Frederique Varoqueaux

University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland

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Publications (53)474.77 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The formation of neuronal synapses and the dynamic regulation of their efficacy depend on the assembly of the postsynaptic neurotransmitter receptor apparatus. Receptor recruitment to inhibitory GABAergic and glycinergic synapses is controlled by the scaffold protein gephyrin and the adaptor protein collybistin. We derived new insights into the structure of collybistin and used these to design biochemical, cell biological, and genetic analyses of collybistin function. Our data define a collybistin-based protein interaction network that controls the gephyrin content of inhibitory postsynapses. Within this network, collybistin can adopt open/active and closed/inactive conformations to act as a switchable adaptor that links gephyrin to plasma membrane phosphoinositides. This function of collybistin is regulated by binding of the adhesion protein neuroligin-2, which stabilizes the open/active conformation of collybistin at the postsynaptic plasma membrane by competing with an intramolecular interaction in collybistin that favors the closed/inactive conformation. By linking trans-synaptic neuroligin-dependent adhesion and phosphoinositide signaling with gephyrin recruitment, the collybistin-based regulatory switch mechanism represents an integrating regulatory node in the formation and function of inhibitory postsynapses.
    The EMBO Journal 07/2014; · 9.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Trichoplax adhaerens is the best-known member of the phylum Placozoa, one of the earliest-diverging metazoan phyla. It is a small disk-shaped animal that glides on surfaces in warm oceans to feed on algae. Prior anatomical studies of Trichoplax revealed that it has a simple three-layered organization with four somatic cell types.
    Current biology : CB. 06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: For decades, neuroscientists have used enriched preparations of synaptic particles called synaptosomes to study synapse function. However, the interpretation of corresponding data is problematic as synaptosome preparations contain multiple types of synapses and non-synaptic neuronal and glial contaminants. We established a novel Fluorescence Activated Synaptosome Sorting (FASS) method that substantially improves conventional synaptosome enrichment protocols and enables high-resolution biochemical analyses of specific synapse subpopulations. Employing knock-in mice with fluorescent glutamatergic synapses, we show that FASS isolates intact ultrapure synaptosomes composed of a resealed presynaptic terminal and a postsynaptic density as assessed by light and electron microscopy. FASS synaptosomes contain bona fide glutamatergic synapse proteins but are almost devoid of other synapse types and extrasynaptic or glial contaminants. We identified 163 enriched proteins in FASS samples, of which FXYD6 and Tpd52 were validated as new synaptic proteins. FASS purification thus enables high-resolution biochemical analyses of specific synapse subpopulations in health and disease.
    The EMBO Journal 01/2014; · 9.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Munc13 gene family encodes molecules located at the synaptic active zone that regulate the reliability of synapses to encode information over a wide range of frequencies in response to action potentials. In the CNS, proteins of the Munc13 family are critical in regulating neurotransmitter release and synaptic plasticity. Although Munc13-1 is essential for synaptic transmission, it is paradoxical that Munc13-2 and Munc13-3 are functionally dispensable at some synapses, although their loss in other synapses leads to increases in frequency-dependent facilitation. We addressed this issue at the calyx of Held synapse, a giant glutamatergic synapse that we found to express all these Munc13 isoforms. We studied their roles in the regulation of synaptic transmission and their impact on the reliability of information transfer. Through detailed electrophysiological analyses of Munc13-2, Munc13-3, and Munc13-2-3 knock-out and wild-type mice, we report that the combined loss of Munc13-2 and Munc13-3 led to an increase in the rate of calcium-dependent recovery and a change in kinetics of release of the readily releasable pool. Furthermore, viral-mediated overexpression of a dominant-negative form of Munc13-1 at the calyx demonstrated that these effects are Munc13-1 dependent. Quantitative immunohistochemistry using Munc13-fluorescent protein knock-in mice revealed that Munc13-1 is the most highly expressed Munc13 isoform at the calyx and the only one highly colocalized with Bassoon at the active zone. Based on these data, we conclude that Munc13-2 and Munc13-3 isoforms limit the ability of Munc13-1 to regulate calcium-dependent replenishment of readily releasable pool and slow pool to fast pool conversion in central synapses.
    Journal of Neuroscience 05/2013; 33(19):8336-8351. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The homeobox containing transcription factor Uncx4.1 is, amongst others, expressed in the mouse midbrain. The early expression of this transcription factor in the mouse, as well as in the chick midbrain, points to a conserved function of Uncx4.1, but so far a functional analysis in this brain territory is missing. The goal of the current study was to analyze in which midbrain neuronal subgroups Uncx4.1 is expressed and to examine whether this factor plays a role in the early development of these neuronal subgroups. RESULTS: We have shown that Uncx4.1 is expressed in GABAergic, glutamatergic and dopaminergic neurons in the mouse midbrain. In midbrain dopaminergic (mDA) neurons Uncx4.1 expression is particularly high around E11.5 and strongly diminished already at E17.5. The analysis of knockout mice revealed that the loss of Uncx4.1 is accompanied with a 25% decrease in the population of mDA neurons, as marked by tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine transporter (DAT), Pitx3 and Ngn2. In contrast, the number of glutamatergic Pax6-positive cells was augmented, while the GABAergic neuron population appears not affected in Uncx4.1-deficient embryos. CONCLUSION: We conclude that Uncx4.1 is implicated in the development of mDA neurons where it displays a unique temporal expression profile in the early postmitotic stage. Our data indicate that the mechanism underlying the role of Uncx4.1 in mDA development is likely related to differentiation processes in postmitotic stages, and where Ngn2 is engaged. Moreover, Uncx4.1 might play an important role during glutamatergic neuronal differentiation in the mouse midbrain.
    Neural Development 12/2012; 7(1):39. · 3.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroligins are postsynaptic adhesion proteins involved in the establishment of functional synapses in the central nervous system. In rodents, four genes give rise to neuroligins that function at distinct synapses, with corresponding neurotransmitter and subtype specificities. In the present study, we examined the interactions between the different neuroligins by isolating endogenous oligomeric complexes using in situ cross-linking on primary neurons. Examining hippocampal, striatal, cerebellar and spinal cord cultures, we found that neuroligins form constitutive dimers, including homomers and, most notably, neuroligin 1/3 heteromers. Additionally, we found that neuroligin monomers are specifically retained in the secretory pathway through a cellular quality control mechanism that involves the neuroligin transmembrane domain, ensuring that dimerization occurs prior to cell surface trafficking. Lastly, we identified differences in the dimerization capacity of autism-associated neuroligin mutants, and found that neuroligin 3 R471C mutants can form heterodimers with neuroligin 1. The pervasive nature of neuroligin dimerization indicates that the unit of neuroligin function is the dimer, and raises intriguing possibilities of distinct heterodimer functions, and of interactions between native and mutant neuroligins contributing to disease phenotypes.
    Biochemical Journal 06/2012; 446(2):321-30. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Munc13 proteins are essential regulators of exocytosis. In hippocampal glutamatergic neurons, the genetic deletion of Munc13s results in the complete loss of primed synaptic vesicles (SVs) in direct contact with the presynaptic active zone membrane, and in a total block of neurotransmitter release. Similarly drastic consequences of Munc13 loss are detectable in hippocampal and striatal GABAergic neurons. We show here that, in the adult mouse retina, the two Munc13-2 splice variants bMunc13-2 and ubMunc13-2 are selectively localized to conventional and ribbon synapses, respectively, and that ubMunc13-2 is the only Munc13 isoform in mature photoreceptor ribbon synapses. Strikingly, the genetic deletion of ubMunc13-2 has little effect on synaptic signaling by photoreceptor ribbon synapses and does not prevent membrane attachment of synaptic vesicles at the photoreceptor ribbon synaptic site. Thus, photoreceptor ribbon synapses and conventional synapses differ fundamentally with regard to their dependence on SV priming proteins of the Munc13 family. Their function is only moderately affected by Munc13 loss, which leads to slight perturbations of signal integration in the retina.
    Journal of Neuroscience 06/2012; 32(23):8040-52. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: SNARE protein-driven secretion of neurotransmitters from synaptic vesicles is at the center of neuronal communication. In the absence of the cytosolic protein Munc18-1, synaptic secretion comes to a halt. Although it is believed that Munc18-1 orchestrates SNARE complexes, its mode of action is still a matter of debate. In particular, it has been challenging to clarify the role of a tight Munc18/syntaxin 1 complex, because this interaction interferes strongly with syntaxin's ability to form a SNARE complex. In this complex, two regions of syntaxin, the N-peptide and the remainder in closed conformation, bind to Munc18 simultaneously. Until now, this binary complex has been reported for neuronal tissues only, leading to the hypothesis that it might be a specialization of the neuronal secretion apparatus. Here we aimed, by comparing the core secretion machinery of the unicellular choanoflagellate Monosiga brevicollis with that of animals, to reconstruct the ancestral function of the Munc18/syntaxin1 complex. We found that the Munc18/syntaxin 1 complex from M. brevicollis is structurally and functionally highly similar to the vertebrate complex, suggesting that it constitutes a fundamental step in the reaction pathway toward SNARE assembly. We thus propose that the primordial secretion machinery of the common ancestor of choanoflagellates and animals has been co-opted for synaptic roles during the rise of animals.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2011; 108(37):15264-9. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The postsynaptic adhesion protein neuroligin-2 (NL2) is selectively localized at inhibitory synapses. Here, we studied network activity in the dentate gyrus of NL2-deficient mice following perforant path (PP) stimulation in vivo. We found a strong increase in granule cell (GC) excitability. Furthermore, paired-pulse inhibition (PPI) of the population spike, a measure for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic network inhibition, was severely impaired and associated with reduced GABA(A) receptor (GABA(A)R)-mediated miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents recorded from NL2-deficient GCs. In agreement with these functional data, the number of gephyrin and GABA(A)R clusters was significantly reduced in the absence of NL2, indicating a loss of synaptic GABA(A)Rs from the somata of GCs. Computer simulations of the dentate network showed that impairment of perisomatic inhibition is able to explain the electrophysiological changes observed in the dentate circuitry of NL2 knockout animals. Collectively, our data demonstrate for the first time that deletion of NL2 increases excitability of cortical neurons in the hippocampus of intact animals, most likely through impaired GABA(A)R clustering.
    Cerebral Cortex 02/2011; 21(2):357-67. · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neuroligins (NL1-NL4) are postsynaptic adhesion proteins that control the maturation and function of synapses in the central nervous system (CNS). Loss-of-function mutations in NL4 are linked to rare forms of monogenic heritable autism, but its localization and function are unknown. Using the retina as a model system, we show that NL4 is preferentially localized to glycinergic postsynapses and that the loss of NL4 is accompanied by a reduced number of glycine receptors mediating fast glycinergic transmission. Accordingly, NL4-deficient ganglion cells exhibit slower glycinergic miniature postsynaptic currents and subtle alterations in their stimulus-coding efficacy, and inhibition within the NL4-deficient retinal network is altered as assessed by electroretinogram recordings. These data indicate that NL4 shapes network activity and information processing in the retina by modulating glycinergic inhibition. Importantly, NL4 is also targeted to inhibitory synapses in other areas of the CNS, such as the thalamus, colliculi, brainstem, and spinal cord, and forms complexes with the inhibitory postsynapse proteins gephyrin and collybistin in vivo, indicating that NL4 is an important component of glycinergic postsynapses.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 02/2011; 108(7):3053-8. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The high degree of similarity between mouse and human physiology and genomes makes mice the animal model of choice to study the functions and dysfunctions of the central nervous system (CNS). The considerable knowledge accumulated in the past decades and the steadily growing number of genetically modified mouse lines allow for the increasingly accurate understanding of biological circuits. Electron microscopy (EM) contributes to unravel the biology of neuronal networks and the myelinating glia by allowing a fine morphological scrutiny of the nervous tissue. We provide detailed descriptions of the conventional processing as well as cryopreparation methods such as high-pressure freezing (HPF), freeze-substitution (FS), and SDS-digested freeze-fracture replica labeling (SDS-FRL) on selected CNS regions such as the retina, optic nerve, and cerebellum. By taking example of the ribbon synapse in the retina and myelinated retinal ganglion cell axons of the optic nerve, we discuss the advantages and drawbacks of these methods in a comparative way.
    Methods in cell biology 01/2010; 96:475-512. · 1.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The short-term dynamics of synaptic communication between neurons provides neural networks with specific frequency-filter characteristics for information transfer. The direction of short-term synaptic plasticity, that is, facilitation versus depression, is highly dependent on and inversely correlated to the basal release probability of a synapse. Amongst the processes implicated in shaping the release probability, proteins that regulate the docking and priming of synaptic vesicles at the active zone are of special importance. Here, we found that a member of the Munc13 protein family of priming proteins, namely Munc13-2, is essential for normal release probability at hippocampal mossy fiber synapses. Paired pulse and frequency facilitation were strongly increased, whereas mossy fiber long-term potentiation was unaffected in the absence of Munc13-2. In contrast, transmission at 3 other types of hippocampal synapses, Schaffer-collateral, associational-commissural, as well as inhibitory synapses onto CA3 pyramidal neurons was unaffected by the loss of Munc13-2.
    Cerebral Cortex 09/2009; 20(5):1109-20. · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the mammalian CNS, each neuron typically receives thousands of synaptic inputs from diverse classes of neurons. Synaptic transmission to the postsynaptic neuron relies on localized and transmitter-specific differentiation of the plasma membrane with postsynaptic receptor, scaffolding, and adhesion proteins accumulating in precise apposition to presynaptic sites of transmitter release. We identified protein interactions of the synaptic adhesion molecule neuroligin 2 that drive postsynaptic differentiation at inhibitory synapses. Neuroligin 2 binds the scaffolding protein gephyrin through a conserved cytoplasmic motif and functions as a specific activator of collybistin, thus guiding membrane tethering of the inhibitory postsynaptic scaffold. Complexes of neuroligin 2, gephyrin and collybistin are sufficient for cell-autonomous clustering of inhibitory neurotransmitter receptors. Deletion of neuroligin 2 in mice perturbs GABAergic and glycinergic synaptic transmission and leads to a loss of postsynaptic specializations specifically at perisomatic inhibitory synapses.
