Proteasomal inhibition-induced inclusion formation and death in cortical neurons require transcription and ubiquitination

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2002 Oct;21(2):223-38. doi: 10.1006/mcne.2002.1173.


Increasing evidence suggests that proteasomal dysfunction plays a role in the pathogenesis of Lewy body diseases. We have used pharmacological inhibitors of the proteasome to model proteasomal dysfunction in cultured rat cortical neurons. Proteasomal inhibition induced apoptotic death and formation of cytoplasmic ubiquitinated inclusions, which were present only in viable neurons. Actinomycin D, but not a caspase inhibitor, prevented inclusion formation, whereas both agents inhibited cell death. alpha-Synuclein and thioflavin S staining were found within the inclusions. alpha-Synuclein, however, did not appear to be ubiquitinated or aggregated. A dominant-negative mutant of an E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, cdc34, prevented inclusion formation and attenuated cell death. Our results suggest that in cortical neurons: (a) proteasomal dysfunction plays a role in formation of ubiquitin/alpha-synuclein-positive inclusions, (b) inclusion formation is an active cell process requiring transcription, and (c) ubiquitination of certain proteins is required for inclusion formation and may participate in neuronal death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / enzymology
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Inclusion Bodies / drug effects*
  • Inclusion Bodies / enzymology
  • Inclusion Bodies / genetics
  • Multienzyme Complexes / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / enzymology
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Rats
  • Synucleins
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects*
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology
  • Ubiquitin / genetics
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*
  • alpha-Synuclein


  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Snca protein, rat
  • Synucleins
  • Ubiquitin
  • alpha-Synuclein
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex