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Ising C, Venegas C, Zhang S, Scheiblich H, Schmidt SV, Vieira-Saecker A, Schwartz S, Albasset S, McManus RM, Tejera D, Griep A, Santarelli F, Brosseron F, Opitz S, Stunden J, Merten M, Kayed R, Golenbock DT, Blum D, Latz E, Buée L, Heneka MT. Nature. 2019 Nov;575(7784):669-673.

Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the accumulation of amyloid-beta in plaques, aggregation of hyperphosphorylated tau in neurofibrillary tangles and neuroinflammation, together resulting in neurodegeneration and cognitive decline1. The NLRP3 inflammasome assembles inside of microglia on activation, leading to increased cleavage and activity of caspase-1 and downstream interleukin-1β release2. Although the NLRP3 inflammasome has been shown to be essential for the development and progression of amyloid-beta pathology in mice3, the precise effect on tau pathology remains unknown. Here we show that loss of NLRP3 inflammasome function reduced tau hyperphosphorylation and aggregation by regulating tau kinases and phosphatases. Tau activated the NLRP3 inflammasome and intracerebral injection of fibrillar amyloid-beta-containing brain homogenates induced tau pathology in an NLRP3-dependent manner. These data identify an important role of microglia and NLRP3 inflammasome activation in the pathogenesis of tauopathies and support the amyloid-cascade hypothesis in Alzheimer's disease, demonstrating that neurofibrillary tangles develop downstream of amyloid-beta-induced microglial activation.

Heneka MT, McManus RM, Latz E. Inflammasome signalling in brain function and neurodegenerative disease. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018 Oct;19(10):610-621.

The mammalian CNS is an intricate and fragile structure, which on one hand is open to change in order to store information, but on the other hand is vulnerable to damage from injury, pathogen invasion or neurodegeneration. During senescence and neurodegeneration, activation of the innate immune system can occur. Inflammasomes are signalling complexes that regulate cells of the immune system, which in the brain mainly includes microglial cells. In microglia, the NLRP3 (NOD-, LRR- and pyrin domain-containing 3) inflammasome becomes activated when these cells sense proteins such as misfolded or aggregated amyloid-β, α-synuclein and prion protein or superoxide dismutase, ATP and members of the complement pathway. Several other inflammasomes have been described in microglia and the other cells of the brain, including astrocytes and neurons, where their activation and subsequent caspase 1 cleavage contribute to disease development and progression.

Venegas C, Kumar S, Franklin BS, Dierkes T, Brinkschulte R, Tejera D, Vieira-Saecker A, Schwartz S, Santarelli F, Kummer MP, Griep A, Gelpi E, Beilharz M, Riedel D, Golenbock DT, Geyer M, Walter J, Latz E, Heneka MT Nature. 2017 Dec 20;552(7685):355-361. 

The spreading of pathology within and between brain areas is a hallmark of neurodegenerative disorders. In patients with Alzheimer's disease, deposition of amyloid-β is accompanied by activation of the innate immune system and involves inflammasome-dependent formation of ASC specks in microglia. ASC specks released by microglia bind rapidly to amyloid-β and increase the formation of amyloid-β oligomers and aggregates, acting as an inflammation-driven cross-seed for amyloid-β pathology. Here we show that intrahippocampal injection of ASC specks resulted in spreading of amyloid-β pathology in transgenic double-mutant APPSwePSEN1dE9 mice. By contrast, homogenates from brains of APPSwePSEN1dE9 mice failed to induce seeding and spreading of amyloid-β pathology in ASC-deficient APPSwePSEN1dE9 mice. Moreover, co-application of an anti-ASC antibody blocked the increase in amyloid-β pathology in APPSwePSEN1dE9 mice. These findings support the concept that inflammasome activation is connected to seeding and spreading of amyloid-β pathology in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Heneka MT, Golenbock DT, Latz E. Nat Immunol. 2015 Mar;16(3):229-36.

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the world's most common dementing illness, affecting over 150 million patients. Classically AD has been viewed as a neurodegenerative disease of the elderly, characterized by the extracellular deposition of misfolded amyloid-β (Aβ) peptide and the intracellular formation of neurofibrillary tangles. Only recently has neuroinflammation emerged as an important component of AD pathology. Experimental, genetic and epidemiological data now indicate a crucial role for activation of the innate immune system as a disease-promoting factor. The sustained formation and deposition of Aβ aggregates causes chronic activation of the immune system and disturbance of microglial clearance functions. Here we review advances in the molecular understanding of the inflammatory response in AD that point to novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of this devastating disease.

