Forward and reverse signaling mediated by EphB tyrosine kinase receptors and their transmembrane ephrin-B ligands play important roles in axon pathfinding, yet little is known about the intracellular pathways involved. Here we have used growth cones from the ventral (EphB receptor-bearing) and dorsal (ephrin-B-bearing) embryonic Xenopus retina to investigate the signaling mechanisms in both forward and reverse directions. We report that unclustered, but not clustered, EphB2 ectodomains trigger fast (5–10 min) transient collapse responses in growth cones. This collapse response is mediated by low levels of intracellular cyclic GMP and requires proteasome function. In contrast, clustered, but not unclustered, ephrin-B1 ectodomains cause slow (30–60 min) growth cone collapse that depends on high cGMP levels and is insensitive to inhibition of the proteasomal pathway. Upon receptor-ligand binding, endocytosis occurs in the reverse direction (EphB2-Fc into dorsal retinal growth cones), but not the forward direction, and is also sensitive to proteasomal inhibition. Endocytosis is functionally important because blocking of EphB2 internalization inhibits growth cone collapse. Our data reveal that distinct signaling mechanisms exist for B-type Eph/ephrin-mediated growth cone guidance and suggest that endocytosis provides a fast mechanism for switching off signaling in the reverse direction.
Eph receptor; ephrin; growth cone collapse; signaling pathway; endocytosis; proteasome; retina, Xenopus laevis
Neurotrophic factors support the survival of spinal motoneurons (MNs) and have been considered as strong candidates for treating motoneuron diseases. However, it is unclear if the right combination of neurotrophic factor receptors is present in postnatal spinal MNs. In this study, we show that the level of c-ret expression remains relatively stable in embryonic and postnatal spinal MNs. In contrast, the mRNA and protein of GFRα1 and -2 are progressively down-regulated in postnatal life. By 3 and 6 months of age, both receptors are barely detectable in spinal MNs. The down-regulation of GFRα1 appears accelerated in transgenic mice expressing mutant SOD1G93A. Despite the progressive loss of GFRα1 and -2, phosphorylation of c-ret shows no detectable reduction on tyrosine residues or on serine 696. In addition to the GFRα subunits, expression of TrkB also shows a dynamic change. During embryogenesis, there is twice as much full-length TrkB as the truncated TrkB isoform. However, this ratio is reversed in postnatal spinal cord. Expression of the mutant SOD1G93A appears to have no effect on the TrkB receptor ratio. Taken together, our data indicate that the expression of neurotrophic factor receptors, GFRα1, -2, and TrkB, is not static, but undergoes dynamic changes in postnatal spinal MNs. These results provide insights into the use of neurotrophic factors as therapeutic agents for ALS.
neurotrophic factors; receptors; spinal moto-neurons; postnatal development
During embryonic development, expression of neurotrophin receptor tyrosine kinases (Trks) by sensory ganglia is continuously and dynamically regulated. Neurotrophin signaling promotes selective survival and axonal differentiation of sensory neurons. In embryonic day (E) 15 rat trigeminal ganglion (TG), NGF receptor TrkA is expressed by small diameter neurons, NT-3 receptor TrkC and BDNF receptor TrkB are expressed by large diameter neurons. Organotypic explant and dissociated cell cultures of the TG (and dorsal root ganglia) are commonly used to assay neurotrophin effects on developing sensory neurons. In this study, we compared Trk expression in E15 rat TG explant and dissociated cell cultures with or without neurotrophin treatment. Only a subset of TG cells express each of the three Trk receptors in wholemount explant cultures as in vivo conditions. In contrast, all TG neurons co-express all three Trk receptors upon dissociation, regardless of neurotrophin treatment. Neurons cultured in low concentrations of one neurotrophin first, and switched to higher concentrations of another after 1 day, survive and display morphological characteristics of neurons cultured in a mixture of both neurotrophins for 3 days. Our results indicate that wholemount explant cultures of sensory ganglia represent in vivo conditions in terms of Trk expression patterns; whereas dissociation dramatically alters Trk expression by primary sensory neurons.
