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1.  The influence of allosteric modulators and transmembrane mutations on desensitisation and activation of α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors 
Neuropharmacology  2015;97:75-85.
Acetylcholine activates nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) by binding at an extracellular orthosteric site. Previous studies have described several positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) that are selective for homomeric α7 nAChRs. These include type I PAMs, which exert little or no effect on the rate of receptor desensitisation, and type II PAMs, which cause a dramatic loss of agonist-induced desensitisation. Here we report evidence that transmembrane mutations in α7 nAChRs have diverse effects on receptor activation and desensitisation by allosteric ligands. It has been reported previously that the L247T mutation, located toward the middle of the second transmembrane domain (at the 9′ position), confers reduced levels of desensitisation. In contrast, the M260L mutation, located higher up in the TM2 domain (at the 22′ position), does not show any difference in desensitisation compared to wild-type receptors. We have found that in receptors containing the L247T mutation, both type I PAMs and type II PAMs are converted into non-desensitising agonists. In contrast, in receptors containing the M260L mutation, this effect is seen only with type II PAMs. These findings, indicating that the M260L mutation has a selective effect on type II PAMs, have been confirmed both with previously described PAMs and also with a series of novel α7-selective PAMs. The novel PAMs examined in this study have close chemical similarity but diverse pharmacological properties. For example, they include compounds displaying effects on receptor desensitisation that are typical of classical type I and type II PAMs but, in addition, they include compounds with intermediate properties.
Graphical abstract
•A series of novel positive allosteric modulators (PAMs) is described.•The series of PAMs display differing effects on α7 nAChR desensitisation.•Transmembrane mutations influencing PAM activity are examined.•Transmembrane mutations can convert PAMs into agonists.•Identification of a mutation with differing effects on type I and type II PAMs.
PMCID: PMC4548482  PMID: 25998276
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; Ion channel; Allosteric modulation; Pharmacology; 4BP-TQS, cis-cis-4-(4-bromophenyl)-3a,4,5,9b-tetrahydro-3H-cyclopenta[c]quinoline-8-sulfonamide; MLA, methyllycaconitine; nAChR, nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; NS-1738, 1-(5-chloro-2-hydroxy-phenyl)-3-(2-chloro-5-trifluoromethyl-phenyl)-urea; PAM, positive allosteric modulator; TBS-345, 4-(3-(4-bromophenyl)-5-phenyl-1H-1,2,4-triazol-1-yl)benzenesulfonamide; TBS-346, 4-(3-(4-bromophenyl)-5-(4-methoxyphenyl)-1H-1,2,4-triazol-1-yl)benzenesulfonamide; TBS-516, 4-(5-benzyl-3-(4-bromophenyl)-1H-1,2,4-triazol-1-yl)benzenesulfonamide; TBS-546, 4-(3-(4-bromophenyl)-5-propyl-1H-1,2,4-triazol-1-yl)benzenesulfonamide; TBS-556, 4-(3-(4-bromophenyl)-5-phenethyl-1H-1,2,4-triazol-1-yl)benzenesulfonamide; TQS, cis-cis-4-(napthalen-1-yl)-3a,4,5,9b-tetrahydro-3H-cyclopenta[c]quinoline-8-sulfonamide
2.  Chronic LSD alters gene expression profiles in the mPFC relevant to schizophrenia 
Neuropharmacology  2014;83:1-8.
Chronic administration of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) every other day to rats results in a variety of abnormal behaviors. These build over the 90 day course of treatment and can persist at full strength for at least several months after cessation of treatment. The behaviors are consistent with those observed in animal models of schizophrenia and include hyperactivity, reduced sucrose-preference, and decreased social interaction. In order to elucidate molecular changes that underlie these aberrant behaviors, we chronically treated rats with LSD and performed RNA-Sequencing on the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), an area highly associated with both the actions of LSD and the pathophysiology of schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses. We observed widespread changes in the neurogenetic state of treated animals four weeks after cessation of LSD treatment. QPCR was used to validate a subset of gene expression changes observed with RNA-Seq, and confirmed a significant correlation between the two methods. Functional clustering analysis indicates differentially expressed genes are enriched in pathways involving neurotransmission (Drd2, Gabrb1), synaptic plasticity (Nr2a, Krox20), energy metabolism (Atp5d, Ndufa1) and neuropeptide signaling (Npy, Bdnf), among others. Many processes identified as altered by chronic LSD are also implicated in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, and genes affected by LSD are enriched with putative schizophrenia genes. Our results provide a relatively comprehensive analysis of mPFC transcriptional regulation in response to chronic LSD, and indicate that the long-term effects of LSD may bear relevance to psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC4098645  PMID: 24704148
LSD; schizophrenia; mPFC; serotonin; rat; RNA-Seq
3.  Isoflurane exposure in newborn rats induces long-term cognitive dysfunction in males but not females 
Neuropharmacology  2014;83:9-17.
