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1.  Circulating miRNAs profiles in tourette syndrome: molecular data and clinical implications 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:44.
Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a highly prevalent childhood neuropsychiatric disorder (about 1 %), characterized by multiple motor and one or more vocal tics. The syndrome is commonly associated to comorbid conditions (e.g., Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which considerably aggravate clinical symptoms and complicate diagnosis and treatment. To date, TS molecular bases are unknown and its molecular diagnosis is unfeasible.
Due to their master role within cell networks and pathways both in physiology as in pathology, we sought to determine the transcriptome of circulating miRNAs in TS patients: by TaqMan Low Density Arrays, we profiled the expression in serum of 754 miRNAs in six TS patients and three unaffected controls (NCs) (discovery set). These data were validated by single TaqMan assays on serum from 52 TS patients and 15 NCs (validation set). Network and Gene-ontology analysis were performed by using Cytoscape and Babelomics server. We found that miR-429 is significantly underexpressed in TS patients with respect to NCs. Decreased serum levels of miR-429 allowed us to discriminate TS patients from NCs with 95 % of sensitivity and 42 % of specificity. Intriguingly, computational analysis of the network comprising miR-429 targets demonstrates their involvement in differentiation of midbrain and hindbrain and synaptic transmission.
Our data open the way to further molecular characterization of TS and eventual identification of the corresponding genotypes. Circulating miR-429 may be immediately useful as sensitive molecular biomarker to support TS diagnosis, actually based only on DSM-V criteria.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0133-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4513635  PMID: 26205656
Tourette syndrome; Circulating miRNAs; Molecular pathogenesis; Molecular biomarkers; Minimally invasive molecular diagnosis
2.  Nicotine attenuates the effect of HIV-1 proteins on the neural circuits of working and contextual memories 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:43.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) are characterized by synaptic damage and neuronal loss in the brain. Excessive glutamatergic transmission and loss of cholinergic neurons are the major indicators of HAND. Nicotine acts as a cholinergic channel modulator, and its cognitive-enhancing effect in neurodegenerative and cognitive disorders has been documented. However, it is unclear whether nicotine has any positive effect on memory and synaptic plasticity formation in HAND.
We investigated the effects of nicotine on synaptic plasticity and hippocampus–prefrontal cortex (PFC)–amygdala-dependent memory formation in the HIV-1 transgenic (Tg) and F344 control rats.
Chronic nicotine treatment (0.4 mg/kg nicotine, base, subcutaneously) significantly attenuated the cognitive deficits in the HIV-1Tg rats in both the spatial and contextual fear memories but impaired the contextual learning memory in the F344 rats. To determine the role of nicotine in the synaptic dysfunction caused by HIV-1 proteins, we analyzed the expression of key representative genes related to synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus, PFC, and amygdala of the HIV-1Tg and F344 rats using a custom-designed qRT-PCR array. The HIV-1 proteins significantly altered the glutamate receptor-mediated intracellular calcium cascade and its downstream signaling cascade in a brain region-specific manner. Further, chronic nicotine treatment reversed the effect of HIV-1 proteins on the expression of genes involved in synaptic plasticity in the three brain regions. The effects of nicotine differed significantly in the HIV-1Tg and F344 rats.
Our findings indicate that nicotine can attenuate the effect of HIV viral proteins on cognitive function and produce a brain region- and strain-specific effect on the intracellular signaling cascades involved in synaptic plasticity and memory formation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0134-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4513611  PMID: 26205781
HIV; Nicotine; Brain; Spatial working memory; Contextual memory; Synaptic plasticity
3.  Regulation of density of functional presynaptic terminals by local energy supply 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:42.
The density of functional synapses is an important parameter in determining the efficacy of synaptic transmission. However, how functional presynaptic terminal density is regulated under natural physiological conditions is still poorly understood.
We studied the factors controlling the density of presynaptic functional terminals at single dendritic branches of hippocampal neurons and found that elevation of intracellular Mg2+ concentration was effective in increasing the density of functional terminals. Interestingly, the upregulation was not due to synaptogenesis, but to the conversion of a considerable proportion of presynaptic terminals from nonfunctional to functional. Mechanistic studies revealed that the nonfunctional terminals had inadequate Ca2+-sensitivity-related proteins, resulting in very low Ca2+ sensitivity within their vesicle release machinery. We identified energy-dependent axonal transport as a primary factor controlling the amount of Ca2+-sensitivity-related proteins in terminals. The elevation of intracellular Mg2+ enhanced local energy supply and promoted the increase of Ca2+-sensitivity-related proteins in terminals, leading to increased functional terminal density.
Our study suggests that local energy supply plays a critical role in controlling the density of functional presynaptic terminals, demonstrating the link between energy supply and efficacy of synaptic transmission.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0132-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4504454  PMID: 26184109
Density of functional presynaptic terminals; Energy supply, Presynaptic Ca2+ sensitivity; Ca2+-sensitivity-related proteins; Axonal transport; Intracellular Mg2+
4.  Arf6 controls beta-amyloid production by regulating macropinocytosis of the Amyloid Precursor Protein to lysosomes 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:41.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by the deposition of Beta-Amyloid (Aβ) peptides in the brain. Aβ peptides are generated by cleavage of the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP) by the β − and γ − secretase enzymes. Although this process is tightly linked to the internalization of cell surface APP, the compartments responsible are not well defined. We have found that APP can be rapidly internalized from the cell surface to lysosomes, bypassing early and late endosomes. Here we show by confocal microscopy and electron microscopy that this pathway is mediated by macropinocytosis. APP internalization is enhanced by antibody binding/crosslinking of APP suggesting that APP may function as a receptor. Furthermore, a dominant negative mutant of Arf6 blocks direct transport of APP to lysosomes, but does not affect classical endocytosis to endosomes. Arf6 expression increases through the hippocampus with the development of Alzheimer’s disease, being expressed mostly in the CA1 and CA2 regions in normal individuals but spreading through the CA3 and CA4 regions in individuals with pathologically diagnosed AD. Disruption of lysosomal transport of APP reduces both Aβ40 and Aβ42 production by more than 30 %. Our findings suggest that the lysosome is an important site for Aβ production and that altering APP trafficking represents a viable strategy to reduce Aβ production.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0129-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4501290  PMID: 26170135
5.  Impact of voluntary exercise and housing conditions on hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor, miR-124 and anxiety 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:40.
Lack of physical activity and increased levels of stress contribute to the development of multiple physical and mental disorders. An increasing number of studies relate voluntary exercise with greater resilience to psychological stress, a process that is highly regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of exercise on stress resilience are still poorly understood. Here we have studied the impact of long term exercise and housing conditions on: a) hippocampal expression of glucocorticoid receptor (Nr3c1), b) epigenetic regulation of Nr3c1 (DNA methylation at the Nr3c1-1F promoter and miR-124 expression), c) anxiety (elevated plus maze, EPM), and d) adrenal gland weight and adrenocorticotropic hormone receptor (Mc2r) expression.
Exercise increased Nr3c1 and Nr3c1-1F expression and decreased miR-124 levels in the hippocampus in single-housed mice, suggesting enhanced resilience to stress. The opposite was found for pair-housed animals. Bisulfite sequencing showed virtually no DNA methylation in the Nr3c1-1F promoter region. Single-housing increased the time spent on stretch attend postures. Exercise decreased the time spent at the open arms of the EPM, however, the mobility of the exercise groups was significantly lower. Exercise had opposite effects on the adrenal gland weight of single and pair-housed mice, while it had no effect on adrenal Mc2r expression.
These results suggest that exercise exerts a positive impact on stress resilience in single-housed mice that could be mediated by decreasing miR-124 and increasing Nr3c1 expression in the hippocampus. However, pair-housing reverses these effects possibly due to stress from dominance disputes between pairs.
PMCID: PMC4487841  PMID: 26135882
Epigenetics; Glucocorticoid receptor; Exercise; Stress; microRNA
6.  Involvement of cAMP-guanine nucleotide exchange factor II in hippocampal long-term depression and behavioral flexibility 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:38.
Guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) activate small GTPases that are involved in several cellular functions. cAMP-guanine nucleotide exchange factor II (cAMP-GEF II) acts as a target for cAMP independently of protein kinase A (PKA) and functions as a GEF for Rap1 and Rap2. Although cAMP-GEF II is expressed abundantly in several brain areas including the cortex, striatum, and hippocampus, its specific function and possible role in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and cognitive processes remain elusive. Here, we investigated how cAMP-GEF II affects synaptic function and animal behavior using cAMP-GEF II knockout mice.
We found that deletion of cAMP-GEF II induced moderate decrease in long-term potentiation, although this decrease was not statistically significant. On the other hand, it produced a significant and clear impairment in NMDA receptor-dependent long-term depression at the Schaffer collateral-CA1 synapses of hippocampus, while microscopic morphology, basal synaptic transmission, and depotentiation were normal. Behavioral testing using the Morris water maze and automated IntelliCage system showed that cAMP-GEF II deficient mice had moderately reduced behavioral flexibility in spatial learning and memory.
We concluded that cAMP-GEF II plays a key role in hippocampal functions including behavioral flexibility in reversal learning and in mechanisms underlying induction of long-term depression.
PMCID: PMC4477293  PMID: 26104314
Synaptic plasticity; Spatial memory; Reversal learning; Knockout mice
7.  Novel function of PIWIL1 in neuronal polarization and migration via regulation of microtubule-associated proteins 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:39.
Young neurons in the developing brain establish a polarized morphology for proper migration. The PIWI family of piRNA processing proteins are considered to be restrictively expressed in germline tissues and several types of cancer cells. They play important roles in spermatogenesis, stem cell maintenance, piRNA biogenesis, and transposon silencing. Interestingly a recent study showed that de novo mutations of PIWI family members are strongly associated with autism.
Here, we report that PIWI-like 1 (PIWIL1), a PIWI family member known to be essential for the transition of round spermatid into elongated spermatid, plays a role in the polarization and radial migration of newborn neurons in the developing cerebral cortex. Knocking down PIWIL1 in newborn cortical neurons by in utero electroporation of specific siRNAs resulted in retardation of the transition of neurons from the multipolar stage to the bipolar stage followed by a defect in their radial migration to the proper destination. Domain analysis showed that both the RNA binding PAZ domain and the RNA processing PIWI domain in PIWIL1 were indispensable for its function in neuronal migration. Furthermore, we found that PIWIL1 unexpectedly regulates the expression of microtubule-associated proteins in cortical neurons.
