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Hilar mossy cells (HMCs) in the hippocampus receive glutamatergic input from dentate granule cells (DGCs) via mossy fibers (MFs) and back-projections from CA3 pyramidal neuron collateral axons. Many fundamental features of these excitatory synapses have not been characterized in detail despite their potential relevance to hippocampal cognitive processing and epilepsy-induced adaptations in circuit excitability. In this study, we compared pre- and postsynaptic parameters between MF and CA3 inputs to HMCs in young and adult mice of either sex and determined the relative contributions of the respective excitatory inputs during and models of hippocampal hyperexcitability. The two types of excitatory synapses both exhibited a modest degree of short-term plasticity, with MF inputs to HMCs exhibiting lower paired-pulse (PP) and frequency facilitation than was described previously for MF-CA3 pyramidal cell synapses. MF-HMC synapses exhibited unitary excitatory synaptic currents (EPSCs) of larger amplitude, contained postsynaptic kainate receptors, and had a lower NMDA/AMPA receptor ratio compared to CA3-HMC synapses. Pharmacological induction of hippocampal hyperexcitability transformed the abundant but relatively weak CA3-HMC connections to very large amplitude spontaneous bursts of compound EPSCs (cEPSCs) in young mice (∼P20) and, to a lesser degree, in adult mice (∼P70). CA3-HMC cEPSCs were also observed in slices prepared from mice with spontaneous seizures several weeks after intrahippocampal kainate injection. Strong excitation of HMCs during synchronous CA3 activity represents an avenue of significant excitatory network generation back to DGCs and might be important in generating epileptic networks.
BACKGROUND - Increasing the available repertoire of effective treatments for mood and anxiety disorders represents a critical unmet need. Pharmacological augmentation of endogenous cannabinoid (eCB) signaling has been suggested to represent a novel approach to the treatment of anxiety disorders; however, the functional interactions between two canonical eCB pathways mediated via anandamide (N-arachidonylethanolamine [AEA]) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in the regulation of anxiety are not well understood.
METHODS - We utilized pharmacological augmentation and depletion combined with behavioral and electrophysiological approaches to probe the role of 2-AG signaling in the modulation of stress-induced anxiety and the functional redundancy between AEA and 2-AG signaling in the modulation of anxiety-like behaviors in mice.
RESULTS - Selective 2-AG augmentation reduced anxiety in the light/dark box assay and prevented stress-induced increases in anxiety associated with limbic AEA deficiency. In contrast, acute 2-AG depletion increased anxiety-like behaviors, which was normalized by selective pharmacological augmentation of AEA signaling and via direct cannabinoid receptor 1 stimulation with Δ-tetrahydrocannabinol. Electrophysiological studies revealed 2-AG modulation of amygdala glutamatergic transmission as a key synaptic correlate of the anxiolytic effects of 2-AG augmentation.
CONCLUSIONS - Although AEA and 2-AG likely subserve distinct physiological roles, a pharmacological and functional redundancy between these canonical eCB signaling pathways exists in the modulation of anxiety-like behaviors. These data support development of eCB-based treatment approaches for mood and anxiety disorders and suggest a potentially wider therapeutic overlap between AEA and 2-AG augmentation approaches than was previously appreciated.
Copyright © 2017 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Voltage-gated Ca1.2 and Ca1.3 (L-type) Ca channels regulate neuronal excitability, synaptic plasticity, and learning and memory. Densin-180 (densin) is an excitatory synaptic protein that promotes Ca-dependent facilitation of voltage-gated Ca1.3 Ca channels in transfected cells. Mice lacking densin (densin KO) exhibit defects in synaptic plasticity, spatial memory, and increased anxiety-related behaviors-phenotypes that more closely match those in mice lacking Ca1.2 than Ca1.3. Therefore, we investigated the functional impact of densin on Ca1.2. We report that densin is an essential regulator of Ca1.2 in neurons, but has distinct modulatory effects compared with its regulation of Ca1.3. Densin binds to the N-terminal domain of Ca1.2, but not that of Ca1.3, and increases Ca1.2 currents in transfected cells and in neurons. In transfected cells, densin accelerates the forward trafficking of Ca1.2 channels without affecting their endocytosis. Consistent with a role for densin in increasing the number of postsynaptic Ca1.2 channels, overexpression of densin increases the clustering of Ca1.2 in dendrites of hippocampal neurons in culture. Compared with wild-type mice, the cell surface levels of Ca1.2 in the brain, as well as Ca1.2 current density and signaling to the nucleus, are reduced in neurons from densin KO mice. We conclude that densin is an essential regulator of neuronal Ca1 channels and ensures efficient Ca1.2 Ca signaling at excitatory synapses. The number and localization of voltage-gated Ca Ca channels are crucial determinants of neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission. We report that the protein densin-180 is highly enriched at excitatory synapses in the brain and enhances the cell surface trafficking and postsynaptic localization of Ca1.2 L-type Ca channels in neurons. This interaction promotes coupling of Ca1.2 channels to activity-dependent gene transcription. Our results reveal a mechanism that may contribute to the roles of Ca1.2 in regulating cognition and mood.
Copyright © 2017 the authors 0270-6474/17/374679-13$15.00/0.
Stress is a ubiquitous risk factor for the exacerbation and development of affective disorders including major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Understanding the neurobiological mechanisms conferring resilience to the adverse consequences of stress could have broad implications for the treatment and prevention of mood and anxiety disorders. We utilize laboratory mice and their innate inter-individual differences in stress-susceptibility to demonstrate a critical role for the endogenous cannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in stress-resilience. Specifically, systemic 2-AG augmentation is associated with a stress-resilient phenotype and enhances resilience in previously susceptible mice, while systemic 2-AG depletion or CB1 receptor blockade increases susceptibility in previously resilient mice. Moreover, stress-resilience is associated with increased phasic 2-AG-mediated synaptic suppression at ventral hippocampal-amygdala glutamatergic synapses and amygdala-specific 2-AG depletion impairs successful adaptation to repeated stress. These data indicate amygdala 2-AG signalling mechanisms promote resilience to adverse effects of acute traumatic stress and facilitate adaptation to repeated stress exposure.
The dorsolateral striatum is critically involved in movement control and motor learning. Striatal function is regulated by a variety of neuromodulators including acetylcholine. Previous studies have shown that cholinergic activation excites striatal principal projection neurons, medium spiny neurons (MSNs), and this action is mediated by muscarinic acetylcholine subtype 1 receptors (M) through modulating multiple potassium channels. In the present study, we used electrophysiology techniques in conjunction with optogenetic and pharmacological tools to determine the long-term effects of striatal cholinergic activation on MSN intrinsic excitability. A transient increase in acetylcholine release in the striatum by optogenetic stimulation resulted in a long-lasting increase in excitability of MSNs, which was associated with hyperpolarizing shift of action potential threshold and decrease in afterhyperpolarization (AHP) amplitude, leading to an increase in probability of EPSP-action potential coupling. The M selective antagonist VU0255035 prevented, while the M selective positive allosteric modulator (PAM) VU0453595 potentiated the cholinergic activation-induced persistent increase in MSN intrinsic excitability, suggesting that M receptors are critically involved in the induction of this long-lasting response. This M receptor-dependent long-lasting change in MSN intrinsic excitability could have significant impact on striatal processing and might provide a novel mechanism underlying cholinergic regulation of the striatum-dependent motor learning and cognitive function. Consistent with this, behavioral studies indicate that potentiation of M receptor signaling by VU0453595 enhanced performance of mice in cue-dependent water-based T-maze, a dorsolateral striatum-dependent learning task.
Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Characterizing the functional impact of novel mutations linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) provides a deeper mechanistic understanding of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms. Here we show that a Glu183 to Val (E183V) mutation in the CaMKIIα catalytic domain, identified in a proband diagnosed with ASD, decreases both CaMKIIα substrate phosphorylation and regulatory autophosphorylation, and that the mutated kinase acts in a dominant-negative manner to reduce CaMKIIα-WT autophosphorylation. The E183V mutation also reduces CaMKIIα binding to established ASD-linked proteins, such as Shank3 and subunits of l-type calcium channels and NMDA receptors, and increases CaMKIIα turnover in intact cells. In cultured neurons, the E183V mutation reduces CaMKIIα targeting to dendritic spines. Moreover, neuronal expression of CaMKIIα-E183V increases dendritic arborization and decreases both dendritic spine density and excitatory synaptic transmission. Mice with a knock-in CaMKIIα-E183V mutation have lower total forebrain CaMKIIα levels, with reduced targeting to synaptic subcellular fractions. The CaMKIIα-E183V mice also display aberrant behavioral phenotypes, including hyperactivity, social interaction deficits, and increased repetitive behaviors. Together, these data suggest that CaMKIIα plays a previously unappreciated role in ASD-related synaptic and behavioral phenotypes. Many autism spectrum disorder (ASD)-linked mutations disrupt the function of synaptic proteins, but no single gene accounts for >1% of total ASD cases. The molecular networks and mechanisms that couple the primary deficits caused by these individual mutations to core behavioral symptoms of ASD remain poorly understood. Here, we provide the first characterization of a mutation in the gene encoding CaMKIIα linked to a specific neuropsychiatric disorder. Our findings demonstrate that this ASD-linked mutation disrupts multiple CaMKII functions, induces synaptic deficits, and causes ASD-related behavioral alterations, providing novel insights into the synaptic mechanisms contributing to ASD.
Copyright © 2017 the authors 0270-6474/17/372217-18$15.00/0.
The endogenous cannabinoid (eCB) system has been suggested to play a key role in ethanol preference and intake, the acute effects of ethanol, and in the development of withdrawal symptoms following ethanol dependence. Ethanol-dependent alterations in glutamatergic signaling within the lateral/basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) are critical for the development and expression of withdrawal-induced anxiety. Notably, the eCB system significantly regulates both glutamatergic and GABAergic synaptic activity within the BLA. Chronic ethanol exposure significantly alters eCB system expression within regions critical to the expression of emotionality and anxiety-related behavior, including the BLA. Here, we investigated specific interactions between the BLA eCB system and its functional regulation of synaptic activity during acute and chronic ethanol exposure. In tissue from ethanol naïve-rats, a prolonged acute ethanol exposure caused a dose dependent inhibition of glutamatergic synaptic activity via a presynaptic mechanism that was occluded by CB1 antagonist/inverse agonists SR141716a and AM251. Importantly, this acute ethanol inhibition was attenuated following 10 day chronic intermittent ethanol vapor exposure (CIE). CIE exposure also significantly down-regulated CB1-mediated presynaptic inhibition at glutamatergic afferent terminals but spared CB1-inhibition of GABAergic synapses arising from local inhibitory-interneurons. CIE also significantly elevated BLA N-arachidonoylethanolamine (AEA or anandamide) levels and decreased CB1 receptor protein levels. Collectively, these data suggest a dynamic regulation of the BLA eCB system by acute and chronic ethanol.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
UNLABELLED - In the ventral tegmental area (VTA), a subpopulation of dopamine neurons express vesicular glutamate transporter 2 and make glutamatergic connections to nucleus accumbens (NAc) and olfactory tubercle (OT) neurons. However, their glutamatergic connections across the forebrain have not been explored systematically. To visualize dopamine neuron forebrain projections and to enable photostimulation of their axons independent of transmitter status, we virally transfected VTA neurons with channelrhodopsin-2 fused to enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (ChR2-EYFP) and used DAT(IREScre) mice to restrict expression to dopamine neurons. ChR2-EYFP-expressing neurons almost invariably stained for tyrosine hydroxylase, identifying them as dopaminergic. Dopamine neuron axons visualized by ChR2-EYFP fluorescence projected most densely to the striatum, moderately to the amygdala and entorhinal cortex (ERC), sparsely to prefrontal and cingulate cortices, and rarely to the hippocampus. Guided by ChR2-EYFP fluorescence, we recorded systematically from putative principal neurons in target areas and determined the incidence and strength of glutamatergic connections by activating all dopamine neuron terminals impinging on recorded neurons with wide-field photostimulation. This revealed strong glutamatergic connections in the NAc, OT, and ERC; moderate strength connections in the central amygdala; and weak connections in the cingulate cortex. No glutamatergic connections were found in the dorsal striatum, hippocampus, basolateral amygdala, or prefrontal cortex. These results indicate that VTA dopamine neurons elicit widespread, but regionally distinct, glutamatergic signals in the forebrain and begin to define the dopamine neuron excitatory functional connectome.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT - Dopamine neurons are important for the control of motivated behavior and are involved in the pathophysiology of several major neuropsychiatric disorders. Recent studies have shown that some ventral midbrain dopamine neurons are capable of glutamate cotransmission. With conditional expression of channelrhodopsin in dopamine neurons, we systematically explored dopamine neuron connections in the forebrain and identified regionally specific dopamine neuron excitatory connections. Establishing that only a subset of forebrain regions receive excitatory connections from dopamine neurons will help to determine the function of dopamine neuron glutamate cotransmission, which likely involves transmission of precise temporal signals and enhancement of the dynamic range of dopamine neuron signals.