Volatile anesthetics are used widely for achieving a state of unconsciousness, yet these agents are incompletely understood in their mechanisms of action and effects on neural development. There is mounting evidence that children exposed to anesthetic agents sustain lasting effects on learning and memory. The explanation for these behavioral changes remains elusive, although acute neuronal death after anesthesia is commonly believed to be a principal cause. Rodent models have shown that isoflurane exposure in newborns induces acute neuroapoptosis and long-term cognitive impairment. However, the assessment of predisposing factors is lacking. We investigated the role of sex by delivering isoflurane to postnatal day (P)7 male and female Sprague Dawley rats for 4 hours. Brain cell death was assessed 12 h later using FluoroJade C staining in the thalamus, CA1-3 regions of hippocampus, and dentate gyrus. Behavior was assessed separately using a series of object recognition tasks and a test of social memory beginning at P38. We found that isoflurane exposure significantly increased neuronal death in each brain region with no difference between sexes. Behavioral outcome was also equivalent in simple novel object recognition. However, only males were impaired in the recognition of objects in different locations and contexts. Males also exhibited deficient social memory while females were intact. The profound behavioral impairment in males relative to females, in spite of comparable cell death, suggests that males are more susceptible to long-term cognitive effects and this outcome may not be exclusively attributed to neuronal death.
PMCID: PMC4077337  PMID: 24704083
anesthetics; isoflurane; sex; toxicity; memory
4.  nNOS inhibition during profound asphyxia reduces seizure burden and improves survival of striatal phenotypic neurons in preterm fetal sheep 
Neuropharmacology  2014;83:62-70.
Basal ganglia injury after hypoxia-ischemia remains common in preterm infants, and is closely associated with later cerebral palsy. In the present study we tested the hypothesis that a highly selective neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) inhibitor, JI-10, would improve survival of striatal phenotypic neurons after profound asphyxia, and that the subsequent seizure burden and recovery of EEG are associated with neural outcome. 24 chronically instrumented preterm fetal sheep were randomized to either JI-10 (3 ml of 0.022 mg/ml, n=8) or saline (n=8) infusion 15 min before 25 min complete umbilical cord occlusion, or saline plus sham-occlusion (n=8). Umbilical cord occlusion was associated with reduced numbers of calbindin-28k-, GAD-, NPY-, PV-, Calretinin- and nNOS-positive striatal neurons (p < 0.05 vs. sham occlusion) but not ChAT-positive neurons. JI-10 was associated with increased numbers of calbindin-28k-, GAD-, nNOS-, NPY-, PV-, Calretinin- and ChAT-positive striatal neurons (p < 0.05 vs. saline+occlusion). Seizure burden was strongly associated with loss of calbindin-positive cells (p < 0.05), greater seizure amplitude was associated with loss of GAD-positive cells (p < 0.05), and with more activated microglia in the white matter tracts (p < 0.05). There was no relationship between EEG power after 7 days recovery and total striatal cell loss, but better survival of NPY-positive neurons was associated with lower EEG power. In summary, these findings suggest that selective nNOS inhibition during asphyxia is associated with protection of phenotypic striatal projection neurons and has potential to help reduce basal ganglia injury in some premature babies.
PMCID: PMC4077724  PMID: 24726307
Asphyxia; basal ganglia; nNOS; neuroprotection; preterm fetus; seizures
5.  Agonist-induced restoration of hippocampal neurogenesis and cognitive improvement in a model of cholinergic denervation 
Neuropharmacology  2009;58(6):921-929.
Loss of basal forebrain cholinergic innervation of the hippocampus and severe neuronal loss within the hippocampal CA1 region are early hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, and are strongly correlated with cognitive status. Various therapeutic approaches involve attempts to enhance neurotransmission or to provide some level of neuroprotection for remaining cells. An alternative approach may involve the generation of new cells to replace those lost in AD. Indeed, a simple shift in the balance between cell generation and cell loss may slow disease progression and possibly even reverse existing cognitive deficits. One potential neurogenic regulator might be acetylcholine, itself, which has been shown to play a critical role in hippocampal development. Here, we report the effects of various cholinergic compounds on indices of hippocampal neurogenesis, demonstrating a significant induction following pharmacological activation of muscarinic M1 receptors, located on hippocampal progenitors in the adult brain. This is the first report that a small-molecule agonist may induce neurogenesis in the hippocampal CA1 region. Furthermore, such treatment reversed deficits in markers of neurogenesis and spatial working memory triggered by cholinergic denervation in a rodent model. This study suggests the use of small molecule, receptor agonists may represent a novel means to trigger the restoration of specific neuronal populations lost to a variety of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
PMCID: PMC4517434  PMID: 20026137
Alzheimer’s disease; Acetylcholine; Neurogenesis; Hippocampus
7.  Dopamine D2 receptor desensitization by dopamine or corticotropin releasing factor in ventral tegmental area neurons is associated with increased glutamate release 
Neuropharmacology  2014;82:28-40.
Neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are the source of dopaminergic (DAergic) input to important brain regions related to addiction. Prolonged exposure of these VTA neurons to moderate concentrations of dopamine (DA) causes a time-dependent decrease in DA-induced inhibition, a complex desensitization called DA inhibition reversal (DIR). DIR is mediated by conventional protein kinase C (cPKC) through concurrent stimulation of D2 and D1-like DA receptors, or by D2 stimulation concurrent with activation of some Gq-linked receptors. Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) acts via Gq, and can modulate glutamatergic neurotransmission in the VTA. In the present study, we used brain slice electrophysiology to characterize the interaction of DA, glutamate antagonists, and CRF agonists in the induction and maintenance of DIR in the VTA. Glutamate receptor antagonists blocked induction but not maintenance of DIR. Putative blockers of neurotransmitter release and store-operated calcium channels blocked and reversed DIR. CRF and the CRF agonist urocortin reversed inhibition produced by the D2 agonist quinpirole, consistent with our earlier work indicating that Gq activation reverses quinpirole-mediated inhibition. In whole cell recordings, the combination of urocortin and quinpirole, but not either agent alone, increased spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) in VTA neurons. Likewise, the combination of a D1-like receptor agonist and quinpirole, but not either agent alone, increased sEPSCs in VTA neurons. In summary, desensitization of D2 receptors induced by dopamine or CRF on DAergic VTA neurons is associated with increased glutamatergic signaling in the VTA.
