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Neuroscience letters  2013;561:30-34.
Both the reticulospinal and corticospinal systems are known to control recruitment of upper limb muscles, yet no known studies have attempted to assess their combined effects in the same experiment in the awake, behaving primate. The purpose of this study is to present an approach for the analysis of the cooperative control from these two motor systems. Muscle responses to electrical stimulation in the reticulospinal system and corticospinal system alone or in combination were studied. The responses were categorized based on simple neural circuits that could explain the interactions of these systems. Five such circuits were identified that could explain 86% of the observed patterns of combined recruitment during stimulation. Improved understanding of the cooperation between these motor systems could provide insight for development of better rehabilitation approaches for stroke patients and others with movement disorders.
PMCID: PMC3921883  PMID: 24373988
Corticospinal system; reticulospinal system; electrical stimulation; neural circuit; upper limb
2.  Increased precuneus connectivity during propofol sedation 
Neuroscience letters  2013;561:18-23.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in human participants, we show that sedation by propofol to the point of lost overt responsiveness during the performance of an auditory verbal memory task unexpectedly increases functional connectivity of the precuneus with cortical regions, particularly the dorsal prefrontal and visual cortices. After recovery of consciousness, functional connectivity returns to a pattern similar to that observed during the wakeful baseline. In the context of a recent proposal that highlights the uncoupling of consciousness, connectedness, and responsiveness in general anesthesia, the increased precuneus functional connectivity under propofol sedation may reflect disconnected endogenous mentation or dreaming that continues at a reduced level of metabolic activity.
PMCID: PMC3959727  PMID: 24373986
Precuneus connectivity; Anesthesia; Propofol sedation; Auditory verbal memory task; Functional magnetic resonance imaging
3.  Anterior Cingulate GABA Levels Predict Whole-Brain Cerebral Blood Flow 
Neuroscience letters  2014;561:188-191.
This study examined the relationship of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate levels from the anterior and posterior cingulates (AC and PC) with cerebral blood flow (CBF) at rest. 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy measurements in the AC and PC and pseudo-continuous arterial spin labeling data were acquired from 10 healthy controls. GABA levels from the AC were strongly inversely correlated with global (whole-brain) CBF (r =−0.91, p=0.0015). GABA levels from the PC and glutamate levels from both regions were not significantly correlated with CBF. We hypothesize that GABA-mediated inhibition of AC activation of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine pathway may influence global CBF.
PMCID: PMC3963135  PMID: 24397910
arterial spin labeling; cerebral blood flow; GABA; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; anterior cingulate
4.  Cerebral 5-HT2A receptor binding, but not mGluR2, is increased in tryptophan hydroxylase 2 decrease-of-function mice 
Neuroscience letters  2013;555:118-122.
Transgenic mice with knock-in (KI) of a tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (Tph2) R439H mutation, analogous to the Tph2 R441H single-nucleotide polymorphism originally identified in a late life depression cohort, have markedly reduced levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). These Tph2KI mice are therefore interesting as a putative translational model of low endogenous 5-HT function that allows for assessment of adaptive changes in different anatomical regions. Here, we determined 5-HT2A receptor binding in several brain regions using in vitro receptor autoradiography and two different radioligands. When using the 5-HT2A receptor selective antagonist radioligand 3H-MDL100907, we found higher binding in the prefrontal cortex (10%, P=0.009), the striatum (26%, P=0.005), and the substantia nigra (21%, P=0.027). The increase was confirmed in the same regions with the 5-HT2A/C receptor agonist, 3H-CIMBI-36 (2-(4-Bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-N-(2-methoxybenzyl)ethanamine). 5-HT2A receptors establish heteromeric functional receptor complexes with metabotropic glutamate 2 receptors (mGluR2), but binding levels of the mGluR2/3 ligand 3H-LY341495 were unaltered in brain areas with increased 5-HT2A receptor levels. These data show that in distinct anatomical regions, 5-HT2A receptor binding sites are up-regulated in 5-HT deficient mice, and this increase is not associated with changes in mGluR2 binding.
