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

Protection against oxaliplatin-induced mechanical and thermal hypersensitivity in Sarm1 mice.
Gould SA, White M, Wilbrey AL, Pór E, Coleman MP, Adalbert R

Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a common dose-limiting side effect of cancer treatment, often associated with degeneration of sensory axons or their terminal regions. Presence of the slow Wallerian degeneration protein (WLD), or genetic deletion of sterile alpha and TIR motif containing protein 1 (SARM1), which strongly protect axons from degeneration after injury or axonal transport block, alleviate pain in several CIPN models. However, oxaliplatin can cause an acute pain response, suggesting a different mechanism of pain generation. Here, we tested whether the presence of WLD or absence of SARM1 protects against acute oxaliplatin-induced pain in mice after a single oxaliplatin injection. In BL/6 and Wld mice, oxaliplatin induced significant mechanical and cold hypersensitivities which were absent in Sarm1 mice. Despite the presence of hypersensitivity there was no significant loss of intraepidermal nerve fibers (IENFs) in the footpads of any mice after oxaliplatin treatment, suggesting that early stages of pain hypersensitivity could be independent of axon degeneration. To identify other changes that could underlie the pain response, RNA sequencing was carried out in DRGs from treated and control mice of each genotype. Sarm1 mice had fewer gene expression changes than either BL/6 or Wld mice. This is consistent with the pain measurements in demonstrating that Sarm1DRGs remain relatively unchanged after oxaliplatin treatment, unlike those in BL/6 and Wld mice. Changes in levels of four transcripts - Alas2, Hba-a1, Hba-a2, and Tfrc - correlated with oxaliplatin-induced pain, or absence thereof, across the three genotypes. Our findings suggest that targeting SARM1 could be a viable therapeutic approach to prevent oxaliplatin-induced acute neuropathic pain.

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Experimental neurology, 1, 1, 15 Jan 2021

PMID: 33460644

Structural basis for RING-Cys-Relay E3 ligase activity and its role in axon integrity.
Mabbitt PD, Loreto A, Déry MA, Fletcher AJ, Stanley M, Pao KC, Wood NT, Coleman MP, Virdee S

MYCBP2 is a ubiquitin (Ub) E3 ligase (E3) that is essential for neurodevelopment and regulates axon maintenance. MYCBP2 transfers Ub to nonlysine substrates via a newly discovered RING-Cys-Relay (RCR) mechanism, where Ub is relayed from an upstream cysteine to a downstream substrate esterification site. The molecular bases for E2-E3 Ub transfer and Ub relay are unknown. Whether these activities are linked to the neural phenotypes is also unclear. We describe the crystal structure of a covalently trapped E2~Ub:MYCBP2 transfer intermediate revealing key structural rearrangements upon E2-E3 Ub transfer and Ub relay. Our data suggest that transfer to the dynamic upstream cysteine, whilst mitigating lysine activity, requires a closed-like E2~Ub conjugate with tempered reactivity, and Ub relay is facilitated by a helix-coil transition. Furthermore, neurodevelopmental defects and delayed injury-induced degeneration in RCR-defective knock-in mice suggest its requirement, and that of substrate esterification activity, for normal neural development and programmed axon degeneration.

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Nature chemical biology, 1, 1, 03 Aug 2020

PMID: 32747811

Axon Degeneration: Which Method to Choose?
Coleman MP

Axons are diverse. They have different lengths, different branching patterns, and different biological roles. Methods to study axon degeneration are also diverse. The result is a bewildering range of experimental systems in which to study mechanisms of axon degeneration, and it is difficult to extrapolate from one neuron type and one method to another. The purpose of this chapter is to help readers to do this and to choose the methods most appropriate for answering their particular research question.

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Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 2143, 1, 2020

PMID: 32524468