The olfactory bulb (OB) is the first relay station in the brain where odor information from the olfactory epithelium is integrated, processed through its intrinsic neural circuitry, and conveyed to higher olfactory centers. Compared with profound mechanistic insights into olfactory axon wiring from the nose to the OB, little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of functional neural circuitry among various types of neurons inside the OB. T-box transcription factor Tbr2 is expressed in various types of glutamatergic excitatory neurons in the brain including the OB projection neurons, mitral and tufted cells. Here we generated conditional knockout mice in which the Tbr2 gene is inactivated specifically in mitral and tufted cells from late embryonic stages. Tbr2 deficiency caused cell-autonomous changes in molecular expression including a compensatory increase of another T-box member, Tbr1, and a concomitant shift of vesicular glutamate transporter (VGluT) subtypes from VGluT1 to VGluT2. Tbr2-deficient mitral and tufted cells also exhibited anatomical abnormalities in their dendritic morphology and projection patterns. Additionally, several non-cell-autonomous phenotypes were observed in parvalbumin-, calbindin-, and 5T4-positive GABAergic interneurons. Furthermore, the number of dendrodendritic reciprocal synapses between mitral/tufted cells and GABAergic interneurons was significantly reduced. Upon stimulation with odorants, larger numbers of mitral and tufted cells were activated in Tbr2 conditional knockout mice. These results suggest that Tbr2 is required for not only the proper differentiation of mitral and tufted cells, but also for the establishment of functional neuronal circuitry in the OB and maintenance of excitatory–inhibitory balance crucial for odor information processing.
The sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) must project accurately to their central targets to convey proprioceptive, nociceptive and mechanoreceptive information to the spinal cord. How these different sensory modalities and central connectivities are specified and coordinated still remains unclear. Given the expression of the POU homeodomain transcription factors Brn3a/Pou4f1 and Brn3b/Pou4f2 in DRG and spinal cord sensory neurons, we determined the subtype specification of DRG and spinal cord sensory neurons as well as DRG central projections in Brn3a and Brn3b single and double mutant mice. Inactivation of either or both genes causes no gross abnormalities in early spinal cord neurogenesis; however, in Brn3a single and Brn3a;Brn3b double mutant mice, sensory afferent axons from the DRG fail to form normal trajectories in the spinal cord. The TrkA+ afferents remain outside the dorsal horn and fail to extend into the spinal cord, while the projections of TrkC+ proprioceptive afferents into the ventral horn are also impaired. Moreover, Brn3a mutant DRGs are defective in sensory neuron specification, as marked by the excessive generation of TrkB+ and TrkC+ neurons as well as TrkA+/TrkB+ and TrkA+/TrkC+ double positive cells at early embryonic stages. At later stages in the mutant, TrkB+, TrkC+ and parvalbumin+ neurons diminish while there is a significant increase of CGRP+ and c-ret+ neurons. In addition, Brn3a mutant DRGs display a dramatic down-regulation of Runx1 expression, suggesting that the regulation of DRG sensory neuron specification by Brn3a is mediated in part by Runx1. Our results together demonstrate a critical role for Brn3a in generating DRG sensory neuron diversity and regulating sensory afferent projections to the central targets.
Brn3a/Pou4f1; POU domain transcription factor; Dorsal root ganglion; Sensory neuron specification; Spinal cord; Axonal projection
Maintenance of skeletal muscle structure and function requires innervation by motor neurons, such that denervation causes muscle atrophy. We show that myogenin, an essential regulator of muscle development, controls neurogenic atrophy. Myogenin is up-regulated in skeletal muscle following denervation and regulates expression of the E3 ubiquitin ligases MuRF1 and atrogin-1, which promote muscle proteolysis and atrophy. Deletion of myogenin from adult mice diminishes expression of MuRF1 and atrogin-1 in denervated muscle and confers resistance to atrophy. Mice lacking histone deacetylases (HDACs) 4 and 5 in skeletal muscle fail to up-regulate myogenin and also preserve muscle mass following denervation. Conversely, forced expression of myogenin in skeletal muscle of HDAC mutant mice restores muscle atrophy following denervation. Thus, myogenin plays a dual role as both a regulator of muscle development and an inducer of neurogenic atrophy. These findings reveal a specific pathway for muscle wasting and potential therapeutic targets for this disorder.