PMCID: PMC4323164  PMID: 24055299
5.  Cerebrovascular Perfusion among Older Adults is Moderated by Strength Training and Gender 
Neuroscience letters  2013;560:26-30.
Cerebral perfusion is important in older adults as it is linked to cognitive declines. Physical activity can improve blood flow in the body but little is known about the relationship between physical activity and cerebral perfusion in older adults. In particular, no study has investigated the relation between strength training and cerebral perfusion. We examined whether different types of physical activity (assessed with the Rapid Assessment of Physical Activity questionnaire) were associated with MRI cerebrovascular perfusion in 59 older adults. There was a significant interaction between gender and strength training, such that women who engaged in strength training (weight lifting or calisthenics) at least once per week exhibited significantly greater cerebrovascular perfusion than women who did not. This interaction remained significant after controlling for other physical activity, demographics, and health variables. These findings suggest that regular strength training can be beneficial for cerebrovascular health in women.
PMCID: PMC3920729  PMID: 24355360
cerebral perfusion; strength training; sex; physical activity; ASL
6.  APOE modulates the effect of estrogen therapy on Aβ accumulation EFAD-Tg mice 
Neuroscience letters  2013;560:131-136.
The post-menopausal loss of estrogen is key in the increased incidence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in women. However, estrogen therapy (ET) clinical trials have produced conflicting results. The APOE gene of apolipoprotein E (apoE) likely modulates the effects of ET in AD. APOE4 is the greatest genetic risk factor for AD, increasing risk up to 15-fold compared with APOE3, and the negative effect of APOE4 on AD risk and neuropathology is greater in women than men. The interactive effects of APOE and ET may converge on modulation of amyloid-beta (Aβ) levels, as independently both the loss of estrogen and APOE4 increases Aβ accumulation. Thus, in this study, 3-month old female EFAD mice (5xFAD mice crossed with apoE-targeted replacement mice), which express increased levels of Aβ42 and human APOE were ovariectomized and treated for 3 months with either 17-β estradiol (OVXET+, 0.25mg total) or vehicle control (OVXET−) and the effects on Aβ accumulation were determined. Compared to the OVXET− cohort, in the OVXET+ cohort, extracellular amyloid and Aβ deposition in the hippocampus and cortex were decreased with APOE2 and APOE3, but were increased with APOE4 by IHC. Biochemical analysis demonstrated increased total and insoluble Aβ levels with APOE4, and decreased soluble Aβ42 levels with both APOE3 and APOE4, after ET. These data suggest that ET administered at menopause may benefit APOE4 negative women by decreasing extracellular and soluble Aβ42. However, for APOE4 carriers, the efficacy of ET will be dependent on the relative impact of extracellular and soluble Aβ on AD-induced neurodegeneration.
PMCID: PMC3955876  PMID: 24368217
Alzheimer’s disease; Estrogen; Amyloid-β; APOE; soluble Aβ; AD transgenic mouse model
7.  Comparison of single versus repeated methamphetamine injection induced behavioral sensitization in mice 
Neuroscience letters  2013;560:103-106.
Repeated exposure to drugs of abuse produces a persistent behavioral sensitization to stimulants, which is often used to study drug-associated behavioral plasticity. Interestingly, even a single exposure to some drugs of abuse is sufficient to elicit long-lasting behavioral sensitization. However, few studies have directly compared the magnitude of sensitization between single versus repeated drug treatments. This study examined the magnitude and duration of single methamphetamine (METH) injection-induced behavioral sensitization and compared it to the more typical repeated drug injection-induced sensitization in mice. Different groups of mice were injected with METH (0.5, 1.0, 2.0 mg/kg, i.p.) only once or daily for 7 consecutive days. A challenge dose of METH (1.0 mg/kg, i.p.) was tested 7 days later. The time-course of a single METH injection-induced behavioral sensitization was assessed where METH (2.0 mg/kg, i.p.) was injected and a challenge dose of METH (1.0 mg/kg, i.p.) was tested after different drug-free periods. Single METH injection produced similar magnitude of behavioral sensitization as compared to repeated injection. Such a sensitized locomotor response peaked 8 days after METH injection and lasted for at least 21 days. This long lasting behavioral alteration induced by single METH injection suggests the value of future studies to explore the underlying neural mechanisms, particularly in comparison to those underlying repeated METH-induced sensitization.
