Master’s Thesis of Sérgio Eduardo Costa Almeida

Cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) and mesencephalic astrocyte-derived neurotrophic factor (MANF) form a novel neurotrophic factor family due to their unique structure and different mode of action when compared to classical neurotrophic factors. CDNF and MANF have shown to protect dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson’s disease animal models and therefore they are considered potential therapy agents. However, their target molecules, i.e., putative receptor(s) and signalling pathways are still unknown. 78 kDa glucose-regulated protein (GRP78) member of the heat shock protein (HSP) family is a major chaperone that under Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) stress conditions is up-regulated and prevents protein aggregation as well as facilitates degradation of misfolded proteins. It locates mainly in the ER but location can change in different conditions. In cancer research, GRP78 has been found highly expressed on the surface of cancer cells where it regulates critical oncogenic signalling pathways. For example, it was recently shown that Par-4 (Prostate apoptosis response-4) induces apoptosis via activation of caspase-3 by binding to GRP78, expressed at the surface of cancer cells. GRP78 has been shown capable of relocating extracellularly also in neurons. Especially, it was recently shown that accumulating extracellular α-synuclein induces an increase in surface-exposed GRP78 in cultured neurons. α-synuclein interacts with cell surface GRP78 and activates a signalling cascade affecting the morphology and dynamics of actin cytoskeleton. Our group has recent, yet unpublished data suggesting that CDNF and MANF interact with GRP78 protein. The emerging role for GRP78 also in the neurodegeneration requests further investigation on its possible interaction with CDNF and MANF and on the biological meaning of that interaction. In order to test whether CDNF and MANF would interact with cell surface GRP78 and possibly compete with par-4 for the binding and in this way prevent apoptosis, we built a plasmid that would guide the expression and extracellular localization of GRP78 in the transfected cells. We transfected HEK293 cells with this plasmid and incubated them for 24h with two concentrations of par-4. We could see a trend of increasing apoptosis in PAR-4 –treated cells, but this was not enhanced in the cells expressing GRP78 extracellularly, as we had hypothesised. Thus we did not continue further with testing CDNF and MANF on this setting. Transfected HEK293 cells were incubated with alkaline phosphatase tagged MANF or CDNF (AP-MANF or AP-CDNF) and using the alkaline phosphatase substrate pNitrophenylphosphate (pNPP), we were able to study the binding between GRP78 and CDNF and MANF. Even though we could not prove the cell surface GRP78 interaction with MANF with this method, we show a high affinity binding between cell surface GRP78 and CDNF when transfected cells are incubated with different concentrations of AP-CDNF.