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1.  Sizn1 Is a Novel Protein That Functions as a Transcriptional Coactivator of Bone Morphogenic Protein Signaling▿ § 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;28(5):1565-1572.
Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) play pleotrophic roles in nervous system development, and their signaling is highly regulated at virtually every step in the pathway. We have cloned a novel gene, Sizn1 (Smad-interacting zinc finger protein), which functions as a transcriptional coactivator of BMP signaling. It positively modulates BMP signaling by interacting with Smad family members and associating with CBP in the transcription complex. Sizn1 is expressed in the ventral embryonic forebrain, where, as we will show, it contributes to BMP-dependent, cholinergic-neuron-specific gene expression. These data indicate that Sizn1 is a positive modulator of BMP signaling and provide further insight into how BMP signaling can be modulated in neuronal progenitor subsets to influence cell-type-specific gene expression and development.
PMCID: PMC2258788  PMID: 18160706
2.  Evidence that SIZN1 is a Candidate X-Linked Mental Retardation Gene 
An estimated 1-3% of individuals within the United States are diagnosed with mental retardation (MR), yet the cause is unknown in nearly 50% of the patients. While several environmental, genetic and combined teratogenetic etiologies have been identified, many causative genes remain to be identified. Furthermore, the pathogenetic mechanisms underlying MR are known for very few of these genes. Males have a much higher incidence of MR implicating genes on the X-chromosome. We have recently identified a novel gene, SIZN1, on the X-chromosome and showed that it functions in modulating the BMP signaling pathway. Furthermore, we have shown this gene is necessary for basal forebrain cholinergic neuron (BFCN) specific gene expression. Given that cognitive function is impaired when BFCNs are lost or functionally disrupted, we undertook a screen of cognitively impaired males for SIZN1 mutations. We report on four different sequence variants in SIZN1 in 11 individuals with nonsyndromic X-linked mental retardation. Our data implicate SIZN1 as a candidate gene for X-linked mental retardation and/or as a neurocognitive functional modifier.
PMCID: PMC2575800  PMID: 18798319
BMP; SIZN1(ZCCHC12); forebrain cholinergic neuron; X-linked mental retardation
3.  Lhx2 Regulates the Development of the Forebrain Hem System 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2013;24(5):1361-1372.
Early brain development is regulated by the coordinated actions of multiple signaling centers at key boundaries between compartments. Three telencephalic midline structures are in a position to play such roles in forebrain patterning: The cortical hem, the septum, and the thalamic eminence at the diencephalic–telencephalic boundary. These structures express unique complements of signaling molecules, and they also produce distinct populations of Cajal–Retzius cells, which are thought to act as “mobile patterning units,” migrating tangentially to cover the telencephalic surface. We show that these 3 structures require the transcription factor Lhx2 to delimit their extent. In the absence of Lhx2 function, all 3 structures are greatly expanded, and the Cajal–Retzius cell population is dramatically increased. We propose that the hem, septum, and thalamic eminence together form a “forebrain hem system” that defines and regulates the formation of the telencephalic midline. Disruptions in the forebrain hem system may be implicated in severe brain malformations such as holoprosencephaly. Lhx2 functions as a central regulator of this system's development. Since all components of the forebrain hem system have been identified across several vertebrate species, the mechanisms that regulate them may have played a fundamental role in driving key aspects of forebrain evolution.
PMCID: PMC3977624  PMID: 23307637
Cajal–Retzius cells; human; Lhx2; midline; mouse; patterning; thalamic eminence
4.  Zcchc11 Uridylates Mature miRNAs to Enhance Neonatal IGF-1 Expression, Growth, and Survival 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(11):e1003105.
The Zcchc11 enzyme is implicated in microRNA (miRNA) regulation. It can uridylate let-7 precursors to decrease quantities of the mature miRNA in embryonic stem cell lines, suggested to mediate stem cell maintenance. It can uridylate mature miR-26 to relieve silencing activity without impacting miRNA content in cancer cell lines, suggested to mediate cytokine and growth factor expression. Broader roles of Zcchc11 in shaping or remodeling the miRNome or in directing biological or physiological processes remain entirely speculative. We generated Zcchc11-deficient mice to address these knowledge gaps. Zcchc11 deficiency had no impact on embryogenesis or fetal development, but it significantly decreased survival and growth immediately following birth, indicating a role for this enzyme in early postnatal fitness. Deep sequencing of small RNAs from neonatal livers revealed roles of this enzyme in miRNA sequence diversity. Zcchc11 deficiency diminished the lengths and terminal uridine frequencies for diverse mature miRNAs, but it had no influence on the quantities of any miRNAs. The expression of IGF-1, a liver-derived protein essential to early growth and survival, was enhanced by Zcchc11 expression in vitro, and miRNA silencing of IGF-1 was alleviated by uridylation events observed to be Zcchc11-dependent in the neonatal liver. In neonatal mice, Zcchc11 deficiency significantly decreased IGF-1 mRNA in the liver and IGF-1 protein in the blood. We conclude that the Zcchc11-mediated terminal uridylation of mature miRNAs is pervasive and physiologically significant, especially important in the neonatal period for fostering IGF-1 expression and enhancing postnatal growth and survival. We propose that the miRNA 3′ terminus is a regulatory node upon which multiple enzymes converge to direct silencing activity and tune gene expression.
