SLC25A12, a susceptibility gene for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) that is mutated in a neurodevelopmental syndrome, encodes a mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carrier (AGC1). AGC1 is an important component of the malate/aspartate shuttle, a crucial system supporting oxidative phosphorylation and ATP production.
We characterized mice with a disruption of the Slc25a12 gene, followed by confirmatory in vitro studies.
Slc25a12-knockout mice, which showed no AGC1 by immunoblotting, were born normally but displayed delayed development and died around 3 weeks after birth. In P13-14 knockout brains, the brains were smaller with no obvious alteration in gross structure. However, we found a reduction in myelin basic protein (MBP)-positive fibers, consistent with a previous report. Furthermore, the neocortex of knockout mice contained abnormal neurofilamentous accumulations in neurons, suggesting defective axonal transport and/or neurodegeneration. Slice cultures prepared from knockout mice also showed a myelination defect, and reduction of Slc25a12 in rat primary oligodendrocytes led to a cellautonomous reduction in MBP expression. Myelin deficits in slice cultures from knockout mice could be reversed by administration of pyruvate, indicating that reduction in AGC1 activity leads to reduced production of aspartate/N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) and/or alterations in the NADH/NAD+ ratio, resulting in myelin defects.
Our data implicate AGC1 activity in myelination and in neuronal structure, and indicate that while loss of AGC1 leads to hypomyelination and neuronal changes, subtle alterations in AGC1 expression could affect brain development contributing to increased autism susceptibility.
Malate/aspartate shuttle; mitochondria; N-acetyl aspartate (NAA); neuron-oligodendrocyte interactions; pyruvate
The prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortices are implicated in schizophrenia, and many studies have assessed volume, cortical thickness, and neuronal densities or numbers in these regions. Available data however are rather conflicting and no clear cortical alteration pattern has been established. Changes in oligodendrocytes and white matter have been observed in schizophrenia, introducing a hypothesis about a myelin deficit as a key event in disease development.
We investigated the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) in 13 males with schizophrenia and 13 age- and gender-matched controls. We assessed stereologically the dACC volume, neuronal and glial densities, total neuron and glial numbers, and glia/neuron (GNI) ratios in both layers II-III and V-VI.
We observed no differences in neuronal or glial densities. No changes were observed in dACC cortical volume, total neuron numbers, and total glial numbers in schizophrenia. This contrasts with previous findings and suggests that the dACC may not undergo as severe changes in schizophrenia as is generally believed. However, we observed higher glial densities in layers V-VI than in layers II-III in both controls and patients with schizophrenia, pointing to possible layer-specific effects on oligodendrocyte distribution during development.
Using rigorous stereological methods, we demonstrate a seemingly normal cortical organization in an important neocortical area for schizophrenia, emphasizing the importance of such morphometric approaches in quantitative neuropathology. We discuss the significance of subregion- and layer-specific alterations in the development of schizophrenia, and the discrepancies between post-mortem histopathological studies and in vivo brain imaging findings in patients.
dysmyelination; oligodendrocytes; white matter; morphology; cytoarchitecture; myelin
Efforts to understand nervous system structure and function have received new impetus from the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. Comparative analyses can contribute to this effort by leading to the discovery of general principles of neural circuit design, information processing, and gene-structure-function relationships that are not apparent from studies on single species. We here propose to extend the comparative approach to nervous system ‘maps’ comprising molecular, anatomical, and physiological data. This research will identify which neural features are likely to generalize across species, and which are unlikely to be broadly conserved. It will also suggest causal relationships between genes, development, adult anatomy, physiology, and, ultimately, behavior. These causal hypotheses can then be tested experimentally. Finally, insights from comparative research can inspire and guide technological development. To promote this research agenda, we recommend that teams of investigators coalesce around specific research questions and select a set of ‘reference species’ to anchor their comparative analyses. These reference species should be chosen not just for practical advantages, but also with regard for their phylogenetic position, behavioral repertoire, well-annotated genome, or other strategic reasons. We envision that the nervous systems of these reference species will be mapped in more detail than those of other species. The collected data may range from the molecular to the behavioral, depending on the research question. To integrate across levels of analysis and across species, standards for data collection, annotation, archiving, and distribution must be developed and respected. To that end, it will help to form networks or consortia of researchers and centers for science, technology, and education that focus on organized data collection, distribution, and training. These activities could be supported, at least in part, through existing mechanisms at NSF, NIH, and other agencies. It will also be important to develop new integrated software and database systems for cross-species data analyses. Multidisciplinary efforts to develop such analytical tools should be supported financially. Finally, training opportunities should be created to stimulate multidisciplinary, integrative research into brain structure, function, and evolution.
