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Dysregulated ERK/MAPK Signaling in RASopathy Animal Model Systems Leads to a Decrease in mTOR Expression and Activation of Translational Machinery

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The RAS/MAPK (RAS/Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase) pathway is a highly conserved, canonical signaling cascade that is highly involved in cellular growth and proliferation as well as cell migration. As such, it plays an important role in development, specifically in development

The RAS/MAPK (RAS/Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase) pathway is a highly conserved, canonical signaling cascade that is highly involved in cellular growth and proliferation as well as cell migration. As such, it plays an important role in development, specifically in development of the nervous system. Activation of ERK is indispensable for the differentiation of Embryonic Stem Cells (ESC) into neuronal precursors (Li z et al, 2006). ERK signaling has also shown to mediate Schwann cell myelination of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) as well as oligodendrocyte proliferation (Newbern et al, 2011). The class of developmental disorders that result in the dysregulation of RAS signaling are known as RASopathies. The molecular and cell-specific consequences of these various pathway mutations remain to be elucidated. While there is evidence for altered DNA transcription in RASopathies, there is little work examining the effects of the RASopathy-linked mutations on protein translation and post-translational modifications in vivo. RASopathies have phenotypic and molecular similarities to other disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) and Tuberous Sclerosis (TSC) that show evidence of aberrant protein synthesis and affect related pathways. There are also well-defined downstream RAS pathway elements involved in translation. Additionally, aberrant corticospinal axon outgrowth has been observed in disease models of RASopathies (Xing et al, 2016). For these reasons, this present study examines a subset of proteins involved in translation and translational regulation in the context of RASopathy disease states. Results indicate that in both of the tested RASopathy model systems, there is altered mTOR expression. Additionally the loss of function model showed a decrease in rps6 activation. This data supports a role for the selective dysregulation of translational control elements in RASopathy models. This data also indicates that the primary candidate mechanism for control of altered translation in these modes is through the altered expression of mTOR.

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2017-05

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Motor Learning Loss Due to MEK1 Hyperactivation in Cortical Excitatory Neurons

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Rasopathies are a family of developmental syndromes that exhibit craniofacial abnormalities, cognitive disabilities, developmental delay and increased risk of cancer. However, little is known about the pathogenesis of developmental defects in the nervous system. Frequently, gain-of-function mutations in the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK

Rasopathies are a family of developmental syndromes that exhibit craniofacial abnormalities, cognitive disabilities, developmental delay and increased risk of cancer. However, little is known about the pathogenesis of developmental defects in the nervous system. Frequently, gain-of-function mutations in the Ras/Raf/MEK/ERK cascade (aka ERK/MAPK) are associated with the observed pathogenesis. My research focuses on defining the relationship between increased ERK/MAPK signaling and its effects on the nervous system, specifically in the context of motor learning. Motor function depends on several neuroanatomically distinct regions, especially the spinal cord, cerebellum, striatum, and cerebral cortex. We tested whether hyperactivation of ERK/MAPK specifically in the cortex was sufficient to drive changes in motor function. We used a series of genetically modified mouse models and cre-lox technology to hyperactivate ERK/MAPK in the cerebral cortex. Nex:Cre/NeuroD6:Cre was employed to express a constitutively active MEK mutation throughout all layers of the cerebral cortex from an early stage of development. RBP4:Cre, caMEK only exhibited hyper activation in cortical glutamatergic neurons responsible for cortical output (neurons in layer V of the cerebral cortex). First, the two mouse strains were tested in an open field paradigm to assess global locomotor abilities and overall fitness for fine motor tasks. Next, a skilled motor reaching task was used to evaluate motor learning capabilities. The results show that Nex:Cre/NeuroD6:Cre, caMEK mutants do not learn the motor reaching task, although they performed normally on the open field task. Preliminary results suggest RBP4:Cre, caMEK mutants exhibit normal locomotor capabilities and a partial lack of learning. The difference in motor learning capabilities might be explained by the extent of altered connectivity in different regions of the corticospinal tract. Once we have identified the neuropathological effects of various layers in the cortex we will be able to determine whether therapeutic interventions are sufficient to reverse these learning defects.

