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1.  Persistence of excitatory shaft synapses adjacent to newly emerged dendritic protrusions 
In the early postnatal hippocampus, the first synapses to appear on excitatory pyramidal neurons are formed directly on dendritic shafts. Very few dendritic spines are present at this time. By adulthood, however, the overwhelming majority of synapses are located at the tips of dendritic spines. Several models have been proposed to account for the transition from mostly shaft to mostly spinous synapses but none have been demonstrated conclusively. To investigate the cellular mechanism underlying the shaft-to-spinous synapse transition, we designed live imaging experiments to directly observe the dynamics of shaft and spinous synapses on developing dendrites. Immunofluorescent synaptic labeling of GFP-filled neurons showed that the shaft-to-spinous synapse transition in dissociated culture mirrors that in vivo. Along with electron microscopy, the fluorescent labeling also showed that veritable shaft synapses are abundant in dissociated culture and that shaft synapses are frequently adjacent to spines or other dendritic protrusions, a configuration previously observed in vivo by others. We used live long term time lapse confocal microscopy of GFP-filled dendrites and VAMP2-DsRed-labeled boutons to record the fate of shaft synapses and associated dendritic protrusions and boutons with images taken hourly for up to 31 continuous hours. Inspection of the time lapse imaging series revealed that shaft synapses can persist adjacent to either existing or newly grown dendritic protrusions. Alternatively, a shaft synapse bouton can redistribute to contact an adjacent dendritic protrusion. However, we never observed shaft synapses transforming themselves into spines or any type of dendritic protrusions. We conclude that repeated iterations of dendritic protrusion or spine outgrowth adjacent to shaft synapses is very likely to be a critical component of the shaft-to-spinous synapse transition during CNS development.
PMCID: PMC3171181  PMID: 21784157
synaptogenesis; spinogenesis; synaptic plasticity; correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM); laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM)
2.  A variable cytoplasmic domain segment is necessary for γ-protocadherin trafficking and tubulation in the endosome/lysosome pathway 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(22):4362-4372.
The variable portion of the γ-protocadherin (Pcdh-γ) cytoplasmic domain (VCD) controls Pcdh-γ trafficking and organelle tubulation in the endolysosome system. Active VCD segments are conserved in Pcdh-γA and Pcdh-γB subfamilies.
Clustered protocadherins (Pcdhs) are arranged in gene clusters (α, β, and γ) with variable and constant exons. Variable exons encode cadherin and transmembrane domains and ∼90 cytoplasmic residues. The 14 Pcdh-αs and 22 Pcdh-γs are spliced to constant exons, which, for Pcdh-γs, encode ∼120 residues of an identical cytoplasmic moiety. Pcdh-γs participate in cell–cell interactions but are prominently intracellular in vivo, and mice with disrupted Pcdh-γ genes exhibit increased neuronal cell death, suggesting nonconventional roles. Most attention in terms of Pcdh-γ intracellular interactions has focused on the constant domain. We show that the variable cytoplasmic domain (VCD) is required for trafficking and organelle tubulation in the endolysosome system. Deletion of the constant cytoplasmic domain preserved the late endosomal/lysosomal trafficking and organelle tubulation observed for the intact molecule, whereas deletion or excision of the VCD or replacement of the Pcdh-γA3 cytoplasmic domain with that from Pcdh-α1 or N-cadherin dramatically altered trafficking. Truncations or internal deletions within the VCD defined a 26–amino acid segment required for trafficking and tubulation in the endolysosomal pathway. This active VCD segment contains residues that are conserved in Pcdh-γA and Pcdh-γB subfamilies. Thus the VCDs of Pcdh-γs mediate interactions critical for Pcdh-γ trafficking.
