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Light stimulates the mouse adrenal through a retinohypothalamic pathway independent of an effect on the clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
The brain's master circadian pacemaker resides within the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). SCN clock neurons are entrained to the day/night cycle via the retinohypothalamic tract and the SCN provides temporal information to the central nervous system and to peripheral organs that function as secondary oscillators. The SCN clock-cell network is thought to be the hypothalamic link between the retina and descending autonomic circuits to peripheral organs such as the adrenal gland, thereby entraining those organs to the day/night cycle. However, there are at least three different routes or mechanisms by which retinal signals transmitted to the hypothalamus may be conveyed to peripheral organs: 1) via retinal input to SCN clock neurons; 2) via retinal input to non-clock neurons in the SCN; or 3) via retinal input to hypothalamic regions neighboring the SCN. It is very well documented that light-induced responses of the SCN clock (i.e., clock gene expression, neural activity, and behavioral phase shifts) occur primarily during the subjective night. Thus to determine the role of the SCN clock in transmitting photic signals to descending autonomic circuits, we compared the phase dependency of light-evoked responses in the SCN and a peripheral oscillator, the adrenal gland. We observed light-evoked clock gene expression in the mouse adrenal throughout the subjective day and subjective night. Light also induced adrenal corticosterone secretion during both the subjective day and subjective night. The irradiance threshold for light-evoked adrenal responses was greater during the subjective day compared to the subjective night. These results suggest that retinohypothalamic signals may be relayed to the adrenal clock during the subjective day by a retinal pathway or cellular mechanism that is independent of an effect of light on the SCN neural clock network and thus may be important for the temporal integration of physiology and metabolism.
Simultaneous electrophysiological and fluorescent imaging recording methods were used to study the role of changes of membrane potential or current in regulating the intracellular calcium concentration. Changing environmental conditions, such as the light-dark cycle, can modify neuronal and neural network activity and the expression of a family of circadian clock genes within the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), the location of the master circadian clock in the mammalian brain. Excitatory synaptic transmission leads to an increase in the postsynaptic Ca2+ concentration that is believed to activate the signaling pathways that shifts the rhythmic expression of circadian clock genes. Hypothalamic slices containing the SCN were patch clamped using microelectrodes filled with an internal solution containing the calcium indicator bis-fura-2. After a seal was formed between the microelectrode and the SCN neuronal membrane, the membrane was ruptured using gentle suction and the calcium probe diffused into the neuron filling both the soma and dendrites. Quantitative ratiometric measurements of the intracellular calcium concentration were recorded simultaneously with membrane potential or current. Using these methods it is possible to study the role of changes of the intracellular calcium concentration produced by synaptic activity and action potential firing of individual neurons. In this presentation we demonstrate the methods to simultaneously record electrophysiological activity along with intracellular calcium from individual SCN neurons maintained in brain slices.
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Recording and Analysis of Circadian Rhythms in Running-wheel Activity in Rodents
Authors: Michael Verwey, Barry Robinson, Shimon Amir.
Institutions: McGill University , Concordia University.
When rodents have free access to a running wheel in their home cage, voluntary use of this wheel will depend on the time of day1-5. Nocturnal rodents, including rats, hamsters, and mice, are active during the night and relatively inactive during the day. Many other behavioral and physiological measures also exhibit daily rhythms, but in rodents, running-wheel activity serves as a particularly reliable and convenient measure of the output of the master circadian clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. In general, through a process called entrainment, the daily pattern of running-wheel activity will naturally align with the environmental light-dark cycle (LD cycle; e.g. 12 hr-light:12 hr-dark). However circadian rhythms are endogenously generated patterns in behavior that exhibit a ~24 hr period, and persist in constant darkness. Thus, in the absence of an LD cycle, the recording and analysis of running-wheel activity can be used to determine the subjective time-of-day. Because these rhythms are directed by the circadian clock the subjective time-of-day is referred to as the circadian time (CT). In contrast, when an LD cycle is present, the time-of-day that is determined by the environmental LD cycle is called the zeitgeber time (ZT). Although circadian rhythms in running-wheel activity are typically linked to the SCN clock6-8, circadian oscillators in many other regions of the brain and body9-14 could also be involved in the regulation of daily activity rhythms. For instance, daily rhythms in food-anticipatory activity do not require the SCN15,16 and instead, are correlated with changes in the activity of extra-SCN oscillators17-20. Thus, running-wheel activity recordings can provide important behavioral information not only about the output of the master SCN clock, but also on the activity of extra-SCN oscillators. Below we describe the equipment and methods used to record, analyze and display circadian locomotor activity rhythms in laboratory rodents.
