R C Malenka

Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, United States

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Publications (228)3415.41 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: In humans, neuroligin-3 mutations are associated with autism, whereas in mice, the corresponding mutations produce robust synaptic and behavioral changes. However, different neuroligin-3 mutations cause largely distinct phenotypes in mice, and no causal relationship links a specific synaptic dysfunction to a behavioral change. Using rotarod motor learning as a proxy for acquired repetitive behaviors in mice, we found that different neuroligin-3 mutations uniformly enhanced formation of repetitive motor routines. Surprisingly, neuroligin-3 mutations caused this phenotype not via changes in the cerebellum or dorsal striatum but via a selective synaptic impairment in the nucleus accumbens/ventral striatum. Here, neuroligin-3 mutations increased rotarod learning by specifically impeding synaptic inhibition onto D1-dopamine receptor-expressing but not D2-dopamine receptor-expressing medium spiny neurons. Our data thus suggest that different autism-associated neuroligin-3 mutations cause a common increase in acquired repetitive behaviors by impairing a specific striatal synapse and thereby provide a plausible circuit substrate for autism pathophysiology. PAPERFLICK:
    Cell 07/2014; 158(1):198-212. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Social interaction is a complex behavior essential for many species and is impaired in major neuropsychiatric disorders. Pharmacological studies have implicated certain neurotransmitter systems in social behavior, but circuit-level understanding of endogenous neural activity during social interaction is lacking. We therefore developed and applied a new methodology, termed fiber photometry, to optically record natural neural activity in genetically and connectivity-defined projections to elucidate the real-time role of specified pathways in mammalian behavior. Fiber photometry revealed that activity dynamics of a ventral tegmental area (VTA)-to-nucleus accumbens (NAc) projection could encode and predict key features of social, but not novel object, interaction. Consistent with this observation, optogenetic control of cells specifically contributing to this projection was sufficient to modulate social behavior, which was mediated by type 1 dopamine receptor signaling downstream in the NAc. Direct observation of deep projection-specific activity in this way captures a fundamental and previously inaccessible dimension of mammalian circuit dynamics.
    Cell. 06/2014; 157(7):1535-51.
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    ABSTRACT: Dopamine midbrain neurons within the substantia nigra are particularly prone to degeneration in Parkinson's disease. Their selective loss causes the major motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease, but the causes for the high vulnerability of SN DA neurons, compared to neighbouring, more resistant ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons, are still unclear. Consequently, there is still no cure available for Parkinson's disease. Current therapies compensate the progressive loss of dopamine by administering its precursor l-DOPA and/or dopamine D2-receptor agonists. D2-autoreceptors and Cav1.3-containing L-type Ca(2+) channels both contribute to Parkinson's disease pathology. L-type Ca(2+) channel blockers protect SN DA neurons from degeneration in Parkinson's disease and its mouse models, and they are in clinical trials for neuroprotective Parkinson's disease therapy. However, their physiological functions in SN DA neurons remain unclear. D2-autoreceptors tune firing rates and dopamine release of SN DA neurons in a negative feedback loop through activation of G-protein coupled potassium channels (GIRK2, or KCNJ6). Mature SN DA neurons display prominent, non-desensitizing somatodendritic D2-autoreceptor responses that show pronounced desensitization in PARK-gene Parkinson's disease mouse models. We analysed surviving human SN DA neurons from patients with Parkinson's disease and from controls, and detected elevated messenger RNA levels of D2-autoreceptors and GIRK2 in Parkinson's disease. By electrophysiological analysis of postnatal juvenile and adult mouse SN DA neurons in in vitro brain-slices, we observed that D2-autoreceptor desensitization is reduced with postnatal maturation. Furthermore, a transient high-dopamine state in vivo, caused by one injection of either l-DOPA or cocaine, induced adult-like, non-desensitizing D2-autoreceptor responses, selectively in juvenile SN DA neurons, but not ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons. With pharmacological and genetic tools, we identified that the expression of this sensitized D2-autoreceptor phenotype required Cav1.3 L-type Ca(2+) channel activity, internal Ca(2+), and the interaction of the neuronal calcium sensor NCS-1 with D2-autoreceptors. Thus, we identified a first physiological function of Cav1.3 L-type Ca(2+) channels in SN DA neurons for homeostatic modulation of their D2-autoreceptor responses. L-type Ca(2+) channel activity however, was not important for pacemaker activity of mouse SN DA neurons. Furthermore, we detected elevated substantia nigra dopamine messenger RNA levels of NCS-1 (but not Cav1.2 or Cav1.3) after cocaine in mice, as well as in remaining human SN DA neurons in Parkinson's disease. Thus, our findings provide a novel homeostatic functional link in SN DA neurons between Cav1.3- L-type-Ca(2+) channels and D2-autoreceptor activity, controlled by NCS-1, and indicate that this adaptive signalling network (Cav1.3/NCS-1/D2/GIRK2) is also active in human SN DA neurons, and contributes to Parkinson's disease pathology. As it is accessible to pharmacological modulation, it provides a novel promising target for tuning substantia nigra dopamine neuron activity, and their vulnerability to degeneration.
    Brain : a journal of neurology. 06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: A deletion on human chromosome 16p11.2 is associated with autism spectrum disorders. We deleted the syntenic region on mouse chromosome 7F3. MRI and high-throughput single-cell transcriptomics revealed anatomical and cellular abnormalities, particularly in cortex and striatum of juvenile mutant mice (16p11(+/-)). We found elevated numbers of striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs) expressing the dopamine D2 receptor (Drd2(+)) and fewer dopamine-sensitive (Drd1(+)) neurons in deep layers of cortex. Electrophysiological recordings of Drd2(+) MSN revealed synaptic defects, suggesting abnormal basal ganglia circuitry function in 16p11(+/-) mice. This is further supported by behavioral experiments showing hyperactivity, circling, and deficits in movement control. Strikingly, 16p11(+/-) mice showed a complete lack of habituation reminiscent of what is observed in some autistic individuals. Our findings unveil a fundamental role of genes affected by the 16p11.2 deletion in establishing the basal ganglia circuitry and provide insights in the pathophysiology of autism.
    Cell reports. 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have provided strong support for the notion that NMDAR-mediated increases in postsynaptic Ca(2+) have a crucial role in the induction of long-term depression (LTD). This view has recently been challenged, however, by findings suggesting that LTD induction is instead attributable to an ion channel-independent, metabotropic form of NMDAR signaling. Thus, to explore the role of ionotropic versus metabotropic NMDAR signaling in LTD, we examined the effects of varying extracellular Ca(2+) levels or blocking NMDAR channel ion fluxes with MK-801 on LTD and NMDAR signaling in the mouse hippocampal CA1 region. We find that the induction of LTD in the adult hippocampus is highly sensitive to extracellular Ca(2+) levels and that MK-801 blocks NMDAR-dependent LTD in the hippocampus of both adult and immature mice. Moreover, MK-801 inhibits NMDAR-mediated activation of p38-MAPK and dephosphorylation of AMPAR GluA1 subunits at sites implicated in LTD. Thus, our results indicate that the induction of LTD in the hippocampal CA1 region is dependent on ionotropic, rather than metabotropic, NMDAR signaling.
    Journal of Neuroscience 04/2014; 34(15):5285-90. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In forebrain neurons, knockout of synaptotagmin-1 blocks fast Ca(2+)-triggered synchronous neurotransmitter release but enables manifestation of slow Ca(2+)-triggered asynchronous release. Here, we show using single-cell PCR that individual hippocampal neurons abundantly coexpress two Ca(2+)-binding synaptotagmin isoforms, synaptotagmin-1 and synaptotagmin-7. In synaptotagmin-1-deficient synapses of excitatory and inhibitory neurons, loss of function of synaptotagmin-7 suppressed asynchronous release. This phenotype was rescued by wild-type but not mutant synaptotagmin-7 lacking functional Ca(2+)-binding sites. Even in synaptotagmin-1-containing neurons, synaptotagmin-7 ablation partly impaired asynchronous release induced by extended high-frequency stimulus trains. Synaptotagmins bind Ca(2+) via two C2 domains, the C2A and C2B domains. Surprisingly, synaptotagmin-7 function selectively required its C2A domain Ca(2+)-binding sites, whereas synaptotagmin-1 function required its C2B domain Ca(2+)-binding sites. Our data show that nearly all Ca(2+)-triggered release at a synapse is due to synaptotagmins, with synaptotagmin-7 mediating a slower form of Ca(2+)-triggered release that is normally occluded by faster synaptotagmin-1-induced release but becomes manifest upon synaptotagmin-1 deletion.
