POU-domain factor Brn3a regulates both distinct and common programs of gene expression in the spinal and trigeminal sensory ganglia.
ABSTRACT: General somatic sensation is conveyed to the central nervous system at cranial levels by the trigeminal ganglion (TG), and at spinal levels by the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Although these ganglia have similar functions, they have distinct embryological origins, in that both contain neurons originating from the neural crest, while only the TG includes cells derived from the placodal ectoderm.Here we use microarray analysis of E13.5 embryos to demonstrate that the developing DRG and TG have very similar overall patterns of gene expression. In mice lacking the POU-domain transcription factor Brn3a, the DRG and TG exhibit many common changes in gene expression, but a subset of Brn3a target genes show increased expression only in the TG. In the wild-type TG these Brn3a-repressed genes are silent, yet their promoter regions exhibit histone H3-acetylation levels similar to constitutively transcribed gene loci. This increased H3-acetylation is not observed in the DRG, suggesting that chromatin modifications play a role in cell-specific target gene regulation by Brn3a.These results demonstrate that one developmental role of Brn3a is to repress potential differences in gene expression between sensory neurons generated at different axial levels, and to regulate a convergent program of developmental gene expression, in which functionally similar populations of neurons are generated from different embryological substrates.
Project description:General somatic sensation is conveyed to the central nervous system at cranial levels by the trigeminal ganglion (TG), and at spinal levels by the dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Although these ganglia have similar functions, they have distinct embryological origins, in that both contain neurons originating from the neural crest, while only the TG includes cells derived from the placodal ectoderm. Here we use microarray analysis of E13.5 embryos to demonstrate that the developing DRG and TG have very similar overall patterns of gene expression. In mice lacking the POU-domain transcription factor Brn3a the DRG and TG exhibit many common changes in downstream gene expression, but a subset of genes show increased expression only at cranial levels. Although silent in wild-type ganglia, the promoter regions of genes which are activated in the absence of Brn3a also exhibit increased histone H3-acetylation at levels similar to constitutively transcribed gene loci, and this H3-acetylation is tissue-specific for genes which are increased only in the TG. These results demonstrate that one developmental role of Brn3a is to repress potential differences in gene expression between sensory neurons generated at different axial levels, and to regulate a convergent program of developmental gene expression, in which functionally similar populations of neurons are generated from different embryological substrates. Experiment Overall Design: Microarrays used to compare the patterns of gene expression in the dorsal root ganglia and trigeminal ganglia of Brn3a knockout and wild-type mice. Embryonic day 13.5 (E13.5) was chosen because at this point in development mutant mice exhibit major defects in sensory axon growth, but have yet to undergo the period of extensive sensory neuron death associated with later stages.
Project description:The combinatorial expression of transcription factors frequently marks cellular identity in the nervous system, yet how these factors interact to determine specific neuronal phenotypes is not well understood. Sensory neurons of the trigeminal ganglion (TG) and dorsal root ganglia (DRG) coexpress the homeodomain transcription factors Brn3a and Islet1, and past work has revealed partially overlapping programs of gene expression downstream of these factors. Here we examine sensory development in Brn3a/Islet1 double knock-out (DKO) mice. Sensory neurogenesis and the formation of the TG and DRG occur in DKO embryos, but the DRG are dorsally displaced, and the peripheral projections of the ganglia are markedly disturbed. Sensory neurons in DKO embryos show a profound loss of all early markers of sensory subtypes, including the Ntrk neurotrophin receptors, and the runt-family transcription factors Runx1 and Runx3. Examination of global gene expression in the E12.5 DRG of single and double mutant embryos shows that Brn3a and Islet1 are together required for nearly all aspects of sensory-specific gene expression, including several newly identified sensory markers. On a majority of targets, Brn3a and Islet1 exhibit negative epistasis, in which the effects of the individual knock-out alleles are less than additive in the DKO. Smaller subsets of targets exhibit positive epistasis, or are regulated exclusively by one factor. Brn3a/Islet1 double mutants also fail to developmentally repress neurogenic bHLH genes, and in vivo chromatin immunoprecipitation shows that Islet1 binds to a known Brn3a-regulated enhancer in the neurod4 gene, suggesting a mechanism of interaction between these genes.
Project description:The transcription factor Brn3a, product of the pou4f1 gene, is expressed in most sensory neurons throughout embryogenesis. Prior work has demonstrated a role for Brn3a in the repression of early neurogenic genes; here we describe a second major role for Brn3a in the specification of sensory subtypes in the trigeminal ganglion (TG). Sensory neurons initially co-express multiple Trk-family neurotrophin receptors, but are later marked by the unique expression of TrkA, TrkB or TrkC. Maturation of these sensory subtypes is known to depend on the expression of Runx transcription factors. Newborn Brn3a knockout mice fail to express TrkC, which is associated in the TG with mechanoreceptors, plus a set of functional genes associated with nociceptor subtypes. In embryonic Brn3a-/- ganglia, the normal expression of Runx3 is never initiated in TrkC+ neurons, and Runx1 expression is greatly attenuated in TrkA+ nociceptors. These changes are accompanied by expanded expression of TrkB in neurons that abnormally express multiple Trks, followed by the loss of TrkC and TrkA expression. In transgenic embryos expressing a Brn3a-VP16 dominant transactivator, Runx3 mRNA expression is increased, suggesting that it is a direct regulatory target of Brn3a. Chromatin immunoprecipitation confirms that Brn3a binds in vivo to a conserved upstream enhancer element within histone H3-acetylated chromatin in the Runx3 locus. Together these data show that Brn3a acts upstream of the Runx factors, which then repress TrkB expression to allow establishment of the non-overlapping Trk receptor profiles and correct terminally differentiated phenotypes.
Project description:The sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) must project accurately to their central targets to convey proprioceptive, nociceptive and mechanoreceptive information to the spinal cord. How these different sensory modalities and central connectivities are specified and coordinated still remains unclear. Given the expression of the POU homeodomain transcription factors Brn3a/Pou4f1 and Brn3b/Pou4f2 in DRG and spinal cord sensory neurons, we determined the subtype specification of DRG and spinal cord sensory neurons as well as DRG central projections in Brn3a and Brn3b single and double mutant mice. Inactivation of either or both genes causes no gross abnormalities in early spinal cord neurogenesis; however, in Brn3a single and Brn3a;Brn3b double mutant mice, sensory afferent axons from the DRG fail to form normal trajectories in the spinal cord. The TrkA(+) afferents remain outside the dorsal horn and fail to extend into the spinal cord, while the projections of TrkC(+) proprioceptive afferents into the ventral horn are also impaired. Moreover, Brn3a mutant DRGs are defective in sensory neuron specification, as marked by the excessive generation of TrkB(+) and TrkC(+) neurons as well as TrkA(+)/TrkB(+) and TrkA(+)/TrkC(+) double positive cells at early embryonic stages. At later stages in the mutant, TrkB(+), TrkC(+) and parvalbumin(+) neurons diminish while there is a significant increase of CGRP(+) and c-ret(+) neurons. In addition, Brn3a mutant DRGs display a dramatic down-regulation of Runx1 expression, suggesting that the regulation of DRG sensory neuron specification by Brn3a is mediated in part by Runx1. Our results together demonstrate a critical role for Brn3a in generating DRG sensory neuron diversity and regulating sensory afferent projections to the central targets.
Project description:The dorsal root ganglia (DRG) and trigeminal ganglia (TG) are clusters of cell bodies of highly specialized sensory neurons which are responsible for relaying information about our environment to the central nervous system. Despite previous efforts to characterize sensory neurons at the molecular level, it is still unknown whether those present in DRG and TG have distinct expression profiles and therefore a unique molecular fingerprint. To address this question, we isolated lumbar DRG and TG neurons using fluorescence-activated cell sorting from Advillin-GFP transgenic mice and performed RNA sequencing. Our transcriptome analyses showed that, despite being overwhelmingly similar, a number of genes are differentially expressed in DRG and TG neurons. Importantly, we identified 24 genes which were uniquely expressed in either ganglia, including an arginine vasopressin receptor and several homeobox genes, giving each population a distinct molecular fingerprint. We compared our findings with published studies to reveal that many genes previously reported to be present in neurons are in fact likely to originate from other cell types in the ganglia. Additionally, our neuron-specific results aligned well with a dataset examining whole human TG and DRG. We propose that the data can both improve our understanding of primary afferent biology and help contribute to the development of drug treatments and gene therapies which seek targets with unique or restricted expression patterns.
Project description:Many chronic pain conditions show sex differences in their epidemiology. This could be attributed to sex-dependent differential expression of genes (DEGs) involved in nociceptive pathways, including sensory neurons. This study aimed to identify sex-dependent DEGs in estrous female versus male sensory neurons, which were prepared by using different approaches and ganglion types. RNA-seq on non-purified sensory neuronal preparations, such as whole dorsal root ganglion (DRG) and hindpaw tissues, revealed only a few sex-dependent DEGs. Sensory neuron purification increased numbers of sex-dependent DEGs. These DEG sets were substantially influenced by preparation approaches and ganglion types [DRG vs trigeminal ganglia (TG)]. Percoll-gradient enriched DRG and TG neuronal fractions produced distinct sex-dependent DEG groups. We next isolated a subset of sensory neurons by sorting DRG neurons back-labeled from paw and thigh muscle. These neurons have a unique sex-dependent DEG set, yet there is similarity in biological processes linked to these different groups of sex-dependent DEGs. Female-predominant DEGs in sensory neurons relate to inflammatory, synaptic transmission and extracellular matrix reorganization processes that could exacerbate neuro-inflammation severity, especially in TG. Male-selective DEGs were linked to oxidative phosphorylation and protein/molecule metabolism and production. Our findings catalog preparation-dependent sex differences in neuronal gene expressions in sensory ganglia.
Project description:The POU-domain transcription factor Brn3a is expressed in developing sensory neurons at all levels of the neural axis, including the trigeminal ganglion, hindbrain sensory ganglia, and dorsal root ganglia. Changes in global gene expression in the trigeminal ganglion from E11.5 to E13.5 reflect the repression of early neurogenic genes, exit from the cell cycle, and initiation of the expression of definitive markers of sensory function. A majority of these developmental changes are perturbed in the trigeminal ganglia of Brn3a knockout mice. At E13.5, Brn3a(-/-) trigeminal neurons fail to repress a battery of developmental regulators that are highly expressed at E11.5 and are normally down-regulated as development progresses, and also fail to appropriately activate a set of definitive sensory genes. Remarkably, developing Brn3a(-/-) trigeminal neurons also ectopically express multiple regulatory genes associated with cardiac and/or cranial mesoderm development, although definitive myogenic programs are not activated. The majority of these genes are not ectopically expressed in the dorsal root ganglia of Brn3a null mice, perhaps due to redundant mechanisms of repression at spinal levels. These results underscore the importance of gene repression in regulating neuronal development, and the need for unbiased screens in the determination of developmental gene regulatory programs.
Project description:The chemosensory capacity of the somatosensory system relies on the appropriate expression of chemoreceptors, which detect chemical stimuli and transduce sensory information into cellular signals. Knowledge of the complete repertoire of the chemoreceptors expressed in human sensory ganglia is lacking. This study employed the next-generation sequencing technique (RNA-Seq) to conduct the first expression analysis of human trigeminal ganglia (TG) and dorsal root ganglia (DRG). We analyzed the data with a focus on G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) and ion channels, which are (potentially) involved in chemosensation by somatosensory neurons in the human TG and DRG. For years, transient receptor potential (TRP) channels have been considered the main group of receptors for chemosensation in the trigeminal system. Interestingly, we could show that sensory ganglia also express a panel of different olfactory receptors (ORs) with putative chemosensory function. To characterize OR expression in more detail, we performed microarray, semi-quantitative RT-PCR experiments, and immunohistochemical staining. Additionally, we analyzed the expression data to identify further known or putative classes of chemoreceptors in the human TG and DRG. Our results give an overview of the major classes of chemoreceptors expressed in the human TG and DRG and provide the basis for a broader understanding of the reception of chemical cues.
Project description:Numerous transcription factors have been identified which have profound effects on developing neurons. A fundamental problem is to identify genes downstream of these factors and order them in developmental pathways. We have previously identified 85 genes with changed expression in the trigeminal ganglia of mice lacking Brn3a, a transcription factor encoded by the Pou4f1 gene. Here we use locus-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation in embryonic trigeminal neurons to show that Brn3a is a direct repressor of two of these downstream genes, NeuroD1 and NeuroD4, and also directly modulates its own expression. Comparison of Brn3a binding to the Pou4f1 locus in vitro and in vivo reveals that not all high affinity sites are occupied, and several Brn3a binding sites identified in the promoters of genes that are silent in sensory ganglia are also not occupied in vivo. Site occupancy by Brn3a can be correlated with evolutionary conservation of the genomic regions containing the recognition sites and also with histone modifications found in regions of chromatin active in transcription and gene regulation, suggesting that Brn3a binding is highly context dependent.
Project description:Because intractable itch reduces quality of life, understanding the fundamental mechanisms of itch is required to develop antipruritic treatments. Itch is mediated by peripheral sensory neurons, which originate from the neural crest (NC) during development. Itch-associated signaling molecules have been detected in genetically engineered animals and in cultures of peripheral neurons from dorsal root ganglia (DRG). Ethical difficulties collecting peripheral neurons from human DRG have limited analysis of itch in humans. This study describes a method of differentiating peripheral neurons from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) for physiological study of itch. This method resulted in the robust induction of p75 and HNK1 double-positive NC cells from hiPSCs. The expression of NC markers TFAP2A, SOX10 and SNAI1 increased during NC induction. The induction efficiency was nearly 90%, and human peripheral neurons expressing peripherin were efficiently differentiated from hiPSC-derived NC cells. Moreover, induced peripheral neurons expressed the sensory neuronal marker BRN3A and the itch-related receptors HRH1, MRGPRX1, IL31R and IL-4R. Calcium imaging analyses indicated that these peripheral neurons included sensory neurons responsive to itch-related stimuli such as histamine, BAM8-22, IL-31 and IL-4. These findings may enable detailed analyses of human DRG neurons and may result in new therapies for intractable itch.