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Autophagy. 2009 Nov;5(8):1194-7. Epub 2009 Nov 3.

Autophagy and access: understanding the role of androgen receptor subcellular localization in SBMA.

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Thomas Jefferson University, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Ridding neurons of toxic misfolded proteins is a critical feature of many neurodegenerative diseases. We have recently reported that lack of access of nuclear polyglutamine-expanded androgen receptor (AR) to the autophagic degradation pathway is a critical point in pathogenesis. When mutant AR is contained within the cytoplasm, it can be degraded by autophagy, resulting in amelioration of its toxic effects, as has been observed in other polyglutamine expansion diseases involving cytoplasmic mutant proteins. However, we have also found that pharmacological induction of autophagy protects SBMA motor neurons from the toxic effects of even nuclear localized mutant AR, albeit without affecting mutant nuclear AR levels. Thus, we have further investigated the mechanism by which autophagy elicits therapeutic benefit in cell culture. We found that endogenous autophagy only slightly alters nuclear mutant AR aggregation compared to substantial effects on cytoplasmic AR aggregation. Interestingly, pharmacological activation of mTOR-dependent autophagy did not significantly alter nuclear AR aggregation, whereas we observed that it protects SBMA motor neurons. Our findings indicate that therapeutic intervention to induce autophagy represents a potential potent benefit for SBMA, and that it likely does so by protecting SBMA motor neurons independent of a direct effect on mutant AR.

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