Transgenic mouse models with knock-in (KI) expression of human mutant amyloid precursor protein (APP) and/or human presenilin 1 (PS1) may be helpful to elucidate the cellular consequences of APP and PS1 misprocessing in the aging brain. Age-related alterations in total numbers of neurons and in numbers of synaptophysin-immunoreactive presynaptic boutons (SIPB), as well as the amyloid plaque load were analyzed in the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG), CA3, and CA1–2 of 2- and 10-month-old APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI, APPSL (expressing human mutant APP751 carrying the Swedish [K670N/M671L] and London [V717I] mutations under Thy-1 promoter), and PS1 homozygous KI mice (expressing human PS1 mutations [M233T and L235P]). APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI mice, but neither APPSL mice nor PS1 homozygous KI mice, showed substantial age-related loss of neurons (−47.2%) and SIPB (−22.6%), specifically in CA1–2. PS1 homozygous KI mice showed an age-related increase in hippocampal granule cell numbers (+37.9%). Loss of neurons and SIPB greatly exceeded the amount of local extracellular Aβ aggregation and astrocytes, whereas region-specific accumulation of intraneuronal Aβ preceded neuron and synapse loss. An age-related increase in the ratio of SIPB to neuron numbers in CA1–2 of APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI mice was suggestive of compensatory synaptic plasticity. These findings indicate a region-selectivity in intra- and extraneuronal Aβ accumulation in connection with neuron and synapse loss in the hippocampus of APPSL/PS1 homozygous KI mice.
Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid precursor protein; Neuron loss; Synapse loss; Hippocampus; Presenilin-1; Stereology; Image analysis
We examined the distribution of neurons immunoreactive for neuropeptide Y (NPY) in the posterior part of the superior temporal cortex (Brodmann's area 22 or area Tpt) of humans and nonhuman haplorrhine primates. NPY has been implicated in learning and memory and the density of NPY-expressing cortical neurons and axons is reduced in depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer's disease. Due to the role that NPY plays in both cognition and neurodegenerative diseases, we tested the hypothesis that the density of cortical and interstitial neurons expressing NPY was increased in humans relative to other primate species. The study sample included great apes (chimpanzee and gorilla), Old World monkeys (pigtailed macaque, moor macaque, and baboon) and New World monkeys (squirrel monkey and capuchin). Stereologic methods were used to estimate the density of NPY-immunoreactive (-ir) neurons in layers I-VI of area Tpt and the subjacent white matter. Adjacent Nissl-stained sections were used to calculate local densities of all neurons. The ratio of NPY-ir neurons to total neurons within area Tpt and the total density of NPY-ir neurons within the white matter were compared among species. Overall, NPY-ir neurons represented only an average of 0.006% of the total neuron population. While there were significant differences among species, phylogenetic trends in NPY-ir neuron distributions were not observed and humans did not differ from other primates. However, variation among species warrants further investigation into the distribution of this neuromodulator system.
Wernicke's area; area Tpt; area 22; evolution; NPY
The neuronal composition of the insula in primates displays a gradient, transitioning from granular neocortex in the posterior-dorsal insula to agranular neocortex in the anterior-ventral insula with an intermediate zone of dysgranularity. Additionally, apes and humans exhibit a distinctive subdomain in the agranular insula, the frontoinsular cortex (FI), defined by the presence of clusters of von Economo neurons (VENs). Studies in humans indicate that the ventral anterior insula, including agranular insular cortex and FI, is involved in social awareness, and that the posterodorsal insula, including granular and dysgranular cortices, produces an internal representation of the body’s homeostatic state. We examined the volumes of these cytoarchitectural areas of insular cortex in 30 primate species, including the volume of FI in apes and humans. Results indicate that the whole insula scales hyperallometrically (exponent = 1.13) relative to total brain mass, and the agranular insula (including FI) scales against total brain mass with even greater positive allometry (exponent = 1.23), providing a potential neural basis for enhancement of social cognition in association with increased brain size. The relative volumes of the subdivisions of the insular cortex, after controlling for total brain volume, are not correlated with species typical social group size. Although its size is predicted by primate-wide allometric scaling patterns, we found that the absolute volume of the left and right agranular insula and left FI are among the most differentially expanded of the human cerebral cortex compared to our closest living relative, the chimpanzee.
Allometry; Brain; Evolution; Frontoinsular cortex; Hominoids
The aging process in the hippocampus is associated with aberrant epigenetic marks, such as DNA methylation and histone tail alterations. Recent evidence suggests that caloric restriction (CR) can potentially delay the aging process, while upregulation of antioxidants may also have a beneficial effect in this respect. We have recently observed that CR attenuates age-related changes in the levels of the epigenetic molecules DNA methyltransferase 3a, 5-methylcytidine (5-mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in the mouse hippocampus while overexpression of the antioxidant Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) does not. However, the impact of aging on the levels of histone-modifying enzymes such as histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) in the hippocampus has not been studied in much detail. Here, we investigated immunoreactivity (IR) of HDAC2 in three subregions of the hippocampus (dentate gyrus, CA3 and CA1-2) of mice taken from large cohorts of aging wild-type and transgenic mice overexpressing normal human SOD1, which were kept under normal diet or CR from weaning onwards. Independent from the genotype, aging (between 12 and 24 months) increased levels of HDAC2 IR in the hippocampus. Moreover, CR prevented this age-related increase, particularly in the CA3 and CA1-2 subregions, while SOD1 overexpression did not. Quantitative image analyses showed that HDAC2 IR correlated positively with 5-mC IR while these markers were shown to colocalize in the nucleus of hippocampal cells. Together with recent literature reports, these findings suggest that altered levels of epigenetic regulatory proteins including HDAC2 regulate age-related changes in the mouse hippocampus and that CR may prevent these age-related changes.
Aging; epigenesis; histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2); caloric restriction; hippocampus
Epigenetic dysregulation of gene expression is thought to be critically involved in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Recent studies indicate that DNA methylation and DNA hydroxymethylation are 2 important epigenetic mechanisms that regulate gene expression in the aging brain. However, very little is known about the levels of markers of DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation in the brains of patients with AD, the cell-type specificity of putative AD-related alterations in these markers, as well as the link between epigenetic alterations and the gross pathology of AD. The present quantitative immunohistochemical study investigated the levels of the 2 most important markers of DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation, that is, 5-methylcytidine (5-mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytidine (5-hmC), in the hippocampus of AD patients (n = 10) and compared these to non demented, age-matched controls (n = 10). In addition, the levels of 5-hmC in the hippocampus of a pair of monozygotic twins discordant for AD were assessed. The levels of 5-mC and 5-hmC were furthermore analyzed in a cell-type and hippocampal subregion–specific manner, and were correlated with amyloid plaque load and neurofibrillary tangle load. The results showed robust decreases in the hippocampal levels of 5-mC and 5-hmC in AD patients (19.6% and 20.2%, respectively). Similar results were obtained for the twin with AD when compared to the non-demented co-twin. Moreover, levels of 5-mC as well as the levels of 5-hmC showed a significant negative correlation with amyloid plaque load in the hippocampus (rp = −0.539, p = 0.021 for 5-mC and rp = −0.558, p = 0.016 for 5-hmC). These human postmortem results thus strengthen the notion that AD is associated with alterations in DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation, and provide a basis for further epigenetic studies identifying the exact genetic loci with aberrant epigenetic signatures.
