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1.  Mu Opioid Receptors Mediate the Effects of Chronic Ethanol Binge Drinking on the Hippocampal Neurogenic Niche 
Addiction biology  2013;19(5):770-780.
Ethanol exposure and withdrawal alter the generation of new neurons in the adult hippocampus. The endogenous opioid system, in particular the μ opioid receptor (MOR), can modulate neural progenitors and also plays a critical role in ethanol drinking and dependence. In the present study, we sought to determine whether MOR contributes to the effects of ethanol on the dentate gyrus (DG) neurogenic niche. MOR wild-type (WT), heterozygous (Het) and knockout (KO) littermates were subjected to voluntary ethanol drinking in repeated limited-access two-bottle choice (2BC) sessions. MOR deficiency did not alter progenitor proliferation, neuronal differentiation and maturation, apoptosis or microglia in ethanol-naïve mice. When exposed to five consecutive weeks of 2BC, MOR mutant mice exhibited a gene-dosage dependent reduction of ethanol consumption compared to WT mice. Introducing a week of ethanol deprivation between each week of 2BC increased ethanol consumption in all genotypes and produced equivalent intakes in WT, Het and KO mice. Under the latter paradigm, ethanol drinking decreased progenitor proliferation and neuronal differentiation in the DG of WT mice. Interestingly, WT mice exhibited a strong negative correlation between ethanol intake and proliferation, which was disrupted in Het and KO mice. Moreover, MOR deficiency blocked the effect of ethanol on neuronal differentiation. MOR deficiency also protected against the neuroimmune response to ethanol drinking. Finally, chronic binge drinking induced a paradoxical decrease in apoptosis, which was independent of MOR. Altogether our data suggest that MOR is implicated in some of the neuroplastic changes produced by chronic ethanol exposure in the DG.
PMCID: PMC3681911  PMID: 23461397
AC3; BrdU; DCX; Iba1; Ki-67; neurogenesis
2.  Aging and Autophagic Function Influences the Progressive Decline of Adult Drosophila Behaviors 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0132768.
Multiple neurological disorders are characterized by the abnormal accumulation of protein aggregates and the progressive impairment of complex behaviors. Our Drosophila studies demonstrate that middle-aged wild-type flies (WT, ~4-weeks) exhibit a marked accumulation of neural aggregates that is commensurate with the decline of the autophagy pathway. However, enhancing autophagy via neuronal over-expression of Atg8a (Atg8a-OE) reduces the age-dependent accumulation of aggregates. Here we assess basal locomotor activity profiles for single- and group-housed male and female WT flies and observed that only modest behavioral changes occurred by 4-weeks of age, with the noted exception of group-housed male flies. Male flies in same-sex social groups exhibit a progressive increase in nighttime activity. Infrared videos show aged group-housed males (4-weeks) are engaged in extensive bouts of courtship during periods of darkness, which is partly repressed during lighted conditions. Together, these nighttime courtship behaviors were nearly absent in young WT flies and aged Atg8a-OE flies. Previous studies have indicated a regulatory role for olfaction in male courtship partner choice. Coincidently, the mRNA expression profiles of several olfactory genes decline with age in WT flies; however, they are maintained in age-matched Atg8a-OE flies. Together, these results suggest that middle-aged male flies develop impairments in olfaction, which could contribute to the dysregulation of courtship behaviors during dark time periods. Combined, our results demonstrate that as Drosophila age, they develop early behavior defects that are coordinate with protein aggregate accumulation in the nervous system. In addition, the nighttime activity behavior is preserved when neuronal autophagy is maintained (Atg8a-OE flies). Thus, environmental or genetic factors that modify autophagic capacity could have a positive impact on neuronal aging and complex behaviors.
PMCID: PMC4504520  PMID: 26182057
3.  p62, Ref(2)P and ubiquitinated proteins are conserved markers of neuronal aging, aggregate formation and progressive autophagic defects 
Autophagy  2011;7(6):572-583.
Suppression of macroautophagy, due to mutations or through processes linked to aging, results in the accumulation of cytoplasmic substrates that are normally eliminated by the pathway. This is a significant problem in long-lived cells like neurons, where pathway defects can result in the accumulation of aggregates containing ubiquitinated proteins. The p62/Ref(2)P family of proteins is involved in the autophagic clearance of cytoplasmic protein bodies or sequestosomes. These unique structures are closely associated with protein inclusions containing ubiquitin as well as key components of the autophagy pathway. In this study we show that detergent fractionation followed by western blot analysis of insoluble ubiquitinated proteins (IUP), mammalian p62 and its Drosophila homologue, Ref(2)P can be used to quantitatively assess the activity level of aggregate clearance (aggrephagy) in complex tissues. Using this technique we show that genetic or age-dependent changes that modify the long-term enhancement or suppression of aggrephagy can be identified. Moreover, using the Drosophila model system this method can be used to establish autophagy-dependent protein clearance profiles that are occurring under a wide range of physiological conditions including developmental, fasting and altered metabolic pathways. This technique can also be used to examine proteopathies that are associated with human disorders such as frontotemporal dementia, Huntington and Alzheimer disease. Our findings indicate that measuring IUP profiles together with an assessment of p62/Ref(2)P proteins can be used as a screening or diagnostic tool to characterize genetic and age-dependent factors that alter the long-term function of autophagy and the clearance of protein aggregates occurring within complex tissues and cells.
PMCID: PMC3127048  PMID: 21325881
p62; Ref(2)P; insoluble ubiquitinated proteins; aggregates; neural degeneration; Alzheimer disease; aging; macroautophagy

Results 1-3 (3)