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1.  Astrocytes release D-serine by a large vesicle 
Neuroscience  2013;240:243-257.
Long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission in the CA1 region of the hippocampus depends on activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs), which can be regulated by Ca2+-dependent release of D-serine from astrocytes. The detailed mechanism underlying astrocytic D-serine release is still unknown. In this study, we found that clamping astrocytic [Ca2+] at 100-150 nM or puffing artificial cerebrospinal fluid (ACSF) into the extracellular space (weak mechanical stimulation) enhanced synaptic activation of NMDARs. The enhancement was blocked by the NMDAR glycine site antagonist DCKA, glycine saturation, and infusion of astrocytes with D-Amino Acid Oxidase (DAAO) and the serine racemase inhibitor L-erythro-3-hydroxyaspartate (HoAsp), suggesting the involvement of astrocytic D-serine release. Intracellular 100-150 nM [Ca2+] or puffing ACSF stimulated astrocytes to generate D-serine-containing large vesicles (1-3 μm), exocytotic fusion of which released D-serine. The formation of astrocytic large vesicles involved intracellular fusion of small vesicles and/or other organelles. Spontaneous fusion of large vesicles occurred occasionally in astrocytes at rest, contributing to baseline D-serine levels, which increased the rising slope of NMDAR post-burst potentiation (PBP) without altering the PBP peak amplitude. Thus, under physiological conditions, astrocytic D-serine release by large vesicles facilitated weak theta-burst (TBS consisting of 5 bursts), but not strong TBS (TBS consisting of 10 bursts) stimulation-induced LTP.
PMCID: PMC4335764  PMID: 23485803
long-term potentiation; astrocyte; Ca2+ signaling; D-serine release; large vesicle
2.  The role of miR-146a in dorsal root ganglia neurons of experimental diabetic peripheral neuropathy 
Neuroscience  2013;259:155-163.
Sensory neurons mediate diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Using a mouse model of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (db/db mice) and cultured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons, the present study showed that hyperglycemia downregulated miR-146a expression and elevated interleukin-1 receptor activated kinase (IRAK1) and tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6) levels in DRG neurons. In vitro, elevation of miR-146a by miR-146a mimics in DRG neurons increased neuronal survival under high glucose conditions. Downregulation and elevation of miR-146a in DRG neurons, respectively, were inversely related to IRAK1 and TRAF6 levels. Treatment of diabetic peripheral neuropathy with sildenafil, a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor, augmented miR-146a expression and decreased levels of IRAK1 and TRAF6 in the DRG neurons. In vitro, blockage of miR-146a in DRG neurons abolished the effect of sildenafil on DRG neuron protection and downregulation of IRAK1 and TRAF6 proteins under hyperglycemia. Our data provide the first evidence showing that miR-146a plays an important role in mediating DRG neuron apoptosis under hyperglycemic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3901076  PMID: 24316060
peripheral neuropathy; diabetes; mice; sildenafil; mir-146a
3.  Novel Vitamin K analogues suppress seizures in zebrafish and mouse models of epilepsy 
Neuroscience  2013;259:142-154.
Epilepsy is a debilitating disease affecting 1-2% of the world’s population. Despite this high prevalence, 30% of patients suffering from epilepsy are not successfully managed by current medication suggesting a critical need for new anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). In an effort to discover new therapeutics for the management of epilepsy, we began our study by screening drugs that, like some currently used AEDs, inhibit HDACs using a well-established larval zebrafish model. In this model, 7-day post fertilization (dpf) larvae are treated with the widely used seizure-inducing compound pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) which stimulates a rapid increase in swimming behavior previously determined to be a measurable manifestation of seizures. In our first screen, we tested a number of different HDAC inhibitors and found that one, NQN1, significantly decreased swim activity to levels equal to that of VPA. We continued to screen structurally related compounds including Vitamin K3 (VK3) and a number of novel Vitamin K (VK) analogues. We found that VK3 was a robust inhibitor of the PTZ-induced swim activity, as were several of our novel compounds. Three of these compounds were subsequently tested on mouse seizure models at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Anticonvulsant Screening Program. Compound 2h reduced seizures particularly well in the minimal clonic seizure (6 Hz) and corneal kindled mouse models of epilepsy, with no observable toxicity. As VK3 affects mitochondrial function, we tested the effects of our compounds on mitochondrial respiration and ATP production in a mouse hippocampal cell line. We demonstrate that these compounds affect ATP metabolism and increase total cellular ATP. Our data indicate the potential utility of these and other VK analogues for prevention of seizures and suggest the potential mechanism for this protection may lie in the ability of these compounds to affect energy production.
