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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


Since the discovery of DNA, the normal developing and functioning brain has been assumed to be composed of cells with identical genomes, which remains the dominant view even today. However, this pervasive assumption is incorrect, as proven by increasing numbers of reports within the last 20 years that have identified multiple forms of somatically produced genomic mosaicism (GM), wherein brain cells - especially neurons - from a single individual show diverse alterations in DNA, distinct from the germline. Critically, these changes alter the actual DNA nucleotide sequences - in contrast to epigenetic mechanisms - and almost certainly contribute to the remarkably diverse phenotypes of single brain cells, including single-cell transcriptomic profiles. Here we review the history of GM within the normal brain, including its major forms, initiating mechanisms, and possible functions. GM forms include aneuploidies and aneusomies, smaller copy number variations (CNVs), long interspersed nuclear element type 1 (LINE1) repeat elements, and single nucleotide variations (SNVs), as well as DNA content variation (DCV) that reflects all forms of GM with greatest coverage of large, brain cell populations. In addition, technical considerations are examined, along with relationships amongst GM forms and multiple brain diseases. GM affecting genes and loci within the brain contrast with current neural discovery approaches that rely on sequencing non-brain DNA (e.g., genome-wide association studies (GWAS)). Increasing knowledge of neural GM has implications for mechanisms of development, diversity, and function, as well as understanding diseases, particularly the overwhelming prevalence of sporadic brain GM unlinked to germline mutations. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


Alloparenting, defined as care provided by individuals other than parents, is a universal behavior among humans that has shaped our evolutionary history and remains important in contemporary society. Dysfunctions in alloparenting can have serious and sometimes fatal consequences for vulnerable infants and children. In spite of the importance of alloparenting, we still have much to learn regarding the underlying neurobiological systems governing its expression. Here, we review how a lack of alloparental behavior among traditional laboratory species has led to a blind spot in our understanding of this critical facet of human social behavior and the relevant neurobiology. Based on what is known, we draw from model systems ranging from voles to meerkats to primates to describe a conserved set of neuroendocrine mechanisms supporting the expression of alloparental care. In this review we describe the neurobiological and behavioral prerequisites, ontogeny, and consequences of alloparental care. Lastly, we identify several outstanding topics in the area of alloparental care that deserve further research efforts to better advance human health and wellbeing. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Human, Evolution, Behavior, Human behavior, All rights reserved, Copyright


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


Numerous tissue transplantations have demonstrated that otocysts can develop into normal ears in any location in all vertebrates tested thus far, though the pattern of innervation of these transplanted ears has largely been understudied. Here, expanding on previous findings that transplanted ears demonstrate capability of local brainstem innervation and can also be innervated themselves by efferents, we show that inner ear afferents grow toward the spinal cord mostly along existing afferent and efferent fibers and preferentially enter the dorsal spinal cord. Once in the dorsal funiculus of the spinal cord, they can grow toward the hindbrain and can diverge into vestibular nuclei. Inner ear afferents can also project along lateral line afferents. Likewise, lateral line afferents can navigate along inner ear afferents to reach hair cells in the ear. In addition, transplanted ears near the heart show growth of inner ear afferents along epibranchial placode derived vagus afferents. Our data indicate that inner ear afferents can navigate in foreign locations, likely devoid of any local ear-specific guidance cues, along existing nerves, possibly using the nerve-associated Schwann cells as substrate to grow along. However, within the spinal cord and hindbrain, inner ear afferents can navigate to vestibular targets, likely using gradients of diffusible factors that define the dorso-ventral axis to guide them. Finally, afferents of transplanted ears functionally connect to native hindbrain vestibular circuitry, indicated by eliciting a startle behavior response, and providing excitatory input to specific sets of extraocular motoneurons. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


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


Rett syndrome (RTT) is a monogenic neurodevelopmental disorder caused by mutations in the methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MECP2) gene. Patients with RTT develop symptoms after 6-18 months of age, exhibiting characteristic movement deficits, such as ambulatory difficulties and loss of hand skills, in addition to breathing abnormalities and intellectual disability. Given the striking psychomotor dysfunction, numerous studies have investigated the underlying neurochemical and circuit mechanisms from different aspects. Here, I review the evidence linking MeCP2 deficiency to alterations in neurotransmission and neural circuits that govern psychomotor function and discuss a recently identified pathological origin likely underlying the psychomotor deficits in RTT. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.