Publications by authors named "Marzia Pesaresi"

31 Publications

Axonal transport in a peripheral diabetic neuropathy model: sex-dimorphic features.

Biol Sex Differ 2018 01 19;9(1). Epub 2018 Jan 19.

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Background: Disruption of axonal transport plays a pivotal role in diabetic neuropathy. A sex-dimorphism exists in the incidence and symptomatology of diabetic neuropathy; however, no studies so far have addressed sex differences in axonal motor proteins expression in early diabetes as well as the possible involvement of neuroactive steroids. Interestingly, recent data point to a role for mitochondria in the sexual dimorphism of neurodegenerative diseases. Mitochondria have a fundamental role in axonal transport by producing the motors' energy source, ATP. Moreover, neuroactive steroids can also regulate mitochondrial function.

Methods: Here, we investigated the impact of short-term diabetes in the peripheral nervous system of male and female rats on key motor proteins important for axonal transport, mitochondrial function, and neuroactive steroids levels.

Results: We show that short-term diabetes alters mRNA levels and axoplasm protein contents of kinesin family member KIF1A, KIF5B, KIF5A and Myosin Va in male but not in female rats. Similarly, the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ co-activator-1α, a subunit of the respiratory chain complex IV, ATP levels and the key regulators of mitochondrial dynamics were affected in males but not in females. Concomitant analysis of neuroactive steroid levels in sciatic nerve showed an alteration of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and allopregnanolone in diabetic males, whereas no changes were observed in female rats.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that sex-specific decrease in neuroactive steroid levels in male diabetic animals may cause an alteration in their mitochondrial function that in turn might impact in axonal transport, contributing to the sex difference observed in diabetic neuropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13293-018-0164-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5775621PMC
January 2018

Diabetes induces mitochondrial dysfunction and alters cholesterol homeostasis and neurosteroidogenesis in the rat cerebral cortex.

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2018 04 26;178:108-116. Epub 2017 Nov 26.

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy. Electronic address:

The nervous system synthesizes and metabolizes steroids (i.e., neurosteroidogenesis). Recent observations indicate that neurosteroidogenesis is affected by different nervous pathologies. Among these, long-term type 1 diabetes, together with other functional and biochemical changes, has been shown to alter neuroactive steroid levels in the nervous system. Using an experimental model of type 1 diabetes (i.e., streptozotocin injection) we here show that the levels of these molecules are already decreased in the rat cerebral cortex after one month of the initiation of the pathology. Moreover, decreased levels of free cholesterol, together with alterations in the expression of molecules involved in cholesterol biosynthesis, bioavailability, trafficking and metabolism were detected in the rat cerebral cortex after one month of diabetes. Furthermore, mitochondrial functionality was also affected in the cerebral cortex and consequently may also contribute to the decrease in neuroactive steroid levels. Altogether, these results indicate that neurosteroidogenesis is an early target for the effect of type 1 diabetes in the cerebral cortex.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2017.11.009DOI Listing
April 2018

Sterol regulatory element binding protein-1C knockout mice show altered neuroactive steroid levels in sciatic nerve.

J Neurochem 2017 08 29;142(3):420-428. Epub 2017 May 29.

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Neuroactive steroid levels are altered in several experimental models of peripheral neuropathy, and on this basis, they have been proposed as protective agents. For the first time, the levels of these molecules were assessed here in sterol regulatory element binding protein -1c knock-out male mice (i.e., an experimental model of peripheral neuropathy) and compared with observations in wild type animals. The levels of neuroactive steroids have been evaluated by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry in plasma and sciatic nerve at 2 and 10 months of age and these analyses were implemented analyzing the gene expression of crucial steroidogenic enzymes in sciatic nerve. Data obtained at 2 months of age showed high levels of pregnenolone in sciatic nerve, associated with low levels of its first metabolite, progesterone, and further metabolites (i.e., 5α-pregnane-3,20-dione and 5α-pregnan-3β-ol-20-one). High levels of testosterone and 17β-estradiol were also observed. At 10 months of age, the neuroactive steroid profile showed some differences. Indeed, low levels of pregnenolone and high levels of 5α-pregnan-3α-ol-20-one and 5α-pregnan-3β-ol-20-one were observed. The analysis of the gene expression of steroidogenic enzymes considered here generally followed these changes. Interestingly, the levels of pregnenolone and progesterone were unmodified in plasma suggesting a specific effect of sterol regulatory element binding protein-1c on neurosteroidogenesis. Because this peripheral neuropathy is due to altered fatty acid biosynthesis, data reported here support the belief that the cross-talk between this biosynthetic pathway and neuroactive steroids may represent a possible therapeutic strategy for peripheral neuropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jnc.14063DOI Listing
August 2017

Diabetes alters myelin lipid profile in rat cerebral cortex: Protective effects of dihydroprogesterone.

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2017 04 3;168:60-70. Epub 2017 Feb 3.

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy. Electronic address:

Due to the emerging association of diabetes with several psychiatric and neurodegenerative events, the evaluation of the effects of this pathology on the brain function has now a high priority in biomedical research. In particular, the effects of diabetes on myelin compartment have been poorly taken into consideration. To this purpose, we performed a deep lipidomic analysis of cortical myelin in the streptozotocin-induced diabetic rat model. In male rats three months of diabetes induced an extensive alterations in levels of phosphatidylcholines and phosphatidylethanolamines (the main species present in myelin membranes), plasmalogens as well as phosphatidylinositols and phosphatidylserines. In addition, the levels of cholesterol and myelin basic protein were also decreased. Because these lipids exert important functional and structural roles in the myelin compartment, our data indicate that cerebral cortex myelin is severely compromised in diabetic status. Treatment for one-month with a metabolite of progesterone, dihydroprogesterone, restored the lipid and protein myelin profiles to the levels observed in non-diabetic animals. These data suggest the potential of therapeutic efficacy of DHP to restore myelin in the diabetic brain.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsbmb.2017.02.002DOI Listing
April 2017

The other side of progestins: effects in the brain.

