Inhibiting von Hippel‒Lindau protein-mediated Dishevelled ubiquitination protects against experimental parkinsonism

Jie Shen1, Qian Zha1, Qian-hua Yang1, Yue-qian Zhou1, Xiao Liang1, Ying-jie Chen1, Gui-xia Qi1, Xiao-jin Zhang2, Wen-bing Yao1, Xiang-dong Gao1, Song Chen1
1 Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Druggability of Biopharmaceuticals, State Key Laboratory of Natural Medicines, School of Life Science and Technology, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing 211198, China
2 Department of Chemistry, China Pharmaceutical University, Nanjing 211198, China
Correspondence to: Wen-bing Yao:, Xiang-dong Gao:, Song Chen:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-022-01014-1
Received: 26 June 2022
Accepted: 16 October 2022
Advance online: 10 November 2022


Dopaminergic neuron degeneration is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease (PD). We previously reported that the inactivation of von Hippel‒Lindau (VHL) alleviated dopaminergic neuron degeneration in a C. elegans model. In this study, we investigated the specific effects of VHL loss and the underlying mechanisms in mammalian PD models. For in vivo genetic inhibition of VHL, AAV-Vhl-shRNA was injected into mouse lateral ventricles. Thirty days later, the mice received MPTP for 5 days to induce PD. Behavioral experiments were conducted on D1, D3, D7, D14 and D21 after the last injection, and the mice were sacrificed on D22. We showed that knockdown of VHL in mice significantly alleviated PD-like syndromes detected in behavioral and biochemical assays. Inhibiting VHL exerted similar protective effects in MPP+-treated differentiated SH-SY5Y cells and the MPP+-induced C. elegans PD model. We further demonstrated that VHL loss-induced protection against experimental parkinsonism was independent of hypoxia-inducible factor and identified the Dishevelled-2 (DVL-2)/β-catenin axis as the target of VHL, which was evolutionarily conserved in both C. elegans and mammals. Inhibiting the function of VHL promoted the stability of β-catenin by reducing the ubiquitination and degradation of DVL-2. Thus, in vivo overexpression of DVL-2, mimicking VHL inactivation, protected against PD. We designed a competing peptide, Tat-DDF-2, to inhibit the interaction between VHL and DVL-2, which exhibited pharmacological potential for protection against PD in vitro and in vivo. We propose the therapeutic potential of targeting the interaction between VHL and DVL- 2, which may represent a strategy to alleviate neurodegeneration associated with PD.
Keywords: Parkinson’s disease; von Hippel‒Lindau; Dishevelled-2; peptide; MPTP; MPP+

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