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1.  Lack of the presynaptic RhoGAP protein oligophrenin1 leads to cognitive disabilities through dysregulation of the cAMP/PKA signalling pathway 
Loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding for the RhoGAP protein of oligophrenin-1 (OPHN1) lead to cognitive disabilities (CDs) in humans, yet the underlying mechanisms are not known. Here, we show that in mice constitutive lack of Ophn1 is associated with dysregulation of the cyclic adenosine monophosphate/phosphate kinase A (cAMP/PKA) signalling pathway in a brain-area-specific manner. Consistent with a key role of cAMP/PKA signalling in regulating presynaptic function and plasticity, we found that PKA-dependent presynaptic plasticity was completely abolished in affected brain regions, including hippocampus and amygdala. At the behavioural level, lack of OPHN1 resulted in hippocampus- and amygdala-related learning disabilities which could be fully rescued by the ROCK/PKA kinase inhibitor fasudil. Together, our data identify OPHN1 as a key regulator of presynaptic function and suggest that, in addition to reported postsynaptic deficits, loss of presynaptic plasticity contributes to the pathophysiology of CDs.
PMCID: PMC3843891  PMID: 24298161
amygdala; presynaptic plasticity; adenylate cyclase; PKA; fasudil
2.  Pre and Post Synaptic NMDA Effects Targeting Purkinje Cells in the Mouse Cerebellar Cortex 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30180.
N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are associated with many forms of synaptic plasticity. Their expression level and subunit composition undergo developmental changes in several brain regions. In the mouse cerebellum, beside a developmental switch between NR2B and NR2A/C subunits in granule cells, functional postsynaptic NMDA receptors are seen in Purkinje cells of neonate and adult but not juvenile rat and mice. A presynaptic effect of NMDA on GABA release by cerebellar interneurons was identified recently. Nevertheless whereas NMDA receptor subunits are detected on parallel fiber terminals, a presynaptic effect of NMDA on spontaneous release of glutamate has not been demonstrated. Using mouse cerebellar cultures and patch-clamp recordings we show that NMDA facilitates glutamate release onto Purkinje cells in young cultures via a presynaptic mechanism, whereas NMDA activates extrasynaptic receptors in Purkinje cells recorded in old cultures. The presynaptic effect of NMDA on glutamate release is also observed in Purkinje cells recorded in acute slices prepared from juvenile but not from adult mice and requires a specific protocol of NMDA application.
PMCID: PMC3261884  PMID: 22276158
3.  Clostridium perfringens Epsilon Toxin Targets Granule Cells in the Mouse Cerebellum and Stimulates Glutamate Release 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(9):e13046.
Epsilon toxin (ET) produced by C. perfringens types B and D is a highly potent pore-forming toxin. ET-intoxicated animals express severe neurological disorders that are thought to result from the formation of vasogenic brain edemas and indirect neuronal excitotoxicity. The cerebellum is a predilection site for ET damage. ET has been proposed to bind to glial cells such as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. However, the possibility that ET binds and attacks the neurons remains an open question. Using specific anti-ET mouse polyclonal antibodies and mouse brain slices preincubated with ET, we found that several brain structures were labeled, the cerebellum being a prominent one. In cerebellar slices, we analyzed the co-staining of ET with specific cell markers, and found that ET binds to the cell body of granule cells, oligodendrocytes, but not astrocytes or nerve endings. Identification of granule cells as neuronal ET targets was confirmed by the observation that ET induced intracellular Ca2+ rises and glutamate release in primary cultures of granule cells. In cultured cerebellar slices, whole cell patch-clamp recordings of synaptic currents in Purkinje cells revealed that ET greatly stimulates both spontaneous excitatory and inhibitory activities. However, pharmacological dissection of these effects indicated that they were only a result of an increased granule cell firing activity and did not involve a direct action of the toxin on glutamatergic nerve terminals or inhibitory interneurons. Patch-clamp recordings of granule cell somata showed that ET causes a decrease in neuronal membrane resistance associated with pore-opening and depolarization of the neuronal membrane, which subsequently lead to the firing of the neuronal network and stimulation of glutamate release. This work demonstrates that a subset of neurons can be directly targeted by ET, suggesting that part of ET-induced neuronal damage observed in neuronal tissue is due to a direct effect of ET on neurons.