J Mol Endocrinol 2016 08 23;57(2):R109-26. Epub 2016 Jun 23.

Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular SciencesCenter of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.

Progestins are a broad class of progestational agents widely differing in their chemical structures and pharmacological properties. Despite emerging data suggest that progestins, besides their action as endometrial protection, can also have multiple nonreproductive functions, much remains to be discovered regarding the actions exerted by these molecules in the nervous system. Here, we report the role exerted by different progestins, currently used for contraception or in postmenopausal hormone replacement therapies, in regulating cognitive functions as well as social behavior and mood. We provide evidence that the effects and mechanisms underlying their actions are still confusing due to the use of different estrogens and progestins as well as different doses, duration of exposure, route of administration, baseline hormonal status and age of treated women. We also discuss the emerging issue concerning the relevant increase of these substances in the environment, able to deeply affect aquatic wildlife as well as to exert a possible influence in humans, which may be exposed to these compounds via contaminated drinking water and seafood. Finally, we report literature data showing the neurobiological action of progestins and in particular their importance during neurodegenerative events. This is extremely interesting, since some of the progestins currently used in clinical practice exert neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects in the nervous system, opening new promising opportunities for the use of these molecules as therapeutic agents for trauma and neurodegenerative disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1530/JME-16-0061DOI Listing
August 2016

Effects of Subchronic Finasteride Treatment and Withdrawal on Neuroactive Steroid Levels and Their Receptors in the Male Rat Brain.

Neuroendocrinology 2016 9;103(6):746-57. Epub 2015 Dec 9.

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.

The enzymatic conversion of progesterone and testosterone by the enzyme 5alpha-reductase exerts a crucial role in the control of nervous function. The effects of finasteride in the brain, an inhibitor of this enzyme used for the treatment of human benign prostatic hyperplasia and androgenic alopecia, have been poorly explored. Therefore, the effects of a subchronic treatment with finasteride at low doses (3 mg/kg/day) and the consequences of its withdrawal on neuroactive steroid levels in plasma, cerebrospinal fluid and some brain regions as well as on the expression of classical and non-classical steroid receptors have been evaluated in male rats. After subchronic treatment (i.e., for 20 days) the following effects were detected: (i) depending on the compartment considered, alteration in the levels of neuroactive steroids, not only in 5alpha-reduced metabolites but also in its precursors and in neuroactive steroids from other steroidogenic pathways and (ii) an upregulation of the androgen receptor in the cerebral cortex and beta3 subunit of the GABA-A receptor in the cerebellum. One month after the last treatment (i.e., withdrawal period), some of these effects persisted (i.e., the upregulation of the androgen receptor in the cerebral cortex, an increase of dihydroprogesterone in the cerebellum, a decrease of dihydrotestosterone in plasma). Moreover, other changes in neuroactive steroid levels, steroid receptors (i.e., an upregulation of the estrogen receptor alpha and a downregulation of the estrogen receptor beta in the cerebral cortex) and GABA-A receptor subunits (i.e., a decrease of alpha 4 and beta 3 mRNA levels in the cerebral cortex) were detected. These findings suggest that finasteride treatment may have broad consequences for brain function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000442982DOI Listing
May 2017

Neuroactive steroids and the peripheral nervous system: An update.

Steroids 2015 Nov 28;103:23-30. Epub 2015 Mar 28.

Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

In the present review we summarize observations to date supporting the concept that neuroactive steroids are synthesized in the peripheral nervous system, regulate the physiology of peripheral nerves and exert notable neuroprotective actions. Indeed, neuroactive steroids have been recently proposed as therapies for different types of peripheral neuropathy, like for instance those occurring during aging, chemotherapy, physical injury and diabetes. Moreover, pharmacological tools able to increase the synthesis of neuroactive steroids might represent new interesting therapeutic strategy to be applied in case of peripheral neuropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.steroids.2015.03.014DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6314841PMC
November 2015

Levels and actions of progesterone and its metabolites in the nervous system during physiological and pathological conditions.

Prog Neurobiol 2014 Feb 16;113:56-69. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

Dept. of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences, Section of Biomedicine and Endocrinology, Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Balzaretti 9, 20133 Milano, Italy.

Progesterone is synthesized and actively metabolized in the central and peripheral nervous system, into neuroactive steroid metabolites, such as dihydroprogesterone, allopregnanolone and isopregnanolone. Progesterone and/or its metabolites exert a variety of effects acting as physiological regulators of neuronal and glial development and plasticity, controlling reproduction, neuroendocrine events, mood and affection. In addition, these neuroactive steroids maintain neural homeostasis and exert neuroprotective actions. In agreement, metabolic pathways of progesterone are affected by modifications in the level of gonadal hormones and by pathology or injury with a regional specificity and in a sex-dimorphic way. Therefore, observations here summarized may provide a background to design sex-specific therapies based on progesterone metabolites. On this point of view, considering that one of the major limits of a therapy based on neuroactive steroids could be modifications in their plasma levels and their consequent peripheral effects, pharmacological treatments aimed to increase their levels in the nervous system could provide an interesting therapeutic option.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2013.07.006DOI Listing
February 2014

Comparison of plasma and cerebrospinal fluid levels of neuroactive steroids with their brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerve levels in male and female rats.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2013 Oct 21;38(10):2278-90. Epub 2013 May 21.

Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences, Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Physiological changes and pathological alterations in the nervous system of rodents are associated with modifications in the levels of neuroactive steroids in the brain, spinal cord and/or peripheral nerves. Measures of tissue levels of steroids in the nervous system present serious limitations for human studies and for longitudinal studies in animals. In this study we have explored whether levels of neuroactive steroids in plasma and the cerebrospinal fluid reflect their levels in neural tissues. To this aim, we have evaluated by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry the levels of several neuroactive steroids in plasma, cerebrospinal fluid, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, hippocampus, spinal cord and sciatic nerve of male and female rats. Data indicate that plasma and cerebrospinal fluid levels of steroids do not fully reflect their tissue levels. However, the interindividual variations in the levels of all the steroids assessed, with the exception of dehydroepiandrosterone, showed a positive correlation in plasma and cerebral cortex. Most steroids also showed a positive correlation in plasma and the cerebellum, the spinal cord and the sciatic nerve. In the hippocampus, the levels of tetrahydroprogesterone, testosterone and testosterone metabolites showed a significant positive correlation with their respective levels in plasma. The cerebrospinal fluid levels of some steroids, such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, showed a full correlation with tissue levels. In addition, cerebrospinal fluid levels of pregnenolone, progesterone, and 17β-estradiol showed a positive correlation with their corresponding levels in the majority of the neural structures analyzed. These findings suggest that the levels of some neuroactive steroids in cerebrospinal fluid as well as in plasma may be valuable to predict their levels in the nervous system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.04.016DOI Listing
October 2013

Multimodal analysis in acute and chronic experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol 2013 Mar 30;8(1):238-50. Epub 2012 Jun 30.

Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari-Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Balzaretti 9, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Different experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis models (EAE) have been developed. However, due to the different experimental conditions applied, observations simultaneously considering different pathological targets are still scarce. Using EAE induced in Dark Agouti rats with syngenic whole spinal cord homogenate suspended in incomplete Freund's adjuvant, we here analyze neurosteroidogenic machinery, cytokine levels, microglial cells, infiltration of inflammatory cells, myelin proteins and Na(+), K(+)-ATPase pump activity in the spinal cord. Data obtained in the acute phase of the disease confirmed that neurological signs were accompanied by the presence of perivascular infiltrating T cells (CD3(+) cells) and activated monocytic/microglial cells (ED1(+) and MHC-II(+)) in the spinal cord. In particular, the number of MHC-II(+) cells was significantly increased in association with increased expression of pro- (i.e., TNF-α, IL-1β) and anti-inflammatory (i.e., TGF-β) cytokines as well as with decreased expression of proteolipid protein and myelin basic protein. During the chronic phase of the disease, the number of MHC-II(+) cells was still increased, although less than in the acute phase. Changes in the number of MHC-II(+) cells were associated with decreased Na(+),K(+)-ATPase enzymatic activity. A general decrease in the levels of neuroactive steroids, with the exception of an increase in tetrahydroprogesterone and 17β-estradiol, was detected in the acute phase. These changes were maintained or reverted in the chronic phase of EAE. In conclusion, we report that modifications in the neuroimmune response in the acute and chronic phases of EAE are associated with specific changes in myelin proteins, Na(+),K(+)-ATPase pump and in the levels of neuroactive steroids.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11481-012-9385-9DOI Listing
March 2013

Hydroxytyrosol attenuates peripheral neuropathy in streptozotocin-induced diabetes in rats.

J Agric Food Chem 2012 Jun 31;60(23):5859-65. Epub 2012 May 31.

Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, via La Masa 19, 20156 Milan, Italy.

Peripheral neuropathy is one of the most frequent and severe complications of diabetes. Hydroxytyrosol (HT), the major antioxidant polyphenolic compound of olive oil, has been investigated as a new potential treatment to counteract the progression of peripheral diabetic neuropathy in rats. An established model of streptozotocin-induced diabetes has been used. After confirmation of hyperglycemia, diabetic and nondiabetic animals were randomized to receive either a low dose or a high dose of HT, or the corresponding vehicle, for 6 weeks. At the end of the 6-week period of treatment, HT blunted plasma thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances increase (p < 0.05) and significantly reduced nerve conduction velocity (p < 0.05) and thermal nociception impairment in diabetic rats (p < 0.05). Sciatic nerve Na(+), K(+)-ATPase activity reduction was also abolished by HT (p < 0.05). The present study provides evidence of the therapeutic potential of the natural substance hydroxytyrosol in the early stage of diabetic neuropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jf2049323DOI Listing
June 2012

LXR and TSPO as new therapeutic targets to increase the levels of neuroactive steroids in the central nervous system of diabetic animals.

Neurochem Int 2012 May 3;60(6):616-21. Epub 2012 Mar 3.

