionopathies after misfolding. However, neuroprotective properties of the protein have been demonstrated under various scenarios. In this line, the involvement of the cellular prion protein in neurodegenerative diseases other than prionopathies continues to be widely debated by the scientific community. In fact, studies on knock-out mice show a vast range of physiological functions for the protein that can be supported by its ability as a cell surface scaffold protein. In this review, we first summarize the most commonly described roles of cellular prion protein in neuroprotection, including antioxidant and antiapoptotic activities and modulation of glutamate receptors. Second, in light of recently described interaction between cellular prion protein and some amyloid misfolded proteins, we will also discuss the molecular mechanisms potentially involved in protection against neurodegeneration in pathologies such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases.

JTD Keywords: Prion, Tau, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Neuroprotection


Ferrer, I., Zelaya, M. V., Aguiló García, M., Carmona, M., López-González, I., Andrés-Benito, P., Lidón, L., Gavín, R., Garcia-Esparcia, P., del Rio, J. A., (2020). Relevance of host tau in tau seeding and spreading in tauopathies Brain Pathology 30, (2), 298-318

Human tau seeding and spreading occur following intracerebral inoculation of brain homogenates obtained from tauopathies in transgenic mice expressing natural or mutant tau, and in wild-type (WT) mice. The present study was geared to learning about the patterns of tau seeding, the cells involved and the characteristics of tau following intracerebral inoculation of homogenates from primary age-related tauopathy (PART: neuronal 4Rtau and 3Rtau), aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG: astrocytic 4Rtau) and globular glial tauopathy (GGT: 4Rtau with neuronal deposits and specific tau inclusions in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes). For this purpose, young and adult WT mice were inoculated unilaterally in the hippocampus or in the lateral corpus callosum with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from PART, ARTAG and GGT cases, and were killed at variable periods of three to seven months. Brains were processed for immunohistochemistry in paraffin sections. Tau seeding occurred in the ipsilateral hippocampus and corpus callosum and spread to the septal nuclei, periventricular hypothalamus and contralateral corpus callosum, respectively. Tau deposits were mainly found in neurons, oligodendrocytes and threads; the deposits were diffuse or granular, composed of phosphorylated tau, tau with abnormal conformation and 3Rtau and 4Rtau independently of the type of tauopathy. Truncated tau at the aspartic acid 421 and ubiquitination were absent. Tau deposits had the characteristics of pre-tangles. A percentage of intracellular tau deposits co-localized with active (phosphorylated) tau kinases p38 and ERK 1/2. Present study shows that seeding and spreading of human tau into the brain of WT mice involves neurons and glial cells, mainly oligodendrocytes, thereby supporting the idea of a primary role of oligodendrogliopathy, together with neuronopathy, in the progression of tauopathies. In addition, it suggests that human tau inoculation modifies murine tau metabolism with the production and deposition of 3Rtau and 4Rtau, and by activation of specific tau kinases in affected cells.

JTD Keywords: Aging-related tau astrogliopathy, Globular glial tauopathy, Primary age-related tauopathy, Seeding, Spreading, Tau, Tauopathies


Lidón, Laia, Vergara, Cristina, Ferrer, Isidro, Hernández, Félix, Ávila, Jesús, del Rio, Jose A., Gavín, Rosalina, (2020). Tau protein as a new regulator of cellular prion protein transcription Molecular Neurobiology 57, (10), 4170-4186

Cellular prion protein (PrPC) is largely responsible for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) when it becomes the abnormally processed and protease resistant form PrPSC. Physiological functions of PrPC include protective roles against oxidative stress and excitotoxicity. Relevantly, PrPC downregulates tau levels, whose accumulation and modification are a hallmark in the advance of Alzheimer's disease (AD). In addition to the accumulation of misfolded proteins, in the initial stages of AD-affected brains display both increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) markers and levels of PrPC. However, the factors responsible for the upregulation of PrPC are unknown. Thus, the aim of this study was to uncover the different molecular actors promoting PrPC overexpression. In order to mimic early stages of AD, we used β-amyloid-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) and tau cellular treatments, as well as ROS generation, to elucidate their particular roles in human PRNP promoter activity. In addition, we used specific chemical inhibitors and site-specific mutations of the PRNP promoter sequence to analyze the contribution of the main transcription factors involved in PRNP transcription under the analyzed conditions. Our results revealed that tau is a new modulator of PrPC expression independently of ADDL treatment and ROS levels. Lastly, we discovered that the JNK/c-jun-AP-1 pathway is involved in increased PRNP transcription activity by tau but not in the promoter response to ROS.

JTD Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, Cellular prion protein, Promoter, Tau, Tauopathies


Gil, Vanessa, del Río, José Antonio, (2019). Functions of plexins/neuropilins and their ligands during hippocampal development and neurodegeneration Cells 8, (3), 206

There is emerging evidence that molecules, receptors, and signaling mechanisms involved in vascular development also play crucial roles during the development of the nervous system. Among others, specific semaphorins and their receptors (neuropilins and plexins) have, in recent years, attracted the attention of researchers due to their pleiotropy of functions. Their functions, mainly associated with control of the cellular cytoskeleton, include control of cell migration, cell morphology, and synapse remodeling. Here, we will focus on their roles in the hippocampal formation that plays a crucial role in memory and learning as it is a prime target during neurodegeneration.