PMCID: PMC2948003  PMID: 20941361
4.  Synaptic Maturation at Cortical Projections to the Lateral Amygdala in a Mouse Model of Rett Syndrome 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(7):e11399.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is a neuro-developmental disorder caused by loss of function of Mecp2 - methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 - an epigenetic factor controlling DNA transcription. In mice, removal of Mecp2 in the forebrain recapitulates most of behavioral deficits found in global Mecp2 deficient mice, including amygdala-related hyper-anxiety and lack of social interaction, pointing a role of Mecp2 in emotional learning. Yet very little is known about the establishment and maintenance of synaptic function in the adult amygdala and the role of Mecp2 in these processes. Here, we performed a longitudinal examination of synaptic properties at excitatory projections to principal cells of the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) in Mecp2 mutant mice and their wild-type littermates. We first show that during animal life, Cortico-LA projections switch from a tonic to a phasic mode, whereas Thalamo-LA synapses are phasic at all ages. In parallel, we observed a specific elimination of Cortico-LA synapses and a decrease in their ability of generating presynaptic long term potentiation. In absence of Mecp2, both synaptic maturation and synaptic elimination were exaggerated albeit still specific to cortical projections. Surprisingly, associative LTP was unaffected at Mecp2 deficient synapses suggesting that synaptic maintenance rather than activity-dependent synaptic learning may be causal in RTT physiopathology. Finally, because the timing of synaptic evolution was preserved, we propose that some of the developmental effects of Mecp2 may be exerted within an endogenous program and restricted to synapses which maturate during animal life.
PMCID: PMC2896423  PMID: 20625482
5.  Bacterial Toxins and the Nervous System: Neurotoxins and Multipotential Toxins Interacting with Neuronal Cells 
Toxins  2010;2(4):683-737.
Toxins are potent molecules used by various bacteria to interact with a host organism. Some of them specifically act on neuronal cells (clostridial neurotoxins) leading to characteristics neurological affections. But many other toxins are multifunctional and recognize a wider range of cell types including neuronal cells. Various enterotoxins interact with the enteric nervous system, for example by stimulating afferent neurons or inducing neurotransmitter release from enterochromaffin cells which result either in vomiting, in amplification of the diarrhea, or in intestinal inflammation process. Other toxins can pass the blood brain barrier and directly act on specific neurons.
PMCID: PMC3153206  PMID: 22069606
toxin; neurotoxin; enterotoxin; nervous system; actin cytoskeleton; small gtpases; neurotransmitter
6.  Staphylococcal leukotoxins trigger free intracellular Ca2+ rise in neurones, signalling through acidic stores and activation of store-operated channels 
Cellular Microbiology  2012;15(5):742-758.
Headache, muscle aches and chest pain of mild to medium intensity are among the most common clinical symptoms in moderate Staphylococcus aureus infections, with severe infections usually associated with worsening pain symptoms. These nociceptive responses of the body raise the question of how bacterial infection impinges on the nervous system. Does S. aureus, or its released virulence factors, act directly on neurones? To address this issue, we evaluated the potential effects on neurones of certain bi-component leukotoxins, which are virulent factors released by the bacterium. The activity of four different leukotoxins was verified by measuring the release of glutamate from rat cerebellar granular neurones. The bi-component γ-haemolysin HlgC/HlgB was the most potent leukotoxin, initiating transient rises in intracellular Ca2+ concentration in cerebellar neurones and in primary sensory neurones from dorsal root ganglia, as probed with the Fura-2 Ca2+ indicator dye. Using pharmacological antagonists of receptors and Ca2+ channels, the variations in intracellular Ca2+ concentration were found independent of the activation of voltage-operatedCa2+ channels or glutamate receptors. Drugs targeting Sarco-Endoplasmic Reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) or H+-ATPase and antagonists of the store-operated Ca2+ entry complex blunted, or significantly reduced, the leukotoxin-induced elevation in intracellular Ca2+. Moreover, activation of the ADP-ribosyl cyclase CD38 was also required to initiate the release of Ca2+ from acidic stores. These findings suggest that, prior to forming a pore at the plasma membrane, leukotoxin HlgC/HlgB triggers a multistep process which initiates the release of Ca2+ from lysosomes, modifies the steady-state level of reticular Ca2+ stores and finally activates the Store-Operated Calcium Entry complex.
PMCID: PMC3654557  PMID: 23152983

Results 1-6 (6)