Dept. of Pharmacological Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Neuroactive steroid levels are decreased in the central nervous system (CNS) of streptozotocin (STZ) diabetic rats. In agreement, they exert protective effects in this experimental model, counteracting degenerative events occurring in the CNS. Therefore, an interesting therapeutic strategy could be to increase their levels directly in the CNS. In this study we have evaluated whether activation of translocator protein-18kDa (TSPO) or liver X receptors (LXRs) may affect the levels of neuroactive steroids present in the CNS of diabetic and non-diabetic animals. We observed that the treatment with either Ro5-4864 (i.e., a ligand of TSPO) or with GW3965 (i.e., a ligand of LXRs) induced an increase of neuroactive steroids in the spinal cord, the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex of STZ-rats, but not in the CNS of non-pathological animals. Interestingly, the pattern of induction was different among the three CNS areas analyzed and between the two pharmacological tools. In particular, the activation of LXRs might represent a promising neuroprotective strategy, because the treatment with GW3965, at variance to Ro5-4864 treatment, did not induce significant changes in the plasma levels of neuroactive steroids. This suggests that activation of LXRs may selectively increase the CNS levels of neuroactive steroids avoiding possible endocrine side effects exerted by the systemic treatment with these molecules. Interestingly GW3965 treatment induced an increase of dihydroprogesterone in the spinal cord of diabetic animals in association with an increase of myelin basic protein expression. Thus we demonstrated that LXR activation was able to rescue CNS symptoms of diabetes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuint.2012.02.025DOI Listing
May 2012

Nephrin expression in adult rodent central nervous system and its interaction with glutamate receptors.

J Pathol 2011 Sep 1;225(1):118-28. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Renal Research Laboratory, Department of Nephrology, Dialysis and Renal Transplantation, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico and Fondazione D'Amico per la Ricerca sulle Malattie Renali, Milan, Italy.

Nephrin is an immunoglobulin-like adhesion molecule first discovered as a major component of the podocyte slit diaphragm, where its integrity is essential to the function of the glomerular filtration barrier. Outside the kidney, nephrin has been shown in other restricted locations, most notably in the central nervous system (CNS) of embryonic and newborn rodents. With the aim of better characterizing nephrin expression and its role in the CNS of adult rodents, we studied its expression pattern and possible binding partners in CNS tissues and cultured neuronal cells and compared these data to those obtained in control renal tissues and podocyte cell cultures. Our results show that, besides a number of locations already found in embryos and newborns, endogenous nephrin in adult rodent CNS extends to the pons and corpus callosum and is expressed by granule cells and Purkinje cells of the cerebellum, with a characteristic alternating expression pattern. In primary neuronal cells we find nephrin expression close to synaptic proteins and demonstrate that nephrin co-immunoprecipitates with Fyn kinase, glutamate receptors and the scaffolding molecule PSD95, an assembly that is reminiscent of those made by synaptic adhesion molecules. This role seems to be confirmed by our findings of impaired maturation and reduced glutamate exocytosis occurring in Neuro2A cells upon nephrin silencing. Of note, we disclose that the very same nephrin interactions occur in renal glomeruli and cultured podocytes, supporting our hypothesis that podocytes organize and use similar molecular intercellular signalling modules to those used by neuronal cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/path.2923DOI Listing
September 2011

Sex differences in the manifestation of peripheral diabetic neuropathy in gonadectomized rats: a correlation with the levels of neuroactive steroids in the sciatic nerve.

Exp Neurol 2011 Apr 15;228(2):215-21. Epub 2011 Jan 15.

Dept of Endocrinology, Pathophysiology and Applied Biology, Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Clinical observations suggest a sex-dimorphism in the incidence and symptomatology of diabetic neuropathy, but this possible gender effect has never been investigated in detail in a well-characterized experimental model such as streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetes. Therefore, in this study we have compared with a multimodal set of tests the impact of diabetes on the sciatic nerve in male and female rats. To assess whether sex-dimorphism in peripheral diabetic neuropathy is dependent on gonadal hormones we have also analyzed the effect of ovariectomy and orchidectomy on the sciatic nerve of STZ-diabetic rats. Nerve conduction velocity (NCV), Na(+),K(+)-ATPase activity, expression of myelin proteins, thermal sensitivity and reactive oxygen species production were similarly affected in male and female animals by STZ. However, ovariectomy, but not orchidectomy, significantly counteracted STZ-induced alterations on NCV, Na(+),K(+)-ATPase activity, and expression of myelin proteins. This effect of ovariactomy was associated to an increase in the levels of neuroactive steroids, such as dehydroepiandrosterone, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, in the sciatic nerve of diabetic rats. These neuroactive steroids have been demonstrated to be protective agents in this experimental model of diabetic neuropathy. However, their efficacy has been so far tested only in male animals. Therefore, the present data might represent an important background to evaluate their efficacy also in female diabetic animals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2011.01.005DOI Listing
April 2011

Role of neuroactive steroids in the peripheral nervous system.

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne) 2011 27;2:104. Epub 2011 Dec 27.

Department of Endocrinology, Pathophysiology and Applied Biology - Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano Milano, Italy.

Several reviews have so far pointed out on the relevant physiological and pharmacological role exerted by neuroactive steroids in the central nervous system. In the present review we summarize observations indicating that synthesis and metabolism of neuroactive steroids also occur in the peripheral nerves. Interestingly, peripheral nervous system is also a target of their action. Indeed, as here reported neuroactive steroids are physiological regulators of peripheral nerve functions and they may also represent interesting therapeutic tools for different types of peripheral neuropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2011.00104DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356101PMC
August 2012

Activation of the liver X receptor increases neuroactive steroid levels and protects from diabetes-induced peripheral neuropathy.

