Microdissection of neural networks by conditional reporter expression from a Brainbow herpesvirus

Department of Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.67). 02/2011; 108(8):3377-82. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015033108
Source: PubMed


Transneuronal transport of neurotropic viruses is widely used to define the organization of neural circuitry in the mature and developing nervous system. However, interconnectivity within complex circuits limits the ability of viral tracing to define connections specifically linked to a subpopulation of neurons within a network. Here we demonstrate a unique viral tracing technology that highlights connections to defined populations of neurons within a larger labeled network. This technology was accomplished by constructing a replication-competent strain of pseudorabies virus (PRV-263) that changes the profile of fluorescent reporter expression in the presence of Cre recombinase (Cre). The viral genome carries a Brainbow cassette that expresses a default red reporter in infected cells. However, in the presence of Cre, the red reporter gene is excised from the genome and expression of yellow or cyan reporters is enabled. We used PRV-263 in combination with a unique lentivirus vector that produces Cre expression in catecholamine neurons. Projection-specific infection of central circuits containing these Cre-expressing catecholamine neurons with PRV-263 resulted in Cre-mediated recombination of the PRV-263 genome and conditional expression of cyan/yellow reporters. Replication and transneuronal transport of recombined virus produced conditional reporter expression in neurons synaptically linked to the Cre-expressing catecholamine neurons. This unique technology highlights connections specific to phenotypically defined neurons within larger networks infected by retrograde transneuronal transport of virus from a defined projection target. The availability of other technologies that restrict Cre expression to defined populations of neurons indicates that this approach can be widely applied across functionally defined systems.

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Available from: Lynn Enquist, Oct 01, 2015
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    • "The individual neurons and their axons have thus been traced in transgenic systems such as mouse [21], Drosophila [33], [34] and zebrafish [35]. Otherwise, the mosaic expression of fluorescent proteins was attained using viral vectors encoding the Brainbow cassette [36]–[38]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The calyx-type synapse of chick ciliary ganglion (CG) has been intensively studied for decades as a model system for the synaptic development, morphology and physiology. Despite recent advances in optogenetics probing and/or manipulation of the elementary steps of the transmitter release such as membrane depolarization and Ca(2+) elevation, the current gene-manipulating methods are not suitable for targeting specifically the calyx-type presynaptic terminals. Here, we evaluated a method for manipulating the molecular and functional organization of the presynaptic terminals of this model synapse. We transfected progenitors of the Edinger-Westphal (EW) nucleus neurons with an EGFP expression vector by in ovo electroporation at embryonic day 2 (E2) and examined the CG at E8-14. We found that dozens of the calyx-type presynaptic terminals and axons were selectively labeled with EGFP fluorescence. When a Brainbow construct containing the membrane-tethered fluorescent proteins m-CFP, m-YFP and m-RFP, was introduced together with a Cre expression construct, the color coding of each presynaptic axon facilitated discrimination among inter-tangled projections, particularly during the developmental re-organization period of synaptic connections. With the simultaneous expression of one of the chimeric variants of channelrhodopsins, channelrhodopsin-fast receiver (ChRFR), and R-GECO1, a red-shifted fluorescent Ca(2+)-sensor, the Ca(2+) elevation was optically measured under direct photostimulation of the presynaptic terminal. Although this optically evoked Ca(2+) elevation was mostly dependent on the action potential, a significant component remained even in the absence of extracellular Ca(2+). It is suggested that the photo-activation of ChRFR facilitated the release of Ca(2+) from intracellular Ca(2+) stores directly or indirectly. The above system, by facilitating the molecular study of the calyx-type presynaptic terminal, would provide an experimental platform for unveiling the molecular mechanisms underlying the morphology, physiology and development of synapses.
    PLoS ONE 03/2013; 8(3):e59179. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0059179 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Sections were mounted on gelatin-coated slides, air dried, and coverslipped using Vectashield Hard Set mounting medium (Vector Laboratories, Burlingame, CA). The fluorophor profile of infected neurons was determined using an Olympus BX51 epifluorescence microscope equipped with filters specific for reporter proteins encoded by the dTomato, mCerulean, and EYFP genes as described previously [18]. Digital micrographs of each region were captured with a Hamamatsu camera (Hamamatsu Photonics, Hamamatsu, Japan) and analyzed using the procedures detailed in the next section. "
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    ABSTRACT: Replication and transneuronal transport of pseudorabies virus (PRV) are widely used to define the organization of neural circuits in rodent brain. Here we report a dual infection approach that highlights connections to neurons that collateralize within complex networks. The method combines Cre recombinase (Cre) expression from a PRV recombinant (PRV-267) and Cre-dependent reporter gene expression from a second infecting strain of PRV (PRV-263). PRV-267 expresses both Cre and a monomeric red fluorescent protein (mRFP) fused to viral capsid protein VP26 (VP26-mRFP) that accumulates in infected cell nuclei. PRV-263 carries a Brainbow cassette and expresses a red (dTomato) reporter that fills the cytoplasm. However, in the presence of Cre, the dTomato gene is recombined from the cassette, eliminating expression of the red reporter and liberating expression of either yellow (EYFP) or cyan (mCerulean) cytoplasmic reporters. We conducted proof-of-principle experiments using a well-characterized model in which separate injection of recombinant viruses into the left and right kidneys produces infection of neurons in the renal preautonomic network. Neurons dedicated to one kidney expressed the unique reporters characteristic of PRV-263 (cytoplasmic dTomato) or PRV-267 (nuclear VP26-mRFP). Dual infected neurons expressed VP26-mRFP and the cyan or yellow cytoplasmic reporters activated by Cre-mediated recombination of the Brainbow cassette. Differential expression of cyan or yellow reporters in neurons lacking VP26-mRFP provided a unique marker of neurons synaptically connected to dual infected neurons, a synaptic relationship that cannot be distinguished using other dual infection tracing approaches. These data demonstrate Cre-enabled conditional reporter expression in polysynaptic circuits that permits the identification of collateralized neurons and their presynaptic partners.
    PLoS ONE 06/2011; 6(6):e21141. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0021141 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroanatomical tract-tracing methods are powerful tools for the study of brain circuits. The use of axonal tracers has become very popular during the past few years. Tract-tracing allows us to study the way in which two or more brain areas are connected and can be used to obtain detailed data on the processing of information within a particular area. The recent development of protocols combining several tracers has resulted in an important breakthrough. Although technically very demanding, these multitracer procedures have become state of the art protocols in several laboratories, rendering a broad range of possibilities for their application in Neurobiology.
    Revista de medicina de la Universidad de Navarra 01/1999; 43(1):24-8.
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