Flora M Vaccarino

Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Connecticut, United States

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Publications (82)452.3 Total impact

  • James F Leckman, Flora M Vaccarino
    Brain research. 10/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Fibroblast growth factors (Fgfs) and their receptors (Fgfr) are expressed in the developing and adult CNS. Previous studies demonstrated a decrease in cortical interneurons and locomotor hyperactivity in mice with a conditional Fgfr1 deletion generated in radial glial cells during midneurogenesis (Fgfr1 f/f ;hGfapCre+). Here, we report earlier and more extensive inactivation of Fgfr1 in neuroepithelial cells of the CNS (Fgfr1 f/f ;NesCre+). Similar to findings in Fgfr1 f/f ;hGfapCre+ mice, parvalbumin positive (PV+) cortical interneurons are also decreased in the neocortex of Fgfr1f/f;NesCre+ mice when compared to control littermates (Fgfr1f/f). Fgfr1f/f;NesCre+ embryos do not differ from controls in the initial specification of GABAergic cells in the ganglionic eminence (GE) as assessed by in situ hybridization for Dlx2, Mash1 and Nkx2. Equal numbers of GABAergic neuron precursors genetically labeled with green fluorescent protein (GFP) were observed at P0 in Fgfr1 f/f ;hGfapCre+;Gad1-GFP mutant mice. However, fewer GFP+ and GFP+/PV+ interneurons were observed in these mutants at adulthood, indicating that a decrease in cortical interneuron markers is occurring postnatally. Fgfr1 is expressed in cortical astrocytes in the postnatal brain. To test whether the astrocytes of mice lacking Fgfr1 are less capable of supporting interneurons, we co-cultured wild type Gad1-GFP+ interneuron precursors isolated from the medial GE (MGE) with astrocytes from Fgfr1f/f control or Fgfr1 f/f ;hGfapCre+ mice. Interneurons grown on Fgfr1 deficient astrocytes had small soma size and fewer neurites per cell, but no differences in cell survival. Decreased soma size of Gad67 immunopositive interneurons was also observed in the cortex of adult Fgfr1 f/f ;NesCre+ mice. Our data indicate that astrocytes from Fgfr1 mutants are impaired in supporting the maturation of cortical GABAergic neurons in the postnatal period. This model may elucidate potential mechanisms of impaired PV interneuron maturation relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders that develop in childhood and adolescence. Citation: Smith KM, Maragnoli ME, Phull PM, Tran KM, Choubey L, et al. (2014) Fgfr1 Inactivation in the Mouse Telencephalon Results in Impaired Maturation of Interneurons Expressing Parvalbumin. PLoS ONE 9(8): e103696. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103696
    PLoS ONE 08/2014; · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background Genome wide association studies have not revealed any risk-conferring common genetic variants in Tourette syndrome (TS), requiring the adoption of alternative approaches to investigate the pathophysiology of this disorder. Methods We obtained the basal ganglia transcriptome by RNA sequencing in the caudate and putamen of 9 TS and 9 matched normal controls. Results We found 309 down-regulated and 822 up-regulated genes in the caudate and putamen (striatum) of TS individuals. Using data-driven gene network analysis, we identified seventeen gene co-expression modules associated with TS. The top-scoring down-regulated module in TS was enriched in striatal interneuron transcripts, which was confirmed by decreased numbers of cholinergic and GABAergic interneurons by immunohistochemistry in the same regions. The top-scoring up-regulated module was enriched in immune-related genes, consistent with activation of microglia in patients’ striatum. Genes implicated by copy number variants (CNV) in TS were enriched in the interneuron module as well as in a protocadherin module. Module clustering revealed that the interneuron module was correlated with a neuronal metabolism module. Conclusions Convergence of differential expression, network analyses and module clustering, together with CNVs implicated in TS, strongly implicates disrupted interneuron signaling in the pathophysiology of severe TS, and suggests that metabolic alterations may be linked to their death or dysfunction.
    Biological Psychiatry 07/2014; · 9.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We found that leptin receptors were expressed in hypothalamic astrocytes and that their conditional deletion led to altered glial morphology and synaptic inputs onto hypothalamic neurons involved in feeding control. Leptin-regulated feeding was diminished, whereas feeding after fasting or ghrelin administration was elevated in mice with astrocyte-specific leptin receptor deficiency. These data reveal an active role of glial cells in hypothalamic synaptic remodeling and control of feeding by leptin.