Neuroscience, Issue 71, Medicine, Neurobiology, Physiology, Anatomy, Psychology, Psychiatry, Behavior, Suprachiasmatic nucleus, locomotor activity, mouse, rat, hamster, light-dark cycle, free-running activity, entrainment, circadian period, circadian rhythm, phase shift, animal model
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Slice Preparation, Organotypic Tissue Culturing and Luciferase Recording of Clock Gene Activity in the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus
Authors: Sergey A. Savelyev, Karin C. Larsson, Anne-Sofie Johansson, Gabriella B. S. Lundkvist.
Institutions: Karolinska Institutet.
A central circadian (~24 hr) clock coordinating daily rhythms in physiology and behavior resides in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the anterior hypothalamus. The clock is directly synchronized by light via the retina and optic nerve. Circadian oscillations are generated by interacting negative feedback loops of a number of so called "clock genes" and their protein products, including the Period (Per) genes. The core clock is also dependent on membrane depolarization, calcium and cAMP 1. The SCN shows daily oscillations in clock gene expression, metabolic activity and spontaneous electrical activity. Remarkably, this endogenous cyclic activity persists in adult tissue slices of the SCN 2-4. In this way, the biological clock can easily be studied in vitro, allowing molecular, electrophysiological and metabolic investigations of the pacemaker function. The SCN is a small, well-defined bilateral structure located right above the optic chiasm 5. In the rat it contains ~8.000 neurons in each nucleus and has dimensions of approximately 947 μm (length, rostrocaudal axis) x 424 μm (width) x 390 μm (height) 6. To dissect out the SCN it is necessary to cut a brain slice at the specific level of the brain where the SCN can be identified. Here, we describe the dissecting and slicing procedure of the SCN, which is similar for mouse and rat brains. Further, we show how to culture the dissected tissue organotypically on a membrane 7, a technique developed for SCN tissue culture by Yamazaki et al. 8. Finally, we demonstrate how transgenic tissue can be used for measuring expression of clock genes/proteins using dynamic luciferase reporter technology, a method that originally was used for circadian measurements by Geusz et al. 9. We here use SCN tissues from the transgenic knock-in PERIOD2::LUCIFERASE mice produced by Yoo et al. 10. The mice contain a fusion protein of PERIOD (PER) 2 and the firefly enzyme LUCIFERASE. When PER2 is translated in the presence of the substrate for luciferase, i.e. luciferin, the PER2 expression can be monitored as bioluminescence when luciferase catalyzes the oxidation of luciferin. The number of emitted photons positively correlates to the amount of produced PER2 protein, and the bioluminescence rhythms match the PER2 protein rhythm in vivo 10. In this way the cyclic variation in PER2 expression can be continuously monitored real time during many days. The protocol we follow for tissue culturing and real-time bioluminescence recording has been thoroughly described by Yamazaki and Takahashi 11.
Neuroscience, Issue 48, suprachiasmatic nucleus, mice, organotypic tissue culture, circadian rhythm, clock gene, Period 2, luciferase
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Measuring Circadian and Acute Light Responses in Mice using Wheel Running Activity
Authors: Tara A. LeGates, Cara M. Altimus.
Institutions: John Hopkins University.
Circadian rhythms are physiological functions that cycle over a period of approximately 24 hours (circadian- circa: approximate and diem: day)1, 2. They are responsible for timing our sleep/wake cycles and hormone secretion. Since this timing is not precisely 24-hours, it is synchronized to the solar day by light input. This is accomplished via photic input from the retina to the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which serves as the master pacemaker synchronizing peripheral clocks in other regions of the brain and peripheral tissues to the environmental light dark cycle3-7. The alignment of rhythms to this environmental light dark cycle organizes particular physiological events to the correct temporal niche, which is crucial for survival8. For example, mice sleep during the day and are active at night. This ability to consolidate activity to either the light or dark portion of the day is referred to as circadian photoentrainment and requires light input to the circadian clock9. Activity of mice at night is robust particularly in the presence of a running wheel. Measuring this behavior is a minimally invasive method that can be used to evaluate the functionality of the circadian system as well as light input to this system. Methods that will covered here are used to examine the circadian clock, light input to this system, as well as the direct influence of light on wheel running behavior.
