The hypothalamus regulates innate social interactions, but how hypothalamic neurons transduce sex-related sensory signals emitted by conspecifics to trigger appropriate behaviors remains unclear. Here, we addressed this issue by identifying specific hypothalamic neurons required for sensing conspecific male cues relevant to inter-male aggression. By in vivo recording of neuronal activities in behaving mice, we showed that neurons expressing dopamine transporter (DAT(+)) in the ventral premammillary nucleus (PMv) of the hypothalamus responded to male urine cues in a vomeronasal organ (VNO)-dependent manner in naive males. Retrograde trans-synaptic tracing further revealed a specific group of neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) that convey male-relevant signals from VNO to PMv. Inhibition of PMv(DAT+) neurons abolished the preference for male urine cues and reduced inter-male attacks, while activation of these neurons promoted urine marking and aggression. Thus, PMv(DAT+) neurons exemplify a hypothalamic node that transforms sex-related chemo-signals into recognition and behaviors.
Glia are typically considered as supporting cells for neural development and synaptic transmission. Here, we report an active role of a glia in olfactory transduction. As a polymodal sensory neuron in C. elegans, the ASH neuron is previously known to detect multiple aversive odorants. We reveal that the AMsh glia, a sheath for multiple sensory neurons including ASH, cell-autonomously respond to aversive odorants via G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) distinct from those in ASH. Upon activation, the AMsh glia suppress aversive odorant-triggered avoidance and promote olfactory adaptation by inhibiting the ASH neuron via GABA signaling. Thus, we propose a novel two-receptor model where the glia and sensory neuron jointly mediate adaptive olfaction. Our study reveals a non-canonical function of glial cells in olfactory transduction, which may provide new insights into the glia-like supporting cells in mammalian sensory procession.
Sensory discrimination is essential for survival. However, how sensory information is finely controlled in the brain is not well defined. Here, we show that astrocytes control tactile acuity via tonic inhibition in the thalamus. Mechanistically, diamine oxidase (DAO) and the subsequent aldehyde dehydrogenase 1a1 (Aldh1a1) convert putrescine into GABA, which is released via Best1 The GABA from astrocytes inhibits synaptically evoked firing at the lemniscal synapses to fine-tune the dynamic range of the stimulation-response relationship, the precision of spike timing, and tactile discrimination. Our findings reveal a novel role of astrocytes in the control of sensory acuity through tonic GABA release.
Transmembrane channel-like (TMC) 1 and 2 are required for the mechanotransduction of mouse inner ear hair cells and localize to the site of mechanotransduction in mouse hair cell stereocilia. However, it remains unclear whether TMC1 and TMC2 are indeed ion channels and whether they can sense mechanical force directly. Here we express TMC1 from the green sea turtle (CmTMC1) and TMC2 from the budgerigar (MuTMC2) in insect cells, purify and reconstitute the proteins, and show that liposome-reconstituted CmTMC1 and MuTMC2 proteins possess ion channel activity. Furthermore, by applying pressure to proteoliposomes, we demonstrate that both CmTMC1 and MuTMC2 proteins can indeed respond to mechanical stimuli. In addition, CmTMC1 mutants corresponding to human hearing loss mutants exhibit reduced or no ion channel activity. Taken together, our results show that the CmTMC1 and MuTMC2 proteins are poreforming subunits of mechanosensitive ion channels, supporting TMC1 and TMC2 as hair cell transduction channels.
How adult neurons coordinate lipid metabolism to regenerate axons remains elusive. We found that depleting neuronal lipin1, a key enzyme controlling the balanced synthesis of glycerolipids through the glycerol phosphate pathway, enhanced axon regeneration after optic nerve injury. Axotomy elevated lipin1 in retinal ganglion cells, which contributed to regeneration failure in the CNS by favorably producing triglyceride (TG) storage lipids rather than phospholipid (PL) membrane lipids in neurons. Regrowth induced by lipin1 depletion required TG hydrolysis and PL synthesis. Decreasing TG synthesis by deleting neuronal diglyceride acyltransferases (DGATs) and enhancing PL synthesis through the Kennedy pathway promoted axon regeneration. In addition, peripheral neurons adopted this mechanism for their spontaneous axon regeneration. Our study reveals a critical role of lipin1 and DGATs as intrinsic regulators of glycerolipid metabolism in neurons and indicates that directing neuronal lipid synthesis away from TG synthesis and toward PL synthesis may promote axon regeneration.
Axonal projection patterns are increasingly recognized as a defining feature for neuronal classification. How could such structural distinctions be linked to functions? In this issue of Neuron, Tang and Higley (2020) disambiguate behavior-level functions of two projection-defined subtypes of cortical projection neurons.
The timing and size of inhibition are crucial for dynamic excitation-inhibition balance and information processing in the neocortex. The underlying mechanism for temporal control of inhibition remains unclear. We performed dual whole-cell recordings from pyramidal cells (PCs) and nearby inhibitory interneurons in layer 5 of rodent neocortical slices. We found asynchronous release (AR) of glutamate occurs at PC output synapses onto Martinotti cells (MCs), causing desynchronized and prolonged firing in MCs and thus imprecise and long-lasting inhibition in neighboring PCs. AR is much stronger at PC-MC synapses as compared with those onto fast-spiking cells and other PCs, and it is also dependent on PC subtypes, with crossed-corticostriatal PCs producing the strongest AR. Moreover, knocking out synaptotagmin-7 substantially reduces AR strength and recurrent inhibition. Our results highlight the effect of glutamate AR on the operation of microcircuits mediating slow recurrent inhibition, an important mechanism for controlling the timing and size of cortical inhibition.
In response to stressors, individuals adopt different behavioral styles, which are essential for survival and form the basis of differential susceptibility to stress-related disorders. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) have predominantly been studied in behavioral response to stress, while the role of mPFC CRF neurons is poorly understood. Using morphology, electrophysiology, and calcium imaging approaches, we characterized mPFC CRF neurons as a unique subtype of GABAergic inhibitory interneurons that were directly engaged in the tail suspension challenge. Genetic ablation or chemogenetic inhibition of dorsal mPFC (dmPFC) CRF neurons increased immobility under the tail-suspension and forced-swimming challenges and induced social avoidance behavior, whereas activation had the opposite effect on the same measures. Furthermore, increasing CRF neuronal activity promoted durable resilience to repeated social defeat stress. These results uncover a critical role of mPFC CRF interneurons in bidirectionally controlling motivated behavioral style selection under stress.
The brain dopamine (DA) system participates in forming and expressing memory. Despite a well-established role of DA neurons in the ventral tegmental area in memory formation, the exact DA circuits that control memory expression remain unclear. Here, we show that DA neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) and their medulla input control the expression of incentive memory. DRN DA neurons are activated by both rewarding and aversive stimuli in a learning-dependent manner and exhibit elevated activity during memory recall. Disrupting their physiological activity or DA synthesis blocks the expression of natural appetitive and aversive memories as well as drug memories associated with opioids. Moreover, a glutamatergic pathway from the lateral parabrachial nucleus to the DRN selectively regulates the expression of reward memories associated with opioids or foods. Our study reveals a specialized DA subsystem important for memory expression and suggests new targets for interventions against opioid addiction.
The mechanosensitive Piezo1 and Piezo2 channels convert mechanical force into cation permeation. However, their precise mechanogating and regulatory mechanisms remain elusive. Here, we report that Piezo1 utilizes three iateral ion-conducting portals equipped with physical gates for cooperative gating and splicing regulation. Mutating residues lining the portal converts Piezo1 into an anion-selective channel, demonstrating the portal-based cation-permeating pathway. Intriguingly, the portal is physically blocked with a plug domain, which undergoes alternative splicing in both Piezo1 and Piezo2. The Piezo1 isoform has local openings of the portals, enlarged single-channel conductance and sensitized mechanosensitivity. Remarkably, the three plugs are strategically latched onto the central axis for coordinated gating of the three portals. Disrupting the latching induces three quantal sub-conductance states in Piezo1, but not in the isoform. Together, we propose that Piezo utilizes an elegant plug-and-latch mechanism to physically and coordinately gate the lateral portals through the spliceable plug gates.
Animal feeding is controlled by external sensory cues and internal metabolic states. Does it also depend on enteric neurons that sense mechanical cues to signal fullness of the digestive tract? Here, we identify a group of piezo-expressing neurons innervating the Drosophila crop (the fly equivalent of the stomach) that monitor crop volume to avoid food overconsumption. These neurons reside in the pars intercerebralis (PI), a neuro-secretory center in the brain involved in homeostatic control, and express insulin-like peptides with well-established roles in regulating food intake and metabolism. Piezo knockdown in these neurons of wild-type flies phenocopies the food overconsumption phenotype of piezo-null mutant flies. Conversely, expression of either fly Piezo or mammalian Piezo1 in these neurons of piezo-null mutants suppresses the overconsumption phenotype. Importantly, Piezo(+) neurons at the PI are activated directly by crop distension, thus conveying a rapid satiety signal along the "brain-gut axis" to control feeding.
The choroid plexus (ChP) epithelium is a source of secreted signaling factors in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and a key barrier between blood and brain. Here, we develop imaging tools to interrogate these functions in adult lateral ventricle ChP in whole-mount explants and in awake mice. By imaging epithelial cells in intact ChP explants, we observed calcium activity and secretory events that increased in frequency following delivery of serotonergic agonists. Using chronic two-photon imaging in awake mice, we observed spontaneous subcellular calcium events as well as strong agonist-evoked calcium activation and cytoplasmic secretion into CSF. Three-dimensional imaging of motility and mobility of multiple types of ChP immune cells at baseline and following immune challenge or focal injury revealed a range of surveillance and defensive behaviors. Together. these tools should help illuminate the diverse functions of this understudied body-brain interface.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders with symptoms including social deficits, anxiety, and communication difficulties. However, ASD pathogenic mechanisms are poorly understood. Mutations of CUL3, which encodes Cullin 3 (CUL3), a component of an E3 ligase complex, are thought of as risk factors for ASD and schizophrenia (SCZ). CUL3 is abundant in the brain, yet little is known of its function. Here, we show that CUL3 is critical for neurodevelopment. CUL3-deficient mice exhibited social deficits and anxiety-like behaviors with enhanced glutamatergic transmission and neuronal excitability. Proteomic analysis revealed eIF4G1, a protein for Cap-dependent translation, as a potential target of CUL3. ASD-associated cellular and behavioral deficits could be rescued by pharmacological inhibition of the eIF4G1 function and chemogenetic inhibition of neuronal activity. Thus, CUL3 is critical to neural development, neurotransmission, and excitation-inhibition (E-I) balance. Our study provides novel insight into the pathophysiological mechanisms of ASD and SCZ.
Sirtuin 1 (Sirt1) is a NAD(+)-dependent deacetylase capable of countering age-related neurodegeneration, but the basis of Sirt1 neuroprotection remains elusive. Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is an inherited CAG-polyglutamine repeat disorder. Transcriptome analysis of SCA7 mice revealed downregulation of calcium flux genes accompanied by abnormal calcium-dependent cerebellar membrane excitability. Transcription-factor binding-site analysis of downregulated genes yielded Sirt1 target sites, and we observed reduced Sirt1 activity in the SCA7 mouse cerebellum with NAD(+) depletion. SCA7 patients displayed increased poly(ADP-ribose) in cerebellar neurons, supporting poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 upregulation. We crossed Sirt1-overexpressing mice with SCA7 mice and noted rescue of neurodegeneration and calcium flux defects. NAD(+) repletion via nicotinamide riboside ameliorated disease phenotypes in SCA7 mice and patient stem cell-derived neurons. Sirt1 thus achieves neuroprotection by promoting calcium regulation, and NAD(+) dysregulation underlies Sirt1 dysfunction in SCA7, indicating that cerebellar ataxias exhibit altered calcium homeostasis because of metabolic dysregulation, suggesting shared therapy targets.
A balance between synaptic excitation and inhibition (E/I balance) maintained within a narrow window is widely regarded to be crucial for cortical processing. In line with this idea, the E/I balance is reportedly comparable across neighboring neurons, behavioral states, and developmental stages and altered in many neurological disorders. Motivated by these ideas, we examined whether synaptic inhibition changes over the 24-h day to compensate for the well-documented sleep-dependent changes in synaptic excitation. We found that, in pyramidal cells of visual and prefrontal cortices and hippocampal CA1, synaptic inhibition also changes over the 24-h light/dark cycle but, surprisingly, in the opposite direction of synaptic excitation. Inhibition is upregulated in the visual cortex during the light phase in a sleep-dependent manner. In the visual cortex, these changes in the E/I balance occurred in feedback, but not feedforward, circuits. These observations open new and interesting questions on the function and regulation of the E/I balance.