The sensory forebrain is composed of intricately connected cell types, of which functional properties have yet to be fully elucidated. Understanding the interactions of these forebrain circuits has been aided recently by the development of optogenetic methods for light-mediated modulation of neuronal activity. Here, we describe a protocol for examining the functional organization of forebrain circuits in vitro using laser-scanning photostimulation of channelrhodopsin, expressed optogenetically via viral-mediated transfection. This approach also exploits the utility of cre-lox recombination in transgenic mice to target expression in specific neuronal cell types. Following transfection, neurons are physiologically recorded in slice preparations using whole-cell patch clamp to measure their evoked responses to laser-scanning photostimulation of channelrhodopsin expressing fibers. This approach enables an assessment of functional topography and synaptic properties. Morphological correlates can be obtained by imaging the neuroanatomical expression of channelrhodopsin expressing fibers using confocal microscopy of the live slice or post-fixed tissue. These methods enable functional investigations of forebrain circuits that expand upon more conventional approaches.
25 Related JoVE Articles!
Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA
Rs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials.
During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAA
Rs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other.
To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro
co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAA
R subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAA
R subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro
model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo
conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAA
Rs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
Pharmacologic Induction of Epidermal Melanin and Protection Against Sunburn in a Humanized Mouse Model
Institutions: University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Fairness of skin, UV sensitivity and skin cancer risk all correlate with the physiologic function of the melanocortin 1 receptor, a Gs
-coupled signaling protein found on the surface of melanocytes. Mc1r stimulates adenylyl cyclase and cAMP production which, in turn, up-regulates melanocytic production of melanin in the skin. In order to study the mechanisms by which Mc1r signaling protects the skin against UV injury, this study relies on a mouse model with "humanized skin" based on epidermal expression of stem cell factor (Scf). K14-Scf
transgenic mice retain melanocytes in the epidermis and therefore have the ability to deposit melanin in the epidermis. In this animal model, wild type Mc1r status results in robust deposition of black eumelanin pigment and a UV-protected phenotype. In contrast, K14-Scf
animals with defective Mc1r signaling ability exhibit a red/blonde pigmentation, very little eumelanin in the skin and a UV-sensitive phenotype. Reasoning that eumelanin deposition might be enhanced by topical agents that mimic Mc1r signaling, we found that direct application of forskolin extract to the skin of Mc1r-defective fair-skinned mice resulted in robust eumelanin induction and UV protection 1
. Here we describe the method for preparing and applying a forskolin-containing natural root extract to K14-Scf
fair-skinned mice and report a method for measuring UV sensitivity by determining minimal erythematous dose (MED). Using this animal model, it is possible to study how epidermal cAMP induction and melanization of the skin affect physiologic responses to UV exposure.
Medicine, Issue 79, Skin, Inflammation, Photometry, Ultraviolet Rays, Skin Pigmentation, melanocortin 1 receptor, Mc1r, forskolin, cAMP, mean erythematous dose, skin pigmentation, melanocyte, melanin, sunburn, UV, inflammation
Functional Interrogation of Adult Hypothalamic Neurogenesis with Focal Radiological Inhibition
Institutions: California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University Of Washington Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The functional characterization of adult-born neurons remains a significant challenge. Approaches to inhibit adult neurogenesis via invasive viral delivery or transgenic animals have potential confounds that make interpretation of results from these studies difficult. New radiological tools are emerging, however, that allow one to noninvasively investigate the function of select groups of adult-born neurons through accurate and precise anatomical targeting in small animals. Focal ionizing radiation inhibits the birth and differentiation of new neurons, and allows targeting of specific neural progenitor regions. In order to illuminate the potential functional role that adult hypothalamic neurogenesis plays in the regulation of physiological processes, we developed a noninvasive focal irradiation technique to selectively inhibit the birth of adult-born neurons in the hypothalamic median eminence. We describe a method for C
omputer tomography-guided f
radiation (CFIR) delivery to enable precise and accurate anatomical targeting in small animals. CFIR uses three-dimensional volumetric image guidance for localization and targeting of the radiation dose, minimizes radiation exposure to nontargeted brain regions, and allows for conformal dose distribution with sharp beam boundaries. This protocol allows one to ask questions regarding the function of adult-born neurons, but also opens areas to questions in areas of radiobiology, tumor biology, and immunology. These radiological tools will facilitate the translation of discoveries at the bench to the bedside.
