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1.  Detection of ubiquitinated huntingtin species in intracellular aggregates 
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.
PMCID: PMC4309157
Huntington’s disease; huntingtin; aggregation; formic acid; ubiquitination
2.  Highly efficient method for gene delivery into mouse dorsal root ganglia neurons 
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.
PMCID: PMC4313362
dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron; transfection; electroporation; nucleofection; gene expression; primary neurons; EGFP expression; Nerve growth factor (NGF)
3.  Increased microRNA-34c abundance in Alzheimer's disease circulating blood plasma 
Circulating microRNAs, present either in the cellular component, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), or in cell-free plasma, have emerged as biomarkers for age-dependent systemic, disease-associated changes in many organs. Previously, we have shown that microRNA (miR)-34a is increased in circulating PBMC of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients. In the present study, we show that this microRNA's sister, miR-34c, exhibits even greater increase in both cellular and plasma components of AD circulating blood samples, compared to normal age-matched controls. Statistical analysis shows the accuracy of levels of miR-34c assayed by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis: the area under the curve is 0.99 (p < 0.0001) and the 95% confidence level extends from 0.97 to 1. Pearson correlation between miR-34c levels and mild and moderate AD, as defined by the mini-mental state examination (MMSE), shows an r-value of −0.7, suggesting a relatively strong inverse relationship between the two parameters. These data show that plasma levels of microRNA 34c are much more prominent in AD than those of its sister, miR-34a, or than its own level in PBMC. Transfection studies show that miR-34c, as does its sister miR-34a, represses the expression of several selected genes involved in cell survival and oxidative defense pathways, such as Bcl2, SIRT1, and others, in cultured cells. Taken together, our results indicate that increased levels of miR-34c in both PBMC and plasma may reflect changes in circulating blood samples in AD patients, compared to age-matched normal controls.
PMCID: PMC3912349  PMID: 24550773
peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC); plasma microRNA; miR-34a; miR-34c
4.  Developing a PPI inhibitor-based therapy for STXBP1 haploinsufficiency-associated epileptic disorders 
PMCID: PMC3912442  PMID: 24550774
STXBP1; Munc18; syntaxin1a; Ohtahara syndrome; West syndrome; epileptic encephalopathy; infantile spasms; PPI inhibitor
5.  Presynaptic [Ca2+] and GCAPs: aspects on the structure and function of photoreceptor ribbon synapses 
Changes in intracellular calcium ions [Ca2+] play important roles in photoreceptor signaling. Consequently, intracellular [Ca2+] levels need to be tightly controlled. In the light-sensitive outer segments (OS) of photoreceptors, Ca2+ regulates the activity of retinal guanylate cyclases thus playing a central role in phototransduction and light-adaptation by restoring light-induced decreases in cGMP. In the synaptic terminals, changes of intracellular Ca2+ trigger various aspects of neurotransmission. Photoreceptors employ tonically active ribbon synapses that encode light-induced, graded changes of membrane potential into modulation of continuous synaptic vesicle exocytosis. The active zones of ribbon synapses contain large electron-dense structures, synaptic ribbons, that are associated with large numbers of synaptic vesicles. Synaptic coding at ribbon synapses differs from synaptic coding at conventional (phasic) synapses. Recent studies revealed new insights how synaptic ribbons are involved in this process. This review focuses on the regulation of [Ca2+] in presynaptic photoreceptor terminals and on the function of a particular Ca2+-regulated protein, the neuronal calcium sensor protein GCAP2 (guanylate cyclase-activating protein-2) in the photoreceptor ribbon synapse. GCAP2, an EF-hand-containing protein plays multiple roles in the OS and in the photoreceptor synapse. In the OS, GCAP2 works as a Ca2+-sensor within a Ca2+-regulated feedback loop that adjusts cGMP levels. In the photoreceptor synapse, GCAP2 binds to RIBEYE, a component of synaptic ribbons, and mediates Ca2+-dependent plasticity at that site. Possible mechanisms are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3915146  PMID: 24567702
photoreceptor; ribbon synapse; synaptic ribbon; RIBEYE; Ca2+; GCAP2
6.  MicroRNAs in brain development and function: a matter of flexibility and stability 
Fine-tuning of gene expression is a fundamental requirement for development and function of cells and organs. This requirement is particularly obvious in the nervous system where originally common stem cell populations generate thousands of different neuronal and glial cell types in a temporally and quantitatively perfectly orchestrated manner. Moreover, after their generation, young neurons have to connect with pre-determined target neurons through the establishment of functional synapses, either in their immediate environment or at distance. Lastly, brain function depends not only on static circuitries, but on plastic changes at the synaptic level allowing both, learning and memory. It appears evident that these processes necessitate flexibility and stability at the same time. These two contrasting features can only be achieved by complex molecular networks, superposed levels of control and tight interactions between regulatory mechanisms. Interactions between microRNAs and their target mRNAs fulfill these requirements. Here we review recent literature dealing with the involvement of microRNAs in multiple aspects of brain development and connectivity.
PMCID: PMC3916726  PMID: 24570654
microRNA; neurogenesis; neural stem cells; fate determination; synaptogenesis; synaptic function; LTP
7.  miRNAs and viroids utilize common strategies in genetic signal transfer 
PMCID: PMC3918644  PMID: 24574963
micro RNA (miRNA); viroids; RNAseIII mediated cleavage; small non-coding RNAs; viroid-specific RNA (vsRNA); PSTV; single stranded RNA; genetic evolution
8.  Predicted overlapping microRNA regulators of acetylcholine packaging and degradation in neuroinflammation-related disorders 
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) can notably control many targets each and regulate entire cellular pathways, but whether miRNAs can regulate complete neurotransmission processes is largely unknown. Here, we report that miRNAs with complementary sequence motifs to the key genes involved in acetylcholine (ACh) synthesis and/or packaging show massive overlap with those regulating ACh degradation. To address this topic, we first searched for miRNAs that could target the 3′-untranslated regions of the choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) gene that controls ACh synthesis; the vesicular ACh transporter (VAChT), encoded from an intron in the ChAT gene and the ACh hydrolyzing genes acetyl- and/or butyrylcholinesterase (AChE, BChE). Intriguingly, we found that many of the miRNAs targeting these genes are primate-specific, and that changes in their levels associate with inflammation, anxiety, brain damage, cardiac, neurodegenerative, or pain-related syndromes. To validate the in vivo relevance of this dual interaction, we selected the evolutionarily conserved miR-186, which targets both the stress-inducible soluble “readthrough” variant AChE-R and the major peripheral cholinesterase BChE. We exposed mice to predator scent stress and searched for potential associations between consequent changes in their miR-186, AChE-R, and BChE levels. Both intestinal miR-186 as well as BChE and AChE-R activities were conspicuously elevated 1 week post-exposure, highlighting the previously unknown involvement of miR-186 and BChE in psychological stress responses. Overlapping miRNA regulation emerges from our findings as a recently evolved surveillance mechanism over cholinergic neurotransmission in health and disease; and the corresponding miRNA details and disease relevance may serve as a useful resource for studying the molecular mechanisms underlying this surveillance.
