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Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) are a leading cause of disability and can severely impact the quality of life. However, to date, the processes of spontaneous repair of damaged spinal cord remain incompletely understood, partly due to a lack of appropriate longitudinal tracking methods. Noninvasive, multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides potential biomarkers for the comprehensive evaluation of spontaneous repair after SCI. In this study in rats, a clinically relevant contusion injury was introduced at the lumbar level that impairs both hindlimb motor and sensory functions. Quantitative MRI measurements were acquired at baseline and serially post-SCI for up to 2 wk. The progressions of injury and spontaneous recovery in both white and gray matter were tracked longitudinally using pool-size ratio (PSR) measurements derived from quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT) methods, measurements of water diffusion parameters using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and intrasegment functional connectivity derived from resting state functional MRI. Changes in these quantitative imaging measurements were correlated with behavioral readouts. We found (a) a progressive decrease in PSR values within 2 wk post-SCI, indicating a progressive demyelination at the center of the injury that was validated with histological staining, (b) PSR correlated closely with fractional anisotropy and transverse relaxation of free water, but did not show significant correlations with behavioral recovery, and (c) preliminary evidence that SCI induced a decrease in functional connectivity between dorsal horns below the injury site at 24 h. Findings from this study not only confirm the value of qMT and DTI methods for assessing the myelination state of injured spinal cord but indicate that they may also have further implications on whether therapies targeted towards remyelination may be appropriate. Additionally, a better understanding of changes after SCI provides valuable information to guide and assess interventions.
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Discovery of genotype-phenotype relationships remains a major challenge in clinical medicine. Here, we combined three sources of phenotypic data to uncover a new mechanism for rare and common diseases resulting from collagen secretion deficits. Using a zebrafish genetic screen, we identified the ric1 gene as being essential for skeletal biology. Using a gene-based phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) in the EHR-linked BioVU biobank, we show that reduced genetically determined expression of RIC1 is associated with musculoskeletal and dental conditions. Whole-exome sequencing identified individuals homozygous-by-descent for a rare variant in RIC1 and, through a guided clinical re-evaluation, it was discovered that they share signs with the BioVU-associated phenome. We named this new Mendelian syndrome CATIFA (cleft lip, cataract, tooth abnormality, intellectual disability, facial dysmorphism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and revealed further disease mechanisms. This gene-based, PheWAS-guided approach can accelerate the discovery of clinically relevant disease phenome and associated biological mechanisms.
Whenever we open our eyes, our brain quickly integrates the two eyes' perspectives into a combined view. This process of binocular integration happens so rapidly that even incompatible stimuli are briefly fused before one eye's view is suppressed in favor of the other (binocular rivalry). The neuronal basis for this brief period of fusion during incompatible binocular stimulation is unclear. Neuroanatomically, the eyes provide two largely separate streams of information that are integrated into a binocular response by the primary visual cortex (V1). However, the temporal dynamics underlying the formation of this binocular response are largely unknown. To address this question, we examined the temporal profile of binocular responses in V1 of fixating monkeys. We found that V1 processes binocular stimuli in a dynamic sequence that comprises at least two distinct temporal phases. An initial transient phase is characterized by enhanced spiking responses for both compatible and incompatible binocular stimuli compared to monocular stimulation. This transient is followed by a sustained response that differed markedly between congruent and incongruent binocular stimulation. Specifically, incompatible binocular stimulation resulted in overall response reduction relative to monocular stimulation (binocular suppression). In contrast, responses to compatible stimuli were either suppressed or enhanced (binocular facilitation) depending on the neurons' ocularity (selectivity for one eye over the other) and laminar location. These results suggest that binocular integration in V1 occurs in at least two sequential steps that comprise initial additive combination of the two eyes' signals followed by widespread differentiation between binocular concordance and discordance.
