Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL) are the most commonly inherited progressive encephalopathies of childhood. Pathologically, they are characterized by endolysosomal storage with different ultrastructural features and biochemical compositions. The molecular mechanisms causing progressive neurodegeneration and common molecular pathways linking expression of different NCL genes are largely unknown. We analyzed proteome alterations in the brains of a mouse model of human infantile CLN1 disease-palmitoyl-protein thioesterase 1 (Ppt1) gene knockout and its wild-type age-matched counterpart at different stages: pre-symptomatic, symptomatic and advanced. For this purpose, we utilized a combination of laser capture microdissection-based quantitative liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (MS) and matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight MS imaging to quantify/visualize the changes in protein expression in disease-affected brain thalamus and cerebral cortex tissue slices, respectively. Proteomic profiling of the pre-symptomatic stage thalamus revealed alterations mostly in metabolic processes and inhibition of various neuronal functions, i.e., neuritogenesis. Down-regulation in dynamics associated with growth of plasma projections and cellular protrusions was further corroborated by findings from RNA sequencing of CLN1 patients' fibroblasts. Changes detected at the symptomatic stage included: mitochondrial functions, synaptic vesicle transport, myelin proteome and signaling cascades, such as RhoA signaling. Considerable dysregulation of processes related to mitochondrial cell death, RhoA/Huntington's disease signaling and myelin sheath breakdown were observed at the advanced stage of the disease. The identified changes in protein levels were further substantiated by bioinformatics and network approaches, immunohistochemistry on brain tissues and literature knowledge, thus identifying various functional modules affected in the CLN1 childhood encephalopathy.
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