JTD Keywords: PlexinD1, Sema3E, Neuropilins, Neuronal migration, Synapse formation


Ferrer, I., García, M. A., Carmona, M., Andrés-Benito, P., Torrejón-Escribano, B., Garcia-Esparcia, P., Del Rio, J. A., (2019). Involvement of oligodendrocytes in tau seeding and spreading in tauopathies Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 11, 112

Introduction: Human tau seeding and spreading occur following intracerebral inoculation into different gray matter regions of brain homogenates obtained from tauopathies in transgenic mice expressing wild or mutant tau, and in wild-type (WT) mice. However, little is known about tau propagation following inoculation in the white matter. Objectives: The present study is geared to learning about the patterns of tau seeding and cells involved following unilateral inoculation in the corpus callosum of homogenates from sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD), primary age-related tauopathy (PART: neuronal 4Rtau and 3Rtau), pure aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG: astroglial 4Rtau with thorn-shaped astrocytes TSAs), globular glial tauopathy (GGT: 4Rtau with neuronal tau and specific tau inclusions in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, GAIs and GOIs, respectively), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP: 4Rtau with neuronal inclusions, tufted astrocytes and coiled bodies), Pick's disease (PiD: 3Rtau with characteristic Pick bodies in neurons and tau containing fibrillar astrocytes), and frontotemporal lobar degeneration linked to P301L mutation (FTLD-P301L: 4Rtau familial tauopathy). Methods: Adult WT mice were inoculated unilaterally in the lateral corpus callosum with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions or with sarkosyl-soluble fractions from the mentioned tauopathies; mice were killed from 4 to 7 months after inoculation. Brains were fixed in paraformaldehyde, embedded in paraffin and processed for immunohistochemistry. Results: Tau seeding occurred in the ipsilateral corpus callosum and was also detected in the contralateral corpus callosum. Phospho-tau deposits were found in oligodendrocytes similar to coiled bodies and in threads. Moreover, tau deposits co-localized with active (phosphorylated) tau kinases p38 and ERK 1/2, suggesting active tau phosphorylation of murine tau. TSAs, GAIs, GOIs, tufted astrocytes, and tau-containing fibrillar astrocytes were not seen in any case. Tau deposits were often associated with slight myelin disruption and the presence of small PLP1-immunoreactive globules and dots in the ipsilateral corpus callosum 6 months after inoculation of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from every tauopathy. Conclusions: Seeding and spreading of human tau in the corpus callosum of WT mice occurs in oligodendrocytes, thereby supporting the idea of a role of oligodendrogliopathy in tau seeding and spreading in the white matter in tauopathies. Slight differences in the predominance of threads or oligodendroglial deposits suggest disease differences in the capacity of tau seeding and spreading among tauopathies.

JTD Keywords: AD, ARTAG, GGT, PiD, Seeding and spreading, Tau, Tauopathies


Ferrer, I., Zelaya, M. V., Aguiló García, M., Carmona, M., López-González, I., Andrés-Benito, P., Lidón, L., Gavín, R., Garcia-Esparcia, P., del Rio, J. A., (2019). Relevance of host tau in tau seeding and spreading in tauopathies Brain Pathology Early View

Human tau seeding and spreading occur following intracerebral inoculation of brain homogenates obtained from tauopathies in transgenic mice expressing natural or mutant tau, and in wild-type (WT) mice. The present study was geared to learning about the patterns of tau seeding, the cells involved and the characteristics of tau following intracerebral inoculation of homogenates from primary age-related tauopathy (PART: neuronal 4Rtau and 3Rtau), aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG: astrocytic 4Rtau) and globular glial tauopathy (GGT: 4Rtau with neuronal deposits and specific tau inclusions in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes). For this purpose, young and adult WT mice were inoculated unilaterally in the hippocampus or in the lateral corpus callosum with sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from PART, ARTAG and GGT cases, and were killed at variable periods of three to seven months. Brains were processed for immunohistochemistry in paraffin sections. Tau seeding occurred in the ipsilateral hippocampus and corpus callosum and spread to the septal nuclei, periventricular hypothalamus and contralateral corpus callosum, respectively. Tau deposits were mainly found in neurons, oligodendrocytes and threads; the deposits were diffuse or granular, composed of phosphorylated tau, tau with abnormal conformation and 3Rtau and 4Rtau independently of the type of tauopathy. Truncated tau at the aspartic acid 421 and ubiquitination were absent. Tau deposits had the characteristics of pre-tangles. A percentage of intracellular tau deposits co-localized with active (phosphorylated) tau kinases p38 and ERK 1/2. Present study shows that seeding and spreading of human tau into the brain of WT mice involves neurons and glial cells, mainly oligodendrocytes, thereby supporting the idea of a primary role of oligodendrogliopathy, together with neuronopathy, in the progression of tauopathies. In addition, it suggests that human tau inoculation modifies murine tau metabolism with the production and deposition of 3Rtau and 4Rtau, and by activation of specific tau kinases in affected cells.

JTD Keywords: Aging-related tau astrogliopathy, Globular glial tauopathy, Primary age-related tauopathy, Seeding, Spreading, Tau, Tauopathies


Ferrer, Isidro, García, M. A., González, I. L., Lucena, D. D., Villalonga, A. R., Tech, M. C., Llorens, F., Garcia-Esparcia, P., Martinez-Maldonado, A., Mendez, M. F., Escribano, B. T., Serra, J. J. B., Sabido, E., de la Torre Gómez, C., del Rio, J. A., (2018). Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG): Not only tau phosphorylation in astrocytes Brain Pathology 28, (6), 965–985

Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG) is defined by the presence of two types of tau-bearing astrocytes: thorn-shaped astrocytes (TSAs) and granular/fuzzy astrocytes in the brain of old-aged individuals. The present study is focused on TSAs in rare forms of ARTAG with no neuronal tau pathology or restricted to entorhinal and transentorhinal cortices, to avoid bias from associated tauopathies. TSAs show 4Rtau phosphorylation at several specific sites and abnormal tau conformation, but they lack ubiquitin and they are not immunostained with tau-C3 antibodies which recognize truncated tau at Asp421. Astrocytes in ARTAG have atrophic processes, reduced glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and increased superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) immunoreactivity. Gel electrophoresis and western blotting of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions reveal a pattern of phospho-tau in ARTAG characterized by two bands of 68 and 64 kDa, and several middle bands between 35 and 50 kDa which differ from what is seen in AD. Phosphoproteomics of dissected vulnerable regions identifies an increase of phosphorylation marks in a large number of proteins in ARTAG compared with controls. GFAP, aquaporin 4, several serine-threonine kinases, microtubule associated proteins and other neuronal proteins are among the differentially phosphorylated proteins in ARTAG thus suggesting a hyper-phosphorylation background that affects several molecules, including many kinases and proteins from several cell compartments and various cell types. Finally, present results show for the first time that tau seeding is produced in neurons of the hippocampal complex, astrocytes, oligodendroglia and along fibers of the corpus callosum, fimbria and fornix following inoculation into the hippocampus of wild type mice of sarkosyl-insoluble fractions enriched in hyper-phosphorylated tau from selected ARTAG cases. These findings show astrocytes as crucial players of tau seeding in tauopathies.

JTD Keywords: ARTAG, Kinases, Phosphorylation, Seeding, Tau, Thorn-shaped astrocytes


Garcia-Esparcia, P., Koneti, A., Rodríguez-Oroz, M. C., Gago, B., del Rio, J. A., Ferrer, Isidro, (2018). Mitochondrial activity in the frontal cortex area 8 and angular gyrus in Parkinson's disease and Parkinson's disease with dementia Brain Pathology 28, (1), 43-57

Altered mitochondrial function is characteristic in the substantia nigra in Parkinson's disease (PD). Information about mitochondria in other brain regions such as the cerebral cortex is conflicting mainly because most studies have not contemplated the possibility of variable involvement depending on the region, stage of disease progression and clinical symptoms such as the presence or absence of dementia. RT-qPCR of 18 nuclear mRNAs encoding subunits of mitochondrial complexes and 12 mRNAs encoding energy metabolism-related enzymes; western blotting of mitochondrial proteins; and analysis of enzymatic activities of complexes I, II, II, IV and V of the respiratory chain were assessed in frontal cortex area 8 and the angular gyrus of middle-aged individuals (MA), and those with incidental PD (iPD), long-lasting PD with parkinsonism without dementia (PD) and long-lasting PD with dementia (PDD). Up-regulation of several genes was found in frontal cortex area 8 in PD when compared with MA and in the angular gyrus in iPD when compared with MA. Marked down-regulation of genes encoding mitochondrial subunits and energy metabolism-related enzymes occurs in frontal cortex but only of genes coding for energy metabolism-related enzymes in the angular gyrus in PDD. Significant decrease in the protein expression levels of several mitochondrial subunits encoded by these genes occurs in frontal cortex area 8 and angular gyrus in PDD. Moreover, expression of MT-ND1 which is encoded by mitochondrial DNA is also reduced in PDD. Reduced enzymatic activity of complex III in frontal cortex area 8 and angular gyrus is observed in PD, but dramatic reduction in the activity of complexes I, II, II and IV in both regions characterizes PDD. Dementia in the context of PD is linked to region-specific deregulation of genomic genes encoding subunits of mitochondrial complexes and to marked reduction in the activity of mitochondrial complexes I, II, III and IV.

JTD Keywords: Cerebral cortex, Dementia, Energy metabolism, Incidental PD, Mitochondria, Oxidative phosphorylation, Parkinson disease, PDD, Respiratory chain


Frau-Méndez, Margalida A., Fernández-Vega, Iván, Ansoleaga, Belén, Blanco, Rosa, Carmona, Margarita, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Zerr, Inga, Llorens, Franc, Zarranz, Juan José, Ferrer, Isidro, (2017). Fatal familial insomnia: Mitochondrial and protein synthesis machinery decline in the mediodorsal thalamus Brain Pathology 27, (1), 95-106

The expression of subunits of mitochondrial respiratory complexes and components of the protein synthesis machinery from the nucleolus to the ribosome was analyzed in the mediodorsal thalamus in seven cases of Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) compared with age-matched controls. NDUFB8 (complex I subunit), SDHB (complex II subunit), UQCRC2 (complex III subunit), COX2 (complex IV subunit) and ATP50 (complex V subunit) expression levels, as revealed by western blotting, were reduced in FFI. Voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) and ATP5H were also reduced due to the marked depopulation of neurons. In contrast, a marked increase in superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) was found in reactive astrocytes thus suggesting that astrocytes are key factors in oxidative stress responses. The histone-binding chaperones nucleolin and nucleoplasmin 3, and histone H3 di-methylated K9 were markedly reduced together with a decrease in the expression of protein transcription elongation factor eEF1A. These findings show severe impairment in the expression of crucial components of mitochondrial function and protein synthesis in parallel with neuron loss in mediodorsal thalamus at terminal stages of FFI. Therapeutic measures must be taken long before the appearance of clinical symptoms to prevent the devastating effects of FFI.

