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Cholesterol metabolism in the Niemann-Pick Type C brain Open Access


Other title
Niemann Pick Type C
tumor necrosis factor
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Peake, Kyle
Supervisor and department
Vance, Jean (Medicine)
Examining committee member and department
Repa, Joyce (Physiology)
Campenot, Robert (Cell Biology)
Kar, Satya (Psychiatry)
Todd, Kathryn (Psychiatry)

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC) disease is an autosomal recessive disorder that results in accumulation of unesterified cholesterol in late endosomes/lysosomes (LE/Ls), leading to progressive neurodegeneration and premature death. Microglia are resident immune cells of the central nervous system, which upon activation can secrete potentially neurotoxic molecules such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα). Inappropriate activation of microglia has been implicated in NPC disease. Primary microglia cultures from the cerebral cortex of Npc1-/- mice have an altered cholesterol distribution characteristic of NPC-deficient cells. Immunocytochemical analysis revealed increased TNFα staining in Npc1-/- microglia. However, Npc1-/- and Npc1+/+ microglia showed similar mRNA levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and similar levels of TNFα secretion. To determine whether Npc1-/- microglia contribute to neuron death in NPC disease, microglia were co-cultured with cerebellar granule cells. Surprisingly, the extent of neuronal death was the same in neurons cultured with Npc1+/+ or Npc1-/- microglia. Thus, Npc1-/- microglia have an altered phenotype compared to Npc1+/+ microglia, but this does not lead to neuron death in an in vitro co-culture system. Treatment options for NPC disease remain limited. A consequence of cholesterol sequestration in the LE/Ls, is that cholesterol movement to the endoplasmic reticulum, where cholesterol metabolism is regulated, is impaired. Cyclodextrin (CD), a compound that binds cholesterol, has recently been found to delay the onset of neurological symptoms and prolong life of Npc1-/- mice. Since the brain consists of both neurons and glia, it remains unclear if CD acts directly on neurons and/or other cells in the brain. Neurons cultured from the cerebellum and astrocytes cultured from the cortex of Npc1-/- mice were treated with a low dose (0.1mM) of CD. This treatment decreased cholesterol sequestration and decreased the rate of cholesterol synthesis in Npc1-/- neurons and astrocytes. CD also decreased mRNAs encoding proteins involved in cholesterol synthesis in Npc1-/- neurons and increased genes involved in cholesterol efflux in Npc1-/- astrocytes. Moreover, CD increased cholesterol esterification in Npc1-/- astrocytes. These results suggest that cholesterol trapped in LE/Ls in Npc1-/- neurons and astrocytes was released by CD treatment and reached the ER, thereby regulating cholesterol homeostasis.
License granted by Kyle Peake ( on 2011-01-06T22:16:52Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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