Inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase intranuclear inclusions are markers of aging and neuronal stress in the human substantia nigra.
We explored mechanisms involved in the age-dependent degeneration of human substantia nigra (SN) dopamine (DA) neurons. Owing to its important metabolic functions in post-mitotic neurons, we investigated the developmental and age-associated changes in the purine biosynthetic enzyme inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH). Tissue microarrays prepared from post-mortem samples of SN from 85 neurologically intact participants humans spanning the age spectrum were immunostained for IMPDH combined with other proteins. SN DA neurons contained two types of IMPDH structures: cytoplasmic IMPDH filaments and intranuclear IMPDH inclusions. The former were not age-restricted and may represent functional units involved in sustaining purine nucleotide supply in these highly metabolically active cells. The latter showed age-associated changes, including crystallization, features reminiscent of pathological inclusion bodies, and spatial associations with Marinesco bodies; structures previously associated with SN neuron dysfunction and death. We postulate dichotomous roles for these two subcellularly distinct IMPDH structures and propose a nucleus-based model for a novel mechanism of SN senescence that is independent of previously known neurodegeneration-associated proteins.
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