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1.  Pin1, a new player in the fate of HIF-1α degradation: an hypothetical mechanism inside vascular damage as Alzheimer’s disease risk factor 
Aetiology of neurodegenerative mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are still under elucidation. The contribution of cerebrovascular deficiencies (such as cerebral ischemia/stroke) has been strongly endorsed in recent years. Reduction of blood supply leading to hypoxic condition is known to activate cellular responses mainly controlled by hypoxia-inducible transcription factor-1 (HIF-1). Thus alterations of oxygen responsive HIF-1α subunit in the central nervous system may contribute to the cognitive decline, especially influencing mechanisms associated to amyloid precursor protein (APP) amyloidogenic metabolism. Although HIF-1α protein level is known to be regulated by von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) ubiquitin-proteasome system, it has been recently suggested that glycogen synthase kinase-3β (Gsk-3β) promotes a VHL-independent HIF-1α degradation. Here we provide evidences that in rat primary hippocampal cell cultures, HIF-1α degradation might be mediated by a synergic action of Gsk-3β and peptidyl-prolyl cis/trans isomerase (Pin1). In post-ischemic conditions, such as those mimicked with oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD), HIF-1α protein level increases remaining unexpectedly high for long time after normal condition restoration jointly with the increase of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and β-secretase 1 (BACE1) protein expression (70 and 140% respectively). Interestingly the Pin1 activity decreases about 40–60% and Pin1S16 inhibitory phosphorylation significantly increases, indicating that Pin1 binding to its substrate and enzymatic activity are reduced by treatment. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrate that HIF-1α/Pin1 in normoxia are associated, and that in presence of specific Pin1 and Gsk-3β inhibitors their interaction is reduced in parallel to an increase of HIF-1α protein level. Thus we suggest that in post-OGD neurons the high level of HIF-1α might be due to Pin1 binding ability and activity reduction which affects HIF-1α degradation: an event that may highlight the relevance of ischemia/HIF-1α as a risk factor in AD pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3894457  PMID: 24478626
Alzheimer’s disease; cerebrovascular deficiencies; hippocampal neurons; Pin1; HIF-1α; GSK-3β; oxygen glucose deprivation
2.  Schizophrenia: susceptibility genes and oligodendroglial and myelin related abnormalities 
Given that the genetic risk for schizophrenia is highly polygenic and the effect sizes, even for rare or de novo events, are modest at best, it has been suggested that multiple biological pathways are likely to be involved in the etiopathogenesis of the disease. Most efforts in understanding the cellular basis of schizophrenia have followed a “neuron-centric” approach, focusing on alterations in neurotransmitter systems and synapse cytoarchitecture. However, multiple lines of evidence coming from genetics and systems biology approaches suggest that apart from neurons, oligodendrocytes and potentially other glia are affected from schizophrenia risk loci. Neurobiological abnormalities linked with genetic association signal could identify abnormalities that are more likely to be primary, versus environmentally induced changes or downstream events. Here, we summarize genetic data that support the involvement of oligodendrocytes in schizophrenia, providing additional evidence for a causal role with the disease. Given the undeniable evidence of both neuronal and glial abnormalities in schizophrenia, we propose a neuro-glial model that invokes abnormalities at the node of Ranvier as a functional unit in the etiopathogenesis of the disease.
PMCID: PMC3896818  PMID: 24478629
systems biology; polygenic; node of Ranvier; disconnectivity; GWAS
3.  Optogenetic evocation of field inhibitory postsynaptic potentials in hippocampal slices: a simple and reliable approach for studying pharmacological effects on GABAA and GABAB receptor-mediated neurotransmission 
The GABAergic system is the main source of inhibition in the mammalian brain. Consequently, much effort is still made to develop new modulators of GABAergic synaptic transmission. In contrast to glutamatergic postsynaptic potentials (PSPs), accurate monitoring of GABA receptor-mediated PSPs (GABAR-PSPs) and their pharmacological modulation in brain tissue invariably requires the use of intracellular recording techniques. However, these techniques are expensive, time- and labor-consuming, and, in case of the frequently employed whole-cell patch-clamp configuration, impact on intracellular ion concentrations, signaling cascades, and pH buffering systems. Here, we describe a novel approach to circumvent these drawbacks. In particular, we demonstrate in mouse hippocampal slices that selective optogenetic activation of interneurons leads to prominent field inhibitory GABAAR- and GABABR-PSPs in area CA1 which are easily and reliably detectable by a single extracellular recording electrode. The field PSPs exhibit typical temporal and pharmacological characteristics, display pronounced paired-pulse depression, and remain stable over many consecutive evocations. Additionally validating the methodological value of this approach, we further show that the neuroactive steroid 5α-THDOC (5 μM) shifts the inhibitory GABAAR-PSPs towards excitatory ones.
