Programmed cell death during neuronal development: the sympathetic neuron model.
ABSTRACT: Developing sympathetic neurons of the superior cervical ganglion are one of the best studied models of neuronal apoptosis. These cells require nerve growth factor (NGF) for survival at the time that they innervate their final target tissues during late embryonic and early postnatal development. In the absence of NGF, developing sympathetic neurons die by apoptosis in a transcription-dependent manner. Molecular studies of sympathetic neuron apoptosis began in the 1980s. We now know that NGF withdrawal activates the mitochondrial (intrinsic) pathway of apoptosis in sympathetic neurons cultured in vitro, and the roles of caspases, Bcl-2 (B-cell CLL/lymphoma 2) family proteins and XIAP (X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein) have been extensively studied. Importantly, a considerable amount has also been learned about the intracellular signalling pathways and transcription factors that regulate programmed cell death in sympathetic neurons. In this article, we review the key papers published in the past few years, covering all aspects of apoptosis regulation in sympathetic neurons and focusing, in particular, on how signalling pathways and transcription factors regulate the cell death programme. We make some comparisons with other models of neuronal apoptosis and describe possible future directions for the field.
Project description:Neuronal apoptosis has a major role during development and aberrant apoptosis contributes to the pathology of certain neurological conditions. Studies with nerve growth factor (NGF)-dependent sympathetic neurons have provided important insights into the molecular mechanisms of neuronal apoptosis and the signalling pathways that regulate the cell death programme in neurons. The BH3-only protein Bim is a critical mediator of apoptosis in many cell types and in sympathetic neurons is required for NGF withdrawal-induced death. However, regulation of bim expression is complex and remains incompletely understood. We report that a conserved inverted CCAAT box (ICB) in the rat bim promoter is bound by the heterotrimeric transcription factor NF-Y. Interestingly, NF-Y is required for bim promoter activity and its induction following NGF withdrawal. We demonstrate that NF-Y activity is essential for endogenous Bim expression and contributes to NGF withdrawal-induced death. Furthermore, we find that the transcriptional coactivators CBP and p300 interact with NF-Y and FOXO3a and bind to this region of the bim promoter. The amount of CBP/p300 bound to bim increases after NGF deprivation and inhibition of CBP/p300 activity reduces bim induction. Our results indicate that NF-Y cooperates with FOXO3a to recruit CBP/p300 to the bim promoter to form a stable multi-protein/DNA complex that activates bim transcription after survival factor withdrawal.
Project description:Developing sympathetic neurons depend on nerve growth factor (NGF) for survival and die by apoptosis after NGF withdrawal. This process requires de novo gene expression but only a small number of genes induced by NGF deprivation have been identified so far, either by a candidate gene approach or in mRNA differential display experiments. This is partly because it is difficult to obtain large numbers of sympathetic neurons for in vitro studies. Here, we describe for the first time, how advances in gene microarray technology have allowed us to investigate the expression of all known genes in sympathetic neurons cultured in the presence and absence of NGF.We have used Affymetrix Exon arrays to study the pattern of expression of all known genes in NGF-deprived sympathetic neurons. We identified 415 up- and 813 down-regulated genes, including most of the genes previously known to be regulated in this system. NGF withdrawal activates the mixed lineage kinase (MLK)-c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-c-Jun pathway which is required for NGF deprivation-induced death. By including a mixed lineage kinase (MLK) inhibitor, CEP-11004, in our experimental design we identified which of the genes induced after NGF withdrawal are potential targets of the MLK-JNK-c-Jun pathway. A detailed Gene Ontology and functional enrichment analysis also identified genetic pathways that are highly enriched and overrepresented amongst the genes expressed after NGF withdrawal. Five genes not previously studied in sympathetic neurons - trib3, ddit3, txnip, ndrg1 and mxi1 - were validated by real time-PCR. The proteins encoded by these genes also increased in level after NGF withdrawal and this increase was prevented by CEP-11004, suggesting that these genes are potential targets of the MLK-JNK-c-Jun pathway.The sympathetic neuron model is one of the best studied models of neuronal apoptosis. Overall, our microarray data gives a comprehensive overview of, and provides new information about, signalling pathways and transcription factors that are regulated by NGF withdrawal.
Project description:Neurotrophins influence the epigenetic shaping of the vertebrate nervous system by regulating neuronal numbers during development and synaptic plasticity. Here we attempt to determine whether these growth factors can also regulate neurotransmitter plasticity. As a model system we used the selection between noradrenergic and cholinergic neurotransmission by paravertebral sympathetic neurons. Developing sympathetic neurons express the neurotrophin receptors TrkA and TrkC, two highly related receptor tyrosine kinases. Whereas the TrkA ligand nerve growth factor (NGF) has long been known to regulate both the survival and the expression of noradrenergic traits in sympathetic neurons, the role of TrkC and of its ligand neurotrophin-3 (NT3) has remained unclear. We found that TrkC expression in the avian sympathetic chain overlaps substantially with that of choline acetyltransferase. In sympathetic chain explants, transcripts of the cholinergic marker genes choline acetyltransferase and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide were strongly enriched in the presence of NT3 compared with NGF, whereas the noradrenergic markers tyrosine hydroxylase and norepinephrine transporter were reduced. The transcription factor chicken achaete scute homolog 1 was coexpressed with cholinergic markers. The effects of NT3 are reversed and antagonized by NGF. They are independent of neuronal survival and developmentally regulated. These results suggest a role for NT3 as a differentiation factor for cholinergic neurons and establish a link between neurotrophins and neurotransmitter plasticity.
