The emerging links between our gut microbiome and the central nervous system (CNS) are regarded as a paradigm shift in neuroscience with possible implications for not only understanding the pathophysiology of stress-related psychiatric disorders, but also their treatment. Thus the gut microbiome and its influence on host barrier function is positioned to be a critical node within the brain-gut axis. Mounting preclinical evidence broadly suggests that the gut microbiota can modulate brain development, function and behavior by immune, endocrine and neural pathways of the brain-gut-microbiota axis. Detailed mechanistic insights explaining these specific interactions are currently underdeveloped. However, the concept that a "leaky gut" may facilitate communication between the microbiota and these key signaling pathways has gained traction. Deficits in intestinal permeability may underpin the chronic low-grade inflammation observed in disorders such as depression and the gut microbiome plays a critical role in regulating intestinal permeability. In this review we will discuss the possible role played by the gut microbiota in maintaining intestinal barrier function and the CNS consequences when it becomes disrupted. We will draw on both clinical and preclinical evidence to support this concept as well as the key features of the gut microbiota which are necessary for normal intestinal barrier function.
Execution of fundamental cellular functions demands regulated protein folding homeostasis. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is an active organelle existing to implement this function by folding and modifying secretory and membrane proteins. Loss of protein folding homeostasis is central to various diseases and budding evidences suggest ER stress as being a major contributor in the development or pathology of a diseased state besides other cellular stresses. The trigger for diseases may be diverse but, inflammation and/or ER stress may be basic mechanisms increasing the severity or complicating the condition of the disease. Chronic ER stress and activation of the unfolded-protein response (UPR) through endogenous or exogenous insults may result in impaired calcium and redox homeostasis, oxidative stress via protein overload thereby also influencing vital mitochondrial functions. Calcium released from the ER augments the production of mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).Toxic accumulation of ROS within ER and mitochondria disturbs fundamental organelle functions. Sustained ER stress is known to potentially elicit inflammatory responses via UPR pathways. Additionally, ROS generated through inflammation or mitochondrial dysfunction could accelerate ER malfunction. Dysfunctional UPR pathways have been associated with a wide range of diseases including several neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, metabolic disorders, cancer, inflammatory disease, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, and others. In this review, we have discussed the UPR signaling pathways, and networking between ER stress-induced inflammatory pathways, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial signaling events, which further induce or exacerbate ER stress.
Microglia are the resident macrophage population of the central nervous system (CNS). Adequate microglial function is crucial for a healthy CNS. Microglia are not only the first immune sentinels of infection, contributing to both innate and adaptive immune responses locally, but are also involved in the maintenance of brain homeostasis. Emerging data are showing new and fundamental roles for microglia in the control of neuronal proliferation and differentiation, as well as in the formation of synaptic connections. While microglia have been studied for decades, a long history of experimental misinterpretation meant that their true origins remained debated. However, recent studies on microglial origin indicate that these cells in fact arise early during development from progenitors in the embryonic yolk sac (YS) that seed the brain rudiment and, remarkably, appear to persist there into adulthood. Here, we review the history of microglial cells and discuss the latest advances in our understanding of their origin, differentiation, and homeostasis, which provides new insights into their roles in health and disease.
Neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer (AD) and Parkinson (PD) have attracted attention in last decades due to their high incidence worldwide. The etiology of these diseases is still unclear: however the role of the environment as a putative risk factor has gained importance. More worryingly is the evidence that pre- and post natal exposures to environmental factors predispose to the onset of neurodegenerative diseases in later life. Neurotoxic metals such as lead, mercury, aluminum, cadmium and arsenic, as well as some pesticides and metal based nanoparticles have been involved in AD due to their ability to increase beta-amyloid (A13) peptide and the phosphorylation of Tau protein (P-Tau), causing senile/amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) characteristic of AD. The exposure to lead, manganese, solvents and some pesticides has been related to hallmarks of PD such as mitochondrial dysfunction, alterations in metal homeostasis and aggregation of proteins such as ti-synuclein (1-syn), which is a key constituent of Lewy bodies (LB), a crucial factor in PD pathogenesis. Common mechanisms of environmental pollutants to increase Af), P-Tau, ot-syn and neuronal death have been reported, including the oxidative stress mainly involved in the increase of Ali and Li-syn. and the reduced activity/protein levels of Ar) degrading enzyme (IDE)s such as neprilysin or insulin IDE. In addition, epigenetic mechanisms by maternal nutrient supplementation and exposure to heavy metals and pesticides have been proposed to lead phenotypic diversity and susceptibility to neurodegenerative diseases. This review discusses data from epidemiological and experimental studies about the role of environmental factors in the development of idiopathic AD and PD, and their mechanisms of action.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB), constituted by an extensive network of endothelial cells(ECs) together with neurons and glial cells, including microglia, forms the neurovascular unit (NVU). The crosstalk between these cells guarantees a proper environment for brain function. In this context, changes in the endothelium-microglia interactions are associated with a variety of inflammation-related diseases in brain, where BBB permeability is compromised. Increasing evidences indicate that activated microglia modulate expression of tight junctions, which are essential for BBB integrity and function. On the other hand, the endothelium can regulate the state of microglial activation. Here, we review recent advances that provide insights into interactions between the microglia and the vascular system in brain diseases such as infectious/inflammatory diseases, epilepsy, ischemic stroke and neurodegenerative disorders.
Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in people over 60 years old. The molecular and cellular alterations that trigger this disease are still diffuse, one of the reasons for the delay in finding an effective treatment. In the search for new targets to search for novel therapeutic avenues, clinical studies in patients who used anti-inflammatory drugs indicating a lower incidence of AD have been of value to support the neuroinflammatory hypothesis of the neurodegenerative processes and the role of innate immunity in this disease. Neuroinflammation appears to occur as a consequence of a series of damage signals, including trauma, infection, oxidative agents, redox iron, oligomers of τ and β-amyloid, etc. In this context, our theory of Neuroimmunomodulation focus on the link between neuronal damage and brain inflammatory process, mediated by the progressive activation of astrocytes and microglial cells with the consequent overproduction of proinflammatory agents. Here, we discuss about the role of microglial and astrocytic cells, the principal agents in neuroinflammation process, in the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as AD. In this context, we also evaluated the potential relevance of natural anti-inflammatory components, which include curcumin and the novel Andean Compound, as agents for AD prevention and as a coadjuvant for AD treatments.
Microglia are the resident brain macrophages and they have been traditionally studied as orchestrators of the brain inflammatory response during infections and disease. In addition, microglia has a more benign, less explored role as the brain professional phagocytes. Phagocytosis is a term coined from the Greek to describe the receptor-mediated engulfment and degradation of dead cells and microbes. In addition, microglia phagocytoses brain-specific cargo, such as axonal and myelin debris in spinal cord injury or multiple sclerosis, amyloid-beta deposits in Alzheimer's disease, and supernumerary synapses in postnatal development. Common mechanisms of recognition, engulfment, and degradation of the different types of cargo are assumed, but very little is known about the shared and specific molecules involved in the phagocytosis of each target by microglia. More importantly, the functional consequences of microglial phagocytosis remain largely unexplored. Overall, phagocytosis is considered a beneficial phenomenon, since it eliminates dead cells and induces an anti-inflammatory response. However, phagocytosis can also activate the respiratory burst, which produces toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS). Phagocytosis has been traditionally studied in pathological conditions, leading to the assumption that microglia have to be activated inorder to become efficient phagocytes. Recent data, however, has shown that unchallenged microglia phagocytose apoptotic cells during development and in adult neurogenic niches, suggesting an overlooked role in brain remodeling throughout the normal lifespan. The present review will summarize the current state of the literature regarding the role of microglial phagocytosis in maintaining tissue homeostasis in health as in disease.
Cytokines are key regulatory mediators involved in the host response to immunological challenges, but also play a critical role in the communication between the immune and the central nervous system. For this, their expression in both systems is under a tight regulatory control. However, pathological conditions may lead to an overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines that may have a detrimental impact on central nervous system. In particular, they may damage neuronal structure and function leading to deficits of neuroplasticity, the ability of nervous system to perceive, respond and adapt to external or internal stimuli. In search of the mechanisms by which pro-inflammatory cytokines may affect this crucial brain capability, we will discuss one of the most interesting hypotheses: the involvement of the neurotrophin brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which represents one of the major mediators of neuroplasticity.
