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Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an increasingly common behavioral condition that frequently presents with gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances. It is not clear, however, how gut dysfunction relates to core ASD features. Multiple, rare hyperfunctional coding variants of the serotonin (5-HT) transporter (SERT, encoded by SLC6A4) have been identified in ASD. Expression of the most common SERT variant (Ala56) in mice increases 5-HT clearance and causes ASD-like behaviors. Here, we demonstrated that Ala56-expressing mice display GI defects that resemble those seen in mice lacking neuronal 5-HT. These defects included enteric nervous system hypoplasia, slow GI transit, diminished peristaltic reflex activity, and proliferation of crypt epithelial cells. An opposite phenotype was seen in SERT-deficient mice and in progeny of WT dams given the SERT antagonist fluoxetine. The reciprocal phenotypes that resulted from increased or decreased SERT activity support the idea that 5-HT signaling regulates enteric neuronal development and can, when disturbed, cause long-lasting abnormalities of GI function. Administration of a 5-HT4 agonist to Ala56 mice during development prevented Ala56-associated GI perturbations, suggesting that excessive SERT activity leads to inadequate 5-HT4-mediated neurogenesis. We propose that deficient 5-HT signaling during development may contribute to GI and behavioral features of ASD. The consequences of therapies targeting SERT during pregnancy warrant further evaluation.
Uchl1 encodes the protein gene product 9.5 antigen (PGP9.5) that is a widely used to identify migrating neural progenitors in the PNS, mature neurons of the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as neuroendocrine cells. To facilitate analysis of developing peripheral neurons, we linked regulatory regions of Uchl1 carried within a 160kb bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) to the dual fluorescent reporter H2BmCherry:GFP-gpi. The Uchl1-H2BmCherry:GFP-gpi transgene exhibits robust expression and allows clear discrimination of individual cells and cellular processes in cranial ganglia, sympathetic chain, the enteric nervous system (ENS), and autonomic ganglia of the urogenital system. The transgene also labels subsets of cells in endocrine tissues where earlier in situ hybridization (ISH) studies have previously identified expression of this deubiquinating enzyme. The Uchl1-H2BmCherry:GFP-gpi transgene will be a powerful tool for static and live imaging, as well as isolation of viable neural progenitors to investigate processes of autonomic neurogenesis.
Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
The enteric nervous system (ENS) arises from the coordinated migration, expansion and differentiation of vagal and sacral neural crest progenitor cells. During development, vagal neural crest cells enter the foregut and migrate in a rostro-to-caudal direction, colonizing the entire gastrointestinal tract and generating the majority of the ENS. Sacral neural crest contributes to a subset of enteric ganglia in the hindgut, colonizing the colon in a caudal-to-rostral wave. During this process, enteric neural crest-derived progenitors (ENPs) self-renew and begin expressing markers of neural and glial lineages as they populate the intestine. Our earlier work demonstrated that the transcription factor Foxd3 is required early in neural crest-derived progenitors for self-renewal, multipotency and establishment of multiple neural crest-derived cells and structures including the ENS. Here, we describe Foxd3 expression within the fetal and postnatal intestine: Foxd3 was strongly expressed in ENPs as they colonize the gastrointestinal tract and was progressively restricted to enteric glial cells. Using a novel Ednrb-iCre transgene to delete Foxd3 after vagal neural crest cells migrate into the midgut, we demonstrated a late temporal requirement for Foxd3 during ENS development. Lineage labeling of Ednrb-iCre expressing cells in Foxd3 mutant embryos revealed a reduction of ENPs throughout the gut and loss of Ednrb-iCre lineage cells in the distal colon. Although mutant mice were viable, defects in patterning and distribution of ENPs were associated with reduced proliferation and severe reduction of glial cells derived from the Ednrb-iCre lineage. Analyses of ENS-lineage and differentiation in mutant embryos suggested activation of a compensatory population of Foxd3-positive ENPs that did not express the Ednrb-iCre transgene. Our findings highlight the crucial roles played by Foxd3 during ENS development including progenitor proliferation, neural patterning, and glial differentiation and may help delineate distinct molecular programs controlling vagal versus sacral neural crest development.
