Protein conformation diseases, including polyglutamine (polyQ) diseases, result from the accumulation and aggregation of misfolded proteins. Huntington’s disease (HD) is one of nine diseases caused by an expanded polyQ repeat within the affected protein and is hallmarked by intracellular inclusion bodies composed of aggregated N-terminal huntingtin (Htt) fragments and other sequestered proteins. Fluorescence microscopy and filter trap assay are conventional methods to study protein aggregates, but cannot be used to analyze the presence and levels of post-translational modifications of aggregated Htt such as ubiquitination. Ubiquitination of proteins can be a signal for degradation and intracellular localization, but also affects protein activity and protein-protein interactions. The function of ubiquitination relies on its mono- and polymeric isoforms attached to protein substrates. Studying the ubiquitination pattern of aggregated Htt fragments offers an important possibility to understand Htt degradation and aggregation processes within the cell. For the identification of aggregated Htt and its ubiquitinated species, solubilization of the cellular aggregates is mandatory. Here we describe methods to identify post-translational modifications such as ubiquitination of aggregated mutant Htt. This approach is specifically described for use with mammalian cell culture and is suitable to study other disease-related proteins prone to aggregate.
Huntington’s disease; huntingtin; aggregation; formic acid; ubiquitination
The development of gene transfection technologies has greatly advanced our understanding of life sciences. While use of viral vectors has clear efficacy, it requires specific expertise and biological containment conditions. Electroporation has become an effective and commonly used method for introducing DNA into neurons and in intact brain tissue. The present study describes the use of the Neon® electroporation system to transfect genes into dorsal root ganglia neurons isolated from embryonic mouse Day 13.5–16. This cell type has been particularly recalcitrant and refractory to physical or chemical methods for introduction of DNA. By optimizing the culture condition and parameters including voltage and duration for this specific electroporation system, high efficiency (60–80%) and low toxicity (>60% survival) were achieved with robust differentiation in response to Nerve growth factor (NGF). Moreover, 3–50 times fewer cells are needed (6 × 104) compared with other traditional electroporation methods. This approach underlines the efficacy of this type of electroporation, particularly when only limited amount of cells can be obtained, and is expected to greatly facilitate the study of gene function in dorsal root ganglia neuron cultures.
dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron; transfection; electroporation; nucleofection; gene expression; primary neurons; EGFP expression; Nerve growth factor (NGF)
Adverse early life experience decreases adult hippocampal neurogenesis and results in increased vulnerability to neuropsychiatric disorders. Despite that the effects of postnatal stress on neurogenesis have been widely studied in adult individuals, few efforts have been done to evaluate its immediate effects on the developing hippocampus. Moreover, it is not clear whether postnatal stress causes a differential impact in hippocampus development in male and female neonates that could be related to emotional deficits in adulthood. It has been proposed that the long term effects of early stress exposure rise from a persistent HPA axis activation during sensitive time windows; nevertheless the exact mechanisms and mediators remain unknown. Here, we summarize the immediate and late effects of early life stress on hippocampal neurogenesis in male and female rat pups, compare its later consequences in emotionality, and highlight some relevant mediator peptides that could be potentially involved in programming.
hippocampus; stress; neuroplasticity; stress mediators; gender differences
Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a form of synaptic plasticity that is an excellent model for the molecular mechanisms that underlie memory. LTP, like memory, is persistent, and both are widely believed to be maintained by a coordinated genomic response. Recently, a novel class of non-coding RNA, microRNA, has been implicated in the regulation of LTP. MicroRNA negatively regulate protein synthesis by binding to specific messenger RNA response elements. The aim of this review is to summarize experimental evidence for the proposal that microRNA play a major role in the regulation of LTP. We discuss a growing body of research which indicates that specific microRNA regulate synaptic proteins relevant to LTP maintenance, as well as studies that have reported differential expression of microRNA in response to LTP induction. We conclude that microRNA are ideally suited to contribute to the regulation of LTP-related gene expression; microRNA are pleiotropic, synaptically located, tightly regulated, and function in response to synaptic activity. The potential impact of microRNA on LTP maintenance as regulators of gene expression is enormous.
