Lentiviral Transgenesis as a Tool to Study the Role of Uncoupling Protein Isoforms in the Nervous System

A tight coupling exists between synaptic activity and glucose utilization by astrocytes. Metabolic cooperation between neurons and astrocytes mediates this coupling. During synaptic activation, glutamate that is released in the synaptic cleft as a neurotransmitter by neurons is rapidly cleared by an active uptake into astrocytes. One glutamate is co-transported with three Na+. Intracellular astrocytic Na+ homeostasis is re-established by the Na+/K+-ATPase which requires ATP provided mainly by glycolysis. The resulting lactate is released in extracellular space and contributes to the energetic balance of activated neurons. This coupling between astrocytes and neurons is known as the astrocyte-neuron lactate shuttle hypothesis (ANLSH). The role of mitochondria in this coupling remains to be determined and more specifically the role of uncoupling proteins (UCP) which have been recently identified in neural tissues. UCPs belong to a family of mitochondrial carriers which are present in the inner mitochondrial membrane. There are five isoforms named UCP1 to UCP5. The well-known characterized is UCP1, also named thermogenin, which is present in the brown adipose tissue (BAT) of the small rodents and is responsible of non-shivering thermogenesis. It dissipates the proton gradient across the inner mitochondrial membrane, thereby producing heat instead of ATP. UCP2 is ubiquitous and is implicated in protection against excessive reactive oxygen (ROS) production. The expression of UCP3 is restricted to skeletal muscle where it is linked to fatty acid metabolism. The role of the brain isoforms UCP4 and UCP5 is still poorly understood. Initially, we set out to evaluate their function in energy metabolism of astrocytes and neurons. We used the lentiviral strategy to overexpress or silence the UCPs isoforms in primary cultures of astrocytes and neurons. We found that only UCP4 and UCP5 had an uncoupling activity in brain cells. Indeed, we observed a reduced mitochondrial potential and a reduced ATP/ADP ratio in astrocytes as well as in neurons overexpressing UCP4 or UCP5. UCP4 reduced the oxidative pathway of astrocytes without modifying the basal glucose metabolism and without having a lethal effect on the cell. Oxygen consumption rate (OCR) of brain cells ovexpressing UCPs was reduced. Moreover, UCP4 increased lactate release by astrocytes, suggesting an implication in the astrocyte-neuron coupling. We also brought evidence that both UCP4 and UCP5 partially protect brain cells from oxidative damage. All these results were confirmed by experiments on UCPs silencing. In a second step, we used a co-culture model to study the impact of astrocytic uncoupling protein on neuronal survival and we demonstrated that the presence of uncoupling protein in astrocytes prevents neuronal death after glutamate excitotoxicity. Taken together, all these results support an important role of uncoupling proteins in the regulation of astrocytic energy production, thus promoting local export of lactate which can be used by neurons.

Magistretti, Pierre
Lausanne, EPFL
Other identifiers:
urn: urn:nbn:ch:bel-epfl-thesis4902-3

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2010-10-21, last modified 2018-03-17

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