TrkA; TrkB; TrkC; explant cultures; dissociated cell cultures
Mast cells occur in the brain and their number changes with reproductive status. While it has been suggested that brain mast cells contain the mammalian hypothalamic form of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH-I), it is not known whether mast cells synthesize GnRH-I de novo. In the present study, mast cells in the rat thalamus were immunoreactive to antisera generated against GnRH-I and the GnRH-I associated peptide (GAP); mast cell identity was confirmed by the presence of heparin, a molecule specific to mast cells, or serotonin. To test whether mast cells synthesize GnRH-I mRNA, in situ hybridization was performed using a GnRH-I cRNA probe, and the signal was identified as being within mast cells by the binding of avidin to heparin. GnRH-I mRNA was also found, using RT-PCR, in mast cells isolated from the peritoneal cavity. Given the function of GnRH-I in the regulation of reproduction, changes in the population of brain GnRH-I mast cells were investigated. While housing males with sexually receptive females for 2 h or 5 days resulted in a significant increase in the number of brain mast cells, the proportion of mast cells positive for GnRH-I was similar to that in males housed with a familiar male. These findings represent the first report showing that mast cells synthesize GnRH-I and that the mast cell increase seen in a reproductive context is the result of a parallel increase in GnRH-I positive and non-GnRH-I positive mast cells.
neuromodulation; endocrine; degranulation; thalamus; median eminence
The KCNC1 (previously Kv3.1) potassium channel, a delayed rectifier with a high threshold of activation, is highly expressed in the time coding nuclei of the adult chicken and barn owl auditory brainstem. The proposed role of KCNC1 currents in auditory neurons is to reduce the width of the action potential and enable neurons to transmit high frequency temporal information with little jitter. Because developmental changes in potassium currents are critical for the maturation of the shape of the action potential, we used immunohistochemical methods to examine the developmental expression of KCNC1 subunits in the avian auditory brainstem. The KCNC1 gene gives rise to two splice variants, a longer KCNC1b and a shorter KCNC1a that differ at the carboxy termini. Two antibodies were used: an antibody to the N-terminus that does not distinguish between KCNC1a and b isoforms, denoted as panKCNC1, and another antibody that specifically recognizes the C terminus of KCNC1b. A comparison of the staining patterns observed with the pan-KCNC1 and the KCNC1b specific antibodies suggests that KCNC1a and KCNC1b splice variants are differentially regulated during development. Although pan-KCNC1 immunoreactivity is observed from the earliest time examined in the chicken (E10), a subcellular redistribution of the immunoproduct was apparent over the course of development. KCNC1b specific staining has a late onset with immunostaining first appearing in the regions that map high frequencies in nucleus magnocellularis (NM) and nucleus laminaris (NL). The expression of KCNC1b protein begins around E14 in the chicken and after E21 in the barn owl, relatively late during ontogeny and at the time that synaptic connections mature morphologically and functionally.
chicken; barn owl; ontogeny; time coding; outward current; high threshold
We have shown previously that vitamin A deficiency (VAD) leads to the decreased expression of gene products that are specifically synthesized by mature neurons in the olfactory epithelium (OE) of adult rats. These results support the hypothesis that retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A, is required for neurogenesis and neuron replacement in vivo. VAD does not cause gross degeneration of the OE, raising the question: what types of cells continue to populate VAD OE? In this study, we compared the cell densities of VAD and VA-sufficient (VAS) OE and investigated whether cell proliferation is upregulated in VAD OE. The results show that (1) total cell number in VAD and VAS OE are comparable; (2) localized areas of hyperplasia are present in the basal regions of VAD, but not VAS, OE; (3) there is a substantial increase in the number of PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen) positive cells in the basal region of VAD OE relative to VAS OE; and (4) there is a relative increase in the levels of mRNA encoding the transcription factor, MASH I, in VAD OE. We conclude that reduced availability of vitamin A derivatives, such as retinoic acid, leads to a loss of control over proliferation, hyperplasia, and increased numbers of pro-neural cells in vivo.