Although immunological detection of proteins is used extensively in retinal development, studies are often impeded because antibodies against crucial proteins cannot be generated or are not readily available. Here, we overcome these limitations by constructing genetically engineered alleles for Math5 and Pou4f2, two genes required for retinal ganglion cell (RGC) development. Sequences encoding a peptide epitope from haemagglutinin (HA) were added to Math5 or Pou4f2 in frame to generate Math5HA and Pou4f2HA alleles. We demonstrate that the tagged alleles recapitulated the wild-type expression patterns of the two genes, and that the tags did not interfere with the function of the cognate proteins. In addition, by co-staining, we found that Math5 and Pou4f2 were transiently co-expressed in newly-born RGCs, unequivocally demonstrating that Pou4f2 is immediately downstream of Math5 in RGC formation. The epitope-tagged alleles provide new and useful tools for analyzing gene regulatory networks underlying RGC development.
Math5; Pou4f2; tagged knock-in alleles; retinal ganglion cell development; gene regulatory networks
Despite the magnitude of the problem, no effective treatments exist to prevent retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death and optic nerve degeneration from occurring in diseases affecting the human eye. Animal models currently available for developing treatment strategies suffer from cumbersome procedures required to induce RGC death or rely on mutations that induce defects in developing retinas rather than in mature retinas of adults. Our objective was to develop a robust genetically engineered adult mouse model for RGC loss and optic nerve degeneration based on genetic ablation. To achieve this, we took advantage of Pou4f2 (Brn3b), a gene activated immediately as RGCs begin to differentiate and expressed throughout life. We generated adult mice whose genomes harbored a conditional Pou4f2 allele containing a floxed-lacZ-stop-diphtheria toxin A cassette and a CAGG-Cre-ER™ transgene. In this bigenic model, Cre recombinase is fused to a modified estrogen nuclear receptor in which the estrogen-binding domain binds preferentially to the estrogen agonist tamoxifen rather than to endogenous estradiol. Upon binding to the estrogen-binding domain, tamoxifen derepresses Cre recombinase, leading to the efficient genomic deletion of the floxed lacZ-stop DNA sequence and expression of diphtheria toxin A. Tamoxifen administered to adult mice at different ages by intraperitoneal injection led to rapid RGC loss, reactive gliosis, progressive degradation of the optic nerve over a period of several months, and visual impairment. Perhaps more reflective of human disease, partial loss of RGCs was achieved by modulating the tamoxifen treatment. Especially relevant for RGC death and optic nerve degeneration in human retinal pathologies, RGC-ablated retinas maintained their structural integrity, and other retinal neurons and their connections in the inner and outer plexiform layers appeared unaffected by RGC ablation. These events are hallmarks of progressive optic nerve degeneration observed in human retinal pathologies and demonstrate the validity of this model for use in developing stem cell therapies for replacing dead RGCs with healthy ones.
Retinal ganglion cells; optic nerve degeneration; Pou4f2/Brn3b; diphtheria toxin A; genetic ablation; retinal disease mouse model
General principles for how genomic regulatory elements evolve to alter patterns of gene expression remain vague. The purpose of this study was to gain insights into the evolution of genomic regulatory elements by investigating the unique features of a transcriptional enhancer that directs Spec2a gene expression in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. The Spec2a enhancer is embedded in a repetitive sequence family interspersed throughout the genome. We surveyed the genome and identified 274 of these sequences. They displayed a continuum of sequence divergence defining high and low divergence classes. Alignment of 52 most related to the Spec2a sequence revealed a complex pattern of rearrangements, insertions and deletions, and base-pair changes. A distance tree for the 52 sequences was constructed and correlated with enhancer activity. Unexpectedly, we found a wide range of activities. Notably, repetitive sequences lacking essential cis-elements found in the Spec2a enhancer still had strong activity. We identified short, conserved motifs within the repetitive sequences that may represent novel cis-regulatory elements. Many repetitive sequences with enhancer activity were found nearby genes, suggesting that they regulate gene expression. The results show that the repetitive sequences are rapidly evolving in the S. purpuratus genome and may serve as a renewable pool of transcriptional enhancers.
