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1.  Disparate roles of zinc in chemical hypoxia-induced neuronal death 
Accumulating evidence has provided a causative role of zinc (Zn2+) in neuronal death following ischemic brain injury. Using a hypoxia model of primary cultured cortical neurons with hypoxia-inducing chemicals, cobalt chloride (1 mM CoCl2), deferoxamine (3 mM DFX), and sodium azide (2 mM NaN3), we evaluated whether Zn2+ is involved in hypoxic neuronal death. The hypoxic chemicals rapidly elicited intracellular Zn2+ release/accumulation in viable neurons. The immediate addition of the Zn2+ chelator, CaEDTA or N,N,N’N’-tetrakis-(2-pyridylmethyl) ethylenediamine (TPEN), prevented the intracellular Zn2+ load and CoCl2-induced neuronal death, but neither 3 hour later Zn2+ chelation nor a non-Zn2+ chelator ZnEDTA (1 mM) demonstrated any effects. However, neither CaEDTA nor TPEN rescued neurons from cell death following DFX- or NaN3-induced hypoxia, whereas ZnEDTA rendered them resistant to the hypoxic injury. Instead, the immediate supplementation of Zn2+ rescued DFX- and NaN3-induced neuronal death. The iron supplementation also afforded neuroprotection against DFX-induced hypoxic injury. Thus, although intracellular Zn2+ release/accumulation is common during chemical hypoxia, Zn2+ might differently influence the subsequent fate of neurons; it appears to play a neurotoxic or neuroprotective role depending on the hypoxic chemical used. These results also suggest that different hypoxic chemicals may induce neuronal death via distinct mechanisms.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00001
PMCID: PMC4304355  PMID: 25667569
metal chelation; iron; delayed neuronal death; neuroprotection; brain injury
2.  Hepatocyte growth factor mimetic protects lateral line hair cells from aminoglycoside exposure 
Loss of sensory hair cells from exposure to certain licit drugs (e.g., aminoglycoside antibiotics, platinum-based chemotherapy agents) can result in permanent hearing loss. Here we ask if allosteric activation of the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) cascade via Dihexa, a small molecule drug candidate, can protect hair cells from aminoglycoside toxicity. Unlike native HGF, Dihexa is chemically stable and blood-brain barrier permeable. As a synthetic HGF mimetic, it forms a functional ligand by dimerizing with endogenous HGF to activate the HGF receptor and downstream signaling cascades. To evaluate Dihexa as a potential hair cell protectant, we used the larval zebrafish lateral line, which possesses hair cells that are homologous to mammalian inner ear hair cells and show similar responses to toxins. A dose-response relationship for Dihexa protection was established using two ototoxins, neomycin and gentamicin. We found that a Dihexa concentration of 1 μM confers optimal protection from acute treatment with either ototoxin. Pretreatment with Dihexa does not affect the amount of fluorescently tagged gentamicin that enters hair cells, indicating that Dihexa’s protection is likely mediated by intracellular events and not by inhibiting aminoglycoside entry. Dihexa-mediated protection is attenuated by co-treatment with the HGF antagonist 6-AH, further evidence that HGF activation is a component of the observed protection. Additionally, Dihexa’s robust protection is partially attenuated by co-treatment with inhibitors of the downstream HGF targets Akt, TOR and MEK. Addition of an amino group to the N-terminal of Dihexa also attenuates the protective response, suggesting that even small substitutions greatly alter the specificity of Dihexa for its target. Our data suggest that Dihexa confers protection of hair cells through an HGF-mediated mechanism and that Dihexa holds clinical potential for mitigating chemical ototoxicity.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00003
PMCID: PMC4309183
zebrafish; hair cell protection; hearing loss; aminoglycosides; hepatocyte growth factor; lateral line
3.  Minocycline treatment ameliorates interferon-alpha- induced neurogenic defects and depression-like behaviors in mice 
Interferon-alpha (IFN-α) is a proinflammatory cytokine that is widely used for the treatment of chronic viral hepatitis and malignancy, because of its immune-activating, antiviral, and antiproliferative properties. However, long-term IFN-α treatment frequently causes depression, which limits its clinical utility. The precise molecular and cellular mechanisms of IFN-α-induced depression are not currently understood. Neural stem cells (NSCs) in the hippocampus continuously generate new neurons, and some evidence suggests that decreased neurogenesis plays a role in the neuropathology of depression. We previously reported that IFN-α treatment suppressed hippocampal neurogenesis and induced depression-like behaviors via its receptors in the brain in adult mice. However, it is unclear how systemic IFN-α administration induces IFN-α signaling in the hippocampus. In this study, we analyzed the role of microglia, immune cells in the brain, in mediating the IFN-α-induced neurogenic defects and depressive behaviors. In vitro studies demonstrated that IFN-α treatment induced the secretion of endogenous IFN-α from microglia, which suppressed NSC proliferation. In vivo treatment of adult mice with IFN-α for 5 weeks increased the production of proinflammatory cytokines, including IFN-α, and reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Both effects were prevented by simultaneous treatment with minocycline, an inhibitor of microglial activation. Furthermore, minocycline treatment significantly suppressed IFN-α-induced depressive behaviors in mice. These results suggest that microglial activation plays a critical role in the development of IFN-α-induced depression, and that minocycline is a promising drug for the treatment of IFN-α-induced depression in patients, especially those who are low responders to conventional antidepressant treatments.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00005
PMCID: PMC4309184
interferon; microglia; depression; neurogenesis; hippocampus
4.  Super-resolution microscopy of the synaptic active zone 
Brain function relies on accurate information transfer at chemical synapses. At the presynaptic active zone (AZ) a variety of specialized proteins are assembled to complex architectures, which set the basis for speed, precision and plasticity of synaptic transmission. Calcium channels are pivotal for the initiation of excitation-secretion coupling and, correspondingly, capture a central position at the AZ. Combining quantitative functional studies with modeling approaches has provided predictions of channel properties, numbers and even positions on the nanometer scale. However, elucidating the nanoscopic organization of the surrounding protein network requires direct ultrastructural access. Without this information, knowledge of molecular synaptic structure-function relationships remains incomplete. Recently, super-resolution microscopy (SRM) techniques have begun to enter the neurosciences. These approaches combine high spatial resolution with the molecular specificity of fluorescence microscopy. Here, we discuss how SRM can be used to obtain information on the organization of AZ proteins.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00007
PMCID: PMC4311638
active zone; super-resolution microscopy; excitation-secretion coupling; structure-function relationships; Ca2+ channels
5.  Control of cortical neuronal migration by glutamate and GABA 
Neuronal migration in the cortex is controlled by the paracrine action of the classical neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA. Glutamate controls radial migration of pyramidal neurons by acting primarily on NMDA receptors and regulates tangential migration of inhibitory interneurons by activating non-NMDA and NMDA receptors. GABA, acting on ionotropic GABAA-rho and GABAA receptors, has a dichotomic action on radially migrating neurons by acting as a GO signal in lower layers and as a STOP signal in upper cortical plate (CP), respectively. Metabotropic GABAB receptors promote radial migration into the CP and tangential migration of interneurons. Besides GABA, the endogenous GABAergic agonist taurine is a relevant agonist controlling radial migration. To a smaller extent glycine receptor activation can also influence radial and tangential migration. Activation of glutamate and GABA receptors causes increases in intracellular Ca2+ transients, which promote neuronal migration by acting on the cytoskeleton. Pharmacological or genetic manipulation of glutamate or GABA receptors during early corticogenesis induce heterotopic cell clusters in upper layers and loss of cortical lamination, i.e., neuronal migration disorders which can be associated with neurological or neuropsychiatric diseases. The pivotal role of NMDA and ionotropic GABA receptors in cortical neuronal migration is of major clinical relevance, since a number of drugs acting on these receptors (e.g., anti-epileptics, anesthetics, alcohol) may disturb the normal migration pattern when present during early corticogenesis.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00004
PMCID: PMC4311642
neuronal migration; cerebral cortex; GABA; glutamate; neuronal migration disorders
6.  Plasticity in the prefrontal cortex of adult rats 
We review the plastic changes of the prefrontal cortex of the rat in response to a wide range of experiences including sensory and motor experience, gonadal hormones, psychoactive drugs, learning tasks, stress, social experience, metaplastic experiences, and brain injury. Our focus is on synaptic changes (dendritic morphology and spine density) in pyramidal neurons and the relationship to behavioral changes. The most general conclusion we can reach is that the prefrontal cortex is extremely plastic and that the medial and orbital prefrontal regions frequently respond very differently to the same experience in the same brain and the rules that govern prefrontal plasticity appear to differ for those of other cortical regions.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00015
PMCID: PMC4315042
prefrontal cortex; experience-dependent plasticity; psychoactive drugs; stress; metaplasticity
7.  A use-dependent increase in release sites drives facilitation at calretinin-deficient cerebellar parallel-fiber synapses 
