Synaptic abnormalities and cytoplasmic glutamate receptor aggregates in contactin associated protein-like 2/Caspr2 knockout neurons.
ABSTRACT: Central glutamatergic synapses and the molecular pathways that control them are emerging as common substrates in the pathogenesis of mental disorders. Genetic variation in the contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) gene, including copy number variations, exon deletions, truncations, single nucleotide variants, and polymorphisms have been associated with intellectual disability, epilepsy, schizophrenia, language disorders, and autism. CNTNAP2, encoded by Cntnap2, is required for dendritic spine development and its absence causes disease-related phenotypes in mice. However, the mechanisms whereby CNTNAP2 regulates glutamatergic synapses are not known, and cellular phenotypes have not been investigated in Cntnap2 knockout neurons. Here we show that CNTNAP2 is present in dendritic spines, as well as axons and soma. Structured illumination superresolution microscopy reveals closer proximity to excitatory, rather than inhibitory synaptic markers. CNTNAP2 does not promote the formation of synapses and cultured neurons from Cntnap2 knockout mice do not show early defects in axon and dendrite outgrowth, suggesting that CNTNAP2 is not required at this stage. However, mature neurons from knockout mice show reduced spine density and levels of GluA1 subunits of AMPA receptors in spines. Unexpectedly, knockout neurons show large cytoplasmic aggregates of GluA1. Here we characterize, for the first time to our knowledge, synaptic phenotypes in Cntnap2 knockout neurons and reveal a novel role for CNTNAP2 in GluA1 trafficking. Taken together, our findings provide insight into the biological roles of CNTNAP2 and into the pathogenesis of CNTNAP2-associated neuropsychiatric disorders.
Project description:Dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra have long been believed to have multiple aspiny dendrites which receive many glutamatergic synaptic inputs from several regions of the brain. But, here, using high-resolution two-photon confocal microscopy in the mouse brain slices, we found a substantial number of common dendritic spines in the nigral dopamine neurons including thin, mushroom, and stubby types of spines. However, the number of dendritic spines of the dopamine neurons was approximately five times lower than that of CA1 pyramidal neurons. Immunostaining and morphological analysis revealed that glutamatergic shaft synapses were present two times more than spine synapses. Using local two-photon glutamate uncaging techniques, we confirmed that shaft synapses and spine synapses had both AMPA and NMDA receptors, but the AMPA/NMDA current ratios differed. The evoked postsynaptic potentials of spine synapses showed lower amplitudes but longer half-widths than those of shaft synapses. Therefore, we provide the first evidence that the midbrain dopamine neurons have two morphologically and functionally distinct types of glutamatergic synapses, spine synapses and shaft synapses, on the same dendrite. This peculiar organization could be a new basis for unraveling many physiological and pathological functions of the midbrain dopamine neurons.
Project description:Dendritic spines are the postsynaptic compartments of glutamatergic synapses in the brain. Their number and shape are subject to change in synaptic plasticity and neurological disorders including autism spectrum disorders and Parkinson's disease. The L-type calcium channel CaV1.3 constitutes an important calcium entry pathway implicated in the regulation of spine morphology. Here we investigated the importance of full-length CaV1.3L and two C-terminally truncated splice variants (CaV1.342A and CaV1.343S) and their modulation by densin-180 and shank1b for the morphology of dendritic spines of cultured hippocampal neurons. Live-cell immunofluorescence and super-resolution microscopy of epitope-tagged CaV1.3L revealed its localization at the base-, neck-, and head-region of dendritic spines. Expression of the short splice variants or deletion of the C-terminal PDZ-binding motif in CaV1.3L induced aberrant dendritic spine elongation. Similar morphological alterations were induced by co-expression of densin-180 or shank1b with CaV1.3L and correlated with increased CaV1.3 currents and dendritic calcium signals in transfected neurons. Together, our findings suggest a key role of CaV1.3 in regulating dendritic spine structure. Under physiological conditions it may contribute to the structural plasticity of glutamatergic synapses. Conversely, altered regulation of CaV1.3 channels may provide an important mechanism in the development of postsynaptic aberrations associated with neurodegenerative disorders.
Project description:Dendritic spines are the major transmitter reception compartments of glutamatergic synapses in most principal neurons of the mammalian brain and play a key role in the function of nerve cell circuits. The formation of functional spine synapses is thought to be critically dependent on presynaptic glutamatergic signaling. By analyzing CA1 pyramidal neurons in mutant hippocampal slice cultures that are essentially devoid of presynaptic transmitter release, we demonstrate that the formation and maintenance of dendrites and functional spines are independent of synaptic glutamate release.
Project description:The majority of excitatory synapses are located on dendritic spines of cortical glutamatergic neurons. In spines, compartmentalized Ca2+ signals transduce electrical activity into specific long-term biochemical and structural changes. Action potentials (APs) propagate back into the dendritic tree and activate voltage gated Ca2+ channels (VGCCs). For spines, this global mode of spine Ca2+ signaling is a direct biochemical feedback of suprathreshold neuronal activity. We previously demonstrated that backpropagating action potentials (bAPs) result in long-term enhancement of spine VGCCs. This activity-dependent VGCC plasticity results in a large interspine variability of VGCC Ca2+ influx. Here, we investigate how spine VGCCs affect glutamatergic synaptic transmission. We combined electrophysiology, two-photon Ca2+ imaging and two-photon glutamate uncaging in acute brain slices from rats. T- and R-type VGCCs were the dominant depolarization-associated Ca2+conductances in dendritic spines of excitatory layer 2 neurons and do not affect synaptic excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) measured at the soma. Using two-photon glutamate uncaging, we compared the properties of glutamatergic synapses of single spines that express different levels of VGCCs. While VGCCs contributed to EPSP mediated Ca2+ influx, the amount of EPSP mediated Ca2+ influx is not determined by spine VGCC expression. On a longer timescale, the activation of VGCCs by bAP bursts results in downregulation of spine NMDAR function.
Project description:Deficits in long-term potentiation (LTP) at central excitatory synapses are thought to contribute to cognitive impairments in neurodevelopmental disorders associated with intellectual disability and autism. Using the methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (Mecp2) knockout (KO) mouse model of Rett syndrome, we show that naïve excitatory synapses onto hippocampal pyramidal neurons of symptomatic mice have all of the hallmarks of potentiated synapses. Stronger Mecp2 KO synapses failed to undergo LTP after either theta-burst afferent stimulation or pairing afferent stimulation with postsynaptic depolarization. On the other hand, basal synaptic strength and LTP were not affected in slices from younger presymptomatic Mecp2 KO mice. Furthermore, spine synapses in pyramidal neurons from symptomatic Mecp2 KO are larger and do not grow in size or incorporate GluA1 subunits after electrical or chemical LTP. Our data suggest that LTP is occluded in Mecp2 KO mice by already potentiated synapses. The higher surface levels of GluA1-containing receptors are consistent with altered expression levels of proteins involved in AMPA receptor trafficking, suggesting previously unidentified targets for therapeutic intervention for Rett syndrome and other MECP2-related disorders.
Project description:In early postnatal development, perisomatic innervation of cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs) switches from glutamatergic climbing fibers (CFs) to GABAergic basket cell fibers (BFs). Here we examined the switching process in C57BL/6 mice. At postnatal day 7 (P7), most perisomatic synapses were formed by CFs on to somatic spines. The density of CF-spine synapses peaked at P9, when pericellular nest around PCs by CFs was most developed, and CF-spine synapses constituted 88% of the total perisomatic synapses. Thereafter, CF-spine synapses dropped to 63% at P12, 6% at P15, and <1% at P20, whereas BF synapses increased reciprocally. During the switching period, a substantial number of BF synapses existed as BF-spine synapses (37% of the total perisomatic synapses at P15), and free spines surrounded by BFs or Bergmann glia also emerged. By P20, BF-spine synapses and free spines virtually disappeared, and BF-soma synapses became predominant (88%), thus attaining the adult pattern of perisomatic innervation. Parallel with the presynaptic switching, postsynaptic receptor phenotype also switched from glutamatergic to GABAergic. In the active switching period, particularly at P12, fragmental clusters of AMPA-type glutamate receptor were juxtaposed with those of GABA(A) receptor. When examined with serial ultrathin sections, immunogold labeling for glutamate and GABA(A) receptors was often clustered beneath single BF terminals. These results suggest that a considerable fraction of somatic spines is succeeded from CFs to BFs and Bergmann glia in the early postnatal period, and that the switching of postsynaptic receptor phenotypes mainly proceeds under the coverage of BF terminals.
Project description:Spine growth and retraction with synapse formation and elimination plays an important role in shaping brain circuits during development and in the adult brain, yet the temporal relationship between spine morphogenesis and the formation of functional synapses remains poorly defined. We imaged hippocampal pyramidal neurons to identify spines of different ages. We then used two-photon glutamate uncaging, whole-cell recording, and Ca(2+) imaging to analyze the properties of nascent spines and their older neighbors. New spines expressed glutamate-sensitive currents that were indistinguishable from mature spines of comparable volumes. Some spines exhibited negligible AMPA receptor-mediated responses, but the occurrence of these "silent" spines was uncorrelated with spine age. In contrast, NMDA receptor-mediated Ca(2+) accumulations were significantly lower in new spines. New spines reconstructed using electron microscopy made synapses. Our data support a model in which outgrowth and enlargement of nascent spines is tightly coupled to formation and maturation of glutamatergic synapses.
Project description:Spines are small protrusions from dendrites where most excitatory synapses reside. Changes in number, shape, and size of dendritic spines often reflect changes of neural activity in entire circuits or at individual synapses, making spines key structures of synaptic plasticity. Neurobeachin is a multidomain protein with roles in spine formation, postsynaptic neurotransmitter receptor targeting and actin distribution. However, the contributions of individual domains of Neurobeachin to these functions is poorly understood. Here, we used mostly live cell imaging and patch-clamp electrophysiology to monitor morphology and function of spinous synapses in primary hippocampal neurons. We demonstrate that a recombinant full-length Neurobeachin from humans can restore mushroom spine density and excitatory postsynaptic currents in neurons of Neurobeachin-deficient mice. We then probed the role of individual domains of Neurobeachin by comparing them to the full-length molecule in rescue experiments of knockout neurons. We show that the combined PH-BEACH domain complex is highly localized in spine heads, and that it is sufficient to restore normal spine density and surface targeting of postsynaptic AMPA receptors. In addition, we report that the Armadillo domain facilitates the formation of filopodia, long dendritic protrusions which often precede the development of mature spines, whereas the PKA-binding site appears as a negative regulator of filopodial extension. Thus, our results indicate that individual domains of Neurobeachin sustain important and specific roles in the regulation of spinous synapses. Since heterozygous mutations in Neurobeachin occur in autistic patients, the results will also improve our understanding of pathomechanism in neuropsychiatric disorders associated with impairments of spine function.
Project description:Cocaine self-administration (SA) in rats dysregulates glutamatergic signaling in the prelimbic (PrL) cortex and glutamate release in the nucleus accumbens (NA) core, promoting cocaine seeking. PrL adaptations that affect relapse to drug seeking emerge during the first week of abstinence, switching from an early (2 h) hypoglutamatergic state to a later (7 days) hyperglutamatergic state. Different interventions that normalize glutamatergic signaling in PrL cortex at each timepoint are necessary to suppress relapse. We hypothesized that plasticity-related proteins that regulate glutamatergic neurotransmission as well as dendritic spine morphology would be biphasically regulated during these two phases of abstinence in PrL cortical neurons projecting to the NA core (PrL-NA core). A combinatorial viral approach was used to selectively label PrL-NA core neurons with an mCherry fluorescent reporter. Male rats underwent 2 weeks of cocaine SA or received yoked-saline infusions and were perfused either 2 h or 7 days after the final SA session. Confocal microscopy and 3D reconstruction analyses were performed for Fos and pCREB immunoreactivity (IR) in the nucleus of layer V PrL-NA core neurons and GluA1-IR and GluA2-IR in apical dendritic spines of the same neurons. Here, we show that cocaine SA decreased PrL-NA core spine head diameter, nuclear Fos-IR and pCREB-IR, and GluA1-IR and GluA2-IR in putative mushroom-type spines 2 h after the end of cocaine SA, whereas the opposite occurred following 1 week of abstinence. Our findings reveal biphasic, abstinence duration-dependent alterations in structural plasticity and relapse-related proteins in the PrL-NA core pathway after cocaine SA.
Project description:NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) play a central role in the rapid regulation of synaptic transmission, but their contribution to the long-term stabilization of glutamatergic synapses is unknown. We find that, in hippocampal pyramidal neurons in rat organotypic slices, pharmacological blockade of NMDARs does not affect synapse formation and dendritic spine growth but does increase the motility of spines. Physical loss of synaptic NMDARs induced by RNA interference against the NR1 subunit of the receptor also increases the motility of spines. Furthermore, knock-down of NMDARs, but not their pharmacological block, destabilizes spine structure and over time leads to loss of spines and excitatory synapses. Maintenance of normal spine density requires the coexpression of two specific splice isoforms of the NR1 subunit that contain the C-terminal C2 cassette. Thus, although ionotropic properties of NMDARs induce synaptic plasticity, it is the physical interactions of the C-tail of the receptor that mediate the long-term stabilization of synapses and spines.