Heneka MT, Carson MJ, El Khoury J, Landreth GE, Brosseron F, Feinstein DL, Jacobs AH, Wyss-Coray T, Vitorica J, Ransohoff RM, Herrup K, Frautschy SA, Finsen B, Brown GC, Verkhratsky A, Yamanaka K, Koistinaho J, Latz E, Halle A, Petzold GC, Town T, Morgan D, Shinohara ML, Perry VH, Holmes C, Bazan NG, Brooks DJ, Hunot S, Joseph B, Deigendesch N, Garaschuk O, Boddeke E, Dinarello CA, Breitner JC, Cole GM, Golenbock DT, Kummer MP. Lancet Neurol. 2015 Apr;14(4):388-405.

Increasing evidence suggests that Alzheimer's disease pathogenesis is not restricted to the neuronal compartment, but includes strong interactions with immunological mechanisms in the brain. Misfolded and aggregated proteins bind to pattern recognition receptors on microglia and astroglia, and trigger an innate immune response characterised by release of inflammatory mediators, which contribute to disease progression and severity. Genome-wide analysis suggests that several genes that increase the risk for sporadic Alzheimer's disease encode factors that regulate glial clearance of misfolded proteins and the inflammatory reaction. External factors, including systemic inflammation and obesity, are likely to interfere with immunological processes of the brain and further promote disease progression. Modulation of risk factors and targeting of these immune mechanisms could lead to future therapeutic or preventive strategies for Alzheimer's disease.

Heneka MT, Kummer, MP, Latz, E. (2014). Innate immune activation in neurodegenerative disease. Nat Rev Immunol. 2014 Jul;14(7):463-77. 

The triggering of innate immune mechanisms is emerging as a crucial component of major neurodegenerative diseases. Microglia and other cell types in the brain can be activated in response to misfolded proteins or aberrantly localized nucleic acids. This diverts microglia from their physiological and beneficial functions, and leads to their sustained release of pro-inflammatory mediators. In this Review, we discuss how the activation of innate immune signalling pathways - in particular, the NOD-, LRR- and pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome - by aberrant host proteins may be a common step in the development of diverse neurodegenerative disorders. During chronic activation of microglia, the sustained exposure of neurons to pro-inflammatory mediators can cause neuronal dysfunction and contribute to cell death. As chronic neuroinflammation is observed at relatively early stages of neurodegenerative disease, targeting the mechanisms that drive this process may be useful for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Heneka MT, Kummer MP, Stutz A, Delekate A, Schwartz S, Vieira-Saecker A, Griep A, Axt D, Remus A, Tzeng TC, Gelpi E, Halle A, Korte M, Latz E, Golenbock DT. Nature. 2013 Jan 31;493(7434):674-8.

Alzheimer's disease is the world's most common dementing illness. Deposition of amyloid-β peptide drives cerebral neuroinflammation by activating microglia. Indeed, amyloid-β activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in microglia is fundamental for interleukin-1β maturation and subsequent inflammatory events. However, it remains unknown whether NLRP3 activation contributes to Alzheimer's disease in vivo. Here we demonstrate strongly enhanced active caspase-1 expression in human mild cognitive impairment and brains with Alzheimer's disease, suggesting a role for the inflammasome in this neurodegenerative disease. Nlrp3(-/-) or Casp1(-/-) mice carrying mutations associated with familial Alzheimer's disease were largely protected from loss of spatial memory and other sequelae associated with Alzheimer's disease, and demonstrated reduced brain caspase-1 and interleukin-1β activation as well as enhanced amyloid-β clearance. Furthermore, NLRP3 inflammasome deficiency skewed microglial cells to an M2 phenotype and resulted in the decreased deposition of amyloid-β in the APP/PS1 model of Alzheimer's disease. These results show an important role for the NLRP3/caspase-1 axis in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, and suggest that NLRP3 inflammasome inhibition represents a new therapeutic intervention for the disease.

