Presynaptic APP levels and synaptic homeostasis are regulated by Akt phosphorylation of huntingtin

Elife. 2020 May 26;9:e56371. doi: 10.7554/eLife.56371.

Abstract

Studies have suggested that amyloid precursor protein (APP) regulates synaptic homeostasis, but the evidence has not been consistent. In particular, signaling pathways controlling APP transport to the synapse in axons and dendrites remain to be identified. Having previously shown that Huntingtin (HTT), the scaffolding protein involved in Huntington's disease, regulates neuritic transport of APP, we used a microfluidic corticocortical neuronal network-on-a-chip to examine APP transport and localization to the pre- and post-synaptic compartments. We found that HTT, upon phosphorylation by the Ser/Thr kinase Akt, regulates APP transport in axons but not dendrites. Expression of an unphosphorylatable HTT decreased axonal anterograde transport of APP, reduced presynaptic APP levels, and increased synaptic density. Ablating in vivo HTT phosphorylation in APPPS1 mice, which overexpress APP, reduced presynaptic APP levels, restored synapse number and improved learning and memory. The Akt-HTT pathway and axonal transport of APP thus regulate APP presynaptic levels and synapse homeostasis.

Keywords: alzheimer disease; amyloid precursor protein; cell biology; huntingtin; mouse; neuroscience; synapse.