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1.  Stac3 is a component of the excitation-contraction coupling machinery and mutated in Native American myopathy 
Nature communications  2013;4:1952.
Excitation-contraction coupling, the process that regulates contractions by skeletal muscles, transduces changes in membrane voltage by activating release of Ca2+ from internal stores to initiate muscle contraction. Defects in EC coupling are associated with muscle diseases. Here we identify Stac3 as a novel component of the EC coupling machinery. Using a zebrafish genetic screen, we generate a locomotor mutation that is mapped to stac3. We provide electrophysiological, Ca2+ imaging, immunocytochemical and biochemical evidence that Stac3 participates in excitation-contraction coupling in muscles. Furthermore, we reveal that a mutation in human STAC3 as the genetic basis of the debilitating Native American myopathy (NAM). Analysis of NAM stac3 in zebrafish shows that the NAM mutation decreases excitation-contraction coupling. These findings enhance our understanding of both excitation-contraction coupling and the pathology of myopathies.
PMCID: PMC4056023  PMID: 23736855
2.  TRPM7 is required within zebrafish sensory neurons for the activation of touch-evoked escape behaviors 
Mutations in the gene encoding TRPM7 (trpm7), a member of the TRP superfamily of cation channels that possesses an enzymatically active kinase at its carboxyl terminus, cause the touch-unresponsive zebrafish mutant touchdown. We identified and characterized a new allele of touchdown, as well as two previously reported alleles, and found that all three alleles harbor mutations which abolish channel activity. Through the selective restoration of TRPM7 expression in sensory neurons we found that TRPM7’s kinase activity, and selectivity for divalent cations over monovalent cations, were dispensable for touch-evoked activation of escape behaviors in zebrafish.
Additional characterization revealed that sensory neurons were present and capable of responding to tactile stimuli in touchdown mutants, indicating that TRPM7 is not required for sensory neuron survival or mechanosensation. Finally, exposure to elevated concentrations of divalent cations was found to restore touch-evoked behaviors in touchdown mutants. Collectively these findings are consistent with a role for zebrafish TRPM7 within sensory neurons in the modulation of neurotransmitter release at central synapses, similar to that proposed for mammalian TRPM7 at peripheral synapses.
PMCID: PMC3164782  PMID: 21832193
3.  NaV1.6a is required for normal activation of motor circuits normally excited by tactile stimulation 
Developmental neurobiology  2010;70(7):508-522.
A screen for zebrafish motor mutants identified two non-complementing alleles of a recessive mutation that were named non-active (navmi89 and navmi130). nav embryos displayed diminished spontaneous and touch-evoked escape behaviors during the first three days of development. Genetic mapping identified the gene encoding NaV1.6a (scn8aa) as a potential candidate for nav. Subsequent cloning of scn8aa from the two alleles of nav uncovered two missense mutations in NaV1.6a that eliminated channel activity when assayed heterologously. Furthermore the injection of RNA encoding wild type scn8aa rescued the nav mutant phenotype indicating that scn8aa was the causative gene of nav.
In vivo electrophysiological analysis of the touch-evoked escape circuit indicated that voltage-dependent inward current was decreased in mechanosensory neurons in mutants, but they were able to fire action potentials. Furthermore tactile stimulation of mutants activated some neurons downstream of mechanosensory neurons but failed to activate the swim locomotor circuit in accord with the behavioral response of initial escape contractions but no swimming. Thus mutant mechanosensory neurons appeared to respond to tactile stimulation but failed to initiate swimming. Interestingly fictive swimming could be initiated pharmacologically suggesting that a swim circuit was present in mutants. These results suggested that NaV1.6a was required for touch-induced activation of the swim locomotor network.
PMCID: PMC2900195  PMID: 20225246
zebrafish; NaV1.6; scn8a; motor behaviors
4.  touché is required for touch evoked generator potentials within vertebrate sensory neurons 
The process by which light-touch in vertebrates is transformed into an electrical response in cutaneous mechanosensitive neurons is a largely unresolved question. To address this question we undertook a forward genetic screen in zebrafish (Danio rerio) to identify mutants exhibiting abnormal touch-evoked behaviors, despite the presence of sensory neurons and peripheral neurites. One family, subsequently named touché, was found to harbor a recessive mutation which produced offspring that were unresponsive to light-touch, but responded to a variety of other sensory stimuli. The optogenetic activation of motor behaviors by touché mutant sensory neurons expressing ChannelRhodopsin-2 suggested that the synaptic output of sensory neurons was intact, consistent with a defect in sensory neuron activation.
To explore sensory neuron activation we developed an in vivo preparation permitting the precise placement of a combined electrical and tactile stimulating probe upon eGFP positive peripheral neurites. In wild type larva electrical and tactile stimulation of peripheral neurites produced action potentials detectable within the cell body. In a subset of these sensory neurons an underlying generator potential could be observed in response to subthreshold tactile stimuli. A closer examination revealed that the amplitude of the generator potential was proportional to the stimulus amplitude. When assayed touché mutant sensory neurons also responded to electrical stimulation of peripheral neurites similar to wild type larvae, however tactile stimulation of these neurites failed to uncover a subset of sensory neurons possessing generator potentials. These findings suggest that touché is required for generator potentials, and that generator potentials underlie responsiveness to light-touch in zebrafish.
PMCID: PMC2921932  PMID: 20631165
Somatosensory; Mechanosensory; Touch; Mutant; Nociception; Patch Clamp
5.  Defective Glycinergic Synaptic Transmission in Zebrafish Motility Mutants 
Glycine is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the spinal cord and brainstem. Recently, in vivo analysis of glycinergic synaptic transmission has been pursued in zebrafish using molecular genetics. An ENU mutagenesis screen identified two behavioral mutants that are defective in glycinergic synaptic transmission. Zebrafish bandoneon (beo) mutants have a defect in glrbb, one of the duplicated glycine receptor (GlyR) β subunit genes. These mutants exhibit a loss of glycinergic synaptic transmission due to a lack of synaptic aggregation of GlyRs. Due to the consequent loss of reciprocal inhibition of motor circuits between the two sides of the spinal cord, motor neurons activate simultaneously on both sides resulting in bilateral contraction of axial muscles of beo mutants, eliciting the so-called ‘accordion’ phenotype. Similar defects in GlyR subunit genes have been observed in several mammals and are the basis for human hyperekplexia/startle disease. By contrast, zebrafish shocked (sho) mutants have a defect in slc6a9, encoding GlyT1, a glycine transporter that is expressed by astroglial cells surrounding the glycinergic synapse in the hindbrain and spinal cord. GlyT1 mediates rapid uptake of glycine from the synaptic cleft, terminating synaptic transmission. In zebrafish sho mutants, there appears to be elevated extracellular glycine resulting in persistent inhibition of postsynaptic neurons and subsequent reduced motility, causing the ‘twitch-once’ phenotype. We review current knowledge regarding zebrafish ‘accordion’ and ‘twitch-once’ mutants, including beo and sho, and report the identification of a new α2 subunit that revises the phylogeny of zebrafish GlyRs.
PMCID: PMC2813725  PMID: 20161699
glycine; synapse; receptor; transporter; zebrafish; behavior; motility
6.  Hes1 Directly Controls Cell Proliferation through the Transcriptional Repression of p27Kip1 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(10):4262-4271.
A transcriptional regulator, Hes1, plays crucial roles in the control of differentiation and proliferation of neuronal, endocrine, and T-lymphocyte progenitors during development. Mechanisms for the regulation of cell proliferation by Hes1, however, remain to be verified. In embryonic carcinoma cells, endogenous Hes1 expression was repressed by retinoic acid in concord with enhanced p27Kip1 expression and cell cycle arrest. Conversely, conditional expression of a moderate but not maximal level of Hes1 in HeLa cells by a tetracycline-inducible system resulted in reduced p27Kip1 expression, which was attributed to decreased basal transcript rather than enhanced proteasomal degradation, with concomitant increases in the growth rate and saturation density. Hes1 induction repressed the promoter activity of a 5′ flanking basal enhancer region of p27Kip1 gene in a manner dependent on Hes1 expression levels, and this was mediated by its binding to class C sites in the promoter region. Finally, hypoplastic fetal thymi, as well as livers and brains of Hes1-deficient mice, showed significantly increased p27Kip1 transcripts compared with those of control littermates. These results have suggested that Hes1 directly contributes to the promotion of progenitor cell proliferation through transcriptional repression of a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p27Kip1.
PMCID: PMC1087711  PMID: 15870295

Results 1-6 (6)