NCEH-1 modulates cholesterol metabolism and protects against α-synuclein toxicity in a C. elegans model of Parkinson's disease

Academic Article


  • Parkinson's disease (PD) is an aging-associated neurodegenerative disease affecting millions worldwide. Misfolding, oligomerization and accumulation of the human a-synuclein protein is a key pathological hallmark of PD and is associated with the progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons over the course of aging. Lifespan extension via the suppression of IGF-1/ insulin-like signaling (IIS) offers a possibility to retard disease onset through induction of metabolic changes that provide neuroprotection. The nceh-1 gene of Caenorhabditis elegans encodes an ortholog of neutral cholesterol ester hydrolase 1 (NCEH-1), an IIS downstreamprotein that was identified in a screen as a modulator of a-synuclein accumulation in vivo. The mechanism whereby cholesterol metabolism functionally impacts neurodegeneration induced by α-synuclein is undefined. Here we report that NCEH-1 protects dopaminergic neurons from a-synuclein-dependent neurotoxicity in C. elegans via a mechanism that is independent of lifespan extension. We discovered that the presence of cholesterol, LDLR-mediated cholesterol endocytosis, and cholesterol efflux are all essential to NCEH-1-mediated neuroprotection. In protecting from a-synuclein neurotoxicity, NCEH-1 also stimulates cholesterol-derived neurosteroid formation and lowers cellular reactive oxygen species in mitochondria. Collectively, this study augments our understanding of how cholesterol metabolism can modulate a neuroprotective mechanism that attenuates a-synuclein neurotoxicity, thereby pointing toward regulation of neuronal cholesterol turnover as a potential therapeutic avenue for PD.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Zhang S; Glukhova SA; Caldwell KA; Caldwell GA
  • Start Page

  • 3823
  • End Page

  • 3836
  • Volume

  • 26
  • Issue

  • 19