Bcl11b/Ctip2 controls the differentiation of vomeronasal sensory neurons in mice.
ABSTRACT: The transcription factor Bcl11b/Ctip2 plays critical roles in the development of several systems and organs, including the immune system, CNS, skin, and teeth. Here, we show that Bcl11b/Ctip2 is highly expressed in the developing vomeronasal system in mice and is required for its proper development. Bcl11b/Ctip2 is expressed in postmitotic vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) in the vomeronasal epithelium (VNE) as well as projection neurons and GABAergic interneurons in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB). In the absence of Bcl11b, these neurons are born in the correct number, but VSNs selectively die by apoptosis. The critical role of Bcl11b in vomeronasal system development is demonstrated by the abnormal phenotypes of Bcl11b-deficient mice: disorganization of layer formation of the AOB, impaired axonal projections of VSNs, a significant reduction in the expression of vomeronasal receptor genes, and defective mature differentiation of VSNs. VSNs can be classified into two major types of neurons, vomeronasal 1 receptor (V1r)/G?(i2)-positive and vomeronasal 2 receptor (V2r)/G?(o)-positive VSNs. We found that all G?(i2)-positive cells coexpressed G?(o) during embryogenesis. This coexpression is also observed in newly differentiated neurons in the adult VNE. Interestingly, loss of Bcl11b function resulted in an increased number of V1r/G?(i2)-type VSNs and a decreased number of V2r/G?(o)-type VSNs, suggesting that Bcl11b regulates the fate choice between these two VSN types. These results indicate that Bcl11b/Ctip2 is an essential regulator of the differentiation and dichotomy of VSNs.
Project description:The epithelium of the mouse vomeronasal organ (VNO) consists of apical and basal layers of neuronal cell bodies. Vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) with cell bodies in the basal layer express the G-protein subunit G alpha(o) and members of the V2R superfamily of vomeronasal receptor genes and project their axons to the posterior accessory bulb (AOB). V2R(+) VSNs also express particular patterns of a family of nine nonclassical class I major histocompatibility Mhc genes, the H2-Mv genes. The function of H2-Mv molecules remains unknown. H2-Mv molecules have been reported to be associated with V2R molecules and have been proposed to participate in pheromone detection. Here, we find that a substantial fraction of V2R(+) VSNs does not express these nine H2-Mv genes. The cell bodies of H2-Mv(+) and H2-Mv(-) VSNs reside in the lower and upper sublayers of the basal layer, respectively. This spatial segregation is maintained at the level of the AOB: H2-Mv(+) and H2-Mv(-) VSNs project their axons to the posterior and anterior subdomains of the posterior AOB, respectively. By generating a C-terminal green fluorescent protein fusion protein with M10.2 in gene-targeted mice, we observe subcellular localization of M10.2 not only in dendrites but also in axons of VSNs. Our results reveal a tripartite organization of the VNO and AOB, question the generality of the requirement of these nine H2-Mv molecules for V2R surface expression, and suggest that H2-Mvs can function in both dendrites and axons.
Project description:The mouse vomeronasal organ is specialized in the detection of pheromones. Vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) express chemosensory receptors of two large gene repertoires, V1R and V2R, which encode G-protein-coupled receptors. Phylogenetically, four families of V2R genes can be discerned as follows: A, B, C, and D. VSNs located in the basal layer of the vomeronasal epithelium coordinately coexpress V2R genes from two families: Approximately half of basal VSNs coexpress Vmn2r1 of family C with a single V2R gene of family A8-10, B, or D ('C1 type of V2Rs'), and the other half coexpress Vmn2r2 through Vmn2r7 of family C with a single V2R gene of family A1-6 ('C2 type V2Rs'). The regulatory mechanisms of the coordinated coexpression of V2Rs from two families remain poorly understood. Here, we have generated two mouse strains carrying a knockout mutation in Vmn2r1 by gene targeting in embryonic stem cells. These mutations cause a differential decrease in the numbers of VSNs expressing a given C1 type of V2R. There is no compensatory expression of Vmn2r2 through Vmn2r7. VSN axons coalesce into glomeruli in the appropriate region of the accessory olfactory bulb in the absence of Vmn2r1. Gene expression profiling by NanoString reveals a differential and graded decrease in the expression levels across C1 type of V2Rs. There is no change in the expression levels of C2 type of V2Rs, with two exceptions that we reclassified as C1 type. Thus, there appears to be a fixed probability of gene choice for a given C2 type of V2R.
