Anatomical alterations in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are associated with hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation, altered stress hormone levels, and psychiatric symptoms of stress-related mental illnesses. Functional imaging studies reveal impairment and shrinkage of the mPFC in such conditions, and these findings are paralleled by experimental studies showing dendritic retraction and spine loss following repeated stress in rodents. Here we extend this characterization to how repeated stress affects dendritic spine morphology in mPFC through the utilization of an automated approach which rapidly digitizes, reconstructs 3-dimensionally, and calculates geometric features of neurons. Rats were perfused after being subjected to 3 weeks of daily restraint stress (6 hours/day), and intracellular injections of Lucifer Yellow were made in layers II/III pyramidal neurons in the dorsal mPFC. To reveal spines in all angles of orientation, deconvolved high-resolution confocal laser scanning microscopy image stacks of dendritic segments were reconstructed and analyzed for spine volume, surface area, and length using a Rayburst-based automated approach (8,091 and 8,987 spines for control and stress, respectively). We found that repeated stress results in an overall decrease in mean dendritic spine volume and surface area, which was most pronounced in the distal portion of apical dendritic fields. Moreover, we observed an overall shift in the population of spines, manifested by a reduction in large spines and increase in small spines. These results suggest a failure of spines to mature and stabilize following repeated stress, and are likely to have major repercussions on function, receptor expression, and synaptic efficacy.
dendritic spine; morphometry; plasticity; prefrontal cortex; stress
The Cre-loxP system is widely used for making conditional alterations to the mouse genome. Cre-mediated recombination is frequently monitored using reporter lines in which Cre expression activates a reporter gene driven by a ubiquitous promoter. Given the distinct advantages of fluorescent reporters, we developed a transgenic reporter line, termed IRG, in which DsRed-Express, a red fluorescent protein (RFP) is expressed ubiquitously prior to Cre-mediated recombination and an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) following recombination. Besides their utility for monitoring Cre-mediated recombination, we show that in IRG mice red and green native fluorescence can be imaged simultaneously in thick tissue sections by confocal microscopy allowing for complex reconstructions to be created that are suitable for analysis of neuronal morphologies as well as neurovascular interactions in brain. IRG mice should provide a versatile tool for analyzing complex cellular relationships in both neural and nonneural tissues.†
Cre recombinase; loxP; conditional gene activation; DsRed-express; red fluorescent protein; enhanced green fluorescent protein; transgenic mice
In this study, we assessed the possibility that humans differ from other primate species in the supply of dopamine to the frontal cortex. To this end, quantitative comparative analyses were performed among humans, chimpanzees, and macaques using immunohistochemical methods to visualize tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive axons within the cerebral cortex. Axon densities and neuron densities were quantified using computer-assisted stereology. Areas 9 and 32 were chosen for evaluation due to their roles in higher-order executive functions and theory of mind, respectively. Primary motor cortex (area 4) was also evaluated because it is not directly associated with cognition. We did not find an overt quantitative increase in cortical dopaminergic innervation in humans relative to the other primates examined. However, several differences in cortical dopaminergic innervation were observed among species which may have functional implications. Specifically, humans exhibited a sublaminar pattern of innervation in layer I of areas 9 and 32 that differed from that of macaques and chimpanzees. Analysis of axon length density to neuron density among species revealed that humans and chimpanzees together deviated from macaques in having increased dopaminergic afferents in layers III and V/VI of areas 9 and 32, but there were no phylogenetic differences in area 4. Finally, morphological specializations of axon coils that may be indicative of cortical plasticity events were observed in humans and chimpanzees, but not macaques. Our findings suggest significant modifications of dopamine’s role in cortical organization occurred in the evolution of the apes, with further changes in the descent of humans.
