Biochemie, Chemie und Pharmazie
The regulation of endocannabinoids after neuronal damage and the neuroprotective impact of GPR55 in organotypic hippocampal slice cultures
- Endocannabinoids (eCB) are signaling lipids and became known for their importance in the central nervous system as well as in immune defense. Beneficial effects of eCB are shown in processes of excitotoxic lesion, secondary damage and neuronal plasticity throughout the last years. Two canabinoid receptors, type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2) as the respective endogenous ligands belong to the endocannabinoid system (eCBS). In 1990, the CB1 could be cloned and was localised mainly on neurons. Shortly thereafter in 1993, the CB2 was characterised and found primarily on cells belonging to the immune system. N-arachidonoylethanolamide (AEA), often called anandamide, and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) are the best characterised eCB. N-palmitylethanolamide (PEA) and N-oleoylethanolamide (OEA) have no or only low affinity to CB1 but enhance the affinity of AEA significantly. This group is therefore often summarized as N-ethanolamides (NEA). ECB are derivates of arachidonic acid and are stored in membranes where they become hydrolysed on demand by specific enzymes. Traumatic brain injury altered the levels of eCB in the blood in vivo and when applied in vitro after neuronal damage, eCB could reduce the damaging burden. Further studies demonstrated that eCB are potent to down-regulate pro-inflammatory cytokines and most important to decrease neuronal excitation.
In the present study, the intrinsic regulation of the endocannabinoid system after neuronal damage over time was investigated in rat Organotypic Hippocampal Slice Cultures (OHSC). Temporal and spatial dynamics of eCB levels were analysed after transection of the perforant pathway (PPT) in originating neurons (enthorhinal cortex, EC), areas of deafferentiation/anterograde axonal degeneration (dentate gyrus, DG) and of the synaptically linked cornu ammonis region 1 (CA1) as well as after excitotoxic lesion in the respective regions.
A strong increase of all eCB was observed only in the denervation zone of the DG 24 hours post PPT. In excitotoxic lesioned OHSC all eCB were elevated, in the investigated regions up to 72 hours post lesion (hpl). The responsible enzyme for biosynthesis of the NEA, NAPE-PLD protein, was increased during the early timepoints of measurement (1-6 hpl). The responsible catabolizing enzyme, FAAH, and the CB1 receptor were up-regulated at a later timepoint, 48 hpl, explaining the eCB levels. In the present model, the inhibition of the enzyme responsible for 2-AG hydrolysis (MAGL) was neuroprotective as previously shown and a re-distribution within neurons and astrocytes during neuronal damage could be observed. In primary cell cultures microglia expressed the regulating enzymes of 2-AG and the enzyme responsible for NEA down-regulation, FAAH. Astrocytes expressed mainly the catalyzing enzymes, indicating the role for eCB break-down. All these findings together demonstrate the great capacity of the eCBS to control inflammatory processes and consequently neuronal cell death.
All effects of the known eCB could not be clarified by CB1/CB2 deficient mice. Several G-protein coupled receptors (GPR) are recently in discussion whether they might and should belong to the endocannabinoid system. The GPR55, the not yet cloned abnormal cannabidiol receptor and further GPRs are candidates as potential endocannabinoid receptors. Recently GPR55 has been discussed as a putative cannabinoid receptor type 3 (CB3). Quantitative PCR revealed that Gpr55 is present in primary microglia and the brain, but the exact regional and cellular distribution and the physiological/pathological effects downstream of GPR55 activation in the CNS still remain open. Therefore, the excitotoxic rat OHSC model, previously used to investigate the neuroprotective potency of eCB, was now used to investigate the neuroprotective potency of GPR55. Activation of GPR55 protected dentate gyrus granule cells in vitro after excitotoxic lesion, induced by NMDA. In parallel, GPR55 activation was able to reduce the number of microglia in the dentate gyrus. These neuroprotective effects vanished however in microglia depleted OHSCs as well as in OHSC transfected with Gpr55 siRNA, indicating a strong involvement of microglia in GPR55 mediated neuroprotection.
In summary, the present study found a strong time-dependent and anterograde mechanism of action of eCB after long-range projection damage and provided further evidence for the neuroprotective properties of eCB. The potential cannabinoid receptor 3 (GPR55) mediates neuronal protection on behalf of microglia.