    Neuron 11/2013; 80(4):947-959. · 15.77 Impact Factor
  • Robert C Malenka
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    ABSTRACT: This year, the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award will be shared by Richard Scheller and Thomas Südhof for their elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying neurotransmitter release. Their discoveries provided insight into the molecular basis of synaptic transmission and enhanced our understanding of how synaptic dysfunction may cause neuropsychiatric disorders.
    Cell 09/2013; 154(6):1171-4. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Social behaviours in species as diverse as honey bees and humans promote group survival but often come at some cost to the individual. Although reinforcement of adaptive social interactions is ostensibly required for the evolutionary persistence of these behaviours, the neural mechanisms by which social reward is encoded by the brain are largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that in mice oxytocin acts as a social reinforcement signal within the nucleus accumbens core, where it elicits a presynaptically expressed long-term depression of excitatory synaptic transmission in medium spiny neurons. Although the nucleus accumbens receives oxytocin-receptor-containing inputs from several brain regions, genetic deletion of these receptors specifically from dorsal raphe nucleus, which provides serotonergic (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) innervation to the nucleus accumbens, abolishes the reinforcing properties of social interaction. Furthermore, oxytocin-induced synaptic plasticity requires activation of nucleus accumbens 5-HT1B receptors, the blockade of which prevents social reward. These results demonstrate that the rewarding properties of social interaction in mice require the coordinated activity of oxytocin and 5-HT in the nucleus accumbens, a mechanistic insight with implications for understanding the pathogenesis of social dysfunction in neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism.
    Nature 09/2013; 501(7466):179-84. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Leucine-rich repeat transmembrane proteins (LRRTMs) are synaptic cell adhesion molecules that trigger excitatory synapse assembly in cultured neurons and influence synaptic function in vivo, but their role in synaptic plasticity is unknown. shRNA-mediated knockdown (KD) of LRRTM1 and LRRTM2 in vivo in CA1 pyramidal neurons of newborn mice blocked long-term potentiation (LTP) in acute hippocampal slices. Molecular replacement experiments revealed that the LRRTM2 extracellular domain is sufficient for LTP, probably because it mediates binding to neurexins (Nrxs). Examination of surface expression of endogenous AMPA receptors (AMPARs) in cultured neurons suggests that LRRTMs maintain newly delivered AMPARs at synapses after LTP induction. LRRTMs are also required for LTP of mature synapses on adult CA1 pyramidal neurons, indicating that the block of LTP in neonatal synapses by LRRTM1 and LRRTM2 KD is not due to impairment of synapse maturation.
    Neuron 08/2013; 79(3):439-46. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neurexins are essential presynaptic cell adhesion molecules that are linked to schizophrenia and autism and are subject to extensive alternative splicing. Here, we used a genetic approach to test the physiological significance of neurexin alternative splicing. We generated knockin mice in which alternatively spliced sequence #4 (SS4) of neuexin-3 is constitutively included but can be selectively excised by cre-recombination. SS4 of neurexin-3 was chosen because it is highly regulated and controls neurexin binding to neuroligins, LRRTMs, and other ligands. Unexpectedly, constitutive inclusion of SS4 in presynaptic neurexin-3 decreased postsynaptic AMPA, but not NMDA receptor levels, and enhanced postsynaptic AMPA receptor endocytosis. Moreover, constitutive inclusion of SS4 in presynaptic neurexin-3 abrogated postsynaptic AMPA receptor recruitment during NMDA receptor-dependent LTP. These phenotypes were fully rescued by constitutive excision of SS4 in neurexin-3. Thus, alternative splicing of presynaptic neurexin-3 controls postsynaptic AMPA receptor trafficking, revealing an unanticipated alternative splicing mechanism for trans-synaptic regulation of synaptic strength and long-term plasticity.
    Cell 07/2013; 154(1):75-88. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Compulsive behavior is a debilitating clinical feature of many forms of neuropsychiatric disease, including Tourette syndrome, obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders, eating disorders, and autism. Although several studies link striatal dysfunction to compulsivity, the pathophysiology remains poorly understood. Here, we show that both constitutive and induced genetic deletion of the gene encoding the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R), as well as pharmacologic inhibition of MC4R signaling, normalize compulsive grooming and striatal electrophysiologic impairments in synapse-associated protein 90/postsynaptic density protein 95-associated protein 3 (SAPAP3)-null mice, a model of human obsessive-compulsive disorder. Unexpectedly, genetic deletion of SAPAP3 restores normal weight and metabolic features of MC4R-null mice, a model of human obesity. Our findings offer insights into the pathophysiology and treatment of both compulsive behavior and eating disorders.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 06/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor
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  • Csaba Földy, Robert C Malenka, Thomas C Südhof
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroligins are postsynaptic cell-adhesion molecules that interact with presynaptic neurexins. Rare mutations in neuroligins and neurexins predispose to autism, including a neuroligin-3 amino acid substitution (R451C) and a neuroligin-3 deletion. Previous analyses showed that neuroligin-3 R451C-knockin mice exhibit robust synaptic phenotypes but failed to uncover major changes in neuroligin-3 knockout mice, questioning the notion that a common synaptic mechanism mediates autism pathogenesis in patients with these mutations. Here, we used paired recordings in mice carrying these mutations to measure synaptic transmission at GABAergic synapses formed by hippocampal parvalbumin- and cholecystokinin-expressing basket cells onto pyramidal neurons. We demonstrate that in addition to unique gain-of-function effects produced by the neuroligin-3 R451C-knockin but not the neuroligin-3 knockout mutation, both mutations dramatically impaired tonic but not phasic endocannabinoid signaling. Our data thus suggest that neuroligin-3 is specifically required for tonic endocannabinoid signaling, raising the possibility that alterations in endocannabinoid signaling may contribute to autism pathophysiology.
    Neuron 04/2013; · 15.77 Impact Factor
  • Stephan Lammel, Byung Kook Lim, Robert C Malenka
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    ABSTRACT: The ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a heterogeneous brain structure that serves a central role in motivation and reward processing. Abnormalities in the function of VTA dopamine (DA) neurons and the targets they influence are implicated in several prominent neuropsychiatric disorders including addiction and depression. Recent studies suggest that the midbrain DA system is composed of anatomically and functionally heterogeneous DA subpopulations with different axonal projections. These findings may explain a number of previously confusing observations that suggested a role for DA in processing both rewarding as well as aversive events. Here we will focus on recent advances in understanding the neural circuits mediating reward and aversion in the VTA and how stress as well as drugs of abuse, in particular cocaine, alter circuit function within a heterogeneous midbrain DA system.
    Neuropharmacology 04/2013; · 4.11 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Behavioural states in mammals, such as the anxious state, are characterized by several features that are coordinately regulated by diverse nervous system outputs, ranging from behavioural choice patterns to changes in physiology (in anxiety, exemplified respectively by risk-avoidance and respiratory rate alterations). Here we investigate if and how defined neural projections arising from a single coordinating brain region in mice could mediate diverse features of anxiety. Integrating behavioural assays, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, respiratory physiology and optogenetics, we identify a surprising new role for the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) in the coordinated modulation of diverse anxiety features. First, two BNST subregions were unexpectedly found to exert opposite effects on the anxious state: oval BNST activity promoted several independent anxious state features, whereas anterodorsal BNST-associated activity exerted anxiolytic influence for the same features. Notably, we found that three distinct anterodorsal BNST efferent projections-to the lateral hypothalamus, parabrachial nucleus and ventral tegmental area-each implemented an independent feature of anxiolysis: reduced risk-avoidance, reduced respiratory rate, and increased positive valence, respectively. Furthermore, selective inhibition of corresponding circuit elements in freely moving mice showed opposing behavioural effects compared with excitation, and in vivo recordings during free behaviour showed native spiking patterns in anterodorsal BNST neurons that differentiated safe and anxiogenic environments. These results demonstrate that distinct BNST subregions exert opposite effects in modulating anxiety, establish separable anxiolytic roles for different anterodorsal BNST projections, and illustrate circuit mechanisms underlying selection of features for the assembly of the anxious state.
    Nature 03/2013; · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Membrane fusion during exocytosis is mediated by assemblies of SNARE (soluble NSF-attachment protein receptor) and SM (Sec1/Munc18-like) proteins. The SNARE/SM proteins involved in vesicle fusion during neurotransmitter release are well understood, whereas little is known about the protein machinery that mediates activity-dependent AMPA receptor (AMPAR) exocytosis during long-term potentiation (LTP). Using direct measurements of LTP in acute hippocampal slices and an in vitro LTP model of stimulated AMPAR exocytosis, we demonstrate that the Q-SNARE proteins syntaxin-3 and SNAP-47 are required for regulated AMPAR exocytosis during LTP but not for constitutive basal AMPAR exocytosis. In contrast, the R-SNARE protein synaptobrevin-2/VAMP2 contributes to both regulated and constitutive AMPAR exocytosis. Both the central complexin-binding and the N-terminal Munc18-binding sites of syntaxin-3 are essential for its postsynaptic role in LTP. Thus, postsynaptic exocytosis of AMPARs during LTP is mediated by a unique fusion machinery that is distinct from that used during presynaptic neurotransmitter release.
