Severe neurodegeneration with impaired autophagy mechanism triggered by Ostm1 deficiency [Neurobiology]

April 9th, 2014 by Heraud, C., Griffiths, A., Pandruvada, S. N. M., Kilimann, M. W., Pata, M., Vacher, J.

Loss of Ostm1 leads to the most severe form of osteopetrosis in mice and humans. Because functional rescue of the osteopetrotic defect in these mice extended their lifespan from approximately 3 to 6 weeks, this unraveled a second essential role of Ostm1. We uncovered that Ostm1 is highly expressed in the mouse brain in neurons, microglia, and astrocytes. At 3 to 4 weeks of age, mice with Ostm1 loss showed 3- to 10-fold stimulation of reactive gliosis, with an increased astrocyte cell population and microglia activation. This inflammatory response was associated with marked retinal photoreceptor degeneration and massive neuronal loss in the brain. Intracellular characterization of neurons revealed abnormal storage of carbohydrates, lipids, and ubiquitinated-proteins, combined with marked accumulation of autophagosomes that causes frequent axonal swelling. Stimulation of autophagy was provided by specific markers and by significant downregulation of the mammalian target of rapamycin signaling identifying a cellular pathologic mechanism. Series of transgenic mouse lines specifically targeted to distinct central nervous system cell subpopulations determined that Ostm1 has a primary and autonomous role in neuronal homeostasis. Complete functional complementation demonstrated that the development of severe and rapid neurodegeneration in these mice is independent of the hematopoietic lineage and has clinical implications for treatment of osteopetrosis. Importantly, this study establishes a novel neurodegenerative mouse model critical for understanding the multi-step pathogenic cascade of cellular autophagy disorders toward therapeutic strategy design.