PMCID: PMC3903788  PMID: 24291671
4.  A group of non-serotonergic cells is CO2-stimulated in the medullary raphé 
Neuroscience  2013;259:203-213.
Serotonin/substance P synthesizing cells in the raphé nuclei of the brain are candidates for designation as central chemoreceptors that are stimulated by CO2/pH. We have previously demonstrated that these neurons are CO2-stimulated in situ. Evidence also suggests that CO2-inhibited raphé neurons recorded in vitro and in situ synthesize γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Unknown is whether there are other types of chemosensitive cells in the raphé. Here, we showed that a previously unrecognized pool of raphé neurons also exhibit chemosensitivity, and that they are not serotonergic. We used extracellular recording of individual raphé neurons in the unanesthetized juvenile rat in situ perfused decerebrate brainstem preparation to assess chemosensitivity of raphé neurons. Subsequent juxtacellular labeling of individually recorded cells, and immunohistochemistry for the serotonin synthesizing enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH) and for neurokinin-1 receptor (NK1R; the receptor for substance P) indicated a group of CO2-stimulated cells that are not serotonergic, but express NK1R and are closely apposed to surrounding serotonergic cells. CO2-stimulated serotonergic (5-HT) and non-5-HT cells constitute distinct groups that have different firing characteristics and hypercapnic sensitivities. Non-5-HT cells fire faster and are more robustly stimulated by CO2 than are 5-HT cells. Thus, we have characterized a previously unrecognized type of CO2-stimulated medullary raphé neuron that is not serotonergic, but may receive input from neighboring serotonin/substance P synthesizing chemosensitive neurons. The potential network properties of the three types of chemosensitive raphé neurons (the present non-5-HT cells, serotonergic cells, and CO2-inhibited cells) remain to be elucidated.
PMCID: PMC3905971  PMID: 24333211
raphé; breathing; chemosensitivity; serotonin
5.  N-terminus regulation of VMAT2 mediates methamphetamine stimulated efflux 
Neuroscience  2013;259:194-202.
The 20 amino acid N-terminus of the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2) was examined as a regulator of VMAT2 function. Removal of the first 16 or 19 amino acids of the N-terminus resulted in a molecule with reduced ability to sequester [3H]-5HT. A GST-construct of the N-terminus underwent phosphorylation in the presence of PKC at serines 15 and 18. These putative phosphorylation sites were examined for effects on function. Phospho-mimetic substitution of serines 15 and 18 with aspartate in the full-length VMAT2 resulted in reduced [3H]-5HT sequestration and reduced methamphetamine-stimulated efflux of preloaded [3H]-5HT. In contrast, mutation of serines 15 and 18 to alanines maintained intact net substrate sequestration but eliminated methamphetamine-stimulated efflux of pre-accumulated [3H]-5HT. In summary, these data suggest a model in which the VMAT2 N-terminus regulates monoamine sequestration.
PMCID: PMC3926813  PMID: 24321511
6.  Treatment Effects in a Transgenic Mouse Model of Alzheimer’s Disease: A Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study after Passive Immunization 
Neuroscience  2013;259:94-100.
Despite the enormous public health impact of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), no disease modifying treatment has yet been proven to be efficacious in humans. A rate-limiting step in the discovery of potential therapies for humans is the absence of efficient non-invasive methods of evaluating drugs in animal models of disease. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) provides noninvasive way to evaluate the animals at baseline, at the end of treatment, and serially to better understand treatment effects. In this study, MRS was assessed as potential outcome measure for detecting disease modification in a transgenic mouse model of AD. Passive immunization with two different antibodies, which have been previously shown to reduce plaque accumulation in transgenic AD mice, was used as intervention. Treatment effects were detected by MRS, and the most striking finding was attenuation of myo-inositol increases in APP-PS1 mice with both treatments. Additionally, a dose dependent effect was observed with one of the treatments for myo-inositol. MRS appears to be a valid in vivo measure of anti-Aβ therapeutic efficacy in pre-clinical studies. Because it is noninvasive, and can detect treatment effects, use of MRS-based endpoints could substantially accelerate drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC3928682  PMID: 24316473
MRS; treatment detection; myo-inositol; N-acetylaspartate
7.  Age-related Hearing Loss: GABA, Nicotinic Acetylcholine and NMDA Receptor Expression Changes in Spiral Ganglion Neurons of the Mouse 
Neuroscience  2013;259:184-193.
