Founded in 2001, the Department of Neurobiology at UMass Chan Medical School has evolved into a unique and integrated hub of investigators addressing fundamental problems in neurobiology, from single molecules to behavior, primarily using invertebrate model organisms. Combining cell biological, physiological and behavioral analyses with a critical interventionist angle afforded by cutting-edge genetic approaches, the Department aims to understand the complexity of brain development and function. This collection showcases journal articles and other publications co-authored by Neurobiology students. Use the “UMass Chan Affiliation” Filter by Category in the left sidebar to see the publications produced by a specific lab.

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Recently Published

  • A comparative analysis of microglial inducible Cre lines

    Faust, Travis E; Feinberg, Philip A; O'Connor, Ciara; Kawaguchi, Riki; Chan, Andrew; Strasburger, Hayley; Frosch, Maximilian; Boyle, Margaret A; Masuda, Takahiro; Amann, Lukas; et al. (2023-08-26)
    Cre/loxP technology has revolutionized genetic studies and allowed for spatial and temporal control of gene expression in specific cell types. Microglial biology has particularly benefited because microglia historically have been difficult to transduce with virus or electroporation methods for gene delivery. Here, we investigate five of the most widely available microglial inducible Cre lines. We demonstrate varying degrees of recombination efficiency, cell-type specificity, and spontaneous recombination, depending on the Cre line and inter-loxP distance. We also establish best practice guidelines and protocols to measure recombination efficiency, particularly in microglia. There is increasing evidence that microglia are key regulators of neural circuits and major drivers of a broad range of neurological diseases. Reliable manipulation of their function in vivo is of utmost importance. Identifying caveats and benefits of all tools and implementing the most rigorous protocols are crucial to the growth of the field and the development of microglia-based therapeutics.
  • Distinct Th17 effector cytokines differentially promote microglial and blood-brain barrier inflammatory responses during post-infectious encephalitis [preprint]

    Wayne, Charlotte R; Bremner, Luca; Faust, Travis E; Durán-Laforet, Violeta; Ampatey, Nicole; Ho, Sarah J; Feinberg, Philip A; Arvanitis, Panos; Ciric, Bogoljub; Ruan, Chunsheng; et al. (2023-05-09)
    Group A Streptococcus (GAS) infections can cause neuropsychiatric sequelae in children due to post-infectious encephalitis. Multiple GAS infections induce migration of Th17 lymphocytes from the nose into the brain, which are critical for microglial activation, blood-brain barrier (BBB) and neural circuit impairment in a mouse disease model. How endothelial cells (ECs) and microglia respond to GAS infections, and which Th17-derived cytokines are essential for these responses are unknown. Using single-cell RNA sequencing and spatial transcriptomics, we found that ECs downregulate BBB genes and microglia upregulate interferon-response, chemokine and antigen-presentation genes after GAS infections. Several microglial-derived chemokines were elevated in patient sera. Administration of a neutralizing antibody against interleukin-17A (IL-17A), but not ablation of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) in T cells, partially rescued BBB dysfunction and microglial expression of chemokine genes. Thus, IL-17A is critical for neuropsychiatric sequelae of GAS infections and may be targeted to treat these disorders.
  • TIR-1/SARM1 inhibits axon regeneration and promotes axon degeneration

    Czech, Victoria L; O'Connor, Lauren C; Philippon, Brendan; Norman, Emily; Byrne, Alexandra B (2023-04-21)
    Growth and destruction are central components of the neuronal injury response. Injured axons that are capable of repair, including axons in the mammalian peripheral nervous system and in many invertebrate animals, often regenerate and degenerate on either side of the injury. Here we show that TIR-1/dSarm/SARM1, a key regulator of axon degeneration, also inhibits regeneration of injured motor axons. The increased regeneration in tir-1 mutants is not a secondary consequence of its effects on degeneration, nor is it determined by the NADase activity of TIR-1. Rather, we found that TIR-1 functions cell-autonomously to regulate each of the seemingly opposite processes through distinct interactions with two MAP kinase pathways. On one side of the injury, TIR-1 inhibits axon regeneration by activating the NSY-1/ASK1 MAPK signaling cascade, while on the other side of the injury, TIR-1 simultaneously promotes axon degeneration by interacting with the DLK-1 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling cascade. In parallel, we found that the ability to cell-intrinsically inhibit axon regeneration is conserved in human SARM1. Our finding that TIR-1/SARM1 regulates axon regeneration provides critical insight into how axons coordinate a multidimensional response to injury, consequently informing approaches to manipulate the response toward repair.
  • Intravital Imaging of Fluorescent Protein Expression in Mice with a Closed-Skull Traumatic Brain Injury and Cranial Window Using a Two-Photon Microscope

