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1.  Regeneration of Aplysia Bag Cell Neurons is Synergistically Enhanced by Substrate-Bound Hemolymph Proteins and Laminin 
Scientific Reports  2014;4:4617.
We have investigated Aplysia hemolymph as a source of endogenous factors to promote regeneration of bag cell neurons. We describe a novel synergistic effect between substrate-bound hemolymph proteins and laminin. This combination increased outgrowth and branching relative to either laminin or hemolymph alone. Notably, the addition of hemolymph to laminin substrates accelerated growth cone migration rate over ten-fold. Our results indicate that the active factor is either a high molecular weight protein or protein complex and is not the respiratory protein hemocyanin. Substrate-bound factor(s) from central nervous system-conditioned media also had a synergistic effect with laminin, suggesting a possible cooperation between humoral proteins and nervous system extracellular matrix. Further molecular characterization of active factors and their cellular targets is warranted on account of the magnitude of the effects reported here and their potential relevance for nervous system repair.
PMCID: PMC3983596  PMID: 24722588
2.  Protein kinase C activation decreases peripheral actin network density and increases central nonmuscle myosin II contractility in neuronal growth cones 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(19):3097-3114.
PKC activation enhances myosin II contractility in the central growth cone domain while decreasing actin density and increasing actin network flow rates in the peripheral domain. This dual mode of action has mechanistic implications for interpreting reported effects of PKC on growth cone guidance and neuronal regeneration.
Protein kinase C (PKC) can dramatically alter cell structure and motility via effects on actin filament networks. In neurons, PKC activation has been implicated in repulsive guidance responses and inhibition of axon regeneration; however, the cytoskeletal mechanisms underlying these effects are not well understood. Here we investigate the acute effects of PKC activation on actin network structure and dynamics in large Aplysia neuronal growth cones. We provide evidence of a novel two-tiered mechanism of PKC action: 1) PKC activity enhances myosin II regulatory light chain phosphorylation and C-kinase–potentiated protein phosphatase inhibitor phosphorylation. These effects are correlated with increased contractility in the central cytoplasmic domain. 2) PKC activation results in significant reduction of P-domain actin network density accompanied by Arp2/3 complex delocalization from the leading edge and increased rates of retrograde actin network flow. Our results show that PKC activation strongly affects both actin polymerization and myosin II contractility. This synergistic mode of action is relevant to understanding the pleiotropic reported effects of PKC on neuronal growth and regeneration.
PMCID: PMC3784383  PMID: 23966465
3.  The actin-microtubule cross-linking activity of Drosophila Short stop is regulated by intramolecular inhibition 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(18):2885-2893.
The authors investigated the regulation of the Drosophila actin-microtubule cross-linker Short stop (Shot) and found that Shot undergoes an intramolecular conformational change that regulates its cross-linking activity. This intramolecular interaction depends on Shot's NH2-terminal actin-binding domain and EF-hand-GAS2 domain.
Actin and microtubule dynamics must be precisely coordinated during cell migration, mitosis, and morphogenesis—much of this coordination is mediated by proteins that physically bridge the two cytoskeletal networks. We have investigated the regulation of the Drosophila actin-microtubule cross-linker Short stop (Shot), a member of the spectraplakin family. Our data suggest that Shot's cytoskeletal cross-linking activity is regulated by an intramolecular inhibitory mechanism. In its inactive conformation, Shot adopts a “closed” conformation through interactions between its NH2-terminal actin-binding domain and COOH-terminal EF-hand-GAS2 domain. This inactive conformation is targeted to the growing microtubule plus end by EB1. On activation, Shot binds along the microtubule through its COOH-terminal GAS2 domain and binds to actin with its NH2-terminal tandem CH domains. We propose that this mechanism allows Shot to rapidly cross-link dynamic microtubules in response to localized activating signals at the cell cortex.
PMCID: PMC3771950  PMID: 23885120
4.  Amyloid-β oligomers induce tau-independent disruption of BDNF axonal transport via calcineurin activation in cultured hippocampal neurons 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(16):2494-2505.
The role of tau in axonal transport disruption during early-stage Alzheimer disease is controversial. The amyloid-β oligomers markedly impair BDNF transport in primary wild-type and tau-knockout neurons. This occurs by nonexcitotoxic activation of calcineurin, and inhibition of calcineurin rescues transport defects independent of tau.
