Citrullinated proteins are the products of a posttranslational process in which arginine residues undergo modification into citrulline residues when catalyzed by peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs) in a calcium ion-dependent manner. In our previous report, PAD2 expressed mainly in the rat cerebrum became activated early in the neurodegenerative process. To elucidate the involvement of protein citrullination in human neuronal degeneration, we examined whether citrullinated proteins are produced during Alzheimer's disease (AD). By Western blot analysis with antimodified citrulline antibody, citrullinated proteins of varied molecular weights were detected in hippocampal tissues from patients with AD but not normal humans. Two of the citrullinated proteins were identified as vimentin and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) by using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. Interestingly, PAD2 was detected in hippocampal extracts from AD and normal brains, but the amount of PAD2 in the AD tissue was markedly greater. Histochemical analysis revealed citrullinated proteins throughout the hippocampus, especially in the dentate gyrus and stratum radiatum of CA1 and CA2 areas. However, no citrullinated proteins were detected in the normal hippocampus. PAD2 immunoreactivity was also ubiquitous throughout both the AD and the normal hippocampal areas. PAD2 enrichment coincided well with citrullinated protein positivity. Double immunofluorescence staining revealed that citrullinated protein- and PAD2-positive cells also coincided with GFAP-positive cells, but not all GFAP-positive cells were positive for PAD2. As with GFAP, which is an astrocyte-specific marker protein, PAD2 is distributed mainly in astrocytes. These collective results, the abnormal accumulation of citrullinated proteins and abnormal activation of PAD2 in hippocampi of patients with AD, strongly suggest that PAD has an important role in the onset and progression of AD and that citrullinated proteins may become a useful marker for human neurodegenerative diseases.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.