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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


Aerobic exercise is known to influence brain function, e.g., enhancing executive function in both children and adults, with many of these influences being attributed to alterations in neurogenesis and neuronal function. Yet oligodendroglia in adult brains have also been reported to be highly responsive to exercise, including in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), a late myelinating region implicated in working memory. However, whether exercise affects oligodendroglia or myelination in juveniles, either in the PFC or in other brain regions, remains unknown. To address this, both juvenile and young adult mice were provided free access to running wheels for four weeks followed by an analysis of oligodendrocyte development and myelination in the PFC and the corpus callosum, a major white matter tract. Working memory and PFC NG2+ cell development were both affected by exercise in juvenile mice, yet surprisingly these exercise-mediated effects were distinct in juveniles and young adults. In the PFC, NG2+ cell proliferation was increased in exercising juveniles, but not young adults, whereas newly-born oligodendrocyte production was increased in exercising young adults, but not juveniles. Although no overall changes in myelin genes were found, elevated levels of Monocarboxylate Transporter 1, a glial lactate transporter important during active myelination, were found in the PFC of exercising young adults. Overall our findings reveal that long-term exercise modulates PFC glial development and does so differentially in juvenile and young adult mice, providing insight into the cellular responses that may underlie cognitive benefits to teenagers and young adults in response to exercise. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Cerebrum, Myelin, Corpus callosum, Glial cell, Schwann cell


The peripheral somatosensory system overproduces neurons early in development followed by a period of cell death during final target innervation. The decision to survive or die in somatosensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is mediated by target derived neurotrophic factors and their cognate receptors. Subsets of peripheral somatosensory neurons can be crudely defined by the neurotrophic receptors that they express: peptidergic nociceptors (TrkA+), non-peptidergic nociceptors (Ret+), mechanoreceptors (Ret+ or TrkB+), and proprioceptors (TrkC+). A direct comparison of early developmental timing between these subsets has not been performed. Here we characterized the accumulation and death of TrkA, B, C, and Ret+ neurons in the DRG as a function of developmental time. We find that TrkB, TrkC, and Ret-expressing neurons in the DRG complete developmental cell death prior to TrkA-expressing neurons. Given the broadly defined roles of the neurotrophin receptor p75NTR in augmenting neurotrophic signaling in sensory neurons, we investigated its role in supporting the survival of these distinct subpopulations. We find that TrkA+, TrkB+, and TrkC+ sensory neuron subpopulations require p75NTR for survival, but proliferating progenitors do not. These data demonstrate how diverging sensory neurons undergo successive waves of cell death and how p75NTR represses the magnitude, but not developmental window of this culling. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Ganglion, Sensory system, Sense, Somatosensory system, Proprioception, Sensory receptor


Learned vocalizations are important for communication in some vertebrate taxa. The neural circuitry for the learning and production of vocalizations is well-known in songbirds, many of which learn songs initially during a critical period early in life. Dopamine is essential for motor learning, including song learning, and dopamine-related measures change throughout development in song-control regions such as HVC, the lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium (LMAN), Area X, and the robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA). In mammals, the neuropeptide neurotensin strongly interacts with dopamine signaling. This study investigated a potential role for the neurotensin system in song learning by examining how neurotensin (Nts) and neurotensin receptor 1 (Ntsr1) expression change throughout development. Nts and Ntsr1 mRNA expression was analyzed in song-control regions of male zebra finches in four stages of the song learning process: pre-subsong (25 days post-hatch; dph), subsong (45 dph), plastic song (60 dph), and crystallized song (130 dph). Nts expression in LMAN during the subsong stage was lower compared to other time points. Ntsr1 expression was highest in HVC, Area X, and RA during the pre-subsong stage. Opposite and complementary expression patterns for the two genes in song nuclei and across the whole brain suggest distinct roles for regions that produce and receive Nts. The expression changes at crucial time points for song development are similar to changes observed in dopamine studies and suggest Nts may be involved in the process of vocal learning. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Nervous system, Psychology, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Messenger RNA, Learning, Developmental psychology, Neurotensin receptor


Little is known about the molecular players driving proliferation of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) during embryonic mouse development. Here, we demonstrate that proliferation of NPCs in the developing forebrain depends on a particular combination of cell cycle regulators. We have analyzed the requirements for members of the cyclin-dependent kinase (cdk) family using cdk-deficient mice. In the absence of either cdk4 or cdk6, which are both regulators of the G1 phase of the cell cycle, we found no significant effects on the proliferation rate of cortical progenitor cells. However, concomitant loss of cdk4 and cdk6 led to a drastic decrease in the proliferation rate of NPCs, specifically the basal progenitor cells of both the dorsal and ventral forebrain at embryonic day 13.5 (E13.5). Moreover, basal progenitors in the forebrain of Cdk4;Cdk6 double mutant mice exhibited altered cell cycle characteristics. Cdk4;cdk6 deficiency led to an increase in cell cycle length and cell cycle exit of mutant basal progenitor cells in comparison to controls. In contrast, concomitant ablation of cdk2 and cdk6 had no effect on the proliferation of NCPs. Together, our data demonstrate that the expansion of the basal progenitor pool in the developing telencephalon is dependent on the presence of distinct combinations of cdk molecules. Our results provide further evidence for differences in the regulation of proliferation between apical and basal progenitors during cortical development. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2018.

Concepts: Gene, Progenitor cell, Cell cycle, Cyclin-dependent kinase, Kinase, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Cyclin-dependent kinase 2