Pre-symptomatic activation of antioxidant responses and alterations in glucose and pyruvate metabolism in Niemann-Pick Type C1-deficient murine brain

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 18;8(12):e82685. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082685. eCollection 2013.


Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC) disease is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disorder caused in most cases by mutations in the NPC1 gene. NPC1-deficiency is characterized by late endosomal accumulation of cholesterol, impaired cholesterol homeostasis, and a broad range of other cellular abnormalities. Although neuronal abnormalities and glial activation are observed in nearly all areas of the brain, the most severe consequence of NPC1-deficiency is a near complete loss of Purkinje neurons in the cerebellum. The link between cholesterol trafficking and NPC pathogenesis is not yet clear; however, increased oxidative stress in symptomatic NPC disease, increases in mitochondrial cholesterol, and alterations in autophagy/mitophagy suggest that mitochondria play a role in NPC disease pathology. Alterations in mitochondrial function affect energy and neurotransmitter metabolism, and are particularly harmful to the central nervous system. To investigate early metabolic alterations that could affect NPC disease progression, we performed metabolomics analyses of different brain regions from age-matched wildtype and Npc1 (-/-) mice at pre-symptomatic, early symptomatic and late stage disease by (1)H-NMR spectroscopy. Metabolic profiling revealed markedly increased lactate and decreased acetate/acetyl-CoA levels in Npc1 (-/-) cerebellum and cerebral cortex at all ages. Protein and gene expression analyses indicated a pre-symptomatic deficiency in the oxidative decarboxylation of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA, and an upregulation of glycolytic gene expression at the early symptomatic stage. We also observed a pre-symptomatic increase in several indicators of oxidative stress and antioxidant response systems in Npc1 (-/-) cerebellum. Our findings suggest that energy metabolism and oxidative stress may present additional therapeutic targets in NPC disease, especially if intervention can be started at an early stage of the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Mice
  • Niemann-Pick C1 Protein
  • Niemann-Pick Disease, Type C / metabolism*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Purkinje Cells / metabolism
  • Pyruvates / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Niemann-Pick C1 Protein
  • Npc1 protein, mouse
  • Proteins
  • Pyruvates
  • Cholesterol
  • Glucose