Project description:Expression of the basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor HAND2 begins early in sympathetic neuron development and is essential for the differentiation of noradrenergic neurons. Here, we show that the expression of HAND2 and related HAND1 are maintained in sympathetic neurons throughout fetal and postnatal development when these neurons depend on target-derived nerve growth factor (NGF) for survival. Short interfering RNA knockdown of endogenous HAND2 and, to a lesser extent, HAND1 in neonatal sympathetic neurons cultured with NGF, reduced the expression of the NGF receptor tyrosine kinase TrkA (tropomyosin-related kinase A), as well as neuronal survival. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis showed that NGF promotes HAND2 binding to the TrkA minimal enhancer and that transfection of sympathetic neurons with a TrkA expression plasmid rescued the neurons from HAND knockdown. These findings show that HAND transcription factors have a crucial function in sustaining the survival of neonatal sympathetic neurons with NGF by a feed-forward loop that maintains the expression of TrkA.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Pancreatic islets are not fully developed at birth and it is not clear how they are vascularised and innervated. Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is required to guide sympathetic neurons that innervate peripheral organs and also in cardiovascular system and ovary angiogenesis. Pancreatic beta cells of a transgenic mouse that over-expressed NGF in attracts sympathetic hyper-innervation towards them. Moreover, we have previously demonstrated that adult beta cells synthesize and secrete NGF; however, we do not know how is NGF secreted during development, nor if it might be trophic for sympathetic innervation and survival in the pancreas.We analyzed sympathetic innervation and vasculature development in rat pancreatic islets at different developmental stages; foetal (F19), early postnatal (P1), weaning period (P20) and adults. We temporarily correlated these events to NGF secretion by islet cells. RESULTS: Sympathetic fibres reached pancreatic islets in the early postnatal period, apparently following blood vessels. The maximal number of sympathetic fibres (TH immunopositive) in the periphery of the islets was observed at P20, and then fibres entered the islets and reached the core where beta cells are mainly located. The number of fibres decreased from that stage to adulthood. At all stages studied, islet cells secreted NGF and also expressed the high affinity receptor TrkA. Foetal and neonatal isolated islet cells secreted more NGF than adults. TrkA receptors were expressed at all stages in pancreatic sympathetic fibres and blood vessels. These last structures were NGF-immunoreactive only at early stages (foetal and P0). CONCLUSION: The results suggest that NGF signalling play an important role in the guidance of blood vessels and sympathetic fibres toward the islets during foetal and neonatal stages and could also preserve innervation at later stages of life.
Project description:Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a potent survival and axon growth factor for neuronal populations in the peripheral nervous system. Although the mechanisms by which target-derived NGF influences survival of innervating neurons have been extensively investigated, its regulation of axonal growth and target innervation are just being elucidated. Here, we identify Wnt5a, a member of the Wnt family of secreted growth factors, as a key downstream effector of NGF in mediating axonal branching and growth in developing sympathetic neurons. Wnt5a is robustly expressed in sympathetic neurons when their axons are innervating NGF-expressing targets. NGF:TrkA signaling enhances neuronal expression of Wnt5a. Wnt5a rapidly induces axon branching while it has a long-term effect on promoting axon extension. Loss of Wnt5a function revealed that it is necessary for NGF-dependent axonal branching and growth, but not survival, in vitro. Furthermore, Wnt5a(-/-) mice display reduced innervation of NGF-expressing target tissues, and a subsequent increase in neuronal apoptosis, in vivo. Wnt5a functions in developing sympathetic neurons by locally activating protein kinase C in axons. Together, our findings define a novel regulatory pathway in which Wnt5a, expressed in sympathetic neurons in response to target-derived NGF, regulates innervation of peripheral targets.