Author Summary
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are molecules that regulate gene expression, usually serving silencing functions. Mechanisms regulating miRNAs are poorly understood. In test tube experiments, the enzyme Zcchc11 adds uridines to the ends of miRNAs and their precursors, with uridyation of miRNA precursors decreasing the quantities of mature miRNAs and uridylation of mature miRNAs decreasing their silencing activity. Whether, when, and to what effect Zcchc11 alters miRNA in living animals has never previously been reported. To understand functions of Zcchc11 in integrative biology, we generated mice deficient in Zcchc11. Mutant mice were born normally, but some died soon after birth and survivors grew poorly. No miRNA quantities were changed in tissues sampled from these mice, but mature miRNAs were less likely to have additional uridines on their ends. Some miRNAs that were uridylated by Zcchc11 targeted a critical growth factor known as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), but they did so less effectively when uridylated. Zcchc11-deficient mice had decreased amounts of IGF-1 in the liver and blood. These data reveal that Zcchc11 is an important enzyme in living animals for uridylating mature miRNAs, enhancing IGF-1 expression, and promoting neonatal growth and survival, suggesting a novel mode of gene regulation that is biologically significant.
PMCID: PMC3510031  PMID: 23209448
5.  TrkA Gene Ablation in Basal Forebrain Results in Dysfunction of the Cholinergic Circuitry 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2012;32(12):4065-4079.
Dysfunction of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCNs) is an early pathological hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Numerous studies have indicated that nerve growth factor (NGF) supports survival and phenotypic differentiation of BFCNs. Consistent with a potential link to AD pathogenesis, TrkA, a NGF receptor, is expressed in cholinergic forebrain neuronal populations including those in basal forebrain (BF) and striatum, and is markedly reduced in individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) without dementia and early-stage AD. To investigate the role of TrkA in the development, connectivity, and function of the BF cholinergic system and its contribution to AD pathology, we have generated a forebrain-specific conditional TrkA knockout mouse line. Our findings show a key role for TrkA signaling in establishing the BF cholinergic circuitry through the ERK pathway, and demonstrate that the normal developmental increase of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) expression becomes critically dependent on TrkA signaling before neuronal connections are established. Moreover, the anatomical and physiological deficits caused by lack of TrkA signaling in BFCNs have selective impact on cognitive activity. These data demonstrate that TrkA loss results in cholinergic BF dysfunction and cognitive decline that is reminiscent of MCI and early AD.
PMCID: PMC3403817  PMID: 22442072
6.  BMP9 induces NGF as an autocrine/paracrine cholinergic trophic factor in developing basal forebrain neurons 
Acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and release from basal forebrain cholinergic neurons (BFCN) innervating the cerebral cortex and hippocampus are essential processes for normal learning, memory and attention. Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) 9 is a cholinergic differentiation factor in the developing septum that increases ACh synthesis and choline acetyltransferase (Chat) gene expression both in vivo and in vitro. We investigated the possible induction of cholinergic trophic factors by BMP9 in murine septal cells. Nerve growth factor (NGF) protein expression and secretion into the medium was increased in cultured embryonic septal cells treated with BMP9, and partially mediated BMP9-induced acetylcholine production and Chat gene expression. BMP9-induced Ngf gene expression was detected in post-mitotic cells, required new protein synthesis and was blocked by BMP type I receptor inhibition. Cholinergic neurons were isolated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting based on either transgenic expression of green fluorescent protein driven by the Chat promoter or NGF receptor (p75) immunostaining. Although both non-cholinergic and cholinergic neurons in untreated cultures expressed similar low levels of Ngf, increased Ngf gene expression was restricted to Chat-positive neurons in BMP9 treated cultures. Likewise, similar levels of Ngf mRNA were detected in p75-negative and p75-postive septal cells, yet only p75-positive BFCN increased their Ngf gene expression when treated with BMP9, and only these cells expressed the Alk1 BMP receptor. The data suggest an autocrine/paracine role for NGF in the development and/or maintenance of BFCN and imply that the stimulation of NGF production and release contributes to the cholinergic-supportive properties of BMP9.
PMCID: PMC2927324  PMID: 20554873
Basal forebrain; Cholinergic neuron; Septum; Nerve growth factor; Neurotrophin; Differentiation; Fluorescence
7.  Role of retinoic acid during forebrain development begins late when Raldh3 generates retinoic acid in the ventral subventricular zone 
Developmental biology  2006;303(2):601-610.
