To whom should a male directs his mating? While it is a critical social interaction, little is known about molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling mammalian sexual preference. Here we report that the neurotransmitter 5-HT is required for male sexual preference. Male mice lacking central serotonergic neurons lost sexual preference but were not generally defective in olfaction. A role for 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) was demonstrated by the phenotype of mice unable to synthesize 5-HT in the brain when lacking tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (Tph2). 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) injection rescued the phenotype of adult Tph2 knockout mice within 35 minutes. These results indicate that 5-HT and serotonergic neurons in the adult brain regulate mammalian sexual preference.
β-Nitroalcohols (βNAs) are promising corneoscleral crosslinking agents for the treatment of diseases such as keratoconus and myopia. Although it is believed that formaldehyde is released from the crosslinking reactions of βNAs, the mechanism by which βNAs react with amine-functionalized polymers has yet to be known. In this study, we present the reaction mechanism of the βNA crosslinking. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data provide strong evidence that formaldehyde is released during the reaction. Catalytic studies show that sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and salmon testes DNA accelerate the reaction while hydroxynitrile lyase from Arabidopsis thaliana decelerates the crosslinking reaction. These results suggest that βNAs are potential self-administered crosslinking agents for future clinical use.
biomedical applications; catalysts; crosslinking; gels; swelling
Commissural axons cross the ventral midline of the neural tube in a Slit-dependent manner. The underlying molecular mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Here we report that the deubiquitinating enzyme USP33 interacts with the Robo1 receptor. USP33 is essential for midline crossing by commissural axons and for their response to Slit. Our results reveal a previously unknown role of USP33 in vertebrate commissural axon guidance and in Slit signaling.
The biological actions of steroid hormones are mediated primarily by their cognate nuclear receptors, which serve as steroid-dependent transcription factors. However, steroids can also execute their functions by modulating intracellular signaling cascades rapidly and independently of transcriptional regulation. Despite the potential significance of such “non-genomic” steroid actions, their biological roles and the underlying molecular mechanisms are not well understood, particularly with regard to their effects on behavioral regulation. The major steroid hormone in the fruit fly Drosophila is 20-hydroxy-ecdysone (20E), which plays a variety of pivotal roles during development via the nuclear ecdysone receptors. Here we report that DopEcR, a G-protein coupled receptor for ecdysteroids, is involved in activity- and experience-dependent plasticity of the adult central nervous system. Remarkably, a courtship memory defect in rutabaga (Ca2+/calmodulin-responsive adenylate cyclase) mutants was rescued by DopEcR overexpression or acute 20E feeding, whereas a memory defect in dunce (cAMP-specific phosphodiestrase) mutants was counteracted when a loss-of-function DopEcR mutation was introduced. A memory defect caused by suppressing dopamine synthesis was also restored through enhanced DopEcR-mediated ecdysone signaling, and rescue and phenocopy experiments revealed that the mushroom body (MB)—a brain region central to learning and memory in Drosophila—is critical for the DopEcR-dependent processing of courtship memory. Consistent with this finding, acute 20E feeding induced a rapid, DopEcR-dependent increase in cAMP levels in the MB. Our multidisciplinary approach demonstrates that DopEcR mediates the non-canonical actions of 20E and rapidly modulates adult conditioned behavior through cAMP signaling, which is universally important for neural plasticity. This study provides novel insights into non-genomic actions of steroids, and opens a new avenue for genetic investigation into an underappreciated mechanism critical to behavioral control by steroids.
The brain is a prominent target of steroid hormones, which control a variety of neurobiological processes and are critical to the regulation of behavior. Some effects of these hormones involve changes in gene expression and thus emerge slowly, over the course of hours or even days. Other responses to steroids occur rapidly and are independent of transcriptional regulation. Their functions and mechanisms of action are poorly understood, particularly in the context of steroid-mediated control of behavior. Here we show, using the genetic model organism Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly), that an unconventional, membrane-bound receptor for the molting hormone ecdysone transmits a novel form of steroid signaling in the adult brain. Our study shows that this novel form of steroid signaling has a robust interface with the classical “memory genes” that encode central components of the so-called cAMP signaling pathway, which is universally important for neuronal and behavioral plasticity. These findings underscore the significance of steroid signaling in memory processing, and provide a foundation for the genetic analysis of rapid, unconventional steroid signaling in behavioral regulation.
