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Dendritic spines are specialized postsynaptic structures that transduce presynaptic signals, are regulated by neural activity and correlated with learning and memory. Most studies of spine function have focused on the mammalian nervous system. However, spine-like protrusions have been reported in (Philbrook et al., 2018), suggesting that the experimental advantages of smaller model organisms could be exploited to study the biology of dendritic spines. Here, we used super-resolution microscopy, electron microscopy, live-cell imaging and genetics to show that motor neurons have functional dendritic spines that: (1) are structurally defined by a dynamic actin cytoskeleton; (2) appose presynaptic dense projections; (3) localize ER and ribosomes; (4) display calcium transients triggered by presynaptic activity and propagated by internal Ca stores; (5) respond to activity-dependent signals that regulate spine density. These studies provide a solid foundation for a new experimental paradigm that exploits the power of genetics and live-cell imaging for fundamental studies of dendritic spine morphogenesis and function.
© 2019, Cuentas-Condori et al.
Loss-of-function mutations in the potassium-chloride cotransporter KCC3 lead to Andermann syndrome, a severe sensorimotor neuropathy characterized by areflexia, amyotrophy and locomotor abnormalities. The molecular events responsible for axonal loss remain poorly understood. Here, we establish that global or neuron-specific KCC3 loss-of-function in mice leads to early neuromuscular junction (NMJ) abnormalities and muscular atrophy that are consistent with the pre-synaptic neurotransmission defects observed in patients. KCC3 depletion does not modify chloride handling, but promotes an abnormal electrical activity among primary motoneurons and mislocalization of Na/K-ATPase α1 in spinal cord motoneurons. Moreover, the activity-targeting drug carbamazepine restores Na/K-ATPase α1 localization and reduces NMJ denervation in Slc12a6 mice. We here propose that abnormal motoneuron electrical activity contributes to the peripheral neuropathy observed in Andermann syndrome.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Using exome sequencing, we identified a de novo mutation (c.2971A>G; T991A) in SLC12A6, the gene encoding the K(+)-Cl(-) cotransporter KCC3, in a patient with an early-onset, progressive, and severe peripheral neuropathy primarily affecting motor neurons. Normally, the WNK kinase-dependent phosphorylation of T(991) tonically inhibits KCC3; however, cell swelling triggers Thr(991) dephosphorylation to activate the transporter and restore cell volume. KCC3 T991A mutation in patient cells abolished Thr(991) phosphorylation, resulted in constitutive KCC3 activity, and compromised cell volume homeostasis. KCC3(T991A/T991A) mutant mice exhibited constitutive KCC3 activity and recapitulated aspects of the clinical, electrophysiological, and histopathological findings of the patient. These results suggest that the function of the peripheral nervous system depends on finely tuned, kinase-regulated KCC3 activity and implicate abnormal cell volume homeostasis as a previously unreported mechanism of axonal degeneration.
Copyright © 2016, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Neural circuits are actively remodeled during brain development, but the molecular mechanisms that trigger circuit refinement are poorly understood. Here, we describe a transcriptional program in C. elegans that regulates expression of an Ig domain protein, OIG-1, to control the timing of synaptic remodeling. DD GABAergic neurons reverse polarity during larval development by exchanging the locations of pre- and postsynaptic components. In newly born larvae, DDs receive cholinergic inputs in the dorsal nerve cord. These inputs are switched to the ventral side by the end of the first larval (L1) stage. VD class GABAergic neurons are generated in the late L1 and are postsynaptic to cholinergic neurons in the dorsal nerve cord but do not remodel. We investigated remodeling of the postsynaptic apparatus in DD and VD neurons using targeted expression of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) subunit, ACR-12::GFP. We determined that OIG-1 antagonizes the relocation of ACR-12 from the dorsal side in L1 DD neurons. During the L1/L2 transition, OIG-1 is downregulated in DD neurons by the transcription factor IRX-1/Iroquois, allowing the repositioning of synaptic inputs to the ventral side. In VD class neurons, which normally do not remodel, the transcription factor UNC-55/COUP-TF turns off IRX-1, thus maintaining high levels of OIG-1 to block the removal of dorsally located ACR-12 receptors. OIG-1 is secreted from GABA neurons, but its anti-plasticity function is cell autonomous and may not require secretion. Our study provides a novel mechanism by which synaptic remodeling is set in motion through regulated expression of an Ig domain protein.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the selective death of motor neurons. Causative mutations in the global RNA-processing proteins TDP-43 and FUS among others, as well as their aggregation in ALS patients, have identified defects in RNA metabolism as an important feature in this disease. Lethal congenital contracture syndrome 1 and lethal arthrogryposis with anterior horn cell disease are autosomal recessive fetal motor neuron diseases that are caused by mutations in another global RNA-processing protein, hGle1. In this study, we carried out the first screening of GLE1 in ALS patients (173 familial and 760 sporadic) and identified 2 deleterious mutations (1 splice site and 1 nonsense mutation) and 1 missense mutation. Functional analysis of the deleterious mutants revealed them to be unable to rescue motor neuron pathology in zebrafish morphants lacking Gle1. Furthermore, in HeLa cells, both mutations caused a depletion of hGle1 at the nuclear pore where it carries out an essential role in nuclear export of mRNA. These results suggest a haploinsufficiency mechanism and point to a causative role for GLE1 mutations in ALS patients. This further supports the involvement of global defects in RNA metabolism in ALS.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com.