PMCID: PMC4038332  PMID: 24657149
Desensitization; Dopamine D2 receptor; glutamate; urocortin; quinpirole; sEPSC
8.  Sensitized Nucleus Accumbens Dopamine Terminal Responses to Methylphenidate and Dopamine Transporter Releasers after Intermittent-Access Self-Administration 
Neuropharmacology  2014;82:1-10.
Long-access methylphenidate (MPH) self-administration has been shown to produce enhanced amphetamine potency at the dopamine transporter and concomitant changes in reinforcing efficacy, suggesting that MPH abuse may change the dopamine system in a way that promotes future drug abuse. While long-access self-administration paradigms have translational validity for cocaine, it may not be as relevant a model of MPH abuse, as it has been suggested that people often take MPH intermittently. Although previous work outlined the neurochemical and behavioral consequences of long-access MPH self-administration, it was not clear whether intermittent access (6 h session; 5min access/30min) would result in similar changes. For cocaine, long-access self-administration resulted in tolerance to cocaine’s effects on dopamine and behavior while intermittent-access resulted in sensitization. Here we assessed the neurochemical consequences of intermittent-access MPH self-administration on dopamine terminal function. We found increased maximal rates of uptake, increased stimulated release, and subsensitive D2-like autoreceptors. Consistent with previous work using extended-access MPH paradigms, the potencies of amphetamine and MPH, but not cocaine, were increased, demonstrating that unlike cocaine, MPH effects were not altered by the pattern of intake. Although the potency results suggest that MPH may share properties with releasers, dopamine release was increased following acute application of MPH, similar to cocaine, and in contrast to the release decreasing effects of amphetamine. Taken together, these data demonstrate that MPH exhibits properties of both blockers and releasers, and that the compensatory changes produced by MPH self-administration may increase the abuse liability of amphetamines, independent of the pattern of administration.
PMCID: PMC4028393  PMID: 24632529
Voltammetry; Self-administration; Cocaine; Methylphenidate: Amphetamine; Rat
9.  Purinergic receptor activation facilitates astrocytic GABAB receptor calcium signalling 
Neuropharmacology  2014;88:74-81.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid B receptors (GABABRs) are heterodimeric G-protein coupled receptors, which mediate slow synaptic inhibition in the brain. Emerging evidence suggests astrocytes also express GABABRs, although their physiological significance remains unknown. To begin addressing this issue, we have used imaging and biochemical analysis to examine the role GABABRs play in regulating astrocytic Ca2+ signalling. Using live imaging of cultured cortical astrocytes loaded with calcium indicator Fluo-4/AM, we found that astrocytic GABABRs are able to induce astrocytic calcium transients only if they are pre-activated by P2 purinoceptors (P2YRs). The GABABR-mediated calcium transients were attenuated by the removal of extracellular calcium. Furthermore, P2YRs enhance the phosphorylation of astrocytic GABABR R2 subunits on both serine 783 (S783) and serine 892 (S892), two phosphorylation sites that are well known to regulate the activity and the cell surface stability of GABABRs. Collectively these results suggest that P2YR mediated signaling is an important determinant of GABABR activity and phosphorylation in astrocytes.
PMCID: PMC4381935  PMID: 25261019
10.  Acid-Sensing Ion Channels in Gastrointestinal Function 
Neuropharmacology  2015;94:72-79.
Gastric acid is of paramount importance for digestion and protection from pathogens but, at the same time, is a threat to the integrity of the mucosa in the upper gastrointestinal tract and may give rise to pain if inflammation or ulceration ensues. Luminal acidity in the colon is determined by lactate production and microbial transformation of carbohydrates to short chain fatty acids as well as formation of ammonia. The pH in the oesophagus, stomach and intestine is surveyed by a network of acid sensors among which acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) and acid-sensitive members of transient receptor potential ion channels take a special place. In the gut, ASICs (ASIC1, ASIC2, ASIC3) are primarily expressed by the peripheral axons of vagal and spinal afferent neurons and are responsible for distinct proton-gated currents in these neurons. ASICs survey moderate decreases in extracellular pH and through these properties contribute to a protective blood flow increase in the face of mucosal acid challenge. Importantly, experimental studies provide increasing evidence that ASICs contribute to gastric acid hypersensitivity and pain under conditions of gastritis and peptic ulceration but also participate in colonic hypersensitivity to mechanical stimuli (distension) under conditions of irritation that are not necessarily associated with overt inflammation. These functional implications and their upregulation by inflammatory and non-inflammatory pathologies make ASICs potential targets to manage visceral hypersensitivity and pain associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders.
