Matching Items (7)

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Defining the effects of ERK/MAPK hyperactivation on the development of GABAergic

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Abstract: The RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK (RAS signaling cascade) pathway is a highly conserved biochemical signaling cascade that exists in every mammalian cell. The pathway is highly versatile in functionality due to hundreds

Abstract: The RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK (RAS signaling cascade) pathway is a highly conserved biochemical signaling cascade that exists in every mammalian cell. The pathway is highly versatile in functionality due to hundreds of substrates that regulate metabolism, apoptosis, and proliferation in both adult and developing tissues. The RAS signaling cascade has been examined in the context of cancers since mutations can lead to the disruption of the cell cycle and unregulated cellular proliferation. In addition, germline mutations in the pathway have been shown to cause a group of syndromes known as RASopathies. RASopathies are marked by facial defects, seizures, developmental delays, and cognitive dysfunction often due to enhanced activation of the RAS signaling cascade. Although there are noted factors that play roles in neurological disease, such as a hyperactivated RAS signaling cascade, the pathogenesis of neurological defects is not fully understood. The Newbern lab uses conditional mutagenesis to examine how hyperactivating the RAS/MAPK pathway affects GABAergic neurons in a cortical microcircuit, especially during development. Inhibitory neurons are implicated in seizures and epilepsy is common in RASopathies, thus GABAergic neurons are of particular interest (Rauen, 2013). Gain-of-function ERK was not found to significantly alter global locomotion or anxiety-like behaviors. Interestingly, the mutant mice exhibited freezing behavior in the first twenty-two seconds of the open field assay that appeared to be consistent with absence seizures. Direct EEG recordings confirmed spontaneous seizure activity and mutants had a reduced seizure threshold. We hypothesized that these deficits were due to altered GABAergic neuron number. Indeed, mutant mice exhibited a 30% reduction in total cortical GABAergic neuron number. This effect appeared to be cell subtype specific, where neurons expressing somatostatin (SST) existed in similar numbers among controls and mutants but a significant decrease in the number of those expressing parvalbumin (PV) was observed. I hypothesized that a recently identified GABAergic neuron expressing vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) would also be affected in such a manner that fewer VIP neurons exist in the mutants than the wildtype. Subsequent histological studies in these mice found there to be no significant difference in VIP populations. Selective affects seem to only have an effect on the development of PV neurons in the cortex. Further studies are underway to define the mechanism responsible for aberrant GABAergic neuron development.

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  • 2016-05

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Characterization of mTOR Pathway and Reduced Neuronal Size Phenotype in Rett Syndrome Model

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Rett syndrome is a genetically based, X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 1 in 10,000 live female births. Approximately 95-97% of Rett syndrome cases are attributed to a mutation in the

Rett syndrome is a genetically based, X-linked neurodevelopmental disorder that affects 1 in 10,000 live female births. Approximately 95-97% of Rett syndrome cases are attributed to a mutation in the MECP2 gene. In the laboratory setting, key neuropathological phenotypes of Rett syndrome include small neuronal soma and nuclear size, increased cell packing density, and abnormal dendritic branching. Our lab previously created and characterized the A140V mouse model of atypical Rett syndrome in which the males are viable. Hippocampal and cerebellar granule neurons in A140V male mice have reduced soma and nuclear size compared to wild type. We also found that components of the mTOR pathway including rictor, 4E-BP-1, and mTOR, were reduced in A140V mutant mice. Quantitative PCR analysis also showed reduced IGFPB2 expression in A140V mice along with an upward trend in AKT levels that did not meet statistical significance. The objective of this study is i) to characterize the down regulation of AKT-mTOR pathway, and ii) to examine the effect of a genetic strategy to rescue mTOR pathway deficiencies in Mecp2 mutant mouse model. Genetic rescue of the mTOR pathway downregulation was done by crossing heterozygous female A140V mice with heterozygous male Tsc2 mice. Quantitative PCR analysis of A140V_Tsc2 RNA expression supported genetic rescue of mTOR pathway components, however, more testing is needed to fully characterize the rescue effect. Western blot analysis also showed reduction in phosphorylated AKT in Mecp2 A140V and T158A mutant mice, however, more testing is still needed to characterize the mTOR pathway in A140V_Tsc2 mice. Finally, other methods, such as a pharmacological approach, or transfection to increase mTOR pathway activity in cell lines, will be tested to determine if rescue of mTOR pathway activity ameliorate the Rett syndrome phenotype.