PMCID: PMC3898519  PMID: 24478627
optogenetics; hippocampus; field inhibitory postsynaptic potential; GABA receptor; channelrhodopsin; CA1; neuroactive steroid; extracellular recording
4.  Cryoloading: introducing large molecules into live synaptosomes 
Neurons communicate with their target cells primarily by the release of chemical transmitters from presynaptic nerve terminals. The study of CNS presynaptic nerve terminals, isolated as synaptosomes (SSMs) has, however, been hampered by the typical small size of these structures that precludes the introduction of non-membrane permeable test substances such as peptides and drugs. We have developed a method to introduce large alien compounds of at least 150 kDa into functional synaptosomes. Purified synaptosomes are frozen in cryo-preserving buffer containing the alien compound. Upon defrosting, many of the SSMs contain the alien compound presumably admitted by bulk buffer-transfer through the surface membranes that crack and reseal during the freeze/thaw cycle. ~80% of the cryoloaded synaptosomes were functional and recycled synaptic vesicles (SVs), as assessed by a standard styryl dye uptake assay. Access of the cryoloaded compound into the cytoplasm and biological activity were confirmed by block of depolarization-induced SV recycling with membrane-impermeant BAPTA (a rapid Ca2+-scavenger), or botulinum A light chain (which cleaves the soluble NSF attachment protein receptor (SNARE) protein SNAP25). A major advantage of the method is that loaded frozen synaptosomes can be stored virtually indefinitely for later experimentation. We also demonstrate that individual synaptosome types can be identified by immunostaining of receptors associated with its scab of attached postsynaptic membrane. Thus, cryoloading and scab-staining permits the examination of SV recycling in identified individual CNS presynaptic nerve terminals.
PMCID: PMC3899522  PMID: 24478628
presynaptic; synaptosome; peptide loading; intracellular; synaptic vesicle; recycling; styryl dye
5.  Differential effects on KCC2 expression and spasticity of ALS and traumatic injuries to motoneurons 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative disease manifested by progressive muscle atrophy and paralysis due to the loss of upper and lower motoneurons (MN). Spasticity appears in ALS patients leading to further disabling consequences. Loss of the inhibitory tone induced by downregulation of the potassium chloride cotransporter 2 (KCC2) in MN has been proposed to importantly contribute to the spastic behavior after spinal cord injury (SCI). The aim of the present study was to test whether the alterations in the expression of KCC2 are linked to the appearance of spasticity in the SODG93A ALS murine model. We compared SODG93A mice to wild type mice subjected to SCI to mimic the spinal MN disconnection from motor descending pathways, and to sciatic nerve lesion to mimic the loss of MN connectivity to muscle. Electrophysiological results show that loss of motor function is observed at presymptomatic stage (8 weeks) in SODG93A mice but hyperreflexia and spasticity do not appear until a late stage (16 weeks). However, KCC2 was not downregulated despite MN suffered disconnection both from muscles and upper MNs. Further experiments revealed decreased gephyrin expression, as a general marker of inhibitory systems, accompanied by a reduction in the number of Renshaw interneurons. Moreover, 5-HT fibers were increased in the ventral horn of the lumbar spinal cord at late stage of disease progression in SOD1G93A mice. Taken together, the present results indicate that spasticity appears late in the ALS model, and may be mediated by a decrease in inhibitory interneurons and an increase of 5-HT transmission, while the absence of down-regulation of KCC2 could rather indicate an inability of MNs to respond to insults.
PMCID: PMC3900854  PMID: 24478630
motoneuron disease; spasticity; hypereflexia; KCC2 transporter; SOD1G93A mice
6.  Genetic dissection of GABAergic neural circuits in mouse neocortex 
Diverse and flexible cortical functions rely on the ability of neural circuits to perform multiple types of neuronal computations. GABAergic inhibitory interneurons significantly contribute to this task by regulating the balance of activity, synaptic integration, spiking, synchrony, and oscillation in a neural ensemble. GABAergic interneurons display a high degree of cellular diversity in morphology, physiology, connectivity, and gene expression. A considerable number of subtypes of GABAergic interneurons diversify modes of cortical inhibition, enabling various types of information processing in the cortex. Thus, comprehensively understanding fate specification, circuit assembly, and physiological function of GABAergic interneurons is a key to elucidate the principles of cortical wiring and function. Recent advances in genetically encoded molecular tools have made a breakthrough to systematically study cortical circuitry at the molecular, cellular, circuit, and whole animal levels. However, the biggest obstacle to fully applying the power of these to analysis of GABAergic circuits was that there were no efficient and reliable methods to express them in subtypes of GABAergic interneurons. Here, I first summarize cortical interneuron diversity and current understanding of mechanisms, by which distinct classes of GABAergic interneurons are generated. I then review recent development in genetically encoded molecular tools for neural circuit research, and genetic targeting of GABAergic interneuron subtypes, particularly focusing on our recent effort to develop and characterize Cre/CreER knockin lines. Finally, I highlight recent success in genetic targeting of chandelier cells, the most unique and distinct GABAergic interneuron subtype, and discuss what kind of questions need to be addressed to understand development and function of cortical inhibitory circuits.
