Identification of optogenetically activated striatal medium spiny neurons by Npas4 expression.
ABSTRACT: Optogenetics is a powerful neuromodulatory tool with many unique advantages to explore functions of neuronal circuits in physiology and diseases. Yet, interpretation of cellular and behavioral responses following in vivo optogenetic manipulation of brain activities in experimental animals often necessitates identification of photoactivated neurons with high spatial resolution. Although tracing expression of immediate early genes (IEGs) provides a convenient approach, neuronal activation is not always followed by specific induction of widely used neuronal activity markers like c-fos, Egr1 and Arc. In this study we performed unilateral optogenetic stimulation of the striatum in freely moving transgenic mice that expressed a channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) variant ChR2(C128S) in striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs). We found that in vivo blue light stimulation significantly altered electrophysiological activity of striatal neurons and animal behaviors. To identify photoactivated neurons we then analyzed IEG expression patterns using in situ hybridization. Upon light illumination an induction of c-fos was not apparent whereas another neuronal IEG Npas4 was robustly induced in MSNs ipsilaterally. Our results demonstrate that tracing Npas4 mRNA expression following in vivo optogenetic modulation can be an effective tool for reliable and sensitive identification of activated MSNs in the mouse striatum.
Project description:The nucleus accumbens (NAc) contains multiple subpopulations of medium spiny neurons (MSNs). One subpopulation expresses D1-type dopamine receptors, another expresses D2-type receptors, and a third expresses both. The relative roles in NAc of D1 neurons versus D2 neurons in appetitive motivation were assessed here. Specifically, we asked whether D1-Cre mice would instrumentally seek optogenetic self-stimulation specifically targeted at D1 MSNs in NAc, and similarly if D2-Cre mice would self-stimulate D2 neurons in NAc. Mice were implanted with Cre-targeted channelrhodopsin (ChR2) virus and optic fibers in NAc. Subsequently, mice could earn brief NAc laser illuminations by actively touching a metal spout in one task, or by going to a particular location in a separate task. Results indicated that D1 neuronal excitation in NAc supported intense self-stimulation in both tasks. D1-Cre mice earned hundreds to thousands of spout-touches per half-hour session, and also sought out locations that delivered NAc laser to excite D1 MSNs. By comparison, D2 ChR2 mice showed lower but still positive levels of self-stimulation in the spout-touch task, earning dozens to hundreds of NAc laser illuminations. However, in the location task, D2 mice failed to show positive self-stimulation. If anything, a few D2 individuals gradually avoided the laser location. Brain-wide measures indicated that D1 and D2 stimulations in NAc recruited heavily overlapping patterns of Fos activation in distant limbic structures. These results confirm that excitation of D1 MSNs in NAc supports strong incentive motivation to self-stimulate. They also suggest that excitation of D2 neurons in NAc supports self-stimulation under some conditions, but fails under others and possibly may even shift to negative avoidance.
Project description:The globus pallidus (GP) is emerging as a critical locus of basal ganglia control of motor activity, but the exact role of GABAergic GP neurons remain to be defined. By targeted expression of channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2) in GABAergic neurons using the VGAT-ChR2-EYFP transgenic mice, we showed that optogenetic stimulation of GABAergic neurons in the right GP produced hyperkinesia. Optogenetic stimulation of GABAergic GP neurons increased c-Fos-positive cells in GP, M1 cortex, and caudate-putamen (CPu), and decreased c-Fos-positive cells in entopeduncular nucleus (EPN), compared to the contralateral hemisphere. In agreement with the canonical basal ganglia model. Furthermore, we delivered AAV-CaMKII?-ChR2-mCherry virus to the excitatory neurons of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and selectively stimulated glutamatergic afferent fibers from the STN onto the GP. This optogenetic stimulation produced abnormal movements, similar to the behaviors that observed in the VGAT-ChR2-EYFP transgenic mice. Meanwhile, we found that the c-Fos expression pattern in the GP, M1, STN, EPN, and CPu produced by optogenetic activation of glutamatergic afferent fibers from the STN in GP was similar to the c-Fos expression pattern in the VGAT-ChR2-EYFP transgenic mice. Taken together, our results suggest that excess GP GABAergic neurons activity could be the neural substrate of abnormal involuntary movements in hyperkinetic movement disorders. The neural circuitry underlying the abnormal involuntary movements is associated with excessive GP, M1, CPu activity, and reduced EPN activity. Inhibition of GP GABAergic neurons represents new treatment targets for hyperkinetic movement disorder.