Endogenous Ca2+-binding proteins affect synaptic transmitter release and short-term plasticity (STP) by buffering presynaptic Ca2+ signals. At parallel-fiber (PF)-to-Purkinje neuron (PN) synapses in the cerebellar cortex loss of calretinin (CR), the major buffer at PF terminals, results in increased presynaptic Ca2+ transients and an almost doubling of the initial vesicular releases probability (pr). Surprisingly, however, it has been reported that loss of CR from PF synapses does not alter paired-pulse facilitation (PPF), while it affects presynaptic Ca2+ signals as well as pr. Here, we addressed this puzzling observation by analyzing the frequency- and Ca2+-dependence of PPF at unitary PF-to-PN synapses of wild-type (WT) and CR-deficient (CR−/−) mice using paired recordings and computer simulations. Our analysis revealed that PPF in CR−/− is indeed smaller than in the WT, to a degree, however, that indicates that rapid vesicle replenishment and recruitment of additional release sites dominate the synaptic efficacy of the second response. These Ca2+-driven processes operate more effectively in the absence of CR, thereby, explaining the preservation of robust PPF in the mutants.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00027
PMCID: PMC4315043
short-term plasticity; calretinin; paired-pulse facilitation; paired recordings; granule cells; ready-releasable pool
8.  Systemic Inflammation and the Brain: Novel Roles of Genetic, Molecular, and Environmental Cues as Drivers of Neurodegeneration 
The nervous and immune systems have evolved in parallel from the early bilaterians, in which innate immunity and a central nervous system (CNS) coexisted for the first time, to jawed vertebrates and the appearance of adaptive immunity. The CNS feeds from, and integrates efferent signals in response to, somatic and autonomic sensory information. The CNS receives input also from the periphery about inflammation and infection. Cytokines, chemokines, and damage-associated soluble mediators of systemic inflammation can also gain access to the CNS via blood flow. In response to systemic inflammation, those soluble mediators can access directly through the circumventricular organs, as well as open the blood–brain barrier. The resulting translocation of inflammatory mediators can interfere with neuronal and glial well-being, leading to a break of balance in brain homeostasis. This in turn results in cognitive and behavioral manifestations commonly present during acute infections – including anorexia, malaise, depression, and decreased physical activity – collectively known as the sickness behavior (SB). While SB manifestations are transient and self-limited, under states of persistent systemic inflammatory response the cognitive and behavioral changes can become permanent. For example, cognitive decline is almost universal in sepsis survivors, and a common finding in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus. Here, we review recent genetic evidence suggesting an association between neurodegenerative disorders and persistent immune activation; clinical and experimental evidence indicating previously unidentified immune-mediated pathways of neurodegeneration; and novel immunomodulatory targets and their potential relevance for neurodegenerative disorders.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00028
PMCID: PMC4313590
neurodegeneration; systemic inflammation and sepsis; autoimmune disorders; anti-brain antibodies; TNF; HMGB1; connectome
9.  The role of cAMP in synaptic homeostasis in response to environmental temperature challenges and hyperexcitability mutations 
Homeostasis is the ability of physiological systems to regain functional balance following environment or experimental insults and synaptic homeostasis has been demonstrated in various species following genetic or pharmacological disruptions. Among environmental challenges, homeostatic responses to temperature extremes are critical to animal survival under natural conditions. We previously reported that axon terminal arborization in Drosophila larval neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) is enhanced at elevated temperatures; however, the amplitude of excitatory junctional potentials (EJPs) remains unaltered despite the increase in synaptic bouton numbers. Here we determine the cellular basis of this homeostatic adjustment in larvae reared at high temperature (HT, 29°C). We found that synaptic current focally recorded from individual synaptic boutons was unaffected by rearing temperature (<15°C to >30°C). However, HT rearing decreased the quantal size (amplitude of spontaneous miniature EJPs, or mEJPs), which compensates for the increased number of synaptic releasing sites to retain a normal EJP size. The quantal size decrease is accounted for by a decrease in input resistance of the postsynaptic muscle fiber, indicating an increase in membrane area that matches the synaptic growth at HT. Interestingly, a mutation in rutabaga (rut) encoding adenylyl cyclase (AC) exhibited no obvious changes in quantal size or input resistance of postsynaptic muscle cells after HT rearing, suggesting an important role for rut AC in temperature-induced synaptic homeostasis in Drosophila. This extends our previous finding of rut-dependent synaptic homeostasis in hyperexcitable mutants, e.g., slowpoke (slo). In slo larvae, the lack of BK channel function is partially ameliorated by upregulation of presynaptic Shaker (Sh) IA current to limit excessive transmitter release in addition to postsynaptic glutamate receptor recomposition that reduces the quantal size.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00010