PMCID: PMC3902216  PMID: 24478631
GABA; inhibitory interneurons; cortical circuit; gene targeting; Cre drivers; genetic fate mapping; chandelier cell
7.  GABAergic striatal neurons project dendrites and axons into the postnatal subventricular zone leading to calcium activity 
GABA regulates the behavior of neuroblasts and neural progenitor cells in the postnatal neurogenic subventricular zone (SVZ) through GABAA receptor (GABAAR)-mediated calcium increases. However, the source of GABA necessary for sufficient GABAAR-mediated depolarization and calcium increase has remained speculative. Here, we explored whether GABAergic striatal neurons functionally connect with SVZ cells. Using patch clamp recordings or single cell electroporation, striatal neurons along the SVZ were filled with a fluorescent dye revealing that they send both dendrites and axons into the SVZ. About 93% of the recorded neurons were medium spiny or aspiny GABAergic neurons and each neuron sent 3–4 processes into the SVZ covering ~56 μm. Using calcium imaging, we found that depolarization of striatal neurons led to increased calcium activity in SVZ cells that were mediated by GABAAR activation. Collectively, these findings undercover a novel mode of signaling in the SVZ providing a mechanism of brain activity-mediated regulation of postnatal neurogenesis through GABAergic striatal activity.
PMCID: PMC3904109  PMID: 24478632
GABA; striatum; calcium activity; neurogenesis; proliferation; medium spiny neurons; Parkinson disease; huntington disease
8.  The endogenous peptide antisecretory factor promotes tonic GABAergic signaling in CA1 stratum radiatum interneurons 
Tonic GABAergic inhibition regulates neuronal excitability and has been implicated to be involved in both neurological and psychiatric diseases. We have previously shown that the endogenous peptide antisecretory factor (AF) decreases phasic GABAergic inhibition onto pyramidal CA1 neurons. In the present study, using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, we investigated the mechanisms behind this disinhibition of CA1 pyramidal neurons by AF. We found that application of AF to acute rat hippocampal slices resulted in a reduction of the frequency, but not of the amplitude, of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents (sIPSCs) in CA1 pyramidal neurons. Miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs), recorded in the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX), were however not affected by AF, neither in CA1 pyramidal cells, nor in stratum radiatum interneurons. Instead, AF caused an increase of the tonic GABAA current in stratum radiatum interneurons, leaving the tonic GABAergic transmission in CA1 pyramidal cells unaffected. These results show that the endogenous peptide AF enhances tonic, but not phasic, GABAergic signaling in CA1 stratum radiatum interneurons, without affecting tonic GABAergic signaling in CA1 pyramidal neurons. We suggest that this increased tonic GABAergic signaling in GABAergic interneurons could be a mechanism for the AF-mediated disinhibition of pyramidal neurons.
PMCID: PMC3904124  PMID: 24478633
tonic inhibition; GABA; IPSC; hippocampus; CA1
9.  Selective increases of AMPA, NMDA, and kainate receptor subunit mRNAs in the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex but not in prefrontal cortex of human alcoholics 
Glutamate is the main excitatory transmitter in the human brain. Drugs that affect the glutamatergic signaling will alter neuronal excitability. Ethanol inhibits glutamate receptors. We examined the expression level of glutamate receptor subunit mRNAs in human post-mortem samples from alcoholics and compared the results to brain samples from control subjects. RNA from hippocampal dentate gyrus (HP-DG), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), and dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DL-PFC) samples from 21 controls and 19 individuals with chronic alcohol dependence were included in the study. Total RNA was assayed using quantitative RT-PCR. Out of the 16 glutamate receptor subunits, mRNAs encoding two AMPA [2-amino-3-(3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazol-4-yl)propanoic acid] receptor subunits GluA2 and GluA3; three kainate receptor subunits GluK2, GluK3 and GluK5 and five NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor subunits GluN1, GluN2A, GluN2C, GluN2D, and GluN3A were significantly increased in the HP-DG region in alcoholics. In the OFC, mRNA encoding the NMDA receptor subunit GluN3A was increased, whereas in the DL-PFC, no differences in mRNA levels were observed. Our laboratory has previously shown that the expression of genes encoding inhibitory GABA-A receptors is altered in the HP-DG and OFC of alcoholics (Jin et al., 2011). Whether the changes in one neurotransmitter system drives changes in the other or if they change independently is currently not known. The results demonstrate that excessive long-term alcohol consumption is associated with altered expression of genes encoding glutamate receptors in a brain region-specific manner. It is an intriguing possibility that genetic predisposition to alcoholism may contribute to these gene expression changes.