PMCID: PMC4458375  PMID: 25582294
Acid-induced pain; acid-related gastrointestinal diseases; acid-sensing ion channels; acid surveillance; gastrointestinal tract; inflammation; primary afferent neurons; proton-gated currents; visceral hypersensitivity
11.  The roles of nerve growth factor and cholecystokinin in the enhancement of morphine analgesia in a rodent model of central nervous system inflammation 
Neuropharmacology  2008;56(3):684-691.
Animal models of inflammatory pain are characterized by the release of inflammatory mediators such as cytokines and neurotrophic factors, and enhanced analgesic sensitivity to opioids. In this study, we examine the mechanisms underlying this effect, in particular the roles of cholecystokinin (CCK) and nerve growth factor (NGF), in an animal model of central nervous system (CNS) inflammation induced by spinal administration of lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Although spinal administration of LY-225910 (25 ng), a CCK-B antagonist, enhanced morphine analgesia in naïve rats, it was unable to do so in LPS-treated animals. Conversely, spinal CCK-8S administration (1 ng) decreased morphine analgesia in LPS-treated rats, but not in naıve animals. Further, spinal anti-NGF (3 mg) was able to reduce morphine analgesia in LPS-treated rats, but not in naïve animals, an effect that was reversed by spinal administration of LY-225910. While CCK-8S concentration was increased in spinal cord extracts of LPS animals as compared to controls, morphine-induced spinal CCK release in the extracellular space, as measured by in-vivo spinal cord microdialysis was inhibited in LPS animals as compared to controls, and this was reversed by anti-NGF pretreatment. Finally, chronic spinal administration of b-NGF (7 mg/day) for 7 days enhanced spinal morphine analgesia, possibly by mimicking a CNS inflammatory state. We suggest that in intrathecally LPS-treated rats, spinal CCK release is altered resulting in enhanced morphine analgesia, and that this mechanism may be regulated to an important extent by NGF.
PMCID: PMC4486384  PMID: 19103210 CAMSID: cams4839
12.  Intact inhibitory control processes in abstinent drug abusers (I): A functional neuroimaging study in former cocaine addicts 
Neuropharmacology  2013;82:143-150.
Neuroimaging studies in current cocaine dependent (CD) individuals consistently reveal cortical hypoactivity across regions of the response inhibition circuit (RIC). Dysregulation of this critical executive network is hypothesized to account for the lack of inhibitory control that is a hallmark of the addictive phenotype, and chronic abuse is believed to compound the issue. A crucial question is whether deficits in this circuit persist after drug cessation, and whether recovery of this system will be seen after extended periods of abstinence, a question with implications for treatment course and outcome. Utilizing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we examined activation in nodes of the RIC in abstinent CD individuals (n = 27) and non-using controls (n = 45) while they performed a motor response inhibition task. In contrast to current users, these abstinent individuals, despite extended histories of chronic cocaine-abuse (average duration of use = 8.2 years), performed the task just as efficiently as non-users. In line with these behavioral findings, no evidence for between-group differences in activation of the RIC was found and instead, robust activations were apparent in both groups within the well-characterized nodes of the RIC. Similarly, our complementary Electroencephalography (EEG) investigation also showed an absence of behavioral and electrophysiological deficits in abstinent drug abusers. These results are consistent with an amelioration of neurobiological deficits in inhibitory circuitry following drug cessation, and could help explain how long-term abstinence is maintained. Finally, regression analyses revealed a significant association between level of activation in the right insula with inhibition success and increased abstinence duration in the CD cohort suggesting that this region may be integral to successful recovery from cocaine addiction.
PMCID: PMC4485393  PMID: 23474013
Abstinence; Cocaine; fMRI; Insula; Recovery; Response inhibition
13.  Prenatal exposure to a viral mimetic alters behavioural flexibility in male, but not female, rats 
Neuropharmacology  2011;62(3):1299-1307.
Current understanding of the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders is limited; however, recent epidemiological studies demonstrate a strong correlation between prenatal infection during pregnancy and the development of schizophrenia in adult offspring. In particular, schizophrenia patients subjected to prenatal infection exhibit impairments in executive functions greater than schizophrenia patients not exposed to an infection while in utero. Acute prenatal treatment of rodents with the viral mimetic polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (PolyI:C) induces behavioural and neuropathological alterations in the adult offspring similar to schizophrenia. However, impairments on tasks of executive function that involve the prefrontal cortex (PFC) have been rarely examined for the prenatal infection model. Hence, we investigated the effects of acute prenatal injection of PolyI:C (4.0 mg/kg, i.v., gestational day 15) on strategy set-shifting and reversal learning in an operant-based task. Our results show male, but not female, PolyI:C-treated adult offspring require more trials to reach criterion and perseverate during set-shifting. An opposite pattern was seen on the reversal day where the PolyI:C-treated male rats made fewer regressive errors. Females took more pre-training days and were slower to respond during the trials when compared to males regardless of prenatal treatment. The present findings validate the utility of the prenatal infection model for examining alterations of executive function, one of the most prominent cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC4457519  PMID: 21376064 CAMSID: cams4643
Set-shifting; Reversal learning; Operant conditioning; PolyI:C; Schizophrenia; Medial prefrontal cortex
14.  Gabapentin increases extracellular glutamatergic level in the locus coeruleus via astroglial glutamate transporter-dependent mechanisms 
Neuropharmacology  2014;81:95-100.