    Zhong, Jianjun; Gunner, Georgia; Henninger, Nils; Schafer, Dorothy P; Bosco, Daryl A (2023-04-21)
    The goal of this protocol is to demonstrate how to longitudinally visualize the expression and localization of a protein of interest within specific cell types of an animal's brain, upon exposure to exogenous stimuli. Here, the administration of a closed-skull traumatic brain injury (TBI) and simultaneous implantation of a cranial window for subsequent longitudinal intravital imaging in mice is shown. Mice are intracranially injected with an adeno-associated virus (AAV) expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) under a neuronal specific promoter. After 2 to 4 weeks, the mice are subjected to a repetitive TBI using a weight drop device over the AAV injection location. Within the same surgical session, the mice are implanted with a metal headpost and then a glass cranial window over the TBI impacting site. The expression and cellular localization of EGFP is examined using a two-photon microscope in the same brain region exposed to trauma over the course of months.
  • Gliotransmission and adenosine signaling promote axon regeneration

    Wang, Fei; Ruppell, Kendra Takle; Zhou, Songlin; Qu, Yun; Gong, Jiaxin; Shang, Ye; Wu, Jinglin; Liu, Xin; Diao, Wenlin; Li, Yi; et al. (2023-04-06)
    How glia control axon regeneration remains incompletely understood. Here, we investigate glial regulation of regenerative ability differences of closely related Drosophila larval sensory neuron subtypes. Axotomy elicits Ca2+ signals in ensheathing glia, which activates regenerative neurons through the gliotransmitter adenosine and mounts axon regenerative programs. However, non-regenerative neurons do not respond to glial stimulation or adenosine. Such neuronal subtype-specific responses result from specific expressions of adenosine receptors in regenerative neurons. Disrupting gliotransmission impedes axon regeneration of regenerative neurons, and ectopic adenosine receptor expression in non-regenerative neurons suffices to activate regenerative programs and induce axon regeneration. Furthermore, stimulating gliotransmission or activating the mammalian ortholog of Drosophila adenosine receptors in retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) promotes axon regrowth after optic nerve crush in adult mice. Altogether, our findings demonstrate that gliotransmission orchestrates neuronal subtype-specific axon regeneration in Drosophila and suggest that targeting gliotransmission or adenosine signaling is a strategy for mammalian central nervous system repair.
  • Behavioral circatidal rhythms require Bmal1 in Parhyale hawaiensis

    Kwiatkowski, Erica R; Schnytzer, Yisrael; Rosenthal, Joshua J C; Emery, Patrick (2023-03-19)
    Organisms living in the intertidal zone are exposed to a particularly challenging environment. In addition to daily changes in light intensity and seasonal changes in photoperiod and weather patterns, they experience dramatic oscillations in environmental conditions due to the tides. To anticipate tides, and thus optimize their behavior and physiology, animals occupying intertidal ecological niches have acquired circatidal clocks. Although the existence of these clocks has long been known, their underlying molecular components have proven difficult to identify, in large part because of the lack of an intertidal model organism amenable to genetic manipulation. In particular, the relationship between the circatidal and circadian molecular clocks, and the possibility of shared genetic components, has been a long-standing question. Here, we introduce the genetically tractable crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis as a system for the study of circatidal rhythms. First, we show that P. hawaiensis exhibits robust 12.4-h rhythms of locomotion that can be entrained to an artificial tidal regimen and are temperature compensated. Using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, we then demonstrate that the core circadian clock gene Bmal1 is required for circatidal rhythms. Our results thus demonstrate that Bmal1 is a molecular link between circatidal and circadian clocks and establish P. hawaiensis as a powerful system to study the molecular mechanisms underlying circatidal rhythms and their entrainment.
  • Lipofuscin-like autofluorescence within microglia and its impact on studying microglial engulfment [preprint]

