Mariska C van der Plas

Leiden University, Leyden, South Holland, Netherlands

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Publications (7)22.85 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the Dystrophin gene and is characterized by muscle degeneration and the occurrence of mental deficits in a significant number of patients. Although Dystrophin and its closely related ortholog Utrophin are present at a variety of synapses, little is known about their roles in the nervous system. Previously, we reported that absence of postsynaptic Dystrophin from the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ) disrupts synaptic homeostasis, resulting in increased stimulus-evoked neurotransmitter release. Here, we show that RhoGAP crossveinless-c (cv-c), a negative regulator of Rho GTPase signaling pathways, genetically interacts with Dystrophin. Electrophysiological characterization of the cv-c-deficient NMJ and the use of presynaptic- and postsynaptic-specific transgenic rescue versus RNA interference reveal that the absence of postsynaptic cv-c results in elevated evoked neurotransmitter release. The cv-c mutant NMJ exhibits an increased number of presynaptic neurotransmitter release sites and higher probability of vesicle release without apparent changes in postsynaptic glutamate receptor numbers or function. Moreover, we find that decreasing expression of the Rho GTPase Cdc42 suppresses the high neurotransmitter release in the cv-c and Dystrophin mutants, suggesting that Cdc42 is a substrate of Cv-c. These results indicate that Dystrophin and the Rho GTPase signaling pathway likely interact at the postsynaptic side of the NMJ to maintain synaptic homeostasis. The absence of this postsynaptic pathway results in presynaptic structural and functional alterations, suggesting that retrograde signaling mechanisms are affected.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2011 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
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    Lee G Fradkin · Richard A Baines · Mariska C van der Plas · Jasprina N Noordermeer
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    ABSTRACT: The Dystrophin protein is encoded by a gene that, when mutated in humans, can cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease characterized by progressive muscle wasting. A number of Duchenne patients also exhibit poorly understood mental retardation, likely associated with loss of a brain-specific isoform. Furthermore, although Dystrophin isoforms and the related Utrophin protein have long been known to localize at synapses, their functions remain essentially unknown. In Drosophila, we find that the CNS-specific Dp186 isoform localizes to the embryonic and larval neuropiles, regions rich in synaptic contacts. In the absence of Dp186, evoked but not spontaneous presynaptic release is significantly enhanced. Increased presynaptic release can be fully rescued to wild-type levels by expression of a Dp186 transgene in the postsynaptic motoneuron, indicating that Dp186 likely regulates a retrograde signaling pathway. Potentiation of synaptic currents in the mutant also occurs when cholinergic transmission is inhibited or in the absence of Glass Bottom Boat (Gbb) or Wishful Thinking (Wit), a TGF-beta ligand and receptor, respectively, both previously implicated in synaptic retrograde signaling. These results are consistent with the possibility that Dp186 modulates other non-Gbb/Wit-dependent retrograde signaling pathways required to maintain normal synaptic physiology.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2008 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: Duchenne muscular dystrophy is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene and is characterized by progressive muscle wasting. The highly conserved dystrophin gene encodes a number of protein isoforms. The Dystrophin protein is part of a large protein assembly, the Dystrophin glycoprotein complex, which stabilizes the muscle membrane during contraction and acts as a scaffold for signaling molecules. How the absence of Dystrophin results in the onset of muscular dystrophy remains unclear. Here, we have used transgenic RNA interference to examine the roles of the Drosophila Dystrophin isoforms in muscle. We previously reported that one of the Drosophila Dystrophin orthologs, the DLP2 isoform, is not required to maintain muscle integrity, but plays a role in neuromuscular homeostasis by regulating neurotransmitter release. In this report, we show that reduction of all Dystrophin isoform expression levels in the musculature does not apparently affect myogenesis or muscle attachment, but results in progressive muscle degeneration in larvae and adult flies. We find that a recently identified Dystrophin isoform, Dp117, is expressed in the musculature and is required for muscle integrity. Muscle fibers with reduced levels of Dp117 display disorganized actin-myosin filaments and the cellular hallmarks of necrosis. Our results indicate the existence of at least two possibly separate roles of dystrophin in muscle, maintaining synaptic homeostasis and preserving the structural stability of the muscle.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2007 · Mechanisms of Development
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in the human dystrophin gene cause the Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies. The Dystrophin protein provides a structural link between the muscle cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix to maintain muscle integrity. Recently, Dystrophin has also been found to act as a scaffold for several signaling molecules, but the roles of dystrophin-mediated signaling pathways remain unknown. To further our understanding of this aspect of the function of dystrophin, we have generated Drosophila mutants that lack the large dystrophin isoforms and analyzed their role in synapse function at the neuromuscular junction. In expression and rescue studies, we show that lack of the large dystrophin isoforms in the postsynaptic muscle cell leads to elevated evoked neurotransmitter release from the presynaptic apparatus. Overall synapse size, the size of the readily releasable vesicle pool as assessed with hypertonic shock, and the number of presynaptic neurotransmitter release sites (active zones) are not changed in the mutants. Short-term synaptic facilitation of evoked transmitter release is decreased in the mutants, suggesting that the absence of dystrophin results in increased probability of release. Absence of the large dystrophin isoforms does not lead to changes in muscle cell morphology or alterations in the postsynaptic electrical response to spontaneously released neurotransmitter. Therefore, postsynaptic glutamate receptor function does not appear to be affected. Our results indicate that the postsynaptically localized scaffolding protein Dystrophin is required for appropriate control of neuromuscular synaptic homeostasis.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2006 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience

  • No preview · Article · Jan 2006
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    ABSTRACT: Mutations in genes encoding proteins of the human dystrophin-associated glycoprotein complex (DGC) cause the Duchenne, Becker and limb-girdle muscular dystrophies. Subsets of the DGC proteins form tissue-specific complexes which are thought to play structural and signaling roles in the muscle and at the neuromuscular junction. Furthermore, mutations in the dystrophin gene that lead to Duchenne muscular dystrophy are frequently associated with cognitive and behavioral deficits, suggesting a role for dystrophin in the nervous system. Despite significant progress over the past decade, many fundamental questions about the roles played by dystrophin and the other DGC proteins in the muscle and peripheral and central nervous systems remain to be answered. Mammalian models of DGC gene function are complicated by the existence of fully or partially redundant genes whose functions can mask effects of the inactivation of a given DGC gene. The genome of the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster encodes a single ortholog of the majority of the mammalian DGC protein subclasses, thus potentially simplifying their functional analysis. We report here the embryonic mRNA expression patterns of the individual DGC orthologs. We find that they are predominantly expressed in the nervous system and in muscle. Dystrophin, dystrobrevin-like, dystroglycan-like, syntrophin-like 1, and all three sarcoglycan orthologs are found in the brain and the ventral nerve cord, while dystrophin, dystrobrevin-like, dystroglycan-like, syntrophin-like 2, sarcoglycan alpha and sarcoglycan delta are expressed in distinct and sometimes overlapping domains of mesoderm-derived tissues, i.e. muscles of the body wall and around the gut.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2004 · Gene Expression Patterns

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Publication Stats

156 Citations
22.85 Total Impact Points


  • 2011
    • Leiden University
      • Molecular Cell Biology Group
      Leyden, South Holland, Netherlands
  • 2004-2008
    • Leiden University Medical Centre
      • Department of Molecular Cell Biology
      Leyden, South Holland, Netherlands