PMCID: PMC3905203  PMID: 24523671
glutamate receptor; ethanol; GluR; glutamate; excitatory; ion channel
10.  Structural and functional properties of the rat P2X4 purinoreceptor extracellular vestibule during gating 
P2X receptors are ATP-gated cation channels consisting of three subunits that are mutually intertwined and form an upper, central, and extracellular vestibule with three lateral portals and the channel pore. Here we used cysteine and alanine scanning mutagenesis of the rat P2X4R receptor V47–V61 and K326–N338 sequences to study structural and functional properties of extracellular vestibule during gating. Cysteine mutants were used to test the accessibility of these residue side chains to cadmium during closed-open-desensitized transitions, whereas alanine mutants served as controls. This study revealed the accessibility of residues E51, T57, S59, V61, K326, and M336 to cadmium in channels undergoing a transition from a closed-to-open state and the accessibility of residues V47, G53, D331, I332, I333, T335, I337, and N338 in channels undergoing a transition from an open-to-desensitized state; residues E56 and K329 were accessible during both transitions. The effect of cadmium on channel gating was stimulatory in all reactive V47–V61 mutants and inhibitory in the majority of reactive K326–N338 mutants. The rat P2X4 receptor homology model suggests that residues affected by cadmium in the closed-to-open transition were located within the lumen of the extracellular vestibule and toward the central vestibule; however, the residues affected by cadmium in the open-to-desensitized state were located at the bottom of the vestibule near the pore. Analysis of the model assumed that there is ion access to extracellular and central vestibules through lateral ports when the channel is closed, with residues above the first transmembrane domain being predominantly responsible for ion uptake. Upon receptor activation, there is passage of ions toward the residues located on the upper region of the second transmembrane domain, followed by permeation through the gate region.
PMCID: PMC3905210  PMID: 24523669
ATP; cadmium; gate; ion access; lateral portals; purinergic receptors
11.  Novel cell separation method for molecular analysis of neuron-astrocyte co-cultures 
Over the last decade, the importance of astrocyte-neuron communication in neuronal development and synaptic plasticity has become increasingly clear. Since neuron-astrocyte interactions represent highly dynamic and reciprocal processes, we hypothesized that many astrocyte genes may be regulated as a consequence of their interactions with maturing neurons. In order to identify such neuron-responsive astrocyte genes in vitro, we sought to establish an expedited technique for separation of neurons from co-cultured astrocytes. Our newly established method makes use of cold jet, which exploits different adhesion characteristics of subpopulations of cells (Jirsova etal., 1997), and is rapid, performed under ice-cold conditions and avoids protease-mediated isolation of astrocytes or time-consuming centrifugation, yielding intact astrocyte mRNA with approximately 90% of neuronal RNA removed. Using this purification method, we executed genome-wide profiling in which RNA derived from astrocyte-only cultures was compared with astrocyte RNA derived from differentiating neuron-astrocyte co-cultures. Data analysis determined that many astrocytic mRNAs and biological processes are regulated by neuronal interaction. Our results validate the cold jet as an efficient method to separate astrocytes from neurons in co-culture, and reveals that neurons induce robust gene-expression changes in co-cultured astrocytes.