PMCID: PMC4017776  PMID: 24361545
Methamphetamine; Behavioural sensitization; Single-dose injection; Repeated-dose injection
8.  Immunogenicity of epitope vaccines targeting different B cell antigenic determinants of human α-Synuclein: Feasibility study 
Neuroscience letters  2013;560:86-91.
Immunotherapeutic approaches reducing α-synuclein deposits may provide therapeutic benefit for Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB). Immunization with full-length human α-synuclein (hα-Syn) protein in a Parkinson's disease mouse model decreased the accumulation of the aggregated forms of this protein in neurons and reduced neurodegeneration. To enhance the immunogenicity of candidate vaccines and to avoid the risk of autoreactive anti-hα-Syn T-helper (Th) cell responses, we generated three peptide-based epitope vaccines composed of different B-cell epitopes of hα-Syn fused with a “non-self” Th epitope from tetanus toxin (P30). Immunization of mice with these epitope vaccines produced high titers of anti-hα-Syn antibodies that bound to Lewy bodies (LBs) and Lewy neurites (LNs) in brain tissue from DLB cases and induced robust Th cell responses to P30, but not to hα-Syn. Further development of these first generation epitope vaccines may facilitate induction of anti-hα-Syn immunotherapy without producing potentially harmful autoreactive Th cell responses.
PMCID: PMC3928627  PMID: 24361548
Immunotherapy; Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases; epitope vaccine; B cell epitope of α-synuclein; T cell epitope of tetanus toxin
9.  Rhythms in expression of PER1 protein in the amygdala and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis of the diurnal grass rat (Arvicanthis niloticus) 
Neuroscience letters  2008;441(1):86-89.
In the diurnal rodent Arvicanthis niloticus (grass rats) the pattern of expression of the clock genes and their proteins in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is very similar to that seen in nocturnal rodents. Rhythms in clock gene expression have been also documented in several forebrain regions outside the SCN in nocturnal Ratus norvegicus (lab rats). To investigate the neural basis for differences in the circadian systems of diurnal and nocturnal mammals, we examined PER1 expression in the oval nucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST-OV), and in the basolateral (BLA) and the central (CEA) amygdala of male grass rats kept in a 12:12 light/dark cycle. In the BNST-OV, peak levels of PER1 expression were seen early in the light phase of the cycle, 12 hours out of phase with what has been reported for nocturnal lab rats. In the BLA the pattern of PER1 expression featured sustained high levels during the day and low levels at night. PER1 expression in the CEA was also at its highest early in the light phase, but the effect of sampling time was not statistically significant (p < 0.06). The results are consistent with the hypothesis that differences between nocturnal and diurnal species are due to differences in neural systems downstream from the SCN.
PMCID: PMC4312422  PMID: 18599213
oval nucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; central nucleus of the amygdala; basolateral amygdala; PERI; diurnality; grass rats
10.  Matrix metalloproteinases-2 and -3 are reduced in cerebrospinal fluid with low beta–amyloid1–42 levels 
Neuroscience letters  2009;466(3):135-138.
Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), a family of extracellular soluble or membrane bound endopeptidases, are implicated in many physiological and pathophysiological functions—based on their capability to cleave all protein components of the extracellular matrix. Recent studies have implicated several forms of MMPs in chronic neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (AD), vascular dementia (VD), and Parkinson’s disease (PD). The aim of the present study was to analyse eight MMPs (MMP-1, -2, -3, -7, -8, -9, -10, -13) in the human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and to correlate with the well established biomarkers beta-amyloid1–42 (Aβ), total-tau and phospho-tau-181. Our data show a significant decrease of MMP-2 and MMP-3 levels in the CSF in samples with significantly reduced Aβ levels. It is concluded that MMP-2 and MMP-3 are directly linked to Aβ in the brain and a dysfunction may influence the processing of Aβ.
PMCID: PMC4311377  PMID: 19786072
Matrix metalloproteinases; Cerebrospinal fluid; Beta-amyloid
11.  Postnatal developmental changes in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body in a mouse model of auditory pathology 
Neuroscience letters  2013;559:152-157.
Age-related hearing loss (AHL) is a multifactorial disorder characterized by a decline in peripheral and central auditory function. Here, we examined synaptic transmission in DBA/2 mice, which carry the AHL8 gene, at the identifiable glutamatergic synapse in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), a nucleus in the superior olivary complex critical for acoustic timing. Mice exhibited raised auditory brainstem thresholds by P14, soon after hearing onset. Excitatory postsynaptic currents were prolonged, however, postsynaptic excitability was normal. By P18, high-frequency hearing loss was evident. Coincident with the onset of hearing loss, MNTB principal neurons displayed changes in intrinsic firing properties. These results suggest that changes in transmission in the superior olivary complex are associated with early onset hearing loss.
PMCID: PMC3910105  PMID: 24315975
MNTB; auditory system; AHL; DBA/2; auditory brainstem responses
12.  AMPA and GABAA/B Receptor Subunit Expression in the Cuneate Nucleus of Adult Squirrel Monkeys during Peripheral Nerve Regeneration 
Neuroscience letters  2013;559:141-146.
PMCID: PMC4120189  PMID: 24315976
GluR1; GluR2/3; Somatosensory; Reorganization; Adult Plasticity
13.  Antidepressant effects on serotonin 1A/1B receptors in the rat brain using a Gene × Environment model 
Neuroscience letters  2013;559:163-168.
A gene--environment (G×E) interaction is implicated in both the pathophysiology and treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD). This study modeled the effects of genetic vulnerability by using the Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL), a rat model of depression and its control counterpart—the Flinders Resistant Line (FRL). The effects of environmental vulnerability (e.g. early-life stress) were modeled by using maternal separation. Rats (n=105) were drawn from four groups reflecting experimental crossing of strain (FSL vs. FRL) and early-life stress (high vs. low) to assess the effects of two antidepressants (escitalopram or nortriptyline) compared to vehicle. Quantitative in vitro autoradiography was performed using [125I]MPPI (5-HT1a) and [125I]CYP (5-HT1B) in prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus. Stringent, Bonferroni-corrected statistical analyses showed significant strain-by-rearing-by-treatment (three-way) interactions in PFC 5-HT1a and hippocampal 5-HT1B receptors. Either vulnerability reduced serotonergic binding; no additive effects were associated with the two vulnerabilities. Both antidepressants increased hippocampal 5-HT1B receptor binding; however, only nortriptyline selectively increased PFC 5-HT1a receptor binding. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that antidepressant effects on the serotonergic system are shaped by a G×E interaction that is dependent on antidepressant class and brain region.
PMCID: PMC4204401  PMID: 24287374
FSL/FRL (Flinders Sensitive / Resistant Line); serotonin 1A/1B (5-HT1A/1B) receptors; escitalopram; nortriptyline; PFC (prefrontal cortex); hippocampus, gene- environment (G×E)
14.  Altered Subcellular Localization of the NeuN/Rbfox3 RNA Splicing Factor in HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND) 
Neuroscience letters  2013;0:10.1016/j.neulet.2013.10.037.
The anti-NeuN antibody has been widely used for over 15 years to unambiguously identify post-mitotic neurons in the central nervous system of a wide variety of vertebrates including mice, rats and humans. In contrast to its widely reported nuclear localization, we found significantly higher NeuN reactivity in the cytoplasm of neurons in brain sections from HIV-infected individuals with cognitive impairment compared to controls. The protein target of anti-NeuN antisera was recently identified as the neuron-specific RNA splicing factor, Rbfox3, but its significance in diseases affecting the brain has not been previously reported. RNA splicing occurs in the nucleus hence, the altered localization of RbFox3 to the cytoplasm may lead to the downregulation of neuronal gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3880598  PMID: 24215932
NeuN; Rbfox3; HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders; splicing; neurodegeneration; gene expression
15.  Preadolescent drd1-EGFP mice exhibit cocaine-induced behavioral sensitization 
Neuroscience letters  2013;0:10.1016/j.neulet.2013.09.051.
In adult mice, repeated cocaine administration induces behavioral sensitization measured as increased horizontal locomotor activity. Cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization has been well characterized in adult mice. In adult animals, the D1 dopamine receptor is important for mediating effects of cocaine. The effect of cocaine on D1 receptor expression and function in preadolescent animals is less understood. The recently described drd1-Enhanced Green Fluorescent Protein (drd1-EGFP) reporter mouse is a useful model for performing such mechanistic studies; however, preadolescent drd1-EGFP mice have not been characterized previously. Here we studied cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization in preadolescent drd1-EGFP reporter mice. We administered 15 mg/kg cocaine three times daily at one hour intervals for seven consecutive days beginning on postnatal day 23 to drd1-EGFP reporter mice and the commonly used C57BL/6 mice. Under this regimen, preadolescent mice of both strains exhibited cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization; however, by day 7 the cocaine-induced locomotor activity in the drd1-EGFP mice was maintained for a longer duration compared to the C57BL/6 mice. The preadolescent drd1-EGFP mice also exhibited elevated basal locomotor activity in a novel environment and had higher D1 and D2 dopamine receptor mRNA levels in the caudate nucleus compared to the C57BL/6 mice. The cocaine-induced locomotor sensitization was not retained when the drd1-EGFP mice were maintained cocaine-free for two weeks suggesting that in preadolescent drd1-EGFP mice the cocaine-induced changes do not persist.
PMCID: PMC3880599  PMID: 24095672
binge cocaine; preadolescent; behavioral sensitization; withdrawal; locomotor activity; dopamine receptors
16.  Trophic factor and hormonal regulation of neurite outgrowth in sensory neuron-like 50B11 cells 
Neuroscience letters  2013;558:120-125.
Sensory axon integrity and regenerative capacity are important considerations in understanding neuropathological conditions characterized by hyper- or insensitivity. However, our knowledge of mechanisms regulating axon outgrowth are limited by an absence of suitable high-throughput assay systems. The 50B11 cell line generated from rat embryonic dorsal root ganglion neurons offers a promising model for screening assays. Prior characterization shows that these cells express cytoskeletal proteins and genes encoding ion channels and neurotrophin receptors in common with sensory nociceptor neurons. In the present study we further characterized 50B11 cells in regard to their phenotypes and responsiveness to neurotrophic and hormonal factors.
50B11 cells express neuronal cytoplasmic proteins including beta-3 tubulin, peripherin (a marker of unmyelinated neurons), and the pan-neuronal ubiquitin hydrolase, PGP9.5. Only PGP9.5 immunoreactivity was uniformly distributed throughout soma and axons, and therefore presents the best means for visualizing the entire axon arbor. All cells co-express both NGF and GDNF receptors and addition of ligands increased neurite length. 50B11 cells also showed immunoreactivity for the estrogen receptor-α and the angiotensin receptor type II, and both 17-β estradiol and angiotensin II increased outgrowth by differentiated cells.
50B11 cells therefore show features reported previously for primary unmyelinated nociceptor neurons, including responsiveness to classical neurotrophins and hormonal modulators. Coupled with their ease of culture and predictable differentiation, 50B11 cells represent a promising cell line on which to base assays that more clearly reveal mechanisms regulating axon outgrowth and integrity.
PMCID: PMC3903183  PMID: 24269872
Dorsal root ganglion; Neuron; Axon; Neurotrophic factors; Hormones; Outgrowth; High throughput screening
17.  Klotho in the cerebrospinal fluid of adults with and without Alzheimer's disease 
Neuroscience letters  2013;558:37-40.