PURPOSE - This study aims to systematically evaluate the accuracy and precision of pool size ratio (PSR) measurements from quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT) acquisitions using simplified models in the context of assessing injury-associated spatiotemporal changes in spinal cords of non-human primates. This study also aims to characterize changes in the spinal tissue pathology in individual subjects, both regionally and longitudinally, in order to demonstrate the relationship between regional tissue compositional changes and sensorimotor behavioral recovery after cervical spinal cord injury (SCI).
METHODS - MRI scans were recorded on anesthetized monkeys at 9.4 T, before and serially after a unilateral section of the dorsal column tract. Images were acquired following saturating RF pulses at different offset frequencies. Models incorporating two pools of protons but with differing numbers of variable parameters were used to fit the data to derive qMT parameters. The results using different amounts of measured data and assuming different numbers of variable model parameters were compared. Behavioral impairments and recovery were assessed by a food grasping-retrieving task. Histological sections were obtained post mortem for validation of the injury.
RESULTS - QMT fitting provided maps of pool size ratio (PSR), the relative amounts of immobilized protons exchanging magnetization compared to the "free" water. All the selected modeling approaches detected a lesion/cyst at the site of injury as significant reductions in PSR values. The regional contrasts in the PSR maps obtained using the different fittings varied, but the 2-parameter fitting results showed strong positive correlations with results from 5-parameter modeling. 2-parameter fitting results with modest (>3) RF offsets showed comparable sensitivity for detecting demyelination in white matter and loss of macromolecules in gray matter around lesion sites compared to 5-parameter fitting with fully-sampled data acquisitions. Histology confirmed that decreases of PSR corresponded to regional demyelination around lesion sites, especially when demyelination occurred along the dorsal column on the injury side. Longitudinally, PSR values of injured dorsal column tract and gray matter horns exhibited remarkable recovery that associated with behavioral improvement.
CONCLUSION - Simplified qMT modeling approaches provide efficient and sensitive means to detect and characterize injury-associated demyelination in white matter tracts and loss of macromolecules in gray matter and to monitor its recovery over time.
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) coordinates behavioral responses to stress through a variety of presynaptic and postsynaptic receptors distributed across functionally diverse neuronal networks in the central nervous system. Efferent 5-HT projections from the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) are generally thought to enhance anxiety and aversive learning by activating 5-HT receptor (5-HTR) signaling in the BNST, although an opposing role for postsynaptic 5-HT receptors has recently been suggested. In the present study, we sought to delineate a role for postsynaptic 5-HT receptors in the BNST in aversive behaviors using a conditional knockdown of the 5-HT receptor. Both males and females were tested to dissect out sex-specific effects. We found that male mice have significantly reduced fear memory recall relative to female mice and inactivation of 5-HT receptor in the BNST increases contextual fear conditioning in male mice so that they resemble the females. This coincided with an increase in neuronal excitability in males, suggesting that 5-HT receptor deletion may enhance contextual fear recall by disinhibiting fear memory circuits in the BNST. Interestingly, 5-HT receptor knockdown did not significantly alter anxiety-like behavior in male or female mice, which is in agreement with previous findings that anxiety and fear are modulated by dissociable circuits in the BNST. Overall, these results suggest that BNST 5-HT receptors do not significantly alter behavior under basal conditions, but can act as a molecular brake that buffer against excessive activation of aversive circuits in more threatening contexts.
The K-Cl cotransporter KCC2 is essential in the development of the "GABA switch" that produces a change in neuronal responses to GABA signaling from excitatory to inhibitory early in brain development, and alterations in this progression have previously been hypothesized to play a causal role in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). We investigated the KCC2b (Slc12a5) heterozygous knockout mouse using a battery of rodent behavioral tests relevant to core and comorbid ASD symptoms. Compared to wild-type littermates, KCC2 mice were normal in standard measures of locomotor activity, grooming and digging behaviors, and social, vocalization, and anxiety-like behaviors. However, KCC2 mice exhibited increased social dominance behaviors and increased amplitude of spontaneous postsynaptic currents in the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) that were previously implicated in governing social hierarchy and dominance behaviors. Treatment of wild-type mouse brain slices with the KCC2 inhibitor VU0240511 increased the amplitude and frequency of excitatory postsynaptic currents, partially recapitulating the phenotype of KCC2 mice. These findings indicate that the activity of KCC2 plays a role in social dominance, in parallel with effects on PFC signaling, further suggesting that KCC2 function has some relevance to social behavior but without the breadth of impact on autism-like behavior suggested by previous studies. Further testing could assess whether KCC2 alters other circuits and whether additional factors such as environmental insults may precipitate autism-related behavioral phenotypes. Autism Research 2019, 12: 732-743. © 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. LAY SUMMARY: A mouse model of altered chloride transporter expression was used to look for a role in behaviors and brain function relevant to autism. There was an imbalance in signaling in the prefrontal cortex, and increased social dominance behavior, although other autism-related behaviors were not changed. These findings indicate that altered chloride transporter function affects prefrontal cortex function and social dominance without a broader impact on autism-like behaviors.
© 2019 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE - G protein-gated inwardly rectifying K (K 3) channels moderate the activity of excitable cells and have been implicated in neurological disorders and cardiac arrhythmias. Most neuronal K 3 channels consist of K 3.1 and K 3.2 subtypes, while cardiac K 3 channels consist of K 3.1 and K 3.4 subtypes. Previously, we identified a family of urea-containing K 3 channel activators, but these molecules exhibit suboptimal pharmacokinetic properties and modest selectivity for K 3.1/3.2 relative to K 3.1/3.4 channels. Here, we characterize a non-urea activator, VU0810464, which displays nanomolar potency as a K 3.1/3.2 activator, improved selectivity for neuronal K 3 channels, and improved brain penetration.
EXPERIMENTAL APPROACH - We used whole-cell electrophysiology to measure the efficacy and potency of VU0810464 in neurons and the selectivity of VU0810464 for neuronal and cardiac K 3 channel subtypes. We tested VU0810464 in vivo in stress-induced hyperthermia and elevated plus maze paradigms. Parallel studies with ML297, the prototypical activator of K 3.1-containing K 3 channels, were performed to permit direct comparisons.
KEY RESULTS - VU0810464 and ML297 exhibited comparable efficacy and potency as neuronal K 3 channel activators, but VU0810464 was more selective for neuronal K 3 channels. VU0810464, like ML297, reduced stress-induced hyperthermia in a K 3-dependent manner in mice. ML297, but not VU0810464, decreased anxiety-related behaviour as assessed with the elevated plus maze test.
CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS - VU0810464 represents a new class of K 3 channel activator with enhanced selectivity for K 3.1/3.2 channels. VU0810464 may be useful for examining K 3.1/3.2 channel contributions to complex behaviours and for probing the potential of K 3 channel-dependent manipulations to treat neurological disorders.
© 2019 The British Pharmacological Society.
Dopamine (DA) signaling dysfunction is believed to contribute to multiple neuropsychiatric disorders including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The rare DA transporter (DAT) coding substitution Ala559Val found in subjects with ADHD, bipolar disorder and autism, promotes anomalous DA efflux in vitro and, in DAT Val559 mice, leads to increased reactivity to imminent handling, waiting impulsivity, and enhanced motivation for reward. Here, we report that, in contrast to amphetamine and methylphenidate, which induce significant locomotor activation, cocaine administration to these mice elicits no locomotor effects, despite retention of conditioned place preference (CPP). Additionally, cocaine fails to elevate extracellular DA. Given that amphetamine and methylphenidate, unlike cocaine, lack high-affinity interactions with the serotonin (5-HT) transporter (SERT), we hypothesized that the lack of cocaine-induced hyperlocomotion in DAT Val559 mice arises from SERT blockade and augmented 5-HT signaling relative to cocaine actions on wildtype animals. Consistent with this idea, the SERT blocker fluoxetine abolished methylphenidate-induced locomotor activity in DAT Val559 mice, mimicking the effects seen with cocaine. Additionally, a cocaine analog (RTI-113) with greater selectivity for DAT over SERT retains locomotor activation in DAT Val559 mice. Furthermore, genetic elimination of high-affinity cocaine interactions at SERT in DAT Val559 mice, or specific inhibition of 5-HT receptors in these animals, restored cocaine-induced locomotion, but did not restore cocaine-induced elevations of extracellular DA. Our findings reveal a significant serotonergic plasticity arising in the DAT Val559 model that involves enhanced 5-HT signaling, acting independently of striatal DA release, capable of suppressing the activity of cocaine-sensitive motor circuits.
