The mechanisms of neuronal death in protein misfolding neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and prion diseases are poorly understood. We used a highly toxic misfolded prion protein (TPrP) model to understand neurotoxicity induced by prion protein misfolding. We show that abnormal autophagy activation and neuronal demise is due to severe, neuron-specific, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD(+)) depletion. Toxic prion protein-exposed neuronal cells exhibit dramatic reductions of intracellular NAD(+) followed by decreased ATP production, and are completely rescued by treatment with NAD(+) or its precursor nicotinamide because of restoration of physiological NAD(+) levels. Toxic prion protein-induced NAD(+) depletion results from PARP1-independent excessive protein ADP-ribosylations. In vivo, toxic prion protein-induced degeneration of hippocampal neurons is prevented dose-dependently by intracerebral injection of NAD(+). Intranasal NAD(+) treatment of prion-infected sick mice significantly improves activity and delays motor impairment. Our study reveals NAD(+) starvation as a novel mechanism of autophagy activation and neurodegeneration induced by a misfolded amyloidogenic protein. We propose the development of NAD(+) replenishment strategies for neuroprotection in prion diseases and possibly other protein misfolding neurodegenerative diseases.
Keywords: neurodegeneration; neuroprotection; nicotinamide dinucleotide; prion; protein misfolding.
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