Gabapentin has shown to be effective in animals and humans with acute postoperative and chronic pain. Yet the mechanisms by which gabapentin reduces pain have not been fully addressed. The current study performed in vivo microdialysis in the locus coeruleus (LC) in normal and spinal nerve ligated (SNL) rats to examine the effect of gabapentin on extracellular glutamate concentration and its mechanisms of action with focus on presynaptic GABA-B receptors, astroglial glutamate transporter-1 (GLT-1), and interactions with α2δ subunits of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels and endogenous noradrenaline. Basal extracellular concentration and tissue content of glutamate in the LC were greater in SNL rats than normal ones. Intravenously administered and LC-perfused gabapentin increased extracellular glutamate concentration in the LC. The net amount of glutamate increased by gabapentin is larger in SNL rats compared with normal ones, although the percentage increases from the baseline did not differ. The gabapentin-related α2δ ligand pregabalin increased extracellular glutamate concentration in the LC, whereas another α2δ ligand, 3-exo-aminobicyclo [2.2.1] heptane-2-exo-carboxylic acid (ABHCA), did not. Selective blockade by the dihydrokainic acid or knock-down of GLT-1 by the small interfering RNA abolished the gabapentin-induced glutamate increase in the LC, whereas blockade of GABA-B receptors by the CGP-35348 and depletion of noradrenalin by the dopamine-β-hydroxylase antibody conjugated to saporin did not. These results suggest that gabapentin induces glutamate release from astrocytes in the LC via GLT-1-dependent mechanisms to stimulate descending inhibition. The present study also demonstrates that this target of gabapentin in astrocytes does not require interaction with α2δ subunits in neurons.
PMCID: PMC3992194  PMID: 24495399
Locus coeruleus; glutamate; astrocyte; gabapentin; glutamate transporters; peripheral nerve injury
15.  The recovery of acetylcholinesterase activity and the progression of neuropathological and pathophysiological alterations in the rat basolateral amygdala after soman-induced status epilepticus: relation to anxiety-like behavior 
Neuropharmacology  2014;81:64-74.
Organophosphorus nerve agents are powerful neurotoxins that irreversibly inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. One of the consequences of AChE inhibition is the generation of seizures and status epilepticus (SE), which cause brain damage, resulting in long-term neurological and behavioral deficits. Increased anxiety is the most common behavioral abnormality after nerve agent exposure. This is not surprising considering that the amygdala, and the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) in particular, plays a central role in anxiety, and this structure suffers severe damage by nerve agent-induced seizures. In the present study, we exposed male rats to lethal doses of the nerve agent soman, and determined the time course of recovery of AChE activity, along with the progression of neuropathological and pathophysiological alterations in the BLA, during a 30-day period after exposure. Measurements were taken at 24 hours, 7 days, 14 days, and 30 days after exposure, and at 14 and 30 days, anxiety-like behavior was also evaluated. We found that more than 90% of AChE is inhibited at the onset of SE, and AChE inhibition remains at this level 24 hours later, in the BLA, as well as in the hippocampus, piriform cortex, and prelimbic cortex, which we analyzed for comparison. AChE activity recovered by day 7 in the BLA and day 14 in the other three regions. Significant neuronal loss and neurodegeneration were present in the BLA at 24 hours and throughout the 30-day period. There was no significant loss of GABAergic interneurons in the BLA at 24 hours post-exposure. However, by day 7, the number of GABAergic interneurons in the BLA was reduced, and at 14 and 30 days after soman, the ratio of GABAergic interneurons to the total number of neurons was lower compared to controls. Anxiety-like behavior in the open-field and the acoustic startle response tests was increased at 14 and 30 days post-exposure. Accompanying pathophysiological alterations in the BLA – studied in in vitro brain slices – included a reduction in the amplitude of field potentials evoked by stimulation of the external capsule, along with prolongation of their time course and an increase in the paired-pulse ratio. Long-term potentiation was impaired at 24 hours, 7 days, and 14 days post-exposure. The loss of GABAergic interneurons in the BLA and the decreased interneuron to total number of neurons ratio may be the primary cause of the development of anxiety after nerve agent exposure.
PMCID: PMC4005290  PMID: 24486384
Soman; Status Epilepticus; Basolateral Amygdala; Acetylcholinesterase; Anxiety; Long-Term Potentiation
16.  Snake neurotoxin α-bungarotoxin is an antagonist at native GABAA receptors 
Neuropharmacology  2015;93:28-40.
The snake neurotoxin α-bungarotoxin (α-Bgtx) is a competitive antagonist at nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) and is widely used to study their function and cell-surface expression. Increasingly, α-Bgtx is also used as an imaging tool for fluorophore-labelling studies, and given the structural conservation within the pentameric ligand-gated ion channel family, we assessed whether α-Bgtx could bind to recombinant and native γ-aminobutyric type-A receptors (GABAARs). Applying fluorophore-linked α-Bgtx to recombinant αxβ1/2γ2 GABAARs expressed in HEK-293 cells enabled clear cell-surface labelling of α2β1/2γ2 contrasting with the weaker staining of α1/4β1/2γ2, and no labelling for α3/5/6β1/2γ2. The labelling of α2β2γ2 was abolished by bicuculline, a competitive antagonist at GABAARs, and by d-tubocurarine (d-Tc), which acts in a similar manner at nAChRs and GABAARs. Labelling by α-Bgtx was also reduced by GABA, suggesting that the GABA binding site at the receptor β–α subunit interface forms part of the α-Bgtx binding site. Using whole-cell recording, high concentrations of α-Bgtx (20 μM) inhibited GABA-activated currents at all αxβ2γ2 receptors examined, but at lower concentrations (5 μM), α-Bgtx was selective for α2β2γ2. Using α-Bgtx, at low concentrations, permitted the selective inhibition of α2 subunit-containing GABAARs in hippocampal dentate gyrus granule cells, reducing synaptic current amplitudes without affecting the GABA-mediated tonic current. In conclusion, α-Bgtx can act as an inhibitor at recombinant and native GABAARs and may be used as a selective tool to inhibit phasic but not tonic currents in the hippocampus.