Copyright Â© 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
To facilitate dynamic imaging of neural crest (NC) lineages and discrimination of individual cells in the enteric nervous system (ENS) where close juxtaposition often complicates viewing, we generated a mouse BAC transgenic line that drives a Histone2BVenus (H2BVenus) reporter from Sox10 regulatory regions. This strategy does not alter the endogenous Sox10 locus and thus facilitates analysis of normal NC development. Our Sox10-H2BVenus BAC transgene exhibits temporal, spatial, and cell-type specific expression that reflects endogenous Sox10 patterns. Individual cells exhibiting nuclear-localized fluorescence of the H2BVenus reporter are readily visualized in both fixed and living tissue and are amenable to isolation by fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS). FACS-isolated H2BVenus+ enteric NC-derived progenitors (ENPs) exhibit multipotency, readily form neurospheres, self-renew in vitro and express a variety of stem cell genes. Dynamic live imaging as H2BVenus+ ENPs migrate down the fetal gut reveals cell fragmentation suggesting that apoptosis occurs at a low frequency during normal development of the ENS. Confocal imaging both during population of the fetal intestine and in postnatal gut muscle strips revealed differential expression between individual cells consistent with down-regulation of the transgene as progression towards non-glial fates occurs. The expression of the Sox10-H2BVenus transgene in multiple regions of the peripheral nervous system will facilitate future studies of NC lineage segregation as this tool is expressed in early NC progenitors and maintained in enteric glia.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
The norepinephrine transporter (NET), which is expressed on the plasma membranes of noradrenergic neurons, is important in terminating neurotransmission. The noradrenergic sympathetic neurons that innervate the bowel express NET, but they are extrinsic and their cell bodies are not components of the enteric nervous system (ENS). Subsets of neurons were nevertheless found in the murine ENS that express transcripts encoding NET, NET protein, and dopamine β-hydroxylase; these neurons lack tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and thus are not catecholaminergic. Enteric NET expression, moreover, preceded the ingrowth of sympathetic axons during development and did not disappear when the gut was extrinsically denervated. Transiently catecholaminergic (TC), neural crest-derived precursors of enteric neurons expressed NET at embryonic day 10 (E10) and NET expression in the fetal gut peaked coincidentally with early neurogenesis at E12. Serotonergic neurons, which are born early from TC progenitors, were found to express NET in the adult ENS, as did also other early-born neurons containing calretinin or neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) immunoreactivities. NET was not expressed in TH-immunoreactive dopaminergic neurons, which are born perinatally. Genetic deletion of NET almost eliminated tryptophan hydroxylase 2 expression and significantly reduced the numbers of total, 5-HT- and calretinin-immunoreactive enteric neurons, without affecting the immunoreactivities of nNOS or TH. These observations indicate that TC precursors of subsets of noncatecholaminergic enteric neurons express NET that persists in the successors of these cells despite their loss of TH. NET expression is essential for development and/or survival of some (5-HT- and calretinin-expressing), but not all (nNOS-expressing), of these neurons.
Abnormalities in the development of enteric neural crest-derived progenitors (ENPs) that generate the enteric nervous system (ENS) can lead to aganglionosis in a variable portion of the distal gastrointestinal tract. Cumulative evidence suggests that variation of aganglionosis is due to gene interactions that modulate the ability of ENPs to populate the intestine; however, the developmental processes underlying this effect are unknown. We hypothesized that differences in enteric ganglion deficits could be attributable to the effects of genetic background on early developmental processes, including migration, proliferation, or lineage divergence. Developmental processes were investigated in congenic Sox10(Dom) mice, an established Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) model, on distinct inbred backgrounds, C57BL/6J (B6) and C3HeB/FeJ (C3Fe). Immuno-staining on whole-mount fetal gut tissue and dissociated cell suspensions was used to assess migration and proliferation. Flow cytometry utilizing the cell surface markers p75 and HNK-1 was used to isolate live ENPs for analysis of developmental potential. Frequency of ENPs was reduced in Sox10(Dom) embryos relative to wild-type embryos, but was unaffected by genetic background. Both migration and developmental potential of ENPs in Sox10(Dom) embryos were altered by inbred strain background with the most highly significant differences seen for developmental potential between strains and genotypes. In vivo imaging of fetal ENPs and postnatal ganglia demonstrates that altered lineage divergence impacts ganglia in the proximal intestine. Our analysis demonstrates that genetic background alters early ENS development and suggests that abnormalities in lineage diversification can shift the proportions of ENP populations and thus may contribute to ENS deficiencies in vivo.
