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1.  Hypothalamic Dysfunction of the Thrombospondin Receptor α2δ-1 Underlies the Overeating and Obesity Triggered by Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Deficiency 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(2):554-565.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor, TrkB, are critical components of the neural circuitry controlling appetite and body weight. Diminished BDNF signaling in mice results in severe hyperphagia and obesity. In humans, BDNF haploinsufficiency and the functional Bdnf Val66Met polymorphism have been linked to elevated food intake and body weight. The mechanisms underlying this dysfunction are poorly defined. We demonstrate a chief role of α2δ-1, a calcium channel subunit and thrombospondin receptor, in triggering overeating in mice with central BDNF depletion. We show reduced α2δ-1 cell-surface expression in the BDNF mutant ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH), an energy balance-regulating center. This deficit contributes to the hyperphagia exhibited by BDNF mutant mice because selective inhibition of α2δ-1 by gabapentin infusion into wild-type VMH significantly increases feeding and body weight gain. Importantly, viral-mediated α2δ-1 rescue in BDNF mutant VMH significantly mitigates their hyperphagia, obesity, and liver steatosis and normalizes deficits in glucose homeostasis. Whole-cell recordings in BDNF mutant VMH neurons revealed normal calcium currents but reduced frequency of EPSCs. These results suggest calcium channel-independent effects of α2δ-1 on feeding and implicate α2δ-1–thrombospondin interactions known to facilitate excitatory synapse assembly. Our findings identify a central mechanism mediating the inhibitory effects of BDNF on feeding. They also demonstrate a novel and critical role for α2δ-1 in appetite control and suggest a mechanism underlying weight gain in humans treated with gabapentinoid drugs.
PMCID: PMC3870936  PMID: 24403154
2.  Essential role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the regulation of serotonin transmission in the basolateral amygdala 
Neuroscience  2012;224:125-134.
Human and animal model studies have linked brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) with the etiology of anxiety disorders. This pleiotropic neurotrophin and its receptor, TrkB, promote neuronal survival, differentiation and synaptic plasticity. Here we interrogated the role of BDNF in serotonergic neurotransmission in the basolateral amygdala (BLA), a limbic brain region associated with the neurobiology of anxiety. We found that both GABAergic and pyramidal projection neurons in the wild-type BLA contained TrkB receptors. Examination of BDNF2L/2LCk-cre mutant mice with brain-selective depletion of BDNF revealed mild decreases in serotonin content in the BLA. Notably, whole cell recordings in BLA pyramidal cells uncovered significant alterations in 5-HT2-mediated regulation of GABAergic and glutamatergic transmission in BDNF2L/2LCk-Cre mutant mice that result in a hyperexcitable circuit. These changes were associated with decreased expression of 5-HT2 receptors. Collectively, the results indicate a required role of BDNF in serotonin transmission in the BLA. Furthermore, they suggest a mechanism underlying the reported increase in anxiety-like behavior elicited by perturbed BDNF signaling.
PMCID: PMC3475413  PMID: 22917617
BDNF; serotonin; amygdala; anxiety; pyramidal; GABA; excitability
3.  Spike-Timing Precision and Neuronal Synchrony Are Enhanced by an Interaction between Synaptic Inhibition and Membrane Oscillations in the Amygdala 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e35320.
The basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) is a critical component of the neural circuit regulating fear learning. During fear learning and recall, the amygdala and other brain regions, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, exhibit phase-locked oscillations in the high delta/low theta frequency band (∼2–6 Hz) that have been shown to contribute to the learning process. Network oscillations are commonly generated by inhibitory synaptic input that coordinates action potentials in groups of neurons. In the rat BLA, principal neurons spontaneously receive synchronized, inhibitory input in the form of compound, rhythmic, inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs), likely originating from burst-firing parvalbumin interneurons. Here we investigated the role of compound IPSPs in the rat and rhesus macaque BLA in regulating action potential synchrony and spike-timing precision. Furthermore, because principal neurons exhibit intrinsic oscillatory properties and resonance between 4 and 5 Hz, in the same frequency band observed during fear, we investigated whether compound IPSPs and intrinsic oscillations interact to promote rhythmic activity in the BLA at this frequency. Using whole-cell patch clamp in brain slices, we demonstrate that compound IPSPs, which occur spontaneously and are synchronized across principal neurons in both the rat and primate BLA, significantly improve spike-timing precision in BLA principal neurons for a window of ∼300 ms following each IPSP. We also show that compound IPSPs coordinate the firing of pairs of BLA principal neurons, and significantly improve spike synchrony for a window of ∼130 ms. Compound IPSPs enhance a 5 Hz calcium-dependent membrane potential oscillation (MPO) in these neurons, likely contributing to the improvement in spike-timing precision and synchronization of spiking. Activation of the cAMP-PKA signaling cascade enhanced the MPO, and inhibition of this cascade blocked the MPO. We discuss these results in the context of spike-timing dependent plasticity and modulation by neurotransmitters important for fear learning, such as dopamine.
PMCID: PMC3338510  PMID: 22563382
4.  Stress-induced, Glucocorticoid-dependent Strengthening of Glutamatergic Synapse Transmission in Midbrain Dopamine Neurons 
Neuroscience letters  2009;452(3):273-276.
Stress facilitates development of addictive behaviors in part by stress-induced increase in the strength of glutamatergic synapses at dopamine (DA) neurons within the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Here, we further demonstrate that this stress-induced synaptic adaptation is glucocorticoid-dependent and is progressively developed. Activation of glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) either by in vivo injection of dexamethasone (Dex) or incubation of the VTA slice with Dex potentiate the synaptic strength of glutamatergic synapses at VTA DA neurons, whereas preventing the activation of GRs by Ru486 abolishes this effect. These results suggest that the VTA GRs play a critical role in stress-induced cellular adaptations.
PMCID: PMC2667622  PMID: 19348737
Glucocorticoid; stress; addiction; excitatory synapse; ventral tegmental area; AMPA receptor

Results 1-4 (4)