• Region-specific glial homeostatic signature in prion diseases is replaced by a uniform neuroinflammation signature, common for brain regions and prion strains with different cell tropism

      Makarava, N.; Chang, J.C.-Y.; Molesworth, K.; Baskakov, I.V. (Academic Press Inc., 2020)
      Chronic neuroinflammation is recognized as a major neuropathological hallmark in a broad spectrum of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Frontal Temporal Dementia, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, and prion diseases. Both microglia and astrocytes exhibit region-specific homeostatic transcriptional identities, which under chronic neurodegeneration, transform into reactive phenotypes in a region- and disease-specific manner. Little is known about region-specific identity of glia in prion diseases. The current study was designed to determine whether the region-specific homeostatic signature of glia changes with the progression of prion diseases, and whether these changes occur in a region-dependent or universal manner. Also of interest was whether different prion strains give rise to different reactive phenotypes. To answer these questions, we analyzed gene expression in the thalamus, cortex, hypothalamus and hippocampus of mice infected with 22L and ME7 prion strains using a Nanostring Neuroinflammation panel at the subclinical, early clinical and advanced stages of the disease. We found that at the preclinical stage of the disease, the region-specific homeostatic identities were preserved. However, with the appearance of clinical signs, the region-specific signatures were partially lost and replaced with a neuroinflammation signature. While the same sets of genes were activated by both prion strains, the timing of neuroinflammation and the degree of activation in different brain regions was strain-specific. Changes in astrocyte function scored at the top of the activated pathways. Moreover, clustering analysis suggested that the astrocyte function pathway responded to prion infection prior to the Activated Microglia or Neuron and Neurotransmission pathways. The current work established neuroinflammation gene expression signature associated with prion diseases. Our results illustrate that with the disease progression, the region-specific homeostatic transcriptome signatures are replaced by the region-independent neuroinflammation signature, which is common for prion strains with different cell tropism. The prion-associated neuroinflammation signature identified in the current study overlapped only partially with the microglia degenerative phenotype and the disease-associated microglia phenotype reported for animal models of other neurodegenerative diseases. Copyright 2020 The Authors
    • Region-Specific Response of Astrocytes to Prion Infection

      Makarava, N.; Chang, J.C.-Y.; Kushwaha, R.; Baskakov, I.V. (Frontiers Media S.A., 2019)
      Chronic neuroinflammation involves reactive microgliosis and astrogliosis, and is regarded as a common pathological hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS and prion diseases. Reactive astrogliosis, routinely observed immunohistochemically as an increase in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) signal, is a well-documented feature of chronic neuroinflammation associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Recent studies on single-cell transcriptional profiling of a mouse brain revealed that, under normal conditions, several distinct subtypes of astrocytes with regionally specialized distribution exist. However, it remains unclear whether astrocytic response to pro-inflammatory pathological conditions is uniform across whole brain or is region-specific. The current study compares the response of microglia and astrocytes to prions in mice infected with 22L mouse-adapted prion strain. While the intensity of reactive microgliosis correlated well with the extent of PrPSc deposition, reactive astrogliosis displayed a different, region-specific pattern. In particular, the thalamus and stratum oriens of hippocampus, which are both affected by 22L prions, displayed strikingly different response of astrocytes to PrPSc. Astrocytes in stratum oriens of hippocampus responded to accumulation of PrPSc with visible hypertrophy and increased GFAP, while in the thalamus, despite stronger PrPSc signal, the increase of GFAP was milder than in hippocampus, and the change in astrocyte morphology was less pronounced. The current study suggests that astrocyte response to prion infection is heterogeneous and, in part, defined by brain region. Moreover, the current work emphasizes the needs for elucidating region-specific changes in functional states of astrocytes and exploring the impact of these changes to chronic neurodegeneration. Copyright 2019 Makarava, Chang, Kushwaha and Baskakov.
    • Region-specific sialylation pattern of prion strains provides novel insight into prion neurotropism

      Makarava, N.; Chang, J.C.-Y.; Baskakov, I.V. (MDPI AG, 2020)
      Mammalian prions are unconventional infectious agents that invade and replicate in an organism by recruiting a normal form of a prion protein (PrPC) and converting it into misfolded, disease-associated state referred to as PrPSc. PrPC is posttranslationally modified with two N-linked glycans. Prion strains replicate by selecting substrates from a large pool of PrPC sialoglycoforms expressed by a host. Brain regions have different vulnerability to prion infection, however, molecular mechanisms underlying selective vulnerability is not well understood. Toward addressing this question, the current study looked into a possibility that sialylation of PrPSc might be involved in defining selective vulnerability of brain regions. The current work found that in 22L-infected animals, PrPSc is indeed sialylated in a region dependent manner. PrPSc in hippocampus and cortex was more sialylated than PrPSc from thalamus and stem. Similar trends were also observed in brain materials from RML-and ME7-infected animals. The current study established that PrPSc sialylation status is indeed region-specific. Together with previous studies demonstrating that low sialylation status accelerates prion replication, this work suggests that high vulnerability of certain brain region to prion infection could be attributed to their low sialylation status. © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.