Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) involves a complex interplay of both genetic and environmental risk factors, with immune alterations and synaptic connection deficiency in early life. In the past decade, studies of ASD have substantially increased, in both humans and animal models. Immunological imbalance (including autoimmunity) has been proposed as a major etiological component in ASD, taking into account increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines observed in postmortem brain from patients, as well as autoantibody production. Also, epidemiological studies have established a correlation of ASD with family history of autoimmune diseases; associations with major histocompatibility complex haplotypes and abnormal levels of immunological markers in the blood. Moreover, the use of animal models to study ASD is providing increasing information on the relationship between the immune system and the pathophysiology of ASD. Herein, we will discuss the accumulating literature for ASD, giving special attention to the relevant aspects of factors that may be related to the neuroimmune interface in the development of ASD, including changes in neuroplasticity.
autism; neuroimmune interactions; environmental risk factors; rodent models; valproic acid
In this review, we discuss molecular and cellular mechanisms important for the function of neuronal progenitors during development, revealed by their perturbation in different cortical malformations. We focus on a class of neuronal progenitors, radial glial cells (RGCs), which are renowned for their unique morphological and behavioral characteristics, constituting a key element during the development of the mammalian cerebral cortex. We describe how the particular morphology of these cells is related to their roles in the orchestration of cortical development and their influence on other progenitor types and post-mitotic neurons. Important for disease mechanisms, we overview what is currently known about RGC cellular components, cytoskeletal mechanisms, signaling pathways and cell cycle characteristics, focusing on how defects lead to abnormal development and cortical malformation phenotypes. The multiple recent entry points from human genetics and animal models are contributing to our understanding of this important cell type. Combining data from phenotypes in the mouse reveals molecules which potentially act in common pathways. Going beyond this, we discuss future directions that may provide new data in this expanding area.
neurodevelopment; mouse mutant; radial glial cells; proliferation; epilepsy; intellectual disability; lamination
In the adult brain, expression of the microtubule-associated protein Doublecortin (DCX) is associated with neural progenitor cells (NPCs) that give rise to new neurons in the dentate gyrus. Many studies quantify the number of DCX-expressing cells as a proxy for the level of adult neurogenesis, yet no study has determined the effect of removing DCX from adult hippocampal NPCs. Here, we use a retroviral and inducible mouse transgenic approach to either knockdown or knockout DCX from adult NPCs in the dentate gyrus and examine how this affects cell survival and neuronal maturation. Our results demonstrate that shRNA-mediated knockdown of DCX or Cre-mediated recombination in floxed DCX mice does not alter hippocampal neurogenesis and does not change the neuronal fate of the NPCs. Together these findings show that the survival and maturation of adult-generated hippocampal neurons does not require DCX.
doublecortin; adult neurogenesis; DCX knockdown; DCX knockout; survival; differentiation; retrovirus labeling
De novo mutations in the TUBA1A gene are responsible for a wide spectrum of neuronal migration disorders, ranging from lissencephaly to perisylvian pachygyria. Recently, one family with polymicrogyria (PMG) and mutation in TUBA1A was reported. Hence, the purpose of our study was to determine the frequency of TUBA1A mutations in patients with PMG and better define clinical and imaging characteristics for TUBA1A-related PMG. We collected 95 sporadic patients with non-syndromic bilateral PMG, including 54 with perisylvian PMG and 30 PMG with additional brain abnormalities. Mutation analysis of the TUBA1A gene was performed by sequencing of PCR fragments corresponding to TUBA1A-coding sequences. Three de novo missense TUBA1A mutations were identified in three unrelated patients with PMG representing 3.1% of PMG and 10% of PMGs with complex cerebral malformations. These patients had bilateral perisylvian asymmetrical PMG with dysmorphic basal ganglia cerebellar vermian dysplasia and pontine hypoplasia. These mutations (p.Tyr161His; p.Val235Leu; p.Arg390Cys) appear distributed throughout the primary structure of the alpha-tubulin polypeptide, but their localization within the tertiary structure suggests that PMG-related mutations are likely to impact microtubule dynamics, stability and/or local interactions with partner proteins. These findings broaden the phenotypic spectrum associated with TUBA1A mutations to PMG and further emphasize that additional brain abnormalities, that is, dysmorphic basal ganglia, hypoplastic pons and cerebellar dysplasia are key features for the diagnosis of TUBA1A-related PMG.
