Ultrastructural characterization of the optic pathway in a mouse model of neurofibromatosis-1 optic glioma.
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to investigate the progression of changes in retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve glia in neurofibromatosis-1 (NF1) genetically-engineered mice with optic glioma. Optic glioma tumors were generated in Nf1+/- mice lacking Nf1 expression in GFAP+ cells (astrocytes). Standard immunohistochemistry methods were employed to identify astrocytes (GFAP, S100beta), proliferating progenitor cells (sox2, nestin), microglia (Iba1), endothelial cells (CD31) and retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons (Neurofilament 68k) in Nf1+/-, Nf1(GFAP)CKO (wild-type mice with Nf1 loss in glial cells), and Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO (Nf1+/- mice with Nf1 loss in glial cells) mice. Ultrastructural changes in the optic chiasm and nerve were assessed by electron microscopy (EM). RGC were counted in whole retina preparations using high-resolution, mosaic confocal microscopy following their delineation by retrograde FluoroGold labeling. We found that only Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO mice exhibited gross pre-chiasmatic optic nerve and chiasm enlargements containing aggregated GFAP+/nestin+ and S100beta+/sox2+ cells (neoplastic glia) as well as increased numbers of blood vessels and microglia. Optic gliomas in Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO mice contained axon fiber irregularities and multilamellar bodies of degenerated myelin. EM and EM tomographic analyses showed increased glial disorganization, disoriented axonal projections, profiles of degenerating myelin and structural alterations at nodes of Ranvier. Lastly, we found reduced RGC numbers in Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO mice, supporting a model in which the combination of optic nerve Nf1 heterozygosity and glial cell Nf1 loss results in disrupted axonal-glial relationships, subsequently culminating in the degeneration of optic nerve axons and loss of their parent RGC neurons.
Project description:Individuals with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) are prone to develop optic pathway gliomas that can result in significant visual impairment. To explore the cellular basis for the reduced visual function resulting from optic glioma formation, we used a genetically engineered mouse model of Nf1 optic glioma (Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO mice). We performed multimodal functional and structural analyses both before and after the appearance of macroscopic tumors. At 6 weeks of age, before obvious glioma formation, Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO mice had decreased visual-evoked potential amplitudes and increased optic nerve axon calibers. By 3 months of age, Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO mice exhibited pronounced optic nerve axonopathy and apoptosis of neurons in the retinal ganglion cell layer. Magnetic resonance diffusion tensor imaging showed a progressive increase in radial diffusivity between 6 weeks and 6 months of age in the optic nerve proximal to the tumor indicating ongoing deterioration of axons. These data suggest that optic glioma formation results in early axonal disorganization and damage, which culminates in retinal ganglion cell death. Collectively, this study shows that Nf1+/-(GFAP)CKO mice can provide a useful model for defining mechanisms of visual abnormalities in children with NF1 and lay the foundations for future interventional studies aimed at reducing visual loss.
Project description:Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is a common neurogenetic condition characterized by significant clinical heterogeneity. A major barrier to developing precision medicine approaches for NF1 is an incomplete understanding of the factors that underlie its inherent variability. To determine the impact of the germline NF1 gene mutation on the optic gliomas frequently encountered in children with NF1, we developed genetically engineered mice harboring two representative NF1-patient-derived Nf1 gene mutations (c.2542G>C;p.G848R and c.2041C>T;p.R681X). We found that each germline Nf1 gene mutation resulted in different levels of neurofibromin expression. Importantly, only R681X(CKO) but not G848R(CKO), mice develop optic gliomas with increased optic nerve volumes, glial fibrillary acid protein immunoreactivity, proliferation and retinal ganglion cell death, similar to Nf1 conditional knockout mice harboring a neomycin insertion (neo) as the germline Nf1 gene mutation. These differences in optic glioma phenotypes reflect both cell-autonomous and stromal effects of the germline Nf1 gene mutation. In this regard, primary astrocytes harboring the R681X germline Nf1 gene mutation exhibit increased basal astrocyte proliferation (BrdU incorporation) indistinguishable from neo(CKO) astrocytes, whereas astrocytes with the G848R mutation have lower levels of proliferation. Evidence for paracrine effects from the tumor microenvironment were revealed when R681X(CKO) mice were compared with conventional neo(CKO) mice. Relative to neo(CKO) mice, the optic gliomas from R681X(CKO) mice had more microglia infiltration and JNK(Thr183/Tyr185) activation, microglia-produced Ccl5, and glial AKT(Thr308) activation. Collectively, these studies establish that the germline Nf1 gene mutation is a major determinant of optic glioma development and growth through by both tumor cell-intrinsic and stromal effects.
Project description:Purpose:Regeneration of optic nerve axons after injury can be facilitated by several approaches, but misguidance at the optic chiasm is often observed. We characterized guidance cues in the embryonic visual system and adult optic chiasm before and after optic nerve crush (ONC) injury to better understand barriers to optic nerve regeneration in adults. Methods:Radial glial (RC2/BLBP/Slit1), developmental (Pax2) and extracellular markers (CSPG: H2B/CS-56) were assessed in C57BL/6J mice by immunohistochemistry. RC2, BLBP, Slit1, and CSPG are known inhibitory guidance cues while Pax2 is a permissive guidance cue. Results:At embryonic day 15.5 (E.15.5), RC2 and BLBP were identified superior to, and extending through, the optic chiasm. The optic chiasm was BLBP-ve in adult uninjured mice but BLBP+ve in adult mice 10 days after ONC injury. The reverse was true for RC2. Both BLBP and RC2 were absent in adult mice 6 weeks post-ONC. Slit1 was present in the optic chiasm midline and optic tracts in embryonic samples but was absent in uninjured adult tissue. Slit1 was observed superior to and at the midline of the optic chiasm 10 days post-ONC but absent 6 weeks after injury. Pax2 was expressed at the junction between the optic nerve and optic chiasm in embryonic brain tissue. In embryonic sections, CS-56 was observed at the junction between the optic chiasm and optic tract, and immediately superior to the optic chiasm. Both 2H6 and CS-56 staining was absent in uninjured and ONC-injured adult brains. Conclusion:Differences in guidance cue expression during development, in adulthood and after injury may contribute to misguidance of regenerating RGC axons in the adult optic chiasm.
Project description:Low-grade glial neoplasms (astrocytomas) represent one of the most common brain tumors in the pediatric population. These tumors frequently form in the optic pathway (optic pathway gliomas, OPGs), especially in children with the neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1)-inherited tumor predisposition syndrome. To model these tumors in mice, we have previously developed several Nf1 genetically-engineered mouse strains that form optic gliomas. However, there are three distinct macroglial cell populations in the optic nerve (astrocytes, NG2+ (nerve/glial antigen 2) cells and oligodendrocytes). The presence of NG2+ cells in the optic nerve raises the intriguing possibility that these cells could be the tumor-initiating cells, as has been suggested for adult glioma. In this report, we used a combination of complementary in vitro and novel genetically-engineered mouse strains in vivo to determine whether NG2+ cells could give rise to Nf1 optic glioma. First, we show that Nf1 inactivation results in a cell-autonomous increase in glial fibrillary acidic protein+ (GFAP+), but not in NG2+, cell proliferation in vitro. Second, similar to the GFAP-Cre transgenic strain that drives Nf1 optic gliomagenesis, NG2-expressing cells also give rise to all three macroglial lineages in vivo. Third, in contrast to the GFAP-Cre strain, Nf1 gene inactivation in NG2+ cells is not sufficient for optic gliomagenesis in vivo. Collectively, these data demonstrate that NG2+ cells are not the cell of origin for mouse optic glioma, and support a model in which gliomagenesis requires Nf1 loss in specific neuroglial progenitors during embryogenesis.
