Tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive sodium channels carry large transient currents during action potentials and also “persistent” sodium current, a non-inactivating TTX-sensitive current present at subthreshold voltages. We examined gating of subthreshold sodium current in dissociated cerebellar Purkinje neurons and hippocampal CA1 neurons, studied at 37 °C with near-physiological ionic conditions. Unexpectedly, in both cell types small voltage steps at subthreshold voltages activated a substantial component of transient sodium current as well as persistent current. Subthreshold EPSP-like waveforms also activated a large component of transient sodium current, but IPSP-like waveforms engaged primarily persistent sodium current with only a small additional transient component. Activation of transient as well as persistent sodium current at subthreshold voltages produces amplification of EPSPs that is sensitive to the rate of depolarization and can help account for the dependence of spike threshold on depolarization rate, as previously observed in vivo.
CA1 pyramidal neuron; Purkinje neuron; persistent sodium current; IPSP; sodium channel
The paraneoplastic neurologic disorders target several families of neuron-specific RNA binding proteins (RNABPs), revealing that there are unique aspects of gene expression regulation in the mammalian brain. Here we used HITS-CLIP to determine robust binding sites targeted by the neuronal Elav-like (nElavl) RNABPs. Surprisingly, nElav protein bind preferentially to GU-rich sequences in vivo and in vitro, with secondary binding to AU-rich sequences. nElavl-null mice were used to validate the consequence of these binding events in the brain, demonstrating that they bind intronic sequences in a position dependent manner to regulate alternative splicing and to 3’UTR sequences to regulate mRNA levels. These controls converge on the glutamate synthesis pathway in neurons; nElavl proteins are required to maintain neurotransmitter glutamate levels, and the lack of nElavl leads to spontaneous epileptic seizure activity. The genome-wide analysis of nElavl targets reveals that one function of neuron-specific RNABPs is to control excitation-inhibition balance in the brain.
Throughout the brain, multiple interneuron types influence distinct aspects of synaptic processing. Interneuron diversity can thereby promote differential firing from neurons receiving common excitation. In contrast, Golgi cells are the sole interneurons regulating granule cell spiking evoked by mossy fibers, thereby gating inputs to the cerebellar cortex. Here, we examine how this single interneuron type modifies activity in its targets. We find that GABAA-mediated transmission at unitary Golgi cell → granule cell synapses consists of varying contributions of fast synaptic currents and sustained inhibition. Fast IPSCs depress and slow IPSCs gradually build during high frequency Golgi cell activity. Consequently, fast and slow inhibition differentially influence granule cell spike timing during persistent mossy fiber input. Furthermore, slow inhibition reduces the gain of the mossy fiber → granule cell input-output curve, while fast inhibition increases the threshold. Thus, a lack of interneuron diversity need not prevent flexible inhibitory control of synaptic processing.
inhibition; spillover; input-output curve; spike timing; channelrhodopsin-2; dynamic clamp
Hearing loss prevents vocal learning and causes learned vocalizations to deteriorate, but how vocalization-related auditory feedback acts on neural circuits that control vocalization remains poorly understood. We deafened adult zebra finches, which rely on auditory feedback to maintain their learned songs, to test the hypothesis that deafening modifies synapses on neurons in a sensorimotor nucleus important to song production. Longitudinal in vivo imaging revealed that deafening selectively decreased the size and stability of dendritic spines on neurons that provide input to a striatothalamic pathway important to audition-dependent vocal plasticity, and changes in spine size preceded and predicted subsequent vocal degradation. Moreover, electrophysiological recordings from these neurons showed that structural changes were accompanied by functional weakening of both excitatory and inhibitory synapses, increased intrinsic excitability, and changes in spontaneous action potential output. These findings shed light on where and how auditory feedback acts within sensorimotor circuits to shape learned vocalizations.