Neuroscience, Issue 81, Neural Stem Cells (NSCs), Body Weight, Radiotherapy, Image-Guided, Metabolism, Energy Metabolism, Neurogenesis, Cell Proliferation, Neurosciences, Irradiation, Radiological treatment, Computer-tomography (CT) imaging, Hypothalamus, Hypothalamic Proliferative Zone (HPZ), Median Eminence (ME), Small Animal Radiation Research Platform (SARRP)
Membrane Potential Dye Imaging of Ventromedial Hypothalamus Neurons From Adult Mice to Study Glucose Sensing
Institutions: Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Universite de Bourgogne.
Studies of neuronal activity are often performed using neurons from rodents less than 2 months of age due to the technical difficulties associated with increasing connective tissue and decreased neuronal viability that occur with age. Here, we describe a methodology for the dissociation of healthy hypothalamic neurons from adult-aged mice. The ability to study neurons from adult-aged mice allows the use of disease models that manifest at a later age and might be more developmentally accurate for certain studies. Fluorescence imaging of dissociated neurons can be used to study the activity of a population of neurons, as opposed to using electrophysiology to study a single neuron. This is particularly useful when studying a heterogeneous neuronal population in which the desired neuronal type is rare such as for hypothalamic glucose sensing neurons. We utilized membrane potential dye imaging of adult ventromedial hypothalamic neurons to study their responses to changes in extracellular glucose. Glucose sensing neurons are believed to play a role in central regulation of energy balance. The ability to study glucose sensing in adult rodents is particularly useful since the predominance of diseases related to dysfunctional energy balance (e.g
. obesity) increase with age.
Neuroscience, Issue 81, membrane potential dye, ventromedial hypothalamus, adult neurons, glucose sensing, fluorescence imaging, arcuate nucleus
Detection of the Genome and Transcripts of a Persistent DNA Virus in Neuronal Tissues by Fluorescent In situ Hybridization Combined with Immunostaining
Institutions: CNRS UMR 5534, Université de Lyon 1, LabEX DEVweCAN, CNRS UPR 3296, CNRS UMR 5286.
Single cell codetection of a gene, its RNA product and cellular regulatory proteins is critical to study gene expression regulation. This is a challenge in the field of virology; in particular for nuclear-replicating persistent DNA viruses that involve animal models for their study. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) establishes a life-long latent infection in peripheral neurons. Latent virus serves as reservoir, from which it reactivates and induces a new herpetic episode. The cell biology of HSV-1 latency remains poorly understood, in part due to the lack of methods to detect HSV-1 genomes in situ
in animal models. We describe a DNA-fluorescent in situ
hybridization (FISH) approach efficiently detecting low-copy viral genomes within sections of neuronal tissues from infected animal models. The method relies on heat-based antigen unmasking, and directly labeled home-made DNA probes, or commercially available probes. We developed a triple staining approach, combining DNA-FISH with RNA-FISH and immunofluorescence, using peroxidase based signal amplification to accommodate each staining requirement. A major improvement is the ability to obtain, within 10 µm tissue sections, low-background signals that can be imaged at high resolution by confocal microscopy and wide-field conventional epifluorescence. Additionally, the triple staining worked with a wide range of antibodies directed against cellular and viral proteins. The complete protocol takes 2.5 days to accommodate antibody and probe penetration within the tissue.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Life Sciences (General), Virology, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Latency, In situ hybridization, Nuclear organization, Gene expression, Microscopy
Initiation of Metastatic Breast Carcinoma by Targeting of the Ductal Epithelium with Adenovirus-Cre: A Novel Transgenic Mouse Model of Breast Cancer
Institutions: Wistar Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania.
Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease involving complex cellular interactions between the developing tumor and immune system, eventually resulting in exponential tumor growth and metastasis to distal tissues and the collapse of anti-tumor immunity. Many useful animal models exist to study breast cancer, but none completely recapitulate the disease progression that occurs in humans. In order to gain a better understanding of the cellular interactions that result in the formation of latent metastasis and decreased survival, we have generated an inducible transgenic mouse model of YFP-expressing ductal carcinoma that develops after sexual maturity in immune-competent mice and is driven by consistent, endocrine-independent oncogene expression. Activation of YFP, ablation of p53, and expression of an oncogenic form of K-ras was achieved by the delivery of an adenovirus expressing Cre-recombinase into the mammary duct of sexually mature, virgin female mice. Tumors begin to appear 6 weeks after the initiation of oncogenic events. After tumors become apparent, they progress slowly for approximately two weeks before they begin to grow exponentially. After 7-8 weeks post-adenovirus injection, vasculature is observed connecting the tumor mass to distal lymph nodes, with eventual lymphovascular invasion of YFP+ tumor cells to the distal axillary lymph nodes. Infiltrating leukocyte populations are similar to those found in human breast carcinomas, including the presence of αβ and γδ T cells, macrophages and MDSCs. This unique model will facilitate the study of cellular and immunological mechanisms involved in latent metastasis and dormancy in addition to being useful for designing novel immunotherapeutic interventions to treat invasive breast cancer.
