[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dysregulated neurodevelopment with altered structural and functional connectivity is believed to underlie many neuropsychiatric disorders, and 'a disease of synapses' is the major hypothesis for the biological basis of schizophrenia. Although this hypothesis has gained indirect support from human post-mortem brain analyses and genetic studies, little is known about the pathophysiology of synapses in patient neurons and how susceptibility genes for mental disorders could lead to synaptic deficits in humans. Genetics of most psychiatric disorders are extremely complex due to multiple susceptibility variants with low penetrance and variable phenotypes. Rare, multiply affected, large families in which a single genetic locus is probably responsible for conferring susceptibility have proven invaluable for the study of complex disorders. Here we generated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from four members of a family in which a frameshift mutation of disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) co-segregated with major psychiatric disorders and we further produced different isogenic iPS cell lines via gene editing. We showed that mutant DISC1 causes synaptic vesicle release deficits in iPS-cell-derived forebrain neurons. Mutant DISC1 depletes wild-type DISC1 protein and, furthermore, dysregulates expression of many genes related to synapses and psychiatric disorders in human forebrain neurons. Our study reveals that a psychiatric disorder relevant mutation causes synapse deficits and transcriptional dysregulation in human neurons and our findings provide new insight into the molecular and synaptic etiopathology of psychiatric disorders.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Amyloid plaques and tau tangles are common pathological hallmarks for Alzheimer's disease (AD); however, reducing Aβ production failed to relieve the symptoms of AD patients. Here we report a high GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) content in reactive astrocytes in the dentate gyrus (DG) of a mouse model for AD (5xFAD) that results in increased tonic inhibition and memory deficit. We also confirm in human AD patient brains that dentate astrocytes have a high GABA content, suggesting that high astrocytic GABA level may be a novel biomarker and a potential diagnostic tool for AD. The excessive GABA in 5xFAD astrocytes is released through an astrocyte-specific GABA transporter GAT3/4, and significantly enhances tonic GABA inhibition in dentate granule cells. Importantly, reducing tonic inhibition in 5xFAD mice rescues the impairment of long-term potentiation (LTP) and memory deficit. Thus, reducing tonic GABA inhibition in the DG may lead to a novel therapy for AD.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Loss of neurons after brain injury and in neurodegenerative disease is often accompanied by reactive gliosis and scarring, which are difficult to reverse with existing treatment approaches. Here, we show that reactive glial cells in the cortex of stab-injured or Alzheimer's disease (AD) model mice can be directly reprogrammed into functional neurons in vivo using retroviral expression of a single neural transcription factor, NeuroD1. Following expression of NeuroD1, astrocytes were reprogrammed into glutamatergic neurons, while NG2 cells were reprogrammed into glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons. Cortical slice recordings revealed both spontaneous and evoked synaptic responses in NeuroD1-converted neurons, suggesting that they integrated into local neural circuits. NeuroD1 expression was also able to reprogram cultured human cortical astrocytes into functional neurons. Our studies therefore suggest that direct reprogramming of reactive glial cells into functional neurons in vivo could provide an alternative approach for repair of injured or diseased brain.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Protein kinase R (PKR)-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK) (EIF2AK3) is essential for normal development and function
of the insulin-secreting β-cell. Although genetic ablation of PERK in β-cells results in permanent neonatal diabetes in humans
and mice, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we used a newly developed and highly specific inhibitor of PERK
to determine the immediate effects of acute ablation of PERK activity. We found that inhibition of PERK in human and rodent
β-cells causes a rapid inhibition of secretagogue-stimulated subcellular Ca2+ signaling and insulin secretion. These dysfunctions stem from alterations in store-operated Ca2+ entry and sarcoplasmic endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase activity. We also found that PERK regulates calcineurin, and pharmacological inhibition of calcineurin results in
similar defects on stimulus-secretion coupling. Our findings suggest that interplay between calcineurin and PERK regulates
β-cell Ca2+ signaling and insulin secretion, and that loss of this interaction may have profound implications in insulin secretion defects
associated with diabetes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The GABAA receptors are the major inhibitory receptors in the brain and are localized at both synaptic and extrasynaptic membranes.