Dysregulation of eating behavior can lead to obesity, which affects 10% of the adult population worldwide and accounts for nearly 3 million deaths every year. Despite this burden on society, we currently lack effective pharmacological treatment options to regulate appetite. We used Drosophila melanogaster larvae to develop a high-throughput whole organism screen for drugs that modulate food intake. In a screen of 3630 small molecules, we identified the serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT) receptor antagonist metitepine as a potent anorectic drug. Using cell-based assays we show that metitepine is an antagonist of all five Drosophila 5-HT receptors. We screened fly mutants for each of these receptors and found that serotonin receptor 5-HT2A is the sole molecular target for feeding inhibition by metitepine. These results highlight the conservation of molecular mechanisms controlling appetite and provide a method for unbiased whole-organism drug screens to identify novel drugs and molecular pathways modulating food intake.
After Drosophila males are rejected by mated females, their subsequent courtship is inhibited even when encountering virgin females. Molecular mechanisms underlying courtship conditioning in the CNS are unclear. In this study, we find that tyramine β hydroxylase (TβH) mutant males unable to synthesize octopamine (OA) showed impaired courtship conditioning, which could be rescued by transgenic TβH expression in the CNS. Inactivation of octopaminergic neurons mimicked the TβH mutant phenotype. Transient activation of octopaminergic neurons in males not only decreased their courtship of virgin females, but also produced courtship conditioning. Single cell analysis revealed projection of octopaminergic neurons to the mushroom bodies. Deletion of the OAMB gene encoding an OA receptor expressed in the mushroom bodies disrupted courtship conditioning. Inactivation of neurons expressing OAMB also eliminated courtship conditioning. OAMB neurons responded robustly to male-specific pheromone cis-vaccenyl acetate in a dose-dependent manner. Our results indicate that OA plays an important role in courtship conditioning through its OAMB receptor expressed in a specific neuronal subset of the mushroom bodies.
Shp2 is a non-receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase containing two Src homology 2 (SH2) domains that is implicated in intracellular signaling events controlling cell proliferation, differentiation and migration. To examine the role of Shp2 in brain development, we created mice with Shp2 selectively deleted in neural stem/progenitor cells. Homozygous mutant mice exhibited early postnatal lethality with defects in neural stem cell self-renewal and neuronal/glial cell fate specification. Here we report a critical role of Shp2 in guiding neuronal cell migration in the cerebellum. In homozygous mutants, we observed reduced and less foliated cerebellum, ectopic presence of external granule cells and mispositioned Purkinje cells, a phenotype very similar to that of mutant mice lacking either SDF-1α or CXCR4. Consistently, Shp2-deficient granule cells failed to migrate toward SDF-1α in an in vitro cell migration assay, and SDF-1α treatment triggered a robust induction of tyrosyl phosphorylation on Shp2. Together, these results suggest that although Shp2 is involved in multiple signaling events during brain development, a prominent role of the phosphatase is to mediate SDF-1α/CXCR4 signal in guiding cerebellar granule cell migration.
The proper regulation of temporal and spatial expression of the axon guidance cues and their receptors is critical for the normal wiring of nervous system during development. Netrins, a family of secreted guidance cues, are involved in the midline crossing of spinal commissural axons and in the guidance of cortical efferents. Axons normally lose the responsiveness to their attractants when they arrive at their targets, where the attractant is produced. However the molecular mechanism is still unknown. We investigated the molecular mechanism of down-regulation of netrin-1 signaling in the embryonic cortical neurons. Netrin-1 induced the ubiquitination and proteolytic cleavage of Deleted in Colorectal Cancer (DCC), a trans-membrane receptor for netrin, in dissociated cortical neurons. A dramatic decrease of DCC level particularly on the cell surface was also observed after netrin-1 stimulation. Specific ubiquitin–proteasome inhibitors prevented the netrin-induced DCC cleavage and decrease of cell surface DCC. We suggest that the ligand-mediated down-regulation of DCC might participate in the loss of netrin-responsiveness in the developing nervous system.
