Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms Behind Juvenile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (JNCL, Batten disease)

Kaisu Luiro

Doctoral dissertation, March 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Haartman Institute, Department of Medical Genetics and National Public Health Institute, Department of Molecular Medicine and Helsinki University Central Hospital, Hospital for Children and Adolescents.

Neurodegenerative disorders are chronic, progressive, and often fatal disorders of the nervous system caused by dysfunction, and ultimately, death of neuronal cells. The underlying mechanisms of neurodegeneration are poorly understood, and monogenic disorders can be utilised as disease models to elucidate the pathogenesis.

Juvenile neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinosis (JNCL, Batten disease) is a recessively inherited lysosomal storage disorder with progressive neurodegeneration and accumulation of autofluorescent storage material in most tissues. It is caused by mutations in the CLN3 gene; however, the exact function of the corresponding CLN3 protein, as well as the molecular mechanisms of JNCL pathogenesis have remained elusive. JNCL disease exclusively affects the central nervous system leaving other organs unaffected, and therefore it is of a particular importance to conduct studies in brain tissue and neuronal cells.

The aim of this thesis project was to elucidate the molecular and cell biological mechanisms underlying JNCL. This was the first study to describe the endogenous Cln3 protein, and it was shown that Cln3 localised to neuronal cells in the mouse brain. At a subcellular level, endogenous Cln3 was localised to the presynaptic terminals and to the synaptosome compartment, but not to the synaptic vesicles. Studies with the CLN3-deficient cells demonstrated an impaired endocytic membrane trafficking, and established an interconnection between CLN3, microtubulus-binding Hook1 and Rab proteins. This novel data was not only important in characterising the roles of CLN3 in cells, but also provided significant information delineating the versatile role of the Rab proteins. To identify affected cellular pathways in JNCL, global gene expression profiling of the knock-out mouse Cln3-/- neurons was performed and systematically analysed; this revealed a slight dysfunction of the mitochondria, cytoskeletal abnormality in the microtubule plus-end, and an impaired recovery from depolarizing stimulus when specific N-type Ca2+ channels were inhibited, thus leading to a prolonged time of higher intracellular calcium. All these defective pathways are interrelated, and may together be sufficient to initiate the neurodegenerative process. Results of this thesis also suggest that in neuronal cells, CLN3 most likely functions at endocytic vesicles at the presynaptic terminal, potentially involved in the regulation of the calcium-mediated synaptic transmission.

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Last updated 13.03.2006

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