•Recombinant GABAA receptors are inhibited by α-bungarotoxin•The β–α subunit interface of GABAA receptors forms the α-bungarotoxin binding site.•α-bungarotoxin can selectively inhibit α2 subunit-containing GABAA receptors (α2β2γ2).•α-bungarotoxin inhibits GABA synaptic currents in the hippocampus.•GABA-mediated tonic currents are unaffected by α-bungarotoxin
PMCID: PMC4398322  PMID: 25634239
GABA receptor; Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor; α-bungarotoxin; Dentate gyrus; Electrophysiology; Immunofluorescence; d-Tc, d-tubocurarine; GABAARs, γ-aminobutyric type-A receptors; α-Bgtx, α-bungarotoxin; nAChRs, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors; α-Bgtx-AF555, α-Bgtx coupled with Alexa Fluor 555; PFA, paraformaldehyde; IPSCs, spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents; DGGCs, dentate gyrus granule cells
17.  Angiotensin-[1-12] interacts with angiotensin type I receptors 
Neuropharmacology  2013;81:267-273.
Angiotensin-(1-12) [Ang-(1-12)], a newer member of angiotensin peptides, is proposed to be converted enzymatically to angiotensin I (Ang I) and to angiotensin II (Ang II); the latter being the bioactive peptide. We studied the Ang-(1-12) and Ang II responses in COS-7 cells or CHO cells transfected with 5 μg AT1R by monitoring [Ca2+]i using the Fluo-4. Ang II (1 pM-1μM) and Ang-(1-12) (5 pM-5 μM) increased [Ca2+]i with an EC50 of 0.19 nM and 24 nM in COS-7 cells; and 0.65 nM and 28.7 nM in CHO cells. The AT1R antagonist losartan (1 nM-10 μM) suppressed [Ca2+]i induced by Ang-(1-12) and Ang II. In CHO cells transfected with 5 μg AT2R, Ang II (1 pM-1μM) increased [Ca2+]i, with an EC50 of 9.68 nM; whereas, Ang-(1-12) (5 pM-5 μM) failed to elicit a significant change in [Ca2+]i. In CHO cells transfected with AT1R, Ang-(1-12) stimulated ERK phosphorylation with a potency 300-fold less than that of Ang II. To evaluate the activity of Ang-(1-12) on native AT1R, whole cell patch recordings were made from neurons in the rat hypothalamic slices. Ang II or Ang-(1-12) ejected by pressure from a micropipette elicited a membrane depolarization; the latter was blocked by losartan (10 μM), and not affected by the AT2R antagonist PD 123319 (10 μM), nor by the angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor captopril (10 μM). Our result shows that Ang-(1-12) may produce its biological activity by acting directly on AT1R, albeit at a concentration higher than that of Ang II.
PMCID: PMC3823637  PMID: 23823979
ACE inhibitor; angiotensin II; G-protein; hypothalamus
18.  Clozapine chronically suppresses alcohol drinking in Syrian golden hamsters 
Neuropharmacology  2009;58(2):351-356.
Alcohol use disorder is common in patients with schizophrenia and is associated with poor clinical outcomes. Preliminary reports from our group and others suggest that the atypical antipsychotic clozapine may decrease alcohol use in these patients. We have previously shown that clozapine suppresses alcohol consumption for 9 days in Syrian golden hamsters. Here, we assessed the effects of clozapine on alcohol consumption in hamsters over a 27-day period, using a continuous access, 2-bottle (15% alcohol vs. water) protocol. Clozapine (4, 8, or 12 mg/kg/day, injected subcutaneously [s.c.]) dose-dependently suppressed alcohol drinking, while increasing food and water intake, and there was no tolerance within individual groups to this effect of clozapine over time. In a separate experiment, the effects of clozapine on sucrose and water drinking and food intake over a 9-day period were assessed. Clozapine (4, 8, or 12 mg/kg/day s.c.) failed to suppress sucrose (0.09 M), food, or water consumption at any time-point tested. In a related study, assessment of blood alcohol levels in hamsters indicated that blood alcohol levels were maintained within a narrow and moderate range (7–13 mg/dL), levels noted by others to produce physiologic effects in rodents. The ability of clozapine to suppress alcohol drinking in the hamster over an extended period of time without suppressing sucrose, water, or food consumption is consistent with preliminary reports indicating that clozapine limits frequent alcohol use, even producing abstinence in many patients with schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC4427519  PMID: 19895824
Clozapine; Schizophrenia; Alcoholism; Sucrose; Blood alcohol level; Hamster
19.  Blood brain barrier permeability and tPA-mediated neurotoxicity 
Neuropharmacology  2010;58(7):972-980.