PMCID: PMC4313691
rutabaga adenylyl cyclase; quantal size; input resistance; synaptic growth; quantal content
10.  Mitochondrial function in neuronal cells depends on p97/VCP/Cdc48-mediated quality control 
Maintaining mitochondrial function is essential for neuronal survival and offers protection against neurodegeneration. Ubiquitin-mediated, proteasome-dependent protein degradation in the form of outer mitochondrial membrane associated degradation (OMMAD) was shown to play roles in maintenance of mitochondria on the level of proteostasis, but also mitophagy and cell death. Recently, the AAA-ATPase p97/VCP/Cdc48 was recognized as part of OMMAD acting as retrotranslocase of ubiquitinated mitochondrial proteins for proteasomal degradation. Thus, p97 likely plays a major role in mitochondrial maintenance. Support for this notion comes from mitochondrial dysfunction associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and hereditary inclusion body myopathy associated with Paget disease of bone and frontotemporal dementia (IBMPFD) caused by p97 mutation. Using SH-SY5Y cells stably expressing p97 or dominant-negative p97QQ treated with mitochondrial toxins rotenone, 6-OHDA, or Aβ-peptide as model for neuronal cells suffering from mitochondrial dysfunction, we found mitochondrial fragmentation under normal and stress conditions was significantly increased upon inactivation of p97. Furthermore, inactivation of p97 resulted in loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Under additional stress conditions, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and increased ROS production was even more pronounced. Loss of mitochondrial fidelity upon inactivation of p97 was likely due to disturbed maintenance of mitochondrial proteostasis as the employed treatments neither induced mitophagy nor cell death. This was supported by the accumulation of oxidatively-damaged proteins on mitochondria in response to p97 inactivation. Dysfunction of p97 under normal and stress conditions in neuron-like cells severely impacts mitochondrial function, thus supporting for the first time a role for p97 as a major component of mitochondrial proteostasis.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00016
PMCID: PMC4313695
mitochondria; p97/VCP; neuronal cells; quality control
11.  Systems biology analysis of the proteomic alterations induced by MPP+, a Parkinson's disease-related mitochondrial toxin 
Parkinson's disease (PD) is a complex neurodegenerative disease whose etiology has not been completely characterized. Many cellular processes have been proposed to play a role in the neuronal damage and loss: defects in the proteosomal activity, altered protein processing, increased reactive oxygen species burden. Among them, the involvement of a decreased activity and an altered disposal of mitochondria is becoming more and more evident. The mitochondrial toxin 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium (MPP+), an inhibitor of complex I, has been widely used to reproduce biochemical alterations linked to PD in vitro and its precursor, 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine hydrochloride (MPTP), to induce a Parkinson-like syndrome in vivo. Therefore, we performed a meta-analysis of the literature of all the proteomic investigations of neuronal alterations due to MPP+ treatment and compared it with our results obtained with a mitochondrial proteomic analysis of SH-SY5Y cells treated with MPP+. By using open-source bioinformatics tools, we identified the biochemical pathways and the molecular functions mostly affected by MPP+, i.e., ATP production, the mitochondrial unfolded stress response, apoptosis, autophagy, and, most importantly, the synapse funcionality. Eventually, we generated protein networks, based on physical or functional interactions, to highlight the relationships among the molecular actors involved. In particular, we identified the mitochondrial protein HSP60 as the central hub in the protein-protein interaction network. As a whole, this analysis clarified the cellular responses to MPP+, the specific mitochondrial proteome alterations induced and how this toxic model can recapitulate some pathogenetic events of PD.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00014
PMCID: PMC4313704
MPP+; systems biology; meta-analysis; network enrichment; over-representation analysis
12.  Dopamine induces the accumulation of insoluble prion protein and affects autophagic flux 