Alzheimer’s disease; Epigenetics; DNA methylation; DNA hydroxymethylation; Amyloid
The noradrenergic system is involved in the etiology and progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) but its role is still unclear. Dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH) as a catecholamine-synthesizing enzyme plays a central role in noradrenaline (NA) synthesis and turnover. Plasma DBH (pDBH) activity shows wide inheritable interindividual variability that is under genetic control. The aim of this study was to determine pDBH activity, DBH (C-970T; rs1611115) and DBH (C1603T; rs6271) gene polymorphisms in 207 patients with AD and in 90 healthy age-matched controls. Plasma DBH activity was lower, particularly in the early stage of AD, compared to values in middle and late stages of the disease, as well as to control values. Two-way ANOVA revealed significant effect of both diagnosis and DBH (C-970T) or DBH (C1603T) genotypes on pDBH activity, but without significant diagnosis×genotype interaction. No association was found between AD and DBH C-970T (OR=1.08, 95% CI 1.13–4.37; p=0.779) and C1603T (OR=0.89; 95% CI 0.36–2.20; p=0.814) genotypes controlled for age, gender, and ApoE4 allele. The decrease in pDBH activity, found in early phase of AD suggests that alterations in DBH activity represent a compensatory mechanism for the loss of noradrenergic neurons, and that treatment with selective NA reuptake inhibitors may be indicated in early stages of AD to compensate for loss of noradrenergic activity in the locus coeruleus.
Alzheimer’s disease; Cognitive decline; DBH gene polymorphisms; Dopamine beta-hydroxylase; Plasma DBH activity
The lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of catarrhines – with the exception of gibbons – is typically described as a six-layered structure, comprised of two ventral magnocellular layers, and four dorsal parvocellular layers. The parvocellular layers of the LGN are involved in color vision. Therefore, it is hypothesized that a six-layered LGN is a shared-derived trait among catarrhines. This might suggest that in gibbons the lack of further subdivisions of the parvocellular layers is a recent change, and could be related to specializations of visual information processing in this taxon. To address these hypotheses, the lamination of the LGN was investigated in a range of catarrhine species, including several taxa not previously described, and the evolution of the LGN was reconstructed using phylogenetic information. The findings indicate that while all catarrhine species have four parvocellular leaflets, two main patterns of LGN parvocellular lamination occur: two undivided parvocellular layers in some species, and four parvocellular leaflets (with occasional subleaflets) in other species. LGN size was not found to be related to lamination pattern. Both patterns were found to occur in divergent clades, which is suggestive of homoplasy within the catarrhines in LGN morphology.
evolution; phylogeny; catarrhines; primates; vision; lateral geniculate nucleus; parvocellular
A systematic classification and accepted nomenclature of neuron types is much needed but is currently lacking. This article describes a possible taxonomical solution for classifying GABAergic interneurons of the cerebral cortex based on a novel, web-based interactive system that allows experts to classify neurons with pre-determined criteria. Using Bayesian analysis and clustering algorithms on the resulting data, we investigated the suitability of several anatomical terms and neuron names for cortical GABAergic interneurons. Moreover, we show that supervised classification models could automatically categorize interneurons in agreement with experts’ assignments. These results demonstrate a practical and objective approach to the naming, characterization and classification of neurons based on community consensus.
Both cognitive and affective processes require mental resources. However, it remains unclear whether these 2 processes work in parallel or in an integrated fashion. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we investigated their interaction using an empathy-for-pain paradigm, with simultaneous manipulation of cognitive demand of the tasks and emotional valence of the stimuli. Eighteen healthy adult participants viewed photographs showing other people's hands and feet in painful or nonpainful situations while performing tasks of low (body part judgment) and high (laterality judgment) cognitive demand. Behavioral data showed increased reaction times and error rates for painful compared with nonpainful stimuli under laterality judgment relative to body part judgment, indicating an interaction between cognitive demand and stimulus valence. Imaging analyses showed activity in bilateral anterior insula (AI) and primary somatosensory cortex (SI), but not posterior insula, for main effects of cognitive demand and stimulus valence. Importantly, cognitive demand and stimulus valence showed a significant interaction in AI, SI, and regions of the frontoparietal network. These results suggest that cognitive and emotional processes at least partially share common brain networks and that AI might serve as a key node in a brain network subserving cognition–emotion integration.