The aging-suppressor gene klotho encodes a single-pass transmembrane protein that is predominantly secreted by the choroid plexus of the brain and in the kidney. Klotho-deficient mice develop multiple aging phenotypes, including impaired cognition. Klotho concentrations have not been described in the CSF of humans. We measured klotho in the CSF of 20 older adults with Alzheimer's disease and in 20 older and 20 younger adults with normal cognition. In 10 adults, aged 38-87 years, CSF klotho measurements were made at baseline and every 6 hours up to 18-30 hours later. Mean (95% Confidence Interval [C.I.]) CSF klotho in men versus women were 899 (814, 983) and 716 (632, 801) pg/mL, respectively (P = 0.002). Mean (95% C.I.) CSF klotho in older adults with and without Alzheimer's disease were 664 (603, 725) and 776 (705, 828) pg/mL, respectively (P = 0.02), adjusting for sex. Mean (95% C.I.) klotho in older versus younger adults were 766 (658, 874) and 992 (884, 1100) pg/mL, respectively (P = 0.005), adjusting for sex. In the longitudinal study of CSF klotho, no significant circadian fluctuations were found in CSF klotho levels. This study suggests that CSF klotho concentrations are lower in females compared with males, in Alzheimer's disease, and in older versus younger adults.
PMCID: PMC4037850  PMID: 24211693
Aging; Alzheimer's Disease; Brain; Cerebrospinal Fluid; Klotho
18.  PICK1 links AMPA receptor stimulation to Cdc42 
Neuroscience Letters  2015;585:155-159.
•PICK1 binds Rac1 and Cdc42.•AMPA receptors can interact with Cdc42 via PICK1.•AMPA stimulation increases Cdc42 detergent solubility in a PICK1-dependent manner.
Rho-family GTPases control numerous cell biological processes via effects on actin dynamics, such as cell migration, cell adhesion, morphogenesis and vesicle traffic. In neurons, they are involved in dendritic spine morphogenesis and other aspects of neuronal morphology via regulation of the actin cytoskeleton. The Rho-family member Cdc42 regulates dendritic spine morphology via its effector N-WASP, which activates the actin-nucleating Arp2/3 complex. Excitatory synaptic transmission is known to regulate actin dynamics in dendritic spines to bring about changes in spine morphology or motility, however, the details of the signalling pathways that transduce glutamate receptor activation to Rho GTPase function are unclear. PICK1 is a PDZ and BAR domain protein that interacts with the Arp2/3 complex and the GTPase Arf1 to regulate actin polymerisation in dendritic spines. PICK1 also binds AMPA receptor subunits GluA2/3 and is involved in GluA2-dependent AMPAR trafficking. Here, we show that PICK1 binds Rac1 and Cdc42, via distinct but overlapping binding sites. Furthermore, AMPAR stimulation deactivates Cdc42 and alters its detergent solubility in neurons via a PICK1-dependent process. This work suggests a novel role for PICK1 in transducing AMPAR stimulation to Cdc42 function in neurons.
PMCID: PMC4300402  PMID: 25475687
Rho-family GTPase; Actin cytoskeleton; PDZ domain; BAR domain; Glutamate receptor
19.  Fatty Acid Synthase Gene Regulation in Primary Hypothalamic Neurons 
Neuroscience letters  2007;423(3):200-204.
Understanding the mechanisms that regulate feeding is critical to the development of therapeutic interventions for obesity. Many studies indicate that enzymes within fatty acid metabolic pathways may serve as targets for pharmacological tools to treat this epidemic. We, and others have previously demonstrated that C75, a fatty acid synthase (FAS) inhibitor, induced significant anorexia and weight loss by both central and peripheral mechanisms. Because the hypothalamus is important in the regulation of homeostatic processes for feeding control, we have identified pathways that alter the gene expression of FAS in primary hypothalamic neuronal cultures. Insulin, glucose and AICAR (an activator of AMP-activated protein kinase) affected changes in hypothalamic FAS mRNA, which may be regulated via the SREBP1c dependent or independent pathway.
PMCID: PMC4286184  PMID: 17709201
fatty acid synthase; hypothalamus; insulin; SREBP1C; AICAR
20.  Preliminary Evidence for the Interaction of the Oxytocin Receptor Gene (OXTR) and Face Processing in Differentiating Prenatal Smoking Patterns 
Neuroscience letters  2014;0:259-264.
