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Journal: Developmental neurobiology

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Synapses are the basic structural and functional units for information processing and storage in the brain. Their diverse properties and functions ultimately underlie the complexity of human behavior. Proper development and maintenance of synapses are essential for normal functioning of the nervous system. Disruption in synaptogenesis and the consequent alteration in synaptic function have been strongly implicated to cause neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia (SCZ). The introduction of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) provides a new path to elucidate disease mechanisms and potential therapies. In this review, we will discuss the advantages and limitations of using hiPSC-derived neurons to study synaptic disorders. Many mutations in genes encoding for proteins that regulate synaptogenesis have been identified in patients with ASDs and SCZ. We use Methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2), SH3 and multiple ankyrin repeat domains 3 (SHANK3) and Disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) as examples to illustrate the promise of using hiPSCs as cellular models to elucidate the mechanisms underlying disease-related synaptopathy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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As more genes conferring risks to neurodevelopmental disorders are identified, translating these genetic risk factors into biological mechanisms that impact the trajectory of the developing brain is a critical next step. Here we report that disrupted signaling mediated MET receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK), an established risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), in the developing hippocampus glutamatergic circuit leads to profound deficits in neural development, synaptic transmission and plasticity. In cultured hippocampus slices prepared from neonatal mice, pharmacological inhibition of MET kinase activity suppresses dendritic arborization and disrupts normal dendritic spine development. In addition, single-neuron knockdown (RNAi) or over-expression of Met in the developing hippocampal CA1 neurons leads to alterations, opposite in nature, in basal synaptic transmission and long term plasticity. In forebrain-specific Met conditional knockout mice (Metfx/fx ;emx1cre ), an enhanced long term potentiation (LTP) and long term depression (LTD) were observed at early developmental stages (P12-14) at the Schaffer collateral to CA1 synapses compared with wild type littermates. In contrast, LTP and LTD were markedly reduced at young adult stage (P56-70) during which wild type mice show robust LTP and LTD. The altered trajectory of synaptic plasticity revealed by this study indicate that temporally-regulated MET signaling as an intrinsic, cell autonomous, and pleiotropic mechanism not only critical for neuronal growth and functional maturation, but also for the timing of synaptic plasticity during forebrain glutamatergic circuits development. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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Changing microtubule dynamics is sufficient to alter axon and dendrite specification and development. Spastin participates in the growth and regeneration of neurites by severing microtubules into small segments, and collapsin response mediator protein 5 (CRMP5) provides structural support and serves as a track for cargo transport by promoting microtubule polymerization. Nevertheless, how spastin and CRMP5 cooperate to regulate neurite outgrowth by controlling microtubule dynamics needs to be elucidated. In our present study, spastin interacted with CRMP5 in vitro and in vivo. The binding domains for the spastin and CRMP5 interaction were the N-terminal fragment of spastin (residues 270-328) and the C-terminal fragment of CRMP5 (residues 472-564). Spastin and its truncation mutants, including the microtubule-binding domain (MTBD) and ATPases associated with diverse cellular activities (AAA) domains, were necessary for the severing of microtubules. Furthermore, we demonstrated that microtubule polymerization of CRMP5 interfered with the microtubule-severing function of spastin. Knocking down either spastin or CRMP5 inhibited neurite outgrowth in hippocampal neurons. However, co-transfected spastin and CRMP5 promoted the outgrowth of neurites including dendrites and axons. Taken together, our data support a model in which the spastin interaction with CRMP5 promotes neurite outgrowth by controlling microtubule dynamics. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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As the catalytic component of γ-secretase, presenilin (PS) has long been studied in the context of Alzheimer’s disease through cleaving the amyloid precursor protein. PS/ γ-secretase, however, also cleaves a multitude of single-pass transmembrane proteins that are important during development, including Notch, the netrin receptor DCC, cadherins, drebrin-A, and the EphB2 receptor. Because transgenic PS-KO mice do not survive to birth, studies of this molecule during later embryonic or early postnatal stages of development have been carried out using cell cultures or conditional knock-out mice, respectively. As a result, the function of PS in synapse formation had not been well-addressed. Here we study the role of PS in the developing Xenopus tadpole retinotectal circuit, an in-vivo model that allows for protein expression to be manipulated specifically during the peak of synapse formation between retinal ganglion cells and tectal neurons. We found that inhibiting PS in the postsynaptic tectal neurons impaired tadpole visual avoidance behavior. Whole cell recordings indicated weaker retinotectal synaptic transmission which was characterized by significant reductions in both NMDA receptor (NMDAR)- and AMPA receptor (AMPAR)-mediated currents. We also found that expression of the C-tail fragment of the EphB2 receptor, which is normally cleaved by PS/γ-secretase and which has been shown to upregulate NMDARs at the synapse, rescued the reduced NMDAR-mediated responses. Our data determine that normal PS function is important for proper formation and strengthening of retinotectal synapses through cleaving the EphB2 receptor. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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The X-linked gene cyclin-dependent kinase-like 5 (CDKL5) encodes a serine/threonine kinase abundantly expressed in the brain. Mutations in CDKL5 have been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by early-onset epileptic encephalopathy and severe intellectual disability, suggesting that CDKL5 plays important roles in brain development and function. Recent studies using cultured neurons, knockout mice, and human iPSC-derived neurons have demonstrated that CDKL5 regulates axon outgrowth, dendritic morphogenesis and synapse formation. The role of CDKL5 in maintaining synaptic function in the mature brain has also begun to emerge. Moreover, mouse models that are deficient for CDKL5 recapitulate some of the key clinical phenotypes in human patients. Here we review these findings related to the function of CDKL5 in the brain and discuss the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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Adult hippocampal neurogenesis has been proposed to both aid memory formation and disrupt memory. We examined the rol of adult hippocampal neurogenesis in spatial working and reference memory in Black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), a passerine bird that relies on spatial memory for cache retrieval and foraging. We tested spatial working and spatial reference memory in birds that had received methylazoxymethanol acetate (MAM), a neurotoxin that decreases hippocampal neurogenesis. MAM treatment significantly reduced neurogenesis in the hippocampus quantified by doublecortin (DCX) labeling of newly divided and migrating neurons. MAM treatment had little effect on working or reference memory but caused an increase in errors on the reference memory task following reversal. Working memory for recently visited spatial locations and reference memory for familiar spatial locations was thus unaffected by a reduction in neurogenesis. An increase in errors following reference memory reversal may indicate that adult hippocampal neurogenesis aids in pattern separation, the differentiation of similar memories at the time of encoding. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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The medullary portion of the embryonic zebra finch hindbrain was isolated and superfused with physiologically relevant artificial cerebral spinal fluid. This in vitro preparation produced uninterrupted rhythmic episodes of neural activity via cranial nerve IX (glossopharyngeal) from embryonic day 4 (E4) through hatching on E14. Cranial nerve IX carries motor activity to the glottis during the inspiratory phase of breathing, and we focused on the role of synaptic inhibition during the embryonic and perinatal maturation of this branchiomotor outflow. We show that spontaneous neural activity (SNA) is first observed on E4 and temporally transforms as the embryo ages. To start, SNA is dependent on the excitatory actions of GABAA and glycine. As the embryo continues to develop, GABAergic and glycinergic neurotransmission take on a modulatory role, albeit an excitatory one, through E10. After that, data show that GABAergic and glycinergic neurotransmission switches to a phenotype consistent with inhibition, coincident with the onset of functional breathing. We also report that the inhibitory action of GABAergic and glycinergic receptor gating is not necessary for the spontaneous generation of branchiomotor motor rhythms in these birds near hatching. This is the first report focusing on the development of central breathing-related inhibitory neurotransmission in birds during the entire period of embryogenesis.

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Excess consumption of dietary sodium during pregnancy has been shown to impair offspring cardiovascular function and enhance salt preference in adulthood, but little is known regarding the long-term impact of this nutritional surplus on offspring brain morphology and behavior. Using a combination of cellular and behavioral approaches, we examined the impact of maternal salt intake during the perinatal period on structural plasticity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) in weanling and adult offspring as well as reward- and stress-driven behaviors in adult offspring. We found that weanling rats born to 4% NaCl fed dams exhibited an increase and decrease in thin spine density in the infralimbic PFC (IL-PFC) and prelimbic PFC (PL-PFC), respectively, as well as an increase in mushroom spine density in the NAc shell, compared to 1% NaCl fed controls. Structural changes in the IL-PFC and NAc shell persisted into adulthood, the latter of which is a phenotype that has been observed in rats exposed to early life stress. There was no effect of maternal salt intake on reward-driven behaviors, including sucrose preference, conditioned place preference (CPP) for cocaine, and forced swim stress (FSS)-induced reinstatement of cocaine-induced CPP. However, rats born to high-salt fed dams spent less time swimming in the FSS and displayed heightened plasma CORT levels in response to the FSS compared to controls, suggesting that early salt exposure increases stress sensitivity. Overall, our results suggest that perinatal salt exposure evokes lasting impacts on offspring physiology and behavior. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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Neonatal seizures are harmful to the developing brain and are associated with mortality and long-term neurological comorbidities. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) seizures represent a significant proportion of such seizures. Phenobarbital (PB) remains the first line anti-seizure drug (ASD) treatment but fails ~50% of the time. Translational models of neonatal seizures are crucial to investigating mechanisms underlying PB-resistance. A model of PB-resistant ischemic seizures in post-natal day 7 (P7) CD-1 mice reported K-Cl cotransporter 2 (KCC2) degradation that has been shown to be due to activation of the TrkB pathway. We investigated PB-efficacy in a pentyleneltetrazole (PTZ) model of neonatal seizures in the same strain and age using identical treatment protocols to gain insights into mechanisms underlying PB-resistance. A single dose of PTZ (80 mg/kg; IP) consistently induced repetitive seizures that did not progress to status epilepticus (SE). PB (25 mg/kg; IP, single dose) significantly suppressed the PTZ-induced seizures. This was associated with significant KCC2 upregulation and stable Na-K-Cl cotransporter 1 (NKCC1) expression at 24h. The TrkB pathway was not activated. PTZ seizure burdens were significantly higher than those reported for ischemic seizures, indicating seizure severity did not dictate the differences in PB-efficacy. Bumetanide (BTN) (0.1-0.2 mg/kg; IP) did not work as an anti-seizure agent, similar to the ischemic model. When investigating mechanisms underlying the emergence of PB-resistance in translational models, the method by which seizures are induced may dictate mechanisms underlying emergence of PB-resistance. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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Neural circuit formation involves maturation of neuronal, glial and vascular cells, as well as cell proliferation and cell death. A fundamental understanding of cellular mechanisms is enhanced by quantification of cell types during key events in synapse formation and pruning and possessing qualified genetic tools for cell type-specific manipulation. Acquiring this information in turn requires validated cell markers and genetic tools. We quantified changing proportions of neurons, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and microglia in the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) during neural circuit development. Cell type-specific markers, light microscopy (LM) and 3D virtual reality software, the latter developed in our laboratory, were used to count cells within distinct cell populations at postnatal days (P)3 and P6, bracketing the period of nerve terminal growth and pruning in this system. These data revealed a change from roughly equal numbers of neurons and glia at P3 to a 1.5:1 ratio of glia to neurons at P6. PCNA and PH3 labeling revealed that proliferation of oligodendrocytes contributed to the increase in glial cell number during this timeframe. We next evaluated Cre driver lines for selectivity in labeling cell populations. En1-Cre was specific for MNTB neurons. PDGFRα-Cre and Aldh1L1-Cre, thought to be mostly specific for oligodendrocyte lineage cells and astrocytes, respectively, both labeled significant numbers of neurons, oligodendrocytes and astrocytes and are non-specific genetic tools in this neural system. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.