Project description:In the visual system of most binocular vertebrates, the axons of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) diverge at the diencephalic midline and extend to targets on both ipsi- and contralateral sides of the brain. While a molecular mechanism explaining ipsilateral guidance decisions has been characterized, less is known of how RGC axons cross the midline.Here, we took advantage of the zebrafish, in which all RGC axons project contralaterally at the optic chiasm, to characterize Islr2 as an RGC receptor required for complete retinal axon midline crossing. We used a systematic extracellular protein-protein interaction screening assay to identify two Vasorin paralogs, Vasna and Vasnb, as specific Islr2 ligands. Antibodies against Vasna and Vasnb reveal cellular populations surrounding the retinal axon pathway, suggesting the involvement of these proteins in guidance decisions made by axons of the optic nerve. Specifically, Vasnb marks the membranes of a cellular barricade located anteriorly to the optic chiasm, a structure termed the "glial knot" in higher vertebrates. Loss of function mutations in either vasorin paralog, individually or combined, however, do not exhibit an overt retinal axon projection phenotype, suggesting that additional midline factors, acting either independently or redundantly, compensate for their loss. Analysis of Islr2 knockout mice supports a scenario in which Islr2 controls the coherence of RGC axons through the ventral midline and optic tract.Although stereotypic guidance of RGC axons at the vertebrate optic chiasm is controlled by multiple, redundant mechanisms, and despite the differences in ventral diencephalic tissue architecture, we identify a novel role for the LRR receptor Islr2 in ensuring proper axon navigation at the optic chiasm of both zebrafish and mouse.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Optic gliomas arising in the neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) cancer predisposition syndrome cause reduced visual acuity in 30%-50% of affected children. Since human specimens are rare, genetically engineered mouse (GEM) models have been successfully employed for preclinical therapeutic discovery and validation. However, the sequence of cellular and molecular events that culminate in retinal dysfunction and vision loss has not been fully defined relevant to potential neuroprotective treatment strategies.<h4>Methods</h4>Nf1flox/mut GFAP-Cre (FMC) mice and age-matched Nf1flox/flox (FF) controls were euthanized at defined intervals from 2 weeks to 24 weeks of age. Optic nerve volumes were measured, and optic nerves/retinae analyzed by immunohistochemistry. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) was performed on anesthetized mice. FMC mice were treated with lovastatin from 12 to 16 weeks of age.<h4>Results</h4>The earliest event in tumorigenesis was a persistent elevation in proliferation (4 wk), which preceded sustained microglia numbers and incremental increases in S100+ glial cells. Microglia activation, as evidenced by increased interleukin (IL)-1? expression and morphologic changes, coincided with axonal injury and retinal ganglion cell (RGC) apoptosis (6 wk). RGC loss and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thinning then ensued (9 wk), as revealed by direct measurements and live-animal OCT. Lovastatin administration at 12 weeks prevented further RGC loss and RNFL thinning both immediately and 8 weeks after treatment completion.<h4>Conclusion</h4>By defining the chronology of the cellular and molecular events associated with optic glioma pathogenesis, we demonstrate critical periods for neuroprotective intervention and visual preservation, as well as establish OCT as an accurate biomarker of RGC loss.
Project description:Low-grade gliomas are one of the most common brain tumors in children, where they frequently form within the optic pathway (optic pathway gliomas; OPGs). Since many OPGs occur in the context of the Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) cancer predisposition syndrome, we have previously employed Nf1 genetically-engineered mouse (GEM) strains to study the pathogenesis of these low-grade glial neoplasms. In the light of the finding that human and mouse low-grade gliomas are composed of Olig2+ cells and that Olig2+ oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) give rise to murine high-grade gliomas, we sought to determine whether Olig2+ OPCs could be tumor-initiating cells for Nf1 optic glioma. Similar to the GFAP-Cre transgenic strain previously employed to generate Nf1 optic gliomas, Olig2+ cells also give rise to astrocytes in the murine optic nerve in vivo. However, in contrast to the GFAP-Cre strain where somatic Nf1 inactivation in embryonic neural progenitor/stem cells (Nf1flox/mut; GFAP-Cre mice) results in optic gliomas by 3 months of age in vivo, mice with Nf1 gene inactivation in Olig2+ OPCs (Nf1flox/mut; Olig2-Cre mice) do not form optic gliomas until 6 months of age. These distinct patterns of glioma latency do not reflect differences in the timing or brain location of somatic Nf1 loss. Instead, they most likely reflect the cell of origin, as somatic Nf1 loss in CD133+ neural progenitor/stem cells during late embryogenesis results in optic gliomas at 3 months of age. Collectively, these data demonstrate that the cell of origin dictates the time to tumorigenesis in murine optic glioma.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>To determine quantitative size thresholds for enlargement of the optic nerve, chiasm, and tract in children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).<h4>Methods</h4>Children 0.5-18.6 years of age who underwent high-resolution T1-weighted MRI were eligible for inclusion. This consisted of children with NF1 with or without optic pathway gliomas (OPGs) and a control group who did not have other acquired, systemic, or genetic conditions that could alter their anterior visual pathway (AVP). Maximum and average diameter and volume of AVP structures were calculated from reconstructed MRI images. Values above the 95th percentile from the controls were considered the threshold for defining an abnormally large AVP measure.<h4>Results</h4>A total of 186 children (controls = 82; NF1noOPG = 54; NF1+OPG = 50) met inclusion criteria. NF1noOPG and NF1+OPG participants demonstrated greater maximum optic nerve diameter and volume, optic chiasm volume, and total brain volume compared to controls (p < 0.05, all comparisons). Total brain volume, rather than age, predicted optic nerve and chiasm volume in controls (p < 0.05). Applying the 95th percentile threshold to all NF1 participants, the maximum optic nerve diameter (3.9 mm) and AVP volumes resulted in few false-positive errors (specificity >80%, all comparisons).<h4>Conclusions</h4>Quantitative reference values for AVP enlargement will enhance the development of objective diagnostic criteria for OPGs secondary to NF1.
