Article

UNC-4 antagonizes Wnt signaling to regulate synaptic choice in the C. elegans motor circuit.

Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.
Development (Impact Factor: 6.27). 06/2012; 139(12):2234-45. DOI: 10.1242/dev.075184
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Coordinated movement depends on the creation of synapses between specific neurons in the motor circuit. In C. elegans, this important decision is regulated by the UNC-4 homeodomain protein. unc-4 mutants are unable to execute backward locomotion because VA motor neurons are mis-wired with inputs normally reserved for their VB sisters. We have proposed that UNC-4 functions in VAs to block expression of VB genes. This model is substantiated by the finding that ectopic expression of the VB gene ceh-12 (encoding a homolog of the homeodomain protein HB9) in unc-4 mutants results in the mis-wiring of posterior VA motor neurons with VB-like connections. Here, we show that VA expression of CEH-12 depends on a nearby source of the Wnt protein EGL-20. Our results indicate that UNC-4 prevents VAs from responding to a local EGL-20 cue by disabling a canonical Wnt signaling cascade involving the Frizzled receptors MIG-1 and MOM-5. CEH-12 expression in VA motor neurons is also opposed by a separate pathway that includes the Wnt ligand LIN-44. This work has revealed a transcriptional mechanism for modulating the sensitivity of specific neurons to diffusible Wnt ligands and thereby defines distinct patterns of synaptic connectivity. The existence of comparable Wnt gradients in the vertebrate spinal cord could reflect similar roles for Wnt signaling in vertebrate motor circuit assembly.

0 Bookmarks
 · 
93 Views
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: During the development of the nervous system, neurons encounter signals that inform their outgrowth and polarization. Understanding how these signals combinatorially function to pattern the nervous system is of considerable interest to developmental neurobiologists. The Wnt ligands and their receptors have been well characterized in polarizing cells during asymmetric cell division. The planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway is also critical for cell polarization in the plane of an epithelium. The core set of PCP genes include members of the conserved Wnt signaling pathway, such as Frizzled and Disheveled, but also the cadherin-domain protein Flamingo. In Drosophila, the Fat and Dachsous cadherins also function in PCP, but in parallel to the core PCP components. C. elegans also have two Fat-like and one Dachsous-like cadherins, at least one of which, cdh-4, contributes to neural development. In C. elegans Wnt ligands and the conserved PCP genes have been shown to regulate a number of different events, including embryonic cell polarity, vulval morphogenesis and cell migration. As is also observed in vertebrates, the Wnt and PCP genes appear to function to primarily provide information about the anterior to posterior axis of development. Here we review the recent work describing how mutations in the Wnt and core PCP genes affect axon guidance and synaptogenesis in C. elegans. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2013.
    Developmental Neurobiology 11/2013; 74(8). · 4.42 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Proper circuit connectivity is critical for nervous system function. Connectivity derives from the interaction of two interdependent modules: synaptic specificity and synaptic assembly. Specificity involves both targeting of neurons to specific laminar regions and the formation of synapses onto defined subcellular areas. In this review, we focus discussion on recently elucidated molecular mechanisms that control synaptic specificity and link them to synapse assembly. We use these molecular pathways to underscore fundamental cell biological concepts that underpin, and help explain, the rules governing synaptic specificity.
    Current opinion in neurobiology 08/2013; · 7.21 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Electrical synaptic transmission through gap junctions is a vital mode of intercellular communication in the nervous system. The mechanism by which reciprocal target cells find each other during the formation of gap junctions, however, is poorly understood. Here we show that gap junctions are formed between BDU interneurons and PLM mechanoreceptors in C. elegans and the connectivity of BDU with PLM is influenced by Wnt signaling. We further identified two PAS-bHLH family transcription factors, AHA-1 and AHR-1, which function cell-autonomously within BDU and PLM to facilitate the target identification process. aha-1 and ahr-1 act genetically upstream of cam-1. CAM-1, a membrane-bound receptor tyrosine kinase, is present on both BDU and PLM cells and likely serves as a Wnt antagonist. By binding to a cis-regulatory element in the cam-1 promoter, AHA-1 enhances cam-1 transcription. Our study reveals a Wnt-dependent fine-tuning mechanism that is crucial for mutual target cell identification during the formation of gap junction connections.
    PLoS Genetics 06/2013; 9(6):e1003618. · 8.17 Impact Factor