Project description:In most mammals, the vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a chemosensory structure that detects both hetero- and conspecific social cues. Vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) express a specific type of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) from at least three different chemoreceptor gene families allowing sensitive and specific detection of chemosensory cues. These families comprise the V1r and V2r gene families as well as the formyl peptide receptor (FPR)-related sequence (Fpr-rs) family of putative chemoreceptor genes. In order to understand the physiology of vomeronasal receptor-ligand interactions and downstream signaling, it is essential to identify the biophysical properties inherent to each specific class of VSNs. The physiological approach described here allows identification and in-depth analysis of a defined population of sensory neurons using a transgenic mouse line (Fpr-rs3-i-Venus). The use of this protocol, however, is not restricted to this specific line and thus can easily be extended to other genetically modified lines or wild type animals.
Project description:Hexadecanol (16OH) and hexadecyl acetate (16Ac) are two pheromones secreted in a large quantity by mouse preputial glands and act on male and female mice differentially. Yet the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms remain to be elucidated. In this study, we examined the activation of vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) by these two pheromones and mapped the downstream neural circuits that process and relay their chemosignals. Using the calcium imaging method and immunohistochemistry, we found that a small number of VSNs were activated by 16OH, 16AC, or both in the male and female mice, most of which were located apically in the vomeronasal epithelium, and their numbers did not increase when the concentrations of 16OH and 16Ac were raised by 10,000-fold except that of female VSNs in response to 16OH. In the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB), the two pheromones evoked more c-Fos+ neurons in the anterior AOB (aAOB) than in the posterior AOB (pAOB); and the increases in the number of c-Fos+ neurons in both aAOB and pAOB were dose-dependent; and between sexes, the female AOB responded more strongly to 16OH than to 16Ac whereas the male AOB had the opposite response pattern. This sexual dimorphism was largely retained in the downstream brain regions, including the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), the medial amygdaloid nucleus (MeA), the posteromedial cortical amygdaloid nucleus (PMCo), the medial preoptic area (MPA), and the ventromedial hypothalamic nucleus (VmH). Taken together, out data indicate that there is one V1r receptor each for 16OH, 16Ac, or both, and that activation of these receptors evokes sexually dimorphic neural circuits, directing different behavioral outputs and possibly modulating other pheromone-induced responses.
Project description:The accessory olfactory system controls social and sexual interactions in mice that are crucial for survival. Vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) form synapses with dendrites of second order neurons in glomeruli of the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB). Axons of VSNs expressing the same vomeronasal receptor coalesce into multiple glomeruli within spatially conserved regions of the AOB. Here we examine the role of the Kirrel family of transmembrane proteins in the coalescence of VSN axons within the AOB. We find that Kirrel2 and Kirrel3 are differentially expressed in subpopulations of VSNs and that their expression is regulated by activity. Although Kirrel3 expression is not required for early axonal guidance events, such as fasciculation of the vomeronasal tract and segregation of apical and basal VSN axons in the AOB, it is necessary for proper coalescence of axons into glomeruli. Ablation of Kirrel3 expression results in disorganization of the glomerular layer of the posterior AOB and formation of fewer, larger glomeruli. Furthermore, Kirrel3(-/-) mice display a loss of male-male aggression in a resident-intruder assay. Taken together, our results indicate that differential expression of Kirrels on vomeronasal axons generates a molecular code that dictates their proper coalescence into glomeruli within the AOB.
Project description:The vomeronasal organ (VNO) contains two main types of vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) that express distinct vomeronasal receptor (VR) genes and localize to specific regions of the neuroepithelium. Morphogenic signals are crucial in defining neuronal identity and network formation; however, if and what signals control maturation and homeostasis of VSNs is largely unexplored. Here, we found transforming growth factor ? (TGF?) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signal transduction in postnatal mice, with BMP signaling being restricted to basal VSNs and at the marginal zones of the VNO: the site of neurogenesis. Using different Smad4 conditional knockout mouse models, we disrupted canonical TGF?/BMP signaling in either maturing basal VSNs (bVSNs) or all mature VSNs. Smad4 loss of function in immature bVSNs compromises dendritic knob formation, pheromone induced activation, correct glomeruli formation in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) and survival. However, Smad4 loss of function in all mature VSNs only compromises correct glomeruli formation in the posterior AOB. Our results indicate that Smad4-mediated signaling drives the functional maturation and connectivity of basal VSNs.