tyrosine hydroxylase; prefrontal cortex; area 9; area 32; area 4; human evolution
Non-biased systematic sampling using the principles of stereology provides accurate quantitative estimates of objects within neuroanatomic structures. However, the basic principles of stereology are not optimally suited for counting objects that selectively exist within a limited but complex and convoluted portion of the sample, such as occurs when counting cerebellar Purkinje cells. In an effort to quantify Purkinje cells in association with certain neurodegenerative disorders, we developed a new method for stereologic sampling of the cerebellar cortex, involving calculating the volume of the cerebellar tissues, identifying and isolating the Purkinje cell layer and using this information to extrapolate non-biased systematic sampling data to estimate the total number of Purkinje cells in the tissues. Using this approach, we counted Purkinje cells in the right cerebella of four human male control specimens, aged 41, 67, 70 and 84 years, and estimated the total Purkinje cell number for the four entire cerebella to be 27.03, 19.74, 20.44 and 22.03 million cells, respectively. The precision of the method is seen when comparing the density of the cells within the tissue: 266,274, 173,166, 167,603 and 183,575 cells/cm3, respectively. Prior literature documents Purkinje cell counts ranging from 14.8 to 30.5 million cells. These data demonstrate the accuracy of our approach. Our novel approach, which offers an improvement over previous methodologies, is of value for quantitative work of this nature. This approach could be applied to morphometric studies of other similarly complex tissues as well.
Stereology; Cerebellum; Brain; Methodology; Essential tremor
According to a long-standing hypothesis, aging is mainly caused by accumulation of nuclear (n) DNA damage in differentiated cells such as neurons due to insufficient nDNA repair during lifetime. In line with this hypothesis it was until recently widely accepted that neuron loss is a general consequence of normal aging, explaining some degree of decline in brain function during aging. However, with the advent of more accurate procedures for counting neurons, it is currently widely accepted that there is widespread preservation of neuron numbers in the aging brain, and the changes that do occur are relatively specific to certain brain regions and types of neurons. Whether accumulation of nDNA damage and decline in nDNA repair is a general phenomenon in the aging brain or also shows cell-type specificity is, however, not known. It has not been possible to address this issue with the biochemical and molecular-biological methods available to study nDNA damage and nDNA repair. Rather, it was the introduction of autoradiographic methods to study quantitatively the relative amounts of nDNA damage (measured as nDNA single-strand breaks) and nDNA repair (measured as unscheduled DNA synthesis) on tissue sections that made it possible to address this question in a cell-type-specific manner under physiological conditions. The results of these studies revealed a formerly unknown inverse relationship between age-related accumulation of nDNA damage and age-related impairment in nDNA repair on the one hand, and the age-related, selective, loss of neurons on the other hand. This inverse relation may not only reflect a fundamental process of aging in the central nervous system but also provide the molecular basis for a new approach to understand the selective neuronal vulnerability in neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease.
Aging; Alzheimer’s disease; Brain; DNA damage; DNA repair
den Dunnen et al. [den Dunnen, W.F.A., Brouwer, W.H., Bijlard, E., Kamphuis, J., van Linschoten, K., Eggens-Meijer, E., Holstege, G., 2008. No disease in the brain of a 115-year-old woman. Neurobiol. Aging] had the opportunity to follow up the cognitive functioning of one of the world’s oldest woman during the last 3 years of her life. They performed two neuropsychological evaluations at age 112 and 115 that revealed a striking preservation of immediate recall abilities and orientation. In contrast, working memory, retrieval from semantic memory and mental arithmetic performances declined after age 112. Overall, only a one-point decrease of MMSE score occurred (from 27 to 26) reflecting the remarkable preservation of cognitive abilities. The neuropathological assessment showed few neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) in the hippocampal formation compatible with Braak staging II, absence of amyloid deposits and other types of neurodegenerative lesions as well as preservation of neuron numbers in locus coeruleus. This finding was related to a striking paucity of Alzheimer disease (AD)-related lesions in the hippocampal formation. The present report parallels the early descriptions of rare “supernormal” centenarians supporting the dissociation between brain aging and AD processes. In conjunction with recent stereological analyses in cases aged from 90 to 102 years, it also points to the marked resistance of the hippocampal formation to the degenerative process in this age group and possible dissociation between the occurrence of slight cognitive deficits and development of AD-related pathologic changes in neocortical areas. This work is discussed in the context of current efforts to identify the biological and genetic parameters of human longevity.