Project description:While immune responses during nervous system injury and disease are well studied, exactly how primary neurons respond to immune signals is still largely unknown. We find that primary sympathetic neurons respond unexpectedly to interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), a cytokine released by immune cells in response to infection. While IFN-γ induces apoptosis in many cell types, it has the opposite effect on sympathetic neurons by protecting them from apoptotic stimuli. We found that IFN-γ addition enabled sympathetic neurons to become resistant to nerve growth factor (NGF) deprivation- or pan-kinase inhibition-induced apoptosis. In investigating how interferon modulates the apoptotic pathway, we discovered that c-jun phosphorylation and Bim induction in response to NGF deprivation were unchanged with IFN-γ. Downstream of the mitochondria, however, IFN-γ blocked cytochrome c release and caspase-3 activation in NGF-deprived neurons. Microinjection of cytochrome c into XIAP-/- neurons revealed no difference in cell death with IFN-γ addition, demonstrating a role for IFN-γ at the point of mitochondria permeabilization. Levels of Bax and Bcl-XL, molecules that help regulate mitochondrial permeabilization, were unchanged. These results identify Bax activation as the likely point at which IFN-γ acts to inhibit neuronal apoptosis. Overall design: reference x sample
Project description:Developing sympathetic neurons depend on NGF for survival. When sympathetic neurons are deprived of NGF in vitro, a well documented series of events, including c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway activation, release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria, and caspase activation, culminates in the death of the neuron by apoptosis within 24-48 h. This process requires de novo gene expression, suggesting that increased expression of specific genes activates the cell death program. Using rat gene microarrays, we found that NGF withdrawal induces the expression of many genes, including mkp1, which encodes a MAPK phosphatase that can dephosphorylate JNKs. The increase in mkp1 mRNA level requires the MLK-JNK-c-Jun pathway, and we show that Mkp1 is an important regulator of JNK-dependent apoptosis in sympathetic neurons. In microinjection experiments, Mkp1 overexpression can inhibit JNK-mediated phosphorylation of c-Jun and protect sympathetic neurons from apoptosis, while Mkp1 knockdown accelerates NGF withdrawal-induced death. Accordingly, the number of superior cervical ganglion (SCG) neurons is reduced in mkp1-/- mice at P1 during the period of developmental sympathetic neuron death. We also show that c-Jun and ATF2 bind to two conserved ATF binding sites in the mkp1 promoter in vitro and in chromatin. Both of these ATF sites contribute to basal promoter activity and are required for mkp1 promoter induction after NGF withdrawal. These results demonstrate that Mkp1 is part of a negative feedback loop induced by the MLK-JNK-c-Jun signaling pathway that modulates JNK activity and the rate of neuronal death in rat sympathetic neurons following NGF withdrawal.
Project description:In sympathetic neurons, C6-ceramide, as well as endogenous ceramides, blocks apoptosis elicited by NGF (nerve growth factor) deprivation. The mechanism(s) involved in ceramide-induced neuronal survival are poorly understood. Few direct targets for the diverse cellular effects of ceramide have been identified. Amongst those proposed is PP-1c, the catalytic subunit of serine/threonine PP-1 (protein phosphatase-1). Here, we present the first evidence of PP-1c activation by ceramide in live cells, namely NGF-deprived sympathetic neurons. We first determined PP activity in cellular lysates from sympathetic neurons treated with exogenous ceramide and demonstrated a 2-3-fold increase in PP activity. PP activation was completely blocked by the addition of the specific type-1 PP inhibitor protein I-2 as well as by tautomycin, but unaffected by 2 nM okadaic acid, strongly indicating that the ceramide-activated phosphatase activity was PP-1c. Inhibition of PP activity by phosphatidic acid (which has been reported to be a selective inhibitor of PP-1c) and tautomycin (a PP-1 and PP-2A inhibitor), but not by 10 nM okadaic acid, abolished the anti-apoptotic effect of ceramide in NGF-deprived neurons, suggesting that activation of PP-1c is required for ceramide-induced neuronal survival. Ceramide was able to prevent pRb (retinoblastoma gene product) hyperphosphorylation by a mechanism dependent on PP-1c activation, suggesting that two consequences of NGF deprivation in sympathetic neurons are inhibition of PP-1c and subsequent hyperphosphorylation of pRb protein. These findings suggest a novel mechanism for ceramide-induced survival, and implicate the involvement of PPs in apoptosis induced by NGF deprivation.
Project description:The transcription factor STAT3 has been implicated in axon regeneration. Here we investigate a role for STAT3 in sympathetic nerve sprouting after myocardial infarction (MI) - a common injury in humans. We show that NGF stimulates serine phosphorylation (S727) of STAT3 in sympathetic neurons via ERK1/2, in contrast to cytokine phosphorylation of Y705. Maximal sympathetic axon regeneration in vitro requires phosphorylation of both S727 and Y705. Furthermore, cytokine signaling is necessary for NGF-induced sympathetic nerve sprouting in the heart after MI. Transfection studies in neurons lacking STAT3 suggest two independent pools of STAT3, phosphorylated on either S727 or Y705, that regulate sympathetic regeneration via both transcriptional and non-transcriptional means. Additional data identify STAT3-microtubule interactions that may complement the well-characterized role of STAT3 stimulating regeneration associated genes. These data show that STAT3 is critical for sympathetic axon regeneration in vitro and in vivo, and identify a novel non-transcriptional mode of action.