Retinoic acid (RA) synthesized by Raldh3 in the frontonasal surface ectoderm of chick embryos has been suggested to function in early forebrain patterning by regulating Fgf8, Shh, and Meis2 expression. Similar expression of Raldh3 exists in E8.75 mouse embryos, but Raldh2 is also expressed in the optic vesicle at this stage suggesting that both genes may play a role in early forebrain patterning. Also, Raldh3 is expressed later in the forebrain itself (lateral ganglionic eminence; LGE) starting at E12.5, suggesting a later role in forebrain neurogenesis. Here we have analyzed mouse embryos carrying single or double null mutations in Raldh2 and Raldh3 for defects in forebrain development. Raldh2-/-;Raldh3-/- embryos completely lacked RA signaling activity in the early forebrain, but exhibited relatively normal expression of Fgf8, Shh, and Meis2 in the forebrain. Thus, we find no clear requirement for RA in controlling expression of these important forebrain patterning genes, but Raldh3 expression in the frontonasal surface ectoderm was found to be needed for normal Fgf8 expression in the olfactory pit. Our studies revealed that later expression of Raldh3 in the subventricular zone of the LGE is required for RA signaling activity in the ventral forebrain. Importantly, expression of dopamine receptor D2 in E18.5 Raldh3-/- embryos was essentially eliminated in the developing nucleus accumbens, a tissue lying close to the source of RA provided by Raldh3. Our results suggest that the role of RA during forebrain development begins late when Raldh3 expression initiates in the ventral subventricular zone.
PMCID: PMC1994967  PMID: 17207476
Forebrain; Retinoic acid; Raldh2; Raldh3; Subventricular zone; Lateral ganglionic eminence; Striatum; Nucleus accumbens; Dopamine receptor D2
8.  Ontogenetic Distribution of the Transcription Factor Nkx2.2 in the Developing Forebrain of Xenopus Laevis 
The expression of the Nkx2.2 gene is involved in the organization of the alar-basal boundary in the forebrain of vertebrates. Its expression in different diencephalic and telencephalic regions, helped to define distinct progenitor domains in mouse and chick. Here we investigated the pattern of Nkx2.2 protein distribution throughout the development of the forebrain of the anuran amphibian, Xenopus laevis. We used immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization techniques for its detection in combination with other essential territorial markers in the forebrain. No expression was observed in the telencephalon. In the alar hypothalamus, Nkx2.2 positive cells were scattered in the suprachiasmatic territory, but also in the supraopto-paraventricular area, as defined by the expression of the transcription factor Orthopedia (Otp) and the lack of xDll4. In the basal hypothalamus Nkx2.2 expressing cells were localized in the tuberal region, with the exception of the arcuate nucleus, rich in Otp expressing cells. In the diencephalon it was expressed in all three prosomeres (P1–P3) and not in the zona limitans intrathalamica. The presence of Nkx2.2 expressing cells in P3 was restricted to the alar portion, as well as in prosomere P2, whereas in P1 the Nkx2.2 expressing cells were located in the basal plate and identified the alar/basal boundary. These results showed that Nkx2.2 and Sonic hedgehog are expressed in parallel adjacent stripes along the anterior–posterior axis. The results of this study showed a conserved distribution pattern of Nkx2.2 among vertebrates, crucial to recognize subdivisions that are otherwise indistinct, and supported the relevance of this transcription factor in the organization of the forebrain, particularly in the delineation of the alar/basal boundary of the forebrain.
PMCID: PMC3049246  PMID: 21415915
prosencephalon; hypothalamus; in situ hybridization; evolution; forebrain patterning; thalamus
9.  The integrity of cholinergic basal forebrain neurons depends on expression of Nkx2-1 
The European journal of neuroscience  2011;34(11):1767-1782.
The transcription factor Nkx2-1 belongs to the homeobox-encoding family of proteins that have essential functions in prenatal brain development. Nkx2-1 is required for the specification of cortical interneurons and several neuronal subtypes of the ventral forebrain. Moreover, this transcription factor is involved in migratory processes by regulating the expression of guidance molecules. Interestingly, Nkx2-1 expression was recently detected in the mouse brain at postnatal stages. Using two transgenic mouse lines that allow prenatal or postnatal cell type-specific deletion of Nkx2-1, we show that continuous expression of the transcription factor is essential for the maturation and maintenance of cholinergic basal forebrain neurons in mice. Notably, prenatal deletion of Nkx2-1 in GAD67-expressing neurons leads to a nearly complete loss of cholinergic neurons and parvalbumin-containing GABAergic neurons in the basal forebrain. We also show that postnatal mutation of Nkx2-1 in choline acetyltransferase-expressing cells causes a striking reduction in their number. These degenerative changes are accompanied by partial denervation of their target structures and results in a discrete impairment of spatial memory.