JTD Keywords: Fatal familial insomnia, Mitochondria, Protein synthesis, Mitochondrial respiratory chain, Nucleolus, Ribosome


Mata, Agata, Urrea, Laura, Vilches, Silvia, Llorens, Franc, Thüne, Katrin, Espinosa, Juan-Carlos, Andréoletti, Olivier, Sevillano, Alejandro M., Torres, Juan María, Requena, Jesús Rodríguez, Zerr, Inga, Ferrer, Isidro, Gavín, Rosalina, del Río, José Antonio, (2017). Reelin expression in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and experimental models of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies Molecular Neurobiology 54, (8), 6412-6425

Reelin is an extracellular glycoprotein involved in key cellular processes in developing and adult nervous system, including regulation of neuronal migration, synapse formation, and plasticity. Most of these roles are mediated by the intracellular phosphorylation of disabled-1 (Dab1), an intracellular adaptor molecule, in turn mediated by binding Reelin to its receptors. Altered expression and glycosylation patterns of Reelin in cerebrospinal and cortical extracts have been reported in Alzheimer’s disease. However, putative changes in Reelin are not described in natural prionopathies or experimental models of prion infection or toxicity. With this is mind, in the present study, we determined that Reelin protein and mRNA levels increased in CJD human samples and in mouse models of human prion disease in contrast to murine models of prion infection. However, changes in Reelin expression appeared only at late terminal stages of the disease, which prevent their use as an efficient diagnostic biomarker. In addition, increased Reelin in CJD and in in vitro models does not correlate with Dab1 phosphorylation, indicating failure in its intracellular signaling. Overall, these findings widen our understanding of the putative changes of Reelin in neurodegeneration.

JTD Keywords: Reelin, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Dab-1, Cellular prion protein


Urrea, Laura, Ferrer, Isidro, Gavín, Rosalina, del Río, José Antonio, (2017). The cellular prion protein (PrPC) as neuronal receptor for α-synuclein Prion , 11, (4), 226-233

The term ‘prion-like’ is used to define some misfolded protein species that propagate intercellularly, triggering protein aggregation in recipient cells. For cell binding, both direct plasma membrane interaction and membrane receptors have been described for particular amyloids. In this respect, emerging evidence demonstrates that several β-sheet enriched proteins can bind to the cellular prion protein (PrPC). Among other interactions, the physiological relevance of the binding between β-amyloid and PrPC has been a relevant focus of numerous studies. At the molecular level, published data point to the second charged cluster domain of the PrPC molecule as the relevant binding domain of the β-amyloid/PrPC interaction. In addition to β-amyloid, participation of PrPC in binding α-synuclein, responsible for neurodegenerative synucleopathies, has been reported. Although results indicate relevant participation of PrPC in the spreading of α-synuclein in living mice, the physiological relevance of the interaction remains elusive. In this comment, we focus our attention on summarizing current knowledge of PrPC as a receptor for amyloid proteins and its physiological significance, with particular focus on α-synuclein.

JTD Keywords: α-synuclein, Charged cluster domain, Interneuronal transport, LAG3, Neurodegeneration, PrPC, Parkinson disease


Reginensi, Diego, Carulla, Patricia, Nocentini, Sara, Seira, Oscar, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Torres-Espín, Abel, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Gavín, Rosalina, Moreno-Flores, María Teresa, Wandosell, Francisco, Samitier, Josep, Trepat, Xavier, Navarro, Xavier, del Río, José Antonio, (2015). Increased migration of olfactory ensheathing cells secreting the Nogo receptor ectodomain over inhibitory substrates and lesioned spinal cord Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences , 72, (14), 2719-2737

Olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) transplantation emerged some years ago as a promising therapeutic strategy to repair injured spinal cord. However, inhibitory molecules are present for long periods of time in lesioned spinal cord, inhibiting both OEC migration and axonal regrowth. Two families of these molecules, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPG) and myelin-derived inhibitors (MAIs), are able to trigger inhibitory responses in lesioned axons. Mounting evidence suggests that OEC migration is inhibited by myelin. Here we demonstrate that OEC migration is largely inhibited by CSPGs and that inhibition can be overcome by the bacterial enzyme Chondroitinase ABC. In parallel, we have generated a stable OEC cell line overexpressing the Nogo receptor (NgR) ectodomain to reduce MAI-associated inhibition in vitro and in vivo. Results indicate that engineered cells migrate longer distances than unmodified OECs over myelin or oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein (OMgp)-coated substrates. In addition, they also show improved migration in lesioned spinal cord. Our results provide new insights toward the improvement of the mechanisms of action and optimization of OEC-based cell therapy for spinal cord lesion.

JTD Keywords: Olfactory ensheathing cells, Traction force microscopy, Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans, Cell migration, Nogo receptor ectodomain


Llorens, Franc, Zafar, Saima, Ansoleaga, Belén, Shafiq, Mohsin, Blanco, Rosi, Carmona, Marga, Grau-Rivera, Oriol, Nos, Carlos, Gelpí, Ellen, del Río, José Antonio, Zerr, Inga, Ferrer, Isidre, (2015). Subtype and regional regulation of prion biomarkers in sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology , 41, (5), 631-645

Aims Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rapid progressive neurological disease leading to dementia and death. Prion biomarkers are altered in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of CJD patients, but the pathogenic mechanisms underlying these alterations are still unknown. The present study examined prion biomarker levels in the brain and CSF of sporadic CJD (sCJD) cases and their correlation with neuropathological lesion profiles. Methods The expression levels of 14-3-3, Tau, phospho-Tau and α-synuclein were measured in the CSF and brain of sCJD cases in a subtype- and region-specific manner. In addition, the activity of prion biomarker kinases, the expression levels of CJD hallmarks and the most frequent neuropathological sCJD findings were analysed. Results Prion biomarkers levels were increased in the CSF of sCJD patients; however, correlations between mRNA, total protein and their phosphorylated forms in brain were different. The observed downregulation of the main Tau kinase, GSK3, in sCJD brain samples may help to explain the differential phospho-Tau/Tau ratios between sCJD and other dementias in the CSF. Importantly, CSF biomarkers levels do not necessarily correlate with sCJD neuropathological findings. Interpretation Present findings indicate that prion biomarkers levels in sCJD tissues and their release into the CSF are differentially regulated following specific modulated responses, and suggest a functional role for these proteins in sCJD pathogenesis.