PIWIL1 regulates neuronal polarization and radial migration partly via modulating the expression of microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs). Our finding of PIWIL1’s function in neuronal development implies conserved functions of molecules participating in morphogenesis of brain and germline tissue and provides a mechanism as to how mutations of PIWI may be associated with autism.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0131-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4477296  PMID: 26104391
PIWIL1; Radial migration; Polarization; Microtubule-associated proteins
8.  Nr2e1 regulates retinal lamination and the development of Müller glia, S-cones, and glycineric amacrine cells during retinogenesis 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:37.
Nr2e1 is a nuclear receptor crucial for neural stem cell proliferation and maintenance. In the retina, lack of Nr2e1 results in premature neurogenesis, aberrant blood vessel formation and dystrophy. However, the specific role of Nr2e1 in the development of different retinal cell types and its cell-autonomous and non-cell autonomous function(s) during eye development are poorly understood.
Here, we studied the retinas of P7 and P21 Nr2e1frc/frc mice and Nr2e1+/+ ↔ Nr2e1frc/frc chimeras. We hypothesized that Nr2e1 differentially regulates the development of various retinal cell types, and thus the cellular composition of Nr2e1frc/frc retinas does not simply reflect an overrepresentation of cells born early and underrepresentation of cells born later as a consequence of premature neurogenesis. In agreement with our hypothesis, lack of Nr2e1 resulted in increased numbers of glycinergic amacrine cells with no apparent increase in other amacrine sub-types, normal numbers of Müller glia, the last cell-type to be generated, and increased numbers of Nr2e1frc/frc S-cones in chimeras. Furthermore, Nr2e1frc/frc Müller glia were mispositioned in the retina and misexpressed the ganglion cell-specific transcription factor Brn3a. Nr2e1frc/frc retinas also displayed lamination defects including an ectopic neuropil forming an additional inner plexiform layer. In chimeric mice, retinal thickness was rescued by 34 % of wild-type cells and Nr2e1frc/frc dystrophy-related phenotypes were no longer evident. However, the formation of an ectopic neuropil, misexpression of Brn3a in Müller glia, and abnormal cell numbers in the inner and outer nuclear layers at P7 were not rescued by wild-type cells.
Together, these results show that Nr2e1, in addition to having a role in preventing premature cell cycle exit, participates in several other developmental processes during retinogenesis including neurite organization in the inner retina and development of glycinergic amacrine cells, S-cones, and Müller glia. Nr2e1 also regulates various aspects of Müller glia differentiation cell-autonomously. However, Nr2e1 does not have a cell-autonomous role in preventing retinal dystrophy. Thus, Nr2e1 regulates processes involved in neurite development and terminal retinal cell differentiation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0126-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4475312  PMID: 26092486
Nr2e1; Amacrines; S-cones; Müller glia; Brn3a; Chimera; Ectopic plexiform layer
9.  Appearance of fast astrocytic component in voltage-sensitive dye imaging of neural activity 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:35.
Voltage-sensitive dye (VSD) imaging and intrinsic optical signals (IOS) are widely used methods for monitoring spatiotemporal neural activity in extensive networks. In spite of that, identification of their major cellular and molecular components has not been concluded so far.
We addressed these issues by imaging spatiotemporal spreading of IOS and VSD transients initiated by Schaffer collateral stimulation in rat hippocampal slices with temporal resolution comparable to standard field potential recordings using a 464-element photodiode array. By exploring the potential neuronal and astroglial molecular players in VSD and IOS generation, we identified multiple astrocytic mechanisms that significantly contribute to the VSD signal, in addition to the expected neuronal targets. Glutamate clearance through the astroglial glutamate transporter EAAT2 has been shown to be a significant player in VSD generation within a very short (<5 ms) time-scale, indicating that astrocytes do contribute to the development of spatiotemporal VSD transients previously thought to be essentially neuronal. In addition, non-specific anion channels, astroglial K+ clearance through Kir4.1 channel and astroglial Na+/K+ ATPase also contribute to IOS and VSD transients.
VSD imaging cannot be considered as a spatially extended field potential measurement with predominantly neuronal origin, instead it also reflects a fast communication between neurons and astrocytes.
PMCID: PMC4455916  PMID: 26043770
Voltage-sensitive dye; Intrinsic optical signal; Astrocyte; Excitatory amino-acid transporter type 2; Hippocampus; Field potential; Photodiode-array
10.  PAK1 regulates cortical development via promoting neuronal migration and progenitor cell proliferation 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:36.
p21-activated kinase 1 (PAK1) is a serine/threonine kinase known to be activated by the Rho family small GTPases and to play a key role in cytoskeletal reorganization, spine morphology and synaptic plasticity. PAK1 is also implicated in a number of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, including autism, intellectual disability and Alzheimer’s disease. However, the role of PAK1 in early brain development remains unknown.
In this study, we employed genetic manipulations to investigate the role of PAK1 in the cerebral cortical development in mice. We showed that compared to the wild type littermates, PAK1 knockout mice have a reduction in the number of pyramidal neurons in several layers of the cerebral cortex, which is associated with a smaller pool of neural progenitor cells and impaired neuronal migration.
These results suggest that PAK1 regulates cortical development by promoting the proliferation of neural progenitor cells and facilitating the migration of these neurons to specific regions of the cortex.
PMCID: PMC4456803  PMID: 26043730
PAK1; Cerebral cortex; Neuronal migration; Cell proliferation; Cell cycle
11.  GABAergic inhibition is weakened or converted into excitation in the oxytocin and vasopressin neurons of the lactating rat 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:34.
Increased secretion of oxytocin and arginine vasopressin (AVP) from hypothalamic magnocellular neurosecretory cells (MNCs) is a key physiological response to lactation. In the current study, we sought to test the hypothesis that the GABAA receptor-mediated inhibition of MNCs is altered in lactating rats.
Gramicidin-perforated recordings in the rat supraoptic nucleus (SON) slices revealed that the reversal potential of GABAA receptor-mediated response (EGABA) of MNCs was significantly depolarized in the lactating rats as compared to virgin animals. The depolarizing EGABA shift was much larger in rats in third, than first, lactation such that GABA exerted an excitatory, instead of inhibitory, effect in most of the MNCs of these multiparous rats. Immunohistochemical analyses confirmed that GABAergic excitation was found in both AVP and oxytocin neurons within the MNC population. Pharmacological experiments indicated that the up-regulation of the Cl− importer Na+-K+-2Cl− cotransporter isotype 1 and the down-regulation of the Cl− extruder K+-Cl− cotransporter isotype 2 were responsible for the depolarizing shift of EGABA and the resultant emergence of GABAergic excitation in the MNCs of the multiparous rats.
We conclude that, in primiparous rats, the GABAergic inhibition of MNCs is weakened during the period of lactation while, in multiparous females, GABA becomes excitatory in a majority of the cells. This reproductive experience-dependent alteration of GABAergic transmission may help to increase the secretion of oxytocin and AVP during the period of lactation.
PMCID: PMC4446001  PMID: 26017151
Electrophysiology; GABA; KCC2; Lactation; NKCC1; Oxytocin; Vasopressin
12.  Full UPF3B function is critical for neuronal differentiation of neural stem cells 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:33.
Mutation in the UPF3B gene on chromosome X is implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders including X-linked intellectual disability, autism and schizophrenia. The protein UPF3B is involved in the nonsense-mediated mRNA decay pathway (NMD) that controls mRNA stability and functions in the prevention of the synthesis of truncated proteins.
Here we show that NMD pathway components UPF3B and UPF1 are down-regulated during differentiation of neural stem cells into neurons. Using tethered function assays we found that UPF3B missense mutations described in families with neurodevelopmental disorders reduced the activity of UPF3B protein in NMD. In neural stem cells, UPF3B protein was detected in the cytoplasm and in the nucleus. Similarly in neurons, UPF3B protein was detected in neurites, the somatic cytoplasm and in the nucleus. In both cell types nuclear UPF3B protein was enriched in the nucleolus. Using GFP tagged UPF3B proteins we found that the missense mutations did not affect the cellular localisation. Expression of missense mutant UPF3B disturbed neuronal differentiation and reduced the complexity of the branching of neurites. Neuronal differentiation was similarly affected in the presence of the NMD inhibitor Amlexanox. The expression of mutant UPF3B proteins lead to a subtle increase in mRNA levels of selected NMD targets.
Together our findings indicate that, despite the down-regulation of NMD factors, functional NMD is critical for neuronal differentiation. We propose that the neurodevelopmental phenotype of UPF3B missense mutation is caused by impairment of NMD function altering neuronal differentiation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0122-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4445987  PMID: 26012578
Autism; Schizophrenia; X-linked intellectual disability; Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay; UPF3B mutation; UPF1; Tethered function assay; qPCR; Arhgap24; Atf4; Protein localisation
13.  Differentiation of multipotent neural stem cells derived from Rett syndrome patients is biased toward the astrocytic lineage 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:31.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is one of the most prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders in females, caused by de novo mutations in the X-linked methyl CpG-binding protein 2 gene, MECP2. Although abnormal regulation of neuronal genes due to mutant MeCP2 is thought to induce autistic behavior and impaired development in RTT patients, precise cellular mechanisms underlying the aberrant neural progression remain unclear.
Two sets of isogenic pairs of either wild-type or mutant MECP2-expressing human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) lines were generated from a single pair of 10-year-old RTT-monozygotic (MZ) female twins. Mutant MeCP2-expressing hiPSC lines did not express detectable MeCP2 protein during any stage of differentiation. The lack of MeCP2 reflected altered gene expression patterns in differentiated neural cells rather than in undifferentiated hiPSCs, as assessed by microarray analysis. Furthermore, MeCP2 deficiency in the neural cell lineage increased astrocyte-specific differentiation from multipotent neural stem cells. Additionally, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and bisulfite sequencing assays indicated that anomalous glial fibrillary acidic protein gene (GFAP) expression in the MeCP2-negative, differentiated neural cells resulted from the absence of MeCP2 binding to the GFAP gene.
An isogenic RTT-hiPSC model demonstrated that MeCP2 participates in the differentiation of neural cells. Moreover, MeCP2 deficiency triggers perturbation of astrocytic gene expression, yielding accelerated astrocyte formation from RTT-hiPSC-derived neural stem cells. These findings are likely to shed new light on astrocytic abnormalities in RTT, and suggest that astrocytes, which are required for neuronal homeostasis and function, might be a new target of RTT therapy.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0121-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4446051  PMID: 26012557
Rett syndrome; Methyl CpG-binding protein 2/MeCP2; Induced pluripotent stem cell; Neural stem cell; Astrocytes; DNA methylation
14.  Impairment of cognitive function by chemotherapy: association with the disruption of phase-locking and synchronization in anterior cingulate cortex 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:32.
Patients following prolonged cancer chemotherapy are at high risk of emotional and cognitive deficits. Research indicates that the brain neuronal temporal coding and synaptic long-term potentiation (LTP) are critical in memory and perception. We studied the effects of cisplatin on induction of LTP in the basolateral amygdala (BLA)-anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) pathway, characterized the coordination of spike timing with local theta oscillation, and identified synchrony in the BLA-ACC network integrity.
In the study presented, the impacts of cisplatin on emotional and cognitive functions were investigated by elevated plus-maze test, Morris water maze test, and rat Iowa gambling task (RGT). Electrophysiological recordings were conducted to study long-term potentiation. Simultaneous recordings from multi-electrodes were performed to characterize the neural spike firing and ongoing theta oscillation of local field potential (LFP), and to clarify the synchronization of large scale of theta oscillation in the BLA-ACC pathway. Cisplatin-treated rats demonstrated anxiety- like behavior, exhibited impaired spatial reference memory. RGT showed decrease of the percentage of good decision-makers, and increase in the percentage of maladaptive behavior (delay-good decision-makers plus poor decision-makers). Cisplatin suppressed the LTP, and disrupted the phase-locking of ACC single neural firings to the ongoing theta oscillation; further, cisplatin interrupted the synchrony in the BLA-ACC pathway.
We provide the first direct evidence that the cisplatin interrupts theta-frequency phase-locking of ACC neurons. The block of LTP and disruption of synchronized theta oscillations in the BLA-ACC pathway are associated with emotional and cognitive deficits in rats, following cancer chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4490721  PMID: 26001812
Cisplatin; Decision-making; Learning and memory; Synaptic plasticity; Theta oscillation
15.  Regulation of autophagic cell death by glycogen synthase kinase-3β in adult hippocampal neural stem cells following insulin withdrawal 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:30.
Neural stem cells (NSCs) hold great potential for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. However, programmed cell death (PCD) provoked by the harsh conditions evident in the diseased brain greatly undermines the potential of NSCs. Currently, the mechanisms of PCD that effect NSCs remain largely unknown.
We have previously reported that hippocampal neural stem (HCN) cells derived from the adult rat brain undergo autopahgic cell death (ACD) following insulin withdrawal without hallmarks of apoptosis despite their normal apoptotic capabilities. In this study, we demonstrate that glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK-3β) induces ACD in insulin-deprived HCN cells. Both pharmacological and genetic inactivation of GSK-3β significantly decreased ACD, while activation of GSK-3β increased autophagic flux and caused more cell death without inducing apoptosis following insulin withdrawal. In contrast, knockdown of GSK-3α barely affected ACD, lending further support to the critical role of GSK-3β.
Collectively, these data demonstrate that GSK-3β is a key regulator of ACD in HCN cells following insulin withdrawal. The absence of apoptotic indices in GSK-3β-induced cell death in insulin-deprived HCN cells corroborates the notion that HCN cell death following insulin withdrawal represents the genuine model of ACD in apoptosis-intact mammalian cells and identifies GSK-3β as a key negative effector of NSC survival downstream of insulin signaling.
PMCID: PMC4436742  PMID: 25986948
Hippocampal neural stem cells; Programmed cell death; Autophagic cell death; Glycogen synthase kinase-3β; Apoptosis
16.  Role of the 5-HT4 receptor in chronic fluoxetine treatment-induced neurogenic activity and granule cell dematuration in the dentate gyrus 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:29.
Chronic treatment with selective serotonin (5-HT) reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) facilitates adult neurogenesis and reverses the state of maturation in mature granule cells (GCs) in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus. Recent studies have suggested that the 5-HT4 receptor is involved in both effects. However, it is largely unknown how the 5-HT4 receptor mediates neurogenic effects in the DG and, how the neurogenic and dematuration effects of SSRIs interact with each other.
We addressed these issues using 5-HT4 receptor knockout (5-HT4R KO) mice. Expression of the 5-HT4 receptor was detected in mature GCs but not in neuronal progenitors of the DG. We found that chronic treatment with the SSRI fluoxetine significantly increased cell proliferation and the number of doublecortin-positive cells in the DG of wild-type mice, but not in 5-HT4R KO mice. We then examined the correlation between the increased neurogenesis and the dematuration of GCs. As reported previously, reduced expression of calbindin in the DG, as an index of dematuration, by chronic fluoxetine treatment was observed in wild-type mice but not in 5-HT4R KO mice. The proliferative effect of fluoxetine was inversely correlated with the expression level of calbindin in the DG. The expression of neurogenic factors in the DG, such as brain derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf), was also associated with the progression of dematuration. These results indicate that the neurogenic effects of fluoxetine in the DG are closely associated with the progression of dematuration of GCs. In contrast, the DG in which neurogenesis was impaired by irradiation still showed significant reduction of calbindin expression by chronic fluoxetine treatment, suggesting that dematuration of GCs by fluoxetine does not require adult neurogenesis in the DG.
We demonstrated that the 5-HT4 receptor plays an important role in fluoxetine-induced adult neurogenesis in the DG in addition to GC dematuration, and that these phenomena are closely associated. Our results suggest that 5-HT4 receptor-mediated phenotypic changes, including dematuration in mature GCs, underlie the neurogenic effect of SSRIs in the DG, providing new insight into the cellular mechanisms of the neurogenic actions of SSRIs in the hippocampus.
PMCID: PMC4430984  PMID: 25976618
Antidepressant; Neurogenesis; 5-HT4 receptor; Hippocampus; Maturation; Granule cell
17.  Tfap2a and 2b act downstream of Ptf1a to promote amacrine cell differentiation during retinogenesis 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:28.
Retinogenesis is a precisely controlled developmental process during which different types of neurons and glial cells are generated under the influence of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Three transcription factors, Foxn4, RORβ1 and their downstream effector Ptf1a, have been shown to be indispensable intrinsic regulators for the differentiation of amacrine and horizontal cells. At present, however, it is unclear how Ptf1a specifies these two cell fates from competent retinal precursors. Here, through combined bioinformatic, molecular and genetic approaches in mouse retinas, we identify the Tfap2a and Tfap2b transcription factors as two major downstream effectors of Ptf1a. RNA-seq and immunolabeling analyses show that the expression of Tfap2a and 2b transcripts and proteins is dramatically downregulated in the Ptf1a null mutant retina. Their overexpression is capable of promoting the differentiation of glycinergic and GABAergic amacrine cells at the expense of photoreceptors much as misexpressed Ptf1a is, whereas their simultaneous knockdown has the opposite effect. Given the demonstrated requirement for Tfap2a and 2b in horizontal cell differentiation, our study thus defines a Foxn4/RORβ1-Ptf1a-Tfap2a/2b transcriptional regulatory cascade that underlies the competence, specification and differentiation of amacrine and horizontal cells during retinal development.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0118-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4429372  PMID: 25966682
Tfap2; Ptf1a; Foxn4; Amacrine cell; Horizontal cell; Retinal development
18.  Characterization of Aldh2-/- mice as an age-related model of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:27.
The study of late-onset/age-related Alzheimer’s disease (AD)(sporadic AD, 95% of AD cases) has been hampered by a paucity of animal models. Oxidative stress is considered a causative factor in late onset/age-related AD, and aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) is important for the catabolism of toxic aldehydes associated with oxidative stress. One such toxic aldehyde, the lipid peroxidation product 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE), accumulates in AD brain and is associated with AD pathology. Given this linkage, we hypothesized that in mice lacking ALDH2, there would be increases in HNE and the appearance of AD-like pathological changes.
Changes in relevant AD markers in Aldh2-/- mice and their wildtype littermates were assessed over a 1 year period. Marked increases in HNE adducts arise in hippocampi from Aldh2-/- mice, as well as age-related increases in amyloid-beta, p-tau, and activated caspases. Also observed were age-related decreases in pGSK3β, PSD95, synaptophysin, CREB and pCREB. Age-related memory deficits in the novel object recognition and Y maze tasks begin at 3.5-4 months and are maximal at 6.5-7 months. There was decreased performance in the Morris Water Maze task in 6 month old Aldh2-/- mice. These mice exhibited endothelial dysfunction, increased amyloid-beta in cerebral microvessels, decreases in carbachol-induced pCREB and pERK formation in hippocampal slices, and brain atrophy. These AD-associated pathological changes are rarely observed as a constellation in current AD animal models.
We believe that this new model of age-related cognitive impairment will provide new insight into the pathogenesis and molecular/cellular mechanisms driving neurodegenerative diseases of aging such as AD, and will prove useful for assessing the efficacy of therapeutic agents for improving memory and for slowing, preventing, or reversing AD progression.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0117-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4409701  PMID: 25910195
Alzheimer’s disease; Aldehyde dehydrogenase 2; 4-hydroxynonenal; Oxidative stress; AD mouse model; Cognitive deficits; Synaptic function
19.  The protein phosphatase activity of PTEN is essential for regulating neural stem cell differentiation 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:26.
The tumor suppressor gene Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) is highly expressed in neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and plays an important role in development of the central nervous system. As a dual-specificity phosphatase, the loss of PTEN phosphatase activity has been linked to various diseases.
Here we report that the protein phosphatase activity of Pten is critical for regulating differentiation of neural progenitor cells. First we found that deletion of Pten promotes neuronal differentiation. To determine whether the protein or lipid phosphatase activity is required for regulating neuronal differentiation, we generated phosphatase domain-specific Pten mutations. Interestingly, only expression of protein phosphatase-deficient mutant Y138L could mimic the effect of knocking down Pten, suggesting the protein phosphatase of Pten is critical for regulating NPC differentiation. Importantly, we showed that the wild-type and lipid phosphatase mutant (G129E) forms of Pten are able to rescue neuronal differentiation in Pten knockout NPCs, but mutants containing protein phosphatase mutant cannot. We further found that Pten-dependent dephosphorylation of CREB is critical for neuronal differentiation.
Our data indicate that the protein phosphatase activity of PTEN is critical for regulating differentiation of NSCs during cortical development.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0114-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4427940  PMID: 25927309
PTEN; Protein phosphatase activity; Neural stem cells; Differentiation; Neurogenesis
20.  Sox9 is critical for suppression of neurogenesis but not initiation of gliogenesis in the cerebellum 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:25.