cortical neurons; deleted in colorectal cancer; netrin; proteolytic cleavage; ubiquitination
The axon guidance cue netrin is importantly involved in neuronal development. DCC (deleted in colorectal cancer) is a functional receptor for netrin and mediates axon outgrowth and the steering response. Here we show that different regions of the intracellular domain of DCC directly interacted with the tyrosine kinases Src and focal adhesion kinase (FAK). Netrin activated both FAK and Src and stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of DCC. Inhibition of Src family kinases reduced DCC tyrosine phosphorylation and blocked both axon attraction and outgrowth of neurons in response to netrin. Mutation of the tyrosine phosphorylation residue in DCC abolished its function of mediating netrin-induced axon attraction. On the basis of our observations, we suggest a model in which DCC functions as a kinase-coupled receptor, and FAK and Src act immediately downstream of DCC in netrin signaling.
Netrins are prototypical axon guidance cues whose attractive signaling requires the small GTPase Rac1. It remains unclear how Rac1 is regulated in the netrin pathway. DOCK180 is a member of a new family of guanine nucleotide exchange factors for Rho GTPases. Here we provide evidence implicating DOCK180 in netrin signal transduction. Netrin promoted the formation of a protein-protein interaction complex that included DOCK180 and the netrin receptor deleted in colorectal carcinoma (DCC). Inhibition of DOCK180 reduced activation of Rac1 by netrin. Both axon outgrowth and axon attraction induced by netrin were inhibited after DOCK180 knockdown in vertebrate neurons. The in vivo functional role of DOCK180 was demonstrated by its requirement for projection of commissural axons in the neural tube. These findings indicate that netrin stimulation recruits DOCK180 through DCC, which then activates small GTPases, suggesting an essential role for DOCK180 in mediating attractive responses by neurons to netrin-1.
Although netrins are an important family of neuronal guidance proteins, intracellular mechanisms that mediate netrin function are not well understood. Here we show that netrin-1 induces tyrosine phosphorylation of proteins including focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and the Src family kinase Fyn. Blockers of Src family kinases inhibited FAK phosphorylation and axon outgrowth and attraction by netrin. Dominant-negative FAK and Fyn mutants inhibited the attractive turning response to netrin. Axon outgrowth and attraction induced by netrin-1 were significantly reduced in neurons lacking the FAK gene. Our results show the biochemical and functional links between netrin, a prototypical neuronal guidance cue, and FAK, a central player in intracellular signaling that is crucial for cell migration.
Neuronal migration and lamina-specific primary afferent projections are crucial for establishing spinal cord circuits, but the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we report that in mice lacking Dcc (deleted in colorectal cancer), some early-born neurons could not migrate ventrally in the spinal cord. Conversely, forced expression of Dcc caused ventral migration and prevented dorsolateral migration of late-born spinal neurons. In the superficial layer of the spinal cord of Dcc−/− mutants, mislocalized neurons are followed by proprioceptive afferents, while their presence repels nociceptive afferents through Sema3a. Thus, our study has shown that Dcc is a key molecule required for ventral migration of early-born neurons, and that appropriate neuronal migration is a prerequisite for, and coupled to, normal projections of primary afferents in the developing spinal cord.
Dcc; Early-born neuron; Migration; Primary afferents; Spinal cord; Mouse
During neuronal development, netrin and its receptors UNC5 and DCC (deleted in colorectal cancer) guide axonal growth cones in navigating to their targets. Netrin also plays important roles in the regulation of cell migration, tissue morphogenesis and tumor growth. Here, we show that netrin induces UNC5 tyrosine phosphorylation and that this effect of netrin is dependent on its co-receptor DCC. UNC5 tyrosine phosphorylation is known to be important for netrin to induce cell migration and axonal repulsion. Src tyrosine kinase activity is required for netrin to stimulate UNC5 tyrosine phosphorylation in neurons and transfected cells. The SH2 domain of Src kinase directly interacts with the cytosolic domain of UNC5 in a tyrosine-phosphorylation-dependent manner. Furthermore, the tyrosine kinase focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is also involved in netrin-induced UNC5 tyrosine phosphorylation. Both Src and FAK can phosphorylate UNC5. Our data suggest a model in which netrin stimulates UNC5 tyrosine phosphorylation and signaling in a manner dependent on the co-receptor DCC, through the recruitment of Src and FAK kinases.
