Cholesterol metabolism in the Niemann-Pick Type C brain

  • Author / Creator
    Peake, Kyle
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Todd, Kathryn (Psychiatry)
    • Kar, Satya (Psychiatry)
    • Repa, Joyce (Physiology)
    • Campenot, Robert (Cell Biology)