Mirna Kvajo

The Rockefeller University, New York City, New York, United States

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Publications (13)79.24 Total impact

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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In human genetic studies of schizophrenia, we uncovered copy-number variants in RAPGEF6 and RAPGEF2 genes. To discern the effects of RAPGEF6 deletion in humans, we investigated the behavior and neural functions of a mouse lacking Rapgef6. Rapgef6 deletion resulted in impaired amygdala function measured as reduced fear conditioning and anxiolysis. Hippocampal-dependent spatial memory and prefrontal cortex-dependent working memory tasks were intact. Neural activation measured by cFOS phosphorylation demonstrated a reduction in hippocampal and amygdala activation after fear conditioning, while neural morphology assessment uncovered reduced spine density and primary dendrite number in pyramidal neurons of the CA3 hippocampal region of knockout mice. Electrophysiological analysis showed enhanced long-term potentiation at cortico-amygdala synapses. Rapgef6 deletion mice were most impaired in hippocampal and amygdalar function, brain regions implicated in schizophrenia pathophysiology. The results provide a deeper understanding of the role of the amygdala in schizophrenia and suggest that RAPGEF6 may be a novel therapeutic target in schizophrenia.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Translational Psychiatry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Disrupted in schizophrenia-1 (DISC1) gene is associated with several neuropsychiatric disorders as it is disrupted by a balanced translocation involving chromosomes 1 and 11 in a large Scottish pedigree with high prevalence of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. Since its identification, several mouse models with DISC1 genetic modifications have been generated using different approaches. Interestingly, a natural deletion of 25bp in the 129 mouse strain alters the DISC1 gene reading frame leading to a premature stop codon very close to the gene breakpoint in the mutant allele of the Scottish family. In the present study we confirmed that the 129DISC1(Del) mutation results in reduced level of full length DISC1 in hippocampus of heterozygous mice and we have characterized the behavioral consequences of heterozygous 129DISC1(Del) mutation in a mixed B6129 genetic background. We found alterations in spontaneous locomotor activity (hyperactivity in males and hypoactivity in females), deficits in pre-pulse inhibition (PPI) and also increased despair behavior in heterozygous 129DISC1(Del) mice, thus reproducing typical behaviors associated to psychiatric disorders. Since this mouse strain is widely and commercially available, we propose it as an amenable tool to study DISC1-related biochemical alterations and psychiatric behaviors.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A balanced chromosomal translocation segregating with schizophrenia and affective disorders in a large Scottish family disrupting DISC1 implicated this gene as a susceptibility gene for major mental illness. Here we study neurons derived from a genetically engineered mouse strain with a truncating lesion disrupting the endogenous Disc1 ortholog. We provide a detailed account of the consequences of this mutation on axonal and dendritic morphogenesis as well as dendritic spine development in cultured hippocampal and cortical neurons. We show that the mutation has distinct effects on these two types of neurons, supporting a cell-type specific role of Disc1 in establishing structural connections among neurons. Moreover, using a validated antibody we provide evidence indicating that Disc1 localizes primarily to Golgi apparatus-related vesicles. Our results support the notion that in vitro cultures derived from Disc1(Tm1Kara) mice provide a valuable model for future mechanistic analysis of the cellular and biochemical effects of this mutation, and can thus serve as a platform for drug discovery efforts.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2013 · Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Carefully designed animal models of genetic risk factors are likely to aid our understanding of the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Here, we study a mouse strain with a truncating lesion in the endogenous Disc1 ortholog designed to model the effects of a schizophrenia-predisposing mutation and offer a detailed account of the consequences that this mutation has on the development and function of a hippocampal circuit. We uncover widespread and cumulative cytoarchitectural alterations in the dentate gyrus during neonatal and adult neurogenesis, which include errors in axonal targeting and are accompanied by changes in short-term plasticity at the mossy fiber/CA3 circuit. We also provide evidence that cAMP levels are elevated as a result of the Disc1 mutation, leading to altered axonal targeting and dendritic growth. The identified structural alterations are, for the most part, not consistent with the growth-promoting and premature maturation effects inferred from previous RNAi-based Disc1 knockdown. Our results provide support to the notion that modest disturbances of neuronal connectivity and accompanying deficits in short-term synaptic dynamics is a general feature of schizophrenia-predisposing mutations.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2011 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    M Kvajo · H McKellar · J.A. Gogos
