• Open Access

A new role for laminins as modulators of protein toxicity in Caenorhabditis elegans

Authors


Anders Olsen, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, Gustav Wieds Vej 10C, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. Tel: +45 3069 8155; Fax: +45 8612 3178; e-mail: ano@mb.au.dk

Summary

Protein misfolding is a common theme in aging and several age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The processes involved in the development of these diseases are many and complex. Here, we show that components of the basement membrane (BM), particularly laminin, affect protein integrity of the muscle cells they support. We knocked down gene expression of epi-1, a laminin α-chain, and found that this resulted in increased proteotoxicity in different Caenorhabditis elegans transgenic models, expressing aggregating proteins in the body wall muscle. The effect could partially be rescued by decreased insulin-like signaling, known to slow the aging process and the onset of various age-related diseases. Our data points to an underlying molecular mechanism involving proteasomal degradation and HSP-16 chaperone activity. Furthermore, epi-1-depleted animals had altered synaptic function and displayed hypersensitivity to both levamisole and aldicarb, an acetylcholine receptor agonist and an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, respectively. Our results implicate the BM as an extracellular modulator of protein homeostasis in the adjacent muscle cells. This is in agreement with previous research showing that imbalance in neuromuscular signaling disturbs protein homeostasis in the postsynaptic cell. In our study, proteotoxicity may indeed be mediated by the neuromuscular junction which is part of the BM, where laminins are present in high concentration, ensuring the proper microenvironment for neuromuscular signaling. Laminins are evolutionarily conserved, and thus the BM may play a much more causal role in protein misfolding diseases than currently recognized.

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