PMCID: PMC3216661  PMID: 21917590
3.  Streamlined embedding of cell monolayers on gridded glass-bottom imaging dishes for correlative light and electron microscopy 
Correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) has facilitated study of intracellular trafficking. Routine application of CLEM would be advantageous for many laboratories but previously described techniques are particularly demanding, even for those with access to laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). We describe streamlined methods for TEM of GFP-labeled organelles after imaging by LSCM using gridded glass bottom imaging dishes. GFP-MAP 1A/1B LC3 (GFP-LC3) transfected cells were treated with rapamycin, fixed and imaged by LSCM. Confocal image stacks were acquired enabling full visualization of each GFP-LC3 labeled organelle. After LSCM, cells were embedded for TEM using a simplified two step method that stabilizes the glass bottom such that the block can be separated from the glass by mild heating. All imaging and TEM processing are performed in the same dish. The LSCM imaged cells were relocated on the block and serial sectioned. Correlation of LSCM, DIC and TEM images was facilitated by cellular landmarks. All GFP labeled structures were successfully reidentified and imaged by serial section TEM. This method could make CLEM more accessible to non-specialized laboratories with basic EM expertise and could be used routinely to confirm organelle localization of fluorescent puncta.
PMCID: PMC2995264  PMID: 20961484
organelle; green fluorescent protein; live imaging; autophagosome; vesicle; trafficking
4.  Gamma-protocadherins are enriched and transported in specialized vesicles associated with the secretory pathway in neurons 
Gamma protocadherins (Pcdh-γs) resemble classical cadherins and have the potential to engage in cell-cell interactions with homophilic properties. Emerging evidence suggests non-conventional roles for some protocadherins in neural development. We sought to determine if Pcdh-γ trafficking in neurons is consistent with an intracellular role for these molecules. Here we show that, in contrast to the largely surface localization of classical cadherins, endogenous Pcdh-γs are primarily intracellular in rat neurons in vivo and equally distributed within organelles of subsynaptic dendritic and axonal compartments. A strikingly higher proportion of Pcdh-γ-containing organelles in synaptic compartments was observed at post-natal day 16. To determine the origin of Pcdh-γ trafficking organelles, we isolated organelles with Pcdh-γ antibody coupled magnetic beads from brain organelle suspensions. Vesicles with high levels of COPII and endoplasmic reticulum-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC) components were isolated with the Pcdh-γ antibody but not with the classical cadherin antibody. In cultured hippocampal neurons, Pcdh-γ immunolabeling partially overlapped with calnexin and COPII- positive puncta in dendrites. Mobile Pcdh-γ-GFP profiles dynamically codistributed with a DsRed construct coupled to ER retention signals by live imaging. Pcdh-γ expression correlated with accumulations of tubulovesicular and ER-like organelles in dendrites. Our results are consistent with the possibility that Pcdh-γs could have a unique function with the secretory pathway in addition to their documented surface roles.
PMCID: PMC3107561  PMID: 20849527
adhesion; organelle; live-cell imaging; dendrite; protocadherin
5.  Gamma-protocadherin homophilic interaction and intracellular trafficking is controlled by the cytoplasmic domain in neurons 
Gamma-protocadherins (Pcdh-γs) are good candidates to mediate specificity in synaptogenesis but their role in cell-cell interactions is a matter of debate. We proposed that Pcdh-γs modify preformed synapses via trafficking of Pcdh-γs-containing organelles, insertion into synaptic membranes and homophilic transcellular interaction. Here we provide evidence in support of this model. We show for the first time that Pcdh-γs have homophilic properties and that they accumulate at dendrodendritic and axo-dendritic interfaces during neuronal development. Pcdh-γs are maintained in a substantial mobile intracellular pool in dendrites and cytoplasmic deletion shifts the molecule to the surface and reduces the number and velocity of the mobile packets. We monitored Pcdh-γ temporal and spatial dynamics in transport organelles. Pcdh-γ organelles bud and fuse with stationary clusters near synapses. These results suggest that Pcdh-γ-mediated cell-cell interactions in synapse development or maintenance are tightly regulated by control of intracellular trafficking via the cytoplasmic domain.
PMCID: PMC2646808  PMID: 19136062
Adhesion; synaptogenesis; cadherin; live-cell imaging; FRAP; trafficking
6.  Loss of Retinal Cadherin Facilitates Mammary Tumor Progression and Metastasis 
Cancer research  2009;69(12):5030-5038.