Neuroscience, Issue 48, mouse, circadian, behavior, wheel running
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Monitoring Cell-autonomous Circadian Clock Rhythms of Gene Expression Using Luciferase Bioluminescence Reporters
Authors: Chidambaram Ramanathan, Sanjoy K. Khan, Nimish D. Kathale, Haiyan Xu, Andrew C. Liu.
Institutions: The University of Memphis.
In mammals, many aspects of behavior and physiology such as sleep-wake cycles and liver metabolism are regulated by endogenous circadian clocks (reviewed1,2). The circadian time-keeping system is a hierarchical multi-oscillator network, with the central clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) synchronizing and coordinating extra-SCN and peripheral clocks elsewhere1,2. Individual cells are the functional units for generation and maintenance of circadian rhythms3,4, and these oscillators of different tissue types in the organism share a remarkably similar biochemical negative feedback mechanism. However, due to interactions at the neuronal network level in the SCN and through rhythmic, systemic cues at the organismal level, circadian rhythms at the organismal level are not necessarily cell-autonomous5-7. Compared to traditional studies of locomotor activity in vivo and SCN explants ex vivo, cell-based in vitro assays allow for discovery of cell-autonomous circadian defects5,8. Strategically, cell-based models are more experimentally tractable for phenotypic characterization and rapid discovery of basic clock mechanisms5,8-13. Because circadian rhythms are dynamic, longitudinal measurements with high temporal resolution are needed to assess clock function. In recent years, real-time bioluminescence recording using firefly luciferase as a reporter has become a common technique for studying circadian rhythms in mammals14,15, as it allows for examination of the persistence and dynamics of molecular rhythms. To monitor cell-autonomous circadian rhythms of gene expression, luciferase reporters can be introduced into cells via transient transfection13,16,17 or stable transduction5,10,18,19. Here we describe a stable transduction protocol using lentivirus-mediated gene delivery. The lentiviral vector system is superior to traditional methods such as transient transfection and germline transmission because of its efficiency and versatility: it permits efficient delivery and stable integration into the host genome of both dividing and non-dividing cells20. Once a reporter cell line is established, the dynamics of clock function can be examined through bioluminescence recording. We first describe the generation of P(Per2)-dLuc reporter lines, and then present data from this and other circadian reporters. In these assays, 3T3 mouse fibroblasts and U2OS human osteosarcoma cells are used as cellular models. We also discuss various ways of using these clock models in circadian studies. Methods described here can be applied to a great variety of cell types to study the cellular and molecular basis of circadian clocks, and may prove useful in tackling problems in other biological systems.
Genetics, Issue 67, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Chemical Biology, Circadian clock, firefly luciferase, real-time bioluminescence technology, cell-autonomous model, lentiviral vector, RNA interference (RNAi), high-throughput screening (HTS)
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Viability Assays for Cells in Culture
Authors: Jessica M. Posimo, Ajay S. Unnithan, Amanda M. Gleixner, Hailey J. Choi, Yiran Jiang, Sree H. Pulugulla, Rehana K. Leak.
Institutions: Duquesne University.
Manual cell counts on a microscope are a sensitive means of assessing cellular viability but are time-consuming and therefore expensive. Computerized viability assays are expensive in terms of equipment but can be faster and more objective than manual cell counts. The present report describes the use of three such viability assays. Two of these assays are infrared and one is luminescent. Both infrared assays rely on a 16 bit Odyssey Imager. One infrared assay uses the DRAQ5 stain for nuclei combined with the Sapphire stain for cytosol and is visualized in the 700 nm channel. The other infrared assay, an In-Cell Western, uses antibodies against cytoskeletal proteins (α-tubulin or microtubule associated protein 2) and labels them in the 800 nm channel. The third viability assay is a commonly used luminescent assay for ATP, but we use a quarter of the recommended volume to save on cost. These measurements are all linear and correlate with the number of cells plated, but vary in sensitivity. All three assays circumvent time-consuming microscopy and sample the entire well, thereby reducing sampling error. Finally, all of the assays can easily be completed within one day of the end of the experiment, allowing greater numbers of experiments to be performed within short timeframes. However, they all rely on the assumption that cell numbers remain in proportion to signal strength after treatments, an assumption that is sometimes not met, especially for cellular ATP. Furthermore, if cells increase or decrease in size after treatment, this might affect signal strength without affecting cell number. We conclude that all viability assays, including manual counts, suffer from a number of caveats, but that computerized viability assays are well worth the initial investment. Using all three assays together yields a comprehensive view of cellular structure and function.
Cellular Biology, Issue 83, In-cell Western, DRAQ5, Sapphire, Cell Titer Glo, ATP, primary cortical neurons, toxicity, protection, N-acetyl cysteine, hormesis
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In vivo Imaging of Optic Nerve Fiber Integrity by Contrast-Enhanced MRI in Mice
Authors: Stefanie Fischer, Christian Engelmann, Karl-Heinz Herrmann, Jürgen R. Reichenbach, Otto W. Witte, Falk Weih, Alexandra Kretz, Ronny Haenold.
Institutions: Jena University Hospital, Fritz Lipmann Institute, Jena, Jena University Hospital.
The rodent visual system encompasses retinal ganglion cells and their axons that form the optic nerve to enter thalamic and midbrain centers, and postsynaptic projections to the visual cortex. Based on its distinct anatomical structure and convenient accessibility, it has become the favored structure for studies on neuronal survival, axonal regeneration, and synaptic plasticity. Recent advancements in MR imaging have enabled the in vivo visualization of the retino-tectal part of this projection using manganese mediated contrast enhancement (MEMRI). Here, we present a MEMRI protocol for illustration of the visual projection in mice, by which resolutions of (200 µm)3 can be achieved using common 3 Tesla scanners. We demonstrate how intravitreal injection of a single dosage of 15 nmol MnCl2 leads to a saturated enhancement of the intact projection within 24 hr. With exception of the retina, changes in signal intensity are independent of coincided visual stimulation or physiological aging. We further apply this technique to longitudinally monitor axonal degeneration in response to acute optic nerve injury, a paradigm by which Mn2+ transport completely arrests at the lesion site. Conversely, active Mn2+ transport is quantitatively proportionate to the viability, number, and electrical activity of axon fibers. For such an analysis, we exemplify Mn2+ transport kinetics along the visual path in a transgenic mouse model (NF-κB p50KO) displaying spontaneous atrophy of sensory, including visual, projections. In these mice, MEMRI indicates reduced but not delayed Mn2+ transport as compared to wild type mice, thus revealing signs of structural and/or functional impairments by NF-κB mutations. In summary, MEMRI conveniently bridges in vivo assays and post mortem histology for the characterization of nerve fiber integrity and activity. It is highly useful for longitudinal studies on axonal degeneration and regeneration, and investigations of mutant mice for genuine or inducible phenotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 89, manganese-enhanced MRI, mouse retino-tectal projection, visual system, neurodegeneration, optic nerve injury, NF-κB
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Automated, Quantitative Cognitive/Behavioral Screening of Mice: For Genetics, Pharmacology, Animal Cognition and Undergraduate Instruction
Authors: C. R. Gallistel, Fuat Balci, David Freestone, Aaron Kheifets, Adam King.
Institutions: Rutgers University, Koç University, New York University, Fairfield University.
We describe a high-throughput, high-volume, fully automated, live-in 24/7 behavioral testing system for assessing the effects of genetic and pharmacological manipulations on basic mechanisms of cognition and learning in mice. A standard polypropylene mouse housing tub is connected through an acrylic tube to a standard commercial mouse test box. The test box has 3 hoppers, 2 of which are connected to pellet feeders. All are internally illuminable with an LED and monitored for head entries by infrared (IR) beams. Mice live in the environment, which eliminates handling during screening. They obtain their food during two or more daily feeding periods by performing in operant (instrumental) and Pavlovian (classical) protocols, for which we have written protocol-control software and quasi-real-time data analysis and graphing software. The data analysis and graphing routines are written in a MATLAB-based language created to simplify greatly the analysis of large time-stamped behavioral and physiological event records and to preserve a full data trail from raw data through all intermediate analyses to the published graphs and statistics within a single data structure. The data-analysis code harvests the data several times a day and subjects it to statistical and graphical analyses, which are automatically stored in the "cloud" and on in-lab computers. Thus, the progress of individual mice is visualized and quantified daily. The data-analysis code talks to the protocol-control code, permitting the automated advance from protocol to protocol of individual subjects. The behavioral protocols implemented are matching, autoshaping, timed hopper-switching, risk assessment in timed hopper-switching, impulsivity measurement, and the circadian anticipation of food availability. Open-source protocol-control and data-analysis code makes the addition of new protocols simple. Eight test environments fit in a 48 in x 24 in x 78 in cabinet; two such cabinets (16 environments) may be controlled by one computer.
Behavior, Issue 84, genetics, cognitive mechanisms, behavioral screening, learning, memory, timing
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Design and Analysis of Temperature Preference Behavior and its Circadian Rhythm in Drosophila
Authors: Tadahiro Goda, Jennifer R. Leslie, Fumika N. Hamada.
Institutions: Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center, JST.
The circadian clock regulates many aspects of life, including sleep, locomotor activity, and body temperature (BTR) rhythms1,2. We recently identified a novel Drosophila circadian output, called the temperature preference rhythm (TPR), in which the preferred temperature in flies rises during the day and falls during the night 3. Surprisingly, the TPR and locomotor activity are controlled through distinct circadian neurons3. Drosophila locomotor activity is a well known circadian behavioral output and has provided strong contributions to the discovery of many conserved mammalian circadian clock genes and mechanisms4. Therefore, understanding TPR will lead to the identification of hitherto unknown molecular and cellular circadian mechanisms. Here, we describe how to perform and analyze the TPR assay. This technique not only allows for dissecting the molecular and neural mechanisms of TPR, but also provides new insights into the fundamental mechanisms of the brain functions that integrate different environmental signals and regulate animal behaviors. Furthermore, our recently published data suggest that the fly TPR shares features with the mammalian BTR3. Drosophila are ectotherms, in which the body temperature is typically behaviorally regulated. Therefore, TPR is a strategy used to generate a rhythmic body temperature in these flies5-8. We believe that further exploration of Drosophila TPR will facilitate the characterization of the mechanisms underlying body temperature control in animals.
Basic Protocol, Issue 83, Drosophila, circadian clock, temperature, temperature preference rhythm, locomotor activity, body temperature rhythms
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The FlyBar: Administering Alcohol to Flies
Authors: Kim van der Linde, Emiliano Fumagalli, Gregg Roman, Lisa C. Lyons.
Institutions: Florida State University, University of Houston.
Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) are an established model for both alcohol research and circadian biology. Recently, we showed that the circadian clock modulates alcohol sensitivity, but not the formation of tolerance. Here, we describe our protocol in detail. Alcohol is administered to the flies using the FlyBar. In this setup, saturated alcohol vapor is mixed with humidified air in set proportions, and administered to the flies in four tubes simultaneously. Flies are reared under standardized conditions in order to minimize variation between the replicates. Three-day old flies of different genotypes or treatments are used for the experiments, preferably by matching flies of two different time points (e.g., CT 5 and CT 17) making direct comparisons possible. During the experiment, flies are exposed for 1 hr to the pre-determined percentage of alcohol vapor and the number of flies that exhibit the Loss of Righting reflex (LoRR) or sedation are counted every 5 min. The data can be analyzed using three different statistical approaches. The first is to determine the time at which 50% of the flies have lost their righting reflex and use an Analysis of the Variance (ANOVA) to determine whether significant differences exist between time points. The second is to determine the percentage flies that show LoRR after a specified number of minutes, followed by an ANOVA analysis. The last method is to analyze the whole times series using multivariate statistics. The protocol can also be used for non-circadian experiments or comparisons between genotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 87, neuroscience, alcohol sensitivity, Drosophila, Circadian, sedation, biological rhythms, undergraduate research
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Laser Capture Microdissection of Enriched Populations of Neurons or Single Neurons for Gene Expression Analysis After Traumatic Brain Injury
Authors: Deborah R. Boone, Stacy L. Sell, Helen Lee Hellmich.
Institutions: University of Texas Medical Branch.