JTD Keywords: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Prion Protein, Cerebrospinal fluid, Prion Biomarkers, disease subtype, Glycogen synthase kinase 3


Llorens, F., Hummel, M., Pantano, L., Pastor, X., Vivancos, A., Castillo, E., Mattlin, H., Ferrer, A., Ingham, M., Noguera, M., Kofler, R., Dohm, J. C., Pluvinet, R., Bayés, M., Himmelbauer, H., del Rio, J. A., Martí, E., Sumoy, L., (2013). Microarray and deep sequencing cross-platform analysis of the mirRNome and isomiR variation in response to epidermal growth factor BMC Genomics 14, (1), 1-15

Background: Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) plays an important function in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation by binding to its receptor (EGFR) and providing cancer cells with increased survival responsiveness. Signal transduction carried out by EGF has been extensively studied at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Little is known about the involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the EGF signaling pathway. miRNAs have emerged as major players in the complex networks of gene regulation, and cancer miRNA expression studies have evidenced a direct involvement of miRNAs in cancer progression.Results: In this study, we have used an integrative high content analysis approach to identify the specific miRNAs implicated in EGF signaling in HeLa cells as potential mediators of cancer mediated functions. We have used microarray and deep-sequencing technologies in order to obtain a global view of the EGF miRNA transcriptome with a robust experimental cross-validation. By applying a procedure based on Rankprod tests, we have delimited a solid set of EGF-regulated miRNAs. After validating regulated miRNAs by reverse transcription quantitative PCR, we have derived protein networks and biological functions from the predicted targets of the regulated miRNAs to gain insight into the potential role of miRNAs in EGF-treated cells. In addition, we have analyzed sequence heterogeneity due to editing relative to the reference sequence (isomiRs) among regulated miRNAs.Conclusions: We propose that the use of global genomic miRNA cross-validation derived from high throughput technologies can be used to generate more reliable datasets inferring more robust networks of co-regulated predicted miRNA target genes.

JTD


Llorens, F., Del Rio, J. A., (2012). Unraveling the neuroprotective mechanisms of PrPC in excitotoxicity Prion , 6, (3), 245-251

Knowledge of the natural roles of cellular prion protein (PrPC) is essential to an understanding of the molecular basis of prion pathologies. This GPIanchored protein has been described in synaptic contacts, and loss of its synaptic function in complex systems may contribute to the synaptic loss and neuronal degeneration observed in prionopathy. In addition, Prnp knockout mice show enhanced susceptibility to several excitotoxic insults, GABAA receptor-mediated fast inhibition was weakened, LTP was modified and cellular stress increased. Although little is known about how PrPC exerts its function at the synapse or the downstream events leading to PrPCmediated neuroprotection against excitotoxic insults, PrPC has recently been reported to interact with two glutamate receptor subunits (NR2D and GluR6/7). In both cases the presence of PrPC blocks the neurotoxicity induced by NMDA and Kainate respectively. Furthermore, signals for seizure and neuronal cell death in response to Kainate in Prnp knockout mouse are associated with JNK3 activity, through enhancing the interaction of GluR6 with PSD-95. In combination with previous data, these results shed light on the molecular mechanisms behind the role of PrPC in excitotoxicity. Future experimental approaches are suggested and discussed.

JTD Keywords: Prion protein, Excitotoxicity, Neuroprotection, Glutamate receptors, Synapse, prionopathy


Llorens, Franc, Gil, Vanessa, Antonio del Rio, Jose, (2011). Emerging functions of myelin-associated proteins during development, neuronal plasticity, and neurodegeneration FASEB Journal , 25, (2), 463-475

Adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) axons have a limited regrowth capacity following injury. Myelin-associated inhibitors (MAIs) limit axonal outgrowth, and their blockage improves the regeneration of damaged fiber tracts. Three of these proteins, Nogo-A, MAG, and OMgp, share two common neuronal receptors: NgR1, together with its coreceptors [p75(NTR), TROY, and Lingo-1]; and the recently described paired immunoglobulin-like receptor B (PirB). These proteins impair neuronal regeneration by limiting axonal sprouting. Some of the elements involved in the myelin inhibitory pathways may still be unknown, but the discovery that blocking both PirB and NgR1 activities leads to near-complete release from myelin inhibition, sheds light on one of the most competitive and intense fields of neuroregeneration study in recent decades. In parallel with the identification and characterization of the roles and functions of these inhibitory molecules in axonal regeneration, data gathered in the field strongly suggest that most of these proteins have roles other than axonal growth inhibition. The discovery of a new group of interacting partners for myelin-associated receptors and ligands, as well as functional studies within or outside the CNS environment, highlights the potential new physiological roles for these proteins in processes, such as development, neuronal homeostasis, plasticity, and neurodegeneration.-Llorens, F., Gil, V., del Rio, J. A. Emerging functions of myelin-associated proteins during development, neuronal plasticity, and neurodegeneration.

