Hyperconnectivity and slow synapses during early development of medial prefrontal cortex in a mouse model for mental retardation and autism.
ABSTRACT: Neuronal theories of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) of autism and mental retardation propose that abnormal connectivity underlies deficits in attentional processing. We tested this theory by studying unitary synaptic connections between layer 5 pyramidal neurons within medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) networks in the Fmr1-KO mouse model for mental retardation and autism. In line with predictions from neurocognitive theory, we found that neighboring pyramidal neurons were hyperconnected during a critical period in early mPFC development. Surprisingly, excitatory synaptic connections between Fmr1-KO pyramidal neurons were significantly slower and failed to recover from short-term depression as quickly as wild type (WT) synapses. By 4-5 weeks of mPFC development, connectivity rates were identical for both KO and WT pyramidal neurons and synapse dynamics changed from depressing to facilitating responses with similar properties in both groups. We propose that the early alteration in connectivity and synaptic recovery are tightly linked: using a network model, we show that slower synapses are essential to counterbalance hyperconnectivity in order to maintain a dynamic range of excitatory activity. However, the slow synaptic time constants induce decreased responsiveness to low-frequency stimulation, which may explain deficits in integration and early information processing in attentional neuronal networks in NDDs.
Project description:Changes in excitation and inhibition are associated with the pathobiology of neurodevelopmental disorders of intellectual disability and autism and are widely described in Fragile X syndrome (FXS). In the prefrontal cortex (PFC), essential for cognitive processing, excitatory connectivity and plasticity are found altered in the FXS mouse model, however, little is known about the state of inhibition. To that end, we investigated GABAergic signaling in the Fragile X Mental Retardation 1 (FMR1) knock out (Fmr1-KO) mouse medial PFC (mPFC). We report changes at the molecular, and functional levels of inhibition at three (prepubescence) and six (adolescence) postnatal weeks. Functional changes were most prominent during early postnatal development, resulting in stronger inhibition, through increased synaptic inhibitory drive and amplitude, and reduction of inhibitory short-term synaptic depression. Noise analysis of prepubescent post-synaptic currents demonstrated an increased number of receptors opening during peak current in Fmr1-KO inhibitory synapses. During adolescence amplitudes and plasticity changes normalized, however, the inhibitory drive was now reduced in Fmr1-KO, while synaptic kinetics were prolonged. Finally, adolescent GABA<sub>A</sub> receptor subunit ?2 and GABA<sub>B</sub> receptor subtype B1 expression levels were different in Fmr1-KOs than WT littermate controls. Together these results extend the degree of synaptic GABAergic alterations in FXS, now to the mPFC of Fmr1-KO mice, a behaviourally relevant brain region in neurodevelopmental disorder pathology.
Project description:Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common inherited form of mental retardation and is caused by transcriptional inactivation of the X-linked fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) gene. FXS is associated with increased density and abnormal morphology of dendritic spines, the postsynaptic sites of the majority of excitatory synapses. To better understand how lack of the FMR1 gene function affects spine development and plasticity, we examined spine formation and elimination of layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the whisker barrel cortex of Fmr1 KO mice with a transcranial two-photon imaging technique. We found that the rates of spine formation and elimination over days to weeks were significantly higher in both young and adult KO mice compared with littermate controls. The heightened spine turnover in KO mice was due to the existence of a larger pool of "short-lived" new spines in KO mice than in controls. Furthermore, we found that the formation of new spines and the elimination of existing ones were less sensitive to modulation by sensory experience in KO mice. These results indicate that the loss of Fmr1 gene function leads to ongoing overproduction of transient spines in the primary somatosensory cortex. The insensitivity of spine formation and elimination to sensory alterations in Fmr1 KO mice suggest that the developing synaptic circuits may not be properly tuned by sensory stimuli in FXS.
Project description:Dendritic morphology is a critical determinant of neuronal connectivity, and calcium signaling plays a predominant role in shaping dendrites. Altered dendritic morphology and genetic mutations in calcium signaling are both associated with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs). In this study we tested the hypothesis that dendritic arborization and NDD-relevant behavioral phenotypes are altered by human mutations that modulate calcium-dependent signaling pathways implicated in NDDs. The dendritic morphology of pyramidal neurons in CA1 hippocampus and somatosensory cortex was quantified in Golgi-stained brain sections from juvenile mice of both sexes expressing either a human gain-of-function mutation in ryanodine receptor 1 (T4826I-RYR1), a human CGG repeat expansion (170-200 CGG repeats) in the fragile X mental retardation gene 1 (FMR1 premutation), both mutations (double mutation; DM), or wildtype mice. In hippocampal neurons, increased dendritic arborization was observed in male T4826I-RYR1 and, to a lesser extent, male FMR1 premutation neurons. Dendritic morphology of cortical neurons was altered in both sexes of FMR1 premutation and DM animals with the most pronounced differences seen in DM females. Genotype also impaired behavior, as assessed using the three-chambered social approach test. The most striking lack of sociability was observed in DM male and female mice. In conclusion, mutations that alter the fidelity of calcium signaling enhance dendritic arborization in a brain region- and sex-specific manner and impair social behavior in juvenile mice. The phenotypic outcomes of these mutations likely provide a susceptible biological substrate for additional environmental stressors that converge on calcium signaling to determine individual NDD risk.
Project description:Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) is the major cause of inherited mental retardation and the leading genetic cause of Autism spectrum disorders. FXS is caused by mutations in the Fragile X Mental Retardation 1 (Fmr1) gene, which results in transcriptional silencing of Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein (FMRP). To elucidate cellular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of FXS, we compared dendritic spines in the hippocampal CA1 region of adult wild-type (WT) and Fmr1 knockout (Fmr1-KO) mice. Using diolistic labeling, confocal microscopy, and three-dimensional electron microscopy, we show a significant increase in the diameter of secondary dendrites, an increase in dendritic spine density, and a decrease in mature dendritic spines in adult Fmr1-KO mice. While WT and Fmr1-KO mice had the same mean density of spines, the variance in spine density was three times greater in Fmr1-KO mice. Reduced astrocyte participation in the tripartite synapse and less mature post-synaptic densities were also found in Fmr1-KO mice. We investigated whether the increase in synaptic spine density was associated with altered synaptic pruning during development. Our data are consistent with reduced microglia-mediated synaptic pruning in the CA1 region of Fmr1-KO hippocampi when compared with WT littermates at postnatal day 21, which is the peak period of synaptic pruning in the mouse hippocampus. Collectively, these results support abnormal synaptogenesis and synaptic remodeling in mice deficient in FMRP. Deficits in the maturation and distribution of synaptic spines on dendrites of CA1 hippocampal neurons may play a role in the intellectual disabilities associated with FXS.
Project description:Fragile X syndrome (FXS) causes mental impairment and autism through transcriptional silencing of the Fmr1 gene, resulting in the loss of the RNA-binding protein fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). Cortical pyramidal neurons in affected individuals and Fmr1 knock-out (KO) mice have an increased density of dendritic spines. The mutant mice also show defects in synaptic and experience-dependent circuit plasticity, which are known to be mediated in part by dendritic spine dynamics. We used in vivo time-lapse imaging with two-photon microscopy through cranial windows in male and female neonatal mice to test the hypothesis that dynamics of dendritic protrusions are altered in KO mice during early postnatal development. We find that layer 2/3 neurons from wild-type mice exhibit a rapid decrease in dendritic spine dynamics during the first 2 postnatal weeks, as immature filopodia are replaced by mushroom spines. In contrast, KO mice show a developmental delay in the downregulation of spine turnover and in the transition from immature to mature spine subtypes. Blockade of metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) signaling, which reverses some adult phenotypes of KO mice, accentuated this immature protrusion phenotype in KO mice. Thus, absence of FMRP delays spine stabilization and dysregulated mGluR signaling in FXS may partially normalize this early synaptic defect.
Project description:Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is caused by a failure of neuronal cells to express the gene encoding the fragile mental retardation protein (FMRP). Clinical features of the syndrome include intellectual disability, learning impairment, hyperactivity, seizures and anxiety. Fmr1 knockout (KO) mice do not express FMRP and, as a result, reproduce some FXS behavioral abnormalities. While intrinsic and synaptic properties of excitatory cells in various part of the brain have been studied in Fmr1 KO mice, a thorough analysis of action potential characteristics and input-output function of CA1 pyramidal cells in this model is lacking. With a view to determining the effects of the absence of FMRP on cell excitability, we studied rheobase, action potential duration, firing frequency-current intensity relationship and action potential after-hyperpolarization (AHP) in CA1 pyramidal cells of the hippocampus of wild type (WT) and Fmr1 KO male mice. Brain slices were prepared from 8- to 12-week-old mice and the electrophysiological properties of cells recorded. Cells from both groups had similar resting membrane potentials. In the absence of FMRP expression, cells had a significantly higher input resistance, while voltage threshold and depolarization voltage were similar in WT and Fmr1 KO cell groups. No changes were observed in rheobase. The action potential duration was longer in the Fmr1 KO cell group, and the action potential firing frequency evoked by current steps of the same intensity was higher. Moreover, the gain (slope) of the relationship between firing frequency and injected current was 1.25-fold higher in the Fmr1 KO cell group. Finally, AHP amplitude was significantly reduced in the Fmr1 KO cell group. According to these data, FMRP absence increases excitability in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells.