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  • 2016-12

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Investigating the Relationship Between Astrocytes and Neurons in Alzheimer’s Disease: The Axonal Transport of Amyloid Precursor Protein within Neurons

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As Alzheimer’s disease (AD) increases in incidence, there is an increased investigation into the pathogenesis of the disease in hopes of finding a cure to the neurodegenerative disease. The two

As Alzheimer’s disease (AD) increases in incidence, there is an increased investigation into the pathogenesis of the disease in hopes of finding a cure to the neurodegenerative disease. The two key hallmarks of AD consist of amyloid beta plaques and hyperphosphorylated tau fibrillary tangles. Amyloid beta is a peptide that is proteolytically cleaved from the type I transmembrane glycolytic amyloid precursor protein (APP). APP is highly conserved across species, suggesting the importance of APP in healthy brain functioning. However, when APP is cleaved through the amyloidogenic pathway it produces amyloid beta. The trafficking of APP within neurons has been a new endeavor for neurodegenerative disease research, as reduced retrograde trafficking of APP has been hypothesized to increase the likelihood of the amyloidogenic cleavage of APP, resulting in increased amyloid beta presence (Ye et al., 2017). The findings of this study suggest that transport of APP within neurons is significantly inhibited by increased extracellular glutamate concentration. The addition of human primary astrocytes within a human neuron co-culture allowed for significantly increased retrograde transport of APP within neurons, even within high glutamate conditions. These finding enhance the current field of research regarding astrocytes neuroprotective role within the brain, but bring attention to the role that astrocytes have upon regulation of the axonal transport of proteins within neurons.

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  • 2019-12

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Microscale electroporation for transfection of genetic constructs into adherent secondary cells and primary neurons in culture

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Gene manipulation techniques, such as RNA interference (RNAi), offer a powerful method for elucidating gene function and discovery of novel therapeutic targets in a high-throughput fashion. In addition, RNAi is

Gene manipulation techniques, such as RNA interference (RNAi), offer a powerful method for elucidating gene function and discovery of novel therapeutic targets in a high-throughput fashion. In addition, RNAi is rapidly being adopted for treatment of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease, etc. However, a major challenge in both of the aforementioned applications is the efficient delivery of siRNA molecules, plasmids or transcription factors to primary cells such as neurons. A majority of the current non-viral techniques, including chemical transfection, bulk electroporation and sonoporation fail to deliver with adequate efficiencies and the required spatial and temporal control. In this study, a novel optically transparent biochip is presented that can (a) transfect populations of primary and secondary cells in 2D culture (b) readily scale to realize high-throughput transfections using microscale electroporation and (c) transfect targeted cells in culture with spatial and temporal control. In this study, delivery of genetic payloads of different sizes and molecular characteristics, such as GFP plasmids and siRNA molecules, to precisely targeted locations in primary hippocampal and HeLa cell cultures is demonstrated. In addition to spatio-temporally controlled transfection, the biochip also allowed simultaneous assessment of a) electrical activity of neurons, b) specific proteins using fluorescent immunohistochemistry, and c) sub-cellular structures. Functional silencing of GAPDH in HeLa cells using siRNA demonstrated a 52% reduction in the GAPDH levels. In situ assessment of actin filaments post electroporation indicated a sustained disruption in actin filaments in electroporated cells for up to two hours. Assessment of neural spike activity pre- and post-electroporation indicated a varying response to electroporation. The microarray based nature of the biochip enables multiple independent experiments on the same culture, thereby decreasing culture-to-culture variability, increasing experimental throughput and allowing cell-cell interaction studies. Further development of this technology will provide a cost-effective platform for performing high-throughput genetic screens.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Specific functions of ERK/MAPK signaling in brain development and neurocognition

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Development of the cerebral cortex requires the complex integration of extracellular stimuli to affect changes in gene expression. Trophic stimulation activates specialized intracellular signaling cascades to instruct processes necessary for

Development of the cerebral cortex requires the complex integration of extracellular stimuli to affect changes in gene expression. Trophic stimulation activates specialized intracellular signaling cascades to instruct processes necessary for the elaborate cellular diversity, architecture, and function of the cortex. The canonical RAS/RAF/MEK/ERK (ERK/MAPK) cascade is a ubiquitously expressed kinase pathway that regulates crucial aspects of neurodevelopment. Mutations in the ERK/MAPK pathway or its regulators give rise to neurodevelopmental syndromes termed the “RASopathies.” RASopathy individuals present with neurological symptoms that include intellectual disability, ADHD, and seizures. The precise cellular mechanisms that drive neurological impairments in RASopathy individuals remain unclear. In this thesis, I aimed to 1) address how RASopathy mutations affect neurodevelopment, 2) elucidate fundamental requirements of ERK/MAPK in GABAergic circuits, and 3) determine how aberrant ERK/MAPK signaling disrupts GABAergic development.

Here, I show that a Noonan Syndrome-linked gain-of-function mutation Raf1L613V, drives modest changes in astrocyte and oligodendrocyte progenitor cell (OPC) density in the mouse cortex and hippocampus. Raf1L613V mutant mice exhibited enhanced performance in hippocampal-dependent spatial reference and working memory and amygdala-dependent fear learning tasks. However, we observed normal perineuronal net (PNN) accumulation around mutant parvalbumin-expressing (PV) interneurons. Though PV-interneurons were minimally affected by the Raf1L613V mutation, other RASopathy mutations converge on aberrant GABAergic development as a mediator of neurological dysfunction.