Disruption of fast axonal transport (FAT) is an early pathological event in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Soluble amyloid-β oligomers (AβOs), increasingly recognized as proximal neurotoxins in AD, impair organelle transport in cultured neurons and transgenic mouse models. AβOs also stimulate hyperphosphorylation of the axonal microtubule-associated protein, tau. However, the role of tau in FAT disruption is controversial. Here we show that AβOs reduce vesicular transport of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in hippocampal neurons from both wild-type and tau-knockout mice, indicating that tau is not required for transport disruption. FAT inhibition is not accompanied by microtubule destabilization or neuronal death. Significantly, inhibition of calcineurin (CaN), a calcium-dependent phosphatase implicated in AD pathogenesis, rescues BDNF transport. Moreover, inhibition of protein phosphatase 1 and glycogen synthase kinase 3β, downstream targets of CaN, prevents BDNF transport defects induced by AβOs. We further show that AβOs induce CaN activation through nonexcitotoxic calcium signaling. Results implicate CaN in FAT regulation and demonstrate that tau is not required for AβO-induced BDNF transport disruption.
PMCID: PMC3744947  PMID: 23783030
5.  Elastic Coupling of Nascent apCAM Adhesions to Flowing Actin Networks 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e73389.
Adhesions are multi-molecular complexes that transmit forces generated by a cell’s acto-myosin networks to external substrates. While the physical properties of some of the individual components of adhesions have been carefully characterized, the mechanics of the coupling between the cytoskeleton and the adhesion site as a whole are just beginning to be revealed. We characterized the mechanics of nascent adhesions mediated by the immunoglobulin-family cell adhesion molecule apCAM, which is known to interact with actin filaments. Using simultaneous visualization of actin flow and quantification of forces transmitted to apCAM-coated beads restrained with an optical trap, we found that adhesions are dynamic structures capable of transmitting a wide range of forces. For forces in the picoNewton scale, the nascent adhesions’ mechanical properties are dominated by an elastic structure which can be reversibly deformed by up to 1 µm. Large reversible deformations rule out an interface between substrate and cytoskeleton that is dominated by a number of stiff molecular springs in parallel, and favor a compliant cross-linked network. Such a compliant structure may increase the lifetime of a nascent adhesion, facilitating signaling and reinforcement.
PMCID: PMC3765355  PMID: 24039928
6.  Xenopus cytoplasmic linker–associated protein 1 (XCLASP1) promotes axon elongation and advance of pioneer microtubules 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(10):1544-1558.
The importance of microtubules (MTs) in axon outgrowth is studied using automated tracking of MTs and actin in live neurons. MT advance in the growth cone and axon outgrowth are correlated, and the MT-binding protein XCLASP1 promotes both. In addition to regulation of MTs, XCLASP1 is necessary for protrusive actin architecture in lamellipodia.
Dynamic microtubules (MTs) are required for neuronal guidance, in which axons extend directionally toward their target tissues. We found that depletion of the MT-binding protein Xenopus cytoplasmic linker–associated protein 1 (XCLASP1) or treatment with the MT drug Taxol reduced axon outgrowth in spinal cord neurons. To quantify the dynamic distribution of MTs in axons, we developed an automated algorithm to detect and track MT plus ends that have been fluorescently labeled by end-binding protein 3 (EB3). XCLASP1 depletion reduced MT advance rates in neuronal growth cones, very much like treatment with Taxol, demonstrating a potential link between MT dynamics in the growth cone and axon extension. Automatic tracking of EB3 comets in different compartments revealed that MTs increasingly slowed as they passed from the axon shaft into the growth cone and filopodia. We used speckle microscopy to demonstrate that MTs experience retrograde flow at the leading edge. Microtubule advance in growth cone and filopodia was strongly reduced in XCLASP1-depleted axons as compared with control axons, but actin retrograde flow remained unchanged. Instead, we found that XCLASP1-depleted growth cones lacked lamellipodial actin organization characteristic of protrusion. Lamellipodial architecture depended on XCLASP1 and its capacity to associate with MTs, highlighting the importance of XCLASP1 in actin–microtubule interactions.
PMCID: PMC3655815  PMID: 23515224
7.  Rac GEF Dock4 interacts with cortactin to regulate dendritic spine formation 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(10):1602-1613.
Rac GEF Dock4, recently reported as a candidate genetic risk factor for autism, dyslexia, and schizophrenia, is highly concentrated in dendritic spines in hippocampal neurons and is implicated in spine formation through interaction with the actin-binding protein cortactin.
In neuronal development, dendritic spine formation is important for the establishment of excitatory synaptic connectivity and functional neural circuits. Developmental deficiency in spine formation results in multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. Dock4, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) for Rac, has been reported as a candidate genetic risk factor for autism, dyslexia, and schizophrenia. We previously showed that Dock4 is expressed in hippocampal neurons. However, the functions of Dock4 in hippocampal neurons and the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Here we show that Dock4 is highly concentrated in dendritic spines and implicated in spine formation via interaction with the actin-binding protein cortactin. In cultured neurons, short hairpin RNA (shRNA)–mediated knockdown of Dock4 reduces dendritic spine density, which is rescued by coexpression of shRNA-resistant wild-type Dock4 but not by a GEF-deficient mutant of Dock4 or a truncated mutant lacking the cortactin-binding region. On the other hand, knockdown of cortactin suppresses Dock4-mediated spine formation. Taken together, the results show a novel and functionally important interaction between Dock4 and cortactin for regulating dendritic spine formation via activation of Rac.
