In neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease (AD), tau is hyperphosphorylated and forms aggregates and neurofibrillary tangles in affected neurons. Autophagy is critical to clear the aggregates of disease-associated proteins and is often altered in patients and animal models of AD. Because mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) negatively regulates autophagy and is hyperactive in the brains of patients with AD, mTOR is an attractive therapeutic target for AD. However, pharmacological strategies to increase autophagy by targeting mTOR inhibition cause various side effects. Therefore, autophagy activation mediated by non-mTOR pathways is a new option for autophagy-based AD therapy. Here, we report that pimozide activates autophagy to rescue tau pathology in an AD model. Pimozide increased autophagic flux through the activation of the AMPK-Unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1 (ULK1) axis, but not of mTOR, in neuronal cells, and this function was independent of dopamine D2 receptor inhibition. Pimozide reduced levels of abnormally phosphorylated tau aggregates in neuronal cells. Further, daily intraperitoneal (i.p.) treatment of pimozide led to a recovery from memory deficits of TauC3 mice expressing a caspase-cleaved form of tau. In the brains of these mice, we found increased phosphorylation of AMPK1 and ULK1, and reduced levels of the soluble oligomers and NP40-insoluble aggregates of abnormally phosphorylated tau. Together, these results suggest that pimozide rescues memory impairments in TauC3 mice and reduces tau aggregates by increasing autophagic flux through the mTOR-independent AMPK-ULK1 axis.
The RNA binding protein, LARP1, has been proposed to function downstream of mTORC1 to regulate the translation of 5'TOP mRNAs such as those encoding ribosome proteins (RP). However, the roles of LARP1 in the translation of 5'TOP mRNAs are controversial and its regulatory roles in mTORC1-mediated translation remain unclear. Here we show that LARP1 is a direct substrate of mTORC1 and Akt/S6K1. Deep sequencing of LARP1-bound mRNAs reveal that non-phosphorylated LARP1 interacts with both 5' and 3'UTRs of RP mRNAs and inhibits their translation. Importantly, phosphorylation of LARP1 by mTORC1 and Akt/S6K1 dissociates it from 5'UTRs and relieves its inhibitory activity on RP mRNA translation. Concomitantly, phosphorylated LARP1 scaffolds mTORC1 on the 3'UTRs of translationally-competent RP mRNAs to facilitate mTORC1-dependent induction of translation initiation. Thus, in response to cellular mTOR activity, LARP1 serves as a phosphorylation-sensitive molecular switch for turning off or on RP mRNA translation and subsequent ribosome biogenesis.