Chronic stress could trigger maladaptive changes associated with stress-related mental disorders, however, the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. In this study, we found that exposing juvenile male rats to repeated stress significantly impaired the temporal order recognition memory, a cognitive process controlled by prefrontal cortex (PFC). Concomitantly, significantly reduced AMPAR- and NMDAR-mediated synaptic transmission and glutamate receptor expression were found in PFC pyramidal neurons from repeatedly stressed animals. All these effects relied on activation of glucocorticoid receptors and the subsequent enhancement of ubiquitin/proteasome-mediated degradation of GluR1 and NR1 subunits, which was controlled by the E3 ubiquitin ligase Nedd4-1 and Fbx2, respectively. Inhibition of proteasomes or knockdown of Nedd4-1 and Fbx2 in PFC prevented the loss of glutamatergic responses and recognition memory in stressed animals. Our results suggest that repeated stress dampens PFC glutamatergic transmission by facilitating glutamate receptor turnover, which causes the detrimental effect on PFC-dependent cognitive processes.
stress; corticosterone; glucocorticoid receptor; NMDA receptor; AMPA receptor; ubiquitination; degradation; recognition memory
The C. elegans HIF-1 proline hydroxylase EGL-9 functions as an O2-sensor in an evolutionarily conserved pathway for adaptation to hypoxia. H2S accumulates during hypoxia and promotes HIF-1 activity, but how H2S signals are perceived and transmitted to modulate HIF-1 and animal behavior is unknown. We report that the experience of hypoxia modifies a C. elegans locomotive behavioral response to O2 through the EGL-9 pathway. From genetic screens to identify novel regulators of EGL-9-mediated behavioral plasticity, we isolated mutations of the gene cysl-1, which encodes a C. elegans homolog of sulfhydrylases/cysteine synthases. Hypoxia-dependent behavioral modulation and H2S-induced HIF-1 activation require the direct physical interaction of CYSL-1 with the EGL-9 C-terminus. Sequestration of EGL-9 by CYSL-1 and inhibition of EGL-9-mediated hydroxylation by hypoxia together promote neuronal HIF-1 activation to modulate behavior. These findings demonstrate that CYSL-1 acts to transduce signals from H2S to EGL-9 to regulate O2-dependent behavioral plasticity in C. elegans.
Latrophilins (LPHNs) are a small family of G-protein coupled receptors known to mediate the massive synaptic exocytosis caused by the black widow spider venom α-latrotoxin, but their endogenous ligands and function remain unclear. Mutations in LPHN3 are strongly associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), suggesting a role for latrophilins in human cognitive function. Using affinity chromatography and mass spectrometry, we identify the FLRT family of leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins as endogenous postsynaptic ligands for latrophilins. We demonstrate that the FLRT3 and LPHN3 ectodomains interact with high affinity in trans and that interference with this interaction using soluble recombinant LPHN3, LPHN3 shRNA, or FLRT3 shRNA reduces excitatory synapse density in cultured neurons. In addition, reducing FLRT3 levels with shRNA in vivo decreases afferent input strength and dendritic spine number in dentate granule cells. These observations indicate that LPHN3 and its ligand FLRT3 play an important role in glutamatergic synapse development.
Neurodegenerative diseases have been intensively studied, but a comprehensive understanding of their pathogenesis remains elusive. An increasing body of evidence suggests that non-cell autonomous processes play critical roles during the initiation, and spatiotemporal progression or propagation of the dominant pathology. Here we review findings highlighting the importance of pathological cell-cell communication in neurodegenerative disease. We focus primarily on the accumulating evidence suggesting dysfunctional cross-talk between neurons and astroglia, neurons and innate immune system cells, as well as cellular processes leading to transmission of pathogenic proteins between cells. Insights into the complex intercellular perturbations underlying neurodegeneration will enhance our efforts to develop effective therapeutic approaches for preventing or reversing symptomatic progression in this devastating class of human diseases.
Psychostimulants induce neuroadaptations in excitatory and fast inhibitory transmission in the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Mechanisms underlying drug-evoked synaptic plasticity of slow inhibitory transmission mediated by GABAB receptors and G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK/Kir3) channels, however, are poorly understood. Here, we show that one day after methamphetamine (METH) or cocaine exposure, both synaptically-evoked and baclofen-activated GABABR-GIRK currents were significantly depressed in VTA GABA neurons, and remained depressed for 7 days. Presynaptic inhibition mediated by GABABRs on GABA terminals was also weakened. Quantitative immunoelectron microscopy revealed internalization of GABAB1R and GIRK2, which occurred coincident with dephosphorylation of Ser783 in GABAB2R, a site implicated in regulating GABABR surface expression. Inhibition of protein phosphatases recovered GABABR-GIRK currents in VTA GABA neurons of METH-injected mice. This psychostimulant-evoked impairment in GABABR signaling removes an intrinsic brake on GABA neuron spiking, which may augment GABA transmission in the mesocorticolimbic system.
