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

Human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K(HML-2) RNA causes neurodegeneration through Toll-like receptors.
Dembny P, Newman AG, Singh M, Hinz M, Szczepek M, Krüger C, Adalbert R, Dzaye O, Trimbuch T, Wallach T, Kleinau G, Derkow K, Richard BC, Schipke C, Scheidereit C, Stachelscheid H, Golenbock D, Peters O, Coleman M, Heppner FL, Scheerer P, Tarabykin V, Ruprecht K, Izsvák Z, Mayer J, Lehnardt S

Although human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) represent a substantial proportion of the human genome and some HERVs, such as HERV-K(HML-2), are reported to be involved in neurological disorders, little is known about their biological function. We report that RNA from an HERV-K(HML-2) envelope gene region binds to and activates human Toll-like receptor (TLR) 8, as well as murine Tlr7, expressed in neurons and microglia, thereby causing neurodegeneration. HERV-K(HML-2) RNA introduced into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of either C57BL/6 wild-type mice or APPPS1 mice, a mouse model for Alzheimer's disease (AD), resulted in neurodegeneration and microglia accumulation. Tlr7-deficient mice were protected against neurodegenerative effects but were resensitized toward HERV-K(HML-2) RNA when neurons ectopically expressed murine Tlr7 or human TLR8. Transcriptome data sets of human AD brain samples revealed a distinct correlation of upregulated HERV-K(HML-2) and TLR8 RNA expression. HERV-K(HML-2) RNA was detectable more frequently in CSF from individuals with AD compared with controls. Our data establish HERV-K(HML-2) RNA as an endogenous ligand for species-specific TLRs 7/8 and imply a functional contribution of human endogenous retroviral transcripts to neurodegenerative processes, such as AD.

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JCI insight, 5, 7, 09 Apr 2020

DOI: 10.1172/jci.insight.131093

PMID: 32271161

Programmed axon degeneration: from mouse to mechanism to medicine.
Coleman MP, Höke A

Wallerian degeneration is a widespread mechanism of programmed axon degeneration. In the three decades since the discovery of the Wallerian degeneration slow (Wld) mouse, research has generated extensive knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying Wallerian degeneration, demonstrated its involvement in non-injury disorders and found multiple ways to block it. Recent developments have included: the detection of NMNAT2 mutations that implicate Wallerian degeneration in rare human diseases; the capacity for lifelong rescue of a lethal condition related to Wallerian degeneration in mice; the discovery of 'druggable' enzymes, including SARM1 and MYCBP2 (also known as PHR1), in Wallerian pathways; and the elucidation of protein structures to drive further understanding of the underlying mechanisms and drug development. Additionally, new data have indicated the potential of these advances to alleviate a number of common disorders, including chemotherapy-induced and diabetic peripheral neuropathies, traumatic brain injury, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

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Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 1, 1, 09 Mar 2020

DOI: 10.1038/s41583-020-0269-3

PMID: 32152523

Beta secretase 1-dependent amyloid precursor protein processing promotes excessive vascular sprouting through NOTCH3 signalling.
Durrant CS, Ruscher K, Sheppard O, Coleman MP, Özen I

Amyloid beta peptides (Aβ) proteins play a key role in vascular pathology in Alzheimer's Disease (AD) including impairment of the blood-brain barrier and aberrant angiogenesis. Although previous work has demonstrated a pro-angiogenic role of Aβ, the exact mechanisms by which amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing and endothelial angiogenic signalling cascades interact in AD remain a largely unsolved problem. Here, we report that increased endothelial sprouting in human-APP transgenic mouse (TgCRND8) tissue is dependent on β-secretase (BACE1) processing of APP. Higher levels of Aβ processing in TgCRND8 tissue coincides with decreased NOTCH3/JAG1 signalling, overproduction of endothelial filopodia and increased numbers of vascular pericytes. Using a novel in vitro approach to study sprouting angiogenesis in TgCRND8 organotypic brain slice cultures (OBSCs), we find that BACE1 inhibition normalises excessive endothelial filopodia formation and restores NOTCH3 signalling. These data present the first evidence for the potential of BACE1 inhibition as an effective therapeutic target for aberrant angiogenesis in AD.

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Cell death & disease, 11, 2, 06 Feb 2020

DOI: 10.1038/s41419-020-2288-4

PMID: 32029735