long-term potentiation; microRNA; maintenance; synaptic plasticity; memory
autoimmunity; degeneration; multiple sclerosis; microRNA (miRNA); miRNA-146a; miRNA-155; inflammation; NF-kB (p50/p65)
Vertebrate vision begins when retinal photoreceptors transduce photons into electrical signals that are then relayed to other neurons in the eye, and ultimately to the brain. In rod photoreceptors, transduction of single photons is achieved by a well-understood G-protein cascade that modulates cGMP levels, and in turn, cGMP-sensitive inward current. The spatial extent and depth of the decline in cGMP during the single photon response (SPR) have been major issues in phototransduction research since the discovery that single photons elicit substantial and reproducible changes in membrane current. The spatial profile of cGMP decline during the SPR affects signal gain, and thus may contribute to reduction of trial-to-trial fluctuations in the SPR. Here we summarize the general principles of rod phototransduction, emphasizing recent advances in resolving the spatiotemporal dynamics of cGMP during the SPR.
phototransduction; photoreceptor; rod; vision; rhodopsin
cyclic GMP; Ca2+; membrane guanylate cyclase; multiple transduction modes; signal transduction
Critically impaired protein degradation is discussed to contribute to neurodegenerative disorders, including Parkinson's, Huntington's, Alzheimer's, and motor neuron diseases. Misfolded, aggregated, or surplus proteins are efficiently degraded via distinct protein degradation pathways, including the ubiquitin-proteasome system, autophagy, and vesicular trafficking. These pathways are regulated by covalent modification of target proteins with the small protein ubiquitin and are evolutionary highly conserved from humans to yeast. The yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is an established model for deciphering mechanisms of protein degradation, and for the elucidation of pathways underlying programmed cell death. The expression of human neurotoxic proteins triggers cell death in yeast, with neurotoxic protein-specific differences. Therefore, yeast cell death models are suitable for analyzing the role of protein degradation pathways in modulating cell death upon expression of disease-causing proteins. This review summarizes which protein degradation pathways are affected in these yeast models, and how they are involved in the execution of cell death. I will discuss to which extent this mimics the situation in other neurotoxic models, and how this may contribute to a better understanding of human disorders.
ubiquitylation; ubiquitin-proteasome system; autophagy; ubiquitin-dependent vesicular trafficking; neurodegeneration; cell death; Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by degeneration of the fronto temporal lobes and abnormal protein inclusions. It exhibits a broad clinicopathological spectrum and has been linked to mutations in seven different genes. We will provide a picture, which connects the products of these genes, albeit diverse in nature and function, in a network. Despite the paucity of information available for some of these genes, we believe that RNA processing and post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression might constitute a common theme in the network. Recent studies have unraveled the role of mutations affecting the functions of RNA binding proteins and regulation of microRNAs. This review will combine all the recent findings on genes involved in the pathogenesis of FTD, highlighting the importance of a common network of interactions in order to study and decipher the heterogeneous clinical manifestations associated with FTD. This approach could be helpful for the research of potential therapeutic strategies.
FTD; TDP-43; FUS; progranulin; tau; CHMP2B. C9ORF72
Complex interactions between networks of astrocytes and neurons are beginning to be appreciated, but remain poorly understood. Transgenic mice expressing fluorescent protein reporters of cellular activity, such as the GCaMP family of genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs), have been used to explore network behavior. However, in some cases, it may be desirable to use long-established rat models that closely mimic particular aspects of human conditions such as Parkinson's disease and the development of epilepsy following status epilepticus. Methods for expressing reporter proteins in the rat brain are relatively limited. Transgenic rat technologies exist but are fairly immature. Viral-mediated expression is robust but unstable, requires invasive injections, and only works well for fairly small genes (<5 kb). In utero electroporation (IUE) offers a valuable alternative. IUE is a proven method for transfecting populations of astrocytes and neurons in the rat brain without the strict limitations on transgene size. We built a toolset of IUE plasmids carrying GCaMP variants 3, 6s, or 6f driven by CAG and targeted to the cytosol or the plasma membrane. Because low baseline fluorescence of GCaMP can hinder identification of transfected cells, we included the option of co-expressing a cytosolic tdTomato protein. A binary system consisting of a plasmid carrying a piggyBac inverted terminal repeat (ITR)-flanked CAG-GCaMP-IRES-tdTomato cassette and a separate plasmid encoding for expression of piggyBac transposase was employed to stably express GCaMP and tdTomato. The plasmids were co-electroporated on embryonic days 13.5–14.5 and astrocytic and neuronal activity was subsequently imaged in acute or cultured brain slices prepared from the cortex or hippocampus. Large spontaneous transients were detected in slices obtained from rats of varying ages up to 127 days. In this report, we demonstrate the utility of this toolset for interrogating astrocytic and neuronal activity in the rat brain.
