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1.  Transcriptome Analysis of Chemically-Induced Sensory Neuron Ablation in Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(2):e0148726.
Peripheral glia are known to have a critical role in the initial response to axon damage and degeneration. However, little is known about the cellular responses of non-myelinating glia to nerve injury. In this study, we analyzed the transcriptomes of wild-type and mutant (lacking peripheral glia) zebrafish larvae that were treated with metronidazole. This treatment allowed us to conditionally and selectively ablate cranial sensory neurons whose axons are ensheathed only by non-myelinating glia. While transcripts representing over 27,000 genes were detected by RNAseq, only a small fraction (~1% of genes) were found to be differentially expressed in response to neuronal degeneration in either line at either 2 hrs or 5 hrs of metronidazole treatment. Analysis revealed that most expression changes (332 out of the total of 458 differentially expressed genes) occurred over a continuous period (from 2 to 5 hrs of metronidazole exposure), with a small number of genes showing changes limited to only the 2 hr (55 genes) or 5 hr (71 genes) time points. For genes with continuous alterations in expression, some of the most meaningful sets of enriched categories in the wild-type line were those involving the inflammatory TNF-alpha and IL6 signaling pathways, oxidoreductase activities and response to stress. Intriguingly, these changes were not observed in the mutant line. Indeed, cluster analysis indicated that the effects of metronidazole treatment on gene expression was heavily influenced by the presence or absence of glia, indicating that the peripheral non-myelinating glia play a significant role in the transcriptional response to sensory neuron degeneration. This is the first transcriptome study of metronidazole-induced neuronal death in zebrafish and the response of non-myelinating glia to sensory neuron degeneration. We believe this study provides important insight into the mechanisms by which non-myelinating glia react to neuronal death and degeneration in sensory circuits.
PMCID: PMC4749159  PMID: 26863206
2.  Novel role for carbamoyl phosphate synthetase 2 in cranial sensory circuit formation 
In zebrafish, cranial sensory circuits form by 4 days post-fertilization. We used a forward genetic screen to identify genes involved in the formation of these circuits. In one mutant allele, sl23, axons arising from the epibranchial sensory ganglia do not form their stereotypical terminal fields in the hindbrain. These embryos also had small eyes and deformed jaws, suggesting a pleiotropic effect. Using positional cloning, a 20-nucleotide deletion in the carbamoyl-phosphate-synthetase2-aspartate-transcarbamylase-dihydroorotase (cad) gene was found. Injection of a CAD morpholino phenocopied the mutant and mutants were rescued by injection of cad RNA. Cad activity is required for pyrimidine biosynthesis, and thus is a prerequisite for nucleic acid production and UDP-dependent protein glycosylation. Perturbation of nucleic acid biosynthesis can result in cell death. sl23 mutants did not exhibit elevated cell death, or gross morphological changes, in their hindbrains. To determine if defective protein glycosylation was involved in the aberrant targeting of sensory axons, we treated wild type embryos with tunicamycin, which blocks N-linked protein glycosylation. Interference with glycosylation via tunicamycin treatment mimicked the sl23 phenotype. Loss of cad reveals a critical role for protein glycosylation in cranial sensory circuit formation.
PMCID: PMC3944931  PMID: 24280100
epibranchial; ganglia; zebrafish; axon guidance; glycosylation
3.  Peripheral Glia Have a Pivotal Role in the Initial Response to Axon Degeneration of Peripheral Sensory Neurons in Zebrafish 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e103283.
Axon degeneration is a feature of many peripheral neuropathies. Understanding the organismal response to this degeneration may aid in identifying new therapeutic targets for treatment. Using a transgenic zebrafish line expressing a bacterial nitroreductase (Ntr)/mCherry fusion protein in the peripheral sensory neurons of the V, VII, IX, and X cranial nerves, we were able to induce and visualize the pathology of axon degeneration in vivo. Exposure of 4 days post fertilization Ntr larvae to the prodrug metronidazole (Met), which Ntr metabolizes into cytotoxic metabolites, resulted in dose-dependent cell death and axon degeneration. This was limited to the Ntr-expressing sensory neurons, as neighboring glia and motor axons were unaffected. Cell death was rapid, becoming apparent 3–4 hours after Met treatment, and was followed by phagocytosis of soma and axon debris by cells within the nerves and ganglia beginning at 4–5 hours of exposure. Although neutrophils appear to be activated in response to the degenerating neurons, they did not accumulate at the sites of degeneration. In contrast, macrophages were found to be attracted to the sites of the degenerating axons, where they phagocytosed debris. We demonstrated that peripheral glia are critical for both the phagocytosis and inflammatory response to degenerating neurons: mutants that lack all peripheral glia (foxD3−/−; Ntr) exhibit a much reduced reaction to axonal degeneration, resulting in a dramatic decrease in the clearance of debris, and impaired macrophage recruitment. Overall, these results show that this zebrafish model of peripheral sensory axon degeneration exhibits many aspects common to peripheral neuropathies and that peripheral glia play an important role in the initial response to this process.
PMCID: PMC4109997  PMID: 25058656
4.  A zebrafish SKIV2L2-enhancer trap line provides a useful tool for the study of peripheral sensory circuit development 
Gene expression patterns : GEP  2011;11(7):409-414.
