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Transgenic expression of the protein-L-isoaspartyl methyltransferase (PIMT) gene in the brain rescues mice from the fatal epilepsy of PIMT deficiency.

ABSTRACT

Protein-L-isoaspartyl methyltransfearase (PIMT) plays a physiological role in the repair of damaged proteins containing isoaspartyl residues. In previous studies, we showed that PIMT-deficient mice developed a fatal epileptic seizure associated with the accumulation of damaged proteins in the brain. The mutant mice also showed a neurodegenerative pathology in hippocampi and impaired spatial memory. Still undefined, however, is how the accumulation of isoaspartates leads to the death of PIMT-deficient mice. In the present study, we generated PIMT transgenic (Tg) mice to investigate whether the exogenous expression of PIMT could improve the symptoms associated with PIMT deficiency. Rescue experiments showed that Tg expression of PIMT driven by a prion promoter effectively cured the PIMT-deficient mice. Biochemically, a higher expression level of transgene led to the effective repair of damaged proteins in vivo. Although a lower level of expression caused an accumulation of damaged proteins in a partially rescued line, the mice survived. Interestingly, synapsin I, which was extensively modified posttranslationally in PIMT-deficient mice, was specifically repaired in a partially rescued, but symptom-improved, Tg line. Our results suggest that an overall accumulation of damaged proteins does not necessarily lead to a fatal epileptic seizure, whereas certain modifications, such as changes in synapsin I, may play a pivotal pathological role in epilepsy.