Synaptic GABAA receptors mediate phasic inhibition, whereas extrasynaptic GABAA receptors mediate tonic inhibition. Both phasic and tonic inhibitions regulate neuronal activity, but whether they regulate
each other is not very clear. Here, we investigated the functional interaction between synaptic and extrasynaptic GABAA receptors through various molecular manipulations. Overexpression of extrasynaptic α6β3δ-GABAA receptors in mouse hippocampal pyramidal neurons significantly increased tonic currents. Surprisingly, the increase of tonic
inhibition was accompanied by a dramatic reduction of the phasic inhibition, suggesting a possible homeostatic regulation
of the total inhibition. Overexpressing the α6 subunit alone induced an up-regulation of δ subunit expression and suppressed
phasic inhibition similar to overexpressing the α6β3δ subunits. Interestingly, blocking all GABAA receptors after overexpressing α6β3δ receptors could not restore the synaptic GABAergic transmission, suggesting that receptor
activation is not required for the homeostatic interplay. Furthermore, insertion of a gephyrin-binding-site (GBS) into the
α6 and δ subunits recruited α6GBSβ3δGBS receptors to postsynaptic sites but failed to rescue synaptic GABAergic transmission. Thus, it is not the positional effect
of extrasynaptic α6β3δ receptors that causes the down-regulation of phasic inhibition. Overexpressing α5β3γ2 subunits similarly
reduced synaptic GABAergic transmission. We propose a working model that both synaptic and extrasynaptic GABAA receptors may compete for limited receptor slots on the plasma membrane to maintain a homeostatic range of the total inhibition.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neurons derived from human induced-pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) have been used to model a variety of neurological disorders. Different protocols have been used to differentiate hiPSCs into neurons, but their functional maturation process has varied greatly among different studies. Here, we demonstrate that laminin, a commonly used substrate for iPSC cultures, was inefficient to promote fully functional maturation of hiPSC-derived neurons. In contrast, astroglial substrate greatly accelerated neurodevelopmental processes of hiPSC-derived neurons. We have monitored the neural differentiation and maturation process for up to two months after plating hiPSC-derived neuroprogenitor cells (hNPCs) on laminin or astrocytes. We found that one week after plating hNPCs, there were 21-fold more newly differentiated neurons on astrocytes than on laminin. Two weeks after plating hNPCs, there were 12-fold more dendritic branches in neurons cultured on astrocytes than on laminin. Six weeks after plating hNPCs, the Na(+) and K(+) currents, as well as glutamate and GABA receptor currents, were 3-fold larger in neurons cultured on astrocytes than on laminin. And two months after plating hNPCs, the spontaneous synaptic events were 8-fold more in neurons cultured on astrocytes than on laminin. These results highlight a critical role of astrocytes in promoting neural differentiation and functional maturation of human neurons derived from hiPSCs. Moreover, our data presents a thorough developmental timeline of hiPSC-derived neurons in culture, providing important benchmarks for future studies on disease modeling and drug screening.
Stem Cell Research 05/2013; 11(2):743-757. DOI:10.1016/j.scr.2013.05.002 · 3.69 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
GABAA receptors are ligand-gated Cl- channels, and the intracellular Cl- concentration governs whether GABA function is excitatory or inhibitory. During early brain development, GABA undergoes functional switch from excitation to inhibition: GABA depolarizes immature neurons but hyperpolarizes mature neurons due to a developmental decrease of intracellular Cl- concentration. This GABA functional switch is mainly mediated by the up-regulation of KCC2, a potassium-chloride cotransporter that pumps Cl- outside neurons. However, the upstream factor that regulates KCC2 expression is unclear.
We report here that KCC2 is unexpectedly regulated by neuroligin-2 (NL2), a cell adhesion molecule specifically localized at GABAergic synapses. The expression of NL2 precedes that of KCC2 in early postnatal development. Upon knockdown of NL2, the expression level of KCC2 is significantly decreased, and GABA functional switch is significantly delayed during early development. Overexpression of shRNA-proof NL2 rescues both KCC2 reduction and delayed GABA functional switch induced by NL2 shRNAs. Moreover, NL2 appears to be required to maintain GABA inhibitory function even in mature neurons, because knockdown NL2 reverses GABA action to excitatory. Gramicidin-perforated patch clamp recordings confirm that NL2 directly regulates the GABA equilibrium potential. We further demonstrate that knockdown of NL2 decreases dendritic spines through down-regulating KCC2.