PMCID: PMC3655820  PMID: 23536706
8.  CDKL5 regulates flagellar length and localizes to the base of the flagella in Chlamydomonas 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2013;24(5):588-600.
Two mutations in LF5, which encodes a protein kinase orthologous to human CDKL5, cause abnormally long flagella in Chlamydomonas. The localization of LF5p to the very proximal region of flagella in WT cells is regulated by three other LF gene products, which make up the cytoplasmic length regulatory complex.
The length of Chlamydomonas flagella is tightly regulated. Mutations in four genes—LF1, LF2, LF3, and LF4—cause cells to assemble flagella up to three times wild-type length. LF2 and LF4 encode protein kinases. Here we describe a new gene, LF5, in which null mutations cause cells to assemble flagella of excess length. The LF5 gene encodes a protein kinase very similar in sequence to the protein kinase CDKL5. In humans, mutations in this kinase cause a severe form of juvenile epilepsy. The LF5 protein localizes to a unique location: the proximal 1 μm of the flagella. The proximal localization of the LF5 protein is lost when genes that make up the proteins in the cytoplasmic length regulatory complex (LRC)—LF1, LF2, and LF3—are mutated. In these mutants LF5p becomes localized either at the distal tip of the flagella or along the flagellar length, indicating that length regulation involves, at least in part, control of LF5p localization by the LRC.
PMCID: PMC3583663  PMID: 23283985
9.  Calcineurin-dependent cofilin activation and increased retrograde actin flow drive 5-HT–dependent neurite outgrowth in Aplysia bag cell neurons 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(24):4833-4848.
5-HT promotes neurite growth via IP3-dependent Ca2+ release in neuronal growth cones. Outgrowth depends on increased rates of actin array treadmilling mediated by Ca2+-calcineurin–dependent cofilin activation. This mode of growth contrasts with substrate-dependent responses, for which retrograde actin flow and advance rates have been inversely correlated.
Neurite outgrowth in response to soluble growth factors often involves changes in intracellular Ca2+; however, mechanistic roles for Ca2+ in controlling the underlying dynamic cytoskeletal processes have remained enigmatic. Bag cell neurons exposed to serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine [5-HT]) respond with a threefold increase in neurite outgrowth rates. Outgrowth depends on phospholipase C (PLC) → inositol trisphosphate → Ca2+ → calcineurin signaling and is accompanied by increased rates of retrograde actin network flow in the growth cone P domain. Calcineurin inhibitors had no effect on Ca2+ release or basal levels of retrograde actin flow; however, they completely suppressed 5-HT–dependent outgrowth and F-actin flow acceleration. 5-HT treatments were accompanied by calcineurin-dependent increases in cofilin activity in the growth cone P domain. 5-HT effects were mimicked by direct activation of PLC, suggesting that increased actin network treadmilling may be a widespread mechanism for promoting neurite outgrowth in response to neurotrophic factors.
PMCID: PMC3521690  PMID: 23097492
10.  CTTNBP2, but not CTTNBP2NL, regulates dendritic spinogenesis and synaptic distribution of the striatin–PP2A complex 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(22):4383-4392.
Although both CTTNBP2 and CTTNBP2NL interact with cortactin and striatin/zinedin, CTTNBP2, but not CTTNBP2NL, is predominantly expressed in neurons and regulates dendritic spine distribution of cortactin and striatin/zinedin. The finding may be relevant to the association of CTTNBP2 with autism.
Cortactin-binding protein 2 (CTTNBP2) interacts with cortactin to regulate cortactin mobility and control dendritic spine formation. CTTNBP2 has also been associated with autistic spectrum disorder. The regulation of dendritic spinogenesis could explain the association of CTTNBP2 with autism. Sequence comparison has indicated that CTTNBP2 N-terminal–like protein (CTTNBP2NL) is a CTTNBP2 homologue. To confirm the specific effect of CTTNBP2 on dendritic spinogenesis, here we investigate whether CTTNBP2NL has a similar function to CTTNBP2. Although both CTTNBP2 and CTTNBP2NL interact with cortactin, CTTNBP2NL is associated with stress fibers, whereas CTTNBP2 is distributed to the cortex and intracellular puncta. We also provide evidence that CTTNBP2, but not CTTNBP2NL, is predominantly expressed in the brain. CTTNBP2NL does not show any activity in the regulation of dendritic spinogenesis. In addition to spine morphology, CTTNBP2 is also found to regulate the synaptic distribution of striatin and zinedin (the regulatory B subunits of protein phosphatase 2A [PP2A]), which interact with CTTNBP2NL in HEK293 cells. The association between CTTNBP2 and striatin/zinedin suggests that CTTNBP2 targets the PP2A complex to dendritic spines. Thus we propose that the interactions of CTTNBP2 and cortactin and the PP2A complex regulate spine morphogenesis and synaptic signaling.