Project description:<h4>Objective</h4>To determine whether tumor size is associated with retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness, a measure of axonal degeneration and an established biomarker of visual impairment in children with optic pathway gliomas (OPGs) secondary to neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1).<h4>Methods</h4>Children with NF1-OPGs involving the optic nerve (extension into the chiasm and tracts permitted) who underwent both volumetric MRI analysis and optical coherence tomography (OCT) within 2 weeks of each other were included. Volumetric measurement of the entire anterior visual pathway (AVP; optic nerve, chiasm, and tract) was performed using high-resolution T1-weighted MRI. OCT measured the average RNFL thickness around the optic nerve. Linear regression models evaluated the relationship between RNFL thickness and AVP dimensions and volume.<h4>Results</h4>Thirty-eight participants contributed 55 study eyes. The mean age was 5.78 years. Twenty-two participants (58%) were female. RNFL thickness had a significant negative relationship to total AVP volume and total brain volume (p < 0.05, all comparisons). For every 1 mL increase in AVP volume, RNFL thickness declined by approximately 5 microns. A greater AVP volume of OPGs involving the optic nerve and chiasm, but not the tracts, was independently associated with a lower RNFL thickness (p < 0.05). All participants with an optic chiasm volume >1.3 mL demonstrated axonal damage (i.e., RNFL thickness <80 microns).<h4>Conclusions</h4>Greater OPG and AVP volume predicts axonal degeneration, a biomarker of vision loss, in children with NF1-OPGs. MRI volumetric measures may help stratify the risk of visual loss from NF1-OPGs.
Project description:Injured retinal ganglion cell (RGC) axons do not regenerate spontaneously, causing loss of vision in glaucoma and after trauma. Recent studies have identified several strategies that induce long distance regeneration in the optic nerve. Thus, a pressing question now is whether regenerating RGC axons can find their appropriate targets. Traditional methods of assessing RGC axon regeneration use histological sectioning. However, tissue sections provide fragmentary information about axonal trajectory and termination. To unequivocally evaluate regenerating RGC axons, here we apply tissue clearance and light sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM) to image whole optic nerve and brain without physical sectioning. In mice with PTEN/SOCS3 deletion, a condition known to promote robust regeneration, axon growth followed tortuous paths through the optic nerve, with many axons reversing course and extending towards the eye. Such aberrant growth was prevalent in the proximal region of the optic nerve where strong astroglial activation is present. In the optic chiasms of PTEN/SOCS3 deletion mice and PTEN deletion/Zymosan/cAMP mice, many axons project to the opposite optic nerve or to the ipsilateral optic tract. Following bilateral optic nerve crush, similar divergent trajectory is seen at the optic chiasm compared to unilateral crush. Centrally, axonal projection is limited predominantly to the hypothalamus. Together, we demonstrate the applicability of LSFM for comprehensive assessment of optic nerve regeneration, providing in-depth analysis of the axonal trajectory and pathfinding. Our study indicates significant axon misguidance in the optic nerve and brain, and underscores the need for investigation of axon guidance mechanisms during optic nerve regeneration in adults.