The high mobility group (HMG) family transcription factor Sox9 is critical for induction and maintenance of neural stem cell pool in the central nervous system (CNS). In the spinal cord and retina, Sox9 is also the master regulator that defines glial fate choice by mediating the neurogenic-to-gliogenic fate switch. On the other hand, the genetic repertoire governing the maintenance and fate decision of neural progenitor pool in the cerebellum has remained elusive.
By employing the Cre/loxP strategy, we specifically inactivated Sox9 in the mouse cerebellum. Unexpectedly, the self-renewal capacity and multipotency of neural progenitors at the cerebellar ventricular zone (VZ) were not perturbed upon Sox9 ablation. Instead, the mutants exhibited an increased number of VZ-derived neurons including Purkinje cells and GABAergic interneurons. Simultaneously, we observed continuous neurogenesis from Sox9-null VZ at late gestation, when normally neurogenesis ceases to occur and gives way for gliogenesis. Surprisingly, glial cell specification was not affected upon Sox9 ablation.
Our findings suggest Sox9 may mediate the neurogenic-to-gliogenic fate switch in mouse cerebellum by modulating the termination of neurogenesis, and therefore indicate a functional discrepancy of Sox9 between the development of cerebellum and other major neural tissues.
PMCID: PMC4406026  PMID: 25888505
Sox9; Neural stem cell; Neurogenesis; Gliogenesis; Cerebellum
21.  TLR2-induced astrocyte MMP9 activation compromises the blood brain barrier and exacerbates intracerebral hemorrhage in animal models 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:23.
The innate immune response plays an important role in the pathogenesis of intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). Recent studies have shown that Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) is involved in the innate immune response in various neurological diseases, yet neither its role in ICH nor the mechanisms by which it functions have yet been elucidated. We examined these in this study using a collagenase-induced mouse ICH model with TLR2 knock-out (KO) mice.
TLR2 expression was upregulated in the ipsilateral hemorrhagic tissues of the collagenase-injected mice. Brain injury volume and neurological deficits following ICH were reduced in TLR2 KO mice compared to wild-type (WT) control mice. Heterologous blood-transfer experiments show that TLR2 signaling in brain-resident cells, but not leukocytes, contributes to the injury. In our study to elucidate underlying mechanisms, we found that damage to blood–brain barrier (BBB) integrity following ICH was attenuated in TLR2 KO mice compared to WT mice, which may be due to reduced matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP9) activation in astrocytes. The reduced BBB damage accompanies decreased neutrophil infiltration and proinflammatory gene expression in the injured brain parenchyma, which may account for the attenuated brain damage in TLR2 KO mice after ICH.
TLR2 plays a detrimental role in ICH-induced brain damage by activating MMP9 in astrocytes, compromising BBB, and enhancing neutrophils infiltration and proinflammatory gene expression.
PMCID: PMC4397689  PMID: 25879213
Toll-like receptor; Stroke; Neuroinflammation; Neutrophil; Matrix metalloproteinase-9
22.  The metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 role on motor behavior involves specific neural substrates 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:24.
The metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) is involved in various brain functions, including memory, cognition and motor behavior. Regarding locomotor activity, we and others have demonstrated that pharmacological antagonism of mGluR5 promotes hyperkinesia in mice. Moreover, increased locomotor activity can also be observed in mice following the genetic deletion of mGluR5. However, it is still unclear which specific brain substrates contribute to mGluR5-mediated regulation of motor function.
Thus, to better understand the role of mGluR5 in motor control and to determine which neural substrates are involved in this regulation we performed stereotactic microinfusions of the mGluR5 antagonist, MPEP, into specific brain regions and submitted mice to the open field and rotarod apparatus. Our findings indicate that mGluR5 blockage elicits distinct outcomes in terms of locomotor activity and motor coordination depending on the brain region injected with mGluR5 antagonist. MPEP injection into either the dorsal striatum or dorsal hippocampus resulted in increased locomotor activity, whereas MPEP injection into either the ventral striatum or motor cortex resulted in hypokinesia. Moreover, MPEP injected into the olfactory bulb increased the distance mice traveled in the center of the open field arena. With respect to motor coordination on the rotarod, injection of MPEP into the motor cortex and olfactory bulb elicited decreased latency to fall.
Taken together, our data suggest that not only primarily motor neural substrates, but also limbic and sensory structures are involved in mGluR5-mediated motor behavior.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0113-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4397819  PMID: 25885370
mGluR5; Locomotor activity; Motor coordination; Striatum; Hippocampus
23.  The lateral parabrachial nucleus is actively involved in the acquisition of fear memory in mice 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:22.
Pavlovian fear conditioning is a form of learning accomplished by associating a conditioned stimulus (CS) and an unconditioned stimulus (US). While CS–US associations are generally thought to occur in the amygdala, the pathway mediating US signal processing has only been partially identified. The external part of the pontine lateral parabrachial nucleus (elPB) is well situated for providing US nociceptive information to the central amygdala (CeA), which was recently revealed to play a primary role in fear acquisition. Therefore, we manipulated the elPB activity to examine its role in the regulation of fear learning.
First, we transiently inactivate the elPB during the acquisition of fear memory. Mice received bilateral elPB injections of the GABAA agonist muscimol (MUS) or phosphate-buffered saline (drug control), with bilateral misplacement of MUS defined as a placement control group. After the injection, mice were conditioned with a pure tone and foot-shock. On a memory retrieval test on day 2, the freezing ratio was significantly lower in the MUS group compared with that in the drug control or placement control groups. A second retrieval test using a pip tone on day 4 following de novo training on day 3, resulted in significant freezing with no group differences, indicating integrity of fear learning and a temporary limited effect of MUS. Next, we examined whether selectively activating the elPB-CeC pathway is sufficient to induce fear learning when paired with CS. Mice with channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2) expressed in the elPB received a pure tone (CS) in association with optical stimulation in the CeA (CS-LED paired group). On the retrieval test, CS-LED paired mice exhibited significantly higher freezing ratios evoked by CS presentation compared with both control mice receiving optical stimulation immediately after being placed in the shock chamber and exposed to the CS much later (immediate shock group) and those expressing only GFP (GFP control group). These results suggest that selective stimulation of the elPB-CeC pathway substitutes for the US to induce fear learning.
The elPB activity is necessary and sufficient to trigger fear learning, likely as a part of the pathway transmitting aversive signals to the CeA.
PMCID: PMC4377188  PMID: 25888401
Fear conditioning; Associative learning; Nociception; Unconditioned stimulus; Amygdala; Channelrhodopsin; Virus
24.  Ca2+/Calmodulin-dependent protein Kinase II interacts with group I Metabotropic Glutamate and facilitates Receptor Endocytosis and ERK1/2 signaling: role of β-Amyloid 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:21.
Agonist stimulation of Group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) initiates their coupling to the heterotrimeric G protein, Gαq/11, resulting in the activation of phospholipase C, the release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores and the subsequent activation of protein kinase C. However, it is now recognized that mGluR5a also functions as a receptor for cellular prion protein (PrPC) and β-amyloid peptide (Aβ42) oligomers to facilitate intracellular signaling via the resulting protein complex. Intracellular mGluR5a signaling is also regulated by its association with a wide variety of intracellular regulation proteins.
In the present study, we utilized mass spectroscopy to identify calmodulin kinase IIα (CaMKIIα) as a protein that interacts with the second intracellular loop domain of mGluR5. We show that CaMKIIα interacts with both mGluR1a and mGluR5a in an agonist-independent manner and is co-immunoprecipitated with mGluR5a from hippocampal mouse brain. CaMKIIα positively regulates both mGluR1a and mGluR5a endocytosis, but selectively attenuates mGluR5a but not mGluR1a-stimulated ERK1/2 phosphorylation in a kinase activity-dependent manner. We also find that Aβ42 oligomers stimulate the association of CaMKIIα with mGluR5a and activate ERK1/2 in an mGluR5a-dependent manner. However, Aβ42 oligomer-stimulated ERK1/2 phosphorylation is not regulated by mGluR5a/CaMKIIα interactions suggesting that agonist and Aβ42 oligomers stabilize distinct mGluR5a activation states that are differentially regulated by CaMKIIα. The expression of both mGluR5a and PrPC together, but not alone resulted in the agonist-stimulated subcellular distribution of CaMKIIα into cytoplasmic puncta.
Taken together these results indicate that CaMKIIα selectively regulates mGluR1a and mGluR5a ERK1/2 signaling. As mGluR5 and CaMKIIα are involved in learning and memory and Aβ and mGluR5 are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, results of these studies could provide insight into potential pharmacological targets for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
PMCID: PMC4378271  PMID: 25885040
G protein-coupled receptors; Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors; Ca2+/Calmodulin-dependent protein Kinase IIα; Receptor Signaling; Amyloid-β
25.  Endoplasmic reticulum chaperone GRP78 is involved in autophagy activation induced by ischemic preconditioning in neural cells 
Molecular Brain  2015;8:20.
Our previous finding showed that brain ischemic preconditioning mediates neuroprotection through endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-induced autophagy. This study was aimed at exploring the role of ER chaperone GRP78 in IPC induced autophagy activation in neural cells.
Ischemic preconditioning (IPC) and oxygen glucose deprivation (OGD) models were established in rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells and primary cultured murine cortical neurons. IPC exerted neuroprotection against subsequent OGD injury in both PC12 cells and primary cortical neurons. IPC increased GRP78 expression and activated autophagy, as evidenced by upregulated LC3 and Beclin1, increased autophagic flux and formation of autophagosomes. BAPTA(dibromo-1,2-bis(aminophenoxy)ethane N,N,N9,N9 - tetra acetic acid, 0.125-2 μM) and small interfering RNA targeted GRP78 abrogated IPC induced neuroprotection and decreased the expression of GRP78, LC3II/LC3I and Beclin1. In contrast, lentiviral vector mediated GRP78 overexpression (LV-GRP78) strengthened resistance of PC12 cells to OGD injury and increased LC3 and Beclin1 expression. Moreover, knockdown of GRP78 in stable GRP78 overexpressing PC12 cells abolished the upregulation of LC3II/LC3I. GRP78 might activate autophagy through AMPK - mTOR pathway.
These results suggest that IPC- induced GRP78 upregulation is involved in autophagy activation, and hence exerts protection against ischemic injury in neural cells.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13041-015-0112-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4381498  PMID: 25885223
GRP78; Autophagy; PC12 cells; Cortical neurons; Ischemic preconditioning; BAPTA; RNA interference; Lentiviral vector; AMPK; mTOR

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