vitamin A; retinoic acid; neurogenesis; olfactory epithelium; neuron
Gene expression studies indicate that during activity-dependent developmental plasticity, N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor activation causes a Ca2+-dependent increase in expression of transcription factors and their downstream targets. The products of these plasticity genes then operate collectively to bring about the structural and functional changes that underlie ocular dominance plasticity in visual cortex. Identifying and characterizing plasticity genes provides a tool for molecular dissection of the mechanisms involved. Members of second-messenger pathways identified in adult plasticity paradigms and elements of the transmission machinery are the first candidate plasticity genes tested for their role in activity-dependent developmental plasticity. Knockout mice with deletions of such genes have allowed analyzing their function in the context of different systems and in different paradigms. Studies of mutant mice reveal that activity-dependent plasticity is not necessarily a unified phenomenon. The relative importance of a gene can vary with the context of its expression during different forms of plasticity. Forward genetic screens provide additional new candidates for testing, some with well-defined cellular functions that provide insight into possible plasticity mechanisms.
gene expression; development; cerebral cortex; activity-dependent plasticity; gene knockout
Regulation of gene transcription by neuronal activity is thought to be key to the translation of sensory experience into long-term changes in synaptic structure and function. Here we show that cpg15, a gene encoding an extracellular signaling molecule that promotes dendritic and axonal growth and synaptic maturation, is regulated in the somatosensory cortex by sensory experience capable of inducing cortical plasticity. Using in situ hybridization, we monitored cpg15 expression in 4-week-old mouse barrel cortex after trimming all whiskers except D1. We found that cpg15 expression is depressed in the deprived barrels and enhanced in the barrel column corresponding to the spared D1 whisker. Changes in cpg15 mRNA levels first appear in layer IV, peak 12 h after deprivation, and then decline rapidly. In layers II/III, changes in cpg15 expression appear later, peak at 24 h, and persist for days. Induction of cpg15 expression is significantly diminished in adolescent as well as adult CREB knockout mice. cpg15's spatio-temporal expression pattern and its regulation by CREB are consistent with a role in experience-dependent plasticity of cortical circuits. Our results suggest that local structural and/or synaptic changes may be a mechanism by which the adult cortex can adapt to peripheral manipulations.
barrel cortex; cpg15; deprivation; experience-dependent plasticity
Extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules play critical roles in muscle function by participating in neuromuscular junction (NMJ) development and the establishment of stable, cytoskeleton-associated adhesions required for muscle contraction. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are neutral endopeptidases that degrade all ECM components. While the role of MMPs and their inhibitors, the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), has been investigated in many tissues, little is known about their role in muscle development and mature function. TIMP-2−/− mice display signs of muscle weakness. Here, we report that TIMP-2 is expressed at the NMJ and its expression is greater in fast-twitch (extensor digitorum longus, EDL) than slow-twitch (soleus) muscle. EDL muscle mass is reduced in TIMP-2−/− mice without a concomitant change in fiber diameter or number. The TIMP-2−/− phenotype is not likely due to increased ECM proteolysis because net MMP activity is actually reduced in TIMP-2−/− muscle. Most strikingly, TIMP-2 co-localizes with β1 integrin at costameres in the wild-type EDL and β1 integrin expression is significantly reduced in TIMP-2−/− EDL. We propose that reduced β1 integrin in fast-twitch muscle may be associated with destabilized ECM-cytoskeletal interactions required for muscle contraction in TIMP-2−/− muscle; thus, explaining the muscle weakness. Given that fast-twitch fibers are lost in muscular dystrophies and age-related sarcopenia, if TIMP-2 regulates mechanotransduction in an MMP-independent manner it opens new potential therapeutic avenues.
costamere; integrin; knockout; mechanotransduction; myogenesis; proMMP-2
The topographic projection of retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons to mouse superior colliculus (SC) or chick optic tectum (OT) is formed in three phases: RGC axons overshoot their termination zone (TZ); they exhibit interstitial branching along the axon that is topographically biased for the correct location of their future TZ; and branches arborize preferentially at the TZ and the initial exuberant projection refines through axon and branch elimination to generate a precise retinotopic map. We present a computational model of map development that demonstrates that the countergradients of EphAs and ephrinAs in retina and the OT/SC and bidirectional repellent signaling between RGC axons and OT/SC cells are sufficient to direct an initial topographic bias in RGC axon branching. Our model also suggests that a proposed repellent action of EphAs/ephrinAs present on RGC branches and arbors added to that of EphAs/ephrinAs expressed by OT/SC cells is required to progressively restrict branching and arborization to topographically correct locations and eliminate axon overshoot. Simulations show that this molecular framework alone can develop considerable topographic order and refinement, including axon elimination, a feature not programmed into the model. Generating a refined map with a condensed TZ as in vivo requires an additional parameter that enhances branch formation along an RGC axon near sites that it has a higher branch density, and resembles an assumed role for patterned neural activity. The same computational model generates the phenotypes reported in ephrinA deficient mice and Isl2-EphA3 knockin mice. This modeling suggests that gradients of counter-repellents can establish a substantial degree of topographic order in the OT/SC, and that repellents present on RGC axon branches and arbors make a substantial contribution to map refinement. However, competitive interactions between RGC axons that enhance the probability of continued local branching are required to generate precise retinotopy.