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2016-12

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Neural dynamics of single units in rat's agranular medial and agranular lateral areas during learning of a directional choice task

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Learning by trial-and-error requires retrospective information that whether a past action resulted in a rewarded outcome. Previous outcome in turn may provide information to guide future behavioral adjustment. But the specific contribution of this information to learning a task and

Learning by trial-and-error requires retrospective information that whether a past action resulted in a rewarded outcome. Previous outcome in turn may provide information to guide future behavioral adjustment. But the specific contribution of this information to learning a task and the neural representations during the trial-and-error learning process is not well understood. In this dissertation, such learning is analyzed by means of single unit neural recordings in the rats' motor agranular medial (AGm) and agranular lateral (AGl) while the rats learned to perform a directional choice task. Multichannel chronic recordings using implanted microelectrodes in the rat's brain were essential to this study. Also for fundamental scientific investigations in general and for some applications such as brain machine interface, the recorded neural waveforms need to be analyzed first to identify neural action potentials as basic computing units. Prior to analyzing and modeling the recorded neural signals, this dissertation proposes an advanced spike sorting system, the M-Sorter, to extract the action potentials from raw neural waveforms. The M-Sorter shows better or comparable performance compared with two other popular spike sorters under automatic mode. With the sorted action potentials in place, neuronal activity in the AGm and AGl areas in rats during learning of a directional choice task is examined. Systematic analyses suggest that rat's neural activity in AGm and AGl was modulated by previous trial outcomes during learning. Single unit based neural dynamics during task learning are described in detail in the dissertation. Furthermore, the differences in neural modulation between fast and slow learning rats were compared. The results show that the level of neural modulation of previous trial outcome is different in fast and slow learning rats which may in turn suggest an important role of previous trial outcome encoding in learning.

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Date Created
2014

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Exploration of neural coding in rat's agranular medial and agranular lateral cortices during learning of a directional choice task

Description

Animals learn to choose a proper action among alternatives according to the circumstance. Through trial-and-error, animals improve their odds by making correct association between their behavioral choices and external stimuli. While there has been an extensive literature on the theory

Animals learn to choose a proper action among alternatives according to the circumstance. Through trial-and-error, animals improve their odds by making correct association between their behavioral choices and external stimuli. While there has been an extensive literature on the theory of learning, it is still unclear how individual neurons and a neural network adapt as learning progresses. In this dissertation, single units in the medial and lateral agranular (AGm and AGl) cortices were recorded as rats learned a directional choice task. The task required the rat to make a left/right side lever press if a light cue appeared on the left/right side of the interface panel. Behavior analysis showed that rat's movement parameters during performance of directional choices became stereotyped very quickly (2-3 days) while learning to solve the directional choice problem took weeks to occur. The entire learning process was further broken down to 3 stages, each having similar number of recording sessions (days). Single unit based firing rate analysis revealed that 1) directional rate modulation was observed in both cortices; 2) the averaged mean rate between left and right trials in the neural ensemble each day did not change significantly among the three learning stages; 3) the rate difference between left and right trials of the ensemble did not change significantly either. Besides, for either left or right trials, the trial-to-trial firing variability of single neurons did not change significantly over the three stages. To explore the spatiotemporal neural pattern of the recorded ensemble, support vector machines (SVMs) were constructed each day to decode the direction of choice in single trials. Improved classification accuracy indicated enhanced discriminability between neural patterns of left and right choices as learning progressed. When using a restricted Boltzmann machine (RBM) model to extract features from neural activity patterns, results further supported the idea that neural firing patterns adapted during the three learning stages to facilitate the neural codes of directional choices. Put together, these findings suggest a spatiotemporal neural coding scheme in a rat AGl and AGm neural ensemble that may be responsible for and contributing to learning the directional choice task.

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2014