    Neuron 02/2013; 77(3):542-58. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Membrane fusion during exocytosis is mediated by assemblies of SNARE (soluble NSF-attachment protein receptor) and SM (Sec1/Munc18-like) proteins. The SNARE/SM proteins involved in vesicle fusion during neurotransmitter release are well understood, whereas little is known about the protein machinery that mediates activity-dependent AMPA receptor (AMPAR) exocytosis during long-term potentiation (LTP). Using direct measurements of LTP in acute hippocampal slices and an in vitro LTP model of stimulated AMPAR exocytosis, we demonstrate that the Q-SNARE proteins syntaxin-3 and SNAP-47 are required for regulated AMPAR exocytosis during LTP but not for constitutive basal AMPAR exocytosis. In contrast, the R-SNARE protein synaptobrevin-2/VAMP2 contributes to both regulated and constitutive AMPAR exocytosis. Both the central complexin-binding and the N-terminal Munc18-binding sites of syntaxin-3 are essential for its postsynaptic role in LTP. Thus, postsynaptic exocytosis of AMPARs during LTP is mediated by a unique fusion machinery that is distinct from that used during presynaptic neurotransmitter release.
    Neuron 02/2013; 77(3):542. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Synaptic modifications in nucleus accumbens (NAc) medium spiny neurons (MSNs) play a key role in adaptive and pathological reward-dependent learning, including maladaptive responses involved in drug addiction. NAc MSNs participate in two parallel circuits, direct and indirect pathways that subserve distinct behavioral functions. Modification of NAc MSN synapses may occur in part via changes in the transcriptional potential of certain genes in a cell type-specific manner. The transcription factor FosB is one of the key proteins implicated in the gene expression changes in NAc caused by drugs of abuse, yet its effects on synaptic function in NAc MSNs are unknown. Here, we demonstrate that overexpression of FosB decreased excitatory synaptic strength and likely increased silent synapses onto D1 dopamine receptor-expressing direct pathway MSNs in both the NAc shell and core. In contrast, FosB likely decreased silent synapses onto NAc shell, but not core, D2 dopamine receptor-expressing indirect pathway MSNs. Analysis of NAc MSN dendritic spine morphology revealed that FosB increased the density of immature spines in D1 direct but not D2 indirect pathway MSNs. To determine the behavioral consequences of cell type-specific actions of FosB, we selectively overexpressed FosB in D1 direct or D2 indirect MSNs in NAc in vivo and found that direct (but not indirect) pathway MSN expression enhances behavioral responses to cocaine. These results reveal that FosB in NAc differentially modulates synaptic properties and reward-related behaviors in a cell type- and subregion-specific fashion.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2013; · 9.74 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

35k Citations
3,415.41 Total Impact Points

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Institutions

  • 1989–2014
    • Stanford University
      • • Department of Medicine
      • • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
      • • Department of Neurosurgery
      • • Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 1999–2013
    • Stanford Medicine
      • Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
      Stanford, CA, United States
    • University of Bristol
      Bristol, England, United Kingdom
  • 1993–2013
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Maryland, United States
    • Columbia University
      • Center for Neurobiology and Behavior
      New York City, NY, United States
  • 2011–2012
    • University of Geneva
      • Department of Basic Neurosciences (NEUFO)
      Genève, GE, Switzerland
  • 1995–2008
    • University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
      • • Department of Neuroscience
      • • Department of Psychiatry
      • • Department of Molecular Genetics
      Dallas, TX, United States
  • 1994–2007
    • Brown University
      • Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology
      Providence, RI, United States
  • 2006
    • Boca Raton Regional Hospital
      Boca Raton, Florida, United States
  • 2003
    • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
      • Institute of Human Genetics
      Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 2002
    • Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
      Cold Spring Harbor, New York, United States
  • 2001
    • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
      Maryland, United States
    • Albert Einstein College of Medicine
      New York City, New York, United States
  • 1986–2001
    • University of California, San Francisco
      • • Department of Neurology
      • • Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology
      • • Department of Psychiatry
      San Francisco, California, United States
  • 1996
    • CSU Mentor
      Long Beach, California, United States