axon arborization; axon branching; axon competition; axon elimination; axon guidance; axon repellents; bidirectional signaling; ephrinA knockout mice; Isl2-EphA3 knockin mice; retinotectal projection; topographic mapping
Serotonin (5HT) plays major roles in the physiological regulation of many behavioral processes, including sleep, feeding, and mood, but the genetic mechanisms by which serotonergic neurons arise during development are poorly understood. In the present study, we have investigated the development of serotonergic neurons in the zebrafish. Neurons exhibiting 5HT-immunoreactivity (5HT-IR) are detected from 45 h postfertilization (hpf) in the ventral hindbrain raphe, the hypothalamus, pineal organ, and pretectal area. Tryptophan hydroxylases encode rate-limiting enzymes that function in the synthesis of 5HT. As part of this study, we cloned and analyzed a novel zebrafish tph gene named tphR. Unlike two other zebrafish tph genes (tphD1 and tphD2), tphR is expressed in serotonergic raphe neurons, similar to tph genes in mammalian species. tphR is also expressed in the pineal organ where it is likely to be involved in the pathway leading to synthesis of melatonin. To better understand the signaling pathways involved in the induction of the serotonergic phenotype, we analyzed tphR expression and 5HT-IR in embryos in which either Hh or Fgf signals are abrogated. Hindbrain 5HT neurons are severely reduced in mutants lacking activity of either Ace/Fgf8 or the transcription factor Noi/Pax2.1, which regulates expression of ace/fgf8, and probably other genes encoding signaling proteins. Similarly, serotonergic raphe neurons are absent in embryos lacking Hh activity confirming a conserved role for Hh signals in the induction of these cells. Conversely, over-activation of the Hh pathway increases the number of serotonergic neurons. As in mammals, our results are consistent with the transcription factors Nk2.2 and Gata3 acting downstream of Hh activity in the development of serotonergic raphe neurons. Our results show that the pathways involved in induction of hindbrain serotonergic neurons are likely to be conserved in all vertebrates and help establish the zebrafish as a model system to study this important neuronal class.
fibroblast growth factor; raphe nucleus; serotonergic; tryptophan; hydroxylase; hedgehog; zebrafish
Synaptotagmins are a family of proteins that function in membrane fusion events, including synaptic vesicle exocytosis. Within this family, synaptotagmin IV (Syt IV) is unique in being a depolarization-induced immediate early gene (IEG). Experimental perturbation of Syt IV modulates neurotransmitter release in mice, flies, and PC12 cells, and modulates learning in mice. Despite these features, induction of Syt IV expression by a natural behavior has not been previously reported. We used the zebra finch, a songbird species, to investigate Syt IV because song is a naturally learned behavior whose neuro-anatomical basis is largely identified. We observed that, similar to rodents, Syt IV is inducible in songbirds. This induction was selective and depended on the nature of neuronal depolarization. Generalized seizures caused by the GABAA receptor antagonist, metrazole, induced the IEG, ZENK, in zebra finch brain. However, these same seizures failed to induce Syt IV in song control areas. In contrast, when nontreated birds sang, three song control areas showed striking Syt IV induction. Further, this induction appeared sensitive to the social context in which song was sung. Together, these data suggest that neural activity during singing can drive Syt IV expression within song circuitry whereas generalized seizure activity fails to do so even though song control areas are depolarized. Our findings indicate that, within this neural circuit for a procedurally learned sensorimotor behavior, Syt IV is selective and requires precisely patterned neural activity and/or neuro-modulation associated with singing.
immediate early gene; motor-driven; social regulation; birdsong; vocal
The actin filament (F-actin) cytoskeleton is thought to be required for normal axon extension during embryonic development. Whether this is true of axon regeneration in the mature nervous system is not known, but a progressive simplification of growth cones during development has been described and where specifically investigated, mature spinal cord axons appear to regenerate without growth cones. We have studied the cytoskeletal mechanisms of axon regeneration in developmentally early and late chicken sensory neurons, at embryonic day (E) 7 and 14 respectively. Depletion of F-actin blocked the regeneration of E7 but not E14 sensory axons in vitro. The differential sensitivity of axon regeneration to the loss of F-actin and growth cones correlated with endogenous levels of F-actin and growth cone morphology. The growth cones of E7 axons contained more F-actin and were more elaborate than those of E14 axons. The ability of E14 axons to regenerate in the absence of F-actin and growth cones was dependent on microtubule tip polymerization. Importantly, while the regeneration of E7 axons was strictly dependent on F-actin, regeneration of E14 axons was more dependent on microtubule tip polymerization. Furthermore, E14 axons exhibited altered microtubule polymerization relative to E7, as determined by imaging of microtubule tip polymerization in living neurons. These data indicate that the mechanism of axon regeneration undergoes a developmental switch between E7 and E14 from strict dependence on F-actin to a greater dependence on microtubule polymerization. Collectively, these experiments indicate that microtubule polymerization may be a therapeutic target for promoting regeneration of mature neurons.
actin; growth cone; regeneration; microtubule; EB3; transport; dynamic instability
Recent experiments have studied the development of orientation selectivity in normal animals, visually deprived animals, and animals where patterns of neuronal activity have been altered. Results of these experiments indicate that orientation tuning appears very early in development, and that normal patterns of activity are necessary for its normal development. Visual experience is not needed for early development of orientation, but is crucial for maintaining orientation selectivity. Neuronal activity and vision thus seem to play similar roles in the development of orientation selectivity as they do in the development of eyespecific segregation in the visual system.
visual cortex; orientation selectivity; ocular dominance; activity maps; ferret; development
In mammals, the part of the nervous system responsible for most circadian behavior can be localized to a pair of structures in the hypothalamus known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Previous studies suggest that the basic mechanism responsible for the generation of these rhythms is intrinsic to individual cells. There is also evidence that the cells within the SCN are coupled to one another and that this coupling is important for the normal functioning of the circadian system. One mechanism that mediates coordinated electrical activity is direct electrical connections between cells formed by gap junctions. In the present study, we used a brain slice preparation to show that developing SCN cells are dye coupled. Dye coupling was observed in both the ventrolateral and dorsomedial subdivisions of the SCN and was blocked by application of a gap junction inhibitor, halothane. Dye coupling in the SCN appears to be regulated by activity-dependent mechanisms as both tetrodotoxin and the GABAA agonist muscimol inhibited the extent of coupling. Furthermore, acute hyperpolarization of the membrane potential of the original biocytin-filled neuron decreased the extent of coupling. SCN cells were extensively dye coupled during the day when the cells exhibit synchronous neural activity but were minimally dye coupled during the night when the cells are electrically silent. Immunocytochemical analysis provides evidence that a gap-junction—forming protein, connexin32, is expressed in the SCN of postnatal animals. Together the results are consistent with a model in which gap junctions provide a means to couple SCN neurons on a circadian basis.
biocytin; circadian rhythms; dye coupling; gap junctions; Rattus rattus; SCN
During development, axons of the chorda tympani nerve navigate to fungiform papillae where they penetrate the lingual epithelium, forming a neural bud. It is not known whether or not all chorda tympani axons initially innervate fungiform papillae correctly or if mistakes are made. Using a novel approach, we quantified the accuracy with which gustatory fibers successfully innervate fungiform papillae. Immediately following initial targeting (E14.5), innervation was found to be incredibly accurate: specifically, 94% of the fungiform papillae on the tongue are innervated. A mean of five papillae per tongue were uninnervated at E14.5, and the lingual tongue surface was innervated in 17 places that lack fungiform papillae. To determine if these initial errors in papillae innervation were later refined, innervation accuracy was quantified at E16.5 and E18.5. By E16.5 only two papillae per tongue remained uninnervated. Innervation to inappropriate regions was also removed, but not until later, between E16.5 and E18.5 of development. Therefore, even though gustatory fibers initially innervate fungiform papillae accurately, some errors in targeting do occur that are then refined during later embryonic periods. It is likely that trophic interactions between gustatory neurons and developing taste epithelium allow appropriate connections to be maintained and inappropriate ones to be eliminated.