JTD Keywords: MAIs, Neural stem cells, Synapse formation


Carulla, Patricia, Bribian, Ana, Rangel, Alejandra, Gavin, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidro, Caelles, Carme, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Llorens, Franc, (2011). Neuroprotective role of PrP(C) against kainate-induced epileptic seizures and cell death depends on the modulation of JNK3 activation by GluR6/7-PSD-95 binding Molecular Biology of the Cell , 22, (17), 3041-3054

Cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol-anchored glycoprotein. When mutated or misfolded, the pathogenic form (PrP(SC)) induces transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In contrast, PrP(C) has a number of physiological functions in several neural processes. Several lines of evidence implicate PrP(C) in synaptic transmission and neuroprotection since its absence results in an increase in neuronal excitability and enhanced excitotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, PrP(C) has been implicated in the inhibition of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-mediated neurotransmission, and prion protein gene (Prnp) knockout mice show enhanced neuronal death in response to NMDA and kainate (KA). In this study, we demonstrate that neurotoxicity induced by KA in Prnp knockout mice depends on the c-Jun N-terminal kinase 3 (JNK3) pathway since Prnp(%) Jnk3(%) mice were not affected by KA. Pharmacological blockage of JNK3 activity impaired PrP(C)-dependent neurotoxicity. Furthermore, our results indicate that JNK3 activation depends on the interaction of PrP(C) with postsynaptic density 95 protein (PSD-95) and glutamate receptor 6/7 (GluR6/7). Indeed, GluR6-PSD-95 interaction after KA injections was favored by the absence of PrP(C). Finally, neurotoxicity in Prnp knockout mice was reversed by an AMPA/KA inhibitor (6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione) and the GluR6 antagonist NS-102. We conclude that the protection afforded by PrP(C) against KA is due to its ability to modulate GluR6/7-mediated neurotransmission and hence JNK3 activation.

JTD Keywords: Ischemic brain-injury, Prion protein PrP(C), Stress-inducible protein-1, Synaptic plasticity, Neurite outgrowth, Signaling module, Caspase-3 activation, Organotypic cultures, Cerebral-ischemia


Llorens, Franc, Hummel, Manuela, Pastor, Xavier, Ferrer, Anna, Pluvinet, Raquel, Vivancos, Ana, Castillo, Ester, Iraola, Susana, Mosquera, Ana M., Gonzalez, Eva, Lozano, Juanjo, Ingham, Matthew, Dohm, Juliane C., Noguera, Marc, Kofler, Robert, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Bayes, Monica, Himmelbauer, Heinz, Sumoy, Lauro, (2011). Multiple platform assessment of the EGF dependent transcriptome by microarray and deep tag sequencing analysis BMC Genomics 12, 326

Background: Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) is a key regulatory growth factor activating many processes relevant to normal development and disease, affecting cell proliferation and survival. Here we use a combined approach to study the EGF dependent transcriptome of HeLa cells by using multiple long oligonucleotide based microarray platforms (from Agilent, Operon, and Illumina) in combination with digital gene expression profiling (DGE) with the Illumina Genome Analyzer. Results: By applying a procedure for cross-platform data meta-analysis based on RankProd and GlobalAncova tests, we establish a well validated gene set with transcript levels altered after EGF treatment. We use this robust gene list to build higher order networks of gene interaction by interconnecting associated networks, supporting and extending the important role of the EGF signaling pathway in cancer. In addition, we find an entirely new set of genes previously unrelated to the currently accepted EGF associated cellular functions. Conclusions: We propose that the use of global genomic cross-validation derived from high content technologies (microarrays or deep sequencing) can be used to generate more reliable datasets. This approach should help to improve the confidence of downstream in silico functional inference analyses based on high content data.

JTD Keywords: Gene-expression measurements, Quality-control maqc, Cancer-cell-lines, Real-time pcr, Oligonucleotide microarrays, Phosphorylation dynamics, In-vivo, Networks, Signal, Technologies


del Rio, Jose Antonio, Soriano, Eduardo, (2010). Regenerating cortical connections in a dish: the entorhino-hippocampal organotypic slice co-culture as tool for pharmacological screening of molecules promoting axon regeneration Nature Protocols 5, (2), 217-226

We present a method for using long-term organotypic slice co-cultures of the entorhino-hippocampal formation to analyze the axon-regenerative properties of a determined compound. The culture method is based on the membrane interphase method, which is easy to perform and is generally reproducible. The degree of axonal regeneration after treatment in lesioned cultures can be seen directly using green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic mice or by axon tracing and histological methods. Possible changes in cell morphology after pharmacological treatment can be determined easily by focal in vitro electroporation. The well-preserved cytoarchitectonics in the co-culture facilitate the analysis of identified cells or regenerating axons. The protocol takes up to a month.

JTD Keywords: Cajal-retzius cells, Green-fluorescent-protein, In-vitro model, Rat hippocampus, Nervous-tissue, Brain-slices, Dentate gyrus, Gene-transfer, Cultures, Damage


Gil, Vanessa, Bichler, Zoe, Lee, Jae K., Seira, Oscar, Llorens, Franc, Bribian, Ana, Morales, Ricardo, Claverol-Tinture, Enric, Soriano, Eduardo, Sumoy, Lauro, Zheng, Binhai, del Rio, Jose A., (2010). Developmental expression of the oligodendrocyte myelin glycoprotein in the mouse telencephalon Cerebral Cortex , 20, (8), 1769-1779

The oligodendrocyte myelin glycoprotein is a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored protein expressed by neurons and oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system. Attempts have been made to identify the functions of the myelin-associated inhibitory proteins (MAIPs) after axonal lesion or in neurodegeneration. However, the developmental roles of some of these proteins and their receptors remain elusive. Recent studies indicate that NgR1 and the recently discovered receptor PirB restrict cortical synaptic plasticity. However, the putative factors that trigger these effects are unknown. Because Nogo-A is mostly associated with the endoplasmic reticulum and myelin associated glycoprotein appears late during development, the putative participation of OMgp should be considered. Here, we examine the pattern of development of OMgp immunoreactive elements during mouse telencephalic development. OMgp immunoreactivity in the developing cortex follows the establishment of the thalamo-cortical barrel field. At the cellular level, we located OMgp neuronal membranes in dendrites and axons as well as in brain synaptosome fractions and axon varicosities. Lastly, the analysis of the barrel field in OMgp-deficient mice revealed that although thalamo-cortical connections were formed, their targeting in layer IV was altered, and numerous axons ectopically invaded layers II-III. Our data support the idea that early expressed MAIPs play an active role during development and point to OMgp participating in thalamo-cortical connections.

JTD Keywords: Axon plasticity, Barrel-field specification, Cortical lamination, Myelin


Madronal, Noelia, Lopez-Aracil, Cristina, Rangel, Alejandra, del Rio, Jose A., Delgado-Garcia, Jose M., Gruart, Agnes, (2010). Effects of Enriched Physical and Social Environments on Motor Performance, Associative Learning, and Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Mice PLoS ONE 5, (6), e11130

We have studied the motor abilities and associative learning capabilities of adult mice placed in different enriched environments. Three-month-old animals were maintained for a month alone (AL), alone in a physically enriched environment (PHY), and, finally, in groups in the absence (SO) or presence (SOPHY) of an enriched environment. The animals' capabilities were subsequently checked in the rotarod test, and for classical and instrumental learning. The PHY and SOPHY groups presented better performances in the rotarod test and in the acquisition of the instrumental learning task. In contrast, no significant differences between groups were observed for classical eyeblink conditioning. The four groups presented similar increases in the strength of field EPSPs (fEPSPs) evoked at the hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapse across classical conditioning sessions, with no significant differences between groups. These trained animals were pulse-injected with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) to determine hippocampal neurogenesis. No significant differences were found in the number of NeuN/BrdU double-labeled neurons. We repeated the same BrdU study in one-month-old mice raised for an additional month in the above-mentioned four different environments. These animals were not submitted to rotarod or conditioned tests. Non-trained PHY and SOPHY groups presented more neurogenesis than the other two groups. Thus, neurogenesis seems to be related to physical enrichment at early ages, but not to learning acquisition in adult mice.

JTD Keywords: Long-term potentiation, Adult neurogenesis, Synaptic transmission, Cell proliferation, CA3-CA1 synapse, Granule cells


Seira, O., Gavin, R., Gil, V., Llorens, F., Rangel, A., Soriano, E., del Rio, J. A., (2010). Neurites regrowth of cortical neurons by GSK3 beta inhibition independently of Nogo receptor 1 Journal of Neurochemistry , 113, (6), 1644-1658

P>Lesioned axons do not regenerate in the adult mammalian CNS, owing to the over-expression of inhibitory molecules such as myelin-derived proteins or chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans. In order to overcome axon inhibition, strategies based on extrinsic and intrinsic treatments have been developed. For myelin-associated inhibition, blockage with NEP1-40, receptor bodies or IN-1 antibodies has been used. In addition, endogenous blockage of cell signalling mechanisms induced by myelin-associated proteins is a potential tool for overcoming axon inhibitory signals. We examined the participation of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3 beta) and extracellular-related kinase (ERK) 1/2 in axon regeneration failure in lesioned cortical neurons. We also investigated whether pharmacological blockage of GSK3 beta and ERK1/2 activities facilitates regeneration after myelin-directed inhibition in two models: (i) cerebellar granule cells and (ii) lesioned entorhino-hippocampal pathway in slice cultures, and whether the regenerative effects are mediated by Nogo Receptor 1 (NgR1). We demonstrate that, in contrast to ERK1/2 inhibition, the pharmacological treatment of GSK3 beta inhibition strongly facilitated regrowth of cerebellar granule neurons over myelin independently of NgR1. Finally, these regenerative effects were corroborated in the lesioned entorhino-hippocampal pathway in NgR1-/- mutant mice. These results provide new findings for the development of new assays and strategies to enhance axon regeneration in injured cortical connections.

JTD Keywords: Axon inhibition, Nogo Receptor complex, Organotypic slice cultures, Pharmacological treatment


Messeguer, J., Masip, I., Montolio, M., del Rio, J. A., Soriano, E., Messeguer, A., (2010). Peptoids bearing tertiary amino residues in the n-alkyl side chains: synthesis of a potent inhibitor of Semaphorin 3A Tetrahedron , 66, (13), 2444-2454

A study on the preparation of N-alkylglycines (peptoids) that contain tertiary amino residues on the N-alkyl side chains is reported. The appropriate combination of the submonomer strategy with N-alkylglycine monomer couplings depending upon the structure of the N-alkyl side chain that must be incorporated into the peptoid is determinant for the efficiency of the synthetic pathway. The application of this strategy to the preparation of SICHI, an N-alkyglycine trimer containing tertiary amino residues in the three N-alkyl branches, and that has been identified as a potent Semaphorin 3A inhibitor, is presented.

JTD Keywords: Peptoids, N-Alkylglycine monomers, Solid-phase synthesis, Semaphorin inhibition, Axonal regeneration


Nicolas, O., Gavin, R., Del Rio, J. A., (2009). New insights into cellular prion protein (PrPc) functions: The "ying and yang" of a relevant protein Brain Research Reviews , 61, (2), 170-184

The conversion of cellular prion protein (PrPc) a GPI-anchored protein, into a protease-K-resistant and infective form (generally termed PrPsc) is mainly responsible for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), characterized by neuronal degeneration and progressive loss of basic brain functions. Although PrPc is expressed by a wide range of tissues throughout the body, the complete repertoire of its functions has not been fully deter-mined. Recent studies have confirmed its participation in basic physiological processes such as cell proliferation and the regulation of cellular homeostasis. Other studies indicate that PrPc interacts with several molecules to activate signaling cascades with a high number of cellular effects. To deter-mine PrPc functions, transgenic mouse models have been generated in the last decade. In particular, mice lacking specific domains of the PrPc protein have revealed the contribution of these domains to neurodegenerative processes. A dual role of PrPc has been shown, since most authors report protective roles for this protein while others describe pro-apoptotic functions. in this review, we summarize new findings on PrPc functions, especially those related to neural degeneration and cell signaling.

JTD Keywords: Prion, Doppel, Shadoo, Cell death, Cell proliferation, Cell differentiation


Rangel, A., Madroñal, N., Gruart i Massó, A., Gavin,, Llorens, Sumoy, Torres, Delgado-Gar, Del Rio, J. A., (2009). Regulation of GABA(A) and glutamate receptor expression, synaptic facilitation and long-term potentiation in the hippocampus of prion mutant mice PLoS ONE 4, (10), e7592 (1-14)

Background: Prionopathies are characterized by spongiform brain degeneration, myoclonia, dementia, and periodic electroencephalographic (EEG) disturbances. The hallmark of prioniopathies is the presence of an abnormal conformational isoform (PrPsc) of the natural cellular prion protein (PrPc) encoded by the Prnp gene. Although several roles have been attributed to PrPc, its putative functions in neuronal excitability are unknown. Although early studies of the behavior of Prnp knockout mice described minor changes, later studies report altered behavior. To date, most functional PrPc studies on synaptic plasticity have been performed in vitro. To our knowledge, only one electrophysiological study has been performed in vivo in anesthetized mice, by Curtis and coworkers. They reported no significant differences in paired-pulse facilitation or LTP in the CA1 region after Schaffer collateral/commissural pathway stimulation. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we explore the role of PrPc expression in neurotransmission and neural excitability using wild-type, Prnp 2/2 and PrPc-overexpressing mice (Tg20 strain). By correlating histopathology with electrophysiology in living behaving mice, we demonstrate that both Prnp 2/2 mice but, more relevantly Tg20 mice show increased susceptibility to KA, leading to significant cell death in the hippocampus. This finding correlates with enhanced synaptic facilitation in paired-pulse experiments and hippocampal LTP in living behaving mutant mice. Gene expression profiling using IlluminaTM microarrays and Ingenuity pathways analysis showed that 129 genes involved in canonical pathways such as Ubiquitination or Neurotransmission were co-regulated in Prnp 2/2 and Tg20 mice. Lastly, RT-qPCR of neurotransmission-related genes indicated that subunits of GABAA and AMPA-kainate receptors are co-regulated in both Prnp 2/2 and Tg20 mice. Conclusions/Significance: Present results demonstrate that PrPc is necessary for the proper homeostatic functioning of hippocampal circuits, because of its relationships with GABAA and AMPA-Kainate neurotransmission. New PrPc functions have recently been described, which point to PrPc as a target for putative therapies in Alzheimer’s disease. However, our results indicate that a ‘‘gain of function’’ strategy in Alzheimer’s disease, or a ‘‘loss of function’’ in prionopathies, may impair PrPc function, with devastating effects. In conclusion, we believe that present data should be taken into account in the development of future therapies.

JTD Keywords: Prions, Prionopathies, Natural cellular prion protein (PrPc), Hippocampus, GABA (A) receptor, Glutamate Receptor


Morales, R., Riss, M., Wang, L., Gavin, R., Del Rio, J. A., Alcubilla, R., Claverol-Tinture, E., (2008). Integrating multi-unit electrophysiology and plastic culture dishes for network neuroscience Lab on a Chip 8, (11), 1896-1905

The electrophysiological characterisation of cultured neurons is of paramount importance for drug discovery, safety pharmacology and basic research in the neurosciences. Technologies offering low cost, low technical complexity and potential for scalability towards high-throughput electrophysiology on in vitro neurons would be advantageous, in particular for screening purposes. Here we describe a plastic culture substrate supporting low-complexity multi-unit loose-patch recording and stimulation of developing networks while retaining manufacturability compatible with low-cost and large-scale production. Our hybrid polydimethylsilane (PDMS)-on-polystyrene structures include chambers (6 mm in diameter) and microchannels (25 mu m x 3.7 mu m 1 mm) serving as substrate-embedded recording pipettes. Somas are plated and retained in the chambers due to geometrical constraints and their processes grow along the microchannels, effectively establishing a loose-patch configuration without human intervention. We demonstrate that off-the-shelf voltage-clamp, current-clamp and extracellular amplifiers can be used to record and stimulate multi-unit activity with the aid of our dishes. Spikes up to 50 pA in voltage-clamp and 300 mu V in current-clamp modes are recorded in sparse and bursting activity patterns characteristic of 1 week-old hippocampal cultures. Moreover, spike sorting employing principal component analysis (PCA) confirms that single microchannels support the recording of multiple neurons. Overall, this work suggests a strategy to endow conventional culture plasticware with added functionality to enable cost-efficient network electrophysiology.

JTD Keywords: Electrophysiological characterisation, Cultured neurons, Polydimethylsilane (PDMS)-on-polystyrene structures