Alzheimer disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia in people over 60 years old. The molecular and cellular alterations that trigger this disease are still diffuse, one of the reasons for the delay in finding an effective treatment. In the search for new targets to search for novel therapeutic avenues, clinical studies in patients who used antiinflammatory drugs indicating a lower incidence of AD have been of value to support the neuroinflammatory hypothesis of the neurodegenerative processes and the role of innate immunity in this disease. Neuroinflammation appears to occur as a consequence of a series of damage signals, including trauma, infection, oxidative agents, redox iron, oligomers of tau and beta-amyloid, etc. In this context, our theory of Neuroimmunomodulation focus on the link between neuronal damage and brain inflammatory process, mediated by the progressive activation of astrocytes and microglial cells with the consequent overproduction of proinflamrnatory agents. Here, we discuss about the role of rnicroglial and astrocytic cells, the principal agents in neuroinflammation process, in the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as AD. In this context, we also evaluated the potential relevance of natural anti-inflammatory components, which include curcumin and the novel Andean Compound, as agents for AD prevention and as a coadjuvant for AD treatments.
Neurogenesis persists in adult mammals in specific brain areas, known as neurogenic niches. Adult neurogenesis is highly dynamic and is modulated by multiple physiological stimuli and pathological states. There is a strong interest in understanding how this process is regulated, particularly since active neuronal production has been demonstrated in both the hippocampus and the subventricular zone (SVZ) of adult humans. The molecular mechanisms that control neurogenesis have been extensively studied during embryonic development. Therefore, we have a broad knowledge of the intrinsic factors and extracellular signaling pathways driving proliferation and differentiation of embryonic neural precursors. Many of these factors also play important roles during adult neurogenesis, but essential differences exist in the biological responses of neural precursors in the embryonic and adult contexts. Because adult neural stem cells (NSCs) are normally found in a quiescent state, regulatory pathways can affect adult neurogenesis in ways that have no clear counterpart during embryogenesis. BMP signaling, for instance, regulates NSC behavior both during embryonic and adult neurogenesis. However, this pathway maintains stem cell proliferation in the embryo, while it promotes quiescence to prevent stem cell exhaustion in the adult brain. In this review, we will compare and contrast the functions of transcription factors (TFs) and other regulatory molecules in the embryonic brain and in adult neurogenic regions of the adult brain in the mouse, with a special focus on the hippocampal niche and on the regulation of the balance between quiescence and activation of adult NSCs in this region.
Patients with chronic inflammation are often associated with the emergence of depression symptoms, while diagnosed depressed patients show increased levels of circulating cytokines. Further studies revealed the activation of the brain immune cell microglia in depressed patients with a greater magnitude in individuals that committed suicide, indicating a crucial role for neuroinflammation in depression brain pathogenesis. Rapid advances in the understanding of microglial and astrocytic neurobiology were obtained in the past 15-20 years. Indeed, recent data reveal that microglia play an important role in managing neuronal cell death, neurogenesis, and synaptic interactions, besides their involvement in immune-response generating cytokines. The communication between microglia and neurons is essential to synchronize these diverse functions with brain activity. Evidence is accumulating that secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs), comprising ectosomes and exosomes with a size ranging from 0.1-1 mu m, are key players in intercellular signaling. These EVs may carry specific proteins, mRNAs and microRNAs (miRNAs). Transfer of exosomes to neurons was shown to be mediated by oligodendrocytes, microglia and astrocytes that may either be supportive to neurons, or instead disseminate the disease. Interestingly, several recent reports have identified changes in miRNAs in depressed patients, which target not only crucial pathways associated with synaptic plasticity, learning and memory but also the production of neurotrophic factors and immune cell modulation. In this article, we discuss the role of neuroinflammation in the emergence of depression, namely dynamic alterations in the status of microglia response to stimulation, and how their activation phenotypes may have an etiological role in neurodegeneneration, in particular in depressive-like behavior. We will overview the involvement of miRNAs, exosomes, ectosomes and microglia in regulating critical pathways associated with depression and how they may contribute to other brain disorders including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson's disease (PD), which share several neuroinflammatory-associated processes. Specific reference will be made to EVs as potential biomarkers and disease monitoring approaches, focusing on their potentialities as drug delivery vehicles, and on putative therapeutic strategies using autologous exosome-based delivery systems to treat neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders.