Tissue type plasminogen activator (tPA) induces neuronal apoptosis, disrupt the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), and promotes dilation of the cerebral vasculature. The timing, sequence and contributions of these and other deleterious effects of tPA and their contribution to post-ischemic brain damage after stroke, have not been fully elucidated. To dissociate the effects of tPA on BBB permeability, cerebral vasodilation and protease-dependent pathways, we developed several tPA mutants and PAI-1 derived peptides constructed by computerized homology modeling of tPA. Our data show that intravenous administration of human tPA to rats increases BBB permeability through a non-catalytic process, which is associated with reversible neurotoxicity, brain damage, edema, mortality and contributes significantly to its brief therapeutic window. Furthermore, our data show that inhibiting the effect of tPA on BBB function without affecting its catalytic activity, improves outcome and significantly extends its therapeutic window in mechanical as well as thromboembolic models of stroke.
PMCID: PMC4423729  PMID: 20060006
20.  Elimination of Rat Spinal Substance P Receptor Bearing Neurons Dissociates Cardiovascular and Nocifensive Responses to Nicotinic. Agonists 
Neuropharmacology  2007;54(2):269-279.
Intrathecal (IT) delivery of nicotinic agonists evokes dose dependent nocifensive behavior and cardiovascular responses. Previous studies suggested that these effects may be attenuated by the loss of substance P positive (sP(+)) primary afferents. To further characterize these cell systems, we examined the effect of selectively destroying neurokinin 1 receptor bearing (NK1-r (+) ) dorsal horn neurons on IT nicotinic agonist evoked responses. In the dorsal spinal cord, confocal immunohistochemical microscopy revealed that nAChR subunits (α3, α4, α5, β2 and β4), NeuN B (neuronal marker) and NK1-r were all co-expressed in the superficial dorsal horn; however α3, α5, β2 and β4 exhibited the highest degree of colocalization with NK1-r expressing neurons. After intrathecal substance P-saporin (sP-SAP), NK1-r(+) cell bodies and dendrites in the superficial dorsal horn were largely abolished. The greatest loss in co-expression of nAChR subunits with NK1-r was observed with α3, α5, β2 and β4 subunits. Following intrathecal sPSAP, the nocifensive responses to all nicotinic agonists were reduced; however, in contrast, while cardiovascular responses evoked by IT nicotine were unaltered, IT cytisine and epibatidine exhibited enhanced tachycardia and pressor responses. These results indicate subunit-specific relationships between the NK1-r and nicotinic receptor systems. The loss of nocifensive activity after destruction of the NK1-r bearing cells in spite of the persistence of nicotinic subunits on other cells, emphasizes the importance of the superficial marginal neuron in mediating these nicotinic effects. Further, the exaggerated cardiovascular responses to cytisine following loss of NK1-r bearing cells suggest the presence of a nicotinic receptor-mediated stimulation of inhibitory circuits at the spinal level.
PMCID: PMC4418974  PMID: 18037142
spinal cord; cardiovascular responses; nicotinic receptor; substance P; spinal inhibitory circuits
21.  Neuron-specific chromatin remodeling: A missing link in epigenetic mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity, memory, and intellectual disability disorders 
Neuropharmacology  2013;0:18-27.
Long-term memory formation requires the coordinated regulation of gene expression. Until recently nucleosome remodeling, one of the major epigenetic mechanisms for controlling gene expression, had been largely unexplored in the field of neuroscience. Nucleosome remodeling is carried out by chromatin remodeling complexes (CRCs) that interact with DNA and histones to physically alter chromatin structure and ultimately regulate gene expression. Human exome sequencing and gene wide association studies have linked mutations in CRC subunits to intellectual disability disorders, autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. However, how mutations in CRC subunits were related to human cognitive disorders was unknown. There appears to be both developmental and adult specific roles for the neuron specific CRC nBAF (neuronal Brg1/hBrm Associated Factor). nBAF regulates gene expression required for dendritic arborization during development, and in the adult, contributes to long-term potentiation, a form of synaptic plasticity, and long-term memory. We propose that the nBAF complex is a novel epigenetic mechanism for regulating transcription required for long-lasting forms of synaptic plasticity and memory processes and that impaired nBAF function may result in human cognitive disorders.
PMCID: PMC3984593  PMID: 24140580
chromatin remodeling; nucleosome remodeling; epigenetics; long-term memory; long-term potentiation; intellectual disability disorder; autism spectrum disorder
22.  Decoding transcriptional repressor complexes in the adult central nervous system 
Neuropharmacology  2014;0:45-52.
Cells maintain precise gene expression by balancing transcriptional activation and repression. While much work has focused on elucidating transcriptional activation in the central nervous system (CNS), little is known about transcriptional repression. One means to repress gene expression is to initiate binding of transcription factors to DNA, which then recruit co-repressors as well as other accessory proteins, forming a multi-protein repressor complex. These multi-protein repressor complexes include histone modifying enzymes that trigger processes such as histone acetylation, methylation, and ubiquitylation, altering chromatin structures to impact gene expression. Within these complexes transcriptional repressor proteins per se do not exhibit enzymatic reactions to remodel chromatin structure, whereas histone modifying enzymes lack intrinsic DNA binding activity but have an ability to process post-translational modifications on histones. Thus, the mutual association between transcriptional repressors and histone modifying enzymes is essential to sculpt chromatin to favor transcriptional repression and down regulate gene expression. Additionally, co-repressors are integral components in the context of gene repression as they bridge the association of transcriptional repressors and histone modifying enzymes. In this review, we will discuss the roles of some of the major components of these repressor complex in the CNS as well as their cellular functions that may underlie fundamental behavior in animals.