Age-related hearing loss – presbycusis – is the number one communication disorder and most prevalent neurodegenerative condition of our aged population. Although speech understanding in background noise is quite difficult for those with presbycusis, there are currently no biomedical treatments to prevent, delay or reverse this condition. A better understanding of the cochlear mechanisms underlying presbycusis will help lead to future treatments. Objectives of the present study were to investigate gamma-amino butyric acid A (GABAA) receptor subunit α1, nicotinic acetylcholine (nACh) receptor subunit β2, and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit NR1 mRNA and protein expression changes in spiral ganglion neurons of the CBA/CaJ mouse cochlea, that occur in age-related hearing loss, utilizing quantitative immunohistochemistry and semi-quantitative RT-PCR techniques. We found that auditory brainstem response (ABR) thresholds shifted over 40 dB from 3–48 kHz in old mice compared to young adults. DPOAE thresholds also shifted over 40 dB from 6–49 kHz in old mice, and their amplitudes were significantly decreased or absent in the same frequency range. Spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) density decreased with age in basal, middle and apical turns, and SGN density of the basal turn declined the most. A positive correlation was observed between SGN density and ABR wave 1 amplitude. mRNA and protein expression of GABAAR α1 and AChR β2 decreased with age in SGNs in the old mouse cochlea. mRNA and protein expression of NMDAR NR1 increased with age in SGNs of the old mice. These findings demonstrate that there are functionally-relevant age-related changes of GABAAR, nAChR, NMDAR expression in CBA mouse SGNs reflecting their degeneration, which may be related to functional changes in cochlear synaptic transmission with age, suggesting biological mechanisms for peripheral age-related hearing loss.
PMCID: PMC3935603  PMID: 24316061
Aging; Hearing loss; Cochlea; Spiral Ganglion Neurons; Gene expression; Protein expression
8.  GABAergic influence on temporomandibular joint-responsive spinomedullary neurons depends on estrogen status 
Neuroscience  2013;259:53-62.
Sensory input from the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) to neurons in superficial laminae at the spinomedullary (Vc/C1–2) region is strongly influenced by estrogen status. This study determined if GABAergic mechanisms play a role in estrogen modulation of TMJ nociceptive processing in ovariectomized female rats treated with high (HE) or low dose (LE) estradiol (E2) for two days. Superficial laminae neurons were activated by ATP (1 mM) injections into the joint space. The selective GABAA receptor antagonist, bicuculline methiodide (BMI, 5 or 50 μM, 30 μl), applied at the site of recording greatly enhanced the magnitude and duration of ATP-evoked responses in LE rats, but not in units from HE rats. The convergent cutaneous receptive field (RF) area of TMJ neurons was enlarged after BMI in LE but not HE rats, while resting discharge rates were increased after BMI independent of estrogen status. By contrast, the selective GABAA receptor agonist, muscimol (50 μM, 30 μl), significantly reduced the magnitude and duration of ATP-evoked activity, resting discharge rate, and cutaneous RF area of TMJ neurons in LE and HE rats, whereas lower doses (5 μM) affected only units from LE rats. Protein levels of GABAA receptor β3 isoform at the Vc/C1–2 region were similar for HE and LE rats. These results suggest that GABAergic mechanisms contribute significantly to background discharge rates and TMJ-evoked input to superficial laminae neurons at the Vc/C1–2 region. Estrogen status may gate the magnitude of GABAergic influence on TMJ neurons at the earliest stages of nociceptive processing at the spinomedullary region.
PMCID: PMC4045648  PMID: 24316475
9.  Neuroanatomical distribution of μ-opioid receptor mRNA and binding in monogamous prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and non-monogamous meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) 
Neuroscience  2013;244:122-133.
The opiate system has long been implicated in the rewarding properties of social interactions. In particular, the μ-opioid receptor (MOR) mediates multiple forms of social attachment, including the attachment of offspring to the mother and social bonding between mates. We have previously shown that MOR in the caudate-putamen is involved in partner preference formation in monogamous prairie voles. Here, using in situ hybridization and receptor autoradiography, we mapped in detail the distribution of MOR mRNA and ligand binding in monogamous prairie vole brains and compared MOR binding density with that of promiscuous meadow vole brains. Comparison of MOR binding in these closely related species with distinctly different social behavior revealed that while the distribution of MOR is similar, prairie voles have significantly higher densities of MOR than meadow voles in a majority of regions in the forebrain, including the caudate-putamen, nucleus accumbens shell, lateral septum and several thalamic nuclei, including the anteroventral and anteromedial thalamic nuclei. These differences in MOR expression between prairie and meadow voles could potentially contribute to species differences in behavior, including social attachment.
