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

Sarm1 deletion suppresses TDP-43-linked motor neuron degeneration and cortical spine loss.
White MA, Lin Z, Kim E, Henstridge CM, Pena Altamira E, Hunt CK, Burchill E, Callaghan I, Loreto A, Brown-Wright H, Mead R, Simmons C, Cash D, Coleman MP, Sreedharan J

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative condition that primarily affects the motor system and shares many features with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Evidence suggests that ALS is a 'dying-back' disease, with peripheral denervation and axonal degeneration occurring before loss of motor neuron cell bodies. Distal to a nerve injury, a similar pattern of axonal degeneration can be seen, which is mediated by an active axon destruction mechanism called Wallerian degeneration. Sterile alpha and TIR motif-containing 1 (Sarm1) is a key gene in the Wallerian pathway and its deletion provides long-term protection against both Wallerian degeneration and Wallerian-like, non-injury induced axonopathy, a retrograde degenerative process that occurs in many neurodegenerative diseases where axonal transport is impaired. Here, we explored whether Sarm1 signalling could be a therapeutic target for ALS by deleting Sarm1 from a mouse model of ALS-FTD, a TDP-43, YFP-H double transgenic mouse. Sarm1 deletion attenuated motor axon degeneration and neuromuscular junction denervation. Motor neuron cell bodies were also significantly protected. Deletion of Sarm1 also attenuated loss of layer V pyramidal neuronal dendritic spines in the primary motor cortex. Structural MRI identified the entorhinal cortex as the most significantly atrophic region, and histological studies confirmed a greater loss of neurons in the entorhinal cortex than in the motor cortex, suggesting a prominent FTD-like pattern of neurodegeneration in this transgenic mouse model. Despite the reduction in neuronal degeneration, Sarm1 deletion did not attenuate age-related behavioural deficits caused by TDP-43. However, Sarm1 deletion was associated with a significant increase in the viability of male TDP-43 mice, suggesting a detrimental role of Wallerian-like pathways in the earliest stages of TDP-43-mediated neurodegeneration. Collectively, these results indicate that anti-SARM1 strategies have therapeutic potential in ALS-FTD.

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Acta neuropathologica communications, 7, 2051-5960, 2019

PMID: 31661035

NAD cleavage activity by animal and plant TIR domains in cell death pathways.
Horsefield S, Burdett H, Zhang X, Manik MK, Shi Y, Chen J, Qi T, Gilley J, Lai JS, Rank MX, Casey LW, Gu W, Ericsson DJ, Foley G, Hughes RO, Bosanac T, von Itzstein M, Rathjen JP, Nanson JD, Boden M, Dry IB, Williams SJ, Staskawicz BJ, Coleman MP, Ve T, Dodds PN, Kobe B

SARM1 (sterile alpha and TIR motif containing 1) is responsible for depletion of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide in its oxidized form (NAD) during Wallerian degeneration associated with neuropathies. Plant nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NLR) immune receptors recognize pathogen effector proteins and trigger localized cell death to restrict pathogen infection. Both processes depend on closely related Toll/interleukin-1 receptor (TIR) domains in these proteins, which, as we show, feature self-association-dependent NAD cleavage activity associated with cell death signaling. We further show that SARM1 SAM (sterile alpha motif) domains form an octamer essential for axon degeneration that contributes to TIR domain enzymatic activity. The crystal structures of ribose and NADP (the oxidized form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate) complexes of SARM1 and plant NLR RUN1 TIR domains, respectively, reveal a conserved substrate binding site. NAD cleavage by TIR domains is therefore a conserved feature of animal and plant cell death signaling pathways.

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Science (New York, N.Y.), 365, 1095-9203, 2019

PMID: 31439792

Severe biallelic loss-of-function mutations in nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase 2 (NMNAT2) in two fetuses with fetal akinesia deformation sequence.
Lukacs M, Gilley J, Zhu Y, Orsomando G, Angeletti C, Liu J, Yang X, Park J, Hopkin RJ, Coleman MP, Zhai RG, Stottmann RW

The three nicotinamide mononucleotide adenylyltransferase (NMNAT) family members synthesize the electron carrier nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and are essential for cellular metabolism. In mammalian axons, NMNAT activity appears to be required for axon survival and is predominantly provided by NMNAT2. NMNAT2 has recently been shown to also function as a chaperone to aid in the refolding of misfolded proteins. Nmnat2 deficiency in mice, or in its ortholog dNmnat in Drosophila, results in axon outgrowth and survival defects. Peripheral nerve axons in NMNAT2-deficient mice fail to extend and innervate targets, and skeletal muscle is severely underdeveloped. In addition, removing NMNAT2 from established axons initiates axon death by Wallerian degeneration. We report here on two stillborn siblings with fetal akinesia deformation sequence (FADS), severely reduced skeletal muscle mass and hydrops fetalis. Clinical exome sequencing identified compound heterozygous NMNAT2 variant alleles in both cases. Both protein variants are incapable of supporting axon survival in mouse primary neuron cultures when overexpressed. In vitro assays demonstrate altered protein stability and/or defects in NAD synthesis and chaperone functions. Thus, both patient NMNAT2 alleles are null or severely hypo-morphic. These data indicate a previously unknown role for NMNAT2 in human neurological development and provide the first direct molecular evidence to support the involvement of Wallerian degeneration in a human axonal disorder. SIGNIFICANCE: Nicotinamide Mononucleotide Adenylyltransferase 2 (NMNAT2) both synthesizes the electron carrier Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) and acts a protein chaperone. NMNAT2 has emerged as a major neuron survival factor. Overexpression of NMNAT2 protects neurons from Wallerian degeneration after injury and declining levels of NMNAT2 have been implicated in neurodegeneration. While the role of NMNAT2 in neurodegeneration has been extensively studied, the role of NMNAT2 in human development remains unclear. In this work, we present the first human variants in NMNAT2 identified in two fetuses with severe skeletal muscle hypoplasia and fetal akinesia. Functional studies in vitro showed that the mutations impair both NMNAT2 NAD synthase and chaperone functions. This work identifies the critical role of NMNAT2 in human development.

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Experimental neurology, 320, 1090-2430, 2019

PMID: 31136762