PMCID: PMC3496612  PMID: 23015759
11.  Regulation of axonal growth and neuromuscular junction formation by neuronal phosphatase and tensin homologue signaling 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(20):4109-4117.
Axonal growth and synaptogenesis are sequential events of neuronal development. Phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) is expressed in motor neurons, and its disruption leads to continued axonal extension, even upon muscle contact, leading to synaptogenic suppression. Thus PTEN is involved in target-mediated cessation of axonal growth and subsequent synaptic differentiation.
During the development of the vertebrate neuromuscular junction (NMJ), motor axon tips stop growing after contacting muscle and transform into presynaptic terminals that secrete the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and activate postsynaptic ACh receptors (AChRs) to trigger muscle contraction. The neuron-intrinsic signaling that retards axonal growth to facilitate stable nerve–muscle interaction and synaptogenesis is poorly understood. In this paper, we report a novel function of presynaptic signaling by phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) in mediating a growth-to-synaptogenesis transition in neurons. In Xenopus nerve–muscle cocultures, axonal growth speed was halved after contact with muscle, when compared with before contact, but when cultures were exposed to the PTEN blocker bisperoxo (1,10-phenanthroline) oxovanadate, axons touching muscle grew ∼50% faster than their counterparts in control cultures. Suppression of neuronal PTEN expression using morpholinos or the forced expression of catalytically inactive PTEN in neurons also resulted in faster than normal axonal advance after contact with muscle cells. Significantly, interference with PTEN by each of these methods also led to reduced AChR clustering at innervation sites in muscle, indicating that disruption of neuronal PTEN signaling inhibited NMJ assembly. We thus propose that PTEN-dependent slowing of axonal growth enables the establishment of stable nerve–muscle contacts that develop into NMJs.
PMCID: PMC3469524  PMID: 22918949
12.  Arp2/3 complex–dependent actin networks constrain myosin II function in driving retrograde actin flow 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2012;197(7):939-956.
Actin veil networks assembled by the Arp2/3 complex constrain myosin II–dependent contractility in neuronal growth cones with consequent effects on peripheral retrograde actin flow rates.
The Arp2/3 complex nucleates actin filaments to generate networks at the leading edge of motile cells. Nonmuscle myosin II produces contractile forces involved in driving actin network translocation. We inhibited the Arp2/3 complex and/or myosin II with small molecules to investigate their respective functions in neuronal growth cone actin dynamics. Inhibition of the Arp2/3 complex with CK666 reduced barbed end actin assembly site density at the leading edge, disrupted actin veils, and resulted in veil retraction. Strikingly, retrograde actin flow rates increased with Arp2/3 complex inhibition; however, when myosin II activity was blocked, Arp2/3 complex inhibition now resulted in slowing of retrograde actin flow and veils no longer retracted. Retrograde flow rate increases induced by Arp2/3 complex inhibition were independent of Rho kinase activity. These results provide evidence that, although the Arp2/3 complex and myosin II are spatially segregated, actin networks assembled by the Arp2/3 complex can restrict myosin II–dependent contractility with consequent effects on growth cone motility.
PMCID: PMC3384413  PMID: 22711700
13.  The function of p120 catenin in filopodial growth and synaptic vesicle clustering in neurons 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(14):2680-2691.
The signaling by p120 catenin via its downstream effector RhoA is essential for filopodial growth and synaptic vesicle clustering along spinal axons and contributes to the formation of the neuromuscular junction.
At the developing neuromuscular junction (NMJ), physical contact between motor axons and muscle cells initiates presynaptic and postsynaptic differentiation. Using Xenopus nerve–muscle cocultures, we previously showed that innervating axons induced muscle filopodia (myopodia), which facilitated interactions between the synaptic partners and promoted NMJ formation. The myopodia were generated by nerve-released signals through muscle p120 catenin (p120ctn), a protein of the cadherin complex that modulates the activity of Rho GTPases. Because axons also extend filopodia that mediate early nerve–muscle interactions, here we test p120ctn's function in the assembly of these presynaptic processes. Overexpression of wild-type p120ctn in Xenopus spinal neurons leads to an increase in filopodial growth and synaptic vesicle (SV) clustering along axons, whereas the development of these specializations is inhibited following the expression of a p120ctn mutant lacking sequences important for regulating Rho GTPases. The p120ctn mutant also inhibits the induction of axonal filopodia and SV clusters by basic fibroblast growth factor, a muscle-derived molecule that triggers presynaptic differentiation. Of importance, introduction of the p120ctn mutant into neurons hinders NMJ formation, which is observed as a reduction in the accumulation of acetylcholine receptors at innervation sites in muscle. Our results suggest that p120ctn signaling in motor neurons promotes nerve–muscle interaction and NMJ assembly.