Negative affect is a core symptom domain associated with an array of neurological and psychiatric disorders and is only partially targeted by current therapies, highlighting the need for better, more targeted treatment options. This study focuses on negative affective symptoms associated with prolonged alcohol abstinence, one of the leading causes of relapse. Using a mouse model of chronic alcohol consumption followed by forced abstinence (CDFA), prolonged alcohol abstinence increased c-fos expression and spontaneous glutamatergic neurotransmission in the dorsal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (dBNST), a region heavily implicated in negative affect in both humans and rodents. Further, pharmacologically enhancing endogenous cannabinoids (eCB) with JZL184 prevents abstinence-induced increases in dBNST neuronal activity, underscoring the therapeutic potential of drugs targeting the brain's eCB system. Next, we used a channelrhodopsin-assisted mapping strategy to identify excitatory inputs to the dBNST that could contribute to CDFA-induced negative affect. We identified the insular cortex (insula), a region involved in regulating interoception, as a dense, functional, eCB-sensitive input to the dBNST. Using a chemogenetic strategy to locally mimic eCB signaling, we demonstrate that the insula strongly influences the CDFA behavioral phenotype and dBNST neuronal activity. Lastly, we used an anterograde strategy for transynaptic targeting of Cre expression in combination with a G-DREADD to selectively recruit dBNST neurons receiving insula projections. Chemogenetic recruitment of these neurons mimicked behavioral and c-fos responses observed in CDFA. Collectively, this study supports a role for the insula-BNST neural circuit in negative affective disturbances and highlights the therapeutic potential of the eCB system for treating negative affective disorders.
CHIP (carboxyl terminus of heat shock 70-interacting protein) has long been recognized as an active member of the cellular protein quality control system given the ability of CHIP to function as both a co-chaperone and ubiquitin ligase. We discovered a genetic disease, now known as spinocerebellar autosomal recessive 16 (SCAR16), resulting from a coding mutation that caused a loss of CHIP ubiquitin ligase function. The initial mutation describing SCAR16 was a missense mutation in the ubiquitin ligase domain of CHIP (p.T246M). Using multiple biophysical and cellular approaches, we demonstrated that T246M mutation results in structural disorganization and misfolding of the CHIP U-box domain, promoting oligomerization, and increased proteasome-dependent turnover. CHIP-T246M has no ligase activity, but maintains interactions with chaperones and chaperone-related functions. To establish preclinical models of SCAR16, we engineered T246M at the endogenous locus in both mice and rats. Animals homozygous for T246M had both cognitive and motor cerebellar dysfunction distinct from those observed in the CHIP null animal model, as well as deficits in learning and memory, reflective of the cognitive deficits reported in SCAR16 patients. We conclude that the T246M mutation is not equivalent to the total loss of CHIP, supporting the concept that disease-causing CHIP mutations have different biophysical and functional repercussions on CHIP function that may directly correlate to the spectrum of clinical phenotypes observed in SCAR16 patients. Our findings both further expand our basic understanding of CHIP biology and provide meaningful mechanistic insight underlying the molecular drivers of SCAR16 disease pathology, which may be used to inform the development of novel therapeutics for this devastating disease.