Long-term cognitive disability after TBI is associated with injury-induced neurodegeneration in the hippocampus-a region in the medial temporal lobe that is critical for learning, memory and executive function.1,2 Hence our studies focus on gene expression analysis of specific neuronal populations in distinct subregions of the hippocampus. The technique of laser capture microdissection (LCM), introduced in 1996 by Emmert-Buck, et al.,3 has allowed for significant advances in gene expression analysis of single cells and enriched populations of cells from heterogeneous tissues such as the mammalian brain that contains thousands of functional cell types.4 We use LCM and a well established rat model of traumatic brain injury (TBI) to investigate the molecular mechanisms that underlie the pathogenesis of TBI. Following fluid-percussion TBI, brains are removed at pre-determined times post-injury, immediately frozen on dry ice, and prepared for sectioning in a cryostat. The rat brains can be embedded in OCT and sectioned immediately, or stored several months at -80 °C before sectioning for laser capture microdissection. Additionally, we use LCM to study the effects of TBI on circadian rhythms. For this, we capture neurons from the suprachiasmatic nuclei that contain the master clock of the mammalian brain. Here, we demonstrate the use of LCM to obtain single identified neurons (injured and degenerating, Fluoro-Jade-positive, or uninjured, Fluoro-Jade-negative) and enriched populations of hippocampal neurons for subsequent gene expression analysis by real time PCR and/or whole-genome microarrays. These LCM-enabled studies have revealed that the selective vulnerability of anatomically distinct regions of the rat hippocampus are reflected in the different gene expression profiles of different populations of neurons obtained by LCM from these distinct regions. The results from our single-cell studies, where we compare the transcriptional profiles of dying and adjacent surviving hippocampal neurons, suggest the existence of a cell survival rheostat that regulates cell death and survival after TBI.
Neuroscience, Issue 74, Neurobiology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Surgery, Anesthesiology, Micromanipulation, Microdissection, Laser Capture Microdissection, LCM, Investigative Techniques, traumatic brain injury, TBI, hippocampus, Fluoro-Jade, gene expression analysis, gene expression, neurons, animal model
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Light Preference Assay to Study Innate and Circadian Regulated Photobehavior in Drosophila Larvae
Authors: Abud J. Farca Luna, Alina M. H. J. von Essen, Yves F. Widmer, Simon G. Sprecher.
Institutions: University of Fribourg.
Light acts as environmental signal to control animal behavior at various levels. The Drosophila larval nervous system is used as a unique model to answer basic questions on how light information is processed and shared between rapid and circadian behaviors. Drosophila larvae display a stereotypical avoidance behavior when exposed to light. To investigate light dependent behaviors comparably simple light-dark preference tests can be applied. In vertebrates and arthropods the neural pathways involved in sensing and processing visual inputs partially overlap with those processing photic circadian information. The fascinating question of how the light sensing system and the circadian system interact to keep behavioral outputs coordinated remains largely unexplored. Drosophila is an impacting biological model to approach these questions, due to a small number of neurons in the brain and the availability of genetic tools for neuronal manipulation. The presented light-dark preference assay allows the investigation of a range of visual behaviors including circadian control of phototaxis.
Neuroscience, Issue 74, Developmental Biology, Neurobiology, Behavior, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Light, preference test, Drosophila, larva, fruit fly, visual behavior, circadian rhythm, visual system, animal model, assay
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Cut-loading: A Useful Tool for Examining the Extent of Gap Junction Tracer Coupling Between Retinal Neurons
Authors: Hee Joo Choi, Christophe P. Ribelayga, Stuart C. Mangel.
Institutions: Ohio State University College of Medicine, University of Texas Medical School.