PMCID: PMC3918661  PMID: 24574962
acetlycholinesterase; butyrylcholinesterase; choline acetyltransferase; vesicular acetylcholine transporter; microRNA-186; cholinergic signaling; primate-specific microRNAs
9.  Early-life stress impacts the developing hippocampus and primes seizure occurrence: cellular, molecular, and epigenetic mechanisms 
Early-life stress includes prenatal, postnatal, and adolescence stress. Early-life stress can affect the development of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and cause cellular and molecular changes in the developing hippocampus that can result in neurobehavioral changes later in life. Epidemiological data implicate stress as a cause of seizures in both children and adults. Emerging evidence indicates that both prenatal and postnatal stress can prime the developing brain for seizures and an increase in epileptogenesis. This article reviews the cellular and molecular changes encountered during prenatal and postnatal stress, and assesses the possible link between these changes and increases in seizure occurrence and epileptogenesis in the developing hippocampus. In addititon, the priming effect of prenatal and postnatal stress for seizures and epileptogenesis is discussed. Finally, the roles of epigenetic modifications in hippocampus and HPA axis programming, early-life stress, and epilepsy are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3918912  PMID: 24574961
early-life stress; epigenetic; epileptogenesis; hippocampus; hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; prenatal stress; postnatal stress; seizure
10.  Aberrant disgust response and immune reactivity in cocaine-dependent men might uncover deranged serotoninergic activity 
PMCID: PMC3920097  PMID: 24574960
cocaine dependence; disgust; immune reactivity; serotonin; sympathetic nervous system
11.  MicroRNA responses to focal cerebral ischemia in male and female mouse brain 
Stroke occurs with greater frequency in men than in women across diverse ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. Work from our lab and others have revealed a sex-specific sensitivity to cerebral ischemia whereby males exhibit a larger extent of brain damage resulting from an ischemic event compared to females. Previous studies revealed that microRNA (miRNA) expression is regulated by cerebral ischemia in males; however, no studies to date have examined the effect of ischemia on miRNA responses in females. Thus, we examined miRNA responses in male and female brain in response to cerebral ischemia using miRNA arrays. These studies revealed that in male and female brains, ischemia leads to both a universal miRNA response as well as a sexually distinct response to challenge. Target prediction analysis of the miRNAs increased in male or female ischemic brain reveal sex-specific differences in gene targets and protein pathways. These data support that the mechanisms underlying sexually dimorphic responses to cerebral ischemia includes distinct changes in miRNAs in male and female brain, in addition to a miRNA signature response to ischemia that is common to both.
PMCID: PMC3920114  PMID: 24574964
microRNA; cerebral ischemia; sex-differences; array analysis; qRT-PCR; pathway analysis; stroke
12.  Loss of mTOR repressors Tsc1 or Pten has divergent effects on excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission in single hippocampal neuron cultures 
The Pten and Tsc1 genes both encode proteins that repress mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling. Disruption of either gene in the brain results in epilepsy and autism-like symptoms in humans and mouse models, therefore it is important to understand the molecular and physiological events that lead from gene disruption to disease phenotypes. Given the similar roles these two molecules play in the regulation of cellular growth and the overlap in the phenotypes that result from their loss, we predicted that the deletion of either the Pten or Tsc1 gene from autaptic hippocampal neurons would have similar effects on neuronal morphology and synaptic transmission. Accordingly, we found that loss of either Pten or Tsc1 caused comparable increases in soma size, dendrite length and action potential properties. However, the effects of Pten and Tsc1 loss on synaptic transmission were different. Loss of Pten lead to an increase in both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, while loss of Tsc1 did not affect excitatory neurotransmission and reduced inhibitory transmission by decreasing mIPSC amplitude. Although the loss of Pten or Tsc1 both increased downstream mTORC1 signaling, phosphorylation of Akt was increased in Pten-ko and decreased in Tsc1-ko neurons, potentially accounting for the different effects on synaptic transmission. Despite the different effects at the synaptic level, our data suggest that loss of Pten or Tsc1 may both lead to an increase in the ratio of excitation to inhibition at the network level, an effect that has been proposed to underlie both epilepsy and autism.