PMCID: PMC4327842  PMID: 23537838
pair bonding; social behavior; social attachment
10.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3892151  PMID: 24275320
11.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3898339  PMID: 24269937
12.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3898816  PMID: 24286757
13.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3902844  PMID: 24231734
14.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3906721  PMID: 24231737
15.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3913162  PMID: 24231738
16.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3923582  PMID: 24291725
17.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3931009  PMID: 24220688
18.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3947177  PMID: 24215977
19.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3947223  PMID: 24269611
20.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3947893  PMID: 24239717
21.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC3954640  PMID: 24300108
22.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC4020010  PMID: 24215981
23.  [No title available] 
PMCID: PMC4050971  PMID: 24240029
24.  Differential involvement of p38 and JNK MAP kinases in HIV-1 Tat and gp120-induced apoptosis and neurite degeneration in striatal neurons 
Neuroscience  2005;135(3):781-790.
The role of p38 and c-jun-N-terminal kinases 1/2 (JNK), members of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) family, in mediating the toxic effects of HIV-1 Tat and gp120 were explored in primary mouse striatal neurons in vitro. Both Tat and gp120 caused significant increases in p38 and JNK MAPK phosphorylation, caspase-3 activity, neurite losses and cell death in striatal neurons. Tat-induced increases in caspase-3 activity were significantly attenuated by an inhibitor of JNK (SP600125), but not by an inhibitor of p38 (SB203580), MAPK. However, despite preventing increases in caspase-3 activity, JNK inhibition failed to avert Tat-induced neuronal losses suggesting that the reductions in caspase-3 activity were insufficient to prevent cell death caused by Tat. Alternatively, gp120-induced increases in caspase-3 activity, neurite losses and neuronal death were prevented by p38, but not JNK, MAPK inhibition. Our findings suggest that gp120 induces neuronal dysfunction and death through actions at p38 MAPK, while Tat kills neurons through actions that are independent of p38 or JNK MAPK, or through the concurrent activation of multiple proapoptotic pathways.
PMCID: PMC4310730  PMID: 16111829
Caspase-3; neurotoxicity; AIDS; neurodegeneration; basal ganglia
25.  Glial-restricted precursors: Patterns of expression of opioid receptors and relationship to HIV-1 Tat and morphine susceptibility in vitro 
Neuroscience  2007;146(4):1546-1554.
Recent evidence suggests that HIV-induced pathogenesis is exacerbated by opioid abuse and that the synergistic toxicity may result from direct actions of opioids in immature glia or glial precursors. To assess whether opioids and HIV proteins are directly toxic to glial-restricted precursors (GRPs), we isolated neural stem cells from the incipient spinal cord of embryonic day 10.5 ICR mice. GRPs were characterized immunocytochemically and by RTPCR. At 1 day in vitro (DIV), GRPs failed to express μ (MOR or MOP) or κ-opioid receptors (KOR or KOP); however, at 5 DIV, most GRPs expressed MOR and KOR. The effects of morphine (500 nM) and/or Tat (100 nM) on GRP viability were assessed in GRPs at 5 DIV by examining the apoptotic effector caspase-3 and cell viability (ethidium monoazide exclusion) at 96 h following continuous exposure. Tat or morphine alone or in combination caused significant increases in GRP cell death at 96 h, but not at 24 h, following exposure. Although morphine or Tat caused increases in caspase-3 activity at 4 h, this was not accompanied with increased cleaved caspase-3 immunoreactive or ethidium monoazide-positive dying cells at 24 h. The results indicate that prolonged morphine or Tat exposure is intrinsically toxic to isolated GRPs and/or their progeny in vitro. Moreover, MOR and KOR are widely expressed by Sox2 and/or Nkx2.2-positive GRPs in vitro and the pattern of receptor expression appears to be developmentally regulated. The temporal requirement for prolonged morphine and HIV-1 Tat exposure to evoke toxicity in glia may coincide with the attainment of a particular stage of maturation and/or the development of particular apoptotic effector pathways and may be unique to spinal cord GRPs. Should similar patterns occur in vivo then we predict that immature astroglia and oligodendroglia may be preferentially vulnerable to HIV-1 infection or chronic opiate exposure.
PMCID: PMC4308314  PMID: 17478053
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); opiate drug abuse; glial progenitors; neural stem cells; gliogenesis; cell death

Results 1-25 (2002)