J Neurosci 2010 Sep;30(36):11896-901

Department of Pharmacological Sciences, Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Foundation Laboratory, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Neuroactive steroids act in the peripheral nervous system as physiological regulators and as protective agents for acquired or inherited peripheral neuropathy. In recent years, modulation of neuroactive steroids levels has been studied as a potential therapeutic approach to protect peripheral nerves from damage induced by diabetes. Nuclear receptors of the liver X receptor (LXR) family regulate adrenal steroidogenesis via their ability to control cholesterol homeostasis. Here we show that rat sciatic nerve expresses both LRXα and β isoforms and that these receptors are functional. Activation of liver X receptors using a synthetic ligand results in increased levels of neurosteroids and protection of the sciatic nerve from neuropathy induced by diabetes. LXR ligand treatment of streptozotocin-treated rats increases expression in the sciatic nerve of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (a molecule involved in the transfer of cholesterol into mitochondria), of the enzyme P450scc (responsible for conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone), of 5α-reductase (an enzyme involved in the generation of neuroactive steroids) and of classical LXR targets involved in cholesterol efflux, such as ABCA1 and ABCG1. These effects were associated with increased levels of neuroactive steroids (e.g., pregnenolone, progesterone, dihydroprogesterone and 3α-diol) in the sciatic nerve, and with neuroprotective effects on thermal nociceptive activity, nerve conduction velocity, and Na(+), K(+)-ATPase activity. These results suggest that LXR activation may represent a new pharmacological avenue to increase local neuroactive steroid levels that exert neuroprotective effects in diabetic neuropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1898-10.2010DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3049178PMC
September 2010

Sex-dimorphic changes in neuroactive steroid levels after chronic experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.

J Neurochem 2010 Aug 21;114(3):921-32. Epub 2010 May 21.

Department of Pharmacological Sciences, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Our previous observations have shown that neuroactive steroid levels in the brain are affected by acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) with sex and regional specificity (Giatti et al. 2010). To better understand the effect of EAE on neuroactive steroids, we have here assessed the levels of pregnenolone, progesterone and its derivatives (i.e. dihydroprogesterone, tetrahydroprogesterone and isopregnanolone), testosterone and its derivatives (dihydrotestosterone and 5alpha-androstane-3alpha, 17beta-diol) in different CNS regions of male and female rats affected by chronic EAE. Data obtained by liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry revealed that chronic EAE results in sex and regional specific alterations in the levels of neuroactive steroids in the brain, which are in many cases different to those produced by acute EAE. The specific changes in neuroactive steroid levels after chronic EAE may be of relevance to design new possible therapeutic strategies for the disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-4159.2010.06825.xDOI Listing
August 2010

Dihydroprogesterone increases the gene expression of myelin basic protein in spinal cord of diabetic rats.

J Mol Neurosci 2010 Oct 27;42(2):135-9. Epub 2010 Mar 27.

Department of Endocrinology, Pathophysiology, and Applied Biology, Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Balzaretti 9, 20133 Milan, Italy.

Alterations in myelin membranes, as well as in the expression of myelin proteins have been reported in experimental models of diabetes. Data here reported show for the first time that the mRNA levels of two isoforms of myelin basic protein (MBP), 18.5 and 21.5 kDa, are decreased in the spinal cord of streptozotocin-treated rats and that treatment with a neuroactive steroid, such as progesterone (P), may counteract this effect. Interestingly, metabolism of progesterone into dihydroprogesterone (DHP) by the enzyme 5alpha-reductase seems to exert an important role in such an effect. As here demonstrated, 5alpha-reductase mRNA and DHP levels are reduced by diabetes in spinal cord, but treatment with P, is able to counteract these effects. Moreover, treatment with DHP is able to mimic the effect of P on MBP gene expression. Thus, the effects of P here observed are due to its enzymatic conversion into DHP. Because DHP, like P, interacts with P receptor (PR), the present results may suggest the importance to analyze the effects of PR modulators as tools of therapeutic strategies for diabetic complications occurring in nervous system.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12031-010-9344-yDOI Listing
October 2010

Acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis induces sex dimorphic changes in neuroactive steroid levels.

Neurochem Int 2010 Jan 20;56(1):118-27. Epub 2009 Sep 20.

Department of Endocrinology, Pathophysiology, and Applied Biology, Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy.

Incidence, progression and severity of the multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS) are affected in a sex-depending way. Physiological situations characterized by changes in sex steroid plasma levels, such as menstrual cycle, menopause or pregnancy, affect the disease course, suggesting that these molecules might exert a role in this disease. In order to understand better this possible relationship, we have here assessed the levels of neuroactive steroids present in different CNS regions of male and female rats affected by acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). In addition, we compared these levels with those present in plasma. Data obtained by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry indicate that the levels of neuroactive steroids show sex and regional differences in control and EAE nervous system and that a clear difference is also observed between CNS and plasma levels. In particular, among neuroactive steroids here considered, the levels of progesterone metabolites (i.e., dihydroprogesterone, tetrahydroprogesterone and isopregnanolone) and testosterone metabolites (i.e., dihydrotestosterone and 5alpha-androstane-3alpha17beta-diol), show sex dimorphic and region-specific changes in the CNS. Moreover, some changes observed in the CNS were not detected in plasma. These findings might represent an interesting background to design therapies and possibly sex-specific therapies for multiple sclerosis based on neuroactive steroids or synthetic ligands able to interact with classical and non-classical steroid receptors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuint.2009.09.009DOI Listing
January 2010

A polymorphic variant of the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) receptor correlates with male longevity in the Italian population: a genetic study and evaluation of circulating IGF-1 from the "Treviso Longeva (TRELONG)" study.