Project description:The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is an olfactory structure that detects pheromones and environmental cues. It consists of sensory neurons that express evolutionary unrelated groups of transmembrane chemoreceptors. The predominant V1R and V2R receptor repertoires are believed to detect airborne and water-soluble molecules, respectively. It has been suggested that the shift in habitat of early tetrapods from water to land is reflected by an increase in the ratio of V1R/V2R genes. Snakes, which have a very large VNO associated with a sophisticated tongue delivery system, are missing from this analysis. Here, we use RNA-seq and RNA in situ hybridization to study the diversity, evolution, and expression pattern of the corn snake vomeronasal receptor repertoires. Our analyses indicate that snakes and lizards retain an extremely limited number of V1R genes but exhibit a large number of V2R genes, including multiple lineages of reptile-specific and snake-specific expansions. We finally show that the peculiar bigenic pattern of V2R vomeronasal receptor gene transcription observed in mammals is conserved in squamate reptiles, hinting at an important but unknown functional role played by this expression strategy. Our results do not support the hypothesis that the shift to a vomeronasal receptor repertoire dominated by V1Rs in mammals reflects the evolutionary transition of early tetrapods from water to land. This study sheds light on the evolutionary dynamics of the vomeronasal receptor families in vertebrates and reveals how mammals and squamates differentially adapted the same ancestral vomeronasal repertoire to succeed in a terrestrial environment.
Project description:Two classes of vomeronasal receptor genes, V1R and V2R, occur in vertebrates. Whereas, V1R loci are found in a wide variety of mammals, including primates, intact V2R genes have thus far only been described in rodents and marsupials. In primates, the V2R repertoire has been considered degenerate. Here, we identify for the first time two intact V2R loci in a strepsirrhine primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), and demonstrate their expression in the vomeronasal organ. Putatively functional orthologues are present in two other strepsirrhines, whereas, both loci are pseudogenes in a range of anthropoid species. The functional significance of the loci is unknown, but positive selection on one of them is consistent with an adaptive role in pheromone detection. Finally, conservation of V2R loci in strepsirrhines is notable, given their high diversity and role in MUP and MHC detection in rodents.
Project description:In mice, nonvolatile social cues are detected and analyzed by the accessory olfactory system (AOS). Here we provide a first view of information processing in the AOS with respect to individual chemical cues. 12 sulfated steroids, recently discovered mouse AOS ligands, caused widespread activity among vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs), yet VSN responses clustered into a small number of repeated functional patterns or processing streams. Downstream neurons in the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) responded to these ligands with enhanced signal/noise compared to VSNs. Although the dendritic connectivity of AOB mitral cells suggests the capacity for broad integration, most sulfated steroid responses were well-modeled by linear excitatory drive from just one VSN processing stream. However, a substantial minority demonstrated multi-stream integration. Most VSN excitation patterns were also observed in the AOB, but excitation by estradiol sulfate processing streams was rare, suggesting AOB circuit organization is specific to the biological relevance of sensed cues.
Project description:The ability of sensory systems to detect and process information from the environment relies on the elaboration of precise connections between sensory neurons in the periphery and second order neurons in the CNS. In mice, the accessory olfactory system is thought to regulate a wide variety of social and sexual behaviors. The expression of the Slit receptors Robo-1 and Robo-2 in vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) suggests they may direct the stereotypic targeting of their axons to the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB). Here, we have examined the roles of Robo-1 and Robo-2 in the formation of connections by VSN axons within the AOB. While Robo-1 is not necessary for the segregation of VSN axons within the anterior and posterior regions of the AOB, Robo-2 is required for the targeting of some basal VSN axons to the posterior region of the AOB but is dispensable for the fasciculation of VSN axons. Furthermore, the specific ablation of Robo-2 expression in VSNs leads to mistargeting of a portion of basal VSN axons to the anterior region of the AOB, indicating that Robo-2 expression is required on projecting VSN axons. Together, these results identify Robo-2 as a receptor that controls the targeting of basal VSN axons to the posterior AOB.