Our data suggest that in addition to its conventional role as a cell adhesion molecule to regulate GABAergic synaptogenesis, NL2 also regulates KCC2 to modulate GABA functional switch and even glutamatergic synapses. Therefore, NL2 may serve as a master regulator in balancing excitation and inhibition in the brain.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
GABAergic deficit is one of the major mechanisms underlying epileptic seizures. Previous studies have mainly focused on alterations of synaptic GABAergic inhibition during epileptogenesis. Recent work suggested that tonic inhibition may also play a role in regulating epileptogenesis, but the underlying mechanism is not well understood.
We employed molecular and pharmacological tools to investigate the role of tonic inhibition during epileptogenesis both in vitro and in vivo. We overexpressed two distinct subtypes of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors, α5β3γ2 and α6β3δ receptors, in cultured hippocampal neurons. We demonstrated that overexpression of both α5β3γ2 and α6β3δ receptors enhanced tonic inhibition and reduced epileptiform activity in vitro. We then showed that injection of THIP (5 μM), a selective agonist for extrasynaptic GABAA receptors at low concentration, into rat brain also suppressed epileptiform burst activity and behavioral seizures in vivo. Mechanistically, we discovered that low concentration of THIP had no effect on GABAergic synaptic transmission and did not affect the basal level of action potentials, but significantly inhibited high frequency neuronal activity induced by epileptogenic agents.
Our studies suggest that extrasynaptic GABAA receptors play an important role in controlling hyperexcitatory activity, such as that during epileptogenesis, but a less prominent role in modulating a low level of basal activity. We propose that tonic inhibition may play a greater role under pathological conditions than in physiological conditions in terms of modulating neural network activity.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neuroplasticity depends on the precise timing of gene expression, which requires accurate control of mRNA stability and rapid elimination of abnormal mRNA. Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is an RNA surveillance mechanism that ensures the speedy degradation of mRNAs carrying premature termination codons (PTCs). This mechanism relies on several key Exon Junction Complex (EJC) factors to distinguish PTCs from the normal stop codons. NMD degrades not only aberrant transcripts carrying PTCs, but also normal transcripts harboring a normal stop codon . Intriguingly, mutations in an NMD factor, Upf3b, have been found in patients with autism [2, 3]. A binding partner of Upf3b, RBM8a, is located in the 1q21.1 copy-number variation (CNV) associated with mental retardation, autism , schizophrenia , and microcephaly . However, the functions of EJC factors and their roles in behavioral regulation are still elusive. RBM8a protein is a core component of the EJC that plays an important role in NMD. Recent genetic study indicated that RBM8a gain-of-function significantly associated with intellectual disability . In this study we investigated the effect of RBM8a overexpression on affective behaviors in mice. Lentivirus expressing RBM8a was infused into the hippocampus of adult mice to conduct behavioral studies including social interaction, open field, elevated plus maze, and forced swimming tests. Our results showed that overexpression of RBM8a in the mouse dentate gyrus (DG) leads to increased anxiety-like behavior, abnormal social interaction and decreased immobile time in forced swimming test (FST). To examine the underlying mechanism, we found that overexpressing RBM8a in cultured primary neurons lead to significant higher frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic currents (mEPSCs). To explore the underlying mechanism of RBM8a mediated behavioral changes, RNA-immunoprecipitation (RNA-IP) detected that RBM8a binds to CaMK2, GluR1 and Egr1 mRNA, suggesting that RBM8a may target neuronal genes to regulate behaviors. This is the first study that demonstrates the key role of RBM8a on the emotional behaviors in mice. These results reveal new neural mechanisms by which NMD modulates behaviors and potentially provide a better understanding of pathophysiology underlying psychiatric disorders.