cognition; emotion; empathy; fMRI; insula
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) plays a role in a variety of basic physiological functions and has also been implicated in regulating cognition, including learning and memory. A decrease in neocortical NPY has been reported for Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, potentially contributing to associated cognitive deficits. The goal of the present analysis was to examine variation in neocortical NPY-immunoreactive axon and varicosity density among haplorhine primates (monkeys, apes, and humans). Stereologic methods were used to measure the ratios of NPY-expressing axon length density to total neuron density (ALv/Nv) and NPY-immunoreactive varicosity density to neuron density (Vv/Nv), as well as the mean varicosity spacing in neocortical areas 10, 24, 44, and 22 (Tpt) of humans, African great apes, New World monkeys, and Old World monkeys. Humans and great apes showed increased cortical NPY innervation relative to monkey species for ALv/Nv and Vv/Nv. Furthermore, humans and great apes displayed a conserved pattern of varicosity spacing across cortical areas and layers, with no differences between cortical layers or among cortical areas. These phylogenetic differences may be related to shared life history variables and may reflect specific cognitive abilities.
NPY; Broca's area; Wernicke's area; primate evolution
Although the basic morphological characteristics of neurons in the cerebellar cortex have been documented in several species, virtually nothing is known about the quantitative morphological characteristics of these neurons across different taxa. To that end, the present study investigated cerebellar neuronal morphology among eight different, large-brained mammalian species comprising a broad phylogenetic range: afrotherians (African elephant, Florida manatee), carnivores (Siberian tiger, clouded leopard), cetartiodactyls (humpback whale, giraffe) and primates (human, common chimpanzee). Specifically, several neuron types (e.g., stellate, basket, Lugaro, Golgi, and granule neurons; N = 317) of the cerebellar cortex were stained with a modified rapid Golgi technique and quantified on a computer-assisted microscopy system. There was a 64-fold variation in brain mass across species in our sample (from clouded leopard to the elephant) and a 103-fold variation in cerebellar volume. Most dendritic measures tended to increase with cerebellar volume. The cerebellar cortex in these species exhibited the trilaminate pattern common to all mammals. Morphologically, neuron types in the cerebellar cortex were generally consistent with those described in primates (Fox et al., 1967) and rodents (Palay and Chan-Palay, 1974), although there was substantial quantitative variation across species. In particular, Lugaro neurons in the elephant appeared to be disproportionately larger than those in other species. To explore potential quantitative differences in dendritic measures across species, MARSplines analyses were used to evaluate whether species could be differentiated from each other based on dendritic characteristics alone. Results of these analyses indicated that there were significant differences among all species in dendritic measures.
dendrite; morphometry; Golgi method; brain evolution; cerebellum
Stereologic cell counting has had a major impact on the field of neuroscience. A major bottleneck in stereologic cell counting is that the user must manually decide whether or not each cell is counted according to three-dimensional (3D) stereologic counting rules by visual inspection within hundreds of microscopic fields-of-view per investigated brain or brain region. Reliance on visual inspection forces stereologic cell counting to be very labor-intensive and time-consuming, and is the main reason why biased, non-stereologic two-dimensional (2D) “cell counting” approaches have remained in widespread use. We present an evaluation of the performance of modern automated cell detection and segmentation algorithms as a potential alternative to the manual approach in stereologic cell counting. The image data used in this study were 3D microscopic images of thick brain tissue sections prepared with a variety of commonly used nuclear and cytoplasmic stains. The evaluation compared the numbers and locations of cells identified unambiguously and counted exhaustively by an expert observer with those found by three automated 3D cell detection algorithms: nuclei segmentation from the FARSIGHT toolkit, nuclei segmentation by 3D multiple level set methods, and the 3D object counter plug-in for ImageJ. Of these methods, FARSIGHT performed best, with true-positive detection rates between 38 and 99% and false-positive rates from 3.6 to 82%. The results demonstrate that the current automated methods suffer from lower detection rates and higher false-positive rates than are acceptable for obtaining valid estimates of cell numbers. Thus, at present, stereologic cell counting with manual decision for object inclusion according to unbiased stereologic counting rules remains the only adequate method for unbiased cell quantification in histologic tissue sections.