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Schizophrenia is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, but despite progress in identifying the genetic factors implicated in its development, the mechanisms underlying its etiology and pathogenesis remain poorly understood. Development of mouse models is critical for expanding our understanding of the causes of schizophrenia. However, translation of disease pathology into mouse models has proven to be challenging, primarily due to the complex genetic architecture of schizophrenia and the difficulties in the re-creation of susceptibility alleles in the mouse genome. In this review we highlight current research on models of major susceptibility loci and the information accrued from their analysis. We describe and compare the different approaches that are necessitated by diverse susceptibility alleles, and discuss their advantages and drawbacks. Finally, we discuss emerging mouse models, such as second-generation pathophysiology models based on innovative approaches that are facilitated by the information gathered from the current genetic mouse models.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2011 · Neuroscience
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus and the subventricular zone occurs throughout the life of mammals and newly generated neurons can integrate functionally into established neuronal circuits. Neurogenesis levels in the dentate gyrus are modulated by changes in the environment (enrichment, exercise), hippocampal-dependent tasks, NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activity, sonic hedgehog (SHH) and/or other factors. Results previously, we showed that Protease Nexin-1 (PN-1), a potent serine protease inhibitor, regulates the NMDAR availability and activity as well as SHH signaling. Compared with wild-type (WT), we detected a significant increase in BrdU-labeled cells in the dentate gyrus of mice lacking PN-1 (PN-1 -/-) both in controls and after running exercise. Patched homologue 1 (Ptc1) and Gli1 mRNA levels were higher and Gli3 down-regulated in mutant mice under standard conditions and to a lesser extent after running exercise. However, the number of surviving BrdU-positive cells did not differ between WT and PN-1 -/- animals. NMDAR availability was altered in the hippocampus of mutant animals after exercise. Conclusion All together our results indicate that PN-1 controls progenitors proliferation through an effect on the SHH pathway and suggest an influence of the serpin on the survival of newly generated neurons through modulation of NMDAR availability.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2010 · BMC Neuroscience
  • Mirna Kvajo · Heather McKellar · Joseph A Gogos
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Schizophrenia is one of the most common psychiatric disorders, but despite some progress in identifying the genetic factors implicated in its development, the molecular mechanisms underlying its etiology and pathogenesis remain poorly understood. However, accumulating evidence suggests that regardless of the underlying genetic complexity, the mechanisms of the disease may impact a small number of common signaling pathways. In this review, we discuss the evidence for a role of schizophrenia susceptibility genes in intracellular signaling cascades by focusing on three prominent candidate genes: AKT, PPP3CC (calcineurin), and DISC1. We describe the regulation of a number of signaling cascades by AKT and calcineurin through protein phosphorylation and dephosphorylation, and the recently uncovered functions of DISC1 in cAMP and GSK3beta signaling. In addition, we present independent evidence for the involvement of their downstream signaling pathways in schizophrenia. Finally, we discuss evidence supporting an impact of these susceptibility genes on common intracellular signaling pathways and the convergence of their effects on neuronal processes implicated in schizophrenia.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2010 · Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences
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    M Kvajo · A Dhilla · D E Swor · M Karayiorgou · JA Gogos
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: G72 is a strong candidate susceptibility gene for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, whose function remains enigmatic. Here we show that one splicing isoform of the gene (LG72) encodes for a mitochondrial protein. We also provide convergent lines of evidence that increase of endogenous or exogenous G72 levels promotes robust mitochondrial fragmentation in mammalian cell lines and primary neurons, which proceeds in a manner that does not depend on induction of apoptosis or alteration in mitochondrial transmembrane potential. Finally, we show that increase in G72 levels in immature primary neurons is accompanied by a marked increase in dendritic arborization. By contrast, we failed to confirm the originally proposed functional interaction between G72 and D-amino acid oxidase (DAO) in two tested cell lines. Our results suggest an alternative role for G72 in modulating mitochondrial function.
    Preview · Article · Aug 2008 · Molecular Psychiatry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: DISC1 is a strong candidate susceptibility gene for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. Using a mouse strain carrying an endogenous Disc1 orthologue engineered to model the putative effects of the disease-associated chromosomal translocation we demonstrate that impaired Disc1 function results in region-specific morphological alterations, including alterations in the organization of newly born and mature neurons of the dentate gyrus. Field recordings at CA3/CA1 synapses revealed a deficit in short-term plasticity. Using a battery of cognitive tests we found a selective impairment in working memory (WM), which may relate to deficits in WM and executive function observed in individuals with schizophrenia. Our results implicate malfunction of neural circuits within the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex and selective deficits in WM as contributing to the genetic risk conferred by this gene.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2008 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Multiple molecular mechanisms influence nerve regeneration. Because serine proteases were shown to affect peripheral nerve regeneration, we performed nerve crush experiments to study synapse reinnervation in adult mice lacking the serpin protease nexin-1 (PN-1). PN-1 is a potent endogenous inhibitor of thrombin, trypsin, tissue plasminogen activators (tPAs), and urokinase plasminogen activators. Compared with the wild type, a significant delay in synapse reinnervation was detected in PN-1 knock-out (KO) animals, which was associated with both reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis of Schwann cells. Various factors known to affect Schwann cells were also altered. Fibrin deposits, tPA activity, mature BDNF, and the low-affinity p75 neurotrophin receptor were increased in injured sciatic nerves of mutant mice. To test whether the absence of PN-1 in Schwann cells or in the axon caused delay in reinnervation, PN-1 was overexpressed exclusively in the nerves of PN-1 KO mice. Neuronal PN-1 expression did not rescue the delayed reinnervation. The results suggest that Schwann cell-derived PN-1 is crucial for proper reinnervation through its contribution to the autocrine control of proliferation and survival. Thus, the precise balance between distinct proteases and serpins such as PN-1 can modulate the overall impact on the kinetics of recovery.
    Full-text · Article · May 2007 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Disrupted-In-Schizophrenia (DISC1) is a leading candidate schizophrenia susceptibility gene. Here, we describe a deletion variant in mDisc1 specific to the 129S6/SvEv strain that introduces a termination codon at exon 7, abolishes production of the full-length protein, and impairs working memory performance when transferred to the C57BL/6J genetic background. Our findings provide insights into how DISC1 variation contributes to schizophrenia susceptibility in humans and the behavioral divergence between 129S6/SvEv and C57BL/6J mouse strains and have implications for modeling psychiatric diseases in mice.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2006 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Serine proteases are considered to be involved in plasticity-related events in the nervous system, but their in vivo targets and the importance of their control by endogenous inhibitors are still not clarified. Here, we demonstrate the crucial role of a potent serine protease inhibitor, protease nexin-1 (PN-1), in the regulation of activity-dependent brain proteolytic activity and the functioning of sensory pathways. Neuronal activity regulates the expression of PN-1, which in turn controls brain proteolytic activity. In PN-1-/- mice, absence of PN-1 leads to increased brain proteolytic activity, which is correlated with an activity-dependent decrease in the NR1 subunit of the NMDA receptor. Correspondingly, reduced NMDA receptor signaling is detected in their barrel cortex. This is coupled to decreased sensory evoked potentials in the barrel cortex and impaired whisker-dependent sensory motor function. Thus, a tight control of serine protease activity is critical for the in vivo function of the NMDA receptors and the proper function of sensory pathways.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2004 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
  • D Monard · M Kvajo · M Meins · U Hengst · E Troncoso · J Kiss · H Albrecht
    No preview · Conference Paper · Dec 2003