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A single amino acid substitution in a proteasome subunit triggers aggregation of ubiquitinated proteins in stressed neuronal cells.

Li Z., Arnaud L., Rockwell P., Figueiredo-Pereira M.E.

Accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins in inclusions is common to various neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, although it occurs in selective neurons in each disease. The mechanisms generating such abnormal aggregates and their role in neurodegeneration remain unclear. Inclusions appear in familial and non-familial cases of neurodegenerative disorders, suggesting that factors other than particular mutations contribute to protein accumulation and aggregation. Proteasome impairment triggered by aging or conditions such as oxidative stress may contribute to protein accumulation and aggregation in neurodegeneration. To test this hypothesis in mouse neuronal cells, we overexpressed a 20S proteasome beta5 subunit with an active site mutation. The N-terminal threonine to alanine substitution resulted in impairment of the chymotrypsin-like activity, which is a rate-limiting step in protein degradation by the proteasome. The Thr1Ala mutation was not lethal under homeostatic conditions. However, this single amino acid substitution significantly hypersensitized the cells to oxidative stress, triggering not only the accumulation and aggregation of ubiquitinated proteins, including synuclein, but also cell death. Our results demonstrate that this genetic manipulation of proteasome activity involving a single amino acid substitution causes the formation of protein aggregates in stressed neuronal cells independently of the occurrence of mutations in other cellular proteins. These results support the notion that proteasome disruption may be central to the development of familial as well as sporadic cases of neurodegeneration.

J. Neurochem. 90:19-28(2004) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]