Michael Coleman

Michael Coleman is now Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Cambridge. Visit his page there for full details of his current research.

Research Summary

Michael studies basic mechanisms regulating axon survival. Age-related axon loss contributes to declining memory, senses, autonomic nervous system (bladder, gut, etc.) and motor function, leading to physical frailty. It also sets the biological context for age-related neurodegenerative disease.
 

Latest Publications

Lessons from Injury: How Nerve Injury Studies Reveal Basic Biological Mechanisms and Therapeutic Opportunities for Peripheral Nerve Diseases.
Arthur-Farraj P, Coleman MP

Since Waller and Cajal in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, laboratory traumatic peripheral nerve injury studies have provided great insight into cellular and molecular mechanisms governing axon degeneration and the responses of Schwann cells, the major glial cell type of peripheral nerves. It is now evident that pathways underlying injury-induced axon degeneration and the Schwann cell injury-specific state, the repair Schwann cell, are relevant to many inherited and acquired disorders of peripheral nerves. This review provides a timely update on the molecular understanding of axon degeneration and formation of the repair Schwann cell. We discuss how nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase 2 (NMNAT2) and sterile alpha TIR motif containing protein 1 (SARM1) are required for axon survival and degeneration, respectively, how transcription factor c-JUN is essential for the Schwann cell response to nerve injury and what each tells us about disease mechanisms and potential therapies. Human genetic association with NMNAT2 and SARM1 strongly suggests aberrant activation of programmed axon death in polyneuropathies and motor neuron disorders, respectively, and animal studies suggest wider involvement including in chemotherapy-induced and diabetic neuropathies. In repair Schwann cells, cJUN is aberrantly expressed in a wide variety of human acquired and inherited neuropathies. Animal models suggest it limits axon loss in both genetic and traumatic neuropathies, whereas in contrast, Schwann cell secreted Neuregulin-1 type 1 drives onion bulb pathology in CMT1A. Finally, we discuss opportunities for drug-based and gene therapies to prevent axon loss or manipulate the repair Schwann cell state to treat acquired and inherited neuropathies and neuronopathies.

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Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 1, 1, 30 Sep 2021

PMID: 34595734

A Novel NAD Signaling Mechanism in Axon Degeneration and its Relationship to Innate Immunity.
Hopkins EL, Gu W, Kobe B, Coleman MP

Axon degeneration represents a pathological feature of many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease where axons die before the neuronal soma, and axonopathies, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and hereditary spastic paraplegia. Over the last two decades, it has slowly emerged that a central signaling pathway forms the basis of this process in many circumstances. This is an axonal NAD-related signaling mechanism mainly regulated by the two key proteins with opposing roles: the NAD-synthesizing enzyme NMNAT2, and SARM1, a protein with NADase and related activities. The crosstalk between the axon survival factor NMNAT2 and pro-degenerative factor SARM1 has been extensively characterized and plays an essential role in maintaining the axon integrity. This pathway can be activated in necroptosis and in genetic, toxic or metabolic disorders, physical injury and neuroinflammation, all leading to axon pathology. SARM1 is also known to be involved in regulating innate immunity, potentially linking axon degeneration to the response to pathogens and intercellular signaling. Understanding this NAD-related signaling mechanism enhances our understanding of the process of axon degeneration and enables a path to the development of drugs for a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases.

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Frontiers in molecular biosciences, 8, 1, 2021

PMID: 34307460

A Novel NAD Signaling Mechanism in Axon Degeneration and its Relationship to Innate Immunity.
Hopkins EL, Gu W, Kobe B, Coleman MP

Axon degeneration represents a pathological feature of many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease where axons die before the neuronal soma, and axonopathies, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and hereditary spastic paraplegia. Over the last two decades, it has slowly emerged that a central signaling pathway forms the basis of this process in many circumstances. This is an axonal NAD-related signaling mechanism mainly regulated by the two key proteins with opposing roles: the NAD-synthesizing enzyme NMNAT2, and SARM1, a protein with NADase and related activities. The crosstalk between the axon survival factor NMNAT2 and pro-degenerative factor SARM1 has been extensively characterized and plays an essential role in maintaining the axon integrity. This pathway can be activated in necroptosis and in genetic, toxic or metabolic disorders, physical injury and neuroinflammation, all leading to axon pathology. SARM1 is also known to be involved in regulating innate immunity, potentially linking axon degeneration to the response to pathogens and intercellular signaling. Understanding this NAD-related signaling mechanism enhances our understanding of the process of axon degeneration and enables a path to the development of drugs for a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases.

+ View Abstract

Frontiers in molecular biosciences, 8, 1, 2021

PMID: 34307460