BMC Geriatr 2009 May 21;9:19. Epub 2009 May 21.

Department of Neuroscience, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Milan, Italy.

Background: An attenuation of the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) signaling has been associated with elongation of the lifespan in simple metazoan organisms and in rodents. In humans, IGF-1 level has an age-related modulation with a lower concentration in the elderly, depending on hormonal and genetic factors affecting the IGF-1 receptor gene (IGF-1R).

Methods: In an elderly population from North-eastern Italy (n = 668 subjects, age range 70-106 years) we investigated the IGF-1R polymorphism G3174A (rs2229765) and the plasma concentration of free IGF-1. Frequency distributions were compared using chi2-test "Goodness of Fit" test, and means were compared by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA); multiple regression analysis was performed using JMP7 for SAS software (SAS Institute, USA). The limit of significance for genetic and biochemical comparison was set at alpha = 0.05.

Results: Males showed an age-related increase in the A-allele of rs2229765 and a change in the plasma level of IGF-1, which dropped significantly after 85 years of age (85+ group). In the male 85+ group, A/A homozygous subjects had the lowest plasma IGF-1 level. We found no clear correlation between rs2229765 genotype and IGF-1 in the females.

Conclusion: These findings confirm the importance of the rs2229765 minor allele as a genetic predisposing factor for longevity in Italy where a sex-specific pattern for IGF-1 attenuation with ageing was found.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2318-9-19DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2692840PMC
May 2009

Sex differences in neuroactive steroid levels in the nervous system of diabetic and non-diabetic rats.

Horm Behav 2010 Jan 5;57(1):46-55. Epub 2009 May 5.

Department of Endocrinology, Pathophysiology, and Applied Biology - Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of Milan, Milano, Italy.

Neuropathy and encephalopathy represent important complications of diabetes. Recent observations obtained in experimental models have suggested that, in male rats, neuroactive steroids are protective agents and that their levels in peripheral (PNS) and central (CNS) nervous system are strongly affected by the disease. It is interesting to highlight that incidence, progression and severity of diabetic neuropathy and diabetic encephalopathy are different in the two sexes. Consequently, it is important to determine the changes in neuroactive steroid levels in the PNS and the CNS of both males and females. To this aim, we have evaluated the levels of neuroactive steroids such as, pregnenolone, progesterone and its metabolites, testosterone and its metabolites, and dehydroepiandrosterone in different CNS regions (i.e., cerebral cortex, cerebellum and spinal cord) and in the sciatic nerve of control and diabetic (i.e., induced by streptozotocin) male and female rats. Data obtained by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry indicate that the levels of neuroactive steroids show sex and regional differences in control animals. Streptozotocin-induced diabetes resulted in a strong general decrease in neuroactive steroid levels, in both the PNS and the CNS. In addition, the effects of diabetes on neuroactive steroid levels also show sex and regional differences. These findings may have strong implications for the development of new sex-oriented therapies for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy and diabetic encephalopathy, based on the use of neuroactive steroids.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.04.008DOI Listing
January 2010

Interleukin-6 plasma level increases with age in an Italian elderly population ("The Treviso Longeva"-Trelong-study) with a sex-specific contribution of rs1800795 polymorphism.

Age (Dordr) 2009 Jun 18;31(2):155-62. Epub 2009 Apr 18.

Department of Neuroscience, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, via La Masa 19, 20156, Milan, Italy.

The transcription rate of interleukin-6 (IL-6) can be reduced by the C-allele of a polymorphism (rs1800795) located in the 5'-flanking region of the IL-6 gene (NM_000600), and IL-6 plasma levels increase with age. We assembled an elderly Italian population ["The Treviso Longeva (Trelong) study", age range 70-106 years, n = 668 subjects] and assessed rs1800795 genotype and plasma IL-6 concentrations. The rs1800795 genotype was also assessed in an independent Italian study ("Milan" study, age range 70-96, n = 245 subjects). To verify an age- or sex-specific effect of rs1800795 genotype we compared people younger (70-85) and older (85+) than 85 years of age. We found a significant reduction in the frequency of rs1800795 C/C genotype in 85+ men from the Trelong study, while in the Milan study this data did not reach significance. However, considering the two studies together, the frequency of the rs1800795 C/C genotype was significantly lower in 85+ than in 70-85 males (4.0% and 10.7%, respectively), while it remained unchanged in females. As for IL-6 plasma levels, after a multivariate analysis to control for confounders, a correlation between age and plasma IL-6 concentrations was revealed (P < 0.0001). An increase in circulating IL-6 levels in the entire 85+ group compared to the 70-85 group (P < 0.05, Tukey's test) was also noticed. We suggest a sex-specific pattern for genetic variability linked to inflammatory response and longevity, consistent with the age-related increase in IL-6.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11357-009-9092-5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2693733PMC
June 2009

DJ-1 modulates alpha-synuclein aggregation state in a cellular model of oxidative stress: relevance for Parkinson's disease and involvement of HSP70.

PLoS One 2008 Apr 2;3(4):e1884. Epub 2008 Apr 2.

Department of Neuroscience, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Milan, Italy.

