Tbr1 haploinsufficiency impairs amygdalar axonal projections and results in cognitive abnormality.
ABSTRACT The neuron-specific transcription factor T-box brain 1 (TBR1) regulates brain development. Disruptive mutations in the TBR1 gene have been repeatedly identified in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Here, we show that Tbr1 haploinsufficiency results in defective axonal projections of amygdalar neurons and the impairment of social interaction, ultrasonic vocalization, associative memory and cognitive flexibility in mice. Loss of a copy of the Tbr1 gene altered the expression of Ntng1, Cntn2 and Cdh8 and reduced both inter- and intra-amygdalar connections. These developmental defects likely impair neuronal activation upon behavioral stimulation, which is indicated by fewer c-FOS-positive neurons and lack of GRIN2B induction in Tbr1(+/-) amygdalae. We also show that upregulation of amygdalar neuronal activity by local infusion of a partial NMDA receptor agonist, d-cycloserine, ameliorates the behavioral defects of Tbr1(+/-) mice. Our study suggests that TBR1 is important in the regulation of amygdalar axonal connections and cognition.
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ABSTRACT: Sensory computations performed in the neocortex involve layer six (L6) cortico-cortical (CC) and cortico-thalamic (CT) signaling pathways. Developing an understanding of the physiological role of these circuits requires dissection of the functional specificity and connectivity of the underlying individual projection neurons. By combining whole-cell recording from identified L6 principal cells in the mouse primary visual cortex (V1) with modified rabies virus-based input mapping, we have determined the sensory response properties and upstream monosynaptic connectivity of cells mediating the CC or CT pathway. We show that CC-projecting cells encompass a broad spectrum of selectivity to stimulus orientation and are predominantly innervated by deep layer V1 neurons. In contrast, CT-projecting cells are ultrasparse firing, exquisitely tuned to orientation and direction information, and receive long-range input from higher cortical areas. This segregation in function and connectivity indicates that L6 microcircuits route specific contextual and stimulus-related information within and outside the cortical network.Neuron 08/2014; 83(6). DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.001 · 15.98 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The activity-regulated gene expression of transcription factors is required for neural plasticity and function in response to neuronal stimulation. T-brain-1 (TBR1), a critical neuron-specific transcription factor for forebrain development, has been recognized as a high-confidence risk gene for autism spectrum disorders. Here, we show that in addition to its role in brain development, Tbr1 responds to neuronal activation and further modulates the Grin2b expression in adult brains and mature neurons. The expression levels of Tbr1 were investigated using both immunostaining and quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analyses. We found that the mRNA and protein expression levels of Tbr1 are induced by excitatory synaptic transmission driven by bicuculline or glutamate treatment in cultured mature neurons. The upregulation of Tbr1 expression requires the activation of both α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionic acid (AMPA) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Furthermore, behavioral training triggers Tbr1 induction in the adult mouse brain. The elevation of Tbr1 expression is associated with Grin2b upregulation in both mature neurons and adult brains. Using Tbr1-deficient neurons, we further demonstrated that TBR1 is required for the induction of Grin2b upon neuronal activation. Taken together with the previous studies showing that TBR1 binds the Grin2b promoter and controls expression of luciferase reporter driven by Grin2b promoter, the evidence suggests that TBR1 directly controls Grin2b expression in mature neurons. We also found that the addition of the calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) antagonist KN-93, but not the calcium-dependent phosphatase calcineurin antagonist cyclosporin A, to cultured mature neurons noticeably inhibited Tbr1 induction, indicating that neuronal activation upregulates Tbr1 expression in a CaMKII-dependent manner. In conclusion, our study suggests that Tbr1 plays an important role in adult mouse brains in response to neuronal activation to modulate the activity-regulated gene transcription required for neural plasticity.Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 09/2014; 8:280. DOI:10.3389/fncel.2014.00280 · 4.18 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Next-generation sequencing recently revealed that recurrent disruptive mutations in a few genes may account for 1% of sporadic autism cases. Coupling these novel genetic data to empirical assays of protein function can illuminate crucial molecular networks. Here we demonstrate the power of the approach, performing the first functional analyses of TBR1 variants identified in sporadic autism. De novo truncating and missense mutations disrupt multiple aspects of TBR1 function, including subcellular localization, interactions with co-regulators and transcriptional repression. Missense mutations inherited from unaffected parents did not disturb function in our assays. We show that TBR1 homodimerizes, that it interacts with FOXP2, a transcription factor implicated in speech/language disorders, and that this interaction is disrupted by pathogenic mutations affecting either protein. These findings support the hypothesis that de novo mutations in sporadic autism have severe functional consequences. Moreover, they uncover neurogenetic mechanisms that bridge different neurodevelopmental disorders involving language deficits.Nature Communications 09/2014; 5:4954. DOI:10.1038/ncomms5954 · 10.74 Impact Factor