Src family tyrosine kinases; Focal adhesion kinase; FAK; Deleted in colorectal cancer; DCC; UNC5 receptor; Netrin signaling; Tyrosine phosphorylation
Signaling molecules are essential for vertebrate embryonic development. Here, two Xenopus homologs of the Drosophila gene fringe, lunatic Fringe (lFng) and radical Fringe (rFng), were identified and the protein product of lFng further characterized. The messenger RNA of lFng is supplied as a maternal message. Its product is a precursor protein consisting of pre-, pro-, and mature regions. The mature lunatic Fringe protein is secreted extracellularly, and it induced mesodermal tissue formation in animal cap assays. These results indicate that secreted lunatic Fringe can induce mesoderm and reveal that the Fringe proteins are a family of vertebrate signaling molecules.
Migration is a basic feature of many cell types in a wide range of species1. Since the 1800s, cell migration has been proposed to occur in the nervous and immune systems2,3, and distinct molecular cues for mammalian neurons and leukocytes have been identified. Here we report that Slit, a secreted protein previously known for its role of repulsion in axon guidance and neuronal migration, can also inhibit leukocyte chemotaxis induced by chemotactic factors. Slit inhibition of the chemokine-induced chemotaxis can be reconstituted by the co-expression of a chemokine receptor containing seven transmembrane domains and Roundabout (Robo), a Slit receptor containing a single transmembrane domain. Thus, there is a functional interaction between single and seven transmembrane receptors. Our results reveal the activity of a neuronal guidance cue in regulating leukocyte migration and indicate that there may be a general conservation of guidance mechanisms underlying metazoan cell migration. In addition, we have uncovered an inhibitor of leukocyte chemotaxis, and propose a new therapeutic approach to treat diseases involving leukocyte migration and chemotactic factors.
Cell migration is essential in species ranging from bacteria to humans (for recent reviews, see Lauffenburger and Horwitz 1996; Mitchison and Cramer 1996; Montell 1999). In the amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum, cell migration is involved in chemotaxis toward food sources and in aggregation (for review, see Devreotes and Zigmond 1988; Parent and Devreotes 1999; Chung et al. 2001). In higher vertebrates, cell migration plays crucial roles in multiple physiological and pathological processes. During embryonic and neonatal development, cell migration is crucial in morphogenetic processes such as gastrulation, cardiogenesis, and the formation of the nervous system (for review, see Hatten and Mason 1990; Rakic 1990; Hatten and Heintz 1998; Bentivoglio and Mazzarello 1999). In adult animals, cell migration is required for leukocyte trafficking and inflammatory responses (for review, see McCutcheon 1946; Harris 1954; Devreotes and Zigmond 1988). In tumoriogenesis, tumor-induced angiogenesis and tumor metastasis both involve cell migration. Although it is well known that cell migration is necessary for all these processes, our understanding of mechanisms controlling cell migration is still limited. Here we briefly review the significance of neuronal migration and focus on recent studies on the directional guidance of neuronal migration, discussing the possibility that guidance mechanisms for neurons are conserved with those for other somatic cells.
A new study demonstrating a pathway for neuronal migration in humans, but not in monkeys, suggests that migration has a key role in the evolution of the brain, as well as its development.
Two bilaterally symmetric eyes arise from the anterior neural plate in vertebrate embryos. An interesting question is whether both eyes share a common developmental origin or they originate separately. We report here that the expression pattern of a new gene ET reveals that there is a single retina field which resolves into two separate primordia, a suggestion supported by the expression pattern of the Xenopus Pax-6 gene. Lineage tracing experiments demonstrate that retina field resolution is not due to migration of cells in the median region to the lateral parts of the field. Removal of the prechordal mesoderm led to formation of a single retina both in chick embryos and in Xenopus explants. Transplantation experiments in chick embryos indicate that the prechordal plate is able to suppress Pax-6 expression. Our results provide direct evidence for the existence of a single retina field, indicate that the retina field is resolved by suppression of retina formation in the median region of the field, and demonstrate that the prechordal plate plays a primary signaling role in retina field resolution.
bilateral symmetry; retina field; prechordal mesoderm; eye development
Although cell migration is crucial for neural development, molecular mechanisms guiding neuronal migration have remained unclear. Here we report that the secreted protein Slit repels neuronal precursors migrating from the anterior subventricular zone in the telencephalon to the olfactory bulb. Our results provide a direct demonstration of a molecular cue whose concentration gradient guides the direction of migrating neurons. They also support a common guidance mechanism for axon projection and neuronal migration and suggest that Slit may provide a molecular tool with potential therapeutic applications in controlling and directing cell migration.