Astrocytes play crucial roles in the brain and are involved in the neuroinflammatory response. They become reactive in response to virtually all pathological situations in the brain such as axotomy, ischemia, infection, and neurodegenerative diseases (ND). Astrocyte reactivity was originally characterized by morphological changes (hypertrophy, remodeling of processes) and the overexpression of the intermediate filament glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP). However, it is unclear how the normal supportive functions of astrocytes are altered by their reactive state. In ND, in which neuronal dysfunction and astrocyte reactivity take place over several years or decades, the issue is even more complex and highly debated, with several conflicting reports published recently. In this review, we discuss studies addressing the contribution of reactive astrocytes to ND. We describe the molecular triggers leading to astrocyte reactivity during ND, examine how some key astrocyte functions may be enhanced or altered during the disease process, and discuss how astrocyte reactivity may globally affect ND progression. Finally we will consider the anticipated developments in this important field. With this review, we aim to show that the detailed study of reactive astrocytes may open new perspectives for ND.
There has been an explosion of research using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) for investigating and modulating human cognitive and motor function in healthy populations. It has also been used in many studies seeking to improve deficits in disease populations. With the slew of studies reporting "promising results" for everything from motor recovery after stroke to boosting memory function, one could be easily seduced by the idea of tDCS being the next panacea for all neurological ills. However, huge variability exists in the reported effects of tDCS, with great variability in the effect sizes and even contradictory results reported. In this review, we consider the interindividual factors that may contribute to this variability. In particular, we discuss the importance of baseline neuronal state and features, anatomy, age and the inherent variability in the injured brain. We additionally consider how interindividual variability affects the results of motor-evoked potential (MEP) testing with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which, in turn, can lead to apparent variability in response to tDCS in motor studies.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a tightly regulated interface in the Central Nervous System (CNS) that regulates the exchange of molecules in and out from the brain thus maintaining the CNS homeostasis. It is mainly composed of endothelial cells (ECs), pericytes and astrocytes that create a neurovascular unit (NVU) with the adjacent neurons. Astrocytes are essential for the formation and maintenance of the BBB by providing secreted factors that lead to the adequate association between the cells of the BBB and the formation of strong tight junctions. Under neurological disorders, such as chronic cerebral ischemia, brain trauma, Epilepsy, Alzheimer and Parkinson's Diseases, a disruption of the BBB takes place, involving a lost in the permeability of the barrier and phenotypical changes in both the ECs and astrocytes. In this aspect, it has been established that the process of reactive gliosis is a common feature of astrocytes during BBB disruption, which has a detrimental effect on the barrier function and a subsequent damage in neuronal survival. In this review we discuss the implications of astrocyte functions in the protection of the BBB, and in the development of Parkinson's disease (PD) and related disorders. Additionally, we highlight the current and future strategies in astrocyte protection aimed at the development of the current and future stategies in astrocyte protection aimed at the development of restorative therapies for the BBB in pathological conditions.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia in the elderly, and affects millions of people worldwide. As the number of AD cases continues to increase in both developed and developing countries, finding therapies that effectively halt or reverse disease progression constitutes a major research and public health challenge. Since the identification of the arnyloid-beta peptide (A beta) as the major component of the amyloid plaques that are characteristically found in AD brains, a major effort has aimed to determine whether and how A/beta leads to memory loss and cognitive impairment. A large body of evidence accumulated in the past 15 years supports a pivotal role of soluble A beta oligomers (A beta Os) in synapse failure and neuronal dysfunction in AD. Nonetheless, a number of basic questions, including the exact molecular composition of the synaptotoxic oligomers, the identity of the receptor(s) to which they bind, and the signaling pathways that ultimately lead to synapse failure, remain to be definitively answered. Here, we discuss recent advances that have illuminated our understanding of the chemical nature of the toxic species and the deleterious impact they have on synapses, and have culminated in the proposal of an A beta oligomer hypothesis for Alzheimer's pathogenesis. We also highlight outstanding questions and challenges in AD research that should be addressed to allow translation of research findings into effective AD therapies.
