Browsing by Author "Ahtiainen, Laura"

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  • Ahtiainen, Laura (Helsingin yliopisto, 2007)
    Studying neurodegeneration provides an opportunity to gain insights into normal cell physiology, and not just pathophysiology. In this thesis work the focus is on Infantile Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (INCL). It is a recessively inherited lysosomal storage disorder. The disease belongs to the neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs), a group of common progressive neurodegenerative diseases of the childhood. Characteristic accumulation of autofluorescent storage material is seen in most tissues but only neurons of the central nervous system are damaged and eventually lost during the course of the disease leaving most other cell types unaffected. The disease is caused by mutations in the CLN1 gene, but the physiological function of the corresponding protein the palmitoyl protein thioesterase (PPT1) has remained elusive. The aim of this thesis work was to shed light on the molecular and cell biological mechanisms behind INCL. This study pinpointed the localization of PPT1 in axonal presynapses of neurons. It also established the role of PPT1 in early neuronal maturation as well as importance in mature neuronal synapses. This study revealed an endocytic defect in INCL patient cells manifesting itself as delayed trafficking of receptor and non-receptor mediated endocytic markers. Furthermore, this study was the first to connect the INCL storage proteins the sphingolipid activator proteins (SAPs) A and D to pathological events on the cellular level. Abnormal endocytic processing and intracellular re-localization was demonstrated in patient cells and disease model knock-out mouse neurons. To identify early affected cellular and metabolic pathways in INCL, knock-out mouse neurons were studied by global transcript profiling and functional analysis. The gene expression analysis revealed changes in neuronal maturation and cell communication strongly associated with the regulated secretory system. Furthermore, cholesterol metabolic pathways were found to be affected. Functional studies with the knock-out mouse model revealed abnormalities in neuronal maturation as well as key neuronal functions including abnormalities in intracellular calcium homeostasis and cholesterol metabolism. Together the findings, introduced in this thesis work, support the essential role of PPT1 in developing neurons as well as synaptic sites of mature neurons. Results of this thesis also elucidate early events in INCL pathogenesis revealing defective pathways ultimately leading to the neurodegenerative process. These results contribute to the understanding of the vital physiological function of PPT1 and broader knowledge of common cellular mechanisms behind neurodegeneration. These results add to the knowledge of these severe diseases offering basis for new approaches in treatment strategies.