[Cite as http://purl.org/au-research/grants/nhmrc/453622]
A/Pr Michael Lardelli
Prof Ralph Martins
Brief description Alzheimer's disease (AD) and cancer are increasingly important both in terms of human suffering and the burden of care it imposes on society and the economy. Sporadic (non-inherited) AD is the most common form of dementia but is poorly understood. The PRESENILIN genes, PSEN1 and PSEN2, are the major sites for mutations causing inherited AD and are also implicated in cancer. Using the zebrafish embryo model we have discovered that, contrary to current thought, mutations that truncate presenilin proteins potently suppress normal presenilin activity. (They are so called, dominant negatives). This means that they are lethal for embryo development and explains why such mutations have never been found in inherited AD. Notably, this discovery could only be made using a subtle form of gene manipulation that is possible in zebrafish embryos. Our work has also established the first assay for the non-apoptotic (non-cell death) function of PSEN2 and has shown that PSEN2 activity is inhibited by truncated PSEN1. This is the first indication of possible interaction between PSEN1 and PSEN2 proteins at normal physiological expression levels. Loss of presenilin activity promotes cancer. Truncated presenilin proteins could be produced by errors in gene transcription (aberrant transcript splicing) common in cancerous cells. This suggests that truncated, dominant negative forms of presenilin produced through aberrant splicing (or mutation in precancerous cells) might be common in tumour formation. The proposed research will define the region of PSEN1 in which truncation leads to dominant negative activity. This will allow further examination of the role of presenilins in the cell signalling pathways involved in AD and cancer. We will also investigate the role that age-related truncation of presenilins in human cells can play in the formation of sporadic AD. This may reveal a common molecular link between the inherited and sporadic forms of this disease.
Funding Amount $AUD 414,005.91
Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants
Standard Project Grant