Medicine, Issue 85, Transgenic mice, breast cancer, metastasis, intraductal injection, latent mutations, adenovirus-Cre
Lineage-reprogramming of Pericyte-derived Cells of the Adult Human Brain into Induced Neurons
Institutions: Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz.
Direct lineage-reprogramming of non-neuronal cells into induced neurons (iNs) may provide insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying neurogenesis and enable new strategies for in vitro
modeling or repairing the diseased brain. Identifying brain-resident non-neuronal cell types amenable to direct conversion into iNs might allow for launching such an approach in situ
within the damaged brain tissue. Here we describe a protocol developed in the attempt of identifying cells derived from the adult human brain that fulfill this premise. This protocol involves: (1) the culturing of human cells from the cerebral cortex obtained from adult human brain biopsies; (2) the in vitro
expansion (approximately requiring 2-4 weeks) and characterization of the culture by immunocytochemistry and flow cytometry; (3) the enrichment by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) using anti-PDGF receptor-β and anti-CD146 antibodies; (4) the retrovirus-mediated transduction with the neurogenic transcription factors sox2 and ascl1; (5) and finally the characterization of the resultant pericyte-derived induced neurons (PdiNs) by immunocytochemistry (14 days to 8 weeks following retroviral transduction). At this stage, iNs can be probed for their electrical properties by patch-clamp recording. This protocol provides a highly reproducible procedure for the in vitro
lineage conversion of brain-resident pericytes into functional human iNs.
Neuroscience, Issue 87, Pericytes, lineage-reprogramming, induced neurons, cerebral cortex
Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ
and in vivo
express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+
indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+
events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
Primary Culture of Mouse Dopaminergic Neurons
Institutions: Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle, Montpellier, U661, Montpellier, Universités de Montpellier.
Dopaminergic neurons represent less than 1% of the total number of neurons in the brain. This low amount of neurons regulates important brain functions such as motor control, motivation, and working memory. Nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons selectively degenerate in Parkinson's disease (PD). This progressive neuronal loss is unequivocally associated with the motors symptoms of the pathology (bradykinesia, resting tremor, and muscular rigidity). The main agent responsible of dopaminergic neuron degeneration is still unknown. However, these neurons appear to be extremely vulnerable in diverse conditions. Primary cultures constitute one of the most relevant models to investigate properties and characteristics of dopaminergic neurons. These cultures can be submitted to various stress agents that mimic PD pathology and to neuroprotective compounds in order to stop or slow down neuronal degeneration. The numerous transgenic mouse models of PD that have been generated during the last decade further increased the interest of researchers for dopaminergic neuron cultures. Here, the video protocol focuses on the delicate dissection of embryonic mouse brains. Precise excision of ventral mesencephalon is crucial to obtain neuronal cultures sufficiently rich in dopaminergic cells to allow subsequent studies. This protocol can be realized with embryonic transgenic mice and is suitable for immunofluorescence staining, quantitative PCR, second messenger quantification, or neuronal death/survival assessment.
Neurobiology, Issue 91, Mus musculus, mesencephalon, embryonic, tyrosine hydroxylase, dopamine transporter, Parkinson's disease in vitro model
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Training Rats to Voluntarily Dive Underwater: Investigations of the Mammalian Diving Response
Institutions: Midwestern University.
Underwater submergence produces autonomic changes that are observed in virtually all diving animals. This reflexly-induced response consists of apnea, a parasympathetically-induced bradycardia and a sympathetically-induced alteration of vascular resistance that maintains blood flow to the heart, brain and exercising muscles. While many of the metabolic and cardiorespiratory aspects of the diving response have been studied in marine animals, investigations of the central integrative aspects of this brainstem reflex have been relatively lacking. Because the physiology and neuroanatomy of the rat are well characterized, the rat can be used to help ascertain the central pathways of the mammalian diving response. Detailed instructions are provided on how to train rats to swim and voluntarily dive underwater through a 5 m long Plexiglas maze. Considerations regarding tank design and procedure room requirements are also given. The behavioral training is conducted in such a way as to reduce the stressfulness that could otherwise be associated with forced underwater submergence, thus minimizing activation of central stress pathways. The training procedures are not technically difficult, but they can be time-consuming. Since behavioral training of animals can only provide a model to be used with other experimental techniques, examples of how voluntarily diving rats have been used in conjunction with other physiological and neuroanatomical research techniques, and how the basic training procedures may need to be modified to accommodate these techniques, are also provided. These experiments show that voluntarily diving rats exhibit the same cardiorespiratory changes typically seen in other diving animals. The ease with which rats can be trained to voluntarily dive underwater, and the already available data from rats collected in other neurophysiological studies, makes voluntarily diving rats a good behavioral model to be used in studies investigating the central aspects of the mammalian diving response.
Behavior, Issue 93, Rat, Rattus norvegicus, voluntary diving, diving response, diving reflex, autonomic reflex, central integration
Stereotaxic Microinjection of Viral Vectors Expressing Cre Recombinase to Study the Role of Target Genes in Cocaine Conditioned Place Preference
Institutions: Weill Cornell Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Weill Cornell Medical College .
Microinjecting recombinant adenoassociated viral (rAAV) vectors expressing Cre recombinase into distinct mouse brain regions to selectively knockout genes of interest allows for enhanced temporally- and regionally-specific control of gene deletion, compared to existing methods. While conditional deletion can also be achieved by mating mice that express Cre recombinase under the control of specific gene promoters with mice carrying a floxed gene, stereotaxic microinjection allows for targeting of discrete brain areas at experimenter-determined time points of interest. In the context of cocaine conditioned place preference, and other cocaine behavioral paradigms such as self-administration or psychomotor sensitization that can involve withdrawal, extinction and/or reinstatement phases, this technique is particularly useful in exploring the unique contribution of target genes to these distinct phases of behavioral models of cocaine-induced plasticity. Specifically, this technique allows for selective ablation of target genes during discrete phases of a behavior to test their contribution to the behavior across time. Ultimately, this understanding allows for more targeted therapeutics that are best able to address the most potent risk factors that present themselves during each phase of addictive behavior.
Behavior, Issue 77, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Molecular Biology, Pharmacology, Animals, Genetically Modified, Behavior, Animal, Drug-Seeking Behavior, Psychophysiology, Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms, viral vectors, stereotaxic surgery, microinjection, conditioned place preference, mouse, behavior, neuroscience, extinction, cocaine-induced reinstatement, animal model
Genetic Manipulation of the Mouse Developing Hypothalamus through In utero Electroporation
Institutions: University of Heidelberg , Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal.
Genetic modification of specific regions of the developing mammalian brain is a very powerful experimental approach. However, generating novel mouse mutants is often frustratingly slow. It has been shown that access to the mouse brain developing in utero
with reasonable post-operatory survival is possible. Still, results with this procedure have been reported almost exclusively for the most superficial and easily accessible part of the developing brain, i.e.
the cortex. The thalamus, a narrower and more medial region, has proven more difficult to target. Transfection into deeper nuclei, especially those of the hypothalamus, is perhaps the most challenging and therefore very few results have been reported. Here we demonstrate a procedure to target the entire hypothalamic neuroepithelium or part of it (hypothalamic regions) for transfection through electroporation. The keys to our approach are longer narcosis times, injection in the third ventricle, and appropriate kind and positioning of the electrodes. Additionally, we show results of targeting and subsequent histological analysis of the most recessed hypothalamic nucleus, the mammillary body.
Neuroscience, Issue 77, Neurobiology, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Developmental Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Embryo, Mammalian, Brain, Diencephalon, Hypothalamus, Genetic Techniques, Transfection, anesthesia, development, electrodes, electroporation, in utero, mammillary body, mouse, animal model
Transfection of Mouse Retinal Ganglion Cells by in vivo Electroporation
Institutions: Yale University, Baylor College of Medicine.
The targeting and refinement of RGC projections to the midbrain is a popular and powerful model system for studying how precise patterns of neural connectivity form during development. In mice, retinofugal projections are arranged in a topographic manner and form eye-specific layers in the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus (dLGN) of the thalamus and the Superior Colliculus (SC). The development of these precise patterns of retinofugal projections has typically been studied by labeling populations of RGCs with fluorescent dyes and tracers, such as horseradish peroxidase1-4
. However, these methods are too coarse to provide insight into developmental changes in individual RGC axonal arbor morphology that are the basis of retinotopic map formation. They also do not allow for the genetic manipulation of RGCs.
Recently, electroporation has become an effective method for providing precise spatial and temporal control for delivery of charged molecules into the retina5-11
. Current retinal electroporation protocols do not allow for genetic manipulation and tracing of retinofugal projections of a single or small cluster of RGCs in postnatal mice. It has been argued that postnatal in vivo
electroporation is not a viable method for transfecting RGCs since the labeling efficiency is extremely low and hence requires targeting at embryonic ages when RGC progenitors are undergoing differentiation and proliferation6
In this video we describe an in vivo
electroporation protocol for targeted delivery of genes, shRNA, and fluorescent dextrans to murine RGCs postnatally. This technique provides a cost effective, fast and relatively easy platform for efficient screening of candidate genes involved in several aspects of neural development including axon retraction, branching, lamination, regeneration and synapse formation at various stages of circuit development. In summary we describe here a valuable tool which will provide further insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying sensory map development.
Neuroscience, Issue 50, Retinotopy, Eye Segregation, Superior Colliculus, Lateral Geniculate Nucleus, Visual Development, Retinal Ganglion Cell, Retina, Electroporation
Mosaic Analysis of Gene Function in Postnatal Mouse Brain Development by Using Virus-based Cre Recombination
Institutions: Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.
Normal brain function relies not only on embryonic development when major neuronal pathways are established, but also on postnatal
development when neural circuits are matured and refined. Misregulation at this stage may lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders such as autism
. Many genes have been studied in the prenatal brain and found crucial to many developmental processes3-5
. However, their
function in the postnatal brain is largely unknown, partly because their deletion in mice often leads to lethality during neonatal development, and partly because their requirement in early development hampers the postnatal analysis. To overcome these obstacles, floxed alleles of these genes are currently being generated in mice 6
. When combined with transgenic alleles that express Cre recombinase in specific cell types, conditional deletion can be achieved to study gene function in the postnatal brain. However, this method requires additional alleles and extra time (3-6 months) to generate the mice with appropriate genotypes, thereby limiting the expansion of the genetic analysis to a large scale in the mouse brain.
Here we demonstrate a complementary approach that uses virally-expressed Cre to study these floxed alleles rapidly and
systematically in postnatal brain development. By injecting recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs)7,8
encoding Cre into the neonatal brain,
we are able to delete the gene of interest in different regions of the brain. By controlling the viral titer and coexpressing a fluorescent
protein marker, we can simultaneously achieve mosaic gene inactivation and sparse neuronal labeling. This method bypasses the requirement of
many genes in early development, and allows us to study their cell autonomous function in many critical processes in postnatal brain development,
including axonal and dendritic growth, branching, and tiling, as well as synapse formation and refinement. This method has been used successfully
in our own lab (unpublished results) and others8,9
, and can be extended to other viruses, such as lentivirus 9
, as well as to the expression of
shRNA or dominant active proteins 10
. Furthermore, by combining this technique with electrophysiology as well as recently-developed optical
imaging tools 11
, this method provides a new strategy to study how genetic pathways influence neural circuit development and function in mice
Neuroscience, Issue 54, Adeno-associated virus, Cre, mosaic analysis, sparse labeling, mouse, postnatal, brain development
Imaging Calcium Responses in GFP-tagged Neurons of Hypothalamic Mouse Brain Slices
Institutions: University of Saarland, Homburg, Germany.
Despite an enormous increase in our knowledge about the mechanisms underlying the encoding of information in the brain, a central question concerning the precise molecular steps as well as the activity of specific neurons in multi-functional nuclei of brain areas such as the hypothalamus remain. This problem includes identification of the molecular components involved in the regulation of various neurohormone signal transduction cascades. Elevations of intracellular Ca2+
play an important role in regulating the sensitivity of neurons, both at the level of signal transduction and at synaptic sites.
New tools have emerged to help identify neurons in the myriad of brain neurons by expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of a particular promoter. To monitor both spatially and temporally stimulus-induced Ca2+
responses in GFP-tagged neurons, a non-green fluorescent Ca2+
indicator dye needs to be used. In addition, confocal microscopy is a favorite method of imaging individual neurons in tissue slices due to its ability to visualize neurons in distinct planes of depth within the tissue and to limit out-of-focus fluorescence. The ratiometric Ca2+
indicator fura-2 has been used in combination with GFP-tagged neurons1
. However, the dye is excited by ultraviolet (UV) light. The cost of the laser and the limited optical penetration depth of UV light hindered its use in many laboratories. Moreover, GFP fluorescence may interfere with the fura-2 signals2
. Therefore, we decided to use a red fluorescent Ca2+
indicator dye. The huge Stokes shift of fura-red permits multicolor analysis of the red fluorescence in combination with GFP using a single excitation wavelength. We had previously good results using fura-red in combination with GFP-tagged olfactory neurons3
. The protocols for olfactory tissue slices seemed to work equally well in hypothalamic neurons4
. Fura-red based Ca2+
imaging was also successfully combined with GFP-tagged pancreatic β-cells and GFP-tagged receptors expressed in HEK cells5,6
. A little quirk of fura-red is that its fluorescence intensity at 650 nm decreases once the indicator binds calcium7
. Therefore, the fluorescence of resting neurons with low Ca2+
concentration has relatively high intensity. It should be noted, that other red Ca2+
-indicator dyes exist or are currently being developed, that might give better or improved results in different neurons and brain areas.
Neuroscience, Issue 66, Molecular Biology, Medicine, GFP, fura-red, calcium, confocal imaging, neuron, hypothalamus, brain, olfaction, mouse, slice preparation
Viral Tracing of Genetically Defined Neural Circuitry
Institutions: Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical School.
Classical methods for studying neuronal circuits are fairly low throughput. Transsynaptic viruses, particularly the pseudorabies (PRV) and rabies virus (RABV), and more recently vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), for studying circuitry, is becoming increasingly popular. These higher throughput methods use viruses that transmit between neurons in either the anterograde or retrograde direction.
Recently, a modified RABV for monosynaptic retrograde tracing was developed. (Figure 1A
). In this method, the glycoprotein (G) gene is deleted from the viral genome, and resupplied only in targeted neurons. Infection specificity is achieved by substituting a chimeric G, composed of the extracellular domain of the ASLV-A glycoprotein and the cytoplasmic domain of the RABV-G (A/RG), for the normal RABV-G1
. This chimeric G specifically infects cells expressing the TVA receptor1
. The gene encoding TVA can been delivered by various methods2-8
. Following RABV-G infection of a TVA-expressing neuron, the RABV can transmit to other, synaptically connected neurons in a retrograde direction by nature of its own G which was co-delivered with the TVA receptor. This technique labels a relatively large number of inputs (5-10%)2
onto a defined cell type, providing a sampling of all of the inputs onto a defined starter cell type.
We recently modified this technique to use VSV as a transsynaptic tracer9
. VSV has several advantages, including the rapidity of gene expression. Here we detail a new viral tracing system using VSV useful for probing microcircuitry with increased resolution. While the original published strategies by Wickersham et al.4
and Beier et al.9
permit labeling of any neurons that project onto initially-infected TVA-expressing-cells, here VSV was engineered to transmit
only to TVA-expressing cells (Figure 1B
). The virus is first pseudotyped with RABV-G to permit infection of neurons downstream of TVA-expressing neurons. After infecting this first population of cells, the virus released can only infect TVA-expressing cells. Because the transsynaptic viral spread is limited to TVA-expressing cells, presence of absence of connectivity from defined cell types can be explored with high resolution. An experimental flow chart of these experiments is shown in Figure 2
. Here we show a model circuit, that of direction-selectivity in the mouse retina. We examine the connectivity of starburst amacrine cells (SACs) to retinal ganglion cells (RGCs).
Neuroscience, Issue 68, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Virology, Virus, VSV, transsynaptic tracing, TVA, retrograde, neuron, synapse
Optogenetic Activation of Zebrafish Somatosensory Neurons using ChEF-tdTomato
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
Larval zebrafish are emerging as a model for describing the development and function of simple neural circuits. Due to their external fertilization, rapid development, and translucency, zebrafish are particularly well suited for optogenetic approaches to investigate neural circuit function. In this approach, light-sensitive ion channels are expressed in specific neurons, enabling the experimenter to activate or inhibit them at will and thus assess their contribution to specific behaviors. Applying these methods in larval zebrafish is conceptually simple but requires the optimization of technical details. Here we demonstrate a procedure for expressing a channelrhodopsin variant in larval zebrafish somatosensory neurons, photo-activating single cells, and recording the resulting behaviors. By introducing a few modifications to previously established methods, this approach could be used to elicit behavioral responses from single neurons activated up to at least 4 days post-fertilization (dpf). Specifically, we created a transgene using a somatosensory neuron enhancer, CREST3
, to drive the expression of the tagged channelrhodopsin variant, ChEF-tdTomato. Injecting this transgene into 1-cell stage embryos results in mosaic expression in somatosensory neurons, which can be imaged with confocal microscopy. Illuminating identified cells in these animals with light from a 473 nm DPSS laser, guided through a fiber optic cable, elicits behaviors that can be recorded with a high-speed video camera and analyzed quantitatively. This technique could be adapted to study behaviors elicited by activating any zebrafish neuron. Combining this approach with genetic or pharmacological perturbations will be a powerful way to investigate circuit formation and function.
Neuroscience, Issue 71, Developmental Biology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Zebrafish, Behavior, Animal, Touch, optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, ChEF, sensory neuron, Rohon-Beard, Danio rerio, somatosensory, neurons, microinjection, confocal microscopy, high speed video, animal model
Optogenetic Stimulation of Escape Behavior in Drosophila melanogaster
Institutions: Stanford University .
A growing number of genetically encoded tools are becoming available that allow non-invasive manipulation of the neural activity of specific neurons in Drosophila melanogaster1
. Chief among these are optogenetic tools, which enable the activation or silencing of specific neurons in the intact and freely moving animal using bright light. Channelrhodopsin (ChR2) is a light-activated cation channel that, when activated by blue light, causes depolarization of neurons that express it. ChR2 has been effective for identifying neurons critical for specific behaviors, such as CO2
avoidance, proboscis extension and giant-fiber mediated startle response2-4
. However, as the intense light sources used to stimulate ChR2 also stimulate photoreceptors, these optogenetic techniques have not previously been used in the visual system. Here, we combine an optogenetic approach with a mutation that impairs phototransduction to demonstrate that activation of a cluster of loom-sensitive neurons in the fly's optic lobe, Foma-1 neurons, can drive an escape behavior used to avoid collision. We used a null allele of a critical component of the phototransduction cascade, phospholipase C-β, encoded by the norpA
gene, to render the flies blind and also use the Gal4-UAS transcriptional activator system to drive expression of ChR2 in the Foma-1 neurons. Individual flies are placed on a small platform surrounded by blue LEDs. When the LEDs are illuminated, the flies quickly take-off into flight, in a manner similar to visually driven loom-escape behavior. We believe that this technique can be easily adapted to examine other behaviors in freely moving flies.
Neurobiology, Issue 71, Neuroscience, Genetics, Anatomy, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Behavior, optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, ChR2, escape behavior, neurons, fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, animal model
Neonatal Subventricular Zone Electroporation
Institutions: Yale University School of Medicine .
Neural stem cells (NSCs) line the postnatal lateral ventricles and give rise to multiple cell types which include neurons, astrocytes, and ependymal cells1
. Understanding the molecular pathways responsible for NSC self-renewal, commitment, and differentiation is critical for harnessing their unique potential to repair the brain and better understand central nervous system disorders. Previous methods for the manipulation of mammalian systems required the time consuming and expensive endeavor of genetic engineering at the whole animal level2
. Thus, the vast majority of studies have explored the functions of NSC molecules in vitro
or in invertebrates.
Here, we demonstrate the simple and rapid technique to manipulate neonatal NPCs that is referred to as neonatal subventricular zone (SVZ) electroporation. Similar techniques were developed a decade ago to study embryonic NSCs and have aided studies on cortical development3,4
. More recently this was applied to study the postnatal rodent forebrain5-7
. This technique results in robust labeling of SVZ NSCs and their progeny. Thus, postnatal SVZ electroporation provides a cost and time effective alternative for mammalian NSC genetic engineering.
Neuroscience, Issue 72, Developmental Biology, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Biomedical Engineering, Stem Cell Biology, Genetics, Neurogenesis, Growth and Development, Surgery, Subventricular Zone, Electroporation, Neural Stem Cells, NSC, subventricular zone, brain, DNA, injection, genetic engineering, neonatal pups, animal model
Recording Electrical Activity from Identified Neurons in the Intact Brain of Transgenic Fish
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
Understanding the cell physiology of neural circuits that regulate complex behaviors is greatly enhanced by using model systems in which this work can be performed in an intact brain preparation where the neural circuitry of the CNS remains intact. We use transgenic fish in which gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons are genetically tagged with green fluorescent protein for identification in the intact brain. Fish have multiple populations of GnRH neurons, and their functions are dependent on their location in the brain and the GnRH gene that they express1
. We have focused our demonstration on GnRH3 neurons located in the terminal nerves (TN) associated with the olfactory bulbs using the intact brain of transgenic medaka fish (Figure 1B
). Studies suggest that medaka TN-GnRH3 neurons are neuromodulatory, acting as a transmitter of information from the external environment to the central nervous system; they do not play a direct role in regulating pituitary-gonadal functions, as do the well-known hypothalamic GnRH1 neurons2, 3
.The tonic pattern of spontaneous action potential firing of TN-GnRH3 neurons is an intrinsic property4-6
, the frequency of which is modulated by visual cues from conspecifics2
and the neuropeptide kisspeptin 15
. In this video, we use a stable line of transgenic medaka in which TN-GnRH3 neurons express a transgene containing the promoter region of Gnrh3
linked to enhanced green fluorescent protein7
to show you how to identify neurons and monitor their electrical activity in the whole brain preparation6
Neuroscience, Issue 74, Neurobiology, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Neuroendocrinology, Neurophysiology, Electrophysiology, Comparative, action potential, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, neuron, brain, teleost, animal model
Molecular Evolution of the Tre Recombinase
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Here we report the generation of Tre recombinase through directed, molecular evolution. Tre recombinase recognizes a pre-defined target sequence within the LTR sequences of the HIV-1 provirus, resulting in the excision and eradication of the provirus from infected human cells.