PMCID: PMC3395657  PMID: 22648172
14.  Stretch-induced actin remodeling requires targeting of zyxin to stress fibers and recruitment of actin regulators 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(10):1846-1859.
Mechanical stimulation induces zyxin-dependent actin cytoskeletal reinforcement. Stretch induces MAPK activation, zyxin phosphorylation, and recruitment to actin stress fibers, independent of p130Cas. Zyxin's C-terminal LIM domains are required for stretch-induced targeting to stress fibers, and zyxin's N-terminus is necessary for actin remodeling.
Reinforcement of actin stress fibers in response to mechanical stimulation depends on a posttranslational mechanism that requires the LIM protein zyxin. The C-terminal LIM region of zyxin directs the force-sensitive accumulation of zyxin on actin stress fibers. The N-terminal region of zyxin promotes actin reinforcement even when Rho kinase is inhibited. The mechanosensitive integrin effector p130Cas binds zyxin but is not required for mitogen-activated protein kinase–dependent zyxin phosphorylation or stress fiber remodeling in cells exposed to uniaxial cyclic stretch. α-Actinin and Ena/VASP proteins bind to the stress fiber reinforcement domain of zyxin. Mutation of their docking sites reveals that zyxin is required for recruitment of both groups of proteins to regions of stress fiber remodeling. Zyxin-null cells reconstituted with zyxin variants that lack either α-actinin or Ena/VASP-binding capacity display compromised response to mechanical stimulation. Our findings define a bipartite mechanism for stretch-induced actin remodeling that involves mechanosensitive targeting of zyxin to actin stress fibers and localized recruitment of actin regulatory machinery.
PMCID: PMC3350550  PMID: 22456508
15.  Neuronal dystonin isoform 2 is a mediator of endoplasmic reticulum structure and function 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2012;23(4):553-566.
ETOC: The diverging contributions of the cytoskeletal linker proteins dystonin-a1 and dystonin-a2 to pathology in dystonia musculorum are largely unknown. Sensory neurodegeneration results primarily from the loss of the dystonin-a2 isoform, which is attributed a novel role in maintenance of organelle integrity.
Dystonin/Bpag1 is a cytoskeletal linker protein whose loss of function in dystonia musculorum (dt) mice results in hereditary sensory neuropathy. Although loss of expression of neuronal dystonin isoforms (dystonin-a1/dystonin-a2) is sufficient to cause dt pathogenesis, the diverging function of each isoform and what pathological mechanisms are activated upon their loss remains unclear. Here we show that dt27 mice manifest ultrastructural defects at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) in sensory neurons corresponding to in vivo induction of ER stress proteins. ER stress subsequently leads to sensory neurodegeneration through induction of a proapoptotic caspase cascade. dt sensory neurons display neurodegenerative pathologies, including Ca2+ dyshomeostasis, unfolded protein response (UPR) induction, caspase activation, and apoptosis. Isoform-specific loss-of-function analysis attributes these neurodegenerative pathologies to specific loss of dystonin-a2. Inhibition of either UPR or caspase signaling promotes the viability of cells deficient in dystonin. This study provides insight into the mechanism of dt neuropathology and proposes a role for dystonin-a2 as a mediator of normal ER structure and function.
PMCID: PMC3279385  PMID: 22190742
16.  The Role of Actin Turnover in Retrograde Actin Network Flow in Neuronal Growth Cones 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e30959.
The balance of actin filament polymerization and depolymerization maintains a steady state network treadmill in neuronal growth cones essential for motility and guidance. Here we have investigated the connection between depolymerization and treadmilling dynamics. We show that polymerization-competent barbed ends are concentrated at the leading edge and depolymerization is distributed throughout the peripheral domain. We found a high-to-low G-actin gradient between peripheral and central domains. Inhibiting turnover with jasplakinolide collapsed this gradient and lowered leading edge barbed end density. Ultrastructural analysis showed dramatic reduction of leading edge actin filament density and filament accumulation in central regions. Live cell imaging revealed that the leading edge retracted even as retrograde actin flow rate decreased exponentially. Inhibition of myosin II activity before jasplakinolide treatment lowered baseline retrograde flow rates and prevented leading edge retraction. Myosin II activity preferentially affected filopodial bundle disassembly distinct from the global effects of jasplakinolide on network turnover. We propose that growth cone retraction following turnover inhibition resulted from the persistence of myosin II contractility even as leading edge assembly rates decreased. The buildup of actin filaments in central regions combined with monomer depletion and reduced polymerization from barbed ends suggests a mechanism for the observed exponential decay in actin retrograde flow. Our results show that growth cone motility is critically dependent on continuous disassembly of the peripheral actin network.
PMCID: PMC3281045  PMID: 22359556
17.  β-Actin specifically controls cell growth, migration, and the G-actin pool 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(21):4047-4058.