PMCID: PMC3486784  PMID: 22098391
choline acetyltransferase; choreoathetosis; human; mouse; parvalbumin
10.  Mutations in PHF8 are associated with X linked mental retardation and cleft lip/cleft palate 
Journal of Medical Genetics  2005;42(10):780-786.
Truncating mutations were found in the PHF8 gene (encoding the PHD finger protein 8) in two unrelated families with X linked mental retardation (XLMR) associated with cleft lip/palate (MIM 300263). Expression studies showed that this gene is ubiquitously transcribed, with strong expression of the mouse orthologue Phf8 in embryonic and adult brain structures. The coded PHF8 protein harbours two functional domains, a PHD finger and a JmjC (Jumonji-like C terminus) domain, implicating it in transcriptional regulation and chromatin remodelling. The association of XLMR and cleft lip/palate in these patients with mutations in PHF8 suggests an important function of PHF8 in midline formation and in the development of cognitive abilities, and links this gene to XLMR associated with cleft lip/palate. Further studies will explore the specific mechanisms whereby PHF8 alterations lead to mental retardation and midline defects.
PMCID: PMC1735927  PMID: 16199551
11.  The LIM-Homeobox Gene Islet-1 Is Required for the Development of Restricted Forebrain Cholinergic Neurons 
Forebrain cholinergic neurons modulate complex mammalian behaviors such as reward-related learning and cognitive functions. Although their dysfunction is implicated in various psychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases, the factors governing cholinergic neuron differentiation and diversity are mostly unknown. We tested the role of the LIM-homeobox gene Isl1 in the development of forebrain cholinergic neurons by conditionally deleting Isl1 using a Six3-cre transgene. A depletion of cholinergic interneurons in the dorsal and ventral striatum, and cholinergic projection neurons in the nucleus basalis is observed and is ascribed to an early and persistent defect in cholinergic neuron differentiation. Notably, cholinergic innervation to the neocortex is abolished, whereas that to the hippocampus is unaltered. The unique pattern of cholinergic hypoinnervation encountered is supported by the presence of cholinergic projection neurons in the medial septum, the magnocellular preoptic area, and the substantia innominata. Together, these results demonstrate the requirement for Isl1 in the development of restricted telencephalic cholinergic neurons and link the development of cholinergic neurons in anatomically disparate sites to Isl1 function.
PMCID: PMC2786914  PMID: 18367596
transcription factor; cholinergic neuron; differentiation; forebrain; basal forebrain; basalis; striatum
12.  Integrin-Linked Kinase Deletion from Mouse Cortex Results in Cortical Lamination Defects Resembling Cobblestone Lissencephaly 
Integrin-linked kinase (Ilk) is a scaffold and kinase that links integrin receptors to the actin cytoskeleton and to signaling pathways involved in cell adhesion, migration, and extracellular matrix deposition. Targeted deletion of Ilk from embryonic mouse dorsal forebrain neuroepithelium results in severe cortical lamination defects resembling cobblestone (type II) lissencephaly. Defects in adult mutants include neuronal invasion of the marginal zone, downward displacement of marginal zone components, fusion of the cerebral hemispheres, and scalloping of the dentate gyrus. These lesions are associated with abundant astrogliosis and widespread fragmentation of the basal lamina at the cortical surface. During cortical development, neuronal ectopias are associated with severe disorganization of radial glial processes and displacement of Cajal-Retzius cells. Lesions are not seen when Ilk is specifically deleted from embryonic neurons. Interestingly, targeted Ilk deletion has no effect on proliferation or survival of cortical cells or on phosphorylation of two Ilk substrates, Pkb/Akt and Gsk-3β, suggesting that Ilk does not regulate cortical lamination via these enzymes. Instead, Ilk acts in vivo as a major intracellular mediator of integrin-dependent basal lamina formation. This study demonstrates a critical role for Ilk in cortical lamination and suggests that Ilk-associated pathways are involved in the pathogenesis of cobblestone lissencephalies.
PMCID: PMC2688706  PMID: 16049178
integrin-linked kinase; extracellular matrix; cortical development; cobblestone lissencephaly; radial glia; reelin
13.  Gene Deletion Mutants Reveal a Role for Semaphorin Receptors of the Plexin-B Family in Mechanisms Underlying Corticogenesis ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;30(3):764-780.