fungiform papillae; gustatory fibers; innervation; targeting; trophic interactions; neurotrophins; taste buds
In rodents, male-typical copulatory behavior is generally dependent on gonadal sex steroids such as testosterone, and it is thought that the mechanism by which the hormone gates the behavior involves the gaseous neurotransmitter nitric oxide. According to one model, testosterone induces an up-regulation of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in the preoptic area, increasing nitric oxide synthesis following exposure to a sexual stimulus. Nitric oxide in turn, possibly through its effect on catecholamine turnover, influences the way the stimulus is processed and enables the appropriate copulatory behavioral response. In whiptail lizards (genus Cnemidophorus), administration of male-typical levels of testosterone to females induces the display of male-like copulatory responses to receptive females, and we hypothesized that this radical change in behavioral phenotype would be accompanied by a large change in the expression of NOS in the preoptic area. As well as comparing NOS expression using NADPH diaphorase histochemistry between testosterone-treated females and controls, we examined citrulline immunoreactivity (a marker of recent nitric oxide production) in the two groups, following a sexual stimulus and following a nonsexual stimulus. Substantially more NADPH diaphorase-stained cells were observed in the testosterone-treated animals. Citrulline immunoreactivity was greater in testosterone-implanted animals than in blank-implanted animals, but only following exposure to a sexual stimulus. This is the first demonstration that not only is NOS up-regulated by testosterone, but NOS thus up-regulated is activated during male-typical copulatory behavior.
copulatory behavior; androgen; nitric oxide; preoptic area; Cnemidophorus
It is well known, although not well understood, that smoking and eating just do not go together. Smoking is associated with decreased food intake and lower body weight. Nicotine, administered either by smoking or by smokeless routes, is considered the major appetite-suppressing component of tobacco. Perhaps the most renowned example of nicotine's influence on appetite and feeding behavior is the significant weight gain associated with smoking cessation. This article presents an overview of the literature at, or near, the interface of nicotinic receptors and appetite regulation. We first consider some of the possible sites of nicotine's action along the complex network of neural and non-neural regulators of feeding. We then present the hypothesis that the lateral hypothalamus is a particularly important locus of the anorectic effects of nicotine. Finally, we discuss the potential role of endogenous cholinergic systems in motivational feeding, focusing on cholinergic pathways in the lateral hypothalamus.
orexin; M-H; lateral hypothalamus; acetylcholine
The Drosophila auditory system is presented as a powerful new genetic model system for understanding the molecular aspects of development and physiology of hearing organs. The fly’s ear resides in the antenna, with Johnston’s organ serving as the mechanoreceptor. New approaches using electrophysiology and laser vibrometry have provided useful tools to apply to the study of mutations that disrupt hearing. The fundamental developmental processes that generate the peripheral nervous system are fairly well understood, although specific variations of these processes for chordotonal organs (CHO) and especially for Johnston’s organ require more scrutiny. In contrast, even the fundamental physiologic workings of mechanosensitive systems are still poorly understood, but rapid recent progress is beginning to shed light. The identification and analysis of mutations that affect auditory function are summarized here, and prospects for the role of the Drosophila auditory system in understanding both insect and vertebrate hearing are discussed.