polymicrogyria; tubulin; neuronal migration disorders
X-linked isolated lissencephaly sequence and subcortical band heterotopia are allelic human disorders associated with mutations of doublecortin (DCX), giving both familial and sporadic forms. DCX encodes a microtubule-associated protein involved in neuronal migration during brain development. Structural data show that mutations can fall either in surface residues, likely to impair partner interactions, or in buried residues, likely to impair protein stability. Despite the progress in understanding the molecular basis of these disorders, the prognosis value of the location and impact of individual DCX mutations has largely remained unclear. To clarify this point, we investigated a cohort of 180 patients who were referred with the agyria–pachygyria subcortical band heterotopia spectrum. DCX mutations were identified in 136 individuals. Analysis of the parents’ DNA revealed the de novo occurrence of DCX mutations in 76 cases [62 of 70 females screened (88.5%) and 14 of 60 males screened (23%)], whereas in the remaining cases, mutations were inherited from asymptomatic (n = 14) or symptomatic mothers (n = 11). This represents 100% of families screened. Female patients with DCX mutation demonstrated three degrees of clinical–radiological severity: a severe form with a thick band (n = 54), a milder form (n = 24) with either an anterior thin or an intermediate thickness band and asymptomatic carrier females (n = 14) with normal magnetic resonance imaging results. A higher proportion of nonsense and frameshift mutations were identified in patients with de novo mutations. An analysis of predicted effects of missense mutations showed that those destabilizing the structure of the protein were often associated with more severe phenotypes. We identified several severe- and mild-effect mutations affecting surface residues and observed that the substituted amino acid is also critical in determining severity. Recurrent mutations representing 34.5% of all DCX mutations often lead to similar phenotypes, for example, either severe in sporadic subcortical band heterotopia owing to Arg186 mutations or milder in familial cases owing to Arg196 mutations. Taken as a whole, these observations demonstrate that DCX-related disorders are clinically heterogeneous, with severe sporadic and milder familial subcortical band heterotopia, each associated with specific DCX mutations. There is a clear influence of the individual mutated residue and the substituted amino acid in determining phenotype severity.
band heterotopia; lissencephaly; doublecortin; microtubules
In this review, we focus on CA3 neuronal migration disorders in the rodent. We begin by introducing the main steps of hippocampal development, and we summarize characteristic hippocampal malformations in human. We then describe various mouse mutants showing structural hippocampal defects. Notably, genes identified in human cortical neuronal migration disorders consistently give rise to a CA3 phenotype when mutated in the mouse. We successively describe their molecular, physiological and behavioral phenotypes that together contribute to a better understanding of CA3-dependent functions. We finally discuss potential factors underlying the CA3 vulnerability revealed by these mouse mutants and that may also contribute to other human neurological and psychiatric disorders.
neurodevelopment; mouse mutant; epilepsy; lamination; hippocampus
Developmental cortical malformations comprise a large spectrum of histopathological brain abnormalities and syndromes. Their genetic, developmental and clinical complexity suggests they should be better understood in terms of the complementary action of independently timed perturbations (i.e., the multiple-hit hypothesis). However, understanding the underlying biological processes remains puzzling. Here we induced developmental cortical malformations in offspring, after intraventricular injection of methylazoxymethanol (MAM) in utero in mice. We combined extensive histological and electrophysiological studies to characterize the model. We found that MAM injections at E14 and E15 induced a range of cortical and hippocampal malformations resembling histological alterations of specific genetic mutations and transplacental mitotoxic agent injections. However, in contrast to most of these models, intraventricularly MAM-injected mice remained asymptomatic and showed no clear epilepsy-related phenotype as tested in long-term chronic recordings and with pharmacological manipulations. Instead, they exhibited a non-specific reduction of hippocampal-related brain oscillations (mostly in CA1); including theta, gamma and HFOs; and enhanced thalamocortical spindle activity during non-REM sleep. These data suggest that developmental cortical malformations do not necessarily correlate with epileptiform activity. We propose that the intraventricular in utero MAM approach exhibiting a range of rhythmopathies is a suitable model for multiple-hit studies of associated neurological disorders.