GCaMP6; rat model; GCaMP3; calcium imaging; astroglia; neural network; gene expression; tdTomato
Ubiquitin-specific protease 14 (USP14) is a major deubiquitinating enzyme and a key determinant of neuromuscular junction (NMJ) structure and function. We have previously reported dramatic ubiquitin depletion in the nervous systems of the USP14-deficient ataxia (axJ) mice and demonstrated that transgenic ubiquitin overexpression partially rescues the axJ neuromuscular phenotype. However, later work has shown that ubiquitin overexpression does not correct the axJ deficits in hippocampal short term plasticity, and that transgenic expression of a catalytically inactive form of USP14 in the nervous system mimics the neuromuscular phenotype observed in the axJ mice, but causes a only a modest reduction of free ubiquitin. Instead, increased ubiquitin conjugates and aberrant activation of pJNK are observed in the nervous systems of the USP14 catalytic mutant mice. In this report, we demonstrate that restoring free ubiquitin levels in the USP14 catalytic mutant mice improved NMJ structure and reduced pJNK accumulation in motor neuron terminals, but had a negative impact on measures of NMJ function, such as motor performance and muscle development. Transgenic expression of ubiquitin had a dose-dependent effect on NMJ function in wild type mice: moderate levels of overexpression improved NMJ function while more robust ubiquitin overexpression reduced muscle development and motor coordination. Combined, these results suggest that maintenance of free ubiquitin levels by USP14 contributes to NMJ structure, but that USP14 regulates NMJ function through a separate pathway.
neuromuscular junction; ubiquitin; USP14; pJNK; proteasomes; motor neuron and deubiquitinating enzyme
Proteolytical processing of membrane bound molecules is a fundamental mechanism for the degradation of these proteins as well as for controlling cell-to-cell communication, which is at the basis of tissue development and homeostasis. Members of families of metalloproteinases and intra-membrane proteases are major effectors of these events. A recent workshop in Baeza, Spain, was devoted to discuss how this mechanism coordinates brain development and how its dysfunction leads to brain pathologies. Herein we summarize the findings presented during this workshop, which illuminate the role of metalloproteinases, including matrix metalloproteinase, A Disintegrin and Metalloproteinase-proteases and intra-membrane proteases, in the regulation of neurogenesis, axon guidance, and synaptogenesis as well as in neurodegeneration. Indeed, there is increasing evidence that proteolysis at the membrane is directly linked to neuropathologies such as Alzheimer Disease and autism spectrum or prion disorders. These proteolytic events are tightly regulated and we are just at the beginning of understanding how these processes could be exploited to design therapeutic treatments aimed at alleviating psychiatric and neurodegenerative pathologies.