automated cell segmentation; disector; FARSIGHT; Fractionator; ImageJ; stereology; stem cells
Amyloid β1-42 (Aβ1-42), total tau (t-tau), and phosphorylated tau (p-tau) are the main cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Detection of AD is critically important in view of the growing number of potential new drugs that may influence the course of the disease in its early phases. However, cut-off levels for these CSF biomarkers have not yet been established. Variability in absolute concentrations of AD biomarkers is high among studies and significant differences were noticed even within the same datasets. Variability in biomarkers levels in these assays may be due to many aspects of operating procedures. Standardization of pre-analytical and analytical procedures in collection, treatment, and storage of CSF samples is crucial because differences in sample handling can drastically influence results. Multicenter studies showed that usage of ELISA kits from different manufacturers also affects outcome. So far only very few studies tested the efficiency of ELISA kits produced by different vendors. In this study, the performance of Innogenetics (Gent, Belgium) and Invitrogen (Camarillo, CA, USA) ELISA kits for t-tau and Aβ1-42 was tested. Passing-Bablok analysis showed significant differences between Invitrogen and Innogenetics ELISA methods, making it impossible to use them interchangeably.
Alzheimer’s disease; Amyloid β1-42; Biomarkers; Cerebrospinal fluid; ELISA; Standardization; Tau proteins
The corpus callosum (CC) is the major white matter tract that connects the two cerebral hemispheres. Some have theorized that individual differences in behavioral and brain asymmetries are linked to variation in the density of axon fibers that traverse different sections of the CC. In this study, we examined whether variation in axon fiber density in the CC was associated with variation in asymmetries in the planum temporale (PT) in a sample of 20 post-mortem chimpanzee brains. We further tested for sex differences in small and large CC fiber proportions and density in the chimpanzees. We found that the distribution of small and large fibers within the CC of chimpanzees follows a similar pattern to those reported in humans. We also found that chimpanzees with larger asymmetries in the PT had fewer large fibers in the posterior portion of the CC, particularly among females. As has been reported in human brains, the findings reported here indicate that individual differences in brain asymmetries are associated with variation in interhemispheric connectivity as manifest in axon fiber density and size.
Chimpanzees; brain asymmetry; corpus callosum; axon fiber density; planum temporale
Empathy refers to the ability to perceive and share another person’s affective state. Much neuroimaging evidence suggests that observing others’ suffering and pain elicits activations of the anterior insular and the anterior cingulate cortices associated with subjective empathetic responses in the observer. However, these observations do not provide causal evidence for the respective roles of anterior insular and anterior cingulate cortices in empathetic pain. Therefore, whether these regions are ‘necessary’ for empathetic pain remains unknown. Herein, we examined the perception of others’ pain in patients with anterior insular cortex or anterior cingulate cortex lesions whose locations matched with the anterior insular cortex or anterior cingulate cortex clusters identified by a meta-analysis on neuroimaging studies of empathetic pain perception. Patients with focal anterior insular cortex lesions displayed decreased discrimination accuracy and prolonged reaction time when processing others’ pain explicitly and lacked a typical interference effect of empathetic pain on the performance of a pain-irrelevant task. In contrast, these deficits were not observed in patients with anterior cingulate cortex lesions. These findings reveal that only discrete anterior insular cortex lesions, but not anterior cingulate cortex lesions, result in deficits in explicit and implicit pain perception, supporting a critical role of anterior insular cortex in empathetic pain processing. Our findings have implications for a wide range of neuropsychiatric illnesses characterized by prominent deficits in higher-level social functioning.