chordotonal organ; Johnston’s organ; sensory cilia; axoneme; mechanotransduction
The molecular mechanisms underlying the generation of the various types of cells in the vertebrate retina are largely unknown. We investigated the possibility that genes belonging to the basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) family of transcriptional factors participate in cell-type specification during retinal neurogenesis. Chick neuroD was isolated from an embryonic cDNA library and its deduced amino acid sequence showed 75% identity with mouse neuroD. In situ hybridization showed that neuroD was expressed in cells located at the outer portion of the developing retinal neuroepithelium, the location where prospective photoreceptors reside. Misexpression of neuroD in retinal neuroepithelium through replication-competent, transformation-deficient retroviruses produced a retina with three, instead of two, layers of photoreceptor cells; the number of cells that express visinin, a marker for cone photoreceptors, increased over 50% compared to control embryos misexpressing the green fluorescent protein. No significant changes were observed in the number of other retinal neurons, including those that express RA4 (ganglion cells), pax6 (ganglion cells and amacrine cells), and chx10 (bipolar cells). Retroviral-driven misexpression of neuroD in monolayer cultures of retinal pigment epithelium yielded de novo production of photoreceptor cells with no other types of retinal neurons detected. We propose that neuroD is important for photoreceptor cell production in the vertebrate retina.
photoreceptors; neuroD; transdifferentiation; RPE
A molecular understanding of synaptogenesis is a critical step toward the goal of understanding how brains “wire themselves up,” and then “rewire” during development and experience. Recent genomic and molecular advances have made it possible to study synaptogenesis on a genomic scale. Here, we describe the results of a screen for genes involved in formation and development of the glutamatergic Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ). We screened 2185 P-element transposon mutants representing insertions in ≈16% of the entire Drosophila genome. We first identified recessive lethal mutants, based on the hypothesis that mutations causing severe disruptions in synaptogenesis are likely to be lethal. Two hundred twenty (10%) of all insertions were homozygous lethal. Two hundred five (93%) of these lethal mutants developed at least through late embryogenesis and formed neuromusculature. We examined embryonic/larval NMJs in 202 of these homozygous mutants using immunocytochemistry and confocal microscopy. We identified and classified 88 mutants with altered NMJ morphology. Insertion loci in these mutants encode several different types of proteins, including ATP- and GTPases, cytoskeletal regulators, cell adhesion molecules, kinases, phosphatases, RNA regulators, regulators of protein formation, transcription factors, and transporters. Thirteen percent of insertions are in genes that encode proteins of novel or unknown function. Complementation tests and RT-PCR assays suggest that approximately 51% of the insertion lines carry background mutations. Our results reveal that synaptogenesis requires the coordinated action of many different types of proteins—perhaps as much as 44% of the entire genome—and that transposon mutageneses carry important caveats that must be respected when interpreting results generated using this method.
Drosophila; synapse development; axon guidance; axon branching; neuromuscular junction
Growth cones are highly polarized and dynamic structures confined to the tips of axons. The polarity of growth cones is in part maintained by suppression of protrusive activity from the distal axon shaft, a process termed axon consolidation. The mechanistic basis of axon consolidation that contributes to the maintenance of growth cone polarity is not clear. We report that inhibition of RhoA-kinase (ROCK) or myosin II resulted in unstable consolidation of the distal axon as evidenced by increased filopodial and lamellipodial extension. Furthermore, when ROCK or myosin II was inhibited lamellipodia formed at the growth cone migrated onto the axon shaft. Analysis of EYFP-actin dynamics in the distal axon revealed that ROCK negatively regulates actin polymerization and initiation of protrusive structures from spontaneously formed axonal F-actin patches, the latter being an effect attributable to ROCK-mediated regulation of myosin II. Inhibition of ROCK or myosin II blocked growth cone turning toward NGF by preventing suppression of protrusive activity away from the source of NGF, resulting in aborted turning responses. These data elucidate the mechanism of growth cone polarity, provide evidence that consolidation of the distal axon is a component of guidance, and identify ROCK as a negative regulator of F-actin polymerization underlying protrusive activity in the distal axon.