Nitric oxide (NO) is a pleiotropic janus-faced molecule synthesized by nitric oxide synthases (NOS) which plays a critical role in a number of physiological and pathological processes in humans. The physiological roles of NO depend on its local concentrations, as well as its availability and the nature of downstream target molecules. Its double-edged sword action has been linked to neurodegenerative disorders. Excessive NO production, as the evoked by inflammatory signals, has been identified as one of the major causative reasons for the pathogenesis of several neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, excessive NO synthesis under neuroinflammation leads to the formation of reactive nitrogen species and neuronal cell death. There is an intimate relation between microglial activation, NO and neuroinflammation in the human brain. The role of NO in neuroinflammation has been defined in animal models where this neurotransmitter can modulate the inflammatory process acting on key regulatory pathways, such as those associated with excitotoxicity processes induced by glutamate accumulation and microglial activation. Activated glia express inducible NOS and produce NO that triggers calcium mobilization from the endoplasmic reticulum, activating the release of vesicular glutamate from astroglial cells resulting in neuronal death. This change in microglia potentially contributes to the increased age-associated susceptibility and neurodegeneration. In the current review, information is provided about the role of NO, glial activation and age related processes in the central nervous system (CNS) that may be helpful in the isolation of new therapeutic targets for aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
While the relationship between increased physical activity and cognitive ability has been conjectured for centuries, only recently have the mechanisms underlying this relationship began to emerge. Convergent evidence suggests that physical activity offers an affordable and effective method to improve cognitive function in all ages, particularly the elderly who are most vulnerable to neurodegenerative disorders. In addition to improving cardiac and immune function, physical activity alters trophic factor signaling and, in turn, neuronal function and structure in areas critical for cognition. Sustained exercise plays a role in modulating anti-inflammatory effects and may play a role in preserving cognitive function in aging and neuropathological conditions. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that myokines released by exercising muscles affect the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor synthesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, a finding that could lead to the identification of new and therapeutically important mediating factors. Given the growing number of individuals with cognitive impairments worldwide, a better understanding of how these factors contribute to cognition is imperative, and constitutes an important first step toward developing non-pharmacological therapeutic strategies to improve cognition in vulnerable populations.
The Rho family of GTPases belongs to the Ras superfamily of low molecular weight (similar to 21 kDa) guanine nucleotide binding proteins. The most extensively studied members are RhoA, Rac1, and Cdc42. In the last few decades, studies have demonstrated that Rho family GTPases are important regulatory molecules that link surface receptors to the organization of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons. Indeed, Rho GTPases mediate many diverse critical cellular processes, such as gene transcription, cell cell adhesion, and cell cycle progression. However, Rho GTPases also play an essential role in regulating neuronal morphology. In particular, Rho GTPases regulate dendritic arborization, spine morphogenesis, growth cone development, and axon guidance. In addition, more recent efforts have underscored an important function for Rho GTPases in regulating neuronal survival and death. Interestingly, Rho GTPases can exert either a pro-survival or pro-death signal in neurons depending upon both the cell type and neurotoxic insult involved. This review summarizes key findings delineating the involvement of Rho GTPases and their effectors in the regulation of neuronal survival and death. Collectively, these results suggest that dysregulation of Rho family GTPases may potentially underscore the etiology of some forms of neurodegenerative disease such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
In the nervous system, glia cells maintain homeostasis, synthesize myelin, provide metabolic support, and participate in immune defense. The communication between glia and neurons is essential to synchronize these diverse functions with brain activity. Evidence is accumulating that secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs), such as exosomes and shedding microvesicles, are key players in intercellular signaling. The cells of the nervous system secrete EVs, which potentially carry protein and RNA cargo from one cell to another. After delivery, the cargo has the ability to modify the target cell phenotype. Here, we review the recent advances in understanding the role of EV secretion by astrocytes, microglia, and oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system. Current work has demonstrated that oligodendrocytes transfer exosomes to neurons as a result of neurotransmitter signaling suggesting that these vesicles may mediate glial support of neurons.
It is well established that microglial form and function are inextricably linked. In recent years, the traditional view that microglial form ranges between "ramified resting" and "activated amoeboid" has been emphasized through advancing imaging techniques that point to microglial form being highly dynamic even within the currently accepted morphological categories. Moreover, microglia adopt meaningful intermediate forms between categories, with considerable crossover in function and varying morphologies as they cycle, migrate, wave, phagocytose, and extend and retract fine and gross processes. From a quantitative perspective, it is problematic to measure such variability using traditional methods, but one way of quantitating such detail is through fractal analysis. The techniques of fractal analysis have been used for quantitating microglial morphology, to categorize gross differences but also to differentiate subtle differences (e.g., amongst ramified cells). Multifractal analysis in particular is one technique of fractal analysis that may be useful for identifying intermediate forms. Here we review current trends and methods of fractal analysis, focusing on box counting analysis, including lacunarity and multifractal analysis, as applied to microglial morphology.