In addition to chemical synaptic transmission, neurons that are connected by gap junctions can also communicate rapidly via electrical synaptic transmission. Increasing evidence indicates that gap junctions not only permit electrical current flow and synchronous activity between interconnected or coupled cells, but that the strength or effectiveness of electrical communication between coupled cells can be modulated to a great extent1,2. In addition, the large internal diameter (~1.2 nm) of many gap junction channels permits not only electric current flow, but also the diffusion of intracellular signaling molecules and small metabolites between interconnected cells, so that gap junctions may also mediate metabolic and chemical communication. The strength of gap junctional communication between neurons and its modulation by neurotransmitters and other factors can be studied by simultaneously electrically recording from coupled cells and by determining the extent of diffusion of tracer molecules, which are gap junction permeable, but not membrane permeable, following iontophoretic injection into single cells. However, these procedures can be extremely difficult to perform on neurons with small somata in intact neural tissue. Numerous studies on electrical synapses and the modulation of electrical communication have been conducted in the vertebrate retina, since each of the five retinal neuron types is electrically connected by gap junctions3,4. Increasing evidence has shown that the circadian (24-hour) clock in the retina and changes in light stimulation regulate gap junction coupling3-8. For example, recent work has demonstrated that the retinal circadian clock decreases gap junction coupling between rod and cone photoreceptor cells during the day by increasing dopamine D2 receptor activation, and dramatically increases rod-cone coupling at night by reducing D2 receptor activation7,8. However, not only are these studies extremely difficult to perform on neurons with small somata in intact neural retinal tissue, but it can be difficult to adequately control the illumination conditions during the electrophysiological study of single retinal neurons to avoid light-induced changes in gap junction conductance. Here, we present a straightforward method of determining the extent of gap junction tracer coupling between retinal neurons under different illumination conditions and at different times of the day and night. This cut-loading technique is a modification of scrape loading9-12, which is based on dye loading and diffusion through open gap junction channels. Scrape loading works well in cultured cells, but not in thick slices such as intact retinas. The cut-loading technique has been used to study photoreceptor coupling in intact fish and mammalian retinas7, 8,13, and can be used to study coupling between other retinal neurons, as described here.
Neuroscience, Issue 59, retina, photoreceptors, gap junctions, tracer coupling, neurobiotin, labeling
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Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Authors: Brittany Baierlein, Alison L. Thurow, Harold L. Atwood, Robin L. Cooper.
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+ on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
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Using the Horseshoe Crab, Limulus Polyphemus, in Vision Research
Authors: Jiahui S. Liu, Christopher L. Passaglia.
Institutions: Boston University.
The American horseshoe crab, Limulus Polyphemus is one of the oldest creatures on earth, and the animal continues to play an indispensable role in biomedical research. Not only does their blood contain special cells that scientists use to detect bacteriotoxins in our medicines, but their eyes also contain a neural network that has provided much insight about physiological processes operating in our visual system, such as light adaptation and lateral inhibition. The horseshoe crab remains an attractive model for vision research because the animal is large and hardy for an invertebrate, its retinal neurons are big and easily accessible, its visual system is compact and extensively studied, and its visual behavior is well defined. Moreover, the structure and function of the eyes are modulated on a daily basis by a circadian clock in the animal s brain. In short, the visual system of horseshoe crabs is simple enough to be understood yet complex enough to be interesting. In this video we present three electrophysiological paradigms for investigating the neural basis of vision that can be performed in vivo with Limulus. They are electroretinogram recording, optic nerve recording, and intraretinal recording. Electroretinogram (ERG) recordings measure with a surface electrode the summed electrical response of all cells in the eye to a flash of light. They can be used to monitor the overall sensitivity of the eye for prolong periods of time. Optic nerve recordings measure the spiking activity of single nerve fibers with an extracellular microsuction electrode. They can be used to study visual messages conveyed from the eye to the brain as well as circadian-clock messages fed back from the brain to the eye. Intraretinal recordings measure with an intracellular microelectrode the voltage fluctuations induced by light in individual cells of the eye. They can be used to elucidate cellular mechanisms of retinal processing.
Neuroscience, Issue 29, electroretinogram, intracellular recording, extracellular recording, retina
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Mouse Adrenal Chromaffin Cell Isolation
Authors: Aaron Kolski-Andreaco, Haijiang Cai, D. Spencer Currle, K. George Chandy, Robert H. Chow.
Institutions: University of California, Irvine (UCI), University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine (UCI).
Adrenal medullary chromaffin cell culture systems are extremely useful for the study of excitation-secretion coupling in an in vitro setting. This protocol illustrates the method used to dissect the adrenals and then isolate the medullary region by stripping away the adrenal cortex. The digestion of the medulla into single chromaffin cells is then demonstrated.
Developmental Biology, Issue 2, Neuroscience, mouse, adrenal
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