Semaphorins and their receptors, plexins, are emerging as key regulators of various aspects of neural and nonneural development. Semaphorin 4D (Sema4D) and B-type plexins demonstrate distinct expression patterns over critical time windows during the development of the murine neocortex. Here, analysis of mice genetically lacking plexin-B1 or plexin-B2 revealed the significance of Sema4D-plexin-B signaling in cortical development. Deficiency of plexin-B2 resulted in abnormal cortical layering and defective migration and differentiation of several subtypes of cortical neurons, including Cajal-Retzius cells, GABAergic interneurons, and principal cells in vivo. In contrast, a lack of plexin-B1 did not impact on cortical development in vivo. In various ex vivo assays on embryonic forebrain, Sema4D enhanced the radial and tangential migration of developing neurons in a plexin-B2-dependent manner. These results suggest that Sema4D-plexin-B2 interactions regulate mechanisms underlying cell specification, differentiation, and migration during corticogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2812242  PMID: 19948886
14.  The Role of Robo3 in the Development of Cortical Interneurons 
Cerebral Cortex (New York, NY)  2009;19(Suppl 1):i22-i31.
A number of studies in recent years have shown that members of the Roundabout (Robo) receptor family, Robo1 and Robo2, play significant roles in the formation of axonal tracks in the developing forebrain and in the migration and morphological differentiation of cortical interneurons. Here, we investigated the expression and function of Robo3 in the developing cortex. We found that this receptor is strongly expressed in the preplate layer and cortical hem of the early cortex where it colocalizes with markers of Cajal–Retzius cells and interneurons. Analysis of Robo3 mutant mice at early (embryonic day [E] 13.5) and late (E18.5) stages of corticogenesis revealed no significant change in the number of interneurons, but a change in their morphology at E13.5. However, preliminary analysis on a small number of mice that lacked all 3 Robo receptors indicated a marked reduction in the number of cortical interneurons, but only a limited effect on their morphology. These observations and the results of other recent studies suggest a complex interplay between the 3 Robo receptors in regulating the number, migration and morphological differentiation of cortical interneurons.
PMCID: PMC2693537  PMID: 19366869
interneuron; morphology; Robo
15.  Ontogenetic Expression of Sonic Hedgehog in the Chicken Subpallium 
Sonic hedgehog (SHH) is a secreted signaling factor that is implicated in the molecular patterning of the central nervous system (CNS), somites, and limbs in vertebrates. SHH has a crucial role in the generation of ventral cell types along the entire rostrocaudal axis of the neural tube. It is secreted early in development by the axial mesoderm (prechordal plate and notochord) and the overlying ventral neural tube. Recent studies clarified the impact of SHH signaling mechanisms on dorsoventral patterning of the spinal cord, but the corresponding phenomena in the rostral forebrain are slightly different and more complex. This notably involves separate Shh expression in the preoptic part of the forebrain alar plate, as well as in the hypothalamic floor and basal plates. The present work includes a detailed spatiotemporal description of the singular alar Shh expression pattern in the rostral preoptic forebrain of chick embryos, comparing it with FoxG1, Dlx5, Nkx2.1, and Nkx2.2 mRNA expression at diverse stages of development. As a result of this mapping, we report a subdivision of the preoptic region in dorsal and ventral zones; only the dorsal part shows Shh expression. The positive area impinges as well upon a median septocommissural preoptic domain. Our study strongly suggests tangential migration of Shh-positive cells from the preoptic region into other subpallial domains, particularly into the pallidal mantle and the intermediate septum.
PMCID: PMC2917215  PMID: 20700498
chick embryo; alar plate; forebrain; preoptic area; anterior entopeduncular area; subpallium; telencephalon; pallidum
16.  The Dynamic Role of Bone Morphogenetic Proteins in Neural Stem Cell Fate and Maturation 
Developmental neurobiology  2012;72(7):1068-1084.
The bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are a group of powerful morphogens that are critical for development of the nervous system. The effects of BMP signaling on neural stem cells are myriad and dynamic, changing with each stage of development. During early development inhibition of BMP signaling differentiates neuroectoderm from ectoderm, and BMP signaling helps to specify neural crest. Thus modulation of BMP signaling underlies formation of both the central and peripheral nervous systems. BMPs secreted from dorsal structures then form a gradient which helps pattern the dorsal–ventral axis of the developing spinal cord and brain. During forebrain development BMPs sequentially induce neurogenesis and then astrogliogenesis and participate in neurite outgrowth from immature neurons. BMP signaling also plays a critical role in maintaining adult neural stem cell niches in the subventricular zone (SVZ) and subgranular zone (SGZ). BMPs are able to exert such diverse effects through closely regulated temporospatial expression and interaction with other signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3773925  PMID: 22489086
BMP; neural stem cells; patterning; neurogenesis; gliogenesis
17.  Early B-cell factors 2 and 3 (EBF2/3) regulate early migration of Cajal–Retzius cells from the cortical hem 
Developmental Biology  2012;365(1-6):277-289.