The mammalian enteric nervous system (ENS) derives from migratory enteric neural crest-derived cells (ENCC) that express the transcription factor Phox2b. Studies of these enteric progenitors have typically relied on immunohistochemical (IHC) detection. To circumvent complicating factors of IHC, we have generated a mouse BAC transgenic line that drives a Histone2BCerulean (H2BCFP) reporter from Phox2b regulatory regions. This construct does not alter the endogenous Phox2b locus and enables studies of normal neural crest (NC) derivatives. The Phox2b-H2BCFP transgene expresses the H2BCFP reporter in patterns that recapitulate expression of endogenous Phox2b. Our studies reveal Phox2b expression in mature enteric glia at levels below that of enteric neurons. Moreover, we also observe differential expression of the transgene reporter within the leading ENCC that traverse the gut. Our findings indicate that the wavefront of migrating enteric progenitors is not homogeneous, and suggest these cells may be fate-specified before expression of mature lineage markers appears.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Stem cells are defined by their ability to both self-renew and give rise to multiple lineages in vivo and/or in vitro. As discussed in other chapters in this volume, the embryonic neural crest is a multipotent tissue that gives rise to a plethora of differentiated cell types in the adult organism and is unique to vertebrate embryos. From the point of view of stem cell biology, the neural crest is an ideal source for multipotent adult stem cells. Significant advances have been made in the past few years isolating neural crest stem cell lines that can be maintained in vitro and can give rise to many neural crest derivatives either in vitro or when placed back into the context of an embryo. The initial work identifying these stem cells was carried out with premigratory neural crest from the embryonic neural tube. Later, neural crest stem cells were isolated from postmigratory neural crest, presumably more restricted in developmental potential. More recently it has been demonstrated that neural crest stem cell progenitors persist in the adult in at least two differentiated tissues, the enteric nervous system of the gut and the whisker follicles of the facial skin. In all cases, the properties of the stem cells derived reflect their tissue of origin and the potential of the progenitors becomes more restricted with age. In this chapter we will review this work and speculate on future possibilities with respect to combining our knowledge of neural crest gene function in the embryo and the manipulation of adult neural crest stem cells in vitro and eventually in vivo.
Sox10 is an essential transcription factor required for development of neural crest-derived melanocytes, peripheral glia, and enteric ganglia. Multiple transcriptional targets regulated by Sox10 have been identified; however, little is known regarding regulation of Sox10. High sequence conservation surrounding 5' exons 1 through 3 suggests these regions might contain functional regulatory elements. However, we observed that these Sox10 genomic sequences do not confer appropriate cell-specific transcription in vitro when linked to a heterologous reporter. To identify elements required for expression of Sox10 in vivo, we modified bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) to generate a Sox10betaGeoBAC transgene. Our approach leaves endogenous Sox10 loci unaltered, circumventing haploinsufficiency issues that arise from gene targeting. Sox10betaGeoBAC expression closely approximates Sox10 expression in vivo, resulting in expression in anterior dorsal neural tube at embryonic day (E) 8.5 and in cranial ganglia, otic vesicle, and developing dorsal root ganglia at E10.5. Characterization of Sox10betaGeoBAC expression confirms the presence of essential regulatory regions and additionally identifies previously unreported expression in thyroid parafollicular cells, thymus, salivary, adrenal, and lacrimal glands. Fortuitous deletions in independent Sox10betaGeoBAC lines result in loss of transgene expression in peripheral nervous system lineages and coincide with evolutionarily conserved regions. Our analysis indicates that Sox10 expression requires the presence of distant cis-acting regulatory elements. The Sox10betaGeoBAC transgene offers one avenue for specifically testing the role of individual conserved regions in regulation of Sox10 and makes possible analysis of Sox10+ derivatives in the context of normal neural crest development.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Cumulative evidence suggests that Hirschsprung disease (HSCR) is the consequence of multiple gene interactions that modulate the ability of enteric neural crest (NC) cells to populate the developing gut. One of the essential genes for this process is the NC transcription factor Sox10. Sox10Dom mice on a mixed genetic background show variation in penetrance and expressivity of enteric aganglionosis that are analogous to the variable aganglionosis seen in human HSCR families. The phenotype of Sox10Dom mice in congenic lines indicates this variation arises from modifiers in the genetic background. To determine whether known HSCR susceptibility loci are acting as modifiers of Sox10, we tested for association between genes in the endothelin signaling pathway (EdnrB, Edn3, Ece1) and severity of aganglionosis in an extended pedigree of B6C3FeLe.Sox10Dom mice. Single locus association analysis in this pedigree identifies interaction between EdnrB and Sox10. Additional analysis of F2 intercross progeny confirms a highly significant effect of EdnrB alleles on the Sox10Dom/+ phenotype. The presence of C57BL/6J alleles at EdnrB is associated with increased penetrance and more severe aganglionosis in Sox10Dom mutants. Crosses between EdnrB and Sox10 mutants corroborate this gene interaction with double mutant progeny exhibiting significantly more severe aganglionosis. The background strain of the EdnrB mutant further influences the phenotype of Sox10/EdnrB double mutant progeny implying the action of additional modifiers on this phenotype. Our data demonstrates that Sox10-EdnrB interactions can influence development of the enteric nervous system in mouse models and suggests that this interaction could contribute to the epistatic network producing variation between patients with aganglionosis.