Kummer MP, Hermes M, Delekarte A, Hammerschmidt T, Kumar S, Terwel D, Walter J, Pape HC, König S, Roeber S, Jessen F, Klockgether T, Korte M, Heneka MT. Nitration of tyrosine 10 critically enhances amyloid β aggregation and plaque formation. Neuron. 2011 Sep 8;71(5):833-44.

Part of the inflammatory response in Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the upregulation of the inducible nitric oxide synthase (NOS2) resulting in increased NO production. NO contributes to cell signaling by inducing posttranslational protein modifications. Under pathological conditions there is a shift from the signal transducing actions to the formation of protein tyrosine nitration by secondary products like peroxynitrite and nitrogen dioxide. We identified amyloid β (Aβ) as an NO target, which is nitrated at tyrosine 10 (3NTyr(10)-Aβ). Nitration of Aβ accelerated its aggregation and was detected in the core of Aβ plaques of APP/PS1 mice and AD brains. NOS2 deficiency or oral treatment with the NOS2 inhibitor L-NIL strongly decreased 3NTyr(10)-Aβ, overall Aβ deposition and cognitive dysfunction in APP/PS1 mice. Further, injection of 3NTyr(10)-Aβ into the brain of young APP/PS1 mice induced β-amyloidosis. This suggests a disease modifying role for NOS2 in AD and therefore represents a potential therapeutic target.

Heneka MT, Nadrigny F, Regen T, Martinez-Hernandez A, Dumitrescu-Ozimek L, Terwel D, Jardanhazi-Kurutz D, Walter J, Kirchhoff F, Hanisch UK, Kummer MP. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Mar 30;107(13):6058-63.

Locus ceruleus (LC)-supplied norepinephrine (NE) suppresses neuroinflammation in the brain. To elucidate the effect of LC degeneration and subsequent NE deficiency on Alzheimer's disease pathology, we evaluated NE effects on microglial key functions. NE stimulation of mouse microglia suppressed Abeta-induced cytokine and chemokine production and increased microglial migration and phagocytosis of Abeta. Induced degeneration of the locus ceruleus increased expression of inflammatory mediators in APP-transgenic mice and resulted in elevated Abeta deposition. In vivo laser microscopy confirmed a reduced recruitment of microglia to Abeta plaque sites and impaired microglial Abeta phagocytosis in NE-depleted APP-transgenic mice. Supplying the mice the norepinephrine precursor L-threo-DOPS restored microglial functions in NE-depleted mice. This indicates that decrease of NE in locus ceruleus projection areas facilitates the inflammatory reaction of microglial cells in AD and impairs microglial migration and phagocytosis, thereby contributing to reduced Abeta clearance. Consequently, therapies targeting microglial phagocytosis should be tested under NE depletion.

Sastre M, Dewachter I, Rossner S, Bogdanovic N, Rosen E, Borghgraef P, Evert BO, Dumitrescu-Ozimek L, Thal DR, Landreth G, Walter J, Klockgether T, van Leuven F, Heneka MT. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs repress β-secretase gene promoter activity by the activation of PPARγ. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jan 10;103(2):443-8.

Epidemiological evidence suggests that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) decrease the risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD). Certain NSAIDs can activate the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPARgamma), which is a nuclear transcriptional regulator. Here we show that PPARgamma depletion potentiates beta-secretase [beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme (BACE1)] mRNA levels by increasing BACE1 gene promoter activity. Conversely, overexpression of PPARgamma, as well as NSAIDs and PPARgamma activators, reduced BACE1 gene promoter activity. These results suggested that PPARgamma could be a repressor of BACE1. We then identified a PPARgamma responsive element (PPRE) in the BACE1 gene promoter. Mutagenesis of the PPRE abolished the binding of PPARgamma to the PPRE and increased BACE1 gene promoter activity. Furthermore, proinflammatory cytokines decreased PPARgamma gene transcription, and this effect was supressed by NSAIDs. We also demonstrate that in vivo treatment with PPARgamma agonists increased PPARgamma and reduced BACE1 mRNA and intracellular beta-amyloid levels. Interestingly, brain extracts from AD patients showed decreased PPARgamma expression and binding to PPRE in the BACE1 gene promoter. Our data strongly support a major role of PPARgamma in the modulation of amyloid-beta generation by inflammation and suggest that the protective mechanism of NSAIDs in AD involves activation of PPARgamma and decreased BACE1 gene transcription.

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