Strongylocentrotus purpuratus genomics; sea urchin transcriptional enhancers; interspersed repetitive sequences; cis-regulatory element evolution
Retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) are programmed early in development to acquire the competence for specifying the seven retinal cell types. Acquiring competence is a complex spatiotemporal process that is still only vaguely understood. Here, our objective was to more fully understand the mechanisms by which RPCs become competent for specifying a retinal ganglion cell (RGC) fate. RGCs are the first retinal cell type to differentiate and their abnormal development leads to apoptosis and optic nerve degeneration. Previous work demonstrated that the paired domain factor Pax6 and the bHLH factor Atoh7 are required for RPCs to specify RGCs. RGC commitment is marked by the expression of the Pou domain factor Pou4f2 and the Lim domain factor Isl1. We show that three RPC subpopulations can specify RGCs: Atoh7-expressing RPCs, Neurod1-expressing RPCs, and Atoh7-Neurod1-expressing RPCs. All three RPC subpopulations were highly interspersed throughout retinal development, although each subpopulation maintained a distinct temporal pattern. Most, but not all, RPCs from each subpopulation were postmitotic. Atoh7-Neurod1 double knockout mice were generated and double mutant retinas revealed an unexpected role for Neurod1 in specifying RGC fate. We conclude that RPCs have a complex regulatory gene expression program in which they acquire competence using highly integrated mechanisms.
Retinal development; retinal progenitor cells; retinal ganglion cells; cell cycle; homeobox factor Pax6; proneural bHLH factors Atoh7; Neurod1
During vertebrate retinal development, the seven retinal cell types differentiate sequentially from a single population of retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) and organize themselves into a distinct laminar structure. The purpose of this study was to determine whether β-catenin, which functions both as a nuclear effector for the canonical Wnt signaling pathway and as a regulator of cell adhesion, is required for retinal neurogenesis or lamination. We used the Cre-loxP system to either eliminate β-catenin or to express a constitutively active form during retinal neurogenesis. Eliminating β-catenin did not affect cell differentiation, but did result in the loss of the radial arrangement of RPCs and caused abnormal migration of differentiated neurons. As a result, the laminar structure was massively disrupted in β-catenin-null retinas, although all retinal cell types still formed. In contrast to other neural tissues, eliminating β-catenin did not significantly reduce the proliferation rate of RPCs; likewise, activating β-catenin ectopically in RPCs did not result in overproliferation, but loss of neural retinal identity. These results indicate that β-catenin is essential during retinal neurogenesis as a regulator of cell adhesion but not as a nuclear effector of the canonical Wnt signaling pathway. The results further imply that retinal lamination and retinal cell differentiation are genetically separable processes.
retina; retinal development; β-catenin; retinal lamination; cell adhsion; cell differentiation
As neuronal progenitors differentiate into neurons, they acquire a unique set of transcription factors. The transcriptional repressor REST prevents progenitors from undergoing differentiation. Notably, REST binding sites are often associated with retinal ganglion cell (RGC) genes whose expression in the retina is positively controlled by Atoh7, a factor essential for RGC formation. The key regulators that enable a retinal progenitor cell (RPC) to commit to an RGC fate have not been identified. We show here that REST suppresses RGC gene expression in RPCs. REST inactivation causes aberrant expression of RGC transcription factors in proliferating RPCs, independent of Atoh7, resulting in increased RGC formation. Strikingly, inactivating REST in Atoh7-null retinas restores transcription factor expression, which partially activates downstream RGC genes but is insufficient to prevent RGC loss. Our results demonstrate an Atoh7-independent program for initial activation of RGC genes and suggest a novel role for REST in preventing premature expression in RPCs.