The zebrafish is an ideal model for elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie development of the peripheral nervous system. A transgenic line that selectively labels all the sensory circuits would be a valuable tool for such investigations. In this study, we describe such a line: the enhancer trap zebrafish line Tg(SKIV2L2:gfp)j1775 which expresses green fluorescent protein (gfp) in the peripheral sensory ganglia. We show that this transgene marks all peripheral ganglia and sensory nerves, beginning at the time when the neurons are first extending their processes, but does not label the efferent nerves. The trapped reporter is inserted just upstream of a previously poorly described gene: lhfpl4 on LG6. The expression pattern of this gene by in situ hybridization reveals a different, but overlapping, pattern of expression compared to that of the transgene. This pattern also does not mimic that of the gene (skiv2l2), which provided the promoter element in the construct. These findings indicate that reporter expression is not dictated by an endogenous enhancer element, but instead arises through an unknown mechanism. Regardless, this reporter line should prove to be a valuable tool in the investigation of peripheral nervous system formation in the zebrafish.
PMCID: PMC3163734  PMID: 21742057
5.  Diverse mechanisms for assembly of branchiomeric nerves 
Developmental biology  2011;357(2):305-317.
The formation of branchiomeric nerves (cranial nerves V, VII, IX and X) from their sensory, motor and glial components is poorly understood. The current model for cranial nerve formation is based on the Vth nerve, in which sensory afferents are formed first and must enter the hindbrain in order for the motor efferents to exit. Using transgenic zebrafish lines to discriminate between motor neurons, sensory neurons and peripheral glia, we show that this model does not apply to the remaining three branchiomeric nerves. For these nerves, the motor efferents form prior to the sensory afferents, and their pathfinding show no dependence on sensory axons, as ablation of cranial sensory neurons by ngn1 knockdown had no effect. In contrast, the sensory limbs of the IXth and Xth nerves (but not the Vth or VIIth) were misrouted in gli1 mutants, which lack hindbrain bmn, suggesting that the motor efferents are crucial for appropriate sensory axon projection in some branchiomeric nerves. For all four nerves, peripheral glia were the intermediate component added and had a critical role in nerve integrity but not in axon guidance, as foxd3 null mutants lacking peripheral glia exhibited defasciculation of gVII, gIX, and gX axons. The bmn efferents were unaffected in these mutants. These data demonstrate that multiple mechanisms underlie formation of the four branchiomeric nerves. For the Vth, sensory axons initiate nerve formation, for the VIIth the sensory and motor limbs are independent, and for the IXth/Xth motor axons initiate formation. In all cases the glia are patterned by the initiating set of axons and are needed to maintain axon fasciculation. These results reveal that coordinated interactions between the three neural cell types in branchiomeric nerves differ according to their axial position.
PMCID: PMC3164235  PMID: 21777575
zebrafish; sensory neurons; branchiomotor neurons; peripheral glia
6.  Cranial sensory ganglia neurons require intrinsic N-cadherin function for guidance of afferent fibers to their final targets 
Neuroscience  2009;159(3):1175-1184.
Cell adhesion molecules, such as N-cadherin (cdh2), are essential for normal neuronal development, and as such have been implicated in an array of processes including neuronal differentiation and migration, and axon growth and fasciculation. Cdh2 is expressed in neurons of the peripheral nervous system during development, but its role in these cells during this time is poorly understood. Using the transgenic zebrafish line, tg(p2xr3.2:eGFPsl1), we have examined the involvement of cdh2 in the formation of sensory circuits by the peripheral nervous system. The tg(p2xr3.2:eGFPsl1) fish allows visualization of neurons comprising gV, gVII, gIX and gX and their axons throughout development. Reduction of cdh2 in this line was achieved by either crosses to the cdh2-mutant strain, glass onion (glo) or injection of a cdh2 morpholino (MO) into single-cell embryos. Here we show that cdh2 function is required to alter the directional vectors of growing axons upon reaching intermediate targets. The central axons enter the hindbrain appropriately but fail to turn caudally towards their final targets. Similarly, the peripheral axons extend ventrally, but fail to turn and project along a rostral/caudal axis. Furthermore, by expressing dominant negative cdh2 constructs selectively within cranial sensory ganglia (CSG) neurons, we found that cdh2 function is necessary within the axons to elicit these stereotypic turns, thus demonstrating that cdh2 acts cell autonomously. Together, our in vivo data reveal a novel role for cdh2 in the establishment of circuits by peripheral sensory neurons.
PMCID: PMC2667798  PMID: 19356698
cadherin; axon; sensory; peripheral; ganglion; zebrafish
7.  Ectodermal P2X receptor function plays a pivotal role in craniofacial development of the zebrafish 
Purinergic Signalling  2009;5(3):395-407.
P2X receptors are non-selective cation channels operated by extracellular ATP. Currently, little is known concerning the functions of these receptors during development. Previous work from our lab has shown that zebrafish have two paralogs of the mammalian P2X3 receptor subunit. One paralog, p2rx3.1, is expressed in subpopulations of neural and ectodermal cells in the embryonic head. To investigate the role of this subunit in early cranial development, we utilized morpholino oligonucleotides to disrupt its translation. Loss of this subunit resulted in craniofacial defects that included malformation of the pharyngeal skeleton. During formation of these structures, there was a marked increase in cell death within the branchial arches. In addition, the epibranchial (facial, glossopharyngeal, and vagal) cranial sensory ganglia and their circuits were perturbed. These data suggest that p2rx3.1 function in ectodermal cells is involved in purinergic signaling essential for proper craniofacial development and sensory circuit formation in the embryonic and larval zebrafish.
PMCID: PMC2717322  PMID: 19529983
P2X; Zebrafish; Morpholino; Chondrogenesis; Sensory ganglia

Results 1-7 (7)