    Nature neuroscience. 06/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Every year in the United States, an estimated 500,000 babies are born preterm (before 37 completed weeks of gestation), and this number is rising, along with the recognition of brain injuries due to preterm delivery. A common underlying pathogenesis appears to be perinatal hypoxia induced by immature lung development, which causes injury to vulnerable neurons and glia. Abnormal growth and maturation of susceptible cell types, particularly neurons and oligodendrocytes, in preterm babies with very low birth weight is associated with decreased cerebral and cerebellar volumes and increases in cerebral ventricular size. Here we reconcile these observations with recent studies using models of perinatal hypoxia that show perturbations in the maturation and function of interneurons, oligodendrocytes and astroglia. Together, these findings suggest that the global mechanism by which perinatal hypoxia alters development is through a delay in maturation of affected cell types, including astroglia, oligodendroglia and neurons.
    Nature Neuroscience 03/2014; 17(3):341-6. · 15.25 Impact Factor
  • Natalina Salmaso, Simone Tomasi, Flora M Vaccarino
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    ABSTRACT: The incidence of preterm birth is on the rise. The outcome of premature birth can vary widely, spanning completely normal development to severe neurologic deficits, with most children showing mild to moderate cognitive delay and increased incidence of neuropsychiatric conditions such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity, and autism spectrum disorders. Several animal models have been employed to study the consequences of prematurity, one of the most promising being chronic perinatal hypoxia in mouse, which recapitulates the cognitive impairments, partial recovery over time and enhanced recovery with environmental enrichment.
    Clinics in perinatology 03/2014; 41(1):229-239. · 1.54 Impact Factor
  • Hanna Stevens, Flora M. Vaccarino, Abigail J. Sawyer
    60th Meeting of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 10/2013
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    ABSTRACT: Infants born premature experience hypoxic episodes due to immaturity of their respiratory and central nervous systems. This profoundly affects brain development and results in cognitive impairments. We used a mouse model to examine the impact of hypoxic rearing (9.5-10.5% O2) from postnatal day 3 to 11 (P3-P11) on GABAergic interneurons and the potential for environmental enrichment to ameliorate these developmental abnormalities. At P15 the numbers of cortical interneurons expressing immunohistochemically detectable levels of parvalbumin (PV), somatostatin (SST), and vasoactive intestinal peptide were decreased in hypoxic-reared mice by 59%, 32%, and 38%, respectively, compared with normoxic controls. Hypoxia also decreased total GABA content in frontal neocortex by 31%. However, GAD67-EGFP knock-in mice reared under hypoxic conditions showed no changes in total number of GAD67-EGFP(+) cells and no evidence of increased interneuron death, suggesting that the total number of interneurons was not decreased, but rather, that hypoxic-rearing decreased interneuron marker expression in these cells. In adulthood, PV and SST expression levels were decreased in hypoxic-reared mice. In contrast, intensity of reelin (RLN) expression was significantly increased in adult hypoxic-reared mice compared with normoxic controls. Housing mice in an enriched environment from P21 until adulthood normalized phenotypic interneuron marker expression without affecting total interneuron numbers or leading to increased neurogenesis. Our data show that (1) hypoxia decreases PV and SST and increases RLN expression in cortical interneurons during postnatal cortical development and (2) enriched environment has the capacity to normalize the interneuron abnormalities in cortex.
    Journal of Neuroscience 08/2013; 33(33):13375-87. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be induced and differentiated to form a relatively homogeneous population of neuronal precursors in vitro. We have used this system to screen for genes necessary for neural lineage development by using a pooled human short hairpin RNA (shRNA) library screen and massively parallel sequencing. We confirmed known genes and identified several unpredicted genes with interrelated functions that were specifically required for the formation or survival of neuronal progenitor cells without interfering with the self-renewal capacity of undifferentiated hESCs. Among these are several genes that have been implicated in various neurodevelopmental disorders (i.e., brain malformations, mental retardation, and autism). Unexpectedly, a set of genes mutated in late-onset neurodegenerative disorders and with roles in the formation of RNA granules were also found to interfere with neuronal progenitor cell formation, suggesting their functional relevance in early neurogenesis. This study advances the feasibility and utility of using pooled shRNA libraries in combination with next-generation sequencing for a high-throughput, unbiased functional genomic screen. Our approach can also be used with patient-specific human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural models to obtain unparalleled insights into developmental and degenerative processes in neurological or neuropsychiatric disorders with monogenic or complex inheritance.