Accumulation of protein aggregates is a histopathological hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases, but in most cases the aggregation occurs without defined mutations or clinical histories, suggesting that certain endogenous metabolites can promote aggregation of specific proteins. One example that supports this hypothesis is dopamine and its metabolites. Dopamine metabolism generates several oxidative metabolites that induce aggregation of α-synuclein, and represents the main etiology of Parkinson's diseases. Because dopamine and its metabolites are unstable and can be highly reactive, we investigated whether these molecules can also affect other proteins that are prone to aggregate, such as cellular prion protein (PrPC). In this study, we showed that dopamine treatment of neuronal cells reduced the number of viable cells and increased the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as demonstrated in previous studies. Overall PrPC expression level was not altered by dopamine treatment, but its unglycosylated form was consistently reduced at 100 μM of dopamine. At the same concentration, the level of phosphorylated mTOR and 4EBP1 was also reduced. Moreover, dopamine treatment decreased the solubility of PrPC, and increased its accumulation in autophagosomal compartments with concomitant induction of LC3-II and p62/SQSTM1 levels. In vitro oxidation of dopamine promoted formation of high-order oligomers of recombinant prion protein. These results suggest that dopamine metabolites alter the conformation of PrPC, which in turn is sorted to degradation pathway, causing autophagosome overload and attenuation of protein synthesis. Accumulation of PrPC aggregates is an important feature of prion diseases. Thus, this study brings new insight into the dopamine metabolism as a source of endogenous metabolites capable of altering PrPC solubility and its subcellular localization.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00012
PMCID: PMC4313710
dopamine; protein aggregation; prion; protein synthesis; autophagy; neurodegeneration
13.  The Sarcoglycan complex is expressed in the cerebrovascular system and is specifically regulated by astroglial Cx30 channels 
Astrocytes, the most prominent glial cell type in the brain, send specialized processes called endfeet, around blood vessels and express a large molecular repertoire regulating the cerebrovascular system physiology. One of the most striking properties of astrocyte endfeet is their enrichment in gap junction proteins Connexin 43 and 30 (Cx43 and Cx30) allowing in particular for direct intercellular trafficking of ions and small signaling molecules through perivascular astroglial networks. In this study, we addressed the specific role of Cx30 at the gliovascular interface. Using an inactivation mouse model for Cx30 (Cx30Δ/Δ; Δ means deleted allele) we showed that absence of Cx30 does not affect blood-brain barrier (BBB) organization and permeability. However, it results in the cerebrovascular fraction, in a strong upregulation of Sgcg encoding γ-Sarcoglycan (γ-SG), a member of the Dystrophin-associated protein complex (DAPC) connecting cytoskeleton and the extracellular matrix. The same molecular event occurs in Cx30T5M/T5M mutated mice, where Cx30 channels are closed, demonstrating that Sgcg regulation relied on Cx30 channel functions. We further characterized the expression of other Sarcoglycan complex (SGC) molecules in the cerebrovascular system and showed the presence of α-, β-, δ-, γ-, ε- and ζ- SG, as well as Sarcospan. Their expression was however not modified in Cx30Δ/Δ. These results suggest that a full SGC might be present in the cerebrovascular system, and that expression of one of its member, γ-SG, depends on Cx30 channels. As described in skeletal muscles, the SGC may contribute to membrane stabilization and signal transduction in the cerebrovascular system, which may therefore be regulated by Cx30 channel-mediated functions.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00009
PMCID: PMC4313713
astrocyte; Connexin 30; Sarcoglycans; BBB; gap junction
14.  Involvement of calpains in adult neurogenesis: implications for stroke 
Calpains are ubiquitous proteases involved in cell proliferation, adhesion and motility. In the brain, calpains have been associated with neuronal damage in both acute and neurodegenerative disorders, but their physiological function in the nervous system remains elusive. During brain ischemia, there is a large increase in the levels of intracellular calcium, leading to the activation of calpains. Inhibition of these proteases has been shown to reduce neuronal death in a variety of stroke models. On the other hand, after stroke, neural stem cells (NSC) increase their proliferation and newly formed neuroblasts migrate towards the site of injury. However, the process of forming new neurons after injury is not efficient and finding ways to improve it may help with recovery after lesion. Understanding the role of calpains in the process of neurogenesis may therefore open a new window for the treatment of stroke. We investigated the involvement of calpains in NSC proliferation and neuroblast migration in two highly neurogenic regions in the mouse brain, the dentate gyrus (DG) and the subventricular zone (SVZ). We used mice that lack calpastatin, the endogenous calpain inhibitor, and calpains were also modulated directly, using calpeptin, a pharmacological calpain inhibitor. Calpastatin deletion impaired both NSC proliferation and neuroblast migration. Calpain inhibition increased NSC proliferation, migration speed and migration distance in cells from the SVZ. Overall, our work suggests that calpains are important for neurogenesis and encourages further research on their neurogenic role. Prospective therapies targeting calpain activity may improve the formation of new neurons following stroke, in addition to affording neuroprotection.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00022
PMCID: PMC4316774
calpains; calpastatin; hippocampus; migration; neurogenesis; proliferation; stroke; subventricular zone
15.  The CA3 region of the hippocampus: how is it? What is it for? How does it do it? 
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00019
PMCID: PMC4318343
hippocampus; CA3 subfield; mossy fibers; associative network; theta rhythm; spatial representation; episodic memory; Aβ peptide
16.  Bruchpilot and Synaptotagmin collaborate to drive rapid glutamate release and active zone differentiation 
The active zone (AZ) protein Bruchpilot (Brp) is essential for rapid glutamate release at Drosophila melanogaster neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). Quantal time course and measurements of action potential-waveform suggest that presynaptic fusion mechanisms are altered in brp null mutants (brp69). This could account for their increased evoked excitatory postsynaptic current (EPSC) delay and rise time (by about 1 ms). To test the mechanism of release protraction at brp69 AZs, we performed knock-down of Synaptotagmin-1 (Syt) via RNAi (sytKD) in wildtype (wt), brp69 and rab3 null mutants (rab3rup), where Brp is concentrated at a small number of AZs. At wt and rab3rup synapses, sytKD lowered EPSC amplitude while increasing rise time and delay, consistent with the role of Syt as a release sensor. In contrast, sytKD did not alter EPSC amplitude at brp69 synapses, but shortened delay and rise time. In fact, following sytKD, these kinetic properties were strikingly similar in wt and brp69, which supports the notion that Syt protracts release at brp69synapses. To gain insight into this surprising role of Syt at brp69 AZs, we analyzed the structural and functional differentiation of synaptic boutons at the NMJ. At ‘tonic’ type Ib motor neurons, distal boutons contain more AZs, more Brp proteins per AZ and show elevated and accelerated glutamate release compared to proximal boutons. The functional differentiation between proximal and distal boutons is Brp-dependent and reduced after sytKD. Notably, sytKD boutons are smaller, contain fewer Brp positive AZs and these are of similar number in proximal and distal boutons. In addition, super-resolution imaging via dSTORM revealed that sytKD increases the number and alters the spatial distribution of Brp molecules at AZs, while the gradient of Brp proteins per AZ is diminished. In summary, these data demonstrate that normal structural and functional differentiation of Drosophila AZs requires concerted action of Brp and Syt.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00029
PMCID: PMC4318344
Bruchpilot; active zone; neurotransmitter release; synaptic delay; presynaptic differentiation; synaptotagmin; dSTORM
17.  Opportunities and limits of the one gene approach: the ability of Atoh1 to differentiate and maintain hair cells depends on the molecular context 
Atoh1 (Math1) was the first gene discovered in ear development that showed no hair cell (HC) differentiation when absent and could induce HC differentiation when misexpressed. These data implied that Atoh1 was both necessary and sufficient for hair cell development. However, other gene mutations also result in loss of initially forming HCs, notably null mutants for Pou4f3, Barhl1, and Gfi1. HC development and maintenance also depend on the expression of other genes (Sox2, Eya1, Gata3, Pax2) and several genes have been identified that can induce HCs when misexpressed (Jag1) or knocked out (Lmo4). In the ear Atoh1 is not only expressed in HCs but also in some supporting cells and neurons that do not differentiate into HCs. Simple removal of one gene, Neurod1, can de-repress Atoh1 and turns those neurons into HCs suggesting that Neurod1 blocks Atoh1 function in neurons. Atoh1 expression in inner pillar cells may also be blocked by too many Hes/Hey factors but conversion into HCs has only partially been achieved through Hes/Hey removal. Detailed analysis of cell cycle exit confirmed an apex to base cell cycle exit progression of HCs of the organ of Corti. In contrast, Atoh1 expression progresses from the base toward the apex with a variable delay relative to the cell cycle exit. Most HCs exit the cell cycle and are thus defined as precursors before Atoh1 is expressed. Atoh1 is a potent differentiation factor but can differentiate and maintain HCs only in the ear and when other factors are co-expressed. Upstream factors are essential to regulate Atoh1 level of expression duration while downstream, co-activated by other factors, will define the context of Atoh1 action. We suggest that these insights need to be taken into consideration and approaches beyond the simple Atoh1 expression need to be designed able to generate the radial and longitudinal variations in hair cell types for normal function of the organ of Corti.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00026
PMCID: PMC4318345
Atoh1; hair cells; development; regeneration
18.  Acute two-photon imaging of the neurovascular unit in the cortex of active mice 
In vivo two-photon scanning fluorescence imaging is a powerful technique to observe physiological processes from the millimeter to the micron scale in the intact animal. In neuroscience research, a common approach is to install an acute cranial window and head bar to explore neocortical function under anesthesia before inflammation peaks from the surgery. However, there are few detailed acute protocols for head-restrained and fully awake animal imaging of the neurovascular unit during activity. This is because acutely performed awake experiments are typically untenable when the animal is naïve to the imaging apparatus. Here we detail a method that achieves acute, deep-tissue two-photon imaging of neocortical astrocytes and microvasculature in behaving mice. A week prior to experimentation, implantation of the head bar alone allows mice to train for head-immobilization on an easy-to-learn air-supported ball treadmill. Following just two brief familiarization sessions to the treadmill on separate days, an acute cranial window can subsequently be installed for immediate imaging. We demonstrate how running and whisking data can be captured simultaneously with two-photon fluorescence signals with acceptable movement artifacts during active motion. We also show possible applications of this technique by (1) monitoring dynamic changes to microvascular diameter and red blood cells in response to vibrissa sensory stimulation, (2) examining responses of the cerebral microcirculation to the systemic delivery of pharmacological agents using a tail artery cannula during awake imaging, and (3) measuring Ca2+ signals from synthetic and genetically encoded Ca2+ indicators in astrocytes. This method will facilitate acute two-photon fluorescence imaging in awake, active mice and help link cellular events within the neurovascular unit to behavior.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00011
PMCID: PMC4318346
two-photon; acute; non-anesthetised; fully awake; cranial window; mice; neurovascular unit; astrocyte
19.  Cellular mechanisms of mutations in Kv7.1: auditory functions in Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome vs. Romano–Ward syndrome 
As a result of cell-specific functions of voltage-activated K+ channels, such as Kv7.1, mutations in this channel produce profound cardiac and auditory defects. At the same time, the massive diversity of K+ channels allows for compensatory substitution of mutant channels by other functional channels of their type to minimize defective phenotypes. Kv7.1 represents a clear example of such functional dichotomy. While several point mutations in the channel result in a cardio-auditory syndrome called Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome (JLNS), about 100-fold mutations result in long QT syndrome (LQTS) denoted as Romano–Ward syndrome (RWS), which has an intact auditory phenotype. To determine whether the cellular mechanisms for the diverse phenotypic outcome of Kv7.1 mutations, are dependent on the tissue-specific function of the channel and/or specialized functions of the channel, we made series of point mutations in hKv7.1 ascribed to JLNS and RWS. For JLNS mutations, all except W248F yielded non-functional channels when expressed alone. Although W248F at the end of the S4 domain yielded a functional current, it underwent marked inactivation at positive voltages, rendering the channel non-functional. We demonstrate that by definition, none of the JLNS mutants operated in a dominant negative (DN) fashion. Instead, the JLNS mutants have impaired membrane trafficking, trapped in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and Cis-Golgi. The RWS mutants exhibited varied functional phenotypes. However, they can be summed up as exhibiting DN effects. Phenotypic differences between JLNS and RWS may stem from tissue-specific functional requirements of cardiac vs. inner ear non-sensory cells.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00032
PMCID: PMC4319400
genetic diseases; membrane trafficking; mutant; potassium channels; hearing loss
20.  Choroid plexus dysfunction impairs beta-amyloid clearance in a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease 
Compromised secretory function of choroid plexus (CP) and defective cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) production, along with accumulation of beta-amyloid (Aβ) peptides at the blood-CSF barrier (BCSFB), contribute to complications of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The AD triple transgenic mouse model (3xTg-AD) at 16 month-old mimics critical hallmarks of the human disease: β-amyloid (Aβ) plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) with a temporal- and regional- specific profile. Currently, little is known about transport and metabolic responses by CP to the disrupted homeostasis of CNS Aβ in AD. This study analyzed the effects of highly-expressed AD-linked human transgenes (APP, PS1 and tau) on lateral ventricle CP function. Confocal imaging and immunohistochemistry revealed an increase only of Aβ42 isoform in epithelial cytosol and in stroma surrounding choroidal capillaries; this buildup may reflect insufficient clearance transport from CSF to blood. Still, there was increased expression, presumably compensatory, of the choroidal Aβ transporters: the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 1 (LRP1) and the receptor for advanced glycation end product (RAGE). A thickening of the epithelial basal membrane and greater collagen-IV deposition occurred around capillaries in CP, probably curtailing solute exchanges. Moreover, there was attenuated expression of epithelial aquaporin-1 and transthyretin (TTR) protein compared to Non-Tg mice. Collectively these findings indicate CP dysfunction hypothetically linked to increasing Aβ burden resulting in less efficient ion transport, concurrently with reduced production of CSF (less sink action on brain Aβ) and diminished secretion of TTR (less neuroprotection against cortical Aβ toxicity). The putative effects of a disabled CP-CSF system on CNS functions are discussed in the context of AD.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00017
PMCID: PMC4319477
Alzheimer disease; 3xTg-AD mice; choroid plexus; dysfunction; amyloid-β; collagen-IV; transthyretin; aquaporin-1
21.  Interleukin-1 and acute brain injury 
Inflammation is the key host-defense response to infection and injury, yet also a major contributor to a diverse range of diseases, both peripheral and central in origin. Brain injury as a result of stroke or trauma is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, yet there are no effective treatments, resulting in enormous social and economic costs. Increasing evidence, both preclinical and clinical, highlights inflammation as an important factor in stroke, both in determining outcome and as a contributor to risk. A number of inflammatory mediators have been proposed as key targets for intervention to reduce the burden of stroke, several reaching clinical trial, but as yet yielding no success. Many factors could explain these failures, including the lack of robust preclinical evidence and poorly designed clinical trials, in addition to the complex nature of the clinical condition. Lack of consideration in preclinical studies of associated co-morbidities prevalent in the clinical stroke population is now seen as an important omission in previous work. These co-morbidities (atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, infection) have a strong inflammatory component, supporting the need for greater understanding of how inflammation contributes to acute brain injury. Interleukin (IL)-1 is the prototypical pro-inflammatory cytokine, first identified many years ago as the endogenous pyrogen. Research over the last 20 years or so reveals that IL-1 is an important mediator of neuronal injury and blocking the actions of IL-1 is beneficial in a number of experimental models of brain damage. Mechanisms underlying the actions of IL-1 in brain injury remain unclear, though increasing evidence indicates the cerebrovasculature as a key target. Recent literature supporting this and other aspects of how IL-1 and systemic inflammation in general contribute to acute brain injury are discussed in this review.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00018
PMCID: PMC4319479
interleukin-1; inflammation; acute brain injury; cerebrovasculature
22.  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.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00001
PMCID: PMC3894457  PMID: 24478626
Alzheimer’s disease; cerebrovascular deficiencies; hippocampal neurons; Pin1; HIF-1α; GSK-3β; oxygen glucose deprivation
23.  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.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00005
PMCID: PMC3896818  PMID: 24478629
systems biology; polygenic; node of Ranvier; disconnectivity; GWAS
24.  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.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00002
PMCID: PMC3898519  PMID: 24478627
optogenetics; hippocampus; field inhibitory postsynaptic potential; GABA receptor; channelrhodopsin; CA1; neuroactive steroid; extracellular recording
25.  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.
doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00004
PMCID: PMC3899522  PMID: 24478628
presynaptic; synaptosome; peptide loading; intracellular; synaptic vesicle; recycling; styryl dye

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