Targeted deletion of Actb demonstrates that the β-actin gene, in contrast to the γ-actin gene, is an essential gene uniquely required for cell growth and migration. Cell motility and growth defects in β-actin–knockout primary cells are due to a specific role for β-actin in regulating gene expression through control of the cellular G-actin pool.
Ubiquitously expressed β-actin and γ-actin isoforms play critical roles in most cellular processes; however, their unique contributions are not well understood. We generated whole-body β-actin–knockout (Actb−/−) mice and demonstrated that β-actin is required for early embryonic development. Lethality of Actb−/− embryos correlated with severe growth impairment and migration defects in β-actin–knockout primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) that were not observed in γ-actin–null MEFs. Migration defects were associated with reduced membrane protrusion dynamics and increased focal adhesions. We also identified migration defects upon conditional ablation of β-actin in highly motile T cells. Of great interest, ablation of β-actin altered the ratio of globular actin (G-actin) to filamentous actin in MEFs, with corresponding changes in expression of genes that regulate the cell cycle and motility. These data support an essential role for β-actin in regulating cell migration and gene expression through control of the cellular G-actin pool.
PMCID: PMC3204067  PMID: 21900491
18.  Regulation of dendritic spine growth through activity-dependent recruitment of the brain-enriched Na+/H+ exchanger NHE5 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(13):2246-2257.
pH homeostasis in neurons plays crucial roles in normal synaptic functions. It is found that the Na+/H+ exchanger NHE5 is targeted to the synapse on neuronal activation, regulates the synaptic pH, and controls the morphology of dendritic spines.
Subtle changes in cellular and extracellular pH within the physiological range have profound impacts on synaptic activities. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying local pH regulation at synapses and their influence on synaptic structures have not been elucidated. Dendritic spines undergo dynamic structural changes in response to neuronal activation, which contributes to induction and long-term maintenance of synaptic plasticity. Although previous studies have indicated the importance of cytoskeletal rearrangement, vesicular trafficking, cell signaling, and adhesion in this process, much less is known about the involvement of ion transporters. In this study we demonstrate that N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor activation causes recruitment of the brain-enriched Na+/H+ exchanger NHE5 from endosomes to the plasma membrane. Concomitantly, real-time imaging of green fluorescent protein–tagged NHE5 revealed that NMDA receptor activation triggers redistribution of NHE5 to the spine head. We further show that neuronal activation causes alkalinization of dendritic spines following the initial acidification, and suppression of NHE5 significantly retards the activity-induced alkalinization. Perturbation of NHE5 function induces spontaneous spine growth, which is reversed by inhibition of NMDA receptors. In contrast, overexpression of NHE5 inhibits spine growth in response to neuronal activity. We propose that NHE5 constrains activity-dependent dendritic spine growth via a novel, pH-based negative-feedback mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3128527  PMID: 21551074
19.  Kinesin-5, a mitotic microtubule-associated motor protein, modulates neuronal migration 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(9):1561-1574.
Kinesin-5 is traditionally considered a mitotic motor protein. This article presents evidence that kinesin-5 is also critically influential in the process of neuronal migration, wherein terminally postmitotic neurons undergo orderly movement from their sites of birth to their final destinations.
Kinesin-5 (also called Eg5 or kif11) is a homotetrameric motor protein that functions by modulating microtubule (MT)–MT interactions. In the case of mitosis, kinesin-5 slows the rate of separation of the half-spindles. In the case of the axon, kinesin-5 limits the frequency of transport of short MTs, and also limits the rate of axonal growth. Here we show that experimental inhibition of kinesin-5 in cultured migratory neurons results in a faster but more randomly moving neuron with a shorter leading process. As is the case with axons of stationary neurons, short MT transport frequency is notably enhanced in the leading process of the migratory neuron when kinesin-5 is inhibited. Conversely, overexpression of kinesin-5, both in culture and in developing cerebral cortex, causes migration to slow and even cease. Regions of anti-parallel MT organization behind the centrosome were shown to be especially rich in kinesin-5, implicating these regions as potential sites where kinesin-5 forces may be especially relevant. We posit that kinesin-5 acts as a “brake” on MT–MT interactions that modulates the advance of the entire MT apparatus. In so doing, kinesin-5 regulates the rate and directionality of neuronal migration and possibly the cessation of migration when the neuron reaches its destination.
PMCID: PMC3084678  PMID: 21411631
20.  Aberrant mitochondrial fission in neurons induced by protein kinase Cδ under oxidative stress conditions in vivo 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2011;22(2):256-265.
Impaired mitochondrial fusion/fission plays a causal role in neuronal death. This study delineated a PKCδ-related signaling cascade in which excessive mitochondrial fission is induced during oxidative stress. Moreover, a selective peptide inhibitor of PKCδ inhibits impaired mitochondrial fission under these pathological conditions.
Neuronal cell death in a number of neurological disorders is associated with aberrant mitochondrial dynamics and mitochondrial degeneration. However, the triggers for this mitochondrial dysregulation are not known. Here we show excessive mitochondrial fission and mitochondrial structural disarray in brains of hypertensive rats with hypertension-induced brain injury (encephalopathy). We found that activation of protein kinase Cδ (PKCδ) induced aberrant mitochondrial fragmentation and impaired mitochondrial function in cultured SH-SY5Y neuronal cells and in this rat model of hypertension-induced encephalopathy. Immunoprecipitation studies indicate that PKCδ binds Drp1, a major mitochondrial fission protein, and phosphorylates Drp1 at Ser 579, thus increasing mitochondrial fragmentation. Further, we found that Drp1 Ser 579 phosphorylation by PKCδ is associated with Drp1 translocation to the mitochondria under oxidative stress. Importantly, inhibition of PKCδ, using a selective PKCδ peptide inhibitor (δV1-1), reduced mitochondrial fission and fragmentation and conferred neuronal protection in vivo and in culture. Our study suggests that PKCδ activation dysregulates the mitochondrial fission machinery and induces aberrant mitochondrial fission, thus contributing to neurological pathology.
PMCID: PMC3020920  PMID: 21119009
21.  Phosphorylation of p27Kip1 at Thr187 by Cyclin-dependent Kinase 5 Modulates Neural Stem Cell Differentiation 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(20):3601-3614.
Cdk5 plays a role in nervous system development; its role in the initial stages of neural differentiation is poorly understood. We isolated neural stem cells from E13 Cdk5 WT and KO mouse and observed them as they switched from proliferating stage to neural differentiation. We show that Cdk5 phosphorylation of p27kip1 at Thr187 is crucial to neural differentiation.
Cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5) plays a key role in the development of the mammalian nervous system; it phosphorylates a number of targeted proteins involved in neuronal migration during development to synaptic activity in the mature nervous system. Its role in the initial stages of neuronal commitment and differentiation of neural stem cells (NSCs), however, is poorly understood. In this study, we show that Cdk5 phosphorylation of p27Kip1 at Thr187 is crucial to neural differentiation because 1) neurogenesis is specifically suppressed by transfection of p27Kip1 siRNA into Cdk5+/+ NSCs; 2) reduced neuronal differentiation in Cdk5−/− compared with Cdk5+/+ NSCs; 3) Cdk5+/+ NSCs, whose differentiation is inhibited by a nonphosphorylatable mutant, p27/Thr187A, are rescued by cotransfection of a phosphorylation-mimicking mutant, p27/Thr187D; and 4) transfection of mutant p27Kip1 (p27/187A) into Cdk5+/+ NSCs inhibits differentiation. These data suggest that Cdk5 regulates the neural differentiation of NSCs by phosphorylation of p27Kip1 at theThr187 site. Additional experiments exploring the role of Ser10 phosphorylation by Cdk5 suggest that together with Thr187 phosphorylation, Ser10 phosphorylation by Cdk5 promotes neurite outgrowth as neurons differentiate. Cdk5 phosphorylation of p27Kip1, a modular molecule, may regulate the progress of neuronal differentiation from cell cycle arrest through differentiation, neurite outgrowth, and migration.
PMCID: PMC2954124  PMID: 20810788
22.  The Spectraplakin Short Stop Is an Actin–Microtubule Cross-Linker That Contributes to Organization of the Microtubule Network 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(10):1714-1724.
The dynamics of actin and microtubules are coordinated in many cellular processes, but little is known about molecules mediating cross-talk. We describe intracellular dynamics of Shot in a structure-function analysis of its role as a cross-linker. Shot interacts with microtubules two ways through EB1 and along microtubule lattices by the GAS2 domain.
The dynamics of actin and microtubules are coordinated in a variety of cellular and morphogenetic processes; however, little is known about the molecules mediating this cytoskeletal cross-talk. We are studying Short stop (Shot), the sole Drosophila spectraplakin, as a model actin–microtubule cross-linking protein. Spectraplakins are an ancient family of giant cytoskeletal proteins that are essential for a diverse set of cellular functions; yet, we know little about the dynamics of spectraplakins and how they bridge actin filaments and microtubules. In this study we describe the intracellular dynamics of Shot and a structure–function analysis of its role as a cytoskeletal cross-linker. We find that Shot interacts with microtubules using two different mechanisms. In the cell interior, Shot binds growing plus ends through an interaction with EB1. In the cell periphery, Shot associates with the microtubule lattice via its GAS2 domain, and this pool of Shot is actively engaged as a cross-linker via its NH2-terminal actin-binding calponin homology domains. This cross-linking maintains microtubule organization by resisting forces that produce lateral microtubule movements in the cytoplasm. Our results provide the first description of the dynamics of these important proteins and provide key insight about how they function during cytoskeletal cross-talk.
