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Mitochondrial deficits and abnormal mitochondrial retrograde axonal transport play a role in the pathogenesis of mutant Hsp27 induced Charcot Marie Tooth Disease

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posted on 20.08.2020 by Bernadett Kalmar, Amy Innes, Klaus Wanisch, Alicia Koyen Kolaszynska, Amelie Pandraud, Gavin Kelly, Andrey Y Abramov, Mary M Reilly, Giampietro Schiavo, Linda Greensmith
Mutations in the small heat shock protein Hsp27, encoded by the HSPB1 gene, have been shown to cause Charcot Marie Tooth Disease type 2 (CMT-2) or distal hereditary motor neuropathy (dHMN). Protein aggregation and axonal transport deficits have been implicated in the disease. In this study, we conducted analysis of bidirectional movements of mitochondria in primary motor neuron axons expressing wild type and mutant Hsp27. We found significantly slower retrograde transport of mitochondria in Ser135Phe, Pro39Leu and Arg140Gly mutant Hsp27 expressing motor neurons than in wild type Hsp27 neurons, although anterograde movement velocities remained normal. Retrograde transport of other important cargoes, such as the p75 neurotrophic factor receptor was minimally altered in mutant Hsp27 neurons, implicating that axonal transport deficits primarily affect mitochondria and the axonal transport machinery itself is less affected. Investigation of mitochondrial function revealed a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential in mutant Hsp27 expressing motor axons, as well as a reduction in mitochondrial complex 1 activity, increased vulnerability of mitochondria to mitochondrial stressors, leading to elevated superoxide release and reduced mitochondrial glutathione (GSH) levels, although cytosolic GSH remained normal. This mitochondrial redox imbalance in mutant Hsp27 motor neurons is likely to cause low level of oxidative stress, which in turn will contribute to, and indeed may be the underlying cause of the deficits in mitochondrial axonal transport. Together, these findings suggest that the mitochondrial abnormalities in mutant Hsp27-induced neuropathies may be a primary cause of pathology, leading to further deficits in the mitochondrial axonal transport and onset of disease.

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