Cajal–Retzius (CR) cells play a crucial role in the formation of the cerebral cortex, yet the molecules that control their development are largely unknown. Here, we show that Ebf transcription factors are expressed in forebrain signalling centres—the septum, cortical hem and the pallial–subpallial boundary—known to generate CR cells. We identified Ebf2, through fate mapping studies, as a novel marker for cortical hem- and septum-derived CR cells. Loss of Ebf2 in vivo causes a transient decrease in CR cell numbers on the cortical surface due to a migratory defect in the cortical hem, and is accompanied by upregulation of Ebf3 in this and other forebrain territories that produce CR cells, without affecting proper cortical lamination. Accordingly, using in vitro preparations, we demonstrated that both Ebf2 and Ebf3, singly or together, control the migration of CR cells arising in the cortical hem. These findings provide evidence that Ebfs directly regulate CR cell development.
► Ebf2 is a novel marker for hem- and septum-derived Cajal–Retzius cells. ► Ebf2 mutant shows a transient migratory defect of hem-derived Cajal–Retzius cells. ► Ebf3 is expressed in similar territories as Ebf2 and rescues Ebf2 mutant phenotype. ► Both Ebf2 and Ebf3 are required for Cajal–Retzius cell migration.
PMCID: PMC3368273  PMID: 22421355
Corticogenesis; Migration; Reelin; Transcription factor
18.  Homologs of genes expressed in Caenorhabditis elegans GABAergic neurons are also found in the developing mouse forebrain 
Neural Development  2010;5:32.
In an effort to identify genes that specify the mammalian forebrain, we used a comparative approach to identify mouse homologs of transcription factors expressed in developing Caenorhabditis elegans GABAergic neurons. A cell-specific microarray profiling study revealed a set of transcription factors that are highly expressed in embryonic C. elegans GABAergic neurons.
Bioinformatic analyses identified mouse protein homologs of these selected transcripts and their expression pattern was mapped in the mouse embryonic forebrain by in situ hybridization. A review of human homologs indicates several of these genes are potential candidates in neurodevelopmental disorders.
Our comparative approach has revealed several novel candidates that may serve as future targets for studies of mammalian forebrain development.
PMCID: PMC3006369  PMID: 21122108
19.  The mouse homeobox gene Gbx2 is required for the development of cholinergic interneurons in the striatum 
Mammalian forebrain cholinergic neurons are composed of local circuit neurons in the striatum and projection neurons in the basal forebrain. These neurons are known to arise from a common pool of progenitors that primarily resides in the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE). However, little is known about the genetic programs that differentiate these two types of cholinergic neurons. Using inducible genetic fate mapping, here we have examined the developmental fate of cells that express the homeodomain transcription factor Gbx2 in the MGE. We show that the Gbx2 lineage-derived cells that undergo tangential migration exclusively give rise to almost all cholinergic interneurons in the striatum, while those undergoing radial migration mainly produce non-cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain. Deletion of Gbx2 throughout the mouse embryo or specifically in the MGE results in abnormal distribution and significant reduction of cholinergic neurons in the striatum. We show that early-born cholinergic interneurons preferentially populate the lateral aspect of the striatum and mature earlier than late-born neurons, which normally reside in the medial part of the striatum. In the absence of Gbx2, early-born striatal cholinergic precursors display abnormal neurite outgrowth and increased complexity, and abnormally contribute to the medial of the caudate-putamen, while late-born (after embryonic day 12.5) striatal cholinergic interneurons are largely missing. Together, our data demonstrate that Gbx2 is required for development of striatal cholinergic interneurons, perhaps by regulating tangential migration of the striatal cholinergic precursors.
PMCID: PMC3071646  PMID: 21048141
medial ganglionic eminence; striatum; cholinergic neuron; interneurons; cell fate; mice; transcription factor; Gbx2
20.  A Novel Role for Dbx1-Derived Cajal-Retzius Cells in Early Regionalization of the Cerebral Cortical Neuroepithelium 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(7):e1000440.
Patterning of the cerebral cortex during embryogenesis depends not only on passive diffusion of morphogens but also on signal delivery by Cajal-Retzius neurons that migrate over long distances.
Patterning of the cortical neuroepithelium occurs at early stages of embryonic development in response to secreted molecules from signaling centers. These signals have been shown to establish the graded expression of transcription factors in progenitors within the ventricular zone and to control the size and positioning of cortical areas. Cajal-Retzius (CR) cells are among the earliest generated cortical neurons and migrate from the borders of the developing pallium to cover the cortical primordium by E11.5. We show that molecularly distinct CR subtypes distribute in specific combinations in pallial territories at the time of cortical regionalization. By means of genetic ablation experiments in mice, we report that loss of septum Dbx1-derived CR cells in the rostromedial pallium between E10.5 and E11.5 results in the redistribution of CR subtypes. This leads to changes in the expression of transcription factors within the neuroepithelium and in the proliferation properties of medial and dorsal cortical progenitors. Early regionalization defects correlate with shifts in the positioning of cortical areas at postnatal stages in the absence of alterations of gene expression at signaling centers. We show that septum-derived CR neurons express a highly specific repertoire of signaling factors. Our results strongly suggest that these cells, migrating over long distances and positioned in the postmitotic compartment, signal to ventricular zone progenitors and, thus, function as modulators of early cortical patterning.