oscillations; multi-site recordings; hippocampal heterotopia; epilepsy
The genetic causes of malformations of cortical development (MCD) remain largely unknown. Here we report the discovery of multiple disease-causing missense mutations in TUBG1, DYNC1H1 and KIF2A, as well as a single germline mosaic mutation in KIF5C. We find a frequent recurrence of mutations in DYNC1H1, implying that this gene is a major locus implicated in unexplained MCD. The mutations in KIF5C, KIF2A and DYNC1H1 drastically affect ATP hydrolysis, productive protein folding or microtubule binding, while suppression of Tubg1 expression in vivo interferes with proper neuronal migration and expression of Tubg1 mutations in S. cerevisiae results in disruption of normal microtubule behaviour. Our data reinforce the importance of centrosome- and microtubule-related proteins in cortical development and strongly suggest that microtubule-dependent mitotic and post-mitotic processes are major contributors to the pathogenesis of MCD.
Mutations in the human X-linked doublecortin gene (DCX) cause major neocortical disorganization associated with severe intellectual disability and intractable epilepsy. Although Dcx knockout (KO) mice exhibit normal isocortical development and architecture, they show lamination defects of the hippocampal pyramidal cell layer largely restricted to the CA3 region. Dcx-KO mice also exhibit interneuron abnormalities. As well as the interest of testing their general neurocognitive profile, Dcx-KO mice also provide a relatively unique model to assess the effects of a disorganized CA3 region on learning and memory. Based on its prominent anatomical and physiological features, the CA3 region is believed to contribute to rapid encoding of novel information, formation and storage of arbitrary associations, novelty detection, and short-term memory. We report here that Dcx-KO adult males exhibit remarkably preserved hippocampal- and CA3-dependant cognitive processes using a large battery of classical hippocampus related tests such as the Barnes maze, contextual fear conditioning, paired associate learning and object recognition. In addition, we show that hippocampal adult neurogenesis, in terms of proliferation, survival and differentiation of granule cells, is also remarkably preserved in Dcx-KO mice. In contrast, following social deprivation, Dcx-KO mice exhibit impaired social interaction and reduced aggressive behaviors. In addition, Dcx-KO mice show reduced behavioral lateralization. The Dcx-KO model thus reinforces the association of neuropsychiatric behavioral impairments with mouse models of intellectual disability.
Heterotopic or aberrantly positioned cortical neurons are associated with epilepsy and intellectual disability. Various mouse models exist with forms of heterotopia, but the composition and state of cells developing in heterotopic bands has been little studied. Dcx knockout (KO) mice show hippocampal CA3 pyramidal cell lamination abnormalities, appearing from the age of E17.5, and mice suffer from spontaneous epilepsy. The Dcx KO CA3 region is organized in two distinct pyramidal cell layers, resembling a heterotopic situation, and exhibits hyperexcitability. Here, we characterized the abnormally organized cells in postnatal mouse brains. Electron microscopy confirmed that the Dcx KO CA3 layers at postnatal day (P) 0 are distinct and separated by an intermediate layer devoid of neuronal somata. We found that organization and cytoplasm content of pyramidal neurons in each layer were altered compared to wild type (WT) cells. Less regular nuclei and differences in mitochondria and Golgi apparatuses were identified. Each Dcx KO CA3 layer at P0 contained pyramidal neurons but also other closely apposed cells, displaying different morphologies. Quantitative PCR and immunodetections revealed increased numbers of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) and interneurons in close proximity to Dcx KO pyramidal cells. Immunohistochemistry experiments also showed that caspase-3 dependent cell death was increased in the CA1 and CA3 regions of Dcx KO hippocampi at P2. Thus, unsuspected ultrastructural abnormalities and cellular heterogeneity may lead to abnormal neuronal function and survival in this model, which together may contribute to the development of hyperexcitability.
