Diverse neuronal populations with distinct cellular morphologies coordinate the complex function of the nervous system. Establishment of distinct neuronal morphologies critically depends on signaling pathways that control axonal and dendritic development. The Sema3A-Nrp1/PlxnA4 signaling pathway promotes cortical neuron basal dendrite arborization but also repels axons. However, the downstream signaling components underlying these disparate functions of Sema3A signaling are undear. Using the novel P/xnA4(KRK-AAA) knock-in male and female mice, generated by CRISPR/cas9, we show here that the KRK motif in the PlxnA4 cytoplasmic domain is required for Sema3A-mediated cortical neuron dendritic elaboration but is dispensable for inhibitory axon guidance. The RhoGEF FARP2, which binds to the KRK motif, shows identical functional specificity as the KRK motif in the PlxnA4 receptor. We find that Sema3A activates the small GTPase Rac1, and that Rac1 activity is required for dendrite elaboration but not axon growth cone collapse. This work identifies a novel Sema3A-Nrp1/PlxnA4/FARP2/Rac1 signaling pathway that specifically controls dendritic morphogenesis but is dispensable for repulsive guidance events. Overall, our results demonstrate that the divergent signaling output from multifunctional receptor complexes critically depends on distinct signaling motifs, highlighting the modular nature of guidance cue receptors and its potential to regulate diverse cellular responses.
During development, neurons adjust their energy balance to meet the high demands of robust axonal growth and branching. The mechanisms that regulate this tuning are largely unknown. Here, we show that sensory neurons lacking liver kinase B1 (Lkb1), a master regulator of energy homeostasis, exhibit impaired axonal growth and branching. Biochemical analysis of these neurons revealed reduction in axonal ATP levels, whereas transcriptome analysis uncovered down-regulation of Efhdl (EF-hand domain family member D1), a mitochondrial Ca2+-binding protein. Genetic ablation of Efhd1 in mice resulted in reduced axonal morphogenesis as well as enhanced neuronal death. Strikingly, this ablation causes mitochondrial dysfunction and a decrease in axonal ATP levels. Moreover, Efhd1 KO sensory neurons display shortened mitochondria at the axonal growth cones, activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-Ulk (Unc-51-like autophagy-activating kinase 1) pathway and an increase in autophagic flux. Overall, this work uncovers a new mitochondrial regulator that is required for axonal morphogenesis.
The innervation of the mammary gland is controlled by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and sexually dimorphic sequestering of BDNF by the truncated form of TrkB (TrkB. T1) directs male-specific axonal pruning in mice. It is unknown whether other cues modulate these processes. We detected specific, non-dimorphic, expression of Semaphorin family members in the mouse mammary gland, which signal through PlexinA4. PlexinA4 deletion in both female and male embryos caused developmental hyperinnervation of the gland, which could be reduced by genetic co-reduction of BDNF. Moreover, in males, PlexinA4 ablation delayed axonal pruning, independently of the initial levels of innervation. In support of this, in vitro reduction of BDNF induced axonal hypersensitivity to PlexinA4 signaling. Overall, our study shows that precise sensory innervation of the mammary gland is regulated by the balance between trophic and repulsive signaling. Upon inhibition of trophic signaling, these repulsive factors may promote axonal pruning.
Apoptotic cells expose Phosphatidylserine (PS), that serves as an "eat me" signal for engulfing cells. Previous studies have shown that PS also marks degenerating axonsduring developmental pruning or in response to insults (Wallerian degeneration), but the pathways that control PS exposure on degenerating axons are largely unknown. Here, we used a series of in vitro assays to systematically explore the regulation of PS exposure during axonal degeneration. Our results show that PS exposure is regulated by the upstream activators of axonal pruning and Wallerian degeneration. However, our investigation of signaling further downstream revealed divergence between axon degeneration and PS exposure. Importantly, elevation of the axonal energetic status hindered PS exposure, while inhibition of mitochondrial activity caused PS exposure, without degeneration. Overall, our results suggest that the levels of PS on the outer axonal membrane can be dissociated from the degeneration process and that the axonal energetic status plays a key role in the regulation of PS exposure.
SARM1 is a key regulator of axonal degeneration. However, SARM1 mechanism of action is not clear. In this issue of Neuron, Essuman et al. (2017) reveal an intrinsic NADase activity in the SARM1-TIR domain that is required for axonal degeneration.