Although neuronal migration is an essential process in development, how neural precursors reach their final destination in the nervous system is not well understood. Secreted molecules that are known to be involved in axon guidance are likely to play important roles in regulating neuronal migration, but an important issue that remains unclear is whether such molecules act as directional guidance cues or as motility regulators in neuronal migration. The secreted protein Slit was initially suggested to be a repellent for migrating neurons (Wu et al., 1999). However, it was concluded recently that Slit plays an inhibitory rather than a repulsive role in neuronal migration (Mason et al., 2001). We have developed a series of assays that allow us to differentiate between repulsive and inhibitory effects of secreted molecules, and we demonstrate that Slit is a repellent capable of reversing the direction of neurons migrating either in culture or in their native pathways. We also show that although Slit reduces migratory speed under certain conditions, it can function as a repellent without concurrent inhibition of neuronal migration. This is the first study to clearly demonstrate that migrating neurons can be directionally guided by secreted molecules. These findings provide a basis to understand the physiological roles of secreted molecules in the developing nervous system and have implications on how they could be applied therapeutically. Our results also indicate that it should be possible to determine the specific action of other molecules as directional guidance cues or as motility regulators of cell migration.
cell migration; neuronal migration; axon guidance; guidance cues; Slit; motility
Our understanding of neuronal migration has been advanced by multidisciplinary approaches. At the cellular level, tangential and radial modes of neuronal migration contribute to different populations of neurons and have differential dependence on glial cells. At the molecular level, extracellular guidance cues have been identified and intracellular signal transduction pathways are beginning to be revealed. Interestingly, mechanisms guiding axon projection and neuronal migration appear to be conserved with those for chemotactic leukocytes.
Netrins are an important family of axon guidance cues. Here, we report that netrin-1 induces tyrosine phosphorylation of p130CAS (Crk-associated substrate). Our biochemical studies indicate that p130CAS is downstream of the Src family kinases and upstream of the small GTPase Rac1 and Cdc42. Inhibition of p130CAS signaling blocks both the neurite outgrowth-promoting activity and the axon attraction activity of netrin-1. p130CAS RNA interference inhibits the attraction of commissural axons in the spinal cord by netrin-1 and causes defects in commissural axon projection in the embryo. These results demonstrate that p130CAS is a key component in the netrin signal transduction pathway and plays an important role in guiding commissural axons in vivo.
netrin-1; p130CAS; Rac1; Cdc42; signaling; commissural axons
Neural crest precursors to the autonomic nervous system form different derivatives depending upon their axial level of origin; for example, vagal, but not trunk, neural crest cells form the enteric ganglia of the gut. Here, we show that Slit2 is expressed at the entrance of the gut, which is selectively invaded by vagal, but not trunk, neural crest. Accordingly, only trunk neural crest cells express Robo receptors. In vivo and in vitro experiments demonstrate that trunk, not vagal, crest cells avoid cells or cell membranes expressing Slit2, thereby contributing to the differential ability of neural crest populations to invade and innervate the gut. Conversely, exposure to soluble Slit2 significantly increases the distance traversed by trunk neural crest cells. These results suggest that Slit2 can act bifunctionally, both repulsing and stimulating the motility of trunk neural crest cells.
Slit2; neural crest; vagal; chemorepellent; gut
Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) is a calcium-responsive transcription factor. We describe here an NFAT-based neural tracing method—CaLexA (calcium-dependent nuclear import of Lex A)—for labeling active neurons in behaving animals. In this system, sustained neural activity induces nuclear import of the chimeric transcription factor LexA-VP16-NFAT, which in turn drives green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter expression only in active neurons. We tested this system in Drosophila and found that volatile sex pheromones excite specific neurons in the olfactory circuit. Furthermore, complex courtship behavior associated with multi-modal sensory inputs activated neurons in the ventral nerve cord. This method harnessing the mechanism of activity-dependent nuclear import of a transcription factor can be used to identify active neurons in specific neuronal population in behaving animals.
Drosophila; olfaction; antennal lobe; pheromone; NFAT; activity dependent; N2A; immediate-early gene