Here, we have developed a highly sensitive immunoassay for Dcx to characterize expression in brain and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of rodents. We demonstrate that Dcx is widely expressed during development in various brain regions and as well can be detected in cerebrospinal fluid of rats (up to 30 days postnatal). While Dcx protein level decline in adulthood and were detectable in neurogenic regions of the adult rodent brain, similar levels were also detectable in brain regions expected to bear no neurogenesis including the cerebral cortex and CA1/CA3 enriched hippocampus. We monitored DCX protein levels after paradigms to increase or severely decrease adult hippocampal neurogenesis, namely physical activity and cranial radiation, respectively. In both paradigms, Dcx protein- and mRNA-levels clearly reflected changes in neurogenesis in the hippocampus. However, basal Dcx-levels are unaffected in non-neurogenic regions (e.g. CA1/CA3 enriched hippocampus, cortex). These data suggest that there is a substantial “non-neurogenic” pool of Dcx- protein, whose regulation can be uncoupled from adult neurogenesis suggesting caution for the interpretation of such studies.
Malformations of cortical development are characteristic of a plethora of diseases that includes polymicrogyria, periventricular and subcortical heterotopia and lissencephaly. Mutations in TUBA1A and TUBB2B, each a member of the multigene families that encode α- and β-tubulins, have recently been implicated in these diseases. Here we examine the defects that result from nine disease-causing mutations (I188L, I238V, P263T, L286F, V303G, L397P, R402C, 402H, S419L) in TUBA1A. We show that the expression of all the mutant proteins in vitro results in the generation of tubulin heterodimers in varying yield and that these can co-polymerize with microtubules in vitro. We identify several kinds of defects that result from these mutations. Among these are various defects in the chaperone-dependent pathway leading to de novo tubulin heterodimer formation. These include a defective interaction with the chaperone prefoldin, a reduced efficiency in the generation of productive folding intermediates as a result of inefficient interaction with the cytosolic chaperonin, CCT, and, in several cases, a failure to stably interact with TBCB, one of five tubulin-specific chaperones that act downstream of CCT in the tubulin heterodimer assembly pathway. Other defects include structural instability in vitro, diminished stability in vivo, a compromised ability to co-assemble with microtubules in vivo and a suppression of microtubule growth rate in the neurites (but not the soma) of cultured neurons. Our data are consistent with the notion that some mutations in TUBA1A result in tubulin deficit, whereas others reflect compromised interactions with one or more MAPs that are essential to proper neuronal migration.
The high-resolution structure of doublecortin-stabilized microtubules provides unprecedented insight into their in vivo architecture.
Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) are essential for regulating and organizing cellular microtubules (MTs). However, our mechanistic understanding of MAP function is limited by a lack of detailed structural information. Using cryo-electron microscopy and single particle algorithms, we solved the 8 Å structure of doublecortin (DCX)-stabilized MTs. Because of DCX’s unusual ability to specifically nucleate and stabilize 13-protofilament MTs, our reconstruction provides unprecedented insight into the structure of MTs with an in vivo architecture, and in the absence of a stabilizing drug. DCX specifically recognizes the corner of four tubulin dimers, a binding mode ideally suited to stabilizing both lateral and longitudinal lattice contacts. A striking consequence of this is that DCX does not bind the MT seam. DCX binding on the MT surface indirectly stabilizes conserved tubulin–tubulin lateral contacts in the MT lumen, operating independently of the nucleotide bound to tubulin. DCX’s exquisite binding selectivity uncovers important insights into regulation of cellular MTs.
The human X chromosome has a unique biology that was shaped by its evolution as the sex chromosome shared by males and females. We have determined 99.3% of the euchromatic sequence of the X chromosome. Our analysis illustrates the autosomal origin of the mammalian sex chromosomes, the stepwise process that led to the progressive loss of recombination between X and Y, and the extent of subsequent degradation of the Y chromosome. LINE1 repeat elements cover one-third of the X chromosome, with a distribution that is consistent with their proposed role as way stations in the process of X-chromosome inactivation. We found 1,098 genes in the sequence, of which 99 encode proteins expressed in testis and in various tumour types. A disproportionately high number of mendelian diseases are documented for the X chromosome. Of this number, 168 have been explained by mutations in 113 X-linked genes, which in many cases were characterized with the aid of the DNA sequence.