Prenatal smoking cessation has been described as an empathic action “for the baby,” but this has not been empirically demonstrated. We capitalized on a genetically-characterized extant dataset with outstanding measurement of prenatal smoking patterns and maternal face processing data (as an indicator of empathy) to test this hypothesis, and explore how empathy and smoking patterns may be moderated by a genetic substrate of empathy, the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). Participants were 143 Caucasian women from the East Boston Family Study with repeated prospective reports of smoking level, adjusted based on repeated cotinine bioassays. Salivary DNA and face processing (Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy-2) were assessed 14 years later at an adolescent follow-up of offspring. Two-thirds of participants reported smoking prior to pregnancy recognition. Of these, 21% quit during pregnancy; 56% reduced smoking, and 22% smoked persistently at the same level. A significant interaction between face processing and OXTR variants previously associated with increased sensitivity to social context, rs53576GG and rs2254298A, was found (β = -.181; p = .015); greater ability to identify distress in others was associated with lower levels of smoking during pregnancy for rs53576(GG)/rs2254298(A) individuals (p = .013), but not for other genotypes (p = .892). Testing this “empathy hypothesis of prenatal smoking cessation” in larger studies designed to examine this question can elucidate whether interventions to enhance empathy can improve prenatal smoking cessation rates.
PMCID: PMC4267911  PMID: 25450139
Pregnancy smoking; oxytocin receptor gene; social cognition; nonverbal accuracy; cognitive empathy; differential susceptibility
21.  Derivation of autism spectrum disorder-specific induced pluripotent stem cells from peripheral blood mononuclear cells 
Neuroscience letters  2012;516(1):9-14.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) hold tremendous potential both as a biological tool to uncover the pathophysiology of disease by creating relevant cell models and as a source of stem cells for cell-based therapeutic applications. Typically, iPSCs have been derived by the transgenic overexpression of transcription factors associated with progenitor cell or stem cell function in fibroblasts derived from skin biopsies. However, the need for skin punch biopsies to derive fibroblasts for reprogramming can present a barrier to study participation among certain populations of individuals, including children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). In addition, the acquisition of skin punch biopsies in non-clinic settings presents a challenge. One potential mechanism to avoid these limitations would be the use of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) as the source of the cells for reprogramming. In this article we describe the derivation of iPSC lines from PBMCs isolated from the whole blood of autistic children, and their subsequent differentiation in GABAergic neurons.
PMCID: PMC4278654  PMID: 22405972
22.  AMPK: An emerging target for modification of injury-induced pain plasticity 
Neuroscience letters  2013;557(0 0):10.1016/j.neulet.2013.06.060.
Chronic pain is a critical medical problem afflicting hundreds of millions of people worldwide with costly effects on society and health care systems. Novel therapeutic avenues for the treatment of pain are needed that are directly targeted to the molecular mechanisms that promote and maintain chronic pain states. Recent evidence suggests that peripheral pain plasticity is promoted and potentially maintained via changes in translation control that are mediated by mTORC1 and MAPK pathways. While these pathways can be targeted individually, stimulating the AMPK pathway with direct or indirect activators achieves inhibition of these pathways via engagement of a single kinase. Here we review the form, function and pharmacology of AMPK with special attention to its emerging role as a potential target for pain therapeutics. We present the existing evidence supporting a role of AMPK activation in alleviating symptoms of peripheral nerve injury- and incision-induced pain plasticity and the blockade of the development of chronic pain following surgery. We argue that these preclinical findings support a strong rationale for clinical trials of currently available AMPK activators and further development of novel pharmacological strategies for more potent and efficacious manipulation of AMPK in the clinical setting. Finally, we posit that AMPK represents a unique opportunity for drug development in the kinase area for pain because it is pharmacologically manipulated via activation rather than inhibition potentially offering a wider therapeutic window with interesting additional pharmacological opportunities. Altogether, the physiology, pharmacology and therapeutic opportunities surrounding AMPK make it an attractive target for novel intervention for chronic pain and its prevention.
PMCID: PMC3844111  PMID: 23831352
23.  Challenging the catechism of therapeutics for chronic neuropathic pain: targeting CaV2.2 interactions with CRMP2 peptides 
Neuroscience letters  2013;557(0 0):10.1016/j.neulet.2013.06.057.
