David H Rowitch

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (165)1694.39 Total impact

  • Kevin W. Kelley · David H. Rowitch
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    ABSTRACT: In this issue of Neuron, Zhang et al. (2016) develop a novel approach to generate populations of human astrocytes to uncover their uniquely human traits.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Neuron
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    Preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Neuro-Oncology
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    ABSTRACT: Human congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), resulting from mutations in transcription factor PHOX2B, manifests with impaired responses to hypoxemia and hypercapnia especially during sleep. To identify brainstem structures developmentally affected in CCHS, we analyzed two postmortem neonatal-lethal cases with confirmed polyalanine repeat expansion (PARM) or Non-PARM (PHOX2B∆8) mutation of PHOX2B. Both human cases showed neuronal losses within the locus coeruleus (LC), which is important for central noradrenergic signaling. Using a conditionally active transgenic mouse model of the PHOX2B∆8 mutation, we found that early embryonic expression (<E10.5) caused failure of LC neuronal specification and perinatal respiratory lethality. In contrast, later onset (E11.5) of PHOX2B∆8 expression was not deleterious to LC development and perinatal respiratory lethality was rescued, despite failure of chemosensor retrotrapezoid nucleus formation. Our findings indicate that early-onset mutant PHOX2B expression inhibits LC neuronal development in CCHS. They further suggest that such mutations result in dysregulation of central noradrenergic signaling, and therefore, potential for early pharmacologic intervention in humans with CCHS. Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00401-015-1441-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Acta Neuropathologica
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    ABSTRACT: Astrocytes produce an assortment of signals that promote neuronal maturation according to a precise developmental timeline. Is this orchestrated timing and signaling altered in human neurodevelopmental disorders? To address this question, the astroglial lineage was investigated in two model systems of a developmental disorder with intellectual disability caused by mutant Harvey rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (HRAS) termed Costello syndrome: mutant HRAS human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and transgenic mice. Human iPSCs derived from patients with Costello syndrome differentiated to astroglia more rapidly in vitro than those derived from wild-type cell lines with normal HRAS, exhibited hyperplasia, and also generated an abundance of extracellular matrix remodeling factors and proteoglycans. Acute treatment with a farnesyl transferase inhibitor and knockdown of the transcription factor SNAI2 reduced expression of several proteoglycans in Costello syndrome iPSC-derived astrocytes. Similarly, mice in which mutant HRAS was expressed selectively in astrocytes exhibited experience-independent increased accumulation of perineuronal net proteoglycans in cortex, as well as increased parvalbumin expression in interneurons, when compared to wild-type mice. Our data indicate that astrocytes expressing mutant HRAS dysregulate cortical maturation during development as shown by abnormal extracellular matrix remodeling and implicate excessive astrocyte-to-neuron signaling as a possible drug target for treating mental impairment and enhancing neuroplasticity. Copyright © 2015, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
    No preview · Article · May 2015 · Science translational medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Despite its critical importance to global brain function, the postnatal development of the human pons remains poorly understood. In the present study, we first performed MRI-based morphometric analyses of the postnatal human pons (0-18 years;n=6-14/timepoint). Pons volume increased 6-fold from birth to 5 years, followed by continued slower growth throughout childhood. The observed growth was primarily due to expansion of the basis pontis. T2-based MRI analysis suggests that this growth is linked to increased myelination, and histological analysis of myelin basic protein in human postmortem specimens confirmed a dramatic increase in myelination during infancy. Analysis of cellular proliferation revealed many Ki67+ cells during the first 7 months of life, particularly during the first month where proliferation was increased in the basis relative to tegmentum. The majority of proliferative cells in the postnatal pons expressed the transcription factor Olig2, suggesting an oligodendrocyte lineage. The proportion of proliferating cells that were Olig2+ was similar through the first 7 months of life and between basis and tegmentum. The number of Ki67+ cells declined dramatically from birth to 7 months and further decreased by 3 years, with a small number of Ki67+ cells observed throughout childhood. In addition, two populations of vimentin/nestin-expressing cells were identified: a dorsal group near the ventricular surface, which persists throughout childhood, and a parenchymal population that diminishes by 7 months and was not evident later in childhood. Together, our data reveal remarkable postnatal growth in the ventral pons, particularly during infancy when cells are most proliferative and myelination increases. J. Comp. Neurol., 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2015 · The Journal of Comparative Neurology