    Stillman, Jacob M; Lopes, Francisco M; Lin, Jing-Ping; Hu, Kevin; Reich, Daniel S; Schafer, Dorothy P (2023-03-01)
    Engulfment of cellular material and proteins is a key function for microglia, a resident macrophage of the central nervous system (CNS). Among the techniques used to measure microglial engulfment, confocal light microscopy has been used the most extensively. Here, we show that autofluorescence (AF), likely due to lipofuscin and typically associated with aging, can also be detected within microglial lysosomes in the young mouse brain by light microscopy. This lipofuscin-AF signal accumulates first within microglia and increases with age, but it is not exacerbated by amyloid beta-related neurodegeneration. We further show that this lipofuscin-AF signal within microglia can confound the interpretation of antibody-labeled synaptic material within microglia in young adult mice. Finally, we implement a robust strategy to quench AF in mouse, marmoset, and human brain tissue.
  • The choroid plexus links innate immunity to CSF dysregulation in hydrocephalus

    Robert, Stephanie M; Reeves, Benjamin C; Kiziltug, Emre; Duy, Phan Q; Karimy, Jason K; Mansuri, M Shahid; Marlier, Arnaud; Allington, Garrett; Greenberg, Ana B W; DeSpenza, Tyrone; et al. (2023-02-16)
    The choroid plexus (ChP) is the blood-cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) barrier and the primary source of CSF. Acquired hydrocephalus, caused by brain infection or hemorrhage, lacks drug treatments due to obscure pathobiology. Our integrated, multi-omic investigation of post-infectious hydrocephalus (PIH) and post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus (PHH) models revealed that lipopolysaccharide and blood breakdown products trigger highly similar TLR4-dependent immune responses at the ChP-CSF interface. The resulting CSF "cytokine storm", elicited from peripherally derived and border-associated ChP macrophages, causes increased CSF production from ChP epithelial cells via phospho-activation of the TNF-receptor-associated kinase SPAK, which serves as a regulatory scaffold of a multi-ion transporter protein complex. Genetic or pharmacological immunomodulation prevents PIH and PHH by antagonizing SPAK-dependent CSF hypersecretion. These results reveal the ChP as a dynamic, cellularly heterogeneous tissue with highly regulated immune-secretory capacity, expand our understanding of ChP immune-epithelial cell cross talk, and reframe PIH and PHH as related neuroimmune disorders vulnerable to small molecule pharmacotherapy.
  • Modulation of neuronal excitability by binge alcohol drinking

    Giménez-Gómez, Pablo; Le, Timmy; Martin, Gilles E (2023-02-14)
    Drug use poses a serious threat to health systems throughout the world. The number of consumers rises every year being alcohol the drug of abuse most consumed causing 3 million deaths (5.3% of all deaths) worldwide and 132.6 million disability-adjusted life years. In this review, we present an up-to-date summary about what is known regarding the global impact of binge alcohol drinking on brains and how it affects the development of cognitive functions, as well as the various preclinical models used to probe its effects on the neurobiology of the brain. This will be followed by a detailed report on the state of our current knowledge of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the effects of binge drinking on neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity, with an emphasis on brain regions of the meso-cortico limbic neurocircuitry.
  • Neurexins in serotonergic neurons regulate neuronal survival, serotonin transmission, and complex mouse behaviors

    Cheung, Amy; Konno, Kotaro; Imamura, Yuka; Matsui, Aya; Abe, Manabu; Sakimura, Kenji; Sasaoka, Toshikuni; Uemura, Takeshi; Watanabe, Masahiko; Futai, Kensuke (2023-01-25)
    Extensive serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) innervation throughout the brain corroborates 5-HT's modulatory role in numerous cognitive activities. Volume transmission is the major mode for 5-HT transmission but mechanisms underlying 5-HT signaling are still largely unknown. Abnormal brain 5-HT levels and function have been implicated in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Neurexin (Nrxn) genes encode presynaptic cell adhesion molecules important for the regulation of synaptic neurotransmitter release, notably glutamatergic and GABAergic transmission. Mutations in Nrxn genes are associated with neurodevelopmental disorders including ASD. However, the role of Nrxn genes in the 5-HT system is poorly understood. Here, we generated a mouse model with all three Nrxn genes disrupted specifically in 5-HT neurons to study how Nrxns affect 5-HT transmission. Loss of Nrxns in 5-HT neurons reduced the number of serotonin neurons in the early postnatal stage, impaired 5-HT release, and decreased 5-HT release sites and serotonin transporter expression. Furthermore, 5-HT neuron-specific Nrxn knockout reduced sociability and increased depressive-like behavior. Our results highlight functional roles for Nrxns in 5-HT neurotransmission, 5-HT neuron survival, and the execution of complex behaviors.
  • Presynaptic Gq-coupled receptors drive biphasic dopamine transporter trafficking that modulates dopamine clearance and motor function

    Kearney, Patrick J; Bolden, Nicholas C; Kahuno, Elizabeth; Conklin, Tucker L; Martin, Gilles E; Lubec, Gert; Melikian, Haley E (2023-01-12)
    Extracellular dopamine (DA) levels are constrained by the presynaptic DA transporter (DAT), a major psychostimulant target. Despite its necessity for DA neurotransmission, DAT regulation in situ is poorly understood, and it is unknown whether regulated DAT trafficking impacts dopaminergic signaling and/or behaviors. Leveraging chemogenetics and conditional gene silencing, we found that activating presynaptic Gq-coupled receptors, either hM3Dq or mGlu5, drove rapid biphasic DAT membrane trafficking in ex vivo striatal slices, with region-specific differences between ventral and dorsal striata. DAT insertion required D2 DA autoreceptors and intact retromer, whereas DAT retrieval required PKC activation and Rit2. Ex vivo voltammetric studies revealed that DAT trafficking impacts DA clearance. Furthermore, dopaminergic mGlu5 silencing elevated DAT surface expression and abolished motor learning, which was rescued by inhibiting DAT with a subthreshold CE-158 dose. We discovered that presynaptic DAT trafficking is complex, multimodal, and region specific, and for the first time, we identified cell autonomous mechanisms that govern presynaptic DAT tone. Importantly, the findings are consistent with a role for regulated DAT trafficking in DA clearance and motor function.
  • A comparative analysis of microglial inducible Cre lines [preprint]

    Faust, Travis E; Feinberg, Philip A; O'Connor, Ciara; Kawaguchi, Riki; Chan, Andrew; Strasburger, Haley; Masuda, Takahiro; Amann, Lukas; Knobeloch, Klaus-Peter; Prinz, Marco; et al. (2023-01-09)
    Cre/LoxP technology has revolutionized genetic studies and allowed for spatial and temporal control of gene expression in specific cell types. The field of microglial biology has particularly benefited from this technology as microglia have historically been difficult to transduce with virus or electroporation methods for gene delivery. Here, we interrogate four of the most widely available microglial inducible Cre lines. We demonstrate varying degrees of recombination efficiency and spontaneous recombination, depending on the Cre line and loxP distance. We also establish best practice guidelines and protocols to measure recombination efficiency in microglia, which could be extended to other cell types. There is increasing evidence that microglia are key regulators of neural circuit structure and function. Microglia are also major drivers of a broad range of neurological diseases. Thus, reliable manipulation of their function in vivo is of utmost importance. Identifying caveats and benefits of all tools and implementing the most rigorous protocols are crucial to the growth of the field of microglial biology and the development of microglia-based therapeutics.
  • Binge alcohol drinking alters the differential control of cholinergic interneurons over nucleus accumbens D1 and D2 medium spiny neurons

    Kolpakova, Jenya; van der Vinne, Vincent; Giménez-Gómez, Pablo; Le, Timmy; Martin, Gilles E (2022-12-15)
    Animals studies support the notion that striatal cholinergic interneurons (ChIs) play a central role in basal ganglia function by regulating associative learning, reward processing, and motor control. In the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region that mediates rewarding properties of substance abuse, acetylcholine regulates glutamatergic, dopaminergic, and GABAergic neurotransmission in naïve mice. However, it is unclear how ChIs orchestrate the control of these neurotransmitters/modulators to determine the synaptic excitability of medium spiny neurons (MSNs), the only projecting neurons that translate accumbens electrical activity into behavior. Also unknown is the impact of binge alcohol drinking on the regulation of dopamine D1- and D2 receptor-expressing MSNs (D1- and D2-MSNs, respectively) by ChIs. To investigate this question, we optogenetically stimulated ChIs while recording evoked and spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) in nucleus accumbens core D1- and D2-MSN of ChAT.ChR2.eYFPxDrd1.tdtomato mice. In alcohol-naïve mice, we found that stimulating NAc ChIs decreased sEPSCs frequency in both D1- and D2-MSNs, presumably through a presynaptic mechanism. Interestingly, ChI stimulation decreased MSN synaptic excitability through different mechanisms in D1- vs. D2-MSNs. While decrease of ChI-mediated sEPSCs frequency in D1-MSNs was mediated by dopamine, the same effect in D2-MSNs resulted from a direct control of glutamate release by ChIs. Interestingly, after 2 weeks of binge alcohol drinking, optogenetic stimulation of ChIs enhanced glutamate release in D1-MSNs, while its effect on D2-MSNs remained unchanged. Taken together, these data suggest that cholinergic interneurons could be a key target for regulation of NAc circuitry and for alcohol consumption.
  • Deconstructing the Nervous System: Transcriptional Mechanisms Sculpting Neuronal Connectivity in C. elegans

    Alexander, Kellianne (2022-12-08)
    An important step in brain development is the active remodeling of neural circuits, however the molecular mechanisms directing circuit refinement and their timing are not fully understood. Defects in synaptic refinement has been linked with several neuropsychiatric disorders, yet we have an incomplete understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved. In this thesis I am investigating synaptic remodeling using the motor circuit of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as a model. A subset of GABAergic motor neurons, the dorsal D-class (DD) neurons, undergo an interesting form of remodeling where the axonal and dendritic domains switch during circuit development. This process requires eliminating juvenile synaptic connections and forming new synaptic contacts to establish the adult circuit. In this work, I identify a conserved transcriptional regulator, DVE-1, that directs the elimination of synaptic inputs onto remodeling C. elegans GABAergic neurons. Dorsally localized juvenile acetylcholine receptor clusters and apposing presynaptic cholinergic vesicle clusters that are normally eliminated during wild type maturation, persist into adulthood in dve-1 mutants. Failure in synapse elimination leads to altered motor function, specifically a turning bias during movement, indicating that altered synaptic activity impacts mature circuit function in dve-1 mutants. Furthermore, I investigated DVE-1 transcriptional regulation of synapse elimination. DVE-1 is localized to GABAergic neuron nuclei prior to remodeling and disruption of DVE-1 nuclear localization impairs synapse elimination, suggesting cell-autonomous regulation of synapse elimination. Transcriptome analysis of dve-1 mutants identified striking changes in GABA neuron expressed genes governing cytoskeletal organization and proteostasis, suggesting DVE-1 promotes synapse elimination through transcriptional regulation of these pathways. Temporally regulated expression of the Ig domain protein OIG-1 stabilizes synapses prior to remodeling. Synapse elimination occurs precociously in oig-1 mutants, but is delayed in oig-1;dve-1 double mutants, suggesting that mature connectivity is sculpted through the convergence of constitutive DVE-1-regulated pro-degenerative mechanisms and parallel-acting temporally regulated maintenance processes. Further, I investigated the role of a downstream target of DVE-1 revealed from my transcriptome analysis, calcineurin B/cnb-1. I find that cnb-1 acts cell-autonomously to promote synapse elimination. Together my work begins to uncover a previously unknown transcriptional network driving synaptic refinement and expect that ongoing studies of transcriptional control of synapse elimination by DVE-1 will illuminate conserved genetic mechanisms controlling synapse removal during circuit development.
  • Investigating the Molecular Mechanisms of Toxicity in Mouse Models of Frontotemporal Dementia