Background: Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative pathology whose molecular etiopathogenesis is not known. Novel contributions have come from familial forms of PD caused by alterations in genes with apparently unrelated physiological functions. The gene coding for alpha-synuclein (alpha-syn) (PARK1) has been investigated as alpha-syn is located in Lewy bodies (LB), intraneuronal inclusions in the substantia nigra (SN) of PD patients. A-syn has neuroprotective chaperone-like and antioxidant functions and is involved in dopamine storage and release. DJ-1 (PARK7), another family-PD-linked gene causing an autosomal recessive form of the pathology, shows antioxidant and chaperone-like activities too.

Methodology/principal Findings: The present study addressed the question whether alpha-syn and DJ-1 interact functionally, with a view to finding some mechanism linking DJ-1 inactivation and alpha-syn aggregation and toxicity. We developed an in vitro model of alpha-syn toxicity in the human neuroblastoma cell line SK-N-BE, influencing DJ-1 and alpha-syn intracellular concentrations by exogenous addition of the fusion proteins TAT-alpha-syn and TAT-DJ-1; DJ-1 was inactivated by the siRNA method. On a micromolar scale TAT-alpha-syn aggregated and triggered neurotoxicity, while on the nanomolar scale it was neuroprotective against oxidative stress (induced by H(2)O(2) or 6-hydroxydopamine). TAT-DJ-1 increased the expression of HSP70, while DJ-1 silencing made SK-N-BE cells more susceptible to oxidative challenge, rendering TAT-alpha-syn neurotoxic at nanomolar scale, with the appearance of TAT-alpha-syn aggregates.

Conclusion/significance: DJ-1 inactivation may thus promote alpha-syn aggregation and the related toxicity, and in this model HSP70 is involved in the antioxidant response and in the regulation of alpha-syn fibril formation.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0001884PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2270347PMC
April 2008

A novel PSENEN mutation in a patient with complaints of memory loss and a family history of dementia.

Alzheimers Dement 2007 Jul;3(3):235-8

Department of Neuroscience, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Milan, Italy.

Presenilin enhancer-2 (PSENEN) is a fundamental component of the gamma-secretase protein complex involved in beta-amyloid precursor protein (beta APP) processing, a key event in Alzheimer's disease (AD) etiopathogenesis. In a mild cognitive impairment (MCI)-diagnosed woman, belonging to a family with a positive history for AD, we found that a novel PSENEN mutation (S73F) was the only genetic alteration of relevance. The mutation was absent in 253 age-matched controls. In an attempt to learn the biochemical effects of this mutation, we cultured skin primary fibroblasts from the patient and her daughter, and we assessed A beta(1-40) and Abeta(1-42) production. We did not find any relevant differences in comparison to age-matched, normal subjects. Although our data do not definitively support a pathogenetic role for this mutation, it does not appear to be a common polymorphism. Further follow-up is warranted in this family.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jalz.2007.04.375DOI Listing
July 2007

Neuroactive steroids and peripheral neuropathy.

Brain Res Rev 2008 Mar 6;57(2):460-9. Epub 2007 May 6.

Department of Endocrinology and Center of Excellence on Neurodegenerative Diseases, University of Milan, Via Balzaretti 9, 20133, Milan, Italy.

Peripheral neuropathy, either inherited or acquired, represents a very common disorder for which effective clinical treatments are not available yet. Observations here summarized indicate that neuroactive steroids, such as progesterone, testosterone and their reduced metabolites, might represent a promising therapeutic option. Peripheral nerves are able to synthesize and metabolize neuroactive steroids and are a target for these molecules, since they express classical and non-classical steroid receptors. Neuroactive steroids modulate the expression of key transcription factors for Schwann cell function, regulate Schwann cell proliferation and promote the expression of myelin proteins involved in the maintenance of myelin multilamellar structure, such as myelin protein zero and peripheral myelin protein 22. These actions may result in the protection and regeneration of peripheral nerves affected by different forms of pathological alterations. Indeed, neuroactive steroids are able to counteract biochemical, morphological and functional alterations of peripheral nerves in different experimental models of neuropathy, including the alterations caused by aging, diabetic neuropathy and physical injury. Therefore, neuroactive steroids, pharmacological agents able to increase their local synthesis and synthetic ligands for their receptors have a promising potential for the treatment of different forms of peripheral neuropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresrev.2007.04.010DOI Listing
March 2008

The urokinase-type plasminogen activator polymorphism PLAU_1 is a risk factor for APOE-epsilon4 non-carriers in the Italian Alzheimer's disease population and does not affect the plasma Abeta(1-42) level.

Neurobiol Dis 2007 Mar 15;25(3):609-13. Epub 2006 Dec 15.

Department of Neuroscience, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, via Eritrea 62, 20157 Milan, Italy.

Sporadic Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most frequent form of dementia in the elderly. A non-conservative polymorphism in the urokinase-type plasminogen activator gene (PLAU_1=RS2227564) has been analyzed, but data are conflicting on whether it is a risk factor for AD. To clarify whether this genetic variant modifies AD risk in the Italian population, we ran a case-control association study on 192 AD and 126 age-matched controls. We did not find any association between PLAU_1 genotype and AD in the whole AD population, but when we stratified our sample by APOE-epsilon4 status, we found a significant association between PLAU_1 genotype (C/T+T/T) and APOE-epsilon4 negative AD subjects (p=0.02, chi(2)-test). The PLAU_1 genotype did not appear to affect the plasma Abeta42 concentration. Our data support a role for PLAU_1 as an independent genetic risk factor for AD in the Italian population for those subjects who do not have the APOE-epsilon4 allele.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbd.2006.10.017DOI Listing
March 2007

Presenilin-1 mutation E318G and familial Alzheimer's disease in the Italian population.

