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Journal: Developmental neurobiology


During neural tube formation, neural plate cells migrate from the lateral aspects of the dorsal surface towards the midline. Elevation of the lateral regions of the neural plate produces the neural folds which then migrate to the midline where they fuse at their dorsal tips, generating a closed neural tube comprising an apicobasally polarized neuroepithelium. Our previous study identified a novel role for the axon guidance receptor neogenin in Xenopus neural tube formation. We demonstrated that loss of neogenin impeded neural fold apposition and neural tube closure. This study also revealed that neogenin, via its interaction with its ligand, RGMa, promoted cell-cell adhesion between neural plate cells as the neural folds elevated and between neuroepithelial cells within the neural tube. The second neogenin ligand, netrin-1, has been implicated in cell migration and epithelial morphogenesis. Therefore, we hypothesized that netrin-1 may also act as a ligand for neogenin during neurulation. Here we demonstrate that morpholino knockdown of Xenopus netrin-1 results in delayed neural fold apposition and neural tube closure. We further show that netrin-1 functions in the same pathway as neogenin and RGMa during neurulation. However, contrary to the role of neogenin-RGMa interactions, neogenin-netrin-1 interactions are not required for neural fold elevation or adhesion between neuroepithelial cells. Instead, our data suggest that netrin-1 contributes to the migration of the neural folds towards the midline. We conclude that both neogenin ligands work synergistically to ensure neural tube closure. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 2013.

Concepts: Axon, Embryology, Neural tube, Neurulation, Developmental neuroscience, Neural plate, Neural folds, Neural groove


Neurogenesis is the process of neuron generation, which occurs not only during embryonic development but also in restricted niches postnatally. One such region is called the subventricular zone (SVZ), which gives rise to new neurons in the olfactory bulb (OB). Neurons that are born postnatally migrate through more complex territories and integrate into fully functional circuits. Therefore, differences in the differentiation of embryonic and postnatally born neurons may exist. Dendritogenesis is an important process for the proper formation of future neuronal circuits. Dendritogenesis in embryonic neurons cultured in vitro was shown to depend on the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Still unknown, however, is whether mTOR could regulate the dendritic arbor morphology of SVZ-derived postnatal OB neurons under physiological conditions in vivo. The present study used in vitro cultured and differentiated SVZ-derived neural progenitors and found that both mTOR complex 1 and mTOR complex 2 are required for the dendritogenesis of SVZ-derived neurons. Furthermore, using a combination of in vivo electroporation of neural stem cells in the SVZ and genetic and pharmacological inhibition of mTOR, we found that mTOR is crucial for the growth of basal and apical dendrites in postnatally born OB neurons under physiological conditions and contributes to the stabilization of their basal dendrites. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Stem cell, Axon, Neurogenesis, Synapse, Dendrite, Purkinje cell


Cranial nerves innervate head muscles in a well-characterised and highly conserved pattern. Identification of genes responsible for human congenital disorders of these nerves, combined with the analysis of their role in axonal development in animal models has advanced understanding of how neuromuscular connectivity is established. Here we focus on the ocular motor system, as an instructive example of the success of this approach in unravelling the aetiology of human strabismus. The discovery that ocular motility disorders can arise from mutations in transcription factors, including HoxA1, HoxB1, MafB, Phox2A and Sall4, has revealed gene regulatory networks that pattern the brainstem and/or govern the differentiation of cranial motor neurons. Mutations in genes involved in axon growth and guidance disrupt specific stages of the extension and pathfinding of ocular motor nerves, and been implicated in human strabismus. These genes encompass varied classes of molecule, from receptor complexes to dynamic effectors to cytoskeletal components, including Robo3/Rig1, Alpha2-chimaerin, Kif21A, TUBB2 and TUBB3. A current challenge is understanding the protein regulatory networks that link the cell surface to the cytoskeleton and dissecting the co-ordinated signalling cascades and motile responses that underpin axonal navigation. We review recent insights derived from basic and clinical science approaches, to show how, by capitalising on the strengths of each, a more complete picture of the aetiology of human congenital cranial dysinnervation disorders can be achieved. This elucidation of these principles illustrates the success of clinical genetic studies working in tandem with molecular and cellular models to enhance understanding of human disease. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Protein, Genetics, Action potential, Axon, Nerve, Neuromuscular junction


Dendrites and spines are the main neuronal structures receiving input from other neurons and glial cells. Dendritic and spine number, size and morphology are some of the crucial factors determining how signals coming from individual synapses are integrated. Much remains to be understood about the characteristics of neuronal dendrites and dendritic spines in autism and related disorders. Though there have been many studies conducted using autism mouse models, few have been carried out using postmortem human tissue from patients. Available animal models of autism include those generated through genetic modifications and those non-genetic models of the disease. Here, we review how dendrite and spine morphology and number is affected in autism and related neurodevelopmental diseases, both in human, and genetic and non-genetic animal models of autism. Overall, data obtained from human and animal models point to a generalized reduction in the size and number, as well as an alteration of the morphology of dendrites; and an increase in spine densities with immature morphology, indicating a general spine immaturity state in autism. Additional human studies on dendrite and spine number and morphology in postmortem tissue are needed to understand the properties of these structures in the cerebral cortex of patients with autism. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Neuron, Autism, Axon, Synapse, Dendrite, Neurons, Purkinje cell, Dendritic spine


Electrical coupling in circuits can produce non-intuitive circuit dynamics, as seen in both experimental work from the crustacean stomatogastric ganglion and in computational models inspired by the connectivity in this preparation. Ambiguities in interpreting the results of electrophysiological recordings can arise if sets of pre- or postsynaptic neurons are electrically coupled, or if the electrical coupling exhibits some specificity (e.g. rectifying, or voltage-dependent). Even in small circuits, electrical coupling can produce parallel pathways that can allow information to travel by monosynaptic and/or polysynaptic pathways. Consequently, similar changes in circuit dynamics can arise from entirely different underlying mechanisms. When neurons are coupled both chemically and electrically, modifying the relative strengths of the two interactions provides a mechanism for flexibility in circuit outputs. This, together with neuromodulation of gap junctions and coupled neurons is important both in developing and adult circuits. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Electromagnetism, Electricity, Action potential, All rights reserved, Electrical synapse, Copyright


Oxytocin (OXT) signaling through the OXT receptor plays a significant role in a variety of physiological processes throughout the lifespan. OXT’s effects depend on the tissue distribution of the receptor. This tissue specificity is dynamic and changes across development, and also varies with sex, experience, and species. The purpose of this review is to highlight these themes with examples from several life stages and several species. Important knowledge gaps will also be emphasized. Understanding the effective sites of action for OXT via its receptor will help refine hypotheses about the roles of this important neuropeptide in the experience-dependent development and expression of species-typical social behavior. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2016.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Evolution, Biology, Cellular differentiation, Sociology, Knowledge, Dynamics


Axon regeneration in the central nervous system is prevented in part by a developmental decline in the intrinsic regenerative ability of maturing neurons. This loss of axon growth ability likely reflects widespread changes in gene expression, but the mechanisms that drive this shift remain unclear. Chromatin accessibility has emerged as a key regulatory mechanism in other cellular contexts, raising the possibility that chromatin structure may contribute to the age-dependent loss of regenerative potential. Here we establish an integrated bioinformatic pipeline that combines analysis of developmentally dynamic gene networks with transcription factor regulation and genome-wide maps of chromatin accessibility. When applied to the developing cortex, this pipeline detected overall closure of chromatin in sub-networks of genes associated with axon growth.We next analyzed mature CNS neurons that were supplied with various pro-regenerative transcription factors. Unlike prior results with SOX11 and KLF7, here we found that neither JUN nor an activated form of STAT3 promoted substantial corticospinal tract regeneration. Correspondingly, chromatin accessibility in JUN or STAT3 target genes was substantially lower than in predicted targets of SOX11 and KLF7. Finally, we used the pipeline to predict pioneer factors that could potentially relieve chromatin constraints at growth-associated loci. Overall this integrated analysis substantiates the hypothesis that dynamic chromatin accessibility contributes to the developmental decline in axon growth ability and influences the efficacy of pro-regenerative interventions in the adult, while also pointing toward selected pioneer factors as high-priority candidates for future combinatorial experiments. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