PMCID: PMC3984594  PMID: 24418103
Neuropharmacology  2014;0:3-17.
The epigenome is uniquely positioned as a point of convergence, integrating multiple intracellular signaling cascades into a cohesive gene expression profile necessary for long-term behavioral change. The last decade of neuroepigenetic research has primarily focused on learning-induced changes in DNA methylation and chromatin modifications. Numerous studies have independently demonstrated the importance of epigenetic modifications in memory formation and retention as well as Hebbian plasticity. However, how these mechanisms operate in the context of other forms of plasticity is largely unknown. In this review, we examine evidence for epigenetic regulation of Hebbian plasticity. We then discuss how non-Hebbian forms of plasticity, such as intrinsic plasticity and synaptic scaling, may also be involved in producing the cellular adaptations necessary for learning-related behavioral change. Furthermore, we consider the likely roles for transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms in the regulation of these plasticities. In doing so, we aim to expand upon the idea that epigenetic mechanisms are critical regulators of both Hebbian and non-Hebbian forms of plasticity that ultimately drive learning and memory.
PMCID: PMC3984596  PMID: 24418102
Epigenetics; DNA methylation; Hebbian; histone modifications; homeostatic; intrinsic; metaplasticity; non-Hebbian; synaptic; synaptic scaling
24.  Transcriptional co-repressors and memory storage 
Neuropharmacology  2014;80:53-60.
Epigenetic modifications are a central mechanism for regulating chromatin structure and gene expression in the brain. A wide array of histone- and DNA-modifying enzymes have been identified as critical regulators of neuronal function, memory formation, and as causative agents in neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Chromatin modifying enzymes are frequently incorporated into large multi-protein co-activator and co-repressor complexes, where the activity of multiple enzymes is both spatially and temporally coordinated. In this review, we discuss negative regulation of gene expression by corepressor complexes, and the role of co-repressors and their binding partners in neuronal function, memory, and disease.
PMCID: PMC4029340  PMID: 24440532
Epigenetics; Memory; Co-repressor; NCOR; SIN3A; Chromatin remodeling
25.  Neuronal activity patterns in the mediodorsal thalamus and related cognitive circuits are modulated by metabotropic glutamate receptors 
Neuropharmacology  2015;92:16-24.
The mediodorsal thalamus (MD) likely plays an important role in cognition as it receives abundant afferent connections from the amygdala and prefrontal cortex (PFC). Indeed, disturbed activity within the MD is thought to precipitate cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia. As compounds acting at the Group II metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors (subtypes mGlu2/mGlu3) have efficacy in animal models of schizophrenia, we investigated whether a Group II agonist and an mGlu2 positive allosteric modulator (PAM) could modulate MD activity. Extracellular single-unit recordings were made in vivo from MD neurones in anaesthetised rats. Responses were elicited by electrical stimulation of the PFC and/or amygdala, with Group II compounds locally applied as required. The Group II agonist reduced inhibition evoked in the MD: an effect manifested as an increase in short-latency responses, and a decrease in long-latency burst-firing. This disinhibitory action of the Group II receptors in the MD represents a mechanism of potential therapeutic importance as increased inhibition in the MD has been associated with cognitive deficit-onset. Furthermore, as co-application of the mGlu2 PAM did not potentiate the Group II agonist effects in the MD, we suggest that the Group II disinhibitory effect is majority-mediated via mGlu3. This heterogeneity in Group II receptor thalamic physiology bears consequence, as compounds active exclusively at the mGlu2 subtype are unlikely to perturb maladapted MD firing patterns associated with cognitive deficits, with activity at mGlu3 receptors possibly more appropriate. Indeed, polymorphisms in the mGlu3, but not the mGlu2, gene have been detected in patients with schizophrenia.
•There is heterogeneity in Group II receptor physiology across thalamic nuclei.•This differential distribution may facilitate multimodal thalamic nuclei functions.•Group II receptor activation reduced burst firing via reducing thalamic inhibition.•Increased thalamic inhibition precipitates impairments in cognitive function.•Activating the Group II receptors may therefore enhance cognitive function.
PMCID: PMC4362770  PMID: 25576798
Mediodorsal thalamus; Metabotropic glutamate receptor; Synaptic inhibition; Burst firing; Schizophrenia; DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide; GABA, gamma-amino butyric acid; i.p., intraperitoneal; LY354740, (1S,2S,5R,6S)-2-Aminobicyclo[3.1.0]hexane-2,6-dicarboxylic acid; LY487379, 2,2,2-Trifluoro-N-[4-(2-methoxyphenoxy)phenyl]-N-(3-pyridinylmethyl)ethanesulfonamide hydrochloride; MD, mediodorsal thalamus; mGlu, metabotropic glutamate; mGlu2, metabotropic glutamate subtype 2; mGlu3, metabotropic glutamate subtype 3; NaCl, sodium chloride; NMDA, N-methyl d-aspartate; PAM, positive allosteric modulator; PFC, prefrontal cortex; PSTH, post-stimulus time histogram; TRN, thalamic reticular nucleus; VB, ventrobasal thalamus

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