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    ABSTRACT: Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can be induced and differentiated to form a relatively homogeneous population of neuronal precursors in vitro. We have used this system to screen for genes necessary for neural lineage development by using a pooled human short hairpin RNA (shRNA) library screen and massively parallel sequencing. We confirmed known genes and identified several unpredicted genes with interrelated functions that were specifically required for the formation or survival of neuronal progenitor cells without interfering with the self-renewal capacity of undifferentiated hESCs. Among these are several genes that have been implicated in various neurodevelopmental disorders (i.e., brain malformations, mental retardation, and autism). Unexpectedly, a set of genes mutated in late-onset neurodegenerative disorders and with roles in the formation of RNA granules were also found to interfere with neuronal progenitor cell formation, suggesting their functional relevance in early neurogenesis. This study advances the feasibility and utility of using pooled shRNA libraries in combination with next-generation sequencing for a high-throughput, unbiased functional genomic screen. Our approach can also be used with patient-specific human-induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural models to obtain unparalleled insights into developmental and degenerative processes in neurological or neuropsychiatric disorders with monogenic or complex inheritance.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Gyrification allows an expanded cortex with greater functionality to fit into a smaller cranium. However, the mechanisms of gyrus formation have been elusive. We show that ventricular injection of FGF2 protein at embryonic day 11.5-before neurogenesis and before the formation of intrahemispheric axonal connections-altered the overall size and shape of the cortex and induced the formation of prominent, bilateral gyri and sulci in the rostrolateral neocortex. We show increased tangential growth of the rostral ventricular zone (VZ) but decreased Wnt3a and Lef1 expression in the cortical hem and adjacent hippocampal promordium and consequent impaired growth of the caudal cortical primordium, including the hippocampus. At the same time, we observed ectopic Er81 expression, increased proliferation of Tbr2-expressing (Tbr2(+)) intermediate neuronal progenitors (INPs), and elevated Tbr1(+) neurogenesis in the regions that undergo gyrification, indicating region-specific actions of FGF2 on the VZ and subventricular zone (SVZ). However, the relative number of basal radial glia-recently proposed to be important in gyrification-appeared to be unchanged. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that increased radial unit production together with rapid SVZ growth and heightened localized neurogenesis can cause cortical gyrification in lissencephalic species. These data also suggest that the position of cortical gyri can be molecularly specified in mice. In contrast, a different ligand, FGF8b, elicited surface area expansion throughout the cortical primordium but no gyrification. Our findings demonstrate that individual members of the diverse Fgf gene family differentially regulate global as well as regional cortical growth rates while maintaining cortical layer structure.
    Journal of Neuroscience 06/2013; 33(26):10802-10814. · 6.91 Impact Factor
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    Dataset: iPS paper
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    ABSTRACT: Reprogramming somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has been suspected of causing de novo copy number variation. To explore this issue, here we perform a whole-genome and transcriptome analysis of 20 human iPSC lines derived from the primary skin fibroblasts of seven individuals using next-generation sequencing. We find that, on average, an iPSC line manifests two copy number variants (CNVs) not apparent in the fibroblasts from which the iPSC was derived. Using PCR and digital droplet PCR, we show that at least 50% of those CNVs are present as low-frequency somatic genomic variants in parental fibroblasts (that is, the fibroblasts from which each corresponding human iPSC line is derived), and are manifested in iPSC lines owing to their clonal origin. Hence, reprogramming does not necessarily lead to de novo CNVs in iPSCs, because most of the line-manifested CNVs reflect somatic mosaicism in the human skin. Moreover, our findings demonstrate that clonal expansion, and iPSC lines in particular, can be used as a discovery tool to reliably detect low-frequency CNVs in the tissue of origin. Overall, we estimate that approximately 30% of the fibroblast cells have somatic CNVs in their genomes, suggesting widespread somatic mosaicism in the human body. Our study paves the way to understanding the fundamental question of the extent to which cells of the human body normally acquire structural alterations in their DNA post-zygotically.
    Nature 11/2012; · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The study of gene expression (i.e., the study of the transcriptome) in different cells and tissues allows us to understand the molecular mechanisms of their differentiation, development and functioning. In this article, we describe some studies of gene-expression profiling for the purposes of understanding developmental (age-related) changes in the brain using different technologies (e.g., DNA-Microarray) and the new and increasingly popular RNA-Seq. We focus on advancements in studies of gene expression in the human brain, which have provided data on the structure and age-related variability of the transcriptome in the brain. We present data on RNA-Seq of the transcriptome in three distinct areas of the neocortex from different ages: mature and elderly individuals. We report that most age-related transcriptional changes affect cellular signaling systems, and, as a result, the transmission of nerve impulses. In general, the results demonstrate the high potential of RNA-Seq for the study of distinctive features of gene expression among cortical areas and the changes in expression through normal and atypical development of the central nervous system.