retinal ganglion cells; retinal progenitor cells; REST (NRSF); Atoh7 (Math5); Neurod1
Although skeletal muscle metabolism is a well-studied physiological process, little is known about how it is regulated at the transcriptional level. The myogenic transcription factor myogenin is required for skeletal muscle development during embryonic and fetal life, but myogenin's role in adult skeletal muscle is unclear. We sought to determine myogenin's function in adult muscle metabolism. A Myog conditional allele and Cre-ER transgene were used to delete Myog in adult mice. Mice were analyzed for exercise capacity by involuntary treadmill running. To assess oxidative and glycolytic metabolism, we performed indirect calorimetry, monitored blood glucose and lactate levels, and performed histochemical analyses on muscle fibers. Surprisingly, we found that Myog-deleted mice performed significantly better than controls in high- and low-intensity treadmill running. This enhanced exercise capacity was due to more efficient oxidative metabolism during low- and high-intensity exercise and more efficient glycolytic metabolism during high-intensity exercise. Furthermore, Myog-deleted mice had an enhanced response to long-term voluntary exercise training on running wheels. We identified several candidate genes whose expression was altered in exercise-stressed muscle of mice lacking myogenin. The results suggest that myogenin plays a critical role as a high-level transcriptional regulator to control the energy balance between aerobic and anaerobic metabolism in adult skeletal muscle.
The mechanisms regulating retinal ganglion cell (RGC) development are crucial for retinogenesis and for the establishment of normal vision. However, these mechanisms are only vaguely understood. RGCs are the first neuronal lineage to segregate from pluripotent progenitors in the developing retina. As output neurons, RGCs display developmental features very distinct from those of the other retinal cell types. To better understand RGC development, we have previously constructed a gene regulatory network featuring a hierarchical cascade of transcription factors that ultimately controls the expression of downstream effector genes. This has revealed the existence of a Pou domain transcription factor, Pou4f2, that occupies a key node in the RGC gene regulatory network and that is essential for RGC differentiation. However, little is known about the genes that connect upstream regulatory genes, such as Pou4f2 with downstream effector genes responsible for RGC differentiation. The purpose of this study was to characterize the retinal function of eomesodermin (Eomes), a T-box transcription factor with previously unsuspected roles in retinogenesis. We show that Eomes is expressed in developing RGCs and is a mediator of Pou4f2 function. Pou4f2 directly regulates Eomes expression through a cis-regulatory element within a conserved retinal enhancer. Deleting Eomes in the developing retina causes defects reminiscent of those in Pou4f2−/− retinas. Moreover, myelin ensheathment in the optic nerves of Eomes−/− embryos is severely impaired, suggesting that Eomes regulates this process. We conclude that Eomes is a crucial regulator positioned immediately downstream of Pou4f2 and is required for RGC differentiation and optic nerve development.
Eomesodermin; T-box transcription factors; Pou4f2; Retinal ganglion cells; Optic nerve development; Mouse
T-brain gene-2 (Tbr2) is specifically expressed in the intermediate (basal) progenitor cells (IPCs) of the developing cerebral cortex; however, its function in this biological context has so far been overlooked due to the early lethality of Tbr2 mutant embryos. Conditional ablation of Tbr2 in the developing forebrain resulted in the loss of IPCs and their differentiated progeny in mutant cortex. Intriguingly, early loss of IPCs led to a decrease in cortical surface expansion and thickness with a neuronal reduction observed in all cortical layers. These findings suggest that IPC progeny contribute to the correct morphogenesis of each cortical layer. Our observations were confirmed by tracing Tbr2+ IPC cell fate using Tbr2∷GFP transgenic mice. Finally, we demonstrated that misexpression of Tbr2 is sufficient to induce IPC identity in ventricular radial glial cells (RGCs). Together, these findings identify Tbr2 as a critical factor for the specification of IPCs during corticogenesis.
Muscle activity contributes to formation of the neuromuscular junction and affects muscle metabolism and contractile properties through regulated gene expression. However, the mechanisms coordinating these diverse activity-regulated processes remain poorly characterized. Recently, it was reported that histone deacetylase 4 (HDAC4) can mediate denervation-induced myogenin and nicotinic acetylcholine receptor gene expression. Here, we report that HDAC4 is not only necessary for denervation-dependent induction of genes involved in synaptogenesis (nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and muscle-specific receptor tyrosine kinase) but also for denervation-dependent suppression of genes involved in glycolysis (muscle-specific enolase and phosphofructokinase). In addition, HDAC4 differentially regulates genes involved in muscle fiber type specification by inducing myosin heavy chain IIA and suppressing myosin heavy chain IIB. Consistent with these regulated gene profiles, HDAC4 is enriched in fast oxidative fibers of innervated tibialis anterior muscle and HDAC4 knockdown enhances glycolysis in cultured myotubes. HDAC4 mediates gene induction indirectly by suppressing the expression of Dach2 and MITR that function as myogenin gene corepressors. In contrast, HDAC4 is directly recruited to myocyte enhancer factor 2 sites within target promoters to mediate gene suppression. Finally, we discovered an HDAC4/myogenin positive feedback loop that coordinates gene induction and repression underlying muscle phenotypic changes after muscle denervation.
Retinal development occurs in mice between embryonic day E11.5 and post-natal day P8 as uncommitted neuroblasts assume retinal cell fates. The genetic pathways regulating retinal development are being identified but little is understood about the global networks that link these pathways together or the complexity of the expressed gene set required to form the retina. At E14.5, the retina contains mostly uncommitted neuroblasts and newly differentiated neurons. Here we report a sequence analysis of an E14.5 retinal cDNA library. To date, we have archived 15 268 ESTs and have annotated 9035, which represent 5288 genes. The fraction of singly occurring ESTs as a function of total EST accrual suggests that the total number of expressed genes in the library could approach 27 000. The 9035 ESTs were categorized by their known or putative functions. Representation of the genes involved in eye development was significantly higher in the retinal clone set compared with the NIA mouse 15K cDNA clone set. Screening with a microarray containing 864 cDNA clones using wild-type and brn-3b (–/–) retinal cDNA probes revealed a potential regulatory linkage between the transcription factor Brn-3b and expression of GAP-43, a protein associated with axon growth. The retinal EST database will be a valuable platform for gene expression profiling and a new source for gene discovery.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most prevalent inherited childhood muscle disorder in humans. mdx mice exhibit a similar pathophysiology to the human disorder allowing for an in-depth investigation of DMD. Myogenin, a myogenic regulatory factor, is best known for its role in embryonic myogenesis, but its role in adult muscle maintenance and regeneration is still poorly understood. Here, we generated an mdx:Myogflox/flox mouse harboring a tamoxifen-inducible Cre recombinase transgene, which was used to conditionally delete Myog during adult life. After tamoxifen treatment, three groups of mice were created to study the effects of Myog deletion: mdx:Myogflox/flox mice (mdx), Myogflox/flox mice (wild-type), and mdx:MyogfloxΔ/floxΔ:Cre-ER mice (mdx:Myog-deleted). mdx:Myog-deleted mice exhibited no adverse phenotype and behaved normally. When run to exhaustion, mdx:Myog-deleted mice demonstrated an enhanced capacity for exercise compared to mdx mice, running nearly as far as wild-type mice. Moreover, these mice showed the same signature characteristics of muscle regeneration as mdx mice. Unexpectedly, we found that myogenin was dispensable for muscle regeneration. Factors associated with muscle fatigue, metabolism, and proteolysis were significantly altered in mdx:Myog-deleted mice, and this might contribute to their increased exercise capacity. Our results reveal novel functions for myogenin in adult muscle and suggest that reducing Myog expression in other muscle disease models may partially restore muscle function.