Chronic neuropathic pain management is a worldwide concern. Pharmaceutical companies globally have historically targeted ion channels as the therapeutic catechism with many blockbuster successes. Remarkably, no new pain therapeutic has been approved by European or American regulatory agencies over the last decade. This article will provide an overview of an alternative approach to ion channel drug discovery: targeting regulators of ion channels, specifically focusing on voltage-gated calcium channels. We will highlight the discovery of an anti-nociceptive peptide derived from a novel calcium channel interacting partner – the collapsin response mediator protein 2 (CRMP2). In vivo administration of this peptide reduces pain behavior in a number of models of neuropathic pain without affecting sympathetic-associated cardiovascular activity, memory retrieval, sensorimotor function, or depression. A CRMP2-derived peptide analgesic, with restricted access to the CNS, represents a completely novel approach to the treatment of severe pain with an improved safety profile. As peptides now represent one of the fastest growing classes of new drugs, it is expected that peptide targeting of protein interactions within the calcium channel complex may be a paradigm shift in ion channel drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3849117  PMID: 23831344
24.  Analgesics as Reinforcers with Chronic Pain: Evidence from Operant Studies 
Neuroscience letters  2013;557(0 0):10.1016/j.neulet.2013.08.018.
Previously preclinical pain research has focused on simple behavioral endpoints to assess the efficacy of analgesics in acute and chronic pain models, primarily reflexive withdrawal from an applied mechanical or thermal stimulus. However recent research has been aimed at investigating other behavioral states in the presence of pain, including spontaneous, non-elicited pain. One approach is to investigate the reinforcing effects of analgesics in animals with experimental pain, which should serve as reinforcers by virtue of their ability to alleviate the relevant subjective states induced by pain. The gold standard for assessing drug reinforcement is generally accepted to be drug self-administration, and this review highlights the ability of drugs to serve as reinforcers in animals with experimental neuropathic pain, and the extent to which this behavior is altered in chronic pain states. Additionally, intracranial self-stimulation is an operant procedure that has been used extensively to study drug reinforcement mechanisms and the manner in which neuropathic pain alters the ability of drugs to serve as reinforcers in this paradigm will also be discussed. Drug self-administration and intracranial self-stimulation have promise as tools to investigate behavioral effects of analgesics in animals with chronic pain, particularly regarding the mechanisms through which these drugs motivate consumption in a chronic pain state.
PMCID: PMC3858505  PMID: 23973302
25.  An investigation of interactions between hypocretin/orexin signaling and glutamate receptor surface expression in the rat nucleus accumbens under basal conditions and after cocaine exposure 
Neuroscience letters  2013;557(0 0):10.1016/j.neulet.2013.10.038.
Hypocretin peptides are critical for the effects of cocaine on excitatory synaptic strength in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). However, little is known about their role in cocaine-induced synaptic plasticity in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). First, we tested whether hypocretin-1 by itself could acutely modulate glutamate receptor surface expression in the NAc, given that hypocretin-1 in the VTA reproduces cocaine’s effects on glutamate transmission. We found no effect of hypocretin-1 infusion on AMPA or NMDA receptor surface expression in the NAc, measured by biotinylation, either 30 min or 3 h after the infusion. Second, we were interested in whether changes in hypocretin receptor-2 (Hcrtr-2) expression contribute to cocaine-induced plasticity in the NAc. As a first step towards addressing this question, Hcrtr-2 surface expression was compared in the NAc after withdrawal from extended-access self-administration of saline (control) versus cocaine. We found that surface Hcrtr-2 levels remain unchanged following 14, 25 or 48 days of withdrawal from cocaine, a time period in which high conductance GluA2-lacking AMPA receptors progressively emerge in the NAc. Overall, our results fail to support a role for hypocretins in acute modulation of glutamate receptor levels in the NAc or a role for altered Hcrtr-2 expression in withdrawal-dependent synaptic adaptations in the NAc following cocaine self-administration.
PMCID: PMC3869201  PMID: 24262606
hypocretin; orexin; cocaine; glutamate receptor; synaptic plasticity; nucleus accumbens

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