Patients with Doublecortin (DCX) mutations have severe cortical malformations associated with mental retardation and epilepsy. Dcx knockout (KO) mice show no major isocortical abnormalities, but have discrete hippocampal defects. We questioned the functional consequences of these defects and report here that Dcx KO mice are hyperactive and exhibit spontaneous convulsive seizures. Changes in neuropeptide Y and calbindin expression, consistent with seizure occurrence, were detected in a large proportion of KO animals, and convulsants, including kainate and pentylenetetrazole, also induced seizures more readily in KO mice. We show that the dysplastic CA3 region in KO hippocampal slices generates sharp wave-like activities and possesses a lower threshold for epileptiform events. Video-EEG monitoring also demonstrated that spontaneous seizures were initiated in the hippocampus. Similarly, seizures in human patients mutated for DCX can show a primary involvement of the temporal lobe. In conclusion, seizures in Dcx KO mice are likely to be due to abnormal synaptic transmission involving heterotopic cells in the hippocampus and these mice may therefore provide a useful model to further study how lamination defects underlie the genesis of epileptiform activities.
This review intends to provide examples how comparative and genetic analyses both contribute to our understanding of the rules for cortical development and evolution. Genetic studies helped to understand evolutionary rules of telencephalic organization in vertebrates. The control of the establishment of conserved telencephalic subdivisions and the formation of boundaries between these subdivisions has been examined and revealed the very specific alterations at the striatocortical junction. Comparative studies and genetic analyses both demonstrated the differential origin and migratory pattern of the two basic neuron types of the cerebral cortex. GABAergic interneurons are mostly generated in the subpallium and a common mechanisms govern their migration to the dorsal cortex in both mammals and sauropsids. The pyramidal neurons are generated within the cortical germinal zone and migrate radially. The earliest generated cell layers comprising preplate cells. Reelin positive Cajal-Retzius cells are a general feature of all vertebrates studied so far, however, there is a considerable amplification of the reelin signaling, which might have contributed to the establishment of the basic mammalian pattern of cortical development. Based on numerous recent observations we shall present an argument that specialization of the mitotic compartments might constitute a major drive behind the evolution of the mammalian cortex. Comparative developmental studies revealed distinct features in the early compartments of the developing macaque brain drawing our attention to the limitations of some of the current model systems for understanding human developmental abnormalities of the cortex. Comparative and genetic aspects of cortical development both reveal the workings of evolution.
Animals; Cell Differentiation; genetics; physiology; Cerebral Cortex; cytology; embryology; growth & development; Evolution; Humans; Models, Neurological; Neurons; physiology; neurogenesis; neuronal migration; Cajal-Retzius Cells
The binary Cre-lox conditional knockout system requires an essential part of the target gene to be flanked by loxP sites, enabling excision in vivo upon Cre expression. LoxP sites are introduced by homologous recombination, together with a selectable marker. However, this marker can disturb gene expression and should be removed. The marker is therefore often prepared with a third, flanking loxP site (tri-lox construct), facilitating its selective removal by partial Cre-lox recombination. We have shown that this excision can be achieved in vivo in the germline using EIIaCre transgenic mice, and have described the advantages of in vivo over in vitro removal. We show here that MeuCre40, a new transgenic mouse, more reliably and reproducibly generates an optimal partial mosaic Cre-lox recombination pattern in the early embryo. This mosaicism was transmitted to the germline and to many other tissues. Alleles with partial deletions, in particular floxed alleles from which the selectable marker was removed, were readily recovered in the next generation, after segregation from the transgene. Segregation via paternal or maternal transmission led to successful recovery of the alleles of interest. We also obtained total deletion of the floxed regions in the same experiment, making this transgene a polyvalent Cre-lox tool. We rigorously tested the ability of MeuCre40 to solve tri-lox problems, by using it for the in vivo removal of neoR- and hprt-expression cassettes from three different tri-lox mutants.