Ulk1 Governs Nerve Growth Factor/TrkA Signaling by Mediating Rab5 GTPase Activation in Porcine Hemagglutinating Encephalomyelitis Virus-Induced Neurodegenerative Disorders.
Porcine hemagglutinating encephalomyelitis virus (PHEV) is a highly neurovirulent coronavirus and causes neurological dysfunction in the central nervous system (CNS), but the neuropathological mechanism of PHEV remains poorly understood. We report that Unc51-like kinase 1 (Ulk1/Unc51.1) is a pivotal regulator of PHEV-induced neurological disorders and functions to selectively control the initiation of nerve growth factor (NGF)/TrkA endosome trafficking. We first identified the function of Ulk1 by histopathologic evaluation in a PHEV-infected mouse model in which neuronal loss was accompanied by the suppression of Ulk1 expression. Morphogenesis assessments in the primary cortical neurons revealed that overexpression or mutations of Ulk1 modulated neurite outgrowth, collateral sprouting, and endosomal transport. Likewise, Ulk1 expression was decreased following PHEV infection, suggesting that there was a correlation between the neurodegeneration and functional Ulk1 deficiency. We then showed that Ulk1 forms a multiprotein complex with TrkA and the early endosome marker Rab5 and that Ulk1 defects lead to either blocking of NGF/TrkA endocytosis or premature degradation of pTrkA via constitutive activation of the Rab5 GTPase. Further investigation determined that the ectopic expression of Rab5 mutants induces aberrant endosomal accumulation of activated pTrkA, proving that targeting of Ulk1-TrkA-NGF signaling to the retrograde transport route in the neurodegenerative process that underlies PHEV infection is dependent on Rab5 GTPase activity. Therefore, we described a long-distance signaling mechanism of PHEV-driven deficits in neurons and suggested that such Ulk1 repression may result in limited NGF/TrkA retrograde signaling within activated Rab5 endosomes, explaining the progressive failure of neurite outgrowth and survival.IMPORTANCE Porcine hemagglutinating encephalomyelitis virus (PHEV) is a neurotropic coronavirus and targets neurons in the nervous system for proliferation, frequently leaving behind grievous neurodegeneration. Structural plasticity disorders occur in the axons, dendrites, and dendritic spines of PHEV-infected neurons, and dysfunction of this neural process may contribute to neurologic pathologies, but the mechanisms remain undetermined. Further understanding of the neurological manifestations underlying PHEV infection in the CNS may provide insights into both neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases that may be conducive to targeted approaches for treatment. The significance of our research is in identifying an Ulk1-related neurodegenerative mechanism, focusing on the regulatory functions of Ulk1 in the transport of long-distance trophic signaling endosomes, thereby explaining the progressive failure of neurite outgrowth and survival associated with PHEV aggression. This is the first report to define a mechanistic link between alterations in signaling from endocytic pathways and the neuropathogenesis of PHEV-induced CNS disease.
Li, Z; Zhao, K; Lv, X; Lan, Y; Hu, S; Shi, J; Guan, J; Yang, Y; Lu, H; He, H; Gao, F; He, W
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