anterior cingulate cortex; anterior insular cortex; empathy; meta-analysis; necessity
The amyloid precursor protein (APP) plays a critical role in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) pathogenesis. APP is proteolytically cleaved by β- and γ-secretases to generate the amyloid β-protein (Aβ), the core protein component of senile plaques in AD. It is also cleaved by α-secretase to release the large soluble APP (sAPP) luminal domain that has been shown to exhibit trophic properties. Increasing evidence points to the development of synaptic deficits and dendritic spine loss prior to deposition of amyloid in transgenic mouse models that overexpress APP and Aβ peptides. The consequence of loss of APP, however, is unsettled. In this study, we investigated whether APP itself plays a role in regulating synaptic structure and function using an APP knock-out (APP−/−) mouse model. We examined dendritic spines in primary cultures of hippocampal neurons and CA1 neurons of hippocampus from APP−/− mice. In the cultured neurons, there was a significant decrease (~35%) in spine density in neurons derived from APP−/− mice compared to littermate control neurons that were partially restored with sAPPα-conditioned medium. In APP−/− mice in vivo, spine numbers were also significantly reduced but by a smaller magnitude (~15%). Furthermore, apical dendritic length and dendritic arborization were markedly diminished in hippocampal neurons. These abnormalities in neuronal morphology were accompanied by reduction in long-term potentiation. Strikingly, all these changes in vivo were only seen in mice that were 12-15 months in age but not in younger animals. We propose that APP, specifically sAPP, is necessary for the maintenance of dendritic integrity in the hippocampus in an age-associated manner. Finally, these age-related changes may contribute to Alzheimer’s changes independent of Aβ-mediated synaptic toxicity.
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid precursor protein; knock-out mice; extracellular domain; soluble amyloid β; synapse
Whole-cell patch-clamp recordings and high-resolution 3D morphometric analyses of layer 3 pyramidal neurons in in vitro slices of monkey primary visual cortex (V1) and dorsolateral granular prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) revealed that neurons in these two brain areas possess highly distinctive structural and functional properties. Area V1 pyramidal neurons are much smaller than dlPFC neurons, with significantly less extensive dendritic arbors and far fewer dendritic spines. Relative to dlPFC neurons, V1 neurons have a significantly higher input resistance, depolarized resting membrane potential and higher action potential (AP) firing rates. Most V1 neurons exhibit both phasic and regular-spiking tonic AP firing patterns, while dlPFC neurons exhibit only tonic firing. Spontaneous postsynaptic currents are lower in amplitude and have faster kinetics in V1 than in dlPFC neurons, but are no different in frequency. Three-dimensional reconstructions of V1 and dlPFC neurons were incorporated into computational models containing Hodgkin-Huxley and AMPA- and GABAA-receptor gated channels. Morphology alone largely accounted for observed passive physiological properties, but led to AP firing rates that differed more than observed empirically, and to synaptic responses that opposed empirical results. Accordingly, modeling predicts that active channel conductances differ between V1 and dlPFC neurons. The unique features of V1 and dlPFC neurons are likely fundamental determinants of area-specific network behavior. The compact electrotonic arbor and increased excitability of V1 neurons support the rapid signal integration required for early processing of visual information. The greater connectivity and dendritic complexity of dlPFC neurons likely support higher level cognitive functions including working memory and planning.
Amyloid precursor protein (APP), the parent molecule to amyloid β peptide, is part of larger gene family with two mammalian homologues, amyloid precursor-like protein 1 (APLP1) and amyloid precursor-like protein 2 (APLP2). Initial knock-out studies demonstrated that while single APP family gene deletions produced relatively mild phenotypes, deficiency of APLP2 and one other member of the gene family resulted in perinatal lethality, suggesting vital roles masked by functional redundancy of the other homologues. Because of the importance of APP in Alzheimer’s disease, the vast majority of studies to date have concentrated on the neuronal functions of APP, leaving limited data on its homologues. APLP2 is of particular interest as it contains high sequence homology with APP, is processed similarly, is expressed in overlapping spatial and temporal patterns, and is obligatory for lethality when combined with deficiency of either APLP1 or APP but does not contain the toxic amyloid β sequence. Here we sought to test the role of APLP2 on neuronal structure and function using a combined approach involving in vitro and in vivo techniques in young and aged animals. Surprisingly, we found that unlike APP, APLP2 appears not to be essential for maintenance of dendritic structure, spiny density, or synaptic function. Thus, there is clear divergence in the functional redundancy between APP and APLP2.