Hindbrain neuronal networks serving respiratory, proprioceptive, and arousal functions share a developmental requirement for the bHLH transcription factor Atoh1. Loss of Atoh1 in mice results in respiratory failure and neonatal lethality; however, the neuronal identity and mechanism by which Atoh1-dependent cells sustain newborn breathing remains unknown. We uncovered that selective loss of Atoh1 from the post-mitotic retrotrapezoid nucleus (RTN) neurons results in severely impaired inspiratory rhythm and pronounced neonatal death. Mice that escape neonatal death develop abnormal chemoresponsiveness as adults. Interestingly, the expression of Atoh1 in the RTN neurons is not required for their specification or maintenance, but is important for their proper localization and to establish essential connections with the preBötzinger Complex (preBötC). These results provide insights into the genetic regulation of neonatal breathing and shed light on the labile sites that might contribute to sudden death in newborn infants and altered chemoresponsiveness in adults.
In this issue, Katsuki and colleagues show that cell-autonomous mechanisms divide Drosophila axons into proximal and distal compartments. Axon guidance receptors selectively localize to one compartment. A diffusion barrier exists near the compartment boundary, suggesting that it may have properties like those of the axon initial segment in mammalian neurons.
Neurofibrillary tangles advance from layer II of the entorhinal cortex (EC-II) toward limbic and association cortices as Alzheimer disease (AD) evolves. However, the mechanism involved in this hierarchical pattern of disease progression is unknown. We describe a transgenic mouse model in which overexpression of human tau P301L is restricted to EC-II. Tau pathology progresses from EC transgene-expressing neurons to neurons without detectable transgene expression, first to EC neighboring cells, followed by propagation to neurons downstream in the synaptic circuit such as the dentate gyrus, CA fields of the hippocampus, and cingulate cortex. Human tau protein spreads to these regions and co-aggregates with endogenous mouse tau. With age, synaptic degeneration occurs in the entorhinal target zone and EC neurons are lost. These data suggest that a sequence of progressive misfolding of tau proteins, circuit-based transfer to new cell populations, and deafferentation induced degeneration are part of a process of tau-induced neurodegeneration.
The corpus callosum is the most prominent commissural connection between the cortical hemispheres, and numerous neurodevelopmental disorders are associated with callosal agenesis. Using mice with either meningeal overgrowth or selective loss of meninges, we’ve identified a cascade of morphogenic signals initiated by the meninges that regulates corpus callosum development. The meninges produce BMP7, an inhibitor of callosal axon outgrowth. This activity is overcome by the induction of expression of Wnt3 by the callosal pathfinding neurons, which antagonizes the inhibitory effects of BMP7. Wnt3 expression in the cingulate callosal pathfinding axons is developmentally regulated by another BMP family member, GDF5, produced by the adjacent Cajal-Retzius neurons and turns on before outgrowth of the callosal axons. The effects of GDF5 are in turn under the control of a soluble GDF5 inhibitor, Dan, made by the meninges. Thus, the meninges and medial neocortex use a cascade of signals to regulate corpus callosum development.
The effect of attention on firing rates varies considerably within a single cortical area. The firing rate of some neurons is greatly modulated by attention while others are hardly affected. The reason for this variability across neurons is unknown. We found that the variability in attention modulation across neurons in area MT of macaques can be well explained by variability in the strength of tuned normalization across neurons. The presence of tuned normalization also explains a striking asymmetry in attention effects within neurons: when two stimuli are in a neuron’s receptive field, directing attention to the preferred stimulus modulates firing rates more than directing attention to the non-preferred stimulus. These findings show that much of the neuron-to-neuron variability in modulation of responses by attention depends on variability in the way the neurons process multiple stimuli, rather than differences in the influence of top-down signals related to attention.