PMCID: PMC3906515  PMID: 24523672
method; co-culture; astrocytes; transcriptional activation; isolation approaches; neuron-glia interaction
12.  Different effects of anesthetic isoflurane on caspase-3 activation and cytosol cytochrome c levels between mice neural progenitor cells and neurons 
Commonly used anesthetic isoflurane has been reported to promote Alzheimer’s disease (AD) neuropathogenesis by inducing caspase-3 activation. However, the up-stream mechanisms of isoflurane’s effects remain largely to be determined. Specifically, there is a lack of a good model/system to elucidate the underlying mechanism of the isoflurane-induced caspase-3 activation. We therefore set out to assess and compare the effects of isoflurane on caspase-3 activation in neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and in primary neurons from wild-type (WT) and AD transgenic (Tg) mice. The NPCs and neurons were obtained, cultured and then treated with either 2% isoflurane or under control condition for 6 h. The NPCs or neurons were harvested at the end of the treatment and were subjected to Western blot analysis. Here we showed for the first time that the isoflurane treatment induced caspase-3 activation in neurons, but not in NPCs, from either WT or AD Tg mice. Consistently, the isoflurane treatment increased cytosol levels of cytochrome c, a potential up-stream mechanism of isoflurane-induced caspase-3 activation in the mice neurons, but not NPCs. Finally, the isoflurane treatment induced a greater casapse-3 activation in the neurons, but not the NPCs, from AD Tg mice as compared to the WT mice. These data demonstrated that investigation and comparison of isoflurane’s effects between mice NPCs and neurons would serve as a model/system to determine the underlying mechanism by which isoflurane induces caspase-3 activation. These findings would promote more research to investigate the effects of anesthetics on AD neuropathogenesis and the underlying mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3906516  PMID: 24523673
Alzheimer’s disease; anesthesia; isoflurane; caspase-3; cytochrome c; neural progenitor cells; neurons
13.  Erratum: K+ channelepsy: progress in the neurobiology of potassium channels and epilepsy 
PMCID: PMC3906565
potassium channels; channelopathies; channelepsy; channelepsies; temporal lobe epilepsy; autism–epilepsy
14.  The role of miRNA in motor neuron disease 
microRNA is a subset of endogenous non-coding RNA. It binds to partially complementary sequences in mRNAs and inhibits mRNA translation by either blocking translational machinery or degrading mRNAs. It is involved in various cellular processes including cell cycle, development, metabolism, and synaptic plasticity. Dysregulation of miRNA expression and function is reported in various diseases including cancer, metabolic disorders as well as neurological disorders. In nervous system, miRNA related pathways play a very important role in development and function of neuronal cells. Moreover, numerous evidences suggest that dysregulated miRNA related pathways contribute to pathology of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Here, we review current knowledge about the role of miRNAs in motor neuron disorders, especially about two common diseases: SMA and ALS.
PMCID: PMC3906579  PMID: 24523674
microRNA; motor neurons; neuromuscular junction; spinal muscular atrophy; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
15.  Late onset deficits in synaptic plasticity in the valproic acid rat model of autism 
Valproic acid (VPA) is a frequently used drug in the treatment of epilepsy, bipolar disorders and migraines; however it is also a potent teratogen. Prenatal exposure increases the risk of childhood malformations and can result in cognitive deficits. In rodents in utero exposure to VPA also causes neurodevelopmental abnormalities and is an important model of autism. In early postnatal life VPA exposed rat pups show changes in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) physiology and synaptic connectivity. Specifically, principal neurons show decreased excitability but increased local connectivity, coupled with an increase in long-term potentiation (LTP) due to an up-regulation of NMDA receptor (NMDAR) expression. However recent evidence suggests compensatory homeostatic mechanisms lead to normalization of synaptic NMDARs during later postnatal development. Here we have extended study of mPFC synaptic physiology into adulthood to better understand the longitudinal consequences of early developmental abnormalities in VPA exposed rats. Surprisingly in contrast to early postnatal life and adolescence, we find that adult VPA exposed rats show reduced synaptic function. Both NMDAR mediated currents and LTP are lower in adult VPA rats, although spontaneous activity and endocannabinoid dependent long-term depression are normal. We conclude that rather than correcting, synaptic abnormalities persist into adulthood in VPA exposed rats, although a quite different synaptic phenotype is present. This switch from hyper to hypo function in mPFC may be linked to some of the neurodevelopmental defects found in prenatal VPA exposure and autism spectrum disorders in general.
PMCID: PMC3907704  PMID: 24550781
valproic acid; prefrontal cortex; synaptic plasticity; autism; age; NMDA receptor
16.  Blood-CNS Barrier Impairment in ALS patients versus an animal model 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a severe neurodegenerative disease with a complicated and poorly understood pathogenesis. Recently, alterations in the blood–Central Nervous System barrier (B-CNS-B) have been recognized as a key factor possibly aggravating motor neuron damage. The majority of findings on ALS microvascular pathology have been determined in mutant superoxide dismutase (SOD1) rodent models, identifying barrier damage during disease development which might similarly occur in familial ALS patients carrying the SOD1 mutation. However, our knowledge of B-CNS-B competence in sporadic ALS (SALS) has been limited. We recently showed structural and functional impairment in postmortem gray and white matter microvessels of medulla and spinal cord tissue from SALS patients, suggesting pervasive barrier damage. Although numerous signs of barrier impairment (endothelial cell degeneration, capillary leakage, perivascular edema, downregulation of tight junction proteins, and microhemorrhages) are indicated in both mutant SOD1 animal models of ALS and SALS patients, other pathogenic barrier alterations have as yet only been identified in SALS patients. Pericyte degeneration, perivascular collagen IV expansion, and white matter capillary abnormalities in SALS patients are significant barrier related pathologies yet to be noted in ALS SOD1 animal models. In the current review, these important differences in blood–CNS barrier damage between ALS patients and animal models, which may signify altered barrier transport mechanisms, are discussed. Understanding discrepancies in barrier condition between ALS patients and animal models may be crucial for developing effective therapies.