    Daly, Luke R (2022-11-28)
    Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) is the most common form of presenile dementia and is characterized by impaired cognitive function, behavioral changes, or non-fluent speech aphasia. The most common genetic cause of FTD is a hexanucleotide GGGGCC (G4C2) repeat expansion in the C9orf72 gene (C9orf72-HRE). This thesis outlines a series of in vivo and in vitro experiments undertaken to investigate the molecular mechanisms of toxicity contributing to FTD pathogenesis. In my efforts to characterize the neuroinflammation observed in our Poly(Glycine-Arginine) mouse model of FTD, I found Fkbp5 - a gene our lab previously identified as a modulator of Poly(GR) toxicity - to be significantly downregulated in the cortex of Poly(GR) animals relative to controls. Published RNA sequencing data suggests that Fkbp5 is most highly expressed in microglia of the mammalian brain. However, despite its importance in a variety of neurological disorders, very little is known about the specific role fkbp5 plays in microglia. Data presented in this thesis implicate Fkbp5 as an important modulator of neuroinflammatory signaling and Poly(GR) toxicity. Here, I outline the breeding scheme I devised to generate a novel genetic tool to further untangle the role Fkbp5 may be playing in neuroinflammation and C9orf72 pathogenesis. In additional efforts to investigate the molecular underpinnings of C9orf72 pathology, I contributed to the characterization of a novel AAV9 model of C9orf72-HRE developed by our collaborators at SUNY Upstate Medical University.
  • The homeodomain transcriptional regulator DVE-1 directs a program for synapse elimination during circuit remodeling [preprint]

    Alexander, Kellianne D; Ramachandran, Shankar; Biswas, Kasturi; Lambert, Christopher M; Russell, Julia; Oliver, Devyn B; Armstrong, William; Rettler, Monika; Doitsidou, Maria; Bénard, Claire; et al. (2022-11-10)
    An important step in brain development is the remodeling of juvenile neural circuits to establish mature connectivity. The elimination of juvenile synapses is a critical step in this process; however, the molecular mechanisms directing synapse elimination activities and their timing are not fully understood. We identify here a conserved transcriptional regulator, DVE-1, that shares homology with mammalian special AT-rich sequence-binding (SATB) family members and directs the elimination of juvenile synaptic inputs onto remodeling C. elegans GABAergic neurons. Dorsally localized juvenile acetylcholine receptor clusters and apposing presynaptic sites are eliminated during maturation of wild type GABAergic neurons but persist into adulthood in dve-1 mutants. The persistence of juvenile synapses in dve-1 mutants does not impede synaptic growth during GABAergic remodeling and therefore produces heightened motor connectivity and a turning bias during movement. DVE-1 is localized to GABAergic nuclei prior to and during remodeling and DVE-1 nuclear localization is required for synapse elimination to proceed, consistent with DVE-1’s function as a transcriptional regulator. Pathway analysis of DVE-1 targets and proteasome inhibitor experiments implicate transcriptional control of the ubiquitin-proteasome system in synapse elimination. Together, our findings demonstrate a new role for a SATB family member in the control of synapse elimination during circuit remodeling through transcriptional regulation of ubiquitin-proteasome signaling. Contributions Summary KDA generated strains, transgenic lines, molecular constructs, confocal microscopy images and analysis, performed optogenetic behavioral experiments, photoconversion experiments, modencode ChIP-seq analysis and pathway analysis. SR performed all calcium imaging experiments/analysis and conducted single worm tracking. KB performed all Bortezomib inhibitor experiments and analysis. CL generated most vectors and constructs. JR assisted with generation of CRISPR/Cas9 generated strains. WA and MR assisted with aldicarb behavioral assay. DO assisted with EMS screen and isolation of dve-1 mutant. CB and MD aided in CloudMap bioinformatic analysis of the uf171 mutant. MMF and KDA designed and interpreted results of all experiments and wrote the manuscript.
  • Microglia are SYK of Aβ and cell debris