neurogenesis; axon guidance; synapse formation; stem cells; ADAM; presenilin; neurodegeneration; prion
Microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain parenchyma, are highly responsive to tissue injury. Following cell damage, microglial processes redirect their motility from randomly scouting the extracellular space to specifically reaching toward the compromised tissue. While the cell morphology aspects of this defense mechanism have been characterized, the intracellular events underlying these responses remain largely unknown. Specifically, the role of intracellular Ca2+ dynamics has not been systematically investigated in acutely activated microglia due to technical difficulty. Here we used live two-photon imaging of the mouse cortex ubiquitously expressing the genetically encoded Ca2+ indicator GCaMP5G and fluorescent marker tdTomato in central nervous system microglia. We found that spontaneous Ca2+ transients in microglial somas and processes were generally low (only 4% of all microglia showing transients within 20 min), but baseline activity increased about 8-fold when the animals were treated with LPS 12 h before imaging. When challenged with focal laser injury, an additional surge in Ca2+ activity was observed in the somas and protruding processes. Notably, coherent and simultaneous Ca2+ rises in multiple microglial cells were occasionally detected in LPS-treated animals. We show that Ca2+ transients were pre-dominantly mediated via purinergic receptors. This work demonstrates the usefulness of genetically encoded Ca2+ indicators for investigation of microglial physiology.
calcium imaging; GECI; GCaMP5G; PC::G5-tdT; microglia; purinergic receptors
Lentiviruses have been extensively used as gene delivery vectors since the mid-1990s. Usually derived from the human immunodeficiency virus genome, they mediate efficient gene transfer to non-dividing cells, including neurons and glia in the adult mammalian brain. In addition, integration of the recombinant lentiviral construct into the host genome provides permanent expression, including the progeny of dividing neural precursors. In this review, we describe targeted vectors with modified envelope glycoproteins and expression of transgenes under the regulation of cell-selective and inducible promoters. This technology has broad utility to address fundamental questions in neuroscience and we outline how this has been used in rodents and primates. Combining viral tract tracing with immunohistochemistry and confocal or electron microscopy, lentiviral vectors provide a tool to selectively label and trace specific neuronal populations at gross or ultrastructural levels. Additionally, new generation optogenetic technologies can be readily utilized to analyze neuronal circuit and gene functions in the mature mammalian brain. Examples of these applications, limitations of current systems and prospects for future developments to enhance neuroscience knowledge will be reviewed. Finally, we will discuss how these vectors may be translated from gene therapy trials into the clinical setting.
lentivirus; temporal and spatial specificity; neuron phenotype; optogenetics; confocal and electron microscopy
dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron; transfection; electroporation; nucleofection; gene expression; primary neurons; EGFP expression; nerve growth factor (NGF)
Early life stress is well-known as a critical risk factor for mental and cognitive disorders in adulthood. Such disorders are accompanied by altered neuro- (synapto-) genesis and gene expression. Because psychosomatic disorders induced by early life stress (e.g., physical and/or sexual abuse, and neglect) have become a socio-economic problem, it is very important to clarify the mechanisms underlying these changes. However, despite of intensive clinical and animal studies, such mechanisms have not yet been clarified. Although the disturbance of glucocorticoid and glutamate homeostasis by stress has been well-documented, it has not yet been clarified whether such disturbance by early life stress persists for life. Furthermore, since previous studies have focused on the detection of changes in specific brain regions, such as the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, it has not been clarified whether early life stress induced changes in the sensory/motor system. Thus, in this review, we introduce recent studies on functional/structural changes in the somatosensory cortex induced by early life stress. We believe that this review provides new insights into the functional alteration of the somatosensory system induced by early life stress. Such information may have clinical relevance in terms of providing effective therapeutic interventions to early life stressed individuals.
maternal deprivation; in vivo imaging; in vivo microdialysis; glutamate reseptor; spine
Animals prenatally exposed to valproic acid (VPA), an antiepileptic agent, have been used as a model for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Previous studies have identified enhanced NMDA receptor (NMDAR) function in the brain of VPA rats, and demonstrated that pharmacological suppression of NMDAR function normalizes social deficits in these animals. However, whether repetitive behavior, another key feature of ASDs, can be rescued by NMDAR inhibition remains unknown. We report here that memantine, an NMDAR antagonist, administered to VPA mice rescues both social deficits and repetitive behaviors such as self-grooming and jumping. These results suggest that suppression of elevated NMDAR function in VPA animals normalizes repetitive behaviors in addition to social deficits.