Myelination by oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system (CNS) is essential for proper brain function, yet the molecular determinants that control this process remain poorly understood. The basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors Olig1 and Olig2 promote myelination, whereas bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Wnt/β-catenin signaling inhibit myelination. Here we show that these opposing regulators of myelination are functionally linked by the Olig1/2 common target Smad-interacting protein-1 (Sip1). We demonstrate that Sip1 is an essential modulator of CNS myelination. Sip1 represses differentiation inhibitory signals by antagonizing BMP receptor activated-Smad activity while activating crucial oligodendrocyte-promoting factors. Importantly, a key Sip1-activated target, Smad7, is required for oligodendrocyte differentiation, and partially rescues differentiation defects caused by Sip1 loss. Smad7 promotes myelination by blocking the BMP and β-catenin negative regulatory pathways. Thus, our findings reveal that Sip1-mediated antagonism of inhibitory signaling is critical for promoting CNS myelination and point to new mediators for myelin repair.
Schizophrenia patients suffer from severe cognitive deficits, such as impaired reality monitoring. Reality monitoring is the ability to distinguish the source of internal experiences from outside reality. During reality monitoring tasks, schizophrenia patients make errors identifying “I made it up” items, and even during accurate performance, they show abnormally low activation of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a region that supports self-referential cognition. We administered 80 hours of computerized training of cognitive processes to schizophrenia patients and found improvement in reality monitoring that correlated with increased mPFC activity. In contrast, patients in a computer games control condition did not show any behavioral or neural improvements. Notably, recovery in mPFC activity after training was associated with improved social functioning six months later. These findings demonstrate that a serious behavioral deficit in schizophrenia, and its underlying neural dysfunction, can be improved by well-designed computerized cognitive training, resulting in better quality of life.
EPAC proteins are the guanine nucleotide exchange factors that act as the intracellular receptors for cyclic AMP. Two variants of EPAC genes including EPAC1 and EPAC2 are cloned and are widely expressed throughout the brain. But, their functions in the brain remain unknown. Here, we genetically delete EPAC1 (EPAC1-/-), or EPAC2 (EPAC2-/-) or both EPAC1 and EPAC2 genes (EPAC-/-) in the forebrain of mice. We show that EPAC null mutation impairs long-term potentiation (LTP) and that this impairment is paralleled with the severe deficits in spatial learning and social interactions and is mediated in a direct manner by miR-124 transcription and Zif268 translation. Knockdown of miR-124 restores Zif268 and hence reverses all aspects of the EPAC-/- phenotypes, whereas expression of miR-124 or knockdown of Zif268 reproduces the effects of EPAC null mutation. Thus, EPAC proteins control miR-124 transcription in the brain for processing spatial learning and social interactions.
Here, we report that temporally-patterned, coherent spiking activity in posterior parietal cortex (PPC) coordinates the timing of looking and reaching. Using a spike-field approach, we identify a population of parietal area LIP neurons that fire spikes coherently with 15 Hz beta frequency LFP activity. The firing rate of coherently-active neurons predicts the reaction times (RTs) of coordinated reach-saccade movements but not of saccades when made alone. Area LIP neurons that do not fire coherently do not predict RT of either movement type. Similar beta-band LFP activity is present in the parietal reach region but not nearby visual area V3d. This suggests that coherent spiking activity in PPC can control reaches and saccades together. We propose that the neural mechanism of coordination involves a shared representation that acts to slow or speed movements together.
After nerve injury maladaptive changes can occur in injured sensory neurons and along the entire nociceptive pathway within the CNS, which may lead to spontaneous pain or pain hypersensitivity. The resulting neuropathic pain syndromes present as a complex combination of negative and positive symptoms, which vary enormously from individual to individual. This variation depends on a diversity of underlying pathophysiological changes resulting from the convergence of etiological, genotypic and environmental factors. The pain phenotype can serve therefore, as a window on underlying pathophysiological neural mechanisms, and as a guide for developing personalized pain medicine.
Pheromone responses are highly context-dependent. For example, the C. elegans pheromone ascaroside C9 (ascr#3) is repulsive to wild-type hermaphrodites, attractive to wild-type males, and usually neutral to “social” hermaphrodites with reduced activity of the npr-1 neuropeptide receptor gene. We show here that these distinct behavioral responses arise from overlapping push-pull circuits driven by two classes of pheromone-sensing neurons. The ADL sensory neurons detect C9, and in wild-type hermaphrodites, drive C9 repulsion through their chemical synapses. In npr-1 mutant hermaphrodites, C9 repulsion is reduced by the recruitment of a gap junction circuit that antagonizes ADL chemical synapses. In males, ADL sensory responses are diminished; in addition, a second pheromone-sensing neuron, ASK, antagonizes C9 repulsion. The additive effects of these antagonistic circuit elements generate attractive, repulsive or neutral pheromone responses. Neuronal modulation by circuit state and sex, and flexibility in synaptic output pathways, may permit small circuits to maximize their adaptive behavioral outputs.