PMCID: PMC2869377  PMID: 20335501
23.  Basic Fibroblast Growth Factor Elicits Formation of Interstitial Axonal Branches via Enhanced Severing of Microtubules 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(2):334-344.
This article demonstrates that the augmentation of axonal branching induced by bFGF is explicable on the basis of an enhancement of microtubule-severing, and that three different proteins related to microtubule-severing are affected by treatment of neurons with bFGF.
The formation of interstitial axonal branches involves the severing of microtubules at sites where new branches form. Here we wished to ascertain whether basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) enhances axonal branching through alterations in proteins involved in the severing of microtubules. We found that treatment of cultured hippocampal neurons with bFGF heightens expression of both katanin and spastin, which are proteins that sever microtubules in the axon. In addition, treatment with bFGF enhances phosphorylation of tau at sites expected to cause it to dissociate from microtubules. This is important because tau regulates the access of katanin to the microtubule. In live-cell imaging experiments, axons of neurons treated with bFGF displayed greater numbers of dynamic free ends of microtubules, as well as greater numbers of short mobile microtubules. Entirely similar enhancement of axonal branching, short microtubule transport, and frequency of microtubule ends was observed when spastin was overexpressed in the neurons. Depletion of either katanin or spastin with siRNA diminished but did not eliminate the enhancement in branching elicited by bFGF. Collectively, these results indicate that bFGF enhances axonal branch formation by augmenting the severing of microtubules through both a spastin-based mode and a katanin-based mode.
PMCID: PMC2808232  PMID: 19940015
24.  Molecular Architecture of Synaptic Actin Cytoskeleton in Hippocampal Neurons Reveals a Mechanism of Dendritic Spine Morphogenesis 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2010;21(1):165-176.
The high resolution structure of the cytoskeleton in dendritic spines and their precursors, dendritic filopodia, was characterized by platinum replica electron microscopy. The unexpected features of the actin architecture of these protrusions dramatically change the existing paradigm of cytoskeletal organization of elongated membrane protrusions.
Excitatory synapses in the brain play key roles in learning and memory. The formation and functions of postsynaptic mushroom-shaped structures, dendritic spines, and possibly of presynaptic terminals, rely on actin cytoskeleton remodeling. However, the cytoskeletal architecture of synapses remains unknown hindering the understanding of synapse morphogenesis. Using platinum replica electron microscopy, we characterized the cytoskeletal organization and molecular composition of dendritic spines, their precursors, dendritic filopodia, and presynaptic boutons. A branched actin filament network containing Arp2/3 complex and capping protein was a dominant feature of spine heads and presynaptic boutons. Surprisingly, the spine necks and bases, as well as dendritic filopodia, also contained a network, rather than a bundle, of branched and linear actin filaments that was immunopositive for Arp2/3 complex, capping protein, and myosin II, but not fascin. Thus, a tight actin filament bundle is not necessary for structural support of elongated filopodia-like protrusions. Dynamically, dendritic filopodia emerged from densities in the dendritic shaft, which by electron microscopy contained branched actin network associated with dendritic microtubules. We propose that dendritic spine morphogenesis begins from an actin patch elongating into a dendritic filopodium, which tip subsequently expands via Arp2/3 complex-dependent nucleation and which length is modulated by myosin II-dependent contractility.
PMCID: PMC2801710  PMID: 19889835
25.  Neuronal IP3 3-Kinase is an F-actin–bundling Protein: Role in Dendritic Targeting and Regulation of Spine Morphology 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(24):5166-5180.
The actin microstructure in dendritic spines is involved in synaptic plasticity. Inositol trisphosphate 3-kinase A (ITPKA) terminates Ins(1,4,5)P3 signals emanating from spines and also binds filamentous actin (F-actin) through its amino terminal region (amino acids 1-66, N66). Here we investigated how ITPKA, independent of its kinase activity, regulates dendritic spine F-actin microstructure. We show that the N66 region of the protein mediates F-actin bundling. An N66 fusion protein bundled F-actin in vitro, and the bundling involved N66 dimerization. By mutagenesis we identified a point mutation in a predicted helical region that eliminated both F-actin binding and bundling, rendering the enzyme cytosolic. A fusion protein containing a minimal helical region (amino acids 9-52, N9-52) bound F-actin in vitro and in cells, but had lower affinity. In hippocampal neurons, GFP-tagged N66 expression was highly polarized, with targeting of the enzyme predominantly to spines. By contrast, N9-52-GFP expression occurred in actin-rich structures in dendrites and growth cones. Expression of N66-GFP tripled the length of dendritic protrusions, induced longer dendritic spine necks, and induced polarized actin motility in time-lapse assays. These results suggest that, in addition to its ability to regulate intracellular Ca2+ via Ins(1,4,5)P3 metabolism, ITPKA regulates structural plasticity.
PMCID: PMC2793293  PMID: 19846664

Results 1-25 (57)