Regulation of AMPA receptor acetylation and translation by SIRT2 and AMPK: the molecular mechanisms and implications in memory formation
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The α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid receptors (AMPARs) are ligand-gated glutamatergic ion channels that mediate most excitatory neurotransmission in the brain. Alterations in AMPAR synaptic accumulation mediate synaptic plasticity, including long-term potentiation, long-term depression and homeostatic synaptic plasticity. AMPAR abundance in neurons is determined by balanced processes of protein translation and degradation. Changes in AMPAR function and trafficking have direct impacts on synaptic transmission and cognitive functions. However, the molecular mechanisms regulating AMPAR expression and dynamics in neurons remain largely unknown. In this thesis, two molecular mechanisms that regulate AMPAR translation and protein stability through two different signaling pathways, 5' adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and sirtuin 2 (SIRT2), are described. It is shown that SIRT2, a NAD+-dependent protein deacetylase, directly controls AMPAR stability by regulating AMPAR acetylation. For the first time, we discovered that AMPARs are subject to lysine acetylation, a novel form of post-translational modification for glutamate receptors. Under basal conditions, AMPARs are highly acetylated at their intracellular C termini, which protects against ubiquitination to antagonize AMPAR endocytosis and degradation, leading to prolonged receptor half-life. SIRT2 is also identified as the enzyme responsible for AMPAR deacetylation. Knockdown of SIRT2 led to elevated AMPAR acetylation and reduced ubiquitination, and consequently, increased AMPAR levels and synaptic transmission. SIRT2 knockout mice displayed weakened synaptic plasticity and impaired learning and memory. Resveratrol is a phytoalexin that has been shown to increase AMPAR expression and synaptic accumulation in neurons. The resveratrol effect on AMPAR expression is independent of sirtuin 1, the conventional target of resveratrol, but rather is mediated by AMPK and its downstream phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway. Application of the AMPK activator, 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide 1-β-D-ribofuranoside (AICAR), to neurons mimics the effects of resveratrol on both signaling and AMPAR expression. The resveratrol-induced increase in AMPAR expression results from elevated protein synthesis through the AMPK-PI3K pathway activation. These studies describe novel regulatory mechanisms responsible for the control of AMPAR protein amount and subcellular distribution in neurons, providing insights into our understanding of synaptic plasticity, brain function and neurological disorders.