In previous work, we found that the protein messenger Jacob is involved in N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) signaling to the nucleus and cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) mediated gene expression in hippocampal primary neurons. Particularly, extrasynaptic NMDAR activation drives Jacob efficiently into the nucleus where it then induces gene expression that promotes neurodegeneration. However, the protein also translocates to the nucleus in CA1 neurons after Schaffer collateral long-term potentiation (LTP) but not long-term depression (LTD), suggesting that Jacob might be involved in hippocampal and LTP-dependent learning and memory processes. Not much is known about the cellular and subcellular distribution of the protein in brain. In this paper, we provide an overview of the expression of Jacob in rat brain with special emphasis on the hippocampus. We show that Jacob is abundant in hippocampal pyramidal neurons and interneurons but absent from astrocytes and microglia. Interestingly, we found that Jacob is also present in mossy fiber axons. Double immunofluorescence confocal laser scans with presynaptic markers demonstrate that Jacob is indeed found at excitatory but not inhibitory presynaptic sites. Accordingly, we found no substantial co-localization of Jacob with a postsynaptic marker of inhibitory synapses, gephyrin. In contrast, almost all postsynaptic density protein 95 (PSD-95) positive excitatory postsynaptic sites also exhibited strong Jacob-immunofluorescence. Taken together, these data support a synaptic and nuclear role of Jacob that implicates long-distance NMDAR signaling to the nucleus in excitatory neurons.
Many cellular structures and organelles are too small to be properly resolved by conventional light microscopy. This is particularly true for dendritic spines and glial processes, which are very small, dynamic, and embedded in dense tissue, making it difficult to image them under realistic experimental conditions. Two-photon microscopy is currently the method of choice for imaging in thick living tissue preparations, both in acute brain slices and in vivo. However, the spatial resolution of a two-photon microscope, which is limited to ~350 nm by the diffraction of light, is not sufficient for resolving many important details of neural morphology, such as the width of spine necks or thin glial processes. Recently developed superresolution approaches, such as stimulated emission depletion microscopy, have set new standards of optical resolution in imaging living tissue. However, the important goal of superresolution imaging with significant subdiffraction resolution has not yet been accomplished in acute brain slices. To overcome this limitation, we have developed a new microscope based on two-photon excitation and pulsed stimulated emission depletion microscopy, which provides unprecedented spatial resolution and excellent experimental access in acute brain slices using a long-working distance objective. The new microscope improves on the spatial resolution of a regular two-photon microscope by a factor of four to six, and it is compatible with time-lapse and simultaneous two-color superresolution imaging in living cells. We demonstrate the potential of this nanoscopy approach for brain slice physiology by imaging the morphology of dendritic spines and microglial cells well below the surface of acute brain slices.
The activation of N-methyl-D-aspartate-receptors (NMDARs) in synapses provides plasticity and cell survival signals, whereas NMDARs residing in the neuronal membrane outside synapses trigger neurodegeneration. At present, it is unclear how these opposing signals are transduced to and discriminated by the nucleus. In this study, we demonstrate that Jacob is a protein messenger that encodes the origin of synaptic versus extrasynaptic NMDAR signals and delivers them to the nucleus. Exclusively synaptic, but not extrasynaptic, NMDAR activation induces phosphorylation of Jacob at serine-180 by ERK1/2. Long-distance trafficking of Jacob from synaptic, but not extrasynaptic, sites depends on ERK activity, and association with fragments of the intermediate filament ?-internexin hinders dephosphorylation of the Jacob/ERK complex during nuclear transit. In the nucleus, the phosphorylation state of Jacob determines whether it induces cell death or promotes cell survival and enhances synaptic plasticity.
In recent years a number of potential synapto-nuclear protein messengers have been characterized that are thought to be involved in plasticity-related gene expression, and that have the capacity of importin- mediated and activity-dependent nuclear import. However, there is a surprising paucity of data showing the nuclear import of such proteins in cellular models of learning and memory. Only recently it was found that the transcription factor cyclic AMP response element binding protein 2 (CREB2) transits to the nucleus during long-term depression (LTD), but not during long-term potentiation (LTP) of synaptic transmission in hippocampal primary neurons. Jacob is another messenger that couples NMDA-receptor-activity to nuclear gene expression. We therefore aimed to study whether Jacob accumulates in the nucleus in physiological relevant models of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity.
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