Current Molecular Medicine 04/2013; 13(6). DOI:10.2174/15665240113139990019 · 3.62 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: GABAA receptors (GABAA-Rs) are localized at both synaptic and extrasynaptic sites, mediating phasic and tonic inhibition, respectively. Previous
studies suggest an important role of γ2 and δ subunits in synaptic versus extrasynaptic targeting of GABAA-Rs. Here, we demonstrate differential function of α2 and α6 subunits in guiding the localization of GABAA-Rs. To study the targeting of specific subtypes of GABAA-Rs, we used a molecularly engineered GABAergic synapse model to precisely control the GABAA-R subunit composition. We found that in neuron-HEK cell heterosynapses, GABAergic events mediated by α2β3γ2 receptors were
very fast (rise time ∼2 ms), whereas events mediated by α6β3δ receptors were very slow (rise time ∼20 ms). Such an order of
magnitude difference in rise time could not be attributed to the minute differences in receptor kinetics. Interestingly, synaptic
events mediated by α6β3 or α6β3γ2 receptors were significantly slower than those mediated by α2β3 or α2β3γ2 receptors, suggesting
a differential role of α subunit in receptor targeting. This was confirmed by differential targeting of the same δ-γ2 chimeric
subunits to synaptic or extrasynaptic sites, depending on whether it was co-assembled with the α2 or α6 subunit. In addition,
insertion of a gephyrin-binding site into the intracellular domain of α6 and δ subunits brought α6β3δ receptors closer to
synaptic sites. Therefore, the α subunits, together with the γ2 and δ subunits, play a critical role in governing synaptic
versus extrasynaptic targeting of GABAA-Rs, possibly through differential interactions with gephyrin.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cofilin is an actin-binding protein and a major actin depolymerization factor in the central nervous system (CNS). Cofilin-actin
aggregates are associated with neurodegenerative disorders, but how cofilin-actin aggregation induces pathological effects
in the CNS remains unclear. Here, we demonstrated that cofilin rods disrupted dendritic microtubule integrity in rat hippocampal
cultures. Long term time-lapse imaging revealed that cofilin rods block intracellular trafficking of both mitochondria and
early endosomes. Importantly, cofilin rod formation induced a significant loss of SV2 and PSD-95 puncta as well as dendritic
spines. Cofilin rods also impaired local glutamate receptor responses. We discovered an inverse relationship between the number
of synaptic events and the accumulation of cofilin rods in dendrites. We also detected cofilin rods in aging rat brains in vivo. These results suggest that cofilin aggregation may contribute to neurodegeneration and brain aging by blocking intracellular
trafficking and inducing synaptic loss.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 02/2012; 287(6):3919-3929. · 4.57 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The transcriptome and its regulation bridge the genome and the phenome. Recent RNA-seq studies unveiled complex transcriptomes with previously unknown transcripts and functions. To investigate the characteristics of neural transcriptomes and possible functions of previously unknown transcripts, we analyzed and compared nine recent RNA-seq datasets corresponding to tissues/organs ranging from stem cell, embryonic brain cortex to adult whole brain.
We found that the neural and stem cell transcriptomes share global similarity in both gene and chromosomal expression, but are quite different from those of liver or muscle. We also found an unusually high level of unannotated expression in mouse embryonic brains. The intronic unannotated expression was found to be strongly associated with genes annotated for neurogenesis, axon guidance, negative regulation of transcription, and neural transmission. These functions are the hallmarks of the late embryonic stage cortex, and crucial for synaptogenesis and neural circuit formation.
Our results revealed unique global and local landscapes of neural transcriptomes. It also suggested potential functional roles for previously unknown transcripts actively expressed in the developing brain cortex. Our findings provide new insights into potentially novel genes, gene functions and regulatory mechanisms in early brain development.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dendritic spines serve as the postsynaptic platform for most excitatory synapses in the mammalian brain, and their shape and size are tightly correlated with synaptic strength. The actin cytoskeleton plays a crucial role in the spine structure and its modifications during synapse development and plasticity, but the underlying regulatory mechanisms remain to be elucidated. Here, we report that actin capping protein (CP), a regulator of actin filament growth, plays an essential role for spine development and synapse formation. We found that CP expression in rat hippocampus is elevated at and after the stage of substantial synapse formation. CP knockdown in hippocampal cultures resulted in a marked decline in spine density accompanied by increased filopodia-like protrusions. Moreover, the spines of CP knockdown neurons exhibited an altered morphology, highlighted by multiple thin filopodia-like protrusions emerging from the spine head. Finally, the number of functional synapses was reduced by CP knockdown as evidenced by a reduction in the density of paired presynaptic and postsynaptic markers and in the frequency of miniature EPSCs. These findings indicate that capping of actin filaments by CP represents an essential step for the remodeling of the actin architecture underlying spine morphogenesis and synaptic formation during development.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 07/2011; 31(28):10228-33. DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0115-11.2011 · 6.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Schizophrenia is a severe chronic mental disorder with a high genetic component in its etiology. Several lines of study have suggested that synaptic dysfunction may underlie the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Neuroligin proteins function as cell-adhesion molecules at post-synaptic membrane and play critical roles in synaptogenesis and synaptic maturation. In this study, we systemically sequenced all the exons and promoter region of neuroligin-2 (NLGN2) gene in a sample of 584 schizophrenia patients and 549 control subjects from Taiwan. In total, we identified 19 genetic variants, including six rare missense mutations such as R215H (one patient), V510M (two patients), R621H (one patient), A637T (two patients), P800L (one patient and one control) and A819S (one patient and one control). In silico analysis predicted that two patient-specific missense mutations, R215H and R621H, had damaging effect, whereas the other missense mutations were benign. Importantly, functional analysis with immunocytochemistry and electrophysiological recordings identified the R215H mutant as a loss-of-function mutant in inducing GABAergic synaptogenesis. Mechanistically, the synaptogenic deficiency of R215H mutant was due to its retention inside the endoplasmic reticulum and inability to be transported to cell membrane. Our study suggests that defects in GABAergic synapse formation in the brain may be an important contributing factor for the onset of schizophrenia. In the family study of this mutation, we found his elder brother also carried this mutation but did not have psychiatric symptoms, indicating that this mutation has incomplete penetrance, and thus the clinical relevance of this mutation should be interpreted with caution.
Human Molecular Genetics 05/2011; 20(15):3042-51. DOI:10.1093/hmg/ddr208 · 6.39 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Schizophrenia (SCZD) is a debilitating neurological disorder with a world-wide prevalence of 1%; there is a strong genetic component, with an estimated heritability of 80-85%. Although post-mortem studies have revealed reduced brain volume, cell size, spine density and abnormal neural distribution in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of SCZD brain tissue and neuropharmacological studies have implicated dopaminergic, glutamatergic and GABAergic activity in SCZD, the cell types affected in SCZD and the molecular mechanisms underlying the disease state remain unclear. To elucidate the cellular and molecular defects of SCZD, we directly reprogrammed fibroblasts from SCZD patients into human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and subsequently differentiated these disorder-specific hiPSCs into neurons (Supplementary Fig. 1). SCZD hiPSC neurons showed diminished neuronal connectivity in conjunction with decreased neurite number, PSD95-protein levels and glutamate receptor expression. Gene expression profiles of SCZD hiPSC neurons identified altered expression of many components of the cyclic AMP and WNT signalling pathways. Key cellular and molecular elements of the SCZD phenotype were ameliorated following treatment of SCZD hiPSC neurons with the antipsychotic loxapine. To date, hiPSC neuronal pathology has only been demonstrated in diseases characterized by both the loss of function of a single gene product and rapid disease progression in early childhood. We now report hiPSC neuronal phenotypes and gene expression changes associated with SCZD, a complex genetic psychiatric disorder.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are complex neurodevelopmental diseases in which different combinations of genetic mutations may contribute to the phenotype. Using Rett syndrome (RTT) as an ASD genetic model, we developed a culture system using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from RTT patients' fibroblasts. RTT patients' iPSCs are able to undergo X-inactivation and generate functional neurons. Neurons derived from RTT-iPSCs had fewer synapses, reduced spine density, smaller soma size, altered calcium signaling and electrophysiological defects when compared to controls. Our data uncovered early alterations in developing human RTT neurons. Finally, we used RTT neurons to test the effects of drugs in rescuing synaptic defects. Our data provide evidence of an unexplored developmental window, before disease onset, in RTT syndrome where potential therapies could be successfully employed. Our model recapitulates early stages of a human neurodevelopmental disease and represents a promising cellular tool for drug screening, diagnosis and personalized treatment.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have previously demonstrated that cyclothiazide (CTZ) is a potent convulsant drug inducing robust epileptiform activity in hippocampal neurons both in vitro and in vivo. Here we further establish an animal model for CTZ-induced behavioral seizures in freely moving rats. Microinjection of CTZ into the left ventricle dose-dependently induced robust seizure behaviors within 3h after administration. At a dose of 0.75 μmol, CTZ induced Racine score IV-V seizure behaviors in 71% (n=14) of the rats were tested. In addition, CTZ also induced epileptiform EEG activity accompanying behavioral seizures. The convulsant action of CTZ on both behavior and EEG was blocked by pretreatment with clinical anticonvulsant drug diazepam (n=5). In conclusion, our results demonstrate that CTZ is capable of inducing behavioral seizures in intact animals. Since CTZ acts on both GABAergic and glutamatergic systems, this new animal epilepsy model will be useful for anticonvulsant drug testing and general epilepsy research.
Brain research 10/2010; 1355:207-13. DOI:10.1016/j.brainres.2010.07.088 · 2.84 Impact Factor