Dysregulated activity of A Disintegrin And Metalloproteinase 17 (ADAM17)/TNF alpha Converting Enzyme (TACE) is associated with inflammatory disorders and cancer progression by releasing regulatory membrane-tethered proteins like TNF alpha, IL6R and EGFR ligands. Although specific inhibition of TACE is thought to be a viable strategy for inflammatory disorders and for malignancies treatment, the generation of effective inhibitors in vivo has been proven to be challenging. Here we report on the development of a protein inhibitor that leverages the endogenous modulator of TACE. We have generated a stable form of the auto-inhibitory TACE prodomain (TPD), which specifically inhibits in vitro and cell-surface TACE, but not the related ADAM10, and effectively modulated TNF alpha secretion in cells. TPD significantly attenuated TACE-mediated disease models of sepsis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and reduced TNFa in synovial fluids from RA patients. Our results demonstrate that intervening with endogenous ADAM sheddase modulatory mechanisms holds potential as a general strategy for the design of ADAM inhibitors.
How can cells sense their own size to coordinate biosynthesis and metabolism with their growth needs? We recently proposed a motor-dependent bidirectional transport mechanism for axon length and cell size sensing, but the nature of the motor-transported size signals remained elusive. Here, we show that motor-dependent mRNA localization regulates neuronal growth and cycling cell size. We found that the RNA-binding protein nucleolin is associated with importin beta1 mRNA in axons. Perturbation of nucleolin association with kinesins reduces its levels in axons, with a concomitant reduction in axonal importin beta1 mRNA and protein levels. Strikingly, subcellular sequestration of nucleolin or importin beta1 enhances axonal growth and causes a subcellular shift in protein synthesis. Similar findings were obtained in fibroblasts. Thus, subcellular mRNA localization regulates size and growth in both neurons and cycling cells.
Cell death is an inherent process that is required for the proper wiring of the nervous system. Studies over the last four decades have shown that, in a parallel developmental pathway, axons and dendrites are eliminated without the death of the neuron. This developmentally regulated `axonal death' results in neuronal remodeling, which is an essential mechanism to sculpt neuronal networks in both vertebrates and invertebrates. Studies across various organisms have demonstrated that a conserved strategy in the formation of adult neuronal circuitry often involves generating too many connections, most of which are later eliminated with high temporal and spatial resolution. Can neuronal remodeling be regarded as developmentally and spatially regulated neurodegeneration? It has been previously speculated that injury-induced degeneration ( Wallerian degeneration) shares some molecular features with `dying back' neurodegenerative diseases. In this opinion piece, we examine the similarities and differences between the mechanisms regulating neuronal remodeling and those being perturbed in dying back neurodegenerative diseases. We focus primarily on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and peripheral neuropathies and highlight possible shared pathways and mechanisms. While mechanistic data are only just beginning to emerge, and despite the inherent differences between disease-oriented and developmental processes, we believe that some of the similarities between these developmental and disease-initiated degeneration processes warrant closer collaborations and crosstalk between these different fields.
The precise wiring of the nervous system is a combined outcome of progressive and regressive events during development. Axon guidance and synapse formation intertwined with cell death and neurite pruning sculpt the mature circuitry. It is now well recognized that pruning of dendrites and axons as means to refine neuronal networks, is a wide spread phenomena required for the normal development of vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems. Here we will review the arising principles of cellular and molecular mechanisms of neurite pruning. We will discuss these principles in light of studies in multiple neuronal systems, and speculate on potential explanations for the emergence of neurite pruning as a mechanism to sculpt the nervous system.
During embryonic development, axons can gain and lose sensitivity to guidance cues, and this flexibility is essential for the correct wiring of the nervous system. Yet, the underlying molecular mechanisms are largely unknown. Here we show that receptor cleavage by ADAM (A Disintegrin And Metalloprotease) metalloproteases promotes murine sensory axons loss of responsiveness to the chemorepellant Sema3A. Genetic ablation of ADAM10 and ADAM17 disrupts the developmental downregulation of Neuropilin-1 (Nrp1), the receptor for Sema3A, in sensory axons. Moreover, this is correlated with gain of repulsive response to Sema3A. Overexpression of Nrp1 in neurons reverses axonal desensitization to Sema3A, but this is hampered in a mutant Nrp1 with high susceptibility to cleavage. Lastly, we detect guidance errors of proprioceptive axons in ADAM knockouts that are consistent with enhanced response to Sema3A. Our results provide the first evidence for involvement of ADAMs in regulating developmental switch in responsiveness to axonal guidance cues.
RNA localization is a regulatory mechanism that is conserved from bacteria to mammals. Yet, little is known about the mechanism and the logic that govern the distribution of RNA transcripts within the cell. Here, we present a novel organ culture system, which enables the isolation of RNA specifically from NGF dependent re-growing peripheral axons of mouse embryo, sensory neurons. In combination with massive parallel sequencing technology, we determine the subcellular localization of most transcripts in the transcriptome. We found that the axon is enriched in mRNAs that encode secreted proteins, transcription factors, and the translation machinery. In contrast, the axon was largely depleted from mRNAs encoding transmembrane proteins, a particularly interesting finding, since many of these gene products are specifically expressed in the tip of the axon at the protein level. Comparison of the mitochondrial mRNAs encoded in the nucleus with those encoded in the mitochