Matching Items (3)
- Creators: Barrett, The Honors College
- Creators: Roose, Cassandra Ann
The ERK1/2 cell signaling pathway is highly conserved and a prominent regulator of processes like cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. During nervous system development, the ERK1/2 cascade is activated by the binding of growth factors to receptor tyrosine kinases, leading to the sequential phosphorylation of intracellular protein kinases in the pathway and eventually ERK1 and ERK2, the effectors of the pathway. Well-defined germline mutations resulting in hyperactive ERK1/2 signaling have been implicated in a group of neurodevelopmental disorders called RASopathies. RASopathic individuals often display features such as developmental delay, intellectual disability, cardio-facial abnormalities, and motor deficits. In addition, loss-of-function in ERK1/2 can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability. To better understand the pathology of these neurodevelopmental disorders, the role of ERK1/2 must be examined during the development of specific neuronal and glial subtypes. In this study, we bred transgenic mice with conditional deletion of ERK1/2 in cholinergic neuronal populations to investigate whether ERK1/2 mediates the survival or activity of basal forebrain and striatal cholinergic neurons during postnatal development. By postnatal day 10, we found that ERK1/2 did not seem to mediate cholinergic neuron number within the basal forebrain or striatum. In addition, we showed that expression of FosB, a neuronal activity-dependent transcription factor and target of ERK1/2, was not yet observed in cholinergic neurons within either of these anatomical regions by P10. Finally, our preliminary data suggested that FosB expression within layer IV of the somatosensory cortex, a target domain for basal forebrain cholinergic projections, also did not appear to be mediated by ERK1/2 signaling. However, since cholinergic neuron development is not yet complete by P10, future work should explore whether ERK1/2 plays any role in the long-term survival and function of basal forebrain and striatal cholinergic neurons in adulthood. This will hopefully provide more insight into the pathology of neurodevelopmental disorders and inform future therapeutic strategies.
Dysregulated ERK/MAPK Signaling in RASopathy Animal Model Systems Leads to a Decrease in mTOR Expression and Activation of Translational Machinery
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.
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.