Copyright © 2015 the authors 0270-6474/15/3516259-13$15.00/0.
BACKGROUND - Ethanol (EtOH) modulation of central amygdala (CeA) neurocircuitry plays a key role in the development of alcoholism via activation of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptor (CRFR) system. Previous work has predominantly focused on EtOH × CRF interactions on the CeA GABA circuitry; however, our laboratory recently showed that CRF enhances CeA glutamatergic transmission. Therefore, this study sought to determine whether EtOH modulates CeA glutamate transmission via activation of CRF signaling.
METHODS - The effects of EtOH on spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSCs) and basal resting membrane potentials were examined via standard electrophysiology methods in adult male C57BL/6J mice. Local ablation of CeA CRF neurons (CRF(CeAhDTR) ) was achieved by targeting the human diphtheria toxin receptor (hDTR) to CeA CRF neurons with an adeno-associated virus. Ablation was quantified post hoc with confocal microscopy. Genetic targeting of the diphtheria toxin active subunit to CRF neurons (CRF(DTA) mice) ablated CRF neurons throughout the central nervous system, as assessed by quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction quantification of CRF mRNA.
RESULTS - Acute bath application of EtOH significantly increased sEPSC frequency in a concentration-dependent manner in CeA neurons, and this effect was blocked by pretreatment of co-applied CRFR1 and CRFR2 antagonists. In experiments utilizing a CRF-tomato reporter mouse, EtOH did not significantly alter the basal membrane potential of CeA CRF neurons. The ability of EtOH to enhance CeA sEPSC frequency was not altered in CRF(CeAhDTR) mice despite a ~78% reduction in CeA CRF cell counts. The ability of EtOH to enhance CeA sEPSC frequency was also not altered in the CRF(DTA) mice despite a 3-fold reduction in CRF mRNA levels.
CONCLUSIONS - These findings demonstrate that EtOH enhances spontaneous glutamatergic transmission in the CeA via a CRFR-dependent mechanism. Surprisingly, our data suggest that this action may not require endogenous CRF.
Copyright © 2015 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.
Metabotropic glutamate receptor 7 (mGlu7) is a member of the group III mGlu receptors (mGlus), encompassed by mGlu4, mGlu6, mGlu7, and mGlu8. mGlu7 is highly expressed in the presynaptic active zones of both excitatory and inhibitory synapses, and activation of the receptor regulates the release of both glutamate and GABA. mGlu7 is thought to be a relevant therapeutic target for a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders, and polymorphisms in the GRM7 gene have been linked to autism, depression, ADHD, and schizophrenia. Here we report two new pan-group III mGlu positive allosteric modulators, VU0155094 and VU0422288, which show differential activity at the various group III mGlus. Additionally, both compounds show probe dependence when assessed in the presence of distinct orthosteric agonists. By pairing studies of these nonselective compounds with a synapse in the hippocampus that expresses only mGlu7, we have validated activity of these compounds in a native tissue setting. These studies provide proof-of-concept evidence that mGlu7 activity can be modulated by positive allosteric modulation, paving the way for future therapeutics development.