    Development and Psychopathology 11/2012; 24(4):1427-42. · 4.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The recent introduction of the induced pluripotent stem cell technology has made possible the derivation of neuronal cells from somatic cells obtained from human individuals. This in turn has opened new areas of investigation that can potentially bridge the gap between neuroscience and psychopathology. For the first time we can study the cell biology and genetics of neurons derived from any individual. Furthermore, by recapitulating in vitro the developmental steps whereby stem cells give rise to neuronal cells, we can now hope to understand factors that control typical and atypical development. We can begin to explore how human genes and their variants are transcribed into messenger RNAs within developing neurons and how these gene transcripts control the biology of developing cells. Thus, human-induced pluripotent stem cells have the potential to uncover not only what aspects of development are uniquely human but also variations in the series of events necessary for normal human brain development that predispose to psychopathology.
    Development and Psychopathology 11/2012; 24(4):1443-51. · 4.40 Impact Factor
  • Hanna Stevens, Flora M. Vaccarino
    59th Meeting of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 10/2012
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    ABSTRACT: Diffuse white matter injury (DWMI) caused by hypoxia is associated with permanent neurodevelopmental disabilities in preterm infants. The cellular and molecular mechanisms producing DWMI are poorly defined. Using a mouse model of neonatal hypoxia, we demonstrate a biphasic effect on oligodendrocyte development, resulting in hypomyelination. Oligodendrocyte death and oligodendrocyte progenitor cell (OPC) proliferation during the week after hypoxia were followed by delayed oligodendrocyte differentiation and abnormal myelination, as demonstrated by electron microscopy. Cdk2 activation was essential for the regenerative OPC response after hypoxia and was accompanied by reduced FoxO1-dependent p27(Kip1) expression. p27(Kip1) was also reduced in OPCs in human infant white matter lesions after hypoxia. The negative effects of hypoxia on oligodendrogenesis and myelination were more pronounced in p27(Kip1)-null mice; conversely, overexpression of FoxO1 or p27(Kip1) in OPCs after hypoxia promoted oligodendrogenesis. Our studies demonstrate for the first time that neonatal hypoxia affects the Foxo1/p27(Kip1) pathway during white matter development. We also show that molecular manipulation of this pathway enhances oligodendrocyte regeneration during a critical developmental time window after DWMI. Thus, FoxO1 and p27(Kip1) may serve as promising target molecules for promoting timely oligodendrogenesis in neonatal DWMI.
    Journal of Neuroscience 10/2012; 32(42):14775-14793. · 6.91 Impact Factor
  • Hanna E Stevens, Tina Su, Yuchio Yanagawa, Flora M Vaccarino
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    ABSTRACT: Prenatal stress has been widely demonstrated to have links with behavioral problems in clinical populations and animal models, however, few investigations have examined the immediate developmental events that are affected by prenatal stress. Here, we utilize GAD67GFP transgenic mice in which GABAergic progenitors express green fluorescent protein (GFP) to examine the impact of prenatal stress on the development of these precursors to inhibitory neurons. Pregnant female mice were exposed to restraint stress three times daily from embryonic day 12 (E12) onwards. Their offspring demonstrated changes in the distribution of GFP-positive (GFP+) GABAergic progenitors in the telencephalon as early as E13 and persisting until postnatal day 0. Changes in distribution reflected alterations in tangential migration and radial integration of GFP+ cells into the developing cortical plate. Fate mapping of GAD67GFP+ progenitors with bromodeoxyuridine injected at E13 demonstrated a significant increase of these cells at P0 in anterior white matter. An overall decrease in GAD67GFP+ progenitors at P0 in medial frontal cortex could not be attributed to a reduction in cell proliferation. Significant changes in dlx2, nkx2.1 and their downstream target erbb4, transcription factors which regulate interneuron migration, were found within the prenatally stressed developing forebrain, while no differences were seen in mash1, a determinant of interneuron fate, bdnf, a maturation factor for GABAergic cells or fgf2, an early growth/differentiation factor. These results demonstrate that early disruption in GABAergic progenitor migration caused by prenatal stress may be responsible for neuronal defects in disorders with GABAergic abnormalities like schizophrenia.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 08/2012; · 5.59 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

3k Citations
452.30 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1999–2014
    • Yale-New Haven Hospital
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States
  • 1991–2014
    • Yale University
      • • Child Study Center
      • • Department of Psychiatry
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States
  • 2010
    • University of California, Davis
      • Institute for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine
      Davis, California, United States
  • 2009
    • Children's National Medical Center
      Washington, Washington, D.C., United States