Necroptosis-like neuronal cell death caused by cellular cholesterol accumulation [Neurobiology]

October 18th, 2016 by Funakoshi, T., Aki, T., Tajiri, M., Unuma, K., Uemura, K.

Aberrant cellular accumulation of cholesterol is associated with neuronal lysosomal storage disorders such as Niemann-Pick disease Type C (NPC). We have shown previously that l-norephedrine (l-Nor), a sympathomimetic amine, induces necrotic cell death associated with massive cytoplasmic vacuolation in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells. To reveal the molecular mechanism underling necrotic neuronal cell death caused by l-Nor, we examined alterations in the gene expression profile of cells during l-Nor exposure. DNA microarray analysis revealed that the gene levels for cholesterol transport (LDL receptor and NPC2) as well as cholesterol biosynthesis (mevalonate pathway enzymes) are increased after exposure to 3 mM l-Nor for ~6 hours. Concomitant with this observation, the master transcriptional regulator of cholesterol homeostasis, SREBP-2, is activated by l-Nor. The increase in cholesterol uptake as well as biosynthesis is not accompanied by an increase in cholesterol in the plasma membrane, but rather by aberrant accumulation in cytoplasmic compartments. We also found that cell death by l-Nor can be suppressed by nec-1s, an inhibitor of a regulated form of necrosis, necroptosis. Abrogation of SREBP-2 activation by the small molecule inhibitor betulin or by overexpression of dominant negative SREBP-2 efficiently reduces cell death by l-Nor. The mobilization of cellular cholesterol in the presence cyclodextrin (CD) also suppresses cell death. These results were also observed in primary culture of striatum neurons. Taken together, our results indicate that the excessive uptake as well as synthesis of cholesterol should underlie neuronal cell death by l-Nor exposure, and suggest a possible link between lysosomal cholesterol storage disorders and the regulated form of necrosis in neuronal cells.