Brain transcriptome analysis reveals subtle effects on mitochondrial function and iron homeostasis of mutations in the SORL1 gene implicated in early onset familial Alzheimer’s disease

Karissa Barthelson, Stephen Martin Pederson, Morgan Newman, Michael Lardelli

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Abstract

To prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), we must understand its molecular basis. The great majority of AD cases arise sporadically with a late onset after 65 years of age (LOAD). However, rare familial cases of AD can occur due to dominant mutations in a small number of genes that cause an early onset prior to 65 years of age (EOfAD). As EOfAD and LOAD share similar pathologies and disease progression, analysis of EOfAD genetic models may give insight into both subtypes of AD. Sortilin-related receptor 1 (SORL1) is genetically associated with both EOfAD and LOAD and provides a unique opportunity to investigate the relationships between both forms of AD. Currently, the role of SORL1 mutations in AD pathogenesis is unclear. To understand the molecular consequences of SORL1 mutation, we performed targeted mutagenesis of the orthologous gene in zebrafish. We generated an EOfAD-like mutation, V1482Afs, and a putatively null mutation, to investigate whether EOfAD-like mutations in sorl1 display haploinsufficiency by acting through loss-of-function mechanisms. We performed mRNA-sequencing on whole brains, comparing wild type fish with their siblings heterozygous for EOfAD-like or putatively loss-of-function mutations in sorl1, or transheterozygous for these mutations. Differential gene expression analysis identified a small number of differentially expressed genes due to the sorl1 genotypes. We also performed enrichment analysis on all detectable genes to obtain a more complete view on changes to gene expression by performing three methods of gene set enrichment analysis, then calculated an overall significance value using the harmonic mean p-value. This identified subtle effects on expression of genes involved in energy production, mRNA translation and mTORC1 signalling in both the EOfAD-like and null mutant brains, implying that these effects are due to sorl1 haploinsufficiency. Surprisingly, we also observed changes to expression of genes occurring only in the EOfAD-mutation carrier brains, suggesting gain-of-function effects. Transheterozygosity for the EOfAD-like and null mutations (i.e. lacking wild type sorl1), caused apparent effects on iron homeostasis and other transcriptome changes distinct from the single-mutation heterozygous fish. Our results provide insight into the possible early brain molecular effects of an EOfAD mutation in human SORL1. Differential effects of heterozygosity and complete loss of normal SORL1 expression are revealed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number142
Number of pages19
JournalMolecular Brain
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Familial Alzheimer’s disease
  • Harmonic mean p-value
  • Iron homeostasis
  • Mitochondria
  • RNA-seq
  • SORL1
  • Zebrafish

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