Disease; Brain aging; Centenarians; Longevity; Neuronal vulnerability
It has been proposed that schizophrenia results partly from altered brain connectivity. Gene microarray analyses performed in gray matter have indicated that several myelin-related genes normally expressed in oligodendrocytes have decreased expression levels in schizophrenia. These data suggest that oligodendrocytes may be involved in the deficits of schizophrenia and may be decreased in number in the disease. The anterior cingulate cortex in particular has been demonstrated to be affected in schizophrenia, with studies reporting altered neuronal arrangement, decreased anisotropy in diffusion tensor images, and hypometabolism. We used a stereologic nearest-neighbor estimator of spatial distribution to investigate oligodendrocytes in the anterior cingulum bundle using postmortem tissue from 13 chronic schizophrenics and 13 age-matched controls. Using a spatial point pattern analysis, we measured the degree of oligodendrocyte clustering by comparing the probability of finding a nearest-neighbor at a given distance in schizophrenics and controls. At the same time, we also estimated the number and density of oligodendrocytes in the region of interest. In the present study, we found no significant differences in the oligodendrocyte distribution or density in the cingulum bundle between the two groups, in contrast to earlier data from the prefrontal subcortical white matter. These results suggest that a more subtle oligodendrocyte or myelin anomaly may underlie the structural deficits observed by brain imaging in the cingulum bundle in schizophrenia.
schizophrenia; oligodendrocyte; cingulate gyrus; stereology
Background and purpose
Most of the neuropathological studies in brain aging were based on the assumption of a symmetric right-left hemisphere distribution of both Alzheimer's disease (AD) and vascular pathology. To explore the impact of asymmetric lesion formation on cognition, we performed a clinicopathological analysis of 153 cases with mixed pathology except macroinfarcts.
Cognitive status was assessed prospectively using the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale; neuropathological evaluation included assessment of Braak neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) and Aß-deposition staging, microvascular pathology and lacunes. The right-left hemisphere differences in neuropathological scores were evaluated using the Wilcoxon signed rank test. The relationship between the interhemispheric distribution of lesions and CDR scores was assessed using ordered logistic regression.
Unlike Braak NFT and Aß deposition staging, vascular scores were significantly higher in the left hemisphere for all CDR scores. A negative relationship was found between Braak NFT, but not Aß, staging and vascular scores in cases with moderate to severe dementia. In both hemispheres, Braak NFT staging was the main determinant of cognitive decline followed by vascular scores and Aß deposition staging. The concomitant predominance of AD and vascular pathology in the right hemisphere was associated with significantly higher CDR scores.
Our data show that the cognitive impact of AD and vascular lesions in mixed cases may be assessed unilaterally without major information loss. However, interhemispheric differences and, in particular, increased vascular and AD burden in the right hemisphere may increase the risk for dementia in this group.
Alzheimer; cerebral infarct; cognition; white matter disease
The brains of large mammals have lower rates of metabolism than those of small mammals, but the functional consequences of this scaling are not well understood. An attractive target for analysis is axons, whose size, speed and energy consumption are straightforwardly related. Here we show that from shrews to whales, the composition of white matter shifts from compact, slow-conducting, and energetically expensive unmyelinated axons to large, fast-conducting, and energetically inexpensive myelinated axons. The fastest axons have conduction times of 1–5 milliseconds across the neocortex and less than 1 millisecond from the eye to the brain, suggesting that in select sets of communicating fibers, large brains reduce transmission delays and metabolic firing costs at the expense of increased volume. Delays and potential imprecision in cross-brain conduction times are especially great in unmyelinated axons, which may transmit information via firing rate rather than precise spike timing. In neocortex, axon size distributions can account for the scaling of per-volume metabolic rate and suggest a maximum supportable firing rate, averaged across all axons, of 7 ± 2 Hz. Axon size distributions also account for the scaling of white matter volume with respect to brain size. The heterogeneous white matter composition found in large brains thus reflects a metabolically constrained trade-off that reduces both volume and conduction time.
Allometry; Axon scaling; Conduction; Evolution; Optimization; Timing
White matter abnormalities have been detected using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in a variety of locations in the brains of patients with schizophrenia. Studies that included first-episode patients report less severe or no abnormalities but more pronounced deficits in chronic patients. Here we investigated these abnormalities in a very large group of schizophrenia that had both large ranges in age and in duration of illness. A highly reproducible DTI-tractography technique was used to quantify the fractional anisotropy of the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum as well as the bilateral pyramidal tracts. We found a decline in fractional anisotropy that correlated with the duration of illness in the genu and splenium of the corpus callosum but not in the pyramidal tracts. The findings suggest that there are white matter tract-specific degenerative mechanisms that may be present at the point of illness onset and that progress throughout the illness.
Diffusion Tensor Imaging; Schizophrenia; Fiber Tracking
The continuous generation of new neurons in the adult hippocampus exhibits remarkable plasticity. Decreased neurogenesis is thought to underlie depression-like behaviors, and increased neurogenesis is thought to occur following antidepressant drug treatment. Studies on different strains of mice, however, yielded contrasting results with regard to the link between behavioral modifications induced by antidepressant drugs or environmental enrichment and changes in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Therefore, we conducted a comparative study on the inbred strains Balb/c and C57Bl/6 that differ substantially in emotionality, stress reactivity, and behavioral responses to chronic antidepressant drugs. Quantitative assessments of progenitor cell proliferation and immature neuronal differentiation in the dentate gyrus revealed that, despite significantly different basal proliferation rates between both strains, neither strain exhibited changes in adult neurogenesis after exposure to early life stress or adult chronic fluoxetine treatment. A stimulatory effect of fluoxetine on adult hippocampal neurogenesis was only detected when treatment was initiated during adolescence, and this effect was abolished in mice exposed to early life stress, a prominent risk factor for developing adult-onset depression-like behaviors. Thus, in both strains of mice, neither adult fluoxetine treatment nor adolescent fluoxetine treatment following early life stress exposure increased the proliferation and early differentiation of adult neural progenitor cells.
inbred mouse strains; depression; early life stress; fluoxetine; adult progenitor cell proliferation; adult progenitor cell differentiation
Numerous studies have shown that neuronal plasticity in the hippocampus and neocortex is regulated by estrogen and that aromatase, the key enzyme for estrogen biosynthesis, is present in cerebral cortex. Although the expression pattern of aromatase mRNA has been described in the monkey brain, its precise cellular distribution has not been determined. In addition, the degree to which neuronal aromatase is affected by gonadal estrogen has not been investigated. In this study, we examined the immunohistochemical distribution of aromatase in young ovariectomized female rhesus monkeys with or without long-term cyclic estradiol treatment. Both experimental groups showed that aromatase is localized in a large population of CA1-3 pyramidal cells, in granule cells of the dentate gyrus and in some interneurons in which it was co-expressed with the calcium binding proteins calbindin, calretinin, and parvalbumin. Moreover, numerous pyramidal cells were immunoreactive for aromatase in the neocortex, whereas only small subpopulations of neocortical interneurons were immunoreactive for aromatase. The widespread expression of the protein in a large neuronal population suggests that local intraneuroral estrogen synthesis may contribute to estrogen-induced synaptic plasticity in monkey hippocampus and neocortex of female rhesus monkeys. In addition, the apparent absence of obvious differences in aromatase distribution between the two experimental groups suggests that these localization patterns are not dependent on plasma estradiol levels.
aromatase; estrogen; hippocampus; interneuron; neocortex; pyramidal cells
The midline and intralaminar thalamic nuclei (MITN), locus coeruleus (LC) and cingulate cortex contain nociceptive neurons. The MITN that project to cingulate cortex have a prominent innervation by norepinephrinergic axons primarily originating from the LC. The hypothesis explored in this study is that MITN neurons that project to cingulate cortex receive a disproportionately high LC input that may modulate nociceptive afferent flow into the forebrain. Ten cynomolgus monkeys were evaluated for dopamine-β hydroxylase (DBH) immunohistochemistry and, nuclei with moderate or high DBH activity were analyzed for intermediate neurofilament proteins, calbindin, and calretinin. Sections of all but DBH were thionin counterstained to assure precise localization in the mediodorsal and MITN and cytoarchitecture was analyzed with neuron-specific nuclear binding protein. Moderate-high levels of DBH-immunoreactive (ir) axons were generally associated with high densities of CB-ir and CR-ir neurons and low levels of neurofilament proteins. The paraventricular, superior centrolateral, limitans and central nuclei had relatively high and evenly distributed DBH, the magnocellular mediodorsal and paracentral nuclei had moderate DBH-ir, and other nuclei had an even and low level of activity. Some nuclei also have heterogeneities in DBH-ir that raised questions of functional segregation. The anterior multiformis part of the mediodorsal nucleus but not middle and caudal levels had high DBH activity. The posterior parafascicular nucleus (Pf) was heterogeneous with the lateral part having little DBH activity, while its medial division had most DBH-ir axons and its multiformis part had only a small number. These findings suggest that the LC may regulate nociceptive processing in the thalamus. The well established role of cingulate cortex in premotor functions and the projections of Pf and other MITN to the limbic striatum suggests a specific role in mediating motor outflow for the LC-innervated nuclei of the MITN.
