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

Novel HDAC6 Inhibitors Increase Tubulin Acetylation and Rescue Axonal Transport of Mitochondria in a Model of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Type 2F.
Adalbert R, Kaieda A, Antoniou C, Loreto A, Yang X, Gilley J, Hoshino T, Uga K, Makhija MT, Coleman MP

Disruption of axonal transport causes a number of rare, inherited axonopathies and is heavily implicated in a wide range of more common neurodegenerative disorders, many of them age-related. Acetylation of α-tubulin is one important regulatory mechanism, influencing microtubule stability and motor protein attachment. Of several strategies so far used to enhance axonal transport, increasing microtubule acetylation through inhibition of the deacetylase enzyme histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6) has been one of the most effective. Several inhibitors have been developed and tested in animal and cellular models, but better drug candidates are still needed. Here we report the development and characterization of two highly potent HDAC6 inhibitors, which show low toxicity, promising pharmacokinetic properties, and enhance microtubule acetylation in the nanomolar range. We demonstrate their capacity to rescue axonal transport of mitochondria in a primary neuronal culture model of the inherited axonopathy Charcot-Marie-Tooth Type 2F, caused by a dominantly acting mutation in heat shock protein beta 1.

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ACS chemical neuroscience, 1, 1, 08 Jan 2020

DOI: 10.1021/acschemneuro.9b00338

PMID: 31845794

Mitochondrial impairment activates the Wallerian pathway through depletion of NMNAT2 leading to SARM1-dependent axon degeneration.
Loreto A, Hill CS, Hewitt VL, Orsomando G, Angeletti C, Gilley J, Lucci C, Sanchez-Martinez A, Whitworth AJ, Conforti L, Dajas-Bailador F, Coleman MP

Wallerian degeneration of physically injured axons involves a well-defined molecular pathway linking loss of axonal survival factor NMNAT2 to activation of pro-degenerative protein SARM1. Manipulating the pathway through these proteins led to the identification of non-axotomy insults causing axon degeneration by a Wallerian-like mechanism, including several involving mitochondrial impairment. Mitochondrial dysfunction is heavily implicated in Parkinson's disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, hereditary spastic paraplegia and other axonal disorders. However, whether and how mitochondrial impairment activates Wallerian degeneration has remained unclear. Here, we show that disruption of mitochondrial membrane potential leads to axonal NMNAT2 depletion in mouse sympathetic neurons, increasing the substrate-to-product ratio (NMN/NAD) of this NAD-synthesising enzyme, a metabolic fingerprint of Wallerian degeneration. The mechanism appears to involve both impaired NMNAT2 synthesis and reduced axonal transport. Expression of WLD and Sarm1 deletion both protect axons after mitochondrial uncoupling. Blocking the pathway also confers neuroprotection and increases the lifespan of flies with Pink1 loss-of-function mutation, which causes severe mitochondrial defects. These data indicate that mitochondrial impairment replicates all the major steps of Wallerian degeneration, placing it upstream of NMNAT2 loss, with the potential to contribute to axon pathology in mitochondrial disorders.

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Neurobiology of disease, 134, 1, 15 Nov 2019

DOI: 10.1016/j.nbd.2019.104678

PMID: 31740269

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