I therefore hypothesized interneuron expression of the constitutively active Mek1S217/221E (caMek1) mutation would be sufficient to perturb GABAergic circuit development. Interestingly, the caMek1 mutation selectively disrupted crucial PV-interneuron developmental processes. During embryogenesis, I detected expression of cleaved-caspase 3 (CC3) in the medial ganglionic eminence (MGE). Interestingly, adult mutant cortices displayed a selective 50% reduction in PV-expressing interneurons, but not other interneuron subtypes. PV-interneuron loss was associated with seizure-like activity in mutants and coincided with reduced perisomatic synapses. Mature mutant PV-interneurons exhibited somal hypertrophy and a substantial increase in PNN accumulation. Aberrant GABAergic development culminated in reduced behavioral response inhibition, a process linked to ADHD-like behaviors. Collectively, these data provide insight into the mechanistic underpinnings of RASopathy neuropathology and suggest that modulation of GABAergic circuits may be an effective therapeutic option for RASopathy individuals.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Automatic segmentation of single neurons recorded by wide-field imaging using frequency domain features and clustering tree

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Recent new experiments showed that wide-field imaging at millimeter scale is capable of recording hundreds of neurons in behaving mice brain. Monitoring hundreds of individual neurons at a high frame

Recent new experiments showed that wide-field imaging at millimeter scale is capable of recording hundreds of neurons in behaving mice brain. Monitoring hundreds of individual neurons at a high frame rate provides a promising tool for discovering spatiotemporal features of large neural networks. However, processing the massive data sets is impossible without automated procedures. Thus, this thesis aims at developing a new tool to automatically segment and track individual neuron cells. The new method used in this study employs two major ideas including feature extraction based on power spectral density of single neuron temporal activity and clustering tree to separate overlapping cells. To address issues associated with high-resolution imaging of a large recording area, focused areas and out-of-focus areas were analyzed separately. A static segmentation with a fixed PSD thresholding method is applied to within focus visual field. A dynamic segmentation by comparing maximum PSD with surrounding pixels is applied to out-of-focus area. Both approaches helped remove irrelevant pixels in the background. After detection of potential single cells, some of which appeared in groups due to overlapping cells in the image, a hierarchical clustering algorithm is applied to separate them. The hierarchical clustering uses correlation coefficient as a distance measurement to group similar pixels into single cells. As such, overlapping cells can be separated. We tested the entire algorithm using two real recordings with the respective truth carefully determined by manual inspections. The results show high accuracy on tested datasets while false positive error is controlled within an acceptable range. Furthermore, results indicate robustness of the algorithm when applied to different image sequences.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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A single neuron model to study the mechanisms and functions of dendritic development

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Dendrites are the structures of a neuron specialized to receive input signals and to provide the substrate for the formation of synaptic contacts with other cells. The goal of this

Dendrites are the structures of a neuron specialized to receive input signals and to provide the substrate for the formation of synaptic contacts with other cells. The goal of this work is to study the activity-dependent mechanisms underlying dendritic growth in a single-cell model. For this, the individually identifiable adult motoneuron, MN5, in Drosophila melanogaster was used. This dissertation presents the following results. First, the natural variability of morphological parameters of the MN5 dendritic tree in control flies is not larger than 15%, making MN5 a suitable model for quantitative morphological analysis. Second, three-dimensional topological analyses reveals that different parts of the MN5 dendritic tree innervate spatially separated areas (termed "isoneuronal tiling"). Third, genetic manipulation of the MN5 excitability reveals that both increased and decreased activity lead to dendritic overgrowth; whereas decreased excitability promoted branch elongation, increased excitability enhanced dendritic branching. Next, testing the activity-regulated transcription factor AP-1 for its role in MN5 dendritic development reveals that neural activity enhanced AP-1 transcriptional activity, and that AP-1 expression lead to opposite dendrite fates depending on its expression timing during development. Whereas overexpression of AP-1 at early stages results in loss of dendrites, AP-1 overexpression after the expression of acetylcholine receptors and the formation of all primary dendrites in MN5 causes overgrowth. Fourth, MN5 has been used to examine dendritic development resulting from the expression of the human gene MeCP2, a transcriptional regulator involved in the neurodevelopmental disease Rett syndrome. Targeted expression of full-length human MeCP2 in MN5 causes impaired dendritic growth, showing for the first time the cellular consequences of MeCP2 expression in Drosophila neurons. This dendritic phenotype requires the methyl-binding domain of MeCP2 and the chromatin remodeling protein Osa. In summary, this work has fully established MN5 as a single-neuron model to study mechanisms underlying dendrite development, maintenance and degeneration, and to test the behavioral consequences resulting from dendritic growth misregulation. Furthermore, this thesis provides quantitative description of isoneuronal tiling of a central neuron, offers novel insight into activity- and AP-1 dependent developmental plasticity, and finally, it establishes Drosophila MN5 as a model to study some specific aspects of human diseases.

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Date Created
  • 2012