Pheromones elicit innate sex-specific mating behaviors in many species. We demonstrate that in C. elegans, male-specific sexual attraction behavior is programmed in both sexes but repressed in hermaphrodites. Repression requires a single sensory neuron pair, the ASIs. To represses attraction in adults, the ASIs must be present, active, and capable of sensing the environment during development. The ASIs release TGF-β, and ASI function can be bypassed by experimental activation of TGF-β signaling. Sexual attraction in de-repressed hermaphrodites requires the same sensory neurons as in males. The sexual identity of both these sensory neurons and a distinct subset of interneurons must be male to relieve repression and release attraction. TGF-β may therefore act to change connections between sensory- and interneurons during development to engage repression. Thus, sensation in a single sensory neuron pair during development reprograms a common neural circuit from male to female behavior.
The anterodorsal projection neuron (adPN) lineage of Drosophila melanogaster produces 40 neuronal types in a stereotypic order. Here we take advantage of this complete lineage sequence to examine the role of known temporal fating factors, including Chinmo and the Hb/Kr/Pdm/Cas transcriptional cascade, within this diverse central brain lineage. Kr mutation affects the temporal fate of the neuroblast (NB) itself causing a single fate to be skipped, whereas Chinmo null only elicits fate transformation of NB progeny without altering cell counts. Notably, Chinmo operates in two windows separated by a single fate with fate transformation within each window towards the directly following fate. By contrast, Hb/Pdm/Cas play no detectable role, indicating that Kr either acts outside of the cascade identified in the ventral nerve cord or that redundancy exists at the level of fating factors. Therefore hierarchical fating mechanisms operate within the lineage to generate neuronal diversity in an unprecedented fashion.
Visual attention affects both perception and neuronal responses. Whether the same neuronal mechanisms mediate spatial attention, which improves perception of attended locations, and non-spatial forms of attention has been a subject of considerable debate. Spatial and feature attention have similar effects on individual neurons. Because visual cortex is retinotopically organized, however, spatial attention can co-modulate local neuronal populations, while feature attention generally requires more selective modulation. We compared the effects of feature and spatial attention on local and spatially separated populations by recording simultaneously from dozens of neurons in both hemispheres of V4. Feature and spatial attention affect the activity of local populations similarly, modulating both firing rates and correlations between pairs of nearby neurons. However, while spatial attention appears to act on local populations, feature attention is coordinated across hemispheres. Our results are consistent with a unified attentional mechanism that can modulate the responses of arbitrary subgroups of neurons.
Switches between different behavioral states of the animal are associated with prominent changes in global brain activity, between sleep and wakefulness or from inattentive to vigilant states. What mechanisms control brain states, and what are the functions of the different states? Here we summarize current understanding of the key neural circuits involved in regulating brain states, with a particular emphasis on the subcortical neuromodulatory systems. At the functional level, arousal and attention can greatly enhance sensory processing, whereas sleep and quiet wakefulness may facilitate learning and memory. Several new techniques developed over the past decade promise great advances in our understanding of the neural control and function of different brain states.
Spontaneous waves of activity propagating across large cortical areas may play important roles in sensory processing and circuit refinement. However, whether these waves are in turn shaped by sensory experience remains unclear. Here we report that visually evoked cortical activity reverberates in subsequent spontaneous waves. Voltage-sensitive dye imaging in rat visual cortex showed that following repetitive presentation of a given visual stimulus, spatiotemporal activity patterns resembling the evoked response appear more frequently in the spontaneous waves. This effect is specific to the response pattern evoked by the repeated stimulus, and it persists for several minutes without further visual stimulation. Such wave-mediated reverberation could contribute to short-term memory and help to consolidate the transient effects of recent sensory experience into long-lasting cortical modifications.