O-GlcNAc regulation of autophagy and α-synuclein homeostasis; implications for Parkinson's disease.
Post-translational modification on protein Ser/Thr residues by O-linked attachment of ß-N-acetyl-glucosamine (O-GlcNAcylation) is a key mechanism integrating redox signaling, metabolism and stress responses. One of the most common neurodegenerative diseases that exhibit aberrant redox signaling, metabolism and stress response is Parkinson's disease, suggesting a potential role for O-GlcNAcylation in its pathology. To determine whether abnormal O-GlcNAcylation occurs in Parkinson's disease, we analyzed lysates from the postmortem temporal cortex of Parkinson's disease patients and compared them to age matched controls and found increased protein O-GlcNAcylation levels. To determine whether increased O-GlcNAcylation affects neuronal function and survival, we exposed rat primary cortical neurons to thiamet G, a highly selective inhibitor of the enzyme which removes the O-GlcNAc modification from target proteins, O-GlcNAcase (OGA). We found that inhibition of OGA by thiamet G at nanomolar concentrations significantly increased protein O-GlcNAcylation, activated MTOR, decreased autophagic flux, and increased α-synuclein accumulation, while sparing proteasomal activities. Inhibition of MTOR by rapamycin decreased basal levels of protein O-GlcNAcylation, decreased AKT activation and partially reversed the effect of thiamet G on α-synuclein monomer accumulation. Taken together we have provided evidence that excessive O-GlcNAcylation is detrimental to neurons by inhibition of autophagy and by increasing α-synuclein accumulation.