The mammary epithelium is thought to be stabilized by cell-cell adhesion mediated mainly by E-cadherin (E-cad). Here, we show that another cadherin, retinal cadherin (R-cad), is critical for maintenance of the epithelial phenotype. R-cad is expressed in nontransformed mammary epithelium but absent from tumorigenic cell lines. In vivo, R-cad was prominently expressed in the epithelium of both ducts and lobules. In human breast cancer, R-cad was down-regulated with tumor progression, with high expression in ductal carcinoma in situ and reduced expression in invasive duct carcinomas. By comparison, E-cad expression persisted in invasive breast tumors and cell lines where R-cad was lost. Consistent with these findings, R-cad knockdown in normal mammary epithelium stimulated invasiveness and disrupted formation of acini despite continued E-cad expression. Conversely, R-cad overexpression in aggressive cell lines induced glandular morphogenesis and inhibited invasiveness, tumor formation, and lung colonization. R-cad also suppressed the matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MMP1), MMP2, and cyclooxygenase 2 gene expression associated with pulmonary metastasis. The data suggest that R-cad is an adhesion molecule of the mammary epithelium, which acts as a critical regulator of the normal phenotype. As a result, R-cad loss contributes to epithelial suppression and metastatic progression.
PMCID: PMC4382672  PMID: 19491271
7.  Beclin 1 Is Required for Neuron Viability and Regulates Endosome Pathways via the UVRAG-VPS34 Complex 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(10):e1004626.
Deficiency of autophagy protein beclin 1 is implicated in tumorigenesis and neurodegenerative diseases, but the molecular mechanism remains elusive. Previous studies showed that Beclin 1 coordinates the assembly of multiple VPS34 complexes whose distinct phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase III (PI3K-III) lipid kinase activities regulate autophagy at different steps. Recent evidence suggests a function of beclin 1 in regulating multiple VPS34-mediated trafficking pathways beyond autophagy; however, the precise role of beclin 1 in autophagy-independent cellular functions remains poorly understood. Herein we report that beclin 1 regulates endocytosis, in addition to autophagy, and is required for neuron viability in vivo. We find that neuronal beclin 1 associates with endosomes and regulates EEA1/early endosome localization and late endosome formation. Beclin 1 maintains proper cellular phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI(3)P) distribution and total levels, and loss of beclin 1 causes a disruption of active Rab5 GTPase-associated endosome formation and impairment of endosome maturation, likely due to a failure of Rab5 to recruit VPS34. Furthermore, we find that Beclin 1 deficiency causes complete loss of the UVRAG-VPS34 complex and associated lipid kinase activity. Interestingly, beclin 1 deficiency impairs p40phox-linked endosome formation, which is rescued by overexpressed UVRAG or beclin 1, but not by a coiled-coil domain-truncated beclin 1 (a UVRAG-binding mutant), Atg14L or RUBICON. Thus, our study reveals the essential role for beclin 1 in neuron survival involving multiple membrane trafficking pathways including endocytosis and autophagy, and suggests that the UVRAG-beclin 1 interaction underlies beclin 1's function in endocytosis.
Author Summary
Beclin 1 was not only the first-described mammalian autophagy protein, but is one of the most widely-characterized players in autophagy regulation. It is implicated in multiple human disease conditions. As a core component of the essential lipid kinase complex (PI3K-III), beclin 1 has largely been characterized to date in the context of autophagy through its recruitment of additional autophagy proteins for the assembly of the PI3K-III complexes involved in the nucleation of the autophagosome. Little is known, however, about how beclin 1 regulates specific functions of PI3K-III in other membrane trafficking pathways. Furthermore, although beclin 1 has been linked to multiple neurodegenerative diseases, the function of beclin 1 in the brain remains uncharacterized. Herein, we used genetic animal models and mutant cell lines to demonstrate that beclin 1 participates in multiple organelle trafficking pathways. Beclin 1 deficiency in neurons causes severe neurodegeneration, concomitant with aberrant late endosome formation and impaired phospholipid localization. Our mechanistic study reveals the essential role for beclin 1 in neuron survival involving multiple membrane trafficking pathways including endocytosis and autophagy. Our study clarifies the physiological function of beclin 1, which leads for further understanding of its role in tumorigenesis, infectious disease and neurodegenerative disease.
PMCID: PMC4183436  PMID: 25275521
Nature communications  2012;3:1240.
Protein quality control is essential for cellular survival. Failure to eliminate pathogenic proteins leads to their intracellular accumulation in the form of protein aggregates. Autophagy can recognize protein aggregates and degrade them in lysosomes. However, some aggregates escape the autophagic surveillance. Here we analyze the autophagic degradation of different types of aggregates of synphilin-1 (Sph1), a protein often found in pathogenic protein inclusions. We show that small Sph1 aggregates and large aggresomes are differentially targeted by constitutive and inducible autophagy. Furthermore, we identify a region in Sph1 necessary for its own basal and inducible aggrephagy, and sufficient for the degradation of other pro-aggregating proteins. Although the presence of this peptide is sufficient for basal aggrephagy, inducible aggrephagy requires its ubiquitination, which diminishes protein mobility on the surface of the aggregate and favors the recruitment and assembly of the protein complexes required for autophagosome formation. Our study reveals different mechanisms for cells to cope with aggregate proteins via autophagy and supports the idea that autophagic susceptibility of prone-to-aggregate proteins may not depend on the nature of the aggregating proteins per se but on their dynamic properties in the aggregate.
PMCID: PMC3526956  PMID: 23212369
autophagy; protein aggregates; aggresomes; synphilin-1; protein mobility; ubiquitination
9.  Differential modulation of the oligodendrocyte transcriptome by sonic hedgehog and bone morphogenetic protein 4 via opposing effects on histone acetylation 
Differentiation of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) into mature oligodendrocytes is regulated by the interplay between extrinsic signals and intrinsic epigenetic determinants. In this study, we analyze the effect that the extracellular ligands sonic hedgehog (Shh) and bone morphogenetic protein 4 (Bmp4), have on histone acetylation and gene expression in cultured OPCs. Shh treatment favored the progression towards oligodendrocytes by decreasing histone acetylation and inducing peripheral chromatin condensation. Bmp4 treatment, in contrast, inhibited the progression towards oligodendrocytes and favored astrogliogenesis by favoring global histone acetylation and retaining euchromatin. Pharmacological treatment or silencing of histone deacetylase 1 (Hdac1) or histone deacetylase 2 (Hdac2) in OPCs did not affect Bmp4-dependent astrogliogenesis, while it prevented Shh-induced oligodendrocyte differentiation and favored the expression of astrocytic genes. Transcriptional profiling of treated OPC, revealed that Bmp4-inhibition of oligodendrocyte differentiation was accompanied by increased levels of Wnt (Tbx3) and Notch-target genes (Jag1, Hes1, Hes5, Hey1 and Hey2), decreased recruitment of Hdac and increased histone acetylation at these loci. Similar up-regulation of Notch-target genes and increased histone acetylation were observed in the corpus callosum of mice infused with Bmp4 during cuprizone-induced demyelination. We conclude that Shh and Bmp4 differentially regulate histone acetylation and chromatin structure in OPCs and that BMP4 acts as a potent inducer of gene expression, including Notch and Wnt target genes, thereby enhancing the cross-talk among signaling pathways that are known to inhibit myelination and repair.
PMCID: PMC3412138  PMID: 22573687
10.  Characterization of MSB Synapses in Dissociated Hippocampal Culture with Simultaneous Pre- and Postsynaptic Live Microscopy 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e26478.