    Neuron 09/2009; 63(5):628-42. · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Presynaptic nerve terminals pass through distinct stages of maturation after their initial assembly. Here we show that the postsynaptic cell adhesion molecule Neuroligin1 regulates key steps of presynaptic maturation. Presynaptic terminals from Neuroligin1-knockout mice remain structurally and functionally immature with respect to active zone stability and synaptic vesicle pool size, as analyzed in cultured hippocampal neurons. Conversely, overexpression of Neuroligin1 in immature neurons, that is within the first 5 days after plating, induced the formation of presynaptic boutons that had hallmarks of mature boutons. In particular, Neuroligin1 enhanced the size of the pool of recycling synaptic vesicles, the rate of synaptic vesicle exocytosis, the fraction of boutons responding to depolarization, as well as the responsiveness of the presynaptic release machinery to phorbol ester stimulation. Moreover, Neuroligin1 induced the formation of active zones that remained stable in the absence of F-actin, another hallmark of advanced maturation. Acquisition of F-actin independence of the active zone marker Bassoon during culture development or induced via overexpression of Neuroligin1 was activity-dependent. The extracellular domain of Neuroligin1 was sufficient to induce assembly of functional presynaptic terminals, while the intracellular domain was required for terminal maturation. These data show that induction of presynaptic terminal assembly and maturation involve mechanistically distinct actions of Neuroligins, and that Neuroligin1 is essential for presynaptic terminal maturation.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2009; 106(32):13564-9. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the present study, we investigated the role of Neuroligin 2 (NL2) in synaptic transmission and network function using the mouse retina as a model circuit. We show that NL2 is preferentially located at GABAergic rather than glycinergic or glutamatergic postsynapses. The absence of NL2 from the retina resulted in a severe reduction of GABA(A) receptor clustering, and in subtle alterations of the retinal circuitry. Light processing was impaired accordingly, and retinal ganglion cells, the output neurons of the retina, showed increased basal activity and altered coding of visual information. Together, our data indicate that NL2 is essential for the functional integrity of GABAergic signaling and as a consequence, for information processing in the retina.
    Journal of Neuroscience 07/2009; 29(25):8039-50. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor (SNARE) complexes execute synaptic vesicle (SV) fusion. Vesicle fusion is preceded by an obligatory Munc13-dependent priming process that conveys fusion competence to SVs by facilitating SNARE complex assembly. Ultrastructural studies after chemical fixation indicated that vesicle docking to the plasma membrane is independent of Munc13s but these results may be misleading because aldehyde fixatives modify the localization of SVs with respect to the plasma membrane. To reinvestigate the role of Munc13s in vesicle docking, cultured hippocampal slices were immobilized using high-pressure freezing, which circumvents aldehyde artifacts. High-pressure freezing was combined with electron tomography to reach a resolution that allows the characterization of details of SV docking in a close-to-native state. In control slices, docked vesicles are not hemifused with the plasma membrane but linked to it and to dense material at the active zone by small strands. In slice cultures from Munc13-deficient mice, vesicles are not docked to the active zone plasma membrane. These results indicate that SV docking at the plasma membrane and functional priming are respective morphological and physiological manifestations of the same molecular process mediated by SNARE complexes and Munc13s.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 07/2009; 30(1):49-56. · 3.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: AMPA-type glutamate receptors mediate fast excitatory synaptic transmission in the vertebrate brain. Their surface expression at synapses between neurons is regulated in an activity-dependent and activity-independent manner. The protein machinery that regulates synaptic targeting, anchoring and turnover of AMPA receptors consists of several types of specialized scaffolding proteins. The FERM domain scaffolding proteins 4.1G and 4.1N were previously suggested to act jointly in binding and regulating synaptic trafficking of the AMPA receptor subunits GluR1 and GluR4. To determine the functions of 4.1G and 4.1N in vivo, we generated a mutant mouse line that lacks 4.1G entirely and expresses 4.1N at 22% of wild-type levels. These mice had combined 4.1G and 4.1N protein expression in the hippocampus at 12% of wild-type levels (equivalent to 8-10% of combined GluR1 and GluR4 expression levels). They show a moderate reduction in synaptosomal expression levels of the AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 at 3 weeks of age, but no change in basic glutamatergic synaptic transmission and long-term potentiation in the hippocampus. Our study indicates that 4.1G and 4.1N do not have a crucial role in glutamatergic synaptic transmission and the induction and maintenance of long-term plastic changes in synaptic efficacy.
    Journal of Cell Science 04/2009; 122(Pt 5):735-44. · 5.88 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
474.77 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2014
    • University of Lausanne
      • Department of Fundamental Neurosciences (DNF)
      Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
  • 2002–2012
    • Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology
      München, Bavaria, Germany
  • 2004–2010
    • Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine
      • • Department of Neurogenetics
      • • Department of Molecular Neurobiology
      Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
  • 2002–2003
    • Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry
      • Department of Neurobiology
      Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany