Caroline A Johnson

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, United States

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Publications (5)103.42 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The basal ganglia are phylogenetically conserved subcortical nuclei necessary for coordinated motor action and reward learning. Current models postulate that the basal ganglia modulate cerebral cortex indirectly via an inhibitory output to thalamus, bidirectionally controlled by direct- and indirect-pathway striatal projection neurons (dSPNs and iSPNs, respectively). The basal ganglia thalamic output sculpts cortical activity by interacting with signals from sensory and motor systems. Here we describe a direct projection from the globus pallidus externus (GP), a central nucleus of the basal ganglia, to frontal regions of the cerebral cortex (FC). Two cell types make up the GP-FC projection, distinguished by their electrophysiological properties, cortical projections and expression of choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), a synthetic enzyme for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). Despite these differences, ChAT(+) cells, which have been historically identified as an extension of the nucleus basalis, as well as ChAT(-) cells, release the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) and are inhibited by iSPNs and dSPNs of dorsal striatum. Thus, GP-FC cells comprise a direct GABAergic/cholinergic projection under the control of striatum that activates frontal cortex in vivo. Furthermore, iSPN inhibition of GP-FC cells is sensitive to dopamine 2 receptor signalling, revealing a pathway by which drugs that target dopamine receptors for the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders can act in the basal ganglia to modulate frontal cortices.
    Nature 03/2015; DOI:10.1038/nature14179 · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neural circuits are regulated by activity-dependent feedback systems that tightly control network excitability and which are thought to be crucial for proper brain development. Defects in the ability to establish and maintain network homeostasis may be central to the pathogenesis of neurodevelopmental disorders. Here, we examine the function of the tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC)-mTOR signaling pathway, a common target of mutations associated with epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder, in regulating activity-dependent processes in the mouse hippocampus. We find that the TSC-mTOR pathway is a central component of a positive feedback loop that promotes network activity by repressing inhibitory synapses onto excitatory neurons. In Tsc1 KO neurons, weakened inhibition caused by deregulated mTOR alters the balance of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission, leading to hippocampal hyperexcitability. These findings identify the TSC-mTOR pathway as a regulator of neural network activity and have implications for the neurological dysfunction in disorders exhibiting deregulated mTOR signaling.
    Neuron 05/2013; 78(3):510-22. DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2013.03.017 · 15.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neurons use a variety of mechanisms to homeostatically regulate neural network activity in order to maintain firing in a bounded range. One such process involves the bi-directional modulation of excitatory synaptic drive in response to chronic changes in network activity. Down-scaling of excitatory synapses in response to high activity requires Arc-dependent endocytosis of glutamate receptors. However, the temporal dynamics and signaling pathways regulating Arc during homeostatic plasticity are not well understood. Here we determine the relative contribution of transcriptional and translational control in the regulation of Arc, the signaling pathways responsible for the activity-dependent production of Arc, and the time course of these signaling events as they relate to the homeostatic adjustment of network activity in hippocampal neurons. We find that an ERK1/2-dependent transcriptional pathway active within 1-2 h of up-regulated network activity induces Arc leading to a restoration of network spiking rates within 12 h. Under basal and low activity conditions, specialized mechanisms are in place to rapidly degrade Arc mRNA and protein such that they have half-lives of less than 1 h. In addition, we find that while mTOR signaling is regulated by network activity on a similar time scale, mTOR-dependent translational control is not a major regulator of Arc production or degradation suggesting that the signaling pathways underlying homeostatic plasticity are distinct from those mediating synapse-specific forms of synaptic depression.
    Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 01/2013; 6:28. DOI:10.3389/fnmol.2013.00028
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    Arpiar Saunders, Caroline A Johnson, Bernardo L Sabatini
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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the organization of the nervous system requires methods for dissecting the contributions of each component cell type to circuit function. One widely used approach combines genetic targeting of Cre recombinase to specific cell populations with infection of recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs) whose transgene expression is activated by Cre ("Cre-On"). Distinguishing how the Cre-expressing neurons differ functionally from neighboring Cre-negative neurons requires rAAVs that are inactivated by Cre ("Cre-Off") and can be used in tandem with Cre-On viruses. Here we introduce two rAAV vectors that are inactivated by Cre and carry different fluorophore and optogenetic constructs. We demonstrate single and dual rAAV systems to achieve Cre-On and Cre-Off expression in spatially-intermingled cell populations of the striatum. Using these systems, we uncovered cryptic genomic interactions that occur between multiple Cre-sensitive rAAVs or between Cre-sensitive rAAVs and somatic Cre-conditional alleles and devised methods to avoid these interactions. Our data highlight both important experimental caveats associated with Cre-dependent rAAV use as well as opportunities for the development of improved rAAVs for gene delivery.
    Frontiers in Neural Circuits 07/2012; 6:47. DOI:10.3389/fncir.2012.00047 · 2.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Neural activity during development critically shapes postnatal wiring of the mammalian brain. This is best illustrated by the sensory systems, in which the patterned feed-forward excitation provided by sensory organs and experience drives the formation of mature topographic circuits capable of extracting specific features of sensory stimuli. In contrast, little is known about the role of early activity in the development of the basal ganglia, a phylogenetically ancient group of nuclei fundamentally important for complex motor action and reward-based learning. These nuclei lack direct sensory input and are only loosely topographically organized, forming interlocking feed-forward and feed-back inhibitory circuits without laminar structure. Here we use transgenic mice and viral gene transfer methods to modulate neurotransmitter release and neuronal activity in vivo in the developing striatum. We find that the balance of activity between the two inhibitory and antagonist pathways in the striatum regulates excitatory innervation of the basal ganglia during development. These effects indicate that the propagation of activity through a multi-stage network regulates the wiring of the basal ganglia, revealing an important role of positive feedback in driving network maturation.
    Nature 05/2012; 485(7400):646-50. DOI:10.1038/nature11052 · 42.35 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

64 Citations
103.42 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012–2015
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 2012–2013
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Department of Neurobiology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States