Multisynaptic boutons (MSBs) are presynaptic boutons in contact with multiple postsynaptic partners. Although MSB synapses have been studied with static imaging techniques such as electron microscopy (EM), the dynamics of individual MSB synapses have not been directly evaluated. It is known that the number of MSB synapses increases with synaptogenesis and plasticity but the formation, behavior, and fate of individual MSB synapses remains largely unknown. To address this, we developed a means of live imaging MSB synapses to observe them directly over time. With time lapse confocal microscopy of GFP-filled dendrites in contact with VAMP2-DsRed-labeled boutons, we recorded both MSBs and their contacting spines hourly over 15 or more hours. Our live microscopy showed that, compared to spines contacting single synaptic boutons (SSBs), MSB-contacting spines exhibit elevated dynamic behavior. These results are consistent with the idea that MSBs serve as intermediates in synaptic development and plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3197663  PMID: 22028887
11.  Exogenous Expression of N-Cadherin in Breast Cancer Cells Induces Cell Migration, Invasion, and Metastasis 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;148(4):779-790.
E- and N-cadherin are calcium-dependent cell adhesion molecules that mediate cell–cell adhesion and also modulate cell migration and tumor invasiveness. The loss of E-cadherin–mediated adhesion has been shown to play an important role in the transition of epithelial tumors from a benign to an invasive state. However, recent evidence indicates that another member of the cadherin family, N-cadherin, is expressed in highly invasive tumor cell lines that lacked E-cadherin expression. These findings have raised the possibility that N-cadherin contributes to the invasive phenotype. To determine whether N-cadherin promotes invasion and metastasis, we transfected a weakly metastatic and E-cadherin–expressing breast cancer cell line, MCF-7, with N-cadherin and analyzed the effects on cell migration, invasion, and metastasis. Transfected cells expressed both E- and N-cadherin and exhibited homotypic cell adhesion from both molecules. In vitro, N-cadherin–expressing cells migrated more efficiently, showed an increased invasion of Matrigel, and adhered more efficiently to monolayers of endothelial cells. All cells produced low levels of the matrix metalloproteinase MMP-9, which was dramatically upregulated by treatment with FGF-2 only in N-cadherin–expressing cells. Migration and invasion of Matrigel were also greatly enhanced by this treatment. When injected into the mammary fat pad of nude mice, N-cadherin–expressing cells, but not control MCF-7 cells, metastasized widely to the liver, pancreas, salivary gland, omentum, lung, lymph nodes, and lumbar spinal muscle. The expression of both E- and N-cadherin was maintained both in the primary tumors and metastatic lesions. These results demonstrate that N-cadherin promotes motility, invasion, and metastasis even in the presence of the normally suppressive E-cadherin. The increase in MMP-9 production by N-cadherin–expressing cells in response to a growth factor may endow them with a greater ability to penetrate matrix protein barriers, while the increase in their adherence to endothelium may improve their ability to enter and exit the vasculature, two properties that may be responsible for metastasis of N-cadherin–expressing cells.
PMCID: PMC2169367  PMID: 10684258
E-cadherin; motility; FGF-2; MMP-9
12.  Functional Cis-Heterodimers of N- and R-Cadherins 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2000;148(3):579-590.
Classical cadherins form parallel cis-dimers that emanate from a single cell surface. It is thought that the cis-dimeric form is active in cell–cell adhesion, whereas cadherin monomers are likely to be inactive. Currently, cis-dimers have been shown to exist only between cadherins of the same type. Here, we show the specific formation of cis-heterodimers between N- and R-cadherins. E-cadherin cannot participate in these complexes. Cells coexpressing N- and R-cadherins show homophilic adhesion in which these proteins coassociate at cell–cell interfaces. We performed site- directed mutagenesis studies, the results of which support the strand dimer model for cis-dimerization. Furthermore, we show that when N- and R-cadherins are coexpressed in neurons in vitro, the two cadherins colocalize at certain neural synapses, implying biological relevance for these complexes. The present study provides a novel paradigm for cadherin interaction whereby selective cis-heterodimer formation may generate new functional units to mediate cell–cell adhesion.
PMCID: PMC2174798  PMID: 10662782
cadherins; cell adhesion; heterophilic binding; synaptic adhesion; dimerization

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