PMCID: PMC3910123  PMID: 24550780
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; blood–CNS barrier; patients; animal models; microvascular pathology
17.  Intracellular calcium stores drive slow non-ribbon vesicle release from rod photoreceptors 
Rods are capable of greater slow release than cones contributing to overall slower release kinetics. Slow release in rods involves Ca2+-induced Ca2+ release (CICR). By impairing release from ribbons, we found that unlike cones where release occurs entirely at ribbon-style active zones, slow release from rods occurs mostly at ectopic, non-ribbon sites. To investigate the role of CICR in ribbon and non-ribbon release from rods, we used total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy as a tool for visualizing terminals of isolated rods loaded with fluorescent Ca2+ indicator dyes and synaptic vesicles loaded with dextran-conjugated pH-sensitive rhodamine. We found that rather than simply facilitating release, activation of CICR by ryanodine triggered release directly in rods, independent of plasma membrane Ca2+ channel activation. Ryanodine-evoked release occurred mostly at non-ribbon sites and release evoked by sustained depolarization at non-ribbon sites was mostly due to CICR. Unlike release at ribbon-style active zones, non-ribbon release did not occur at fixed locations. Fluorescence recovery after photobleaching of endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-tracker dye in rod terminals showed that ER extends continuously from synapse to soma. Release of Ca2+ from terminal ER by lengthy depolarization did not significantly deplete Ca2+ from ER in the perikaryon. Collectively, these results indicate that CICR-triggered release at non-ribbon sites is a major mechanism for maintaining vesicle release from rods and that CICR in terminals may be sustained by diffusion of Ca2+ through ER from other parts of the cell.
PMCID: PMC3910126  PMID: 24550779
calcium-induced calcium release; ryanodine receptors; exocytosis; ribbon synapse; retina; synaptic vesicle; total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy
18.  Distinct roles of α- and βCaMKII in controlling long-term potentiation of GABAA-receptor mediated transmission in murine Purkinje cells 
Calcium/Calmodulin-dependent kinase type II (CaMKII) is essential for various forms of synaptic plasticity. The predominant α- and βCaMKII isoforms have both been shown to contribute to specific forms of plasticity at excitatory synapses, but little is known about their functions at inhibitory synapses. Here we investigated the role of both isoforms in long-term potentiation of the inhibitory molecular layer interneuron to Purkinje cell synapse (MLI-PC iLTP) upon climbing fiber (CF) stimulation. We demonstrate that deleting either the α- or βCaMKII isoform affected MLI-PC iLTP. In the presence of the PP2B blocker cyclosporin A, CF stimulation elicited iLTP in Camk2b-/- mice, but not in Camk2a-/- mice. Moreover, co-activation of the MLIs and CF suppressed iLTP in wild-type mice through activation of GABAB-receptors, whereas it evoked iLTP in Camk2b-/-. This reversal of the effect of αCaMKII activity in Camk2b-/- mutants upon co-activation did not critically involve protein kinase A, but depended on calcium release from internal stores. Our results indicate that α- and βCaMKII isoforms in Purkinje cells can be differentially activated and serve distinct roles in controlling iLTP. We propose that the CaMKII holo-enzyme may be selectively activated by various GABAB-mediated pathways and that the presence of the βCaMKII isoform determines their impact on inhibitory plasticity.
PMCID: PMC3910348  PMID: 24550776
CaMKII; plasticity; GABAAR
19.  Information processing and synaptic plasticity at hippocampal mossy fiber terminals 
Granule cells of the dentate gyrus receive cortical information and they transform and transmit this code to the CA3 area via their axons, the mossy fibers (MFs). Structural and functional complexity of this network has been extensively studied at various organizational levels. This review is focused on the anatomical and physiological properties of the MF system. We will discuss the mechanism by which dentate granule cells process signals from single action potentials (APs), short bursts and longer stimuli. Various parameters of synaptic interactions at different target cells such as quantal transmission, short- and long-term plasticity (LTP) will be summarized. Different types of synaptic contacts formed by MFs have unique sets of rules for information processing during different rates of granule cell activity. We will investigate the complex interactions between key determinants of information transfer between the dentate gyrus and the CA3 area of the hippocampus.