Project description:A hallmark of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is hippocampal neuronal demise and aberrant mossy fiber sprouting. In addition, unrestrained neuronal activity in TLE patients induces gene expression including immediate early genes (IEGs) such as Fos and Egr1.We employed the mouse pilocarpine model to analyze the transcription factor (TF) serum response factor (SRF) in epileptogenesis, seizure induced histopathology and IEG induction. SRF is a neuronal activity regulated TF stimulating IEG expression as well as nerve fiber growth and guidance. Adult conditional SRF deficient mice (Srf CaMKCreERT2 ) were more refractory to initial status epilepticus (SE) acquisition. Further, SRF deficient mice developed more spontaneous recurrent seizures (SRS). Genome-wide transcriptomic analysis uncovered a requirement of SRF for SE and SRS induced IEG induction (e.g. Fos, Egr1, Arc, Npas4, Btg2, Atf3). SRF was required for epilepsy associated neurodegeneration, mossy fiber sprouting and inflammation. We uncovered MAP kinase signaling as SRF target during epilepsy. Upon SRF ablation, seizure evoked induction of dual specific phosphatases (Dusp5 and Dusp6) was reduced. Lower expression of these negative ERK kinase regulators correlated with altered P-ERK levels in epileptic Srf mutant animals.Overall, this study uncovered an SRF contribution to several processes of epileptogenesis in the pilocarpine model.
Project description:Sensitive detection of sensory-evoked neuronal activation is a key to mechanistic understanding of brain functions. Since immediate early genes (IEGs) are readily induced in the brain by environmental changes, tracing IEG expression provides a convenient tool to identify brain activity. In this study we used in situ hybridization to detect odor-evoked induction of ten IEGs in the mouse olfactory system. We then analyzed IEG induction in the cyclic nucleotide-gated channel subunit A2 (Cnga2)-null mice to visualize residual neuronal activity following odorant exposure since CNGA2 is a key component of the olfactory signal transduction pathway in the main olfactory system.We observed rapid induction of as many as ten IEGs in the mouse olfactory bulb (OB) after olfactory stimulation by a non-biological odorant amyl acetate. A robust increase in expression of several IEGs like c-fos and Egr1 was evident in the glomerular layer, the mitral/tufted cell layer and the granule cell layer. Additionally, the neuronal IEG Npas4 showed steep induction from a very low basal expression level predominantly in the granule cell layer. In Cnga2-null mice, which are usually anosmic and sexually unresponsive, glomerular activation was insignificant in response to either ambient odorants or female stimuli. However, a subtle induction of c-fos took place in the OB of a few Cnga2-mutants which exhibited sexual arousal. Interestingly, very strong glomerular activation was observed in the OB of Cnga2-null male mice after stimulation with either the neutral odor amyl acetate or the predator odor 2, 3, 5-trimethyl-3-thiazoline (TMT).This study shows for the first time that in vivo olfactory stimulation can robustly induce the neuronal IEG Npas4 in the mouse OB and confirms the odor-evoked induction of a number of IEGs. As shown in previous studies, our results indicate that a CNGA2-independent signaling pathway(s) may activate the olfactory circuit in Cnga2-null mice and that neuronal activation which correlates to behavioral difference in individual mice is detectable by in situ hybridization of IEGs. Thus, the in situ hybridization probe set we established for IEG tracing can be very useful to visualize neuronal activity at the cellular level.
Project description:Npas4 has recently been identified as an important factor in brain plasticity, particularly in mechanisms of inhibitory control. Little is known about Npas4 expression in terms of cortical plasticity. In the present study expressions of Npas4 and the archetypal immediate early gene (IEG) c-Fos were investigated in the barrel cortex of mice after sensory deprivation (sparing one row of whiskers for 7 days) or sensory conditioning (pairing stimulation of one row of whiskers with aversive stimulus). Laser microdissection of individual barrel rows allowed for analysis of IEGs expression precisely in deprived and nondeprived barrels (in deprivation study) or stimulated and nonstimulated barrels (in conditioning study). Cortex activation by sensory conditioning was found to upregulate the expression of both Npas4 and c-Fos. Reorganization of cortical circuits triggered by removal of selected rows of whiskers strongly affected c-Fos but not Npas4 expression. We hypothesize that increased inhibitory synaptogenesis observed previously after conditioning may be mediated by Npas4 expression.
Project description:Experience-dependent expression of immediate-early gene transcription factors (IEG-TFs) can transiently change the transcriptome of active neurons and initiate persistent changes in cellular function. However, the impact of IEG-TFs on circuit connectivity and function is poorly understood. We investigate the specificity with which the IEG-TF NPAS4 governs experience-dependent changes in inhibitory synaptic input onto CA1 pyramidal neurons (PNs). We show that novel sensory experience selectively enhances somatic inhibition mediated by cholecystokinin-expressing basket cells (CCKBCs) in an NPAS4-dependent manner. NPAS4 specifically increases the number of synapses made onto PNs by individual CCKBCs without altering synaptic properties. Additionally, we find that sensory experience-driven NPAS4 expression enhances depolarization-induced suppression of inhibition (DSI), a short-term form of cannabinoid-mediated plasticity expressed at CCKBC synapses. Our results indicate that CCKBC inputs are a major target of the NPAS4-dependent transcriptional program in PNs and that NPAS4 is an important regulator of plasticity mediated by endogenous cannabinoids.