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    ABSTRACT: Leukodystrophies are a heterogeneous, often progressive group of disorders manifesting a wide range of symptoms and complications. Most of these disorders have historically had no etiologic or disease specific therapeutic approaches. Recently, a greater understanding of the pathologic mechanisms associated with leukodystrophies has allowed clinicians and researchers to prioritize treatment strategies and advance research in therapies for specific disorders, some of which are on the verge of pilot or Phase I/II clinical trials. This shifts the care of leukodystrophy patients from the management of the complex array of symptoms and sequelae alone to targeted therapeutics. The unmet needs of leukodystrophy patients still remain an overwhelming burden. While the overwhelming consensus is that these disorders collectively are symptomatically treatable, leukodystrophy patients are in need of advanced therapies and if possible, a cure. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Molecular Genetics and Metabolism
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    ABSTRACT: Astrocytes have many roles within the brain parenchyma, and a subpopulation restricted to germinal niches function as neural stem cells (NSCs), that produce various types of neuronal progeny in relation to spatiotemporal factors. A growing body of evidence supports the concept of morphological and molecular differences between astrocytes in different brain regions, which might relate to their derivation from regionally patterned radial glia. Indeed, the notion that astrocytes are molecularly and functionally heterogeneous could help explain how the central nervous system (CNS) retains embryonic positional information into adulthood. Here, we discuss recent evidence for regionally encoded functions of astrocytes in the developing and adult CNS to provide an integrated concept of the origin and possible function of astrocyte heterogeneity. We focus on the regionalization of NSCs in the ventricular-subventricular zone (V-SVZ) of the adult mammalian brain and emerging evidence for a segmental organization of astrocytes in the developing spinal cord and forebrain. We propose that astrocytes' diversity will provide fundamental clues to understand regional brain organization and function. Copyright © 2014 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; all rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology
  • A.-C. Tein · A. Griveau · R. Hashizume · D. Rowitch
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    ABSTRACT: Malignant astrocytoma is a leading cause of cancer-related mortality in children. We have reported that activating mutations of serine/threonine protein kinase BRAF are present in 10 ∼ 20% of pediatric glioma grade II-IV and are often accompanied by concomitant homozygous deletion of CDKN2A. In a de novo mouse model bearing similar genetic mutations (hGFAP-cre; BrafV600E(+/-); Ink-Arf−/-), we observed prolonged, increased and preferential proliferation of oligodendrocyte precursor (OLPs) versus astrocytes in the pre-cancerous state. These proliferative OLPs express several known cancer stem cell markers including Olig2, Sox2, Mash-1 and SSEA-1, suggesting further parallels with progenitors for pediatric glioma formation. We have previously shown that phosphorylation of Olig2 (P-Olig2) is associated with oncogenicity in adult glioma orthoptopic graphs. BrafV600E-activated OLPs express high levels of P-Olig2. A kinase inhibitor screen identified that GSK-3β and CK-II phosphorylate Olig2 in BrafV600E-driven neurospheres. Inhibition of CK-II resulted in decreased in P-Olig2 levels and OLP proliferation rate in vivo. Further pre-clinical studies are underway to validate the possible drugability of CK-II inhibitor and dual kinase inhibitor treatment with BrafV600E inhibitor. Our work suggests that OLPs may serve as cells-of-origin for pediatric glioma and that a inhibitor therapy targeted against P-Olig2 in Braf-driven pediatric glioma might have therapeutic benefit.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Neuro-Oncology

  • No preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Cancer Research
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    Amelie GRIVEAU · An-Chi TIEN · David H. Rowitch
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    ABSTRACT: Malignant gliomas are a leading cause of tumor-related mortality in children. Current therapies often have significant adverse effects on brain development and are largely ineffective against aggressive gliomas. The development of rational therapies has been limited by poor information regarding the cell of origin for pediatric glioma and the relevant underlying genetic alterations. Recent findings now reveal that mutations existing in pediatric glioma are different than those seen in adult gliomas. For example, BRAFV600E activating mutations are associated with deletion of the tumor suppressor gene, p16 (Ink4a-Arf), in about 15% of pediatric gliomas. We have generated a faithful genetic mouse model in which there is concomitant activation of BRAFV600E and deletion of Ink4a-Arf in oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) leading to the generation of pediatric high-grade glioma. OPCs have been shown to be a potential cell of origin for glioma and expression of Olig2 is found in 100 percent of human pediatric and adult high-grade gliomas. Given that Olig2 is also required for normal myelin development, targeting all Olig2-expressing cells with small molecule inhibitors would likely have detrimental effects. We have recently found that Olig2 protein is present in a phosphorylated form that promotes proliferation of adult glioma cells. In this study, we demonstrate that phospho-Olig2 is expressed in tumorigenic oligodendrocyte progenitor cells and is required for pediatric glioma generation. In addition, we found that phospho-Olig2 and Olig2 interact with different proteins, some of which are feasible drug targets. This study gives insights into new therapies by understanding key protein interactions in normal oligodendrocyte development as well as in tumorigenic oligodendrocyte progenitor cells.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2014 · Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: Myelin sheaths provide critical functional and trophic support for axons in white matter tracts of the brain. Oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) have extraordinary metabolic requirements during development as they differentiate to produce multiple myelin segments, implying that they must first secure adequate access to blood supply. However, mechanisms that coordinate myelination and angiogenesis are unclear. Here, we show that oxygen tension, mediated by OPC-encoded hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) function, is an essential regulator of postnatal myelination. Constitutive HIF1/2α stabilization resulted in OPC maturation arrest through autocrine activation of canonical Wnt7a/7b. Surprisingly, such OPCs also show paracrine activity that induces excessive postnatal white matter angiogenesis in vivo and directly stimulates endothelial cell proliferation in vitro. Conversely, OPC-specific HIF1/2α loss of function leads to insufficient angiogenesis in corpus callosum and catastrophic axon loss. These findings indicate that OPC-intrinsic HIF signaling couples postnatal white matter angiogenesis, axon integrity, and the onset of myelination in mammalian forebrain.
    No preview · Article · Jul 2014 · Cell
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    ABSTRACT: Hypomyelinating leukodystrophies represent a genetically heterogeneous but clinically overlapping group of heritable disorders. Current management approaches in the care of the patient with a hypomyelinating leukodystrophy include use of serial MR imaging to establish and monitor hypomyelination, molecular diagnostics to determine a specific etiology, and, equally important, careful attention to neurologic complications over time. Emerging research in oligodendrocyte biology and neuroradiology with bedside applications may result in the possibility of clinical trials in the near term, yet there are significant gaps in knowledge in disease classification, characterization and outcome measures in this group of disorders. Here we review the biological background of myelination, the clinical and genetic variability in hypomyelinating leukodystrophies, and the insights that can be obtained from current MRI techniques. In addition, we discuss ongoing research approaches to define potential outcome markers for future clinical trials. ANN NEUROL 2014. © 2014 American Neurological Association.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Annals of Neurology
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    ABSTRACT: The bHLH transcription factor Olig2 is expressed in cycling neural progenitor cells but also in terminally differentiated, myelinating oligodendrocytes. Sustained expression of Olig2 is counterintuitive because all known functions of the protein in expansion of neural progenitors and specification of oligodendrocyte progenitors are completed with the formation of mature white matter. How are the biological functions of Olig2 suppressed in terminally differentiated oligodendrocytes? In previous studies, we have shown that a triple serine motif in the amino terminus of Olig2 is phosphorylated in cycling neural progenitors but not in their differentiated progeny. We now show that phosphorylation of the triple serine motif regulates intranuclear compartmentalization of murine Olig2. Phosphorylated Olig2 is preferentially localized to a transcriptionally active "open" chromatin compartment together with coregulator proteins essential for regulation of gene expression. Unphosphorylated Olig2, as seen in mature white matter, is localized mainly within a transcriptionally inactive, chromatin fraction characterized by condensed and inaccessible DNA. Of special note is the observation that the p53 tumor suppressor protein is confined to the open chromatin fraction. Proximity ligation assays show that phosphorylation brings Olig2 within 30 nm of p53 within the open chromatin compartment. The data thus shed light on previously noted promitogenic functions of phosphorylated Olig2, which reflect, at least in part, an oppositional relationship with p53 functions.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: Astrocytes, the most abundant cells in the central nervous system, promote synapse formation and help to refine neural connectivity. Although they are allocated to spatially distinct regional domains during development, it is unknown whether region-restricted astrocytes are functionally heterogeneous. Here we show that postnatal spinal cord astrocytes express several region-specific genes, and that ventral astrocyte-encoded semaphorin 3a (Sema3a) is required for proper motor neuron and sensory neuron circuit organization. Loss of astrocyte-encoded Sema3a leads to dysregulated α-motor neuron axon initial segment orientation, markedly abnormal synaptic inputs, and selective death of α- but not of adjacent γ-motor neurons. In addition, a subset of TrkA(+) sensory afferents projects to ectopic ventral positions. These findings demonstrate that stable maintenance of a positional cue by developing astrocytes influences multiple aspects of sensorimotor circuit formation. More generally, they suggest that regional astrocyte heterogeneity may help to coordinate postnatal neural circuit refinement.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Nature
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    ABSTRACT: In colon cancer, mutation of the Wnt repressor APC (encoding adenomatous polyposis coli) leads to a state of aberrant and unrestricted high-activity signaling. However, the relevance of high Wnt tone in non-genetic human disease is unknown. Here we demonstrate that distinct functional states of Wnt activity determine oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) differentiation and myelination. Mouse OPCs with genetic Wnt dysregulation (high tone) express multiple genes in common with colon cancer, including Lef1, Sp5, Ets2, Rnf43 and Dusp4. Surprisingly, we found that OPCs in lesions of hypoxic human neonatal white matter injury upregulated markers of high Wnt activity and lacked expression of APC. We also found that lack of Wnt repressor tone promoted permanent white matter injury after mild hypoxic insult. These findings suggest a state of pathological high-activity Wnt signaling in human disease tissues that lack predisposing genetic mutation.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · Nature Neuroscience
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    ABSTRACT: Abnormal GABAergic interneuron density, and imbalance of excitatory versus inhibitory tone, is thought to result in epilepsy, neurodevelopmental disorders, and psychiatric disease. Recent studies indicate that interneuron cortical density is determined primarily by the size of the precursor pool in the embryonic telencephalon. However, factors essential for regulating interneuron allocation from telencephalic multipotent precursors are poorly understood. Here we report that Olig1 represses production of GABAergic interneurons throughout the mouse brain. Olig1 deletion in mutant mice results in ectopic expression and upregulation of Dlx1/2 genes in the ventral medial ganglionic eminences and adjacent regions of the septum, resulting in an ∼30% increase in adult cortical interneuron numbers. We show that Olig1 directly represses the Dlx1/2 I12b intergenic enhancer and that Dlx1/2 functions genetically downstream of Olig1. These findings establish Olig1 as an essential repressor of Dlx1/2 and interneuron production in developing mammalian brain.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2014 · Neuron
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    ABSTRACT: The mammalian genome encodes two A-type cyclins, which are considered potentially redundant yet essential regulators of the cell cycle. Here, we tested requirements for cyclin A1 and cyclin A2 function in cerebellar development. Compound conditional loss of cyclin A1/A2 in neural progenitors resulted in severe cerebellar hypoplasia, decreased proliferation of cerebellar granule neuron progenitors (CGNP), and Purkinje (PC) neuron dyslamination. Deletion of cyclin A2 alone showed an identical phenotype, demonstrating that cyclin A1 does not compensate for cyclin A2 loss in neural progenitors. Cyclin A2 loss lead to increased apoptosis at early embryonic time points but not at post-natal time points. In contrast, neural progenitors of the VZ/SVZ did not undergo increased apoptosis, indicating that VZ/SVZ-derived and rhombic lip-derived progenitor cells show differential requirements to cyclin A2. Conditional knockout of cyclin A2 or the SHH proliferative target Nmyc in CGNP also resulted in PC neuron dyslamination. Although cyclin E1 has been reported to compensate for cyclin A2 function in fibroblasts and is upregulated in cyclin A2 null cerebella, cyclin E1 expression was unable to compensate for loss-of cyclin A2 function.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Developmental Biology
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    Marc R Freeman · David H Rowitch