PMCID: PMC3912358  PMID: 24550783
mossy fiber; synaptic plasticity; CA3 region; hippocampal; interneurons; information transfer
20.  Taurine activates GABAergic networks in the neocortex of immature mice 
Although it has been suggested that taurine is the main endogenous neurotransmitter acting on glycine receptors, the implications of glycine receptor-mediated taurine actions on immature neocortical networks have not been addressed yet. To investigate the influence of taurine on the excitability of neuronal networks in the immature neocortex, we performed whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from visually identified pyramidal neurons and interneurons in coronal slices from C57Bl/6 and GAD67-green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic mice (postnatal days 2–4). In 46% of the pyramidal neurons bath-application of taurine at concentrations ≥ 300 μM significantly enhanced the frequency of postsynaptic currents (PSCs) by 744.3 ± 93.8% (n = 120 cells). This taurine-induced increase of PSC frequency was abolished by 0.2 μM tetrodotoxin (TTX), 1 μM strychnine or 3 μM gabazine, but was unaffected by the glutamatergic antagonists 6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione (CNQX) and (±) R(-)-3-(2-carboxypiperazine-4-yl)-propyl-1-phosphonic acid (CPP), suggesting that taurine specifically activates GABAergic network activity projecting to pyramidal neurons. Cell-attached recordings revealed that taurine enhanced the frequency of action potentials (APs) in pyramidal neurons, indicating an excitatory action of the GABAergic PSCs. In order to identify the presynaptic targets of taurine we demonstrate that bath application of taurine induced in GAD67-GFP labeled interneurons an inward current that is mainly mediated by glycine receptors and can generate APs in these cells. We conclude from these results that taurine can enhance network excitability in the immature neocortex by selectively activating GABAergic interneurons via interactions with glycine receptors.
PMCID: PMC3912439  PMID: 24550782
GABAA receptor; glycine receptor; development; neocortex; GABAergic excitation; interneuron; cortical plate; subplate
21.  Auditory Processing in Fragile X Syndrome 
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is an inherited form of intellectual disability and autism. Among other symptoms, FXS patients demonstrate abnormalities in sensory processing and communication. Clinical, behavioral, and electrophysiological studies consistently show auditory hypersensitivity in humans with FXS. Consistent with observations in humans, the Fmr1 KO mouse model of FXS also shows evidence of altered auditory processing and communication deficiencies. A well-known and commonly used phenotype in pre-clinical studies of FXS is audiogenic seizures. In addition, increased acoustic startle response is seen in the Fmr1 KO mice. In vivo electrophysiological recordings indicate hyper-excitable responses, broader frequency tuning, and abnormal spectrotemporal processing in primary auditory cortex of Fmr1 KO mice. Thus, auditory hyper-excitability is a robust, reliable, and translatable biomarker in Fmr1 KO mice. Abnormal auditory evoked responses have been used as outcome measures to test therapeutics in FXS patients. Given that similarly abnormal responses are present in Fmr1 KO mice suggests that cellular mechanisms can be addressed. Sensory cortical deficits are relatively more tractable from a mechanistic perspective than more complex social behaviors that are typically studied in autism and FXS. The focus of this review is to bring together clinical, functional, and structural studies in humans with electrophysiological and behavioral studies in mice to make the case that auditory hypersensitivity provides a unique opportunity to integrate molecular, cellular, circuit level studies with behavioral outcomes in the search for therapeutics for FXS and other autism spectrum disorders.
PMCID: PMC3912505  PMID: 24550778
autism; fragile X syndrome; auditory responses; cortex; biomarkers; audiogenic seizures; sensory hypersensitivity
22.  Developmental and maintenance defects in Rett syndrome neurons identified by a new mouse staging system in vitro 
Rett Syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with intellectual disability, mainly caused by loss-of-function mutations in the MECP2 gene. RTT brains display decreased neuronal size and dendritic arborization possibly caused by either a developmental failure or a deficit in the maintenance of dendritic arbor structure. To distinguish between these two hypotheses, the development of Mecp2-knockout mouse hippocampal neurons was analyzed in vitro. Since a staging system for the in vitro development of mouse neurons was lacking, mouse and rat hippocampal neurons development was compared between 1–15 days in vitro (DIV) leading to a 6-stage model for both species. Mecp2-knockout hippocampal neurons displayed reduced growth of dendritic branches from stage 4 (DIV4) onwards. At stages 5–6 (DIV9-15), synapse number was lowered in Mecp2-knockout neurons, suggesting increased synapse elimination. These results point to both a developmental and a maintenance setback affecting the final shape and function of neurons in RTT.