Neurobiol Aging 2007 Nov 6;28(11):1682-8. Epub 2006 Sep 6.

Department of Neuroscience, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, via Eritrea 62, 20157 Milan, Italy.

Presenilin-1 (PSEN-1) is a component of the gamma-secretase complex involved in beta-amyloid precursor protein (betaAPP) processing. To date about 140 pathogenic mutations in the PSEN-1 gene have been identified and their main biochemical effect is to increase the production of the fibrillogenic peptide Abeta(1-42). An exception is the PSEN-1 [E318G] mutation that does not alter Abeta(1-42) generation and is generally considered a non-pathogenic polymorphism. Nevertheless, this mutation was reported to be a genetic risk factor for familial Alzheimer's disease (FAD) in the Australian population. To independently confirm this indication, we performed a case-control association study in the Italian population. We found a significant association (p<0.05, Fisher's exact test) between the presence of PSEN-1 [E318G] and FAD. In addition, on measuring the Abeta(1-42) and Abeta(1-40) concentrations in fibroblast-conditioned media cultured from PSEN-1 [E318G] carriers and PSEN-1 [wild type] controls we noted a significant decrease (p<0.05, Mann-Whitney test) in the Abeta(1-42)/Abeta(1-40) ratio in PSEN-1 [E318G] carriers, suggesting a peculiar biochemical effect of this mutation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2006.07.003DOI Listing
November 2007

Interleukin-1 alpha and beta, TNF-alpha and HTTLPR gene variants study on alcohol toxicity and detoxification outcome.

Neurosci Lett 2006 Oct 17;406(1-2):107-12. Epub 2006 Aug 17.

Institute of Psychiatry, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

Genetic factors may influence the liability to treatment outcome and medical complications in alcoholism. In the present study we investigated the IL-1A rs1800587, IL-1B rs3087258, TNF-alpha rs1799724 and the HTTLPR variants in a sample of 64 alcohol dependents and 47 relatives versus a set of clinical parameters and outcome measures. Alcohol dependents had a less favorable clinical profile compared to relatives (higher cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase, glutamic pyruvic transaminase, gamma-glutamyltransferase). After detoxification, all clinical indexes improved and hepatic enzyme levels were similar in alcohol dependents and relatives, except for the GGT that remained significantly higher in alcohol dependents. Alcoholic depressive and anxiety scores were significantly reduced after detoxification. IL-1A, IL-1B, TNF-alpha and HTTLPR variants were not associated with any baseline clinical index or change after detoxification. In our sample IL-1A, IL-1B, TNF-alpha and HTTLPR do not appear as liability factors for alcohol toxicity or detoxification outcome, however the small sample size may influence the observed results.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2006.07.003DOI Listing
October 2006

Plasma levels of beta-amyloid (1-42) in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment.

Neurobiol Aging 2006 Jun 25;27(6):904-5. Epub 2006 Apr 25.

Department of Neuroscience, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, 20157 Milan, Italy.

We compared plasma levels of beta-amyloid 1-42 (pg/ml) found for 146 sporadic Alzheimer (AD) patients, 89 subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 89 age-matched controls (CT). AD patients had significantly lower levels (38, 54, 52; p<0.01), unrelated to severity of the disease as assessed by MMSE score, age, sex or APOE4 status. Twenty cases investigated at two time points 18 months apart did not demonstrate further decreases. Thus, the reduction in beta-amyloid 1-42 may be a marker for AD status, specifically, a transition from normal status or MCI to AD, rather than a marker for neurodegenerative processes occurring in the disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2006.03.004DOI Listing
June 2006

Glomerular podocytes contain neuron-like functional synaptic vesicles.

FASEB J 2006 May 3;20(7):976-8. Epub 2006 Apr 3.

Renal Immunopathology Laboratory, Associazione Nuova Nefrologia and Fondazione D'Amico per la Ricerca sulle Malattie Renali, c/o San Carlo Borromeo Hospital, via Pio II, 3, Milan 20153, Italy.

Although patients with chronic renal failure are increasing worldwide, many aspects of kidney biology remain to be elucidated. Recent research has uncovered several molecular properties of the glomerular filtration barrier, in which podocytes, highly differentiated, ramified cells that enwrap the glomerular basement membrane, have been reported to be mainly responsible for filter's selectivity. We previously described that podocytes express Rab3A, a GTPase restricted to cell types that are capable of highly regulated exocytosis, such as neuronal cells. Here, we first demonstrate by a proteomic study that Rab3A in podocytes coimmmunoprecipitates with molecules once thought to be synapse specific. We then show that podocytes possess structures resembling synaptic vesicles, which contain glutamate, coexpress Rab3A and synaptotagmin 1, and undergo spontaneous and stimulated exocytosis and recycling, with glutamate release. Finally, from the results of a cDNA microarray study, we describe the presence of a series of neuron- and synapse-specific molecules in normal human glomeruli and confirm the glomerular protein expression of both metabotropic and ionotropic glutamate receptors. These data point toward a synaptic-like mechanism of communication among glomerular cells, which perfectly fits with the molecular composition of the glomerular filter and puts in perspective several previous observations, proposing a different working hypothesis for understanding glomerular signaling dynamics.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.05-4962fjeDOI Listing
May 2006