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      Molecular Insights into NR4A2(Nurr1): an Emerging Target for Neuroprotective Therapy Against Neuroinflammation and Neuronal Cell Death

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          Dopamine neurons derived from embryonic stem cells function in an animal model of Parkinson's disease.

          Parkinson's disease is a widespread condition caused by the loss of midbrain neurons that synthesize the neurotransmitter dopamine. Cells derived from the fetal midbrain can modify the course of the disease, but they are an inadequate source of dopamine-synthesizing neurons because their ability to generate these neurons is unstable. In contrast, embryonic stem (ES) cells proliferate extensively and can generate dopamine neurons. If ES cells are to become the basis for cell therapies, we must develop methods of enriching for the cell of interest and demonstrate that these cells show functions that will assist in treating the disease. Here we show that a highly enriched population of midbrain neural stem cells can be derived from mouse ES cells. The dopamine neurons generated by these stem cells show electrophysiological and behavioural properties expected of neurons from the midbrain. Our results encourage the use of ES cells in cell-replacement therapy for Parkinson's disease.
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            Nurr1 is essential for the induction of the dopaminergic phenotype and the survival of ventral mesencephalic late dopaminergic precursor neurons.

            Nurr1 is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily of transcription factors that is expressed predominantly in the central nervous system, including developing and mature dopaminergic neurons. Recent studies have demonstrated that Nurr1 is essential for the induction of phenotypic markers of ventral mid-brain dopaminergic neurons whose generation is specified by the floor plate-derived morphogenic signal sonic hedgehog (SHH), but the precise role of Nurr1 in this differentiative pathway has not been established. To provide further insights into the role of Nurr1 in the final differentiation pathway, we have examined the fate of dopamine cell precursors in Nurr1 null mutant mice. Here we demonstrate that Nurr1 functions at the later stages of dopamine cell development to drive differentiation of ventral mesencephalic late dopaminergic precursor neurons. In the absence of Nurr1, neuroepithelial cells that give rise to dopaminergic neurons adopt a normal ventral localization and neuronal phenotype characterized by expression of the homeodomain transcription factor and mesencephalic marker, Ptx-3, at embryonic day 11.5. However, these late precursors fail to induce a dopaminergic phenotype, indicating that Nurr1 is essential for specifying commitment of mesencephalic precursors to the full dopaminergic phenotype. Further, as development progresses, these mid-brain dopamine precursor cells degenerate in the absence of Nurr1, resulting in loss of Ptx-3 expression and a concomitant increase in apoptosis of ventral midbrain neurons in newborn null mutant mice. Taken together, these data indicate that Nurr1 is essential for both survival and final differentiation of ventral mesencephalic late dopaminergic precursor neurons into a complete dopaminergic phenotype.
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              Nurr1 is required for maintenance of maturing and adult midbrain dopamine neurons.

              Transcription factors involved in the specification and differentiation of neurons often continue to be expressed in the adult brain, but remarkably little is known about their late functions. Nurr1, one such transcription factor, is essential for early differentiation of midbrain dopamine (mDA) neurons but continues to be expressed into adulthood. In Parkinson's disease, Nurr1 expression is diminished and mutations in the Nurr1 gene have been identified in rare cases of disease; however, the significance of these observations remains unclear. Here, a mouse strain for conditional targeting of the Nurr1 gene was generated, and Nurr1 was ablated either at late stages of mDA neuron development by crossing with mice carrying Cre under control of the dopamine transporter locus or in the adult brain by transduction of adeno-associated virus Cre-encoding vectors. Nurr1 deficiency in maturing mDA neurons resulted in rapid loss of striatal DA, loss of mDA neuron markers, and neuron degeneration. In contrast, a more slowly progressing loss of striatal DA and mDA neuron markers was observed after ablation in the adult brain. As in Parkinson's disease, neurons of the substantia nigra compacta were more vulnerable than cells in the ventral tegmental area when Nurr1 was ablated at late embryogenesis. The results show that developmental pathways play key roles for the maintenance of terminally differentiated neurons and suggest that disrupted function of Nurr1 and other developmental transcription factors may contribute to neurodegenerative disease.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Molecular Neurobiology
                Mol Neurobiol
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0893-7648
                1559-1182
                August 2019
                January 25 2019
                August 2019
                : 56
                : 8
                : 5799-5814
                Article
                10.1007/s12035-019-1487-4
                © 2019

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