amyloid precursor-like protein 2; amyloid precursor protein; Alzheimer’s disease; synaptic plasticity; dendritic spine; synapse
Inheritance of the ε4 allele of ApoE is the only confirmed and consistently replicated risk factor for late onset AD. ApoE is also a key ligand for LRP, a major neuronal LDL receptor. Despite the considerable converging evidence that implicates ApoE and LRP in the pathogenesis of AD, the precise mechanism by which ApoE and LRP modulate the risk for AD remains elusive. Moreover, studies investigating expression of ApoE and LRP in AD brain have reported variable and contradictory results. To overcome these inconsistencies, we studied the mRNA expression of ApoE and LRP in the postmortem brain of persons who died at different stages of dementia and AD-associated neuropathology relative to controls by qPCR and Western blotting. Clinical dementia rating scores were used as a measure of dementia severity, whereas, Braak neuropathological staging and neuritic plaque density were used as indices of the neuropathological progression of AD. ApoE and LRP mRNA expression was significantly elevated in the postmortem inferior temporal gyrus (area 20) and the hippocampus from individuals with dementia compared to those with intact cognition. In addition to their strong association with the progression of cognitive dysfunction, LRP and ApoE mRNA levels were also positively correlated with increasing neuropathological hallmarks of AD. Additionally, Western blot analysis of ApoE protein expression in the hippocampus showed that the differential expression observed at the transcriptional level is also reflected at the protein level. Given the critical role played by LRP and ApoE in Aβ and cholesterol trafficking, increased expression of LRP and ApoE may not only disrupt cholesterol homeostasis but may also contribute to some of the neurobiological features of AD, including plaque deposition.
Although possible sources and functions of the resting state networks (RSN) of the brain have been proposed, most evidence relies on circular logic and reverse inference. We propose that autonomic arousal provides an objective index of psychophysiological states during rest that may also function as a driving source of the activity and connectivity of RSN. Recording blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal using functional magnetic resonance imaging and skin conductance simultaneously during rest in human subjects, we found that the spontaneous fluctuations of BOLD signals in key nodes of RSN are associated with changes in non-specific skin conductance response, a sensitive psychophysiological index of autonomic arousal. Our findings provide evidence of an important role for the autonomic nervous system to the spontaneous activity of the brain during ‘rest’.
resting-state functional connectivity MRI; autonomic arousal; skin conductance response; interoception; consciousness
The general organization of neocortical connectivity in rhesus monkey is relatively well understood. However, mounting evidence points to an organizing principle that involves clustered synapses at the level of individual dendrites. Several synaptic plasticity studies have reported cooperative interaction between neighboring synapses on a given dendritic branch, which may potentially induce synapse clusters. Additionally, theoretical models have predicted that such cooperativity is advantageous, in that it greatly enhances a neuron’s computational repertoire. However, largely because of the lack of sufficient morphologic data, the existence of clustered synapses in neurons on a global scale has never been established. The majority of excitatory synapses are found within dendritic spines. In this study, we demonstrate that spine clusters do exist on pyramidal neurons by analyzing the three-dimensional locations of ~40,000 spines on 280 apical dendritic branches in layer III of the rhesus monkey prefrontal cortex. By using clustering algorithms and Monte Carlo simulations, we quantify the probability that the observed extent of clustering does not occur randomly. This provides a measure that tests for spine clustering on a global scale, whenever high-resolution morphologic data are available. Here we demonstrate that spine clusters occur significantly more frequently than expected by pure chance and that spine clustering is concentrated in apical terminal branches. These findings indicate that spine clustering is driven by systematic biological processes. We also found that mushroom-shaped and stubby spines are predominant in clusters on dendritic segments that display prolific clustering, independently supporting a causal link between spine morphology and synaptic clustering.
clustering; dendritic spines; plasticity; morphology; image analysis