Identifying pathogenic mechanisms and new therapeutic targets for Gaucher disease using induced pluripotent stem cells
AdvisorFeldman, Ricardo A.
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AbstractGaucher Disease (GD), the most common lysosomal storage disorder, is caused by mutations in the GBA1 gene, which codes for the lysosomal enzyme β-glucocerebrosidase (GCase). GCase breaks down sphingolipids but when it is mutated, it causes the accumulation of glucosylceramide (GlcCer) and glucosylsphingosine (GlcSph). The common manifestations of GD include hepatosplenomegaly, anemia, thrombocytopenia, skeletal disease, and in case of severe mutations, there are also fatal neurological manifestations. The conventional treatment is not effective in managing the skeletal or neurological manifestations. Hence, a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that cause GD pathology is required for development of effective therapeutic strategies. The goal of this thesis was to identify the molecular mechanisms responsible for phenotypic alterations in osteoblasts and neuronal cells from GD patients, thereby pinpoint molecular targets for therapeutic intervention. Our laboratory utilizes patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) harboring GBA1 mutations to model GD. We have previously differentiated these iPSCs to various cell types and have shown that we can recapitulate the pathologic hallmarks of GD. Thus, in this study, we generated GD-iPSC derived osteoblasts and neuronal cells and found that mutations in GBA1 disrupt the canonical Wnt signaling and lysosomal compartment in these cell types. The phenotypic consequence of this was observed in the form of defective osteoblast differentiation and maturation as well as loss of midbrain/hindbrain neuronal progenitors in the respective cell types. Due to the known lysosomal dysregulation in GD, we then explored the mTOR pathway which is upstream of lysosomal biogenesis. We found hyperactivation of mTOR in GD neuronal cells was mediated by the significant accumulation of GlcSph, a lysolipid of GlcCer. In addition, when we blocked the conversion of GlcCer to GlcSph using acid ceramidase inhibitors, we were able to reverse mTOR hyperactivation and restore lysosomal expression, suggesting that GlcSph is partly, if not fully, responsible for the lysosomal abnormalities observed in GD. In conclusion, our study reveals that activation of canonical Wnt pathway or suppression of mTOR pathway ameliorates the phenotypic abnormalities in GD and identifies b-catenin, mTOR and acid ceramidase as potential therapeutic targets for GD.
University of Maryland, Baltimore