Environmental contaminants have the potential to act as developmental stressors and impair development of song and the brain of songbirds, but they have been largely unstudied in this context. 2,2',4,4',5-Pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99) is a brominated flame retardant congener that has demonstrated endocrine disrupting effects, and has pervaded the global environment. We assessed the effects of in ovo exposure to environmentally relevant levels of BDE-99 on the neuroanatomy of the song-control system in a model songbird species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Embryos were exposed via egg injection to a vehicle control (DMSO), 10, 100 or 1000 ng BDE-99/g egg on the day the egg was laid. Chicks were raised to sexual maturity to investigate long-term effects of BDE-99 on the adult male brain. Three key song-control nuclei (Area X, HVC, RA) all showed a dose-dependent trend toward decreasing volume as BDE-99 concentration increased, and birds exposed to 1000 ng/g in ovo BDE-99 had significantly smaller song-control nuclei volume compared to control birds. High environmental concentrations of BDE-99 in avian tissues can be within that range and thus could affect development of the song-control system in birds, and potentially other processes. We previously found that BDE-99 exposure during the nestling period had no effect of on the song-control system, although it did have significant effects on some behavioural endpoints. Taken together, these results suggest that exposure to PBDEs during critical developmental windows can significantly alter neurological development. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


In the adult vertebrate central nervous system, axons generally fail to regenerate. In contrast, peripheral nervous system axons are able to form a growth cone and regenerate upon lesion. Among the multiple intrinsic mechanisms leading to the formation of a new growth cone and to successful axon regrowth, cytoskeleton organization and dynamics is central. Here we discuss how multiple pathways that define the regenerative capacity converge into the regulation of the axonal microtubule cytoskeleton and transport. We further explore the use of dorsal root ganglion neurons as a model to study the neuronal regenerative ability. Finally, we address some of the unanswered questions in the field, including the mechanisms by which axonal transport might be modulated by injury, and the relationship between microtubule organization, dynamics, and axonal transport. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2018.


The neuron-intrinsic response to axonal injury differs markedly between neurons of the peripheral and central nervous system. Following a peripheral lesion a robust axonal growth program is initiated, whereas neurons of the central nervous system do not mount an effective regenerative response. Increasing the neuron-intrinsic regenerative response would therefore be one way to promote axonal regeneration in the injured central nervous system. The large diameter sensory neurons located in the dorsal root ganglia are pseudo-unipolar neurons that project one axon branch into the spinal cord, and, via the dorsal column to the brain stem, and a peripheral process to the muscles and skin. Dorsal root ganglion neurons are ideally suited to study the neuron-intrinsic injury response because they exhibit a successful growth response following peripheral axotomy, while they fail to do so after a lesion of the central branch in the dorsal column. The dorsal column injury model allows the neuron-intrinsic regeneration response to be studied in the context of a spinal cord injury. Here we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this model. We describe the surgical methods used to implement a lesion of the ascending fibers, the anatomy of the sensory afferent pathways and anatomical, electrophysiological and behavioral techniques to quantify regeneration and functional recovery. Subsequently we review the results of experimental interventions in the dorsal column lesion model, with an emphasis on the molecular mechanisms that govern the neuron-intrinsic injury response and manipulations of these after central axotomy. Finally, we highlight a number of recent advances that will have on impact on the design of future studies in this spinal cord injury model, including the continued development of adeno-associated viral vectors likely to improve the genetic manipulation of dorsal root ganglion neurons and the use of tissue clearing techniques enabling 3D reconstruction of regenerating axon tracts. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.