PMCID: PMC3914021  PMID: 24550777
Rett Syndrome; neurodevelopment; hippocampal neurons; Dendritic Spines; Dendrites; staging system; Neuronal morphology
23.  Principles and properties of ion flow in P2X receptors 
P2X receptors are a family of trimeric ion channels that are gated by extracellular adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP). These receptors have long been a subject of intense research interest by virtue of their vital role in mediating the rapid and direct effects of extracellular ATP on membrane potential and cytosolic Ca2+ concentration, which in turn underpin the ability of ATP to regulate a diverse range of clinically significant physiological functions, including those associated with the cardiovascular, sensory, and immune systems. An important aspect of an ion channel's function is, of course, the means by which it transports ions across the biological membrane. A concerted effort by investigators over the last two decades has culminated in significant advances in our understanding of how P2X receptors conduct the inward flux of Na+ and Ca2+ in response to binding by ATP. However, this work has relied heavily on results from current recordings of P2X receptors altered by site-directed mutagenesis. In the absence of a 3-dimensional channel structure, this prior work provided only a vague and indirect appreciation of the relationship between structure, ion selectivity and flux. The recent publication of the crystal structures for both the closed and open channel conformations of the zebrafish P2X4 receptor has thus proved a significant boon, and has provided an important opportunity to overview the amassed functional data in the context of a working 3-dimensional model of a P2X receptor. In this paper, we will attempt to reconcile the existing functional data regarding ion permeation through P2X receptors with the available crystal structure data, highlighting areas of concordance and discordance as appropriate.
PMCID: PMC3914235  PMID: 24550775
P2X; ATP; permeability; selectivity; gating; mutagenesis; SCAM
24.  Current view on the functional regulation of the neuronal K+-Cl− cotransporter KCC2 
In the mammalian central nervous system (CNS), the inhibitory strength of chloride (Cl−)-permeable GABAA and glycine receptors (GABAAR and GlyR) depends on the intracellular Cl− concentration ([Cl−]i). Lowering [Cl−]i enhances inhibition, whereas raising [Cl−]i facilitates neuronal activity. A neuron's basal level of [Cl−]i, as well as its Cl− extrusion capacity, is critically dependent on the activity of the electroneutral K+-Cl− cotransporter KCC2, a member of the SLC12 cation-Cl− cotransporter (CCC) family. KCC2 deficiency compromises neuronal migration, formation and the maturation of GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptic connections, and results in network hyperexcitability and seizure activity. Several neurological disorders including multiple epilepsy subtypes, neuropathic pain, and schizophrenia, as well as various insults such as trauma and ischemia, are associated with significant decreases in the Cl− extrusion capacity of KCC2 that result in increases of [Cl−]i and the subsequent hyperexcitability of neuronal networks. Accordingly, identifying the key upstream molecular mediators governing the functional regulation of KCC2, and modifying these signaling pathways with small molecules, might constitute a novel neurotherapeutic strategy for multiple diseases. Here, we discuss recent advances in the understanding of the mechanisms regulating KCC2 activity, and of the role these mechanisms play in neuronal Cl− homeostasis and GABAergic neurotransmission. As KCC2 mediates electroneutral transport, the experimental recording of its activity constitutes an important research challenge; we therefore also, provide an overview of the different methodological approaches utilized to monitor function of KCC2 in both physiological and pathological conditions.
PMCID: PMC3915100  PMID: 24567703
KCC2; intracellular chloride; GABA; neurons
25.  Impaired activity-dependent neural circuit assembly and refinement in autism spectrum disorder genetic models 
Early-use activity during circuit-specific critical periods refines brain circuitry by the coupled processes of eliminating inappropriate synapses and strengthening maintained synapses. We theorize these activity-dependent (A-D) developmental processes are specifically impaired in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). ASD genetic models in both mouse and Drosophila have pioneered our insights into normal A-D neural circuit assembly and consolidation, and how these developmental mechanisms go awry in specific genetic conditions. The monogenic fragile X syndrome (FXS), a common cause of heritable ASD and intellectual disability, has been particularly well linked to defects in A-D critical period processes. The fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) is positively activity-regulated in expression and function, in turn regulates excitability and activity in a negative feedback loop, and appears to be required for the A-D remodeling of synaptic connectivity during early-use critical periods. The Drosophila FXS model has been shown to functionally conserve the roles of human FMRP in synaptogenesis, and has been centrally important in generating our current mechanistic understanding of the FXS disease state. Recent advances in Drosophila optogenetics, transgenic calcium reporters, highly-targeted transgenic drivers for individually-identified neurons, and a vastly improved connectome of the brain are now being combined to provide unparalleled opportunities to both manipulate and monitor A-D processes during critical period brain development in defined neural circuits. The field is now poised to exploit this new Drosophila transgenic toolbox for the systematic dissection of A-D mechanisms in normal versus ASD brain development, particularly utilizing the well-established Drosophila FXS disease model.
PMCID: PMC3916725  PMID: 24570656
fragile X syndrome; synaptogenesis; synapse elimination; E/I ratio; optogenetics; Drosophila

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