    Schafer, Dorothy P; Stillman, Jacob M (2022-10-27)
    During neurodegenerative disease, resident CNS macrophages termed "microglia" assume a neuroprotective role and engulf toxic protein aggregates and cell debris. In this issue of Cell, two groups independently show how spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) acts downstream of microglial surface receptors to propagate this neuroprotective program in vivo.
  • Shear stress activates nociceptors to drive Drosophila mechanical nociception

    Gong, Jiaxin; Chen, Jiazhang; Gu, Pengyu; Shang, Ye; Ruppell, Kendra Takle; Yang, Ying; Wang, Fei; Wen, Qi; Xiang, Yang (2022-09-02)
    Mechanical nociception is essential for animal survival. However, the forces involved in nociceptor activation and the underlying mechanotransduction mechanisms remain elusive. Here, we address these problems by investigating nocifensive behavior in Drosophila larvae. We show that strong poking stimulates nociceptors with a mixture of forces including shear stress and stretch. Unexpectedly, nociceptors are selectively activated by shear stress, but not stretch. Both the shear stress responses of nociceptors and nocifensive behavior require transient receptor potential A1 (TrpA1), which is specifically expressed in nociceptors. We further demonstrate that expression of mammalian or Drosophila TrpA1 in heterologous cells confers responses to shear stress but not stretch. Finally, shear stress activates TrpA1 in a membrane-delimited manner, through modulation of membrane fluidity. Together, our study reveals TrpA1 as an evolutionarily conserved mechanosensitive channel specifically activated by shear stress and suggests a critical role of shear stress in activating nociceptors to drive mechanical nociception.
  • Investigating Proteolytic Processing of Ataxin 2, a Neurodegenerative Disease Associated Protein

    Chitre, Monika (2022-08-08)
    Ataxin 2 (ATXN2) is a ubiquitously expressed mRNA binding protein involved in the development and progression of spinocerebellar ataxia 2 (SCA2) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In the context of both neurodegenerative diseases, its N-terminal polyglutamine (polyQ) domain is mutated and expanded in length. Several other polyQ proteins, such as huntingtin (Htt), ataxin 3 (ATXN3), and ataxin 7 (ATXN7), undergo proteolytic processing that produces toxic fragments containing their polyQ domains. Investigating how ATXN2 is regulated by proteolysis is hindered by the lack of available molecular biological tools such as N-terminal ATXN2 antibodies to target and analyze the endogenous N-terminus of ATXN2. To circumvent this challenge, I developed a transient overexpression model of N-terminally tagged ATXN2 in HEK293E cells. Here, I demonstrate that both wild-type and mutant ATXN2 are targets of N-terminal proteolysis. I confirmed that ATXN2 produces an independent polyQ cleavage fragment like other polyQ proteins through basic molecular biology approaches such as Western blotting and immunoprecipitation. Additionally, I identified the specific region that is both necessary and sufficient for cleavage to occur via deletion mapping with multiple truncated ATXN2 mutants and reporter constructs. Further definition of ATXN2 as a target of proteolytic cleavage aligns it with other neurodegenerative polyQ proteins, and proteolysis is currently a less explored avenue of research for ATXN2-related disease development, progression, and therapeutic modalities. This work reveals a novel site that directs cleavage of ATXN2 and provides a potential avenue of investigation for how ATXN2 posttranslational modifications contribute to the progression of SCA2 and ALS.
  • Validation of DREADD agonists and administration route in a murine model of sleep enhancement

    Ferrari, Loris L; Ogbeide-Latario, Oghomwen E; Gompf, Heinrich S; Anaclet, Christelle (2022-07-30)
    Chemogenetics is a powerful tool to study the role of specific neuronal populations in physiology and diseases. Of particular interest, in mice, acute and specific activation of parafacial zone (PZ) GABAergic neurons expressing the Designer Receptors Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADD) hM3Dq (PZGABA-hM3Dq) enhances slow-wave-sleep (SWS), and this effect lasts for up to 6 h, allowing prolonged and detailed study of SWS. However, the most widely used DREADDs ligand, clozapine N-oxide (CNO), is metabolized into clozapine which has the potential of inducing non-specific effects. In addition, CNO is usually injected intraperitoneally (IP) in mice, limiting the number and frequency of repeated administration.

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