Project description:Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is the most common type of mental retardation attributable to a single-gene mutation. It is caused by FMR1 gene silencing and the consequent loss of its protein product, fragile X mental retardation protein. Fmr1 global knockout (KO) mice recapitulate many behavioral and synaptic phenotypes associated with FXS. Abundant evidence suggests that astrocytes are important contributors to neurological diseases. This study investigates astrocytic contributions to the progression of synaptic abnormalities and learning impairments associated with FXS.Taking advantage of the Cre-lox system, we generated and characterized mice in which fragile X mental retardation protein is selectively deleted or exclusively expressed in astrocytes. We performed in vivo two-photon imaging to track spine dynamics/morphology along dendrites of neurons in the motor cortex and examined associated behavioral defects.We found that adult astrocyte-specific Fmr1 KO mice displayed increased spine density in the motor cortex and impaired motor-skill learning. The learning defect coincided with a lack of enhanced spine dynamics in the motor cortex that normally occurs in response to motor skill acquisition. Although spine density was normal at 1 month of age in astrocyte-specific Fmr1 KO mice, new spines formed at an elevated rate. Furthermore, fragile X mental retardation protein expression in only astrocytes was insufficient to rescue most spine or behavioral defects.Our work suggests a joint astrocytic-neuronal contribution to FXS pathogenesis and reveals that heightened spine formation during adolescence precedes the overabundance of spines and behavioral defects found in adult Fmr1 KO mice.
Project description:Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by severe cognitive impairments, sensory hypersensitivity, and comorbidities with autism and epilepsy. Fmr1 knockout (KO) mouse models of FXS exhibit alterations in excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmission, but it is largely unknown how aberrant function of specific neuronal subtypes contributes to these deficits. In this study we show specific inhibitory circuit dysfunction in layer II/III of somatosensory cortex of Fmr1 KO mice. We demonstrate reduced activation of somatostatin-expressing low-threshold-spiking (LTS) interneurons in response to the group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) agonist 3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine (DHPG) in Fmr1 KO mice, resulting in impaired synaptic inhibition. Paired recordings from pyramidal neurons revealed reductions in synchronized synaptic inhibition and coordinated spike synchrony in response to DHPG, indicating a weakened LTS interneuron network in Fmr1 KO mice. Together, these findings reveal a functional defect in a single subtype of cortical interneuron in Fmr1 KO mice. This defect is linked to altered activity of the cortical network in line with the FXS phenotype.
Project description:Sensory hypersensitivity is a common and debilitating feature of neurodevelopmental disorders such as Fragile X Syndrome (FXS). How developmental changes in neuronal function culminate in network dysfunction that underlies sensory hypersensitivities is unknown. By systematically studying cellular and synaptic properties of layer 4 neurons combined with cellular and network simulations, we explored how the array of phenotypes in Fmr1-knockout (KO) mice produce circuit pathology during development. We show that many of the cellular and synaptic pathologies in Fmr1-KO mice are antagonistic, mitigating circuit dysfunction, and hence may be compensatory to the primary pathology. Overall, the layer 4 network in the Fmr1-KO exhibits significant alterations in spike output in response to thalamocortical input and distorted sensory encoding. This developmental loss of layer 4 sensory encoding precision would contribute to subsequent developmental alterations in layer 4-to-layer 2/3 connectivity and plasticity observed in Fmr1-KO mice, and circuit dysfunction underlying sensory hypersensitivity.
Project description:Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is identified by abnormal dendrite morphology and altered synaptic protein expression. Astrocyte secreted factors such as Tenascin C (TNC), may contribute to the synaptic changes, including maturation of the synapse. TNC is a known endogenous ligand of toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) that has been shown to induce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6). At the molecular level, elevated IL-6 promotes excitatory synapse formation and increases dendrite spine length. With these molecular changes linked to the phenotype of FXS, we examined the expression and the mechanism of the endogenous TLR4 activator TNC, and its downstream target IL-6 in astrocytes from the Fragile X Mental Retardation 1 (FMR1) knockout (KO) mouse model. Secreted TNC and IL-6 were significantly increased in FMR1 KO astrocytes. Addition of TNC and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced IL-6 secretion, whereas the antagonist of TLR4 (LPS-RS) had an opposing effect. Cortical protein expression of TNC and IL-6 were also significantly elevated in the postnatal FMR1 KO mouse. In addition, there was an increase in the number of vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (VGLUT1)/post synaptic density protein 95 (PSD95) positive synaptic puncta of both wild-type (WT) and FMR1 KO neurons when plated with astrocyte conditioned media (ACM) from FMR1 KO astrocytes, compared to those plated with media from wild type astrocytes. By assessing the cellular mechanisms involved, a novel therapeutic option could be made available to target abnormalities of synaptic function seen in FXS.