Project description:Channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2) optogenetic excitation is widely used to study neurons, astrocytes, and circuits. Using complementary approaches in situ and in vivo, we found that ChR2 stimulation leads to significant transient elevation of extracellular potassium ions by ?5 mM. Such elevations were detected in ChR2-expressing mice, following local in vivo expression of ChR2(H134R) with adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), in different brain areas and when ChR2 was expressed in neurons or astrocytes. In particular, ChR2-mediated excitation of striatal astrocytes was sufficient to increase medium spiny neuron (MSN) excitability and immediate early gene expression. The effects on MSN excitability were recapitulated in silico with a computational MSN model and detected in vivo as increased action potential firing in awake, behaving mice. We show that transient, physiologically consequential increases in extracellular potassium ions accompany ChR2 optogenetic excitation. This coincidental effect may be important to consider during astrocyte studies employing ChR2 to interrogate neural circuits and animal behavior.
Project description:Neuronal circuits including medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH)-containing neurons in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) are hypothesized to play an important role in hedonic feeding. A reciprocal connection between NAc MSNs and MCH-containing neurons is proposed to form a neuronal circuit that is involved in hedonic feeding. Although NAc MSNs have been shown to receive projection from MCH-containing neurons, it is not known whether MCH-containing neurons in the LHA also receive direct inputs from NAc MSNs. Here, we developed a genetic approach that allows us to visualize almost all striatal MSNs including NAc MSNs. We demonstrate that striatal MSNs terminate in a distinct region within the anterior LHA, and that the terminal area of striatal MSNs in this region contains glutamatergic neurons and is distinctly separate from orexin/hypocretin- or MCH-containing neurons. These observations suggest that NAc MSNs do not directly innervate MCH-containing neurons, but may indirectly signal MCH-containing neurons via glutamatergic neurons in the anterior LHA.
Project description:Parvalbumin-containing fast-spiking interneurons (FSIs) exert a powerful feed-forward GABAergic inhibition on striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs), playing a critical role in timing striatal output. However, how glutamatergic inputs modulate their firing activity is still unexplored. Here, by means of a combined optogenetic and electrophysiological approach, we provide evidence for a differential modulation of cortico- vs thalamo-striatal synaptic inputs to FSIs in transgenic mice carrying light-gated ion channels channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) in glutamatergic fibers. Corticostriatal synapses show a postsynaptic facilitation, whereas thalamostriatal synapses present a postsynaptic depression. Moreover, thalamostriatal synapses exhibit more prominent AMPA-mediated currents than corticostriatal synapses, and an increased release probability. Furthermore, during current-evoked firing activity, simultaneous corticostriatal stimulation increases bursting activity. Conversely, thalamostriatal fiber activation shifts the canonical burst-pause activity to a more prolonged, regular firing pattern. However, this change in firing pattern was accompanied by a significant rise in the frequency of membrane potential oscillations. Notably, the responses to thalamic stimulation were fully abolished by blocking metabotropic glutamate 1 (mGlu1) receptor subtype, whereas both acetylcholine and dopamine receptor antagonists were ineffective. Our findings demonstrate that cortical and thalamic glutamatergic input differently modulate FSIs firing activity through specific intrinsic and synaptic properties, exerting a powerful influence on striatal outputs.
Project description:The context preexposure facilitation effect (CPFE) is a contextual fear conditioning paradigm in which learning about the context, acquiring the context-shock association, and retrieving/expressing contextual fear are temporally dissociated into three distinct phases (context preexposure, immediate-shock training, and retention). The current study examined changes in the expression of plasticity-associated immediate early genes (IEGs) during context and contextual fear memory formation on the preexposure and training days of the CPFE, respectively. Using adolescent Long-Evans rats, preexposure and training day expression of the IEGs c-Fos, Arc, Egr-1, and Npas4 in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), dorsal hippocampus (dHPC), and basolateral amygdala (BLA) was analyzed using qPCR as an extension of previous studies from our lab examining Egr-1 via in situ hybridization (Asok, Schreiber, Jablonski, Rosen, & Stanton, 2013; Schreiber, Asok, Jablonski, Rosen, & Stanton, 2014). In Expt. 1, context preexposure induced expression of c-Fos, Arc, Egr-1 and Npas4 significantly above that of home-cage (HC) controls in all three regions. In Expt. 2, immediate-shock was followed by a post-shock freezing test, resulting in increased mPFC c-Fos expression in a group preexposed to the training context but not a control group preexposed to an alternate context, indicating expression related to associative learning. This was not seen with other IEGs in mPFC or with any IEG in dHPC or BLA. Finally, when the post-shock freezing test was omitted in Expt. 3, training-related increases were observed in prefrontal c-Fos, Arc, Egr-1, and Npas4, hippocampal c-Fos, and amygdalar Egr-1 expression. These results indicate that context exposure in a post-shock freezing test re-engages IEG expression that may obscure associatively-induced expression during contextual fear conditioning. Additionally, these studies suggest a key role for long-term synaptic plasticity in the mPFC in supporting the CPFE.