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J Neurosci. 2010 Feb 10;30(6):2177-87. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6030-09.2010.

Reevaluation of neurodegeneration in lurcher mice: constitutive ion fluxes cause cell death with, not by, autophagy.

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Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Keio University, Tokyo 160-8582, Japan.


The lurcher (Lc) mice have served as a valuable model for neurodegeneration for decades. Although the responsible mutation was identified in genes encoding delta2 glutamate receptors (GluD2s), which are predominantly expressed in cerebellar Purkinje cells, how the mutant receptor (GluD2(Lc)) triggers cell death has remained elusive. Here, taking advantage of recent knowledge about the domain structure of GluD2, we reinvestigated Lc-mediated cell death, focusing on the "autophagic cell death" hypothesis. Although autophagy and cell death were induced by the expression of GluD2(Lc) in heterologous cells and cultured neurons, they were blocked by the introduction of mutations in the channel pore domain of GluD2(Lc) or by removal of extracellular Na(+). In addition, although GluD2(Lc) is reported to directly activate autophagy, mutant channels that are not associated with n-PIST (neuronal isoform of protein-interacting specifically with TC10)-Beclin1 still caused autophagy and cell death. Furthermore, cells expressing GluD2(Lc) showed decreased ATP levels and increased AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activities in a manner dependent on extracellular Na(+). Thus, constitutive currents were likely necessary and sufficient to induce autophagy via AMPK activation, regardless of the n-PIST-Beclin1 pathway in vitro. Interestingly, the expression of dominant-negative AMPK suppressed GluD2(Lc)-induced autophagy but did not prevent cell death in heterologous cells. Similarly, the disruption of Atg5, a gene crucial for autophagy, did not prevent but rather aggravated Purkinje-cell death in Lc mice. Furthermore, calpains were specifically activated in Lc Purkinje cells. Together, these results suggest that Lc-mediated cell death was not caused by autophagy but necrosis with autophagic features both in vivo and in vitro.

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