PMCID: PMC3922082  PMID: 24574959
pten; TSC/mTOR; synaptic transmission; akt; excitatory transmission; inhibitory transmission; epilepsy; autism
13.  Neuron-specific regulation of class I PI3K catalytic subunits and their dysfunction in brain disorders 
The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) complex plays important roles in virtually all cells of the body. The enzymatic activity of PI3K to phosphorylate phosphoinositides in the membrane is mediated by a group of catalytic and regulatory subunits. Among those, the class I catalytic subunits, p110α, p110β, p110γ, and p110δ, have recently drawn attention in the neuroscience field due to their specific dysregulation in diverse brain disorders. While in non-neuronal cells these catalytic subunits may have partially redundant functions, there is increasing evidence that in neurons their roles are more specialized, and confined to distinct receptor-dependent pathways. This review will summarize the emerging role of class I PI3K catalytic subunits in neurotransmitter-regulated neuronal signaling, and their dysfunction in a variety of neurological diseases, including fragile X syndrome, schizophrenia, and epilepsy. We will discuss recent literature describing the use of PI3K subunit-selective inhibitors to rescue brain disease-associated phenotypes in in vitro and animal models. These studies give rise to the exciting prospect that these drugs, originally designed for cancer treatment, may be repurposed as therapeutic drugs for brain disorders in the future.
PMCID: PMC3923137  PMID: 24592210
PI3K signaling; neuronal signal transduction; autism; epilepsy; schizophrenia
14.  Dysfunction of outer segment guanylate cyclase caused by retinal disease related mutations 
Membrane bound guanylate cyclases are expressed in rod and cone cells of the vertebrate retina and mutations in several domains of rod outer segment guanylate cyclase 1 (ROS-GC1 encoded by the gene GUCY2D) correlate with different forms of retinal degenerations. In the present work we investigated the biochemical consequences of three point mutations, one is located in position P575L in the juxtamembrane domain close to the kinase homology domain and two are located in the cyclase catalytic domain at H1019P and P1069R. These mutations correlate with various retinal diseases like autosomal dominant progressive cone degeneration, e.g., Leber Congenital Amaurosis and a juvenile form of retinitis pigmentosa. Wildtype and mutant forms of ROS-GC1 were heterologously expressed in HEK cells, their cellular distribution was investigated and activity profiles in the presence and absence of guanylate cyclase-activating proteins were measured. The mutant P575L was active under all tested conditions, but it displayed a twofold shift in the Ca2+-sensitivity, whereas the mutant P1069R remained inactive despite normal expression levels. The mutation H1019P caused the cyclase to become more labile. The different biochemical consequences of these mutations seem to reflect the different clinical symptoms. The mutation P575L induces a dysregulation of the Ca2+-sensitive cyclase activation profile causing a slow progression of the disease by the distortion of the Ca2+-cGMP homeostasis. In contrast, a strong reduction in cGMP synthesis due to an inactive or structurally unstable ROS-GC1 would trigger more severe forms of retinal diseases.
PMCID: PMC3935488  PMID: 24616660
photoreceptor guanylate cyclase; GCAP; retinal dystrophy; neuronal calcium sensor; phototransduction
15.  Life without glutamate: the epigenetic effects of glutamate deletion 
PMCID: PMC3935490  PMID: 24616661
glutamate; epigenetics; exosomes; homeoproteins; Otx2; microRNAs
16.  Ancient association between cation leak channels and Mid1 proteins is conserved in fungi and animals 
Neuronal resting potential can tune the excitability of neural networks, affecting downstream behavior. Sodium leak channels (NALCN) play a key role in rhythmic behaviors by helping set, or subtly changing neuronal resting potential. The full complexity of these newly described channels is just beginning to be appreciated, however. NALCN channels can associate with numerous subunits in different tissues and can be activated by several different peptides and second messengers. We recently showed that NALCN channels are closely related to fungal calcium channels, which they functionally resemble. Here, we use this relationship to predict a family of NALCN-associated proteins in animals on the basis of homology with the yeast protein Mid1, the subunit of the yeast calcium channel. These proteins all share a cysteine-rich region that is necessary for Mid1 function in yeast. We validate this predicted association by showing that the Mid1 homolog in Drosophila, encoded by the CG33988 gene, is coordinately expressed with NALCN, and that knockdown of either protein creates identical phenotypes in several behaviors associated with NALCN function. The relationship between Mid1 and leak channels has therefore persisted over a billion years of evolution, despite drastic changes to both proteins and the organisms in which they exist.
PMCID: PMC3945613  PMID: 24639627
Drosophila; Cch1; RNAi; Social Space Index; Circadian Rhythms; phenocopy
17.  Ryanodine receptor-mediated Ca2+ release underlies iron-induced mitochondrial fission and stimulates mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in primary hippocampal neurons 
Mounting evidence indicates that iron accumulation impairs brain function. We have reported previously that addition of sub-lethal concentrations of iron to primary hippocampal neurons produces Ca2+ signals and promotes cytoplasmic generation of reactive oxygen species. These Ca2+ signals, which emerge within seconds after iron addition, arise mostly from Ca2+ release through the redox-sensitive ryanodine receptor (RyR) channels present in the endoplasmic reticulum. We have reported also that addition of synaptotoxic amyloid-β oligomers to primary hippocampal neurons stimulates RyR-mediated Ca2+ release, generating long-lasting Ca2+ signals that activate Ca2+-sensitive cellular effectors and promote the disruption of the mitochondrial network. Here, we describe that 24 h incubation of primary hippocampal neurons with iron enhanced agonist-induced RyR-mediated Ca2+ release and promoted mitochondrial network fragmentation in 43% of neurons, a response significantly prevented by RyR inhibition and by the antioxidant agent N-acetyl-L-cysteine. Stimulation of RyR-mediated Ca2+ release by a RyR agonist promoted mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in control neurons and in iron-treated neurons that displayed non-fragmented mitochondria, but not in neurons with fragmented mitochondria. Yet, the global cytoplasmic Ca2+ increase induced by the Ca2+ ionophore ionomycin prompted significant mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in neurons with fragmented mitochondria, indicating that fragmentation did not prevent mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake but presumably decreased the functional coupling between RyR-mediated Ca2+ release and the mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter. Taken together, our results indicate that stimulation of redox-sensitive RyR-mediated Ca2+ release by iron causes significant neuronal mitochondrial fragmentation, which presumably contributes to the impairment of neuronal function produced by iron accumulation.
PMCID: PMC3949220  PMID: 24653672
endoplasmic reticulum; reactive oxygen species; mitochondrial calcium; cellular redox state; mitochondrial network; Drp-1
18.  Protein phosphatase 2A dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease 
Protein phosphatase 2A (PP2A) is a large family of enzymes that account for the majority of brain Ser/Thr phosphatase activity. While PP2A enzymes collectively modulate most cellular processes, sophisticated regulatory mechanisms are ultimately responsible for ensuring isoform-specific substrate specificity. Of particular interest to the Alzheimer’s disease (AD) field, alterations in PP2A regulators and PP2A catalytic activity, subunit expression, methylation and/or phosphorylation, have been reported in AD-affected brain regions. “PP2A” dysfunction has been linked to tau hyperphosphorylation, amyloidogenesis and synaptic deficits that are pathological hallmarks of this neurodegenerative disorder. Deregulation of PP2A enzymes also affects the activity of many Ser/Thr protein kinases implicated in AD. This review will more specifically discuss the role of the PP2A/Bα holoenzyme and PP2A methylation in AD pathogenesis. The PP2A/Bα isoform binds to tau and is the primary tau phosphatase. Its deregulation correlates with increased tau phosphorylation in vivo and in AD. Disruption of PP2A/Bα-tau protein interactions likely contribute to tau deregulation in AD. Significantly, alterations in one-carbon metabolism that impair PP2A methylation are associated with increased risk for sporadic AD, and enhanced AD-like pathology in animal models. Experimental studies have linked deregulation of PP2A methylation with down-regulation of PP2A/Bα, enhanced phosphorylation of tau and amyloid precursor protein, tau mislocalization, microtubule destabilization and neuritic defects. While it remains unclear what are the primary events that underlie “PP2A” dysfunction in AD, deregulation of PP2A enzymes definitely affects key players in the pathogenic process. As such, there is growing interest in developing PP2A-centric therapies for AD, but this may be a daunting task without a better understanding of the regulation and function of specific PP2A enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3949405  PMID: 24653673
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid; LCMT1; methylation; phosphorylation; protein phosphatase 2A; tau
19.  Mechanisms regulating neuronal excitability and seizure development following mTOR pathway hyperactivation 
The phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN)-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway regulates a variety of neuronal functions, including cell proliferation, survival, growth, and plasticity. Dysregulation of the pathway is implicated in the development of both genetic and acquired epilepsies. Indeed, several causal mutations have been identified in patients with epilepsy, the most prominent of these being mutations in PTEN and tuberous sclerosis complexes 1 and 2 (TSC1, TSC2). These genes act as negative regulators of mTOR signaling, and mutations lead to hyperactivation of the pathway. Animal models deleting PTEN, TSC1, and TSC2 consistently produce epilepsy phenotypes, demonstrating that increased mTOR signaling can provoke neuronal hyperexcitability. Given the broad range of changes induced by altered mTOR signaling, however, the mechanisms underlying seizure development in these animals remain uncertain. In transgenic mice, cell populations with hyperactive mTOR have many structural abnormalities that support recurrent circuit formation, including somatic and dendritic hypertrophy, aberrant basal dendrites, and enlargement of axon tracts. At the functional level, mTOR hyperactivation is commonly, but not always, associated with enhanced synaptic transmission and plasticity. Moreover, these populations of abnormal neurons can affect the larger network, inducing secondary changes that may explain paradoxical findings reported between cell and network functioning in different models or at different developmental time points. Here, we review the animal literature examining the link between mTOR hyperactivation and epileptogenesis, emphasizing the impact of enhanced mTOR signaling on neuronal form and function.
PMCID: PMC3953715  PMID: 24672426
granule cells; epilepsy; mTOR; neurogenesis; PTEN; TSC; hippocampus; autism
20.  Atrial natriuretic factor receptor guanylate cyclase, ANF-RGC, transduces two independent signals, ANF and Ca2+ 
Atrial natriuretic factor receptor guanylate cyclase (ANF-RGC), was the first discovered member of the mammalian membrane guanylate cyclase family. The hallmark feature of the family is that a single protein contains both the site for recognition of the regulatory signal and the ability to transduce it into the production of the second messenger, cyclic GMP. For over two decades, the family has been classified into two subfamilies, the hormone receptor subfamily with ANF-RGC being its paramount member, and the Ca2+ modulated subfamily, which includes the rod outer segment guanylate cyclases, ROS-GC1 and 2, and the olfactory neuroepithelial guanylate cyclase. ANF-RGC is the receptor and the signal transducer of the most hypotensive hormones, ANF– and B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP). After binding these hormones at the extracellular domain it, at its intracellular domain, signals activation of the C-terminal catalytic module and accelerates the production of cyclic GMP. Cyclic GMP then serves the second messenger role in biological responses of ANF and BNP such as natriuresis, diuresis, vasorelaxation, and anti-proliferation. Very recently another modus operandus for ANF-RGC was revealed. Its crux is that ANF-RGC activity is also regulated by Ca2+. The Ca2+ sensor neurocalcin d mediates this signaling mechanism. Strikingly, the Ca2+ and ANF signaling mechanisms employ separate structural motifs of ANF-RGC in modulating its core catalytic domain in accelerating the production of cyclic GMP. In this review the biochemistry and physiology of these mechanisms with emphasis on cardiovascular regulation will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC3955944  PMID: 24672425
atrial natriuretic factor; atrial natriuretic factor receptor guanylate cyclase; calcium; cyclic GMP; neurocalcin δ; signal transduction
21.  Structural diversity of neuronal calcium sensor proteins and insights for activation of retinal guanylyl cyclase by GCAP1 
Neuronal calcium sensor (NCS) proteins, a sub-branch of the calmodulin superfamily, are expressed in the brain and retina where they transduce calcium signals and are genetically linked to degenerative diseases. The amino acid sequences of NCS proteins are highly conserved but their physiological functions are quite different. Retinal recoverin controls Ca2+-dependent inactivation of light-excited rhodopsin during phototransduction, guanylyl cyclase activating proteins 1 and 2 (GCAP1 and GCAP2) promote Ca2+-dependent activation of retinal guanylyl cyclases, and neuronal frequenin (NCS-1) modulates synaptic activity and neuronal secretion. Here we review the molecular structures of myristoylated forms of NCS-1, recoverin, and GCAP1 that all look very different, suggesting that the attached myristoyl group helps to refold these highly homologous proteins into different three-dimensional folds. Ca2+-binding to both recoverin and NCS-1 cause large protein conformational changes that ejects the covalently attached myristoyl group into the solvent exterior and promotes membrane targeting (Ca2+-myristoyl switch). The GCAP proteins undergo much smaller Ca2+-induced conformational changes and do not possess a Ca2+-myristoyl switch. Recent structures of GCAP1 in both its activator and Ca2+-bound inhibitory states will be discussed to understand structural determinants that control their Ca2+-dependent activation of retinal guanylyl cyclases.
PMCID: PMC3956117  PMID: 24672427
calcium; EF-hand; Ca2+-myristoyl switch; NCS-1; recoverin; GCAP1; NCS protein; NMR
22.  ROS-GC interlocked Ca2+-sensor S100B protein signaling in cone photoreceptors: review 
Photoreceptor rod outer segment membrane guanylate cyclase (ROS-GC) is central to visual transduction; it generates cyclic GMP, the second messenger of the photon signal. Photoexcited rhodopsin initiates a biochemical cascade that leads to a drop in the intracellular level of cyclic GMP and closure of cyclic nucleotide gated ion channels. Recovery of the photoresponse requires resynthesis of cyclic GMP, typically by a pair of ROS-GCs, 1 and 2. In rods, ROS-GCs exist as complexes with guanylate cyclase activating proteins (GCAPs), which are Ca2+-sensing elements. There is a light-induced fall in intracellular Ca2+. As Ca2+ dissociates from GCAPs in the 20–200 nM range, ROS-GC activity rises to quicken the photoresponse recovery. GCAPs then progressively turn down ROS-GC activity as Ca2+ and cyclic GMP levels return to baseline. To date, GCAPs mediate the only known mechanism of ROS-GC regulation in the photoreceptors. However, in mammalian cone outer segments, cone synapses and ON bipolar cells, another Ca2+ sensor protein, S100B, complexes with ROS-GC1 and senses the Ca2+ signal with a K1/2 of 400 nM. Unlike GCAPs, S100B stimulates ROS-GC activity when Ca2+ is bound. Thus, the ROS-GC system in cones functions as a Ca2+ bimodal switch; with rising intracellular Ca2+, its activity is first turned down by GCAPs and then turned up by S100B. This presentation provides a historical perspective on the role of S100B in the photoreceptors, offers a pictorial model for the “bimodal” operation of the ROS-GC switch and projects future tasks that are needed to understand its operation. Some accounts of this review have been adopted from the original publications of these authors.
PMCID: PMC3972482  PMID: 24723847
ROS-GC guanylate cyclase; cyclic GMP; phototransduction; cones; S100B
23.  Subcellular targeting and dynamic regulation of PTEN: implications for neuronal cells and neurological disorders 
PTEN is a lipid and protein phosphatase that regulates a diverse range of cellular mechanisms. PTEN is mainly present in the cytosol and transiently associates with the plasma membrane to dephosphorylate PI(3,4,5)P3, thereby antagonizing the PI3-Kinase signaling pathway. Recently, PTEN has been shown to associate also with organelles such as the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the mitochondria, or the nucleus, and to be secreted outside of the cell. In addition, PTEN dynamically localizes to specialized sub-cellular compartments such as the neuronal growth cone or dendritic spines. The diverse localizations of PTEN imply a tight temporal and spatial regulation, orchestrated by mechanisms such as posttranslational modifications, formation of distinct protein–protein interactions, or the activation/recruitment of PTEN downstream of external cues. The regulation of PTEN function is thus not only important at the enzymatic activity level, but is also associated to its spatial distribution. In this review we will summarize (i) recent findings that highlight mechanisms controlling PTEN movement and sub-cellular localization, and (ii) current understanding of how PTEN localization is achieved by mechanisms controlling posttranslational modification, by association with binding partners and by PTEN structural or activity requirements. Finally, we will discuss the possible roles of compartmentalized PTEN in developing and mature neurons in health and disease.
PMCID: PMC3978343  PMID: 24744697
PTEN phosphohydrolase; neuronal morphology; synaptic transmission; membranes; PI3K/AKT/mTOR
24.  Chronochemistry in neurodegeneration 
The problem of distinguishing causes from effects is not a trivial one, as illustrated by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in a novel dedicated to an imaginary compound with surprising “chronochemistry” properties. The problem is particularly important when trying to establish the etiology of diseases. Here, we discuss how the problem reflects on our understanding of disease using two specific examples: Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA). We show how the fibrillar aggregates observed in AD were first denied any interest, then to assume a central focus, and to finally recess to be considered the dead-end point of the aggregation pathway. This current view is that the soluble aggregates formed along the aggregation pathway rather than the mature amyliod fiber are the causes of disease, Similarly, we illustrate how the identification of causes and and effects have been important in the study of FRDA. This disease has alternatively been considered as the consequence of oxidative stress, iron precipitation or reduction of iron–sulfur cluster protein context. We illustrate how new tools have recently been established which allow us to follow the development of the disease. We hope that this review may inspire similar studies in other scientific disciplines.
PMCID: PMC3978368  PMID: 24744696
Alzheimer’s disease; determinism; disease development; Friedreich’s ataxia
25.  mTOR signaling contributes to motor skill learning in mice 
The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase is a critical regulator of mRNA translation and is suspected to be involved in various long-lasting forms of synaptic and behavioral plasticity. However, its role in motor learning and control has never been examined. This study investigated, in mice, the implication of mTOR in the learning processes associated with the accelerating rotarod task. We first observed that the rotarod learning did not alter the levels of total mTOR in the striatum, hippocampus, cerebellum, and anterior cortex of trained mice. However, it increased the levels of phosphorylated mTOR in the striatum and hippocampus exclusively during the first session of training; no change was observed at the second and third sessions. In order to further investigate the potential role of mTOR during motor skill learning, we performed systemic and intrastriatal inhibitions of mTOR using the pharmacological inhibitor rapamycin, as well as a genetic knockdown of striatal mTOR using intrastriatal infusion of mTOR siRNA. These three independent approaches were all associated with a significant reduction in rotarod performances that were reminiscent of impaired consolidation processes. Notably, these treatments did not affect the capacity of mice to execute the pole test, suggesting that mTOR activity was mainly controlling motor learning rather than motor abilities. Moreover, all treatments decreased the levels of phosphorylated 4EBP1 and P70S6K, two molecular downstream targets of mTORC1. Our findings demonstrate that striatal mTOR kinase, via the phosphorylation of 4EBP1 and P70S6K, plays an important role in the cellular and molecular processes involved in motor skill learning.
PMCID: PMC3982074  PMID: 24772063
4EBP1; motor learning; mTOR; P70S6K; rapamycin; rotarod; siRNA

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