The RNA-binding protein TDP-43 regulates RNA metabolism at multiple levels, including transcription, RNA splicing, and mRNA stability. TDP-43 is a major component of the cytoplasmic inclusions characteristic of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and some types of frontotemporal lobar degeneration. The importance of TDP-43 in disease is underscored by the fact that dominant missense mutations are sufficient to cause disease, although the role of TDP-43 in pathogenesis is unknown. Here we show that TDP-43 forms cytoplasmic mRNP granules that undergo bidirectional, microtubule-dependent transport in neurons in vitro and in vivo and facilitate delivery of target mRNA to distal neuronal compartments. TDP-43 mutations impair this mRNA transport function in vivo and in vitro, including in stem cell-derived motor neurons from ALS patients bearing any one of three different TDP-43 ALS-causing mutations. Thus, TDP-43 mutations that cause ALS lead to partial loss of a novel cytoplasmic function of TDP-43.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) are characterized by spasticity of the leg muscles due to axonal degeneration of corticospinal neurons. Beetz et al. report that the core motor phenotype and axonal pathology of HSPs are recapitulated in mice lacking the HSP-associated gene Reep1. REEP1 is shown to regulate ER structure in motor cortex neurons. The Reep1 knockout mouse should be a very useful model in which to study the mechanisms of progressive axon loss in HSPs and other disorders.
Ion channels of the DEG/ENaC family can induce neurodegeneration under conditions in which they become hyperactivated. The Caenorhabditis elegans DEG/ENaC channel MEC-4(d) encodes a mutant channel with a substitution in the pore domain that causes swelling and death of the six touch neurons in which it is expressed. Dominant mutations in the C. elegans DEG/ENaC channel subunit UNC-8 result in uncoordinated movement. Here we show that this unc-8 movement defect is correlated with the selective death of cholinergic motor neurons in the ventral nerve cord. Experiments in Xenopus laevis ooctyes confirm that these mutant proteins, UNC-8(G387E) and UNC-8(A586T), encode hyperactivated channels that are strongly inhibited by extracellular calcium and magnesium. Reduction of extracellular divalent cations exacerbates UNC-8(G387E) toxicity in oocytes. We suggest that inhibition by extracellular divalent cations limits UNC-8 toxicity and may contribute to the selective death of neurons that express UNC-8 in vivo.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. We have recently shown that human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) modified to release glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) decrease disease progression in a rat model of ALS when delivered to skeletal muscle. In the current study, we determined whether or not this effect could be enhanced by delivering GDNF in concert with other trophic factors. hMSC engineered to secrete GDNF (hMSC-GDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (hMSC-VEGF), insulin-like growth factor-I (hMSC-IGF-I), or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (hMSC-BDNF), were prepared and transplanted bilaterally into three muscle groups. hMSC-GDNF and hMSC-VEGF prolonged survival and slowed the loss of motor function, but hMSC-IGF-I and hMSC-BDNF did not have any effect. We then tested the efficacy of a combined ex vivo delivery of GDNF and VEGF in extending survival and protecting neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) and motor neurons. Interestingly, the combined delivery of these neurotrophic factors showed a strong synergistic effect. These studies further support ex vivo gene therapy approaches for ALS that target skeletal muscle.
SNAP-25 is a core component of the trimeric SNARE complex mediating vesicle exocytosis during membrane addition for neuronal growth, neuropeptide/growth factor secretion, and neurotransmitter release during synaptic transmission. Here, we report a novel microRNA mechanism of SNAP-25 regulation controlling motor neuron development, neurosecretion, synaptic activity, and movement in zebrafish. Loss of miR-153 causes overexpression of SNAP-25 and consequent hyperactive movement in early zebrafish embryos. Conversely, overexpression of miR-153 causes SNAP-25 down regulation resulting in near complete paralysis, mimicking the effects of treatment with Botulinum neurotoxin. miR-153-dependent changes in synaptic activity at the neuromuscular junction are consistent with the observed movement defects. Underlying the movement defects, perturbation of miR-153 function causes dramatic developmental changes in motor neuron patterning and branching. Together, our results indicate that precise control of SNAP-25 expression by miR-153 is critically important for proper neuronal patterning as well as neurotransmission.