The role of ABL/BCR in the leukemogenic potential of BCR/ABL in Philadelphia chromosome positive leukemia
Characterization of the Chikungunya virus entry process and the development of novel antiviral strategies
- The Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a mosquito-transmitted alphavirus that causes high fever, rash, and recurrent arthritis in humans. The majority of symptoms disappear after about one week. However, arthritis can last for months or even years (in about 30% of cases), which makes people unable to work during this period. The virus is endemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian Ocean islands, India, and Southeast Asia. It has additionally caused several large outbreaks in the last few years, affecting millions of people. The mortality rate is very low (0.1%), but the infection rates are high (sometimes 30%) and the number of asymptomatic cases is rare (about 15%). The first CHIKV outbreak in a country with a moderate climate was detected in Italy in 2007. Furthermore, the virus has spread to the Caribbean in late 2013. Due to climate change, globalization, and vector switching, the virus will most likely continue to cause new worldwide outbreaks. Additionally, more temperate regions of the world like Europe or the USA, which have recently reported their first cases, will likely become targets. Alarmingly, there is no specific treatment or vaccination against CHIKV available so far.
The cell entry process of CHIKV is also not understood in detail, and was thusly the focus of study for this project. The E2 envelope protein is responsible for cell attachment and entry. It consists of the domain C, located close to the viral membrane, domain A, in the center of the protein, and domain B, at the distal end, prominently exposed on the viral surface.
In this work, the important role of cell surface glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) for CHIKV cell attachment was uncovered. GAGs consist of long linear chains of heavily sulfated disaccharide units and can be covalently linked to membrane associated proteins. They play an important role in different cell signaling pathways. So far, solely cell culture passage has revealed an increased GAG-dependency of CHIKV due to mutations in E2 domain A, which was associated with virus attenuation in vivo. However, in this work it could be shown that cell surface GAGs promote CHIKV entry using non-cell culture adapted CHIKV envelope (Env) proteins. Transduction and infection of cell surface GAG-deficient pgsA-745 cells with CHIKV Env pseudotyped vector particles (VPs) and with wild-type CHIKV revealed decreased transduction and replication rates. Furthermore, cell entry and transduction rates of GAG-containing cells were also dose-dependently decreased in the presence of soluble GAGs. In contrast, transduction of pgsA-745 cells with CHIKV Env pseudotyped VPs was enhanced by the addition of soluble GAGs. This data suggests a mechanism by which GAGs activate CHIKV particles for subsequent binding to a cellular receptor. However, at least one GAG-independent entry pathway might exist, as CHIKV entry could not be totally inhibited by soluble GAGs and entry into pgsA-745 was, albeit at a lower rate, still possible. Further binding experiments using recombinant CHIKV E2 domains A, B, and C suggest that domain B is responsible for the GAG binding, domain A possibly for receptor binding, and domain C is not involved in cell binding. These results are in line with the geometry of CHIKV Env on the viral surface. They altogether reveal that GAG binding promotes viral cell entry and that the E2 domain B plays a central role for this mechanism.
As no vaccine against CHIKV has been approved so far, another goal of this project was to test new vaccination approaches. It has been published that a single linear epitope of E2 is the target of the majority of early neutralizing antibodies against CHIKV in patients. Artificial E2-derived proteins were created, expressed in E.coli, and successfully purified. They consisted of 5 repeats of the mentioned linear epitope (L), the surface exposed regions of domain A linked by glycine-serine linkers (sA), the whole domain B plus a part of the β-ribbon connector (B+), or a combination of these 3 modules. Vaccination experiments revealed that B+ was necessary and sufficient to induce a neutralizing immune response in mice, with the protein sAB+ yielding the best results. sAB+, as a protein vaccine, efficiently and significantly reduced viral titers in mice upon CHIKV challenge, which was not the case for recombinant Modified Vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA; MVA-CHIKV-sAB+), as a vaccine platform expressing the same protein. These experiments show that a small rationally designed CHIKV Env derived protein might, after optimization of some vaccination parameters, be sufficient as a safe, easy-to-produce, and cheap CHIKV vaccine.
Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a catechin found in green tea and was, in this work, found to inhibit the CHIKV life cycle at the entry state in in vitro experiments using CHIKV Env VPs and wild-type virus. EGCG was recently published to inhibit attachment of several viruses to cell surface GAGs, which is in line with the role for GAGs in CHIKV entry revealed in this work. EGCG might serve as a lead compound for the development of a small molecule treatment against CHIKV.