actin; consolidation; polymerization; blebbistatin; protrusion; filopodium; lamellipodium
The degradation of the extracellular matrix is regulated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs). Matrix components of the basement membrane play critical roles in the development and maintenance of the neuromuscular junction (NMJ), yet almost nothing is known about the regulation of MMP and TIMP expression in either the presynaptic or postsynaptic compartments. Here, we demonstrate that TIMP-2 is expressed by both spinal motor neurons and skeletal muscle. To determine whether motor function is altered in the absence of TIMP-2, motor behavior was assessed using a battery of tests (e.g., RotaRod, balance beam, hindlimb extension, grip strength, loaded grid and gait analysis). TIMP-2−/− mice fall off the RotaRod significantly faster than wild-type littermates. In addition, hindlimb extension is reduced and gait is both splayed and lengthened in TIMP-2−/− mice. Motor dysfunction is more pronounced during early postnatal development. A preliminary analysis revealed NMJ alterations in TIMP-2−/− mice. Juvenile TIMP-2−/− mice have increased nerve branching and acetylcholine receptor expression. Adult TIMP-2−/− endplates are enlarged and more complex. This suggests a role for TIMP-2 in NMJ sculpting during development. In contrast to the increased NMJ nerve branching, cerebellar Purkinje cells have decreased neurite outgrowth. Thus, the TIMP-2−/− motor phenotype is likely due to both peripheral and central defects. The tissue specificity of the nerve branching phenotype suggests the involvement of different MMPs and/or extracellular matrix molecules underlying the TIMP-2−/− motor phenotype.
cerebellum; knockout; muscle; neuromuscular junction; TIMP
Adenosine has been implicated as a modulator of retinohypothalamic neurotransmission in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the seat of the light-entrainable circadian clock in mammals. Intracellular recordings were made from SCN neurons in slices of hamster hypothalamus using the in situ whole-cell patch clamp method. A monosynaptic, glutamatergic, excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) was evoked by stimulation of the optic nerve. The EPSC was blocked by bath application of the adenosine A1 receptor agonist cyclohexyladenosine (CHA) in a dose-dependent manner with a half-maximal concentration of 1.7 µM. The block of EPSC amplitude by CHA was antagonized by concurrent application of the adenosine A1 receptor antagonist 8-cyclopentyl-1,3-dipropylxanthine (DPCPX). The adenosine A2A receptor agonist CGS21680 was ineffective in attenuating the EPSC at concentrations up to 50 µM. Trains of four consecutive stimuli at 25 ms intervals usually depressed the EPSC amplitude. However, after application of CHA, consecutive responses displayed facilitation of EPSC amplitude. The induction of facilitation by CHA suggested a presynaptic mechanism of action. After application of CHA, the frequency of spontaneous EPSCs declined substantially, while their amplitude distribution was unchanged or slightly reduced, again suggesting a mainly presynaptic site of action for CHA. Application of glutamate by brief pressure ejection evoked a long-lasting inward current that was unaffected by CHA at concentrations sufficient to reduce the evoked EPSC amplitude substantially (1 to 5 µM), suggesting that postsynaptic glutamate receptor-gated currents were unaffected by the drug. Taken together, these observations indicate that CHA inhibits optic nerve-evoked EPSCs in SCN neurons by a predominantly presynaptic mechanism.
suprachiasmatic nucleus; circadian rhythm; entrainment; adenosine; presynaptic inhibition
Hearing loss in mammals is irreversible because cochlear neurons and hair cells do not regenerate. To determine whether we could replace neurons lost to primary neuronal degeneration, we injected EYFP-expressing embryonic stem cell–derived mouse neural progenitor cells into the cochlear nerve trunk in immunosuppressed animals 1 week after destroying the cochlear nerve (spiral ganglion) cells while leaving hair cells intact by ouabain application to the round window at the base of the cochlea in gerbils. At 3 days post transplantation, small grafts were seen that expressed endogenous EYFP and could be immunolabeled for neuron-specific markers. Twelve days after transplantation, the grafts had neurons that extended processes from the nerve core toward the denervated organ of Corti. By 64–98 days, the grafts had sent out abundant processes that occupied a significant portion of the space formerly occupied by the cochlear nerve. The neurites grew in fasciculating bundles projecting through Rosenthal’s canal, the former site of spiral ganglion cells, into the osseous spiral lamina and ultimately into the organ of Corti, where they contacted hair cells. Neuronal counts showed a significant increase in neuronal processes near the sensory epithelium, compared to animals that were denervated without subsequent stem cell transplantation. The regeneration of these neurons shows that neurons differentiated from stem cells have the capacity to grow to a specific target in an animal model of neuronal degeneration.
regeneration; stem cell; transplantation; neuron; auditory; axon