Ataxic phenotype and neurodegeneration are triggered by the impairment of chaperone-mediated autophagy in cerebellar neurons

Neuropathol Appl Neurobiol. 2021 Feb;47(2):198-209. doi: 10.1111/nan.12649. Epub 2020 Aug 9.


Aims: Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) is a pathway involved in the autophagy lysosome protein degradation system. CMA has attracted attention as a contributing factor to neurodegenerative diseases since it participates in the degradation of disease-causing proteins. We previously showed that CMA is generally impaired in cells expressing the proteins causing spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs). Therefore, we investigated the effect of CMA impairment on motor function and the neural survival of cerebellar neurons using the micro RNA (miRNA)-mediated knockdown of lysosome-associated protein 2A (LAMP2A), a CMA-related protein.

Methods: We injected adeno-associated virus serotype 9 vectors, which express green fluorescent protein (GFP) and miRNA (negative control miRNA or LAMP2A miRNA) under neuron-specific synapsin I promoter, into cerebellar parenchyma of 4-week-old ICR mice. Motor function of mice was evaluated by beam walking and footprint tests. Immunofluorescence experiments of cerebellar slices were conducted to evaluate histological changes in cerebella.

Results: GFP and miRNA were expressed in interneurons (satellite cells and basket cells) in molecular layers and granule cells in the cerebellar cortices, but not in cerebellar Purkinje cells. LAMP2A knockdown in cerebellar neurons triggered progressive motor impairment, prominent loss of cerebellar Purkinje cells, interneurons, granule cells at the late stage, and astrogliosis and microgliosis from the early stage.

Conclusions: CMA impairment in cerebellar interneurons and granule cells triggers the progressive ataxic phenotype, gliosis and the subsequent degeneration of cerebellar neurons, including Purkinje cells. Our present findings strongly suggest that CMA impairment is related to the pathogenesis of various SCAs.

Keywords: LAMP2A; cerebellum; chaperone-mediated autophagy; gliosis; motor dysfunction; neurodegeneration; spinocerebellar ataxia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't