MeCP2 is required for activity-dependent refinement of olfactory circuits.
ABSTRACT: Methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is a structural chromosomal protein involved in the regulation of gene expression. Alterations in the levels of MeCP2 have been related to neurodevelopmental disorders. Studies in mouse models of MeCP2 deficiency have demonstrated that this protein is important for neuronal maturation, neurite complexity, synaptogenesis, and synaptic plasticity. However, the mechanisms by which MeCP2 dysfunction leads to neurodevelopmental defects, and the role of activity, remain unclear, as most studies examine the adult nervous system, which may obfuscate the primary consequences of MeCP2 mutation. We hypothesize that MeCP2 plays a role during the formation and activity-driven maturation of neural circuits at early postnatal stages. To test this hypothesis, we use the olfactory system as a neurodevelopmental model. This system undergoes postnatal neurogenesis; axons from olfactory neurons form highly stereotyped projections to higher-order neurons, facilitating the detection of possible defects in the establishment of connectivity. In vivo olfactory stimulation paradigms were used to produce physiological synaptic activity in gene-targeted mice in which specific olfactory circuits are visualized. Our results reveal defective postnatal refinement of olfactory circuits in Mecp2 knock out (KO) mice after sensory (odorant) stimulation. This failure in refinement was associated with deficits in the normal responses to odorants, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) production, as well as changes in adhesion molecules known to regulate axonal convergence. The defective refinement observed in Mecp2 KO mice was prevented by daily treatment with ampakine beginning after the first postnatal week. These observations indicate that increasing synaptic activity at early postnatal stage might circumvent the detrimental effect of MeCP2 deficiency on circuitry maturation. The present results provide in vivo evidence in real time for the role of MeCP2 in activity-dependent maturation of olfactory circuitry, with implications for understanding the mechanism of MeCP2 mutations in the development of neural connectivity.
Project description:Mutations in MECP2 underlie the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome (RTT). One hallmark of RTT is relatively normal development followed by a later onset of symptoms. Growing evidence suggests an etiology of disrupted synaptic function, yet it is unclear how these abnormalities explain the clinical presentation of RTT. Here we investigate synapse maturation in Mecp2-deficient mice at a circuit with distinct developmental phases: the retinogeniculate synapse. We find that synapse development in mutants is comparable to that of wild-type littermates between postnatal days 9 and 21, indicating that initial phases of synapse formation, elimination, and strengthening are not significantly affected by MeCP2 absence. However, during the subsequent experience-dependent phase of synapse remodeling, the circuit becomes abnormal in mutants as retinal innervation of relay neurons increases and retinal inputs fail to strengthen further. Moreover, synaptic plasticity in response to visual deprivation is disrupted in mutants. These results suggest a crucial role for Mecp2 in experience-dependent refinement of synaptic circuits.
Project description:During postnatal development, neuronal activity controls the remodeling of initially imprecise neuronal connections through the regulation of gene expression. MeCP2 binds to methylated DNA and modulates gene expression during neuronal development and MECP2 mutation causes the autistic disorder Rett syndrome. To investigate a role for MeCP2 in neuronal circuit refinement and to identify activity-dependent MeCP2 transcription regulations, we leveraged the precise organization and accessibility of olfactory sensory axons to manipulation of neuronal activity through odorant exposure in vivo. We demonstrate that olfactory sensory axons failed to develop complete convergence when Mecp2 is deficient in olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) in an otherwise wild-type animal. Furthermore, we demonstrate that expression of selected adhesion genes was elevated in Mecp2-deficient glomeruli, while acute odor stimulation in control mice resulted in significantly reduced MeCP2 binding to these gene loci, correlating with increased expression. Thus, MeCP2 is required for both circuitry refinement and activity-dependent transcriptional responses in OSNs.
Project description:Methyl cytosine binding protein 2 (MeCP2) is a structural chromosomal protein involved in the regulation of gene expression. Mutations in the gene encoding MeCP2 result in Rett Syndrome (RTT), a pervasive neurodevelopmental disorder. RTT is one of few autism spectrum disorders whose cause was identified as a single gene mutation. Remarkably, abnormal levels of MeCP2 have been associated to other neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as neuropsychiatric disorders. Therefore, many studies have been oriented to investigate the role of MeCP2 in the nervous system. In the present work, we explore cellular and molecular mechanisms affecting synaptic plasticity events in vivo in the hippocampus of MeCP2 mutant mice. While most studies addressed postsynaptic defects in the absence of MeCP2, we took advantage of an in vivo activity-paradigm (seizures), two models of MeCP2 deficiency, and neurobiological assays to reveal novel defects in presynaptic structural plasticity in the hippocampus in RTT rodent models. These approaches allowed us to determine that MeCP2 mutations alter presynaptic components, i.e., disrupts the plastic response of mossy fibers to synaptic activity and results in reduced axonal growth which is correlated with imbalanced trophic and guidance support, associated with aberrant expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and semaphorin 3F. Our results also revealed that adult-born granule cells recapitulate maturational defects that have been only shown at early postnatal ages. As these cells do not mature timely, they may not integrate properly into the adult hippocampal circuitry. Finally, we performed a hippocampal-dependent test that revealed defective spatial memory in these mice. Altogether, our studies establish a model that allows us to evaluate the effect of the manipulation of specific pathways involved in axonal guidance, synaptogenesis, or maturation in specific circuits and correlate it with changes in behavior. Understanding the mechanisms underlying the neuronal compromise caused by mutations in MeCP2 could provide information on the pathogenic mechanism of autistic spectrum disorders and improve our understanding of brain development and molecular basis of behavior.
Project description:Brain function is shaped by postnatal experience and vulnerable to disruption of Methyl-CpG-binding protein, Mecp2, in multiple neurodevelopmental disorders. How Mecp2 contributes to the experience-dependent refinement of specific cortical circuits and their impairment remains unknown. We analyzed vision in gene-targeted mice and observed an initial normal development in the absence of Mecp2. Visual acuity then rapidly regressed after postnatal day P35-40 and cortical circuits largely fell silent by P55-60. Enhanced inhibitory gating and an excess of parvalbumin-positive, perisomatic input preceded the loss of vision. Both cortical function and inhibitory hyperconnectivity were strikingly rescued independent of Mecp2 by early sensory deprivation or genetic deletion of the excitatory NMDA receptor subunit, NR2A. Thus, vision is a sensitive biomarker of progressive cortical dysfunction and may guide novel, circuit-based therapies for Mecp2 deficiency.
Project description:Mutations in MECP2 are the cause of Rett syndrome (RTT) in humans, a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects mainly girls. MeCP2 is a protein that binds CpG dinucleotides and is thought to act as a global transcriptional repressor. It is highly expressed in neurons, but not in glia, of the postnatal brain. The timing of MeCP2 activation correlates with the maturation of the central nervous system, and recent reports suggest that MeCP2 may be involved in the formation of synaptic contacts and may function in activity-dependent neuronal gene expression. Deletion or targeted mutation of Mecp2 in mice leads to a Rett-like phenotype. Selective mutation of Mecp2 in postnatal neurons leads to a similar, although delayed, phenotype, suggesting that MeCP2 plays a role in postmitotic neurons. Here we test the hypothesis that the symptoms of RTT are exclusively caused by a neuronal MeCP2 deficiency by placing Mecp2 expression under the control of a neuron-specific promoter. Expression of the Mecp2 transgene in postmitotic neurons resulted in symptoms of severe motor dysfunction. Transgene expression in Mecp2 mutant mice, however, rescued the RTT phenotype.
Project description:Early in brain development, impaired neuronal signaling during time-sensitive windows triggers the onset of neurodevelopmental disorders. GABA, through its depolarizing and excitatory actions, drives early developmental events including neuronal circuit formation and refinement. BDNF/TrkB signaling cooperates with GABA actions. How these developmental processes influence the formation of neural circuits and affect adult brain function is unknown. Here, we show that early deletion of Ntrk2/Trkb from immature mouse hippocampal dentate granule cells (DGCs) affects the integration and maturation of newly formed DGCs in the hippocampal circuitry and drives a premature shift from depolarizing to hyperpolarizing GABAergic actions in the target of DGCs, the CA3 principal cells of the hippocampus, by reducing the expression of the cation-chloride importer Nkcc1. These changes lead to the disruption of early synchronized neuronal activity at the network level and impaired morphological maturation of CA3 pyramidal neurons, ultimately contributing to altered adult hippocampal synaptic plasticity and cognitive processes.
Project description:Rett Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that arises from mutations in the X-linked gene methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2). MeCP2 has a large number of targets and a wide range of functions, suggesting the hypothesis that functional signaling mechanisms upstream of synaptic and circuit maturation may contribute to our understanding of the disorder and provide insight into potential treatment. Here, we show that insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF1) levels are reduced in young male Mecp2-null (Mecp2(-/y)) mice, and systemic treatment with recombinant human IGF1 (rhIGF1) improves lifespan, locomotor activity, heart rate, respiration patterns, and social and anxiety behavior. Furthermore, Mecp2-null mice treated with rhIGF1 show increased synaptic and activated signaling pathway proteins, enhanced cortical excitatory synaptic transmission, and restored dendritic spine densities. IGF1 levels are also reduced in older, fully symptomatic heterozygous (Mecp2(-/+)) female mice, and short-term treatment with rhIGF1 in these animals improves respiratory patterns, reduces anxiety levels, and increases exploratory behavior. In addition, rhIGF1 treatment normalizes abnormally prolonged plasticity in visual cortex circuits of adult Mecp2(-/+) female mice. Our results provide characterization of the phenotypic development of Rett Syndrome in a mouse model at the molecular, circuit, and organismal levels and demonstrate a mechanism-based therapeutic role for rhIGF1 in treating Rett Syndrome.
Project description:The reelin gene is a strong candidate in the etiology of several psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorders, and autism spectrum disorders. Most of these diseases are accompanied by cognitive and executive-function deficits associated with prefrontal dysfunctions. Mammalian prefrontal cortex (PFC) development is characterized by a protracted postnatal maturation constituting a period of enhanced vulnerability to psychiatric insults. The identification of the molecular components underlying this prolonged postnatal development is necessary to understand the synaptic properties of defective circuits participating in these psychiatric disorders. We have recently shown that reelin plays a key role in the maturation of glutamatergic functions in the postnatal PFC, but no data are available regarding the GABAergic circuits. Here, we undertook a cross-sectional analysis of GABAergic function in deep layer pyramidal neurons of the medial PFC of wild-type and haploinsufficient heterozygous reeler mice. Using electrophysiological approaches, we showed that decreased reelin levels impair the maturation of GABAergic synaptic transmission without affecting the inhibitory nature of GABA. This phenotype consequently impacted the developmental sequence of the synaptic excitation/inhibition (E/I) balance. These data indicate that reelin is necessary for the correct maturation and refinement of GABAergic synaptic circuits in the postnatal PFC and therefore provide a mechanism for altered E/I balance of prefrontal circuits associated with psychiatric disorders.
Project description:Semaphorins have an important role in synapse refinement in the mammalian nervous system. The class 3 semaphorin-3F (Sema3F) acting through neuropilin 2/plexin-A3 (Nrp2/PlexA3) holoreceptor complex signals in vivo to restrain apical dendritic spine morphogenesis of cortical pyramidal neurons and hippocampal neurons during postnatal development and mediates excitatory synaptic transmission. Semaphorin signaling has been implicated in the etiology of a number of neurodevelopmental disorders; however, the effects on behavior and mental function of dysregulated Sema3F-Nrp2 signaling have not been fully addressed. The present study is the first behavioral investigation of mice harboring a mutation of the nrp2 gene. Given that loss of Nrp2 signaling alters cortical and hippocampal synaptic organization, we investigated performance of nrp2-deficient mice on learning and sensorimotor function that are known to depend on cortical and hippocampal circuitry. When compared with age-matched controls, nrp2 null mice showed striking impairments in object recognition memory and preference for social novelty. In addition, nrp2(-/-) mice displayed impaired motor function in the rotarod test and in observations of grooming behavior. Exploration of novel olfactory sensory stimuli and nociception were unaffected by the loss of Nrp2. Overall, loss of Nrp2 may induce aberrant processing within hippocampal and corticostriatal networks that may contribute to neurodevelopmental disease mechanisms.
Project description:MeCP2 is a transcriptional repressor critical for normal neurological function. Prior studies demonstrated that either loss or doubling of MeCP2 results in postnatal neurodevelopmental disorders. To understand the impact of MeCP2 expression on neuronal function, we studied the synaptic properties of individual neurons from mice that either lack or express twice the normal levels of MeCP2. Hippocampal glutamatergic neurons that lack MeCP2 display a 46% reduction in synaptic response, whereas neurons with doubling of MeCP2 exhibit a 2-fold enhancement in synaptic response. Further analysis shows that these changes were primarily due to the number of synapses formed. These results reveal that MeCP2 is a key rate-limiting factor in regulating glutamatergic synapse formation in early postnatal development and that changes in excitatory synaptic strength may underlie global network alterations in neurological disorders due to altered MeCP2 levels.