autism spectrum disorders; valproic acid; NMDA receptors; social interaction; repetitive behavior; memantine
Iron plays a fundamental role in the development of the central nervous system (CNS) as well as in several neuronal functions including synaptic plasticity. Accordingly, neuronal iron supply is tightly controlled: it depends not only on transferrin-bound iron but also on non-transferrin-bound iron (NTBI), which represents a relevant quote of the iron physiologically present in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Different calcium permeable channels as well as the divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1) have been proposed to sustain NTBI entry in neurons and astrocytes even though it remains an open issue. In both cases, it emerges that the control of iron entry is tightly linked to synaptic activity. The iron-induced oxidative tone can, in physiological conditions, positively influence the calcium levels and thus the synaptic plasticity. On the other hand, an excess of iron, with the ensuing uncontrolled production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), is detrimental for neuronal survival. A protective mechanism can be played by astrocytes that, more resistant to oxidative stress, can uptake iron, thereby buffering its concentration in the synaptic environment. This competence is potentiated when astrocytes undergo activation during neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative processes. In this minireview we focus on the mechanisms responsible for NTBI entry in neurons and astrocytes and on how they can be modulated during synaptic activity. Finally, we speculate on the relevance they may have in both physiological and pathological conditions.
iron; neurons; astrocytes; oxidative stress; synapses
Our recent data suggest a high accumulation of copper (Cu) in the subventricular zone (SVZ) along the wall of brain ventricles. Anatomically, SVZ is in direct contact with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is secreted by a neighboring tissue choroid plexus (CP). Changes in Cu regulatory gene expressions in the SVZ and CP as the function of aging may determine Cu levels in the CSF and SVZ. This study was designed to investigate the associations between age, Cu levels, and Cu regulatory genes in SVZ and plexus. The SVZ and CP were dissected from brains of 3-week, 10-week, or 9-month old male rats. Analyses by atomic absorption spectroscopy revealed that the SVZ of adult and old animals contained the highest Cu level compared with other tested brain regions. Significantly positive correlations between age and Cu levels in SVZ and plexus were observed; the SVZ Cu level of old animals was 7.5- and 5.8-fold higher than those of young and adult rats (p < 0.01), respectively. Quantitation by qPCR of the transcriptional expressions of Cu regulatory proteins showed that the SVZ expressed the highest level of Cu storage protein metallothioneins (MTs), while the CP expressed the high level of Cu transporter protein Ctr1. Noticeably, Cu levels in the SVZ were positively associated with type B slow proliferating cell marker Gfap (p < 0.05), but inversely associated with type A proliferating neuroblast marker Dcx (p < 0.05) and type C transit amplifying progenitor marker Nestin (p < 0.01). Dmt1 had significant positive correlations with age and Cu levels in the plexus (p < 0.01). These findings suggest that Cu levels in all tested brain regions are increased as the function of age. The SVZ shows a different expression pattern of Cu-regulatory genes from the CP. The age-related increase of MTs and decrease of Ctr1 may contribute to the high Cu level in this neurogenesis active brain region.
subventricular zone; choroid plexus; copper; age-dependent; neurogenesis
Iron is required in a variety of essential processes in the body. In this review, we focus on iron transport in the brain and the role of the divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1) vital for iron uptake in most cells. DMT1 locates to cellular membranes and endosomal membranes, where it is a key player in non-transferrin bound iron uptake and transferrin-bound iron uptake, respectively. Four isoforms of DMT1 exist, and their respective characteristics involve a complex cell-specific regulatory machinery all controlling iron transport across these membranes. This complexity reflects the fine balance required in iron homeostasis, as this metal is indispensable in many cell functions but highly toxic when appearing in excess. DMT1 expression in the brain is prominent in neurons. Of serious dispute is the expression of DMT1 in non-neuronal cells. Recent studies imply that DMT1 does exist in endosomes of brain capillary endothelial cells denoting the blood-brain barrier. This supports existing evidence that iron uptake at the BBB occurs by means of transferrin-receptor mediated endocytosis followed by detachment of iron from transferrin inside the acidic compartment of the endosome and DMT1-mediated pumping iron into the cytosol. The subsequent iron transport across the abluminal membrane into the brain likely occurs by ferroportin. The virtual absent expression of transferrin receptors and DMT1 in glial cells, i.e., astrocytes, microglia and oligodendrocytes, suggest that the steady state uptake of iron in glia is much lower than in neurons and/or other mechanisms for iron uptake in these cell types prevail.
iron; transferrin receptor; OX26; DMT1; blood brain barrier; Belgrade rat
Due to recent advances of genetic manipulation, mouse brain has become a useful model for studying brain function, which demands whole brain functional mapping techniques in the mouse brain. In the present study, to finely map visual responsive areas in the mouse brain, we combined high-resolution wide-field optical imaging with transgenic mice containing the genetically encoded Ca2+ indicator, GCaMP3. With the high signal amplitude of GCaMP3 expressing in excitatory neurons, this system allowed neural activity to be observed with relatively fine spatial resolution and cell-type specificity. To evaluate this system, we examined whether non-visual areas exhibited a visual response over the entire surface of the mouse hemisphere. We found that two association areas, the retrosplenial area (RS) and secondary motor/anterior cingulate area (M2/AC), were significantly responsive to drifting gratings. Examination using gratings with distinct spatiotemporal frequency parameters revealed that the RS strongly responded to high-spatial and low-temporal frequency gratings. The M2/AC exhibited a response property similar to that of the RS, though it was not statistically significant. Finally, we performed cellular imaging using two-photon microscopy to examine orientation and direction selectivity of individual neurons, and found that a minority of neurons in the RS clearly showed visual responses sharply selective for orientation and direction. These results suggest that neurons in RS encode visual information of fine spatial details in images. Thus, the present study shows the usefulness of the functional mapping method using a combination of wide-field and two-photon Ca2+ imaging, which allows for whole brain mapping with high spatiotemporal resolution and cell-type specificity.
wide-field Ca2+ imaging; transgenic mouse; GCaMP3; visual response; retrosplenial area
The growth inhibitory nature of injured adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) tissue constitutes a major barrier to robust axonal outgrowth and functional recovery following trauma or disease. Prototypic CNS regeneration inhibitors are broadly expressed in the healthy and injured brain and spinal cord and include myelin-associated glycoprotein (MAG), the reticulon family member NogoA, oligodendrocyte myelin glycoprotein (OMgp), and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPGs). These structurally diverse molecules strongly inhibit neurite outgrowth in vitro, and have been most extensively studied in the context of nervous system injury in vivo. The physiological role of CNS regeneration inhibitors in the naïve, or uninjured, CNS remains less well understood, but has received growing attention in recent years and is the focus of this review. CNS regeneration inhibitors regulate myelin development and axon stability, consolidate neuronal structure shaped by experience, and limit activity-dependent modification of synaptic strength. Altered function of CNS regeneration inhibitors is associated with neuropsychiatric disorders, suggesting crucial roles in brain development and health.
NogoA; MAG; OMgp; CSPGs; regeneration; synaptic plasticity
In recent years, the ubiquitin-editing enzyme A20 has been shown to control a large set of molecular pathways involved in the regulation of protective as well as self-directed immune responses. Here, we assess the current and putative roles of A20 in inflammatory, vascular and degenerative diseases of the central nervous system and explore future directions of research.
A20; NF-κB; neuroinflammation; central nervous system; neurodegenerative diseases
The spinal cord of vertebrate animals is comprised of intrinsic circuits that are capable of sensing the environment and generating complex motor behaviors. There are two major perspectives for understanding the biology of this complicated structure. The first approaches the spinal cord from the point of view of function and is based on classic and ongoing research in electrophysiology, adult behavior, and spinal cord injury. The second view considers the spinal cord from a developmental perspective and is founded mostly on gene expression and gain-of-function and loss-of-function genetic experiments. Together these studies have uncovered functional classes of neurons and their lineage relationships. In this review, we summarize our knowledge of developmental classes, with an eye toward understanding the functional roles of each group.
interneuron; motor neuron; transcription factor; locomotion; sensory; circuit
Alzheimer's disease; cytokine; neutraceuticals; inflammation; disease-modifying drug; treatment