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J Neurosci Res. 2010 Dec;88(16):3508-19. doi: 10.1002/jnr.22506. Epub 2010 Oct 8.

Induction of neuronal cell death by paraneoplastic Ma1 antigen.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75080, USA.


Paraneoplastic Ma1 (PNMA1) is a member of a family of proteins involved in an autoimmune disorder called paraneoplastic neurological syndrome. Although it is widely expressed in brain, nothing is known about the function of PNMA1 in neurons. We find that PNMA1 expression is highest in the perinatal brain, a period during which developmentally regulated neuronal death occurs. PNMA1 expression increases in cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs) induced to die by low potassium (LK) and in cortical neurons following homocysteic acid (HCA) treament. Elevated PNMA1 expression is also observed in the degenerating striatum in two separate mouse models of Huntington's disease, the R6/2 transgenic model and the 3-nitropropionic acid-induced chemical model. Suppression of endogenous PNMA1 expression inhibits LK-induced neuronal apoptosis. Ectopic expression of PNMA1 promotes apoptosis even in medium containing high potassium, a condition that normally ensures survival of CGNs. Deletion of the N-terminal half of the PNMA1 protein abrogates its apoptotic activity, whereas deletion of the C-terminal half renders the protein more toxic. Within the N-terminal half, the ability to induce neuronal death depends on the presence of a BH3-like domain. In addition to being necessary for apoptosis, the BH3-like domain is necessary for self-association of PNMA1. Apoptosis by PNMA1 expression is inhibited by overexpression of Bcl2, suggesting that PNMA1-induced neuronal death may depend on the binding of a proapoptotic member of the Bcl2 family to the BH3 domain. Taken together, our results suggest that PNMA1 is a proapoptotic protein in neurons, elevated expression of which may contribute to neurodegenerative disorders.

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