[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Wnts make up a large family of extracellular signaling molecules that play crucial roles in development and disease. A subset of noncanonical Wnts signal independently of the transcription factor β-catenin by a mechanism that regulates key morphogenetic movements during embryogenesis. The best characterized noncanonical Wnt, Wnt5a, has been suggested to signal via a variety of different receptors, including the Ror family of receptor tyrosine kinases, the Ryk receptor tyrosine kinase, and the Frizzled seven-transmembrane receptors. Whether one or several of these receptors mediates the effects of Wnt5a in vivo is not known. Through loss-of-function experiments in mice, we provide conclusive evidence that Ror receptors mediate Wnt5a-dependent processes in vivo and identify Dishevelled phosphorylation as a physiological target of Wnt5a-Ror signaling. The absence of Ror signaling leads to defects that mirror phenotypes observed in Wnt5a null mutant mice, including decreased branching of sympathetic neuron axons and major defects in aspects of embryonic development that are dependent upon morphogenetic movements, such as severe truncation of the caudal axis, the limbs, and facial structures. These findings suggest that Wnt5a-Ror-Dishevelled signaling constitutes a core noncanonical Wnt pathway that is conserved through evolution and is crucial during embryonic development.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2012; 109(11):4044-51. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although transcription factors that repress gene expression play critical roles in nervous system development, their mechanism of action remains to be understood. Here, we report that the Olig-related transcription factor Bhlhb5 (also known as Bhlhe22) forms a repressor complex with the PR/SET domain protein, Prdm8. We find that Bhlhb5 binds to sequence-specific DNA elements and then recruits Prdm8, which mediates the repression of target genes. This interaction is critical for repressor function since mice lacking either Bhlhb5 or Prdm8 have strikingly similar cellular and behavioral phenotypes, including axonal mistargeting by neurons of the dorsal telencephalon and abnormal itch-like behavior. We provide evidence that Cadherin-11 functions as target of the Prdm8/Bhlhb5 repressor complex that must be repressed for proper neural circuit formation to occur. These findings suggest that Prdm8 is an obligate partner of Bhlhb5, forming a repressor complex that directs neural circuit assembly in part through the precise regulation of Cadherin-11.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mutations in the MECP2 gene cause the autism spectrum disorder Rett syndrome (RTT). One of the most common MeCP2 mutations associated with RTT occurs at threonine 158, converting it to methionine (T158M) or alanine (T158A). To understand the role of T158 mutations in the pathogenesis of RTT, we generated knockin mice that recapitulate the MeCP2 T158A mutation. We found a causal role for T158A mutation in the development of RTT-like phenotypes, including developmental regression, motor dysfunction, and learning and memory deficits. These phenotypes resemble those present in Mecp2 null mice and manifest through a reduction in MeCP2 binding to methylated DNA and a decrease in MeCP2 protein stability. The age-dependent development of event-related neuronal responses was disrupted by MeCP2 mutation, suggesting that impaired neuronal circuitry underlies the pathogenesis of RTT and that assessment of event-related potentials (ERPs) may serve as a biomarker for RTT and treatment evaluation.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mechanisms that promote excitatory synapse formation and maturation have been extensively studied. However, the molecular events that limit excitatory synapse development so that synapses form at the right time and place and in the correct numbers are less well understood. We have identified a RhoA guanine nucleotide exchange factor, Ephexin5, which negatively regulates excitatory synapse development until EphrinB binding to the EphB receptor tyrosine kinase triggers Ephexin5 phosphorylation, ubiquitination, and degradation. The degradation of Ephexin5 promotes EphB-dependent excitatory synapse development and is mediated by Ube3A, a ubiquitin ligase that is mutated in the human cognitive disorder Angelman syndrome and duplicated in some forms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). These findings suggest that aberrant EphB/Ephexin5 signaling during the development of synapses may contribute to the abnormal cognitive function that occurs in Angelman syndrome and, possibly, ASDs.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Itch is the least well understood of all the somatic senses, and the neural circuits that underlie this sensation are poorly defined. Here we show that the atonal-related transcription factor Bhlhb5 is transiently expressed in the dorsal horn of the developing spinal cord and appears to play a role in the formation and regulation of pruritic (itch) circuits. Mice lacking Bhlhb5 develop self-inflicted skin lesions and show significantly enhanced scratching responses to pruritic agents. Through genetic fate-mapping and conditional ablation, we provide evidence that the pruritic phenotype in Bhlhb5 mutants is due to selective loss of a subset of inhibitory interneurons in the dorsal horn. Our findings suggest that Bhlhb5 is required for the survival of a specific population of inhibitory interneurons that regulate pruritus, and provide evidence that the loss of inhibitory synaptic input results in abnormal itch.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mechanisms by which proneural basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) factors control neurogenesis have been characterized, but it is not known how they specify neuronal cell-type identity. Here, we provide evidence that two conserved serine residues on the bHLH factor neurogenin 2 (Ngn2), S231 and S234, are phosphorylated during motor neuron differentiation. In knockin mice in which S231 and S234 of Ngn2 were mutated to alanines, neurogenesis occurs normally, but motor neuron specification is impaired. The phosphorylation of Ngn2 at S231 and S234 facilitates the interaction of Ngn2 with LIM homeodomain transcription factors to specify motor neuron identity. The phosphorylation-dependent cooperativity between Ngn2 and homeodomain transcription factors may be a general mechanism by which the activities of bHLH and homeodomain proteins are temporally and spatially integrated to generate the wide diversity of cell types that are a hallmark of the nervous system.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Dendritic spines are small, actin-rich protrusions on the surface of dendrites that receive the majority of excitatory synaptic inputs in the brain. The formation and remodeling of spines, processes that underlie synaptic development and plasticity, are regulated in part by Eph receptor tyrosine kinases. However, the mechanism by which Ephs regulate actin cytoskeletal remodeling necessary for spine development is not fully understood. Here, we report that the Rac1 guanine nucleotide exchange factor Tiam1 interacts with the EphB2 receptor in a kinase-dependent manner. Activation of EphBs by their ephrinB ligands induces the tyrosine phosphorylation and recruitment of Tiam1 to EphB complexes containing NMDA-type glutamate receptors. Either knockdown of Tiam1 protein by RNAi or inhibition of Tiam1 function with a dominant-negative Tiam1 mutant blocks dendritic spine formation induced by ephrinB1 stimulation. Taken together, these findings suggest that EphBs regulate spine development in part by recruiting, phosphorylating, and activating Tiam1. Tiam1 can then promote Rac1-dependent actin cytoskeletal remodeling required for dendritic spine morphogenesis.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2007; 104(17):7265-70. · 9.74 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mutations or duplications in MECP2 cause Rett and Rett-like syndromes, neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by mental retardation, motor dysfunction, and autistic behaviors. MeCP2 is expressed in many mammalian tissues and functions as a global repressor of transcription; however, the molecular mechanisms by which MeCP2 dysfunction leads to the neural-specific phenotypes of RTT remain poorly understood. Here, we show that neuronal activity and subsequent calcium influx trigger the de novo phosphorylation of MeCP2 at serine 421 (S421) by a CaMKII-dependent mechanism. MeCP2 S421 phosphorylation is induced selectively in the brain in response to physiological stimuli. Significantly, we find that S421 phosphorylation controls the ability of MeCP2 to regulate dendritic patterning, spine morphogenesis, and the activity-dependent induction of Bdnf transcription. These findings suggest that, by triggering MeCP2 phosphorylation, neuronal activity regulates a program of gene expression that mediates nervous system maturation and that disruption of this process in individuals with mutations in MeCP2 may underlie the neural-specific pathology of RTT.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ephs regulate growth cone repulsion, a process controlled by the actin cytoskeleton. The guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) ephexin1 interacts with EphA4 and has been suggested to mediate the effect of EphA on the activity of Rho GTPases, key regulators of the cytoskeleton and axon guidance. Using cultured ephexin1-/- mouse neurons and RNA interference in the chick, we report that ephexin1 is required for normal axon outgrowth and ephrin-dependent axon repulsion. Ephexin1 becomes tyrosine phosphorylated in response to EphA signaling in neurons, and this phosphorylation event is required for growth cone collapse. Tyrosine phosphorylation of ephexin1 enhances ephexin1's GEF activity toward RhoA while not altering its activity toward Rac1 or Cdc42, thus changing the balance of GTPase activities. These findings reveal that ephexin1 plays a role in axon guidance and is regulated by a switch mechanism that is specifically tailored to control Eph-mediated growth cone collapse.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Local regulation of mRNA translation plays an important role in axon guidance, synaptic development, and neuronal plasticity. Little is known, however, regarding the mechanisms that control translation in neurons, and only a few mRNAs have been identified that are locally translated within axon and dendrites. Using Affymetrix gene arrays to identify mRNAs that are newly associated with polysomes after exposure to BDNF, we identified subsets of mRNAs for which translation is enhanced in neurons at different developmental stages. In mature neurons, many of these mRNAs encode proteins that are known to function at synapses, including CamKIIalpha, NMDA receptor subunits, and the postsynaptic density (PSD) scaffolding protein Homer2. BDNF regulates the translation of Homer2 locally in the synaptodendritic compartment by activating translational initiation via a mammalian target of rapamycin-phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-dependent pathway. These findings suggest that BDNF likely regulates synaptic function by inducing the local synthesis of numerous synaptic proteins. The local translation of the cytoskeleton-associated protein Homer2 in particular might have important implications for growth cone dynamics and dendritic spine development.
Journal of Neuroscience 09/2004; 24(33):7366-77. · 6.91 Impact Factor