Author Summary
Patterning of the cerebral cortex occurs early during embryonic development in response to secreted molecules or morphogens produced at signaling centers. These morphogens establish the graded expression of transcription factors (TFs) in progenitor cells and control the size and positioning of cortical areas in the postnatal animal. CR cells are among the earliest born cortical neurons and play a crucial role in cortical lamination. They are generated at signaling centers and migrate over long distances to cover its entire surface. We show that three different CR subtypes distribute in specific proportions in cortical territories. Genetic ablation of one subpopulation leads to a highly dynamic redistribution of the two others. This results in defects in expression of transcription factors and in progenitor cell proliferation, which correlate with the resulting changes in the size and positioning of cortical areas. Given our additional evidence that CR subtypes express specific repertoires of signaling factors, the ablation phenotypes point to a novel early role for CR cells as mediators of cortical patterning and suggest that CR cells are able to signal to progenitor cells. Our data thus add to the conventional model that morphogens act by passive diffusion and point to a strategy of morphogen delivery over long distance by migrating cells.
PMCID: PMC2910656  PMID: 20668538
21.  Arx Is a Direct Target of Dlx2 and Thereby Contributes to the Tangential Migration of GABAergic Interneurons 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2008;28(42):10674-10686.
The Arx transcription factor is expressed in the developing ventral telencephalon and subsets of its derivatives. Mutation of human ARX ortholog causes neurological disorders including epilepsy, lissencephaly, and mental retardation. We have isolated the mouse Arx endogenous enhancer modules that control its tightly compartmentalized forebrain expression. Interestingly, they are scattered downstream of its coding region and partially included within the introns of the downstream PolA1 gene. These enhancers are ultraconserved noncoding sequences that are highly conserved throughout the vertebrate phylum. Functional characterization of the Arx GABAergic enhancer element revealed its strict dependence on the activity of Dlx transcription factors. Dlx overexpression induces ectopic expression of endogenous Arx and its isolated enhancer, whereas loss of Dlx expression results in reduced Arx expression, suggesting that Arx is a key mediator of Dlx function. To further elucidate the mechanisms involved, a combination of gain-of-function studies in mutant Arx or Dlx tissues was pursued. This analysis provided evidence that, although Arx is necessary for the Dlx-dependent promotion of interneuron migration, it is not required for the GABAergic cell fate commitment mediated by Dlx factors. Although Arx has additional functions independent of the Dlx pathway, we have established a direct genetic relationship that controls critical steps in the development of telencephalic GABAergic neurons. These findings contribute elucidating the genetic hierarchy that likely underlies the etiology of a variety of human neurodevelopmental disorders.
PMCID: PMC3844830  PMID: 18923043
basal forebrain; development; epilepsy; GABAergic neuron; neuronal progenitor cell; basal ganglia
22.  BMP signaling in the nephron progenitor niche 
Bone morphogenic proteins (BMPs) play diverse roles in embryonic kidney development, regulating essential aspects of both ureteric bud and nephron development. In this review, we provide an overview of reported expression patterns and functions of BMP signaling components within the nephrogenic zone or nephron progenitor niche of the developing kidney. Reported in situ hybridization results are relatively challenging to interpret and sometimes conflicting. Comparing these with high-resolution microarray gene expression data available in Gudmap, we propose a consensus gene expression pattern indicating that essential components of both the Smad-mediated pathway and the Smad-independent mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways are expressed in the nephron progenitor cell compartment and may be activated by BMPs, but that cortical interstitium may only be able to respond to BMPs through MAPK signaling. Localization of phosphorylated Smad transcription factors and studies of a BMP reporter mouse strain however indicate limited transcriptional responsiveness to Smad-mediated signaling in cap mesenchyme. An overview of genetic inactivation, organ culture, and primary cell studies indicates that BMP signaling may elicit two important biological outcomes in the nephrogenic zone: survival of the cap mesenchyme, and the physical segregation of interstitial and progenitor cell compartments. Ongoing studies using a novel primary cell system that establishes the nephrogenic zone ex vivo are pursuing the concept that the balance between Smad-mediated and Smad-independent responses to BMP ligand may underlie these distinct outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3319359  PMID: 21373777
Bone morphogenetic protein; BMP; Nephrogenesis; Nephron progenitor cell; Nephron differentiation; Nephrogenic zone
23.  Thyroid Hormone Regulates the Expression of the Sonic Hedgehog Signaling Pathway in the Embryonic and Adult Mammalian Brain 
Endocrinology  2011;152(5):1989-2000.
Expression of the morphogen Shh and its receptors is robustly regulated in the embryonic and adult mammalian brain following maternal or adult-onset thyroid hormone perturbations.
Thyroid hormone is important for development and plasticity in the immature and adult mammalian brain. Several thyroid hormone-responsive genes are regulated during specific developmental time windows, with relatively few influenced across the lifespan. We provide novel evidence that thyroid hormone regulates expression of the key developmental morphogen sonic hedgehog (Shh), and its coreceptors patched (Ptc) and smoothened (Smo), in the early embryonic and adult forebrain. Maternal hypo- and hyperthyroidism bidirectionally influenced Shh mRNA in embryonic forebrain signaling centers at stages before fetal thyroid hormone synthesis. Further, Smo and Ptc expression were significantly decreased in the forebrain of embryos derived from hypothyroid dams. Adult-onset thyroid hormone perturbations also regulated expression of the Shh pathway bidirectionally, with a significant induction of Shh, Ptc, and Smo after hyperthyroidism and a decline in Smo expression in the hypothyroid brain. Short-term T3 administration resulted in a significant induction of cortical Shh mRNA expression and also enhanced reporter gene expression in Shh+/LacZ mice. Further, acute T3 treatment of cortical neuronal cultures resulted in a rapid and significant increase in Shh mRNA, suggesting direct effects. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays performed on adult neocortex indicated enhanced histone acetylation at the Shh promoter after acute T3 administration, providing further support that Shh is a thyroid hormone-responsive gene. Our results indicate that maternal and adult-onset perturbations of euthyroid status cause robust and region-specific changes in the Shh pathway in the embryonic and adult forebrain, implicating Shh as a possible mechanistic link for specific neurodevelopmental effects of thyroid hormone.
PMCID: PMC3179409  PMID: 21363934
24.  Novel GABAergic circuits mediating excitation/inhibition of Cajal-Retzius cells in the developing hippocampus 
Cajal-Retzius cells are a class of neurons believed to play critical roles during cortical development. However, their network computational functions remain poorly understood. Although work in the neocortex and hippocampus has shown that Cajal-Retzius cells receive predominantly, if not exclusively, spontaneous GABAA receptor-mediated input, the cellular sources originating these events remain unclear. Yet, a precise definition of the presynaptic GABAergic interneurons contacting Cajal-Retzius cells is important to understand the microcircuits and network patterns controlling their activation. Here, we have taken advantage of electrophysiological and anatomical techniques applied to mouse hippocampal slices in vitro to directly address this question. Our paired recording experiments indicate that Cajal-Retzius cells receive small-amplitude, kinetically-slow synaptic input from stratum lacunosum-moleculare interneurons, anatomically identified as neurogliaform cells. In addition, a convergence of optogenetic, electrophysiological and pharmacological experiments show that Cajal-Retzius cell receive GABAergic input from O-LM cells, and that this input has different physiological properties (i.e. larger amplitude and faster kinetics) from the one provided by neurogliaform cells. Lastly, we show that GABAergic evoked synaptic input onto Cajal-Retzius cells may either increase their excitability and trigger action potentials or inhibit spontaneous firing by depolarization block. We propose that the specific type of response depends both on the membrane potential of Cajal-Retzius cells and on the kinetics of the received GABAergic input. In conclusion, we have unraveled a novel hippocampal microcircuit with complex GABAergic synaptic signaling, which we suggest may play a role in the refinement of the hippocampal network and connections during development.
PMCID: PMC3655532  PMID: 23536064
25.  Ofd1 Controls Dorso-Ventral Patterning and Axoneme Elongation during Embryonic Brain Development 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52937.
Oral-facial-digital type I syndrome (OFDI) is a human X-linked dominant-male-lethal developmental disorder caused by mutations in the OFD1 gene. Similar to other inherited disorders associated to ciliary dysfunction OFD type I patients display neurological abnormalities. We characterized the neuronal phenotype that results from Ofd1 inactivation in early phases of mouse embryonic development and at post-natal stages. We determined that Ofd1 plays a crucial role in forebrain development, and in particular, in the control of dorso-ventral patterning and early corticogenesis. We observed abnormal activation of Sonic hedgehog (Shh), a major pathway modulating brain development. Ultrastructural studies demonstrated that early Ofd1 inactivation results in the absence of ciliary axonemes despite the presence of mature basal bodies that are correctly orientated and docked. Ofd1 inducible-mediated inactivation at birth does not affect ciliogenesis in the cortex, suggesting a developmental stage-dependent role for a basal body protein in ciliogenesis. Moreover, we showed defects in cytoskeletal organization and apical-basal polarity in Ofd1 mutant embryos, most likely due to lack of ciliary axonemes. Thus, the present study identifies Ofd1 as a developmental disease gene that is critical for forebrain development and ciliogenesis in embryonic life, and indicates that Ofd1 functions after docking and before elaboration of the axoneme in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3531334  PMID: 23300826

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