We started with Cre, a 38-kDa recombinase, that recognizes a 34-bp double-stranded DNA sequence known as loxP. Because Cre can effectively eliminate genomic sequences, we set out to tailor a recombinase that could remove the sequence between the 5'-LTR and 3'-LTR of an integrated HIV-1 provirus. As a first step we identified sequences within the LTR sites that were similar to loxP and tested for recombination activity. Initially Cre and mutagenized Cre libraries failed to recombine the chosen loxLTR sites of the HIV-1 provirus. As the start of any directed molecular evolution process requires at least residual activity, the original asymmetric loxLTR sequences were split into subsets and tested again for recombination activity. Acting as intermediates, recombination activity was shown with the subsets. Next, recombinase libraries were enriched through reiterative evolution cycles. Subsequently, enriched libraries were shuffled and recombined. The combination of different mutations proved synergistic and recombinases were created that were able to recombine loxLTR1 and loxLTR2. This was evidence that an evolutionary strategy through intermediates can be successful. After a total of 126 evolution cycles individual recombinases were functionally and structurally analyzed. The most active recombinase -- Tre -- had 19 amino acid changes as compared to Cre. Tre recombinase was able to excise the HIV-1 provirus from the genome HIV-1 infected HeLa cells (see "HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase", Hauber J., Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, Hamburg, Germany). While still in its infancy, directed molecular evolution will allow the creation of custom enzymes that will serve as tools of "molecular surgery" and molecular medicine.
Cell Biology, Issue 15, HIV-1, Tre recombinase, Site-specific recombination, molecular evolution
Principles of Site-Specific Recombinase (SSR) Technology
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Site-specific recombinase (SSR) technology allows the manipulation of gene structure to explore gene function and has become an integral tool of molecular biology. Site-specific recombinases are proteins that bind to distinct DNA target sequences. The Cre/lox system was first described in bacteriophages during the 1980's. Cre recombinase is a Type I topoisomerase that catalyzes site-specific recombination of DNA between two loxP (locus of X-over P1) sites. The Cre/lox system does not require any cofactors. LoxP sequences contain distinct binding sites for Cre recombinases that surround a directional core sequence where recombination and rearrangement takes place. When cells contain loxP sites and express the Cre recombinase, a recombination event occurs. Double-stranded DNA is cut at both loxP sites by the Cre recombinase, rearranged, and ligated ("scissors and glue"). Products of the recombination event depend on the relative orientation of the asymmetric sequences.
SSR technology is frequently used as a tool to explore gene function. Here the gene of interest is flanked with Cre target sites loxP ("floxed"). Animals are then crossed with animals expressing the Cre recombinase under the control of a tissue-specific promoter. In tissues that express the Cre recombinase it binds to target sequences and excises the floxed gene. Controlled gene deletion allows the investigation of gene function in specific tissues and at distinct time points. Analysis of gene function employing SSR technology --- conditional mutagenesis -- has significant advantages over traditional knock-outs where gene deletion is frequently lethal.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Molecular Biology, Site-Specific Recombinase, Cre recombinase, Cre/lox system, transgenic animals, transgenic technology
BioMEMS: Forging New Collaborations Between Biologists and Engineers
Institutions: University of California, Irvine (UCI).
This video describes the fabrication and use of a microfluidic device to culture central nervous system (CNS) neurons. This device is compatible with live-cell optical microscopy (DIC and phase contrast), as well as confocal and two photon microscopy approaches. This method uses precision-molded polymer parts to create miniature multi-compartment cell culture with fluidic isolation. The compartments are made of tiny channels with dimensions that are large enough to culture neurons in well-controlled fluidic microenvironments. Neurons can be cultured for 2-3 weeks within the device, after which they can be fixed and stained for immunocytochemistry. Axonal and somal compartments can be maintained fluidically isolated from each other by using a small hydrostatic pressure difference; this feature can be used to localize soluble insults to one compartment for up to 20 h after each medium change. Fluidic isolation enables collection of pure axonal fraction and biochemical analysis by PCR. The microfluidic device provides a highly adaptable platform for neuroscience research and may find applications in modeling CNS injury and neurodegeneration.
Neuroscience, Issue 9, Microfluidics, Bioengineering, Neuron
Propagation of Human Embryonic Stem (ES) Cells
Institutions: MGH - Massachusetts General Hospital.
Cellular Biology, Issue 1, ES, embryonic stem cells, tissue culture