Drugs of abuse, including alcohol, ablate the expression of specific forms of long-term synaptic depression (LTD) at glutamatergic synapses in dorsal striatum (DS), a brain region involved in goal-directed and habitual behaviors. This loss of LTD is associated with altered DS-dependent behavior. Given the role of the µ-opioid receptor (MOR) in behavioral responding for alcohol, we explored the impact of alcohol on various forms of MOR-mediated synaptic depression that we find are differentially expressed at specific DS synapses. Corticostriatal MOR-mediated LTD (mOP-LTD) in the dorsolateral striatum occurs exclusively at inputs from anterior insular cortex and is selectively disrupted by in vivo alcohol exposure. Alcohol has no effect on corticostriatal mOP-LTD in dorsomedial striatum, thalamostriatal MOR-mediated short-term depression, or mOP-LTD of cholinergic interneuron-driven glutamate release. Disrupted mOP-LTD at anterior insular cortex-dorsolateral striatum synapses may therefore be a key mechanism of alcohol-induced neuroadaptations involved in the development of alcohol use disorders.
Although the mechanistic target of rapamycin (MTOR) kinase, included in the mTORC1 and mTORC2 signalling hubs, has been demonstrated to be active in a significant fraction of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the value of the kinase as a therapeutic target needs further clarification.
We used Mtor floxed mice to analyse the function of the kinase in context of the pancreas at the genetic level. Using a dual-recombinase system, which is based on the flippase-FRT (Flp-FRT) and Cre-loxP recombination technologies, we generated a novel cellular model, allowing the genetic analysis of MTOR functions in tumour maintenance. Cross-species validation and pharmacological intervention studies were used to recapitulate genetic data in human models, including primary human 3D PDAC cultures.
Genetic deletion of the Mtor gene in the pancreas results in exocrine and endocrine insufficiency. In established murine PDAC cells, MTOR is linked to metabolic pathways and maintains the glucose uptake and growth. Importantly, blocking MTOR genetically as well as pharmacologically results in adaptive rewiring of oncogenic signalling with activation of canonical extracellular signal-regulated kinase and phosphoinositide 3-kinase-AKT pathways. We provide evidence that interfering with such adaptive signalling in murine and human PDAC models is important in a subgroup.
Our data suggest developing dual MTORC1/TORC2 inhibitor-based therapies for subtype-specific intervention.
Eukaryotic cilia are assembled by intraflagellar transport (IFT) where large protein complexes called IFT particles move ciliary components from the cell body to the cilium. Defects in most IFT particle proteins disrupt ciliary assembly and cause mid gestational lethality in the mouse. IFT25 and IFT27 are unusual components of IFT-B in that they are not required for ciliary assembly and mutant mice survive to term. The mutants die shortly after birth with numerous organ defects including duplex kidneys. Completely duplex kidneys result from defects in ureteric bud formation at the earliest steps of metanephric kidney development. Ureteric bud initiation is a highly regulated process involving reciprocal signaling between the ureteric epithelium and the overlying metanephric mesenchyme with regulation by the peri-Wolffian duct stroma. The finding of duplex kidney in Ift25 and Ift27 mutants suggests functions for these genes in regulation of ureteric bud initiation. Typically the deletion of IFT genes in the kidney causes rapid cyst growth in the early postnatal period. In contrast, the loss of Ift25 results in smaller kidneys, which show only mild tubule dilations that become apparent in adulthood. The smaller kidneys appear to result from reduced branching in the developing metanephric kidney. This work indicates that IFT25 and IFT27 are important players in the early development of the kidney and suggest that duplex kidney is part of the ciliopathy spectrum.
The spatial representation of stimuli in sensory neocortices provides a scaffold for elucidating circuit mechanisms underlying sensory processing. However, the anterior piriform cortex (APC) lacks topology for odor identity as well as afferent and intracortical excitation. Consequently, olfactory processing is considered homogenous along the APC rostral-caudal (RC) axis. We recorded excitatory and inhibitory neurons in APC while optogenetically activating GABAergic interneurons along the RC axis. In contrast to excitation, we find opposing, spatially asymmetric inhibition onto pyramidal cells (PCs) and interneurons. PCs are strongly inhibited by caudal stimulation sites, whereas interneurons are strongly inhibited by rostral sites. At least two mechanisms underlie spatial asymmetries. Enhanced caudal inhibition of PCs is due to increased synaptic strength, whereas rostrally biased inhibition of interneurons is mediated by increased somatostatin-interneuron density. Altogether, we show differences in rostral and caudal inhibitory circuits in APC that may underlie spatial variation in odor processing along the RC axis.
In vivo direct conversion of differentiated cells holds promise for regenerative medicine; however, improving the conversion efficiency and producing functional target cells remain challenging. Ectopic Atoh1 expression in non-sensory supporting cells (SCs) in mouse cochleae induces their partial conversion to hair cells (HCs) at low efficiency. Here, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing of whole mouse sensory epithelia harvested at multiple time points after conditional overexpression of Atoh1. Pseudotemporal ordering revealed that converted HCs (cHCs) are present along a conversion continuum that correlates with both endogenous and exogenous Atoh1 expression. Bulk sequencing of isolated cell populations and single-cell qPCR confirmed 51 transcription factors, including Isl1, are differentially expressed among cHCs, SCs and HCs. In transgenic mice, co-overexpression of Atoh1 and Isl1 enhanced the HC conversion efficiency. Together, our study shows how high-resolution transcriptional profiling of direct cell conversion can identify co-reprogramming factors required for efficient conversion.
Enthesopathy is a disorder of bone, tendon, or ligament insertion. It represents one-fourth of all tendon-ligament diseases and is one of the most difficult tendon-ligament disorders to treat. Despite its high prevalence, the exact pathogenesis of this condition remains unknown. Here, we show that TGF-β was activated in both a semi-Achilles tendon transection (SMTS) mouse model and in a dorsiflexion immobilization (DI) mouse model of enthesopathy. High concentrations of active TGF-β recruited mesenchymal stromal stem cells (MSCs) and led to excessive vessel formation, bone deterioration, and fibrocartilage calcification. Transgenic expression of active TGF-β1 in bone also induced enthesopathy with a phenotype similar to that observed in SMTS and DI mice. Systemic inhibition of TGF-β activity by injection of 1D11, a TGF-β-neutralizing antibody, but not a vehicle antibody, attenuated the excessive vessel formation and restored uncoupled bone remodeling in SMTS mice. 1D11-treated SMTS fibrocartilage had increased proteoglycan and decreased collagen X and matrix metalloproteinase 13 expression relative to control antibody treatment. Notably, inducible knockout of the TGF-β type II receptor in mouse MSCs preserved the bone microarchitecture and fibrocartilage composition after SMTS relative to the WT littermate controls. Thus, elevated levels of active TGF-β in the enthesis bone marrow induce the initial pathological changes of enthesopathy, indicating that TGF-β inhibition could be a potential therapeutic strategy.
In mammals, the epithelial tissues of major salivary glands generate saliva and drain it into the oral cavity. For submandibular salivary glands (SMGs), the epithelial tissues arise during embryogenesis from naïve oral ectoderm adjacent to the base of the tongue, which begins to thicken, express SOX9 and invaginate into underlying mesenchyme. The developmental mechanisms initiating salivary gland development remain unexplored. In this study, we show that retinoic acid (RA) signaling activity at the site of gland initiation is colocalized with expression of retinol metabolic genes Rdh10 and Aldh1a2 in the underlying SMG mesenchyme. Utilizing a novel ex vivo assay for SMG initiation developed for this study, we show that RDH10 and RA are required for salivary gland initiation. Moreover, we show that the requirement for RA in gland initiation involves canonical signaling through retinoic acid receptors (RAR). Finally, we show that RA signaling essential for gland initiation is transduced specifically through RARα, with no contribution from other RAR isoforms. This is the first study to identify a molecular signal regulating mammalian salivary gland initiation.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a rare, muscle degenerative disease resulting from the absence of the dystrophin protein. DMD is characterized by progressive loss of muscle fibers, muscle weakness, and eventually loss of ambulation and premature death. Currently, there is no cure for DMD and improved methods of disease monitoring are crucial for the development of novel treatments. In this study, we describe a new method of assessing disease progression noninvasively in the mdx model of DMD. The reporter mice, which we term the dystrophic Degeneration Reporter strains, contain an inducible CRE-responsive luciferase reporter active in mature myofibers. In these mice, muscle degeneration is reflected in changes in the level of luciferase expression, which can be monitored using noninvasive, bioluminescence imaging. We monitored the natural history and disease progression in these dystrophic report mice and found that decreases in luciferase signals directly correlated with muscle degeneration. We further demonstrated that this reporter strain, as well as a previously reported Regeneration Reporter strain, successfully reveals the effectiveness of a gene therapy treatment following systemic administration of a recombinant adeno-associated virus-6 (rAAV-6) encoding a microdystrophin construct. Our data demonstrate the value of these noninvasive imaging modalities for monitoring disease progression and response to therapy in mouse models of muscular dystrophy.
Histone protein modifications control fate determination during normal development and dedifferentiation during disease. Here, we set out to determine the extent to which dynamic changes to histones affect the differentiated phenotype of ordinarily quiescent adult glomerular podocytes. To do this, we examined the consequences of shifting the balance of the repressive histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) mark in podocytes. Adriamycin nephrotoxicity and subtotal nephrectomy (SNx) studies indicated that deletion of the histone methylating enzyme EZH2 from podocytes decreased H3K27me3 levels and sensitized mice to glomerular disease. H3K27me3 was enriched at the promoter region of the Notch ligand Jag1 in podocytes, and derepression of Jag1 by EZH2 inhibition or knockdown facilitated podocyte dedifferentiation. Conversely, inhibition of the Jumonji C domain-containing demethylases Jmjd3 and UTX increased the H3K27me3 content of podocytes and attenuated glomerular disease in adriamycin nephrotoxicity, SNx, and diabetes. Podocytes in glomeruli from humans with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis or diabetic nephropathy exhibited diminished H3K27me3 and heightened UTX content. Analogous to human disease, inhibition of Jmjd3 and UTX abated nephropathy progression in mice with established glomerular injury and reduced H3K27me3 levels. Together, these findings indicate that ostensibly stable chromatin modifications can be dynamically regulated in quiescent cells and that epigenetic reprogramming can improve outcomes in glomerular disease by repressing the reactivation of developmental pathways.
Desmosome components are frequently mutated in cardiac and cutaneous disorders in animals and humans and enhanced inflammation is a common feature of these diseases. Previous studies showed that inhibitor of Apoptosis Stimulating p53 Protein (iASPP) regulates desmosome integrity at cell-cell junctions and transcription in the nucleus, and its deficiency causes cardiocutaneous disorder in mice, cattle, and humans. As iASPP is a ubiquitously expressed shuttling protein with multiple functions, a key question is whether the observed cardiocutaneous phenotypes are caused by loss of a cell autonomous role of iASPP in cardiomyocytes and keratinocytes specifically or by a loss of iASPP in other cell types such as immune cells. To address this, we developed cardiomyocyte-specific and keratinocyte-specific iASPP-deficient mouse models and show that the cell-type specific loss of iASPP in cardiomyocytes or keratinocytes is sufficient to induce cardiac or cutaneous disorders, respectively. Additionally, keratinocyte-specific iASPP-deficient mice have delayed eyelid development and wound healing. In keratinocytes, junctional iASPP is critical for stabilizing desmosomes and iASPP deficiency results in increased and disorganized cell migration, as well as impaired cell adhesion, consistent with delayed wound healing. The identification of a cell autonomous role of iASPP deficiency in causing cardiocutaneous syndrome, impaired eyelid development and wound healing suggests that variants in the iASPP gene also may contribute to polygenic heart and skin diseases.