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    ABSTRACT: Glial cells are present in all organisms with a CNS and, with increasing brain complexity, glial cells have undergone substantive increases in cell number, diversity, and functions. Invertebrates, such as Drosophila, possess glial subtypes with similarity to mammalian astrocytes in their basic morphology and function, representing fertile ground for unraveling fundamental aspects of glial biology. Although glial subtypes in simple organisms may be relatively homogenous, emerging evidence suggests the possibility that mammalian astrocytes might be highly diversified to match the needs of local neuronal subtypes. In this Perspective, we review classic and new roles identified for astrocytes and oligodendrocytes by recent studies. We propose that delineating genetic and developmental programs across species will be essential to understand the core functions of glia that allow enhanced neuronal function and to achieve new insights into glial roles in higher-order brain function and neurological disease.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2013 · Neuron
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    ABSTRACT: Midbrain- and hindbrain-derived GABAergic interneurons are critical for regulation of sleep, respiratory, sensory-motor and motivational processes, and they are implicated in human neurological disorders. However, the precise mechanisms that underlie generation of GABAergic neuron diversity in the midbrain-hindbrain region are poorly understood. Here, we show unique and overlapping requirements for the related bHLH proteins Tal1 and Tal2 in GABAergic neurogenesis in the midbrain. We show that Tal2 and Tal1 are specifically and sequentially activated during midbrain GABAergic neurogenesis. Similar to Gata2, a post-mitotic selector of the midbrain GABAergic neuron identity, Tal2 expression is activated very early during GABAergic neuron differentiation. Although the expression of Tal2 and Gata2 genes are independent of each other, Tal2 is important for normal midbrain GABAergic neurogenesis, possibly as a partner of Gata2. In the absence of Tal2, the majority of midbrain GABAergic neurons switch to a glutamatergic-like phenotype. In contrast, Tal1 expression is activated in a Gata2 and Tal2 dependent fashion in the more mature midbrain GABAergic neuron precursors, but Tal1 alone is not required for GABAergic neuron differentiation from the midbrain neuroepithelium. However, inactivation of both Tal2 and Tal1 in the developing midbrain suggests that the two factors co-operate to guide GABAergic neuron differentiation in a specific ventro-lateral midbrain domain. The observed similarities and differences between Tal1/Tal2 and Gata2 mutants suggest both co-operative and unique roles for these factors in determination of midbrain GABAergic neuron identities.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Biology Open
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    ABSTRACT: Developmental regulation of gliogenesis in the mammalian CNS is incompletely understood, in part due to a limited repertoire of lineage-specific genes. We used Aldh1l1-GFP as a marker for gliogenic radial glia and later-stage precursors of developing astrocytes and performed gene expression profiling of these cells. We then used this dataset to identify candidate transcription factors that may serve as glial markers or regulators of glial fate. Our analysis generated a database of developmental stage-related markers of Aldh1l1+ cells between murine embryonic day 13.5-18.5. Using these data we identify the bZIP transcription factor Nfe2l1 and demonstrate that it promotes glial fate under direct Sox9 regulatory control. Thus, this dataset represents a resource for identifying novel regulators of glial development. GLIA 2013.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2013 · Glia

Publication Stats

18k Citations
1,694.39 Total Impact Points


  • 2016
    • University of Cambridge
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 2008-2015
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
    • University Medical Center Utrecht
      Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • 2007-2015
    • University of California, San Francisco
      • • Department of Neurological Surgery
      • • Department of Pediatrics
      San Francisco, California, United States
    • Children's Hospital Central California
      Мадера, California, United States
  • 2014
    • Fachkrankenhaus Hubertusburg gGmbH
      Leipzig, Saxony, Germany
  • 1995-2010
    • Harvard University
      • • Department of Molecular and Cell Biology
      • • Department of Developmental Biology
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
    • Boston Children's Hospital
      • Division of Endocrinology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2001-2008
    • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
      • Department of Pediatric Oncology
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
    • University College London
      • Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research
      Londinium, England, United Kingdom
  • 2001-2006
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Department of Pediatrics
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States