Prions Strongly Reduce NMDA Receptor S-Nitrosylation Levels at Pre-symptomatic and Terminal Stages of Prion Diseases


Molecular Neurobiology


1 February, 2019


Meneghetti E, Gasperini L, Virgilio T, Moda F, Tagliavini F, Benetti F, Legname G


Prion diseases are fatal neurodegenerative disorders characterized by the cellular prion protein (PrPC) conversion into a misfolded and infectious isoform termed prion or PrPSc. The neuropathological mechanism underlying prion toxicity is still unclear, and the debate on prion protein gain- or loss-of-function is still open. PrPC participates to a plethora of physiological mechanisms. For instance, PrPC and copper cooperatively modulate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) activity by mediating S-nitrosylation, an inhibitory post-translational modification, hence protecting neurons from excitotoxicity. Here, NMDAR S-nitrosylation levels were biochemically investigated at pre- and post-symptomatic stages of mice intracerebrally inoculated with RML, 139A, and ME7 prion strains. Neuropathological aspects of prion disease were studied by histological analysis and proteinase K digestion. We report that hippocampal NMDAR S-nitrosylation is greatly reduced in all three prion strain infections in both pre-symptomatic and terminal stages of mouse disease. Indeed, we show that NMDAR S-nitrosylation dysregulation affecting prion-inoculated animals precedes the appearance of clinical signs of disease and visible neuropathological changes, such as PrPSc accumulation and deposition. The pre-symptomatic reduction of NMDAR S-nitrosylation in prion-infected mice may be a possible cause of neuronal death in prion pathology, and it might contribute to the pathology progression opening new therapeutic strategies against prion disorders.