dopamine-β hydroxylase; cingulate cortex; thalamus; locus coeruleus; stress; pain
A fundamental challenge in understanding how dendritic spine morphology controls learning and memory has been quantifying three-dimensional (3D) spine shapes with sufficient precision to distinguish morphologic types, and sufficient throughput for robust statistical analysis. The necessity to analyze large volumetric data sets accurately, efficiently, and in true 3D has been a major bottleneck in deriving reliable relationships between altered neuronal function and changes in spine morphology. We introduce a novel system for automated detection, shape analysis and classification of dendritic spines from laser scanning microscopy (LSM) images that directly addresses these limitations. The system is more accurate, and at least an order of magnitude faster, than existing technologies. By operating fully in 3D the algorithm resolves spines that are undetectable with standard two-dimensional (2D) tools. Adaptive local thresholding, voxel clustering and Rayburst Sampling generate a profile of diameter estimates used to classify spines into morphologic types, while minimizing optical smear and quantization artifacts. The technique opens new horizons on the objective evaluation of spine changes with synaptic plasticity, normal development and aging, and with neurodegenerative disorders that impair cognitive function.
Many electron transport chain (ETC) genes show accelerated rates of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitutions in anthropoid primate lineages, yet in non-anthropoid lineages the ETC proteins are typically highly conserved. Here, we test the hypothesis that COX5A, the ETC gene that encodes cytochrome c oxidase subunit 5A, shows a pattern of anthropoid-specific adaptive evolution, and investigate the distribution of this protein in catarrhine brains.
In a dataset comprising 29 vertebrate taxa, including representatives from all major groups of primates, there is nearly 100% conservation of the COX5A amino acid sequence among extant, non-anthropoid placental mammals. The most recent common ancestor of these species lived about 100 million years (MY) ago. In contrast, anthropoid primates show markedly elevated rates of nonsynonymous evolution. In particular, branch site tests identify five positively selected codons in anthropoids, and ancestral reconstructions infer that substitutions in these codons occurred predominantly on stem lineages (anthropoid, ape and New World monkey) and on the human terminal branch. Examination of catarrhine brain samples by immunohistochemistry characterizes for the first time COX5A protein distribution in the primate neocortex, and suggests that the protein is most abundant in the mitochondria of large-size projection neurons. Real time quantitative PCR supports previous microarray results showing COX5A is expressed in cerebral cortical tissue at a higher level in human than in chimpanzee or gorilla.
Taken together, these results suggest that both protein structural and gene regulatory changes contributed to COX5A evolution during humankind's ancestry. Furthermore, these findings are consistent with the hypothesis that adaptations in ETC genes contributed to the emergence of the energetically expensive anthropoid neocortex.
In this study, a 3D digital atlas of the live mouse brain based on magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM) is presented. C57BL/6J adult mouse brains were imaged in vivo on a 9.4 Tesla MR instrument at an isotropic spatial resolution of 100 μm. With sufficient signal-to-noise (SNR) and contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR), 20 brain regions were identified. Several atlases were constructed including 12 individual brain atlases, an average atlas, a probabilistic atlas and average geometrical deformation maps. We also investigated the feasibility of using lower spatial resolution images to improve time efficiency for future morphological phenotyping. All of the new in vivo data were compared to previous published in vitro C57BL/6J mouse brain atlases and the morphological differences were characterized. Our analyses revealed significant volumetric as well as unexpected geometrical differences between the in vivo and in vitro brain groups which in some instances were predictable (e.g. collapsed and smaller ventricles in vitro) but not in other instances. Based on these findings we conclude that although in vitro datasets, compared to in vivo images, offer higher spatial resolutions, superior SNR and CNR, leading to improved image segmentation, in vivo atlases are likely to be an overall better geometric match for in vivo studies, which are necessary for longitudinal examinations of the same animals and for functional brain activation studies. Thus the new in vivo mouse brain atlas dataset presented here is a valuable complement to the current mouse brain atlas collection and will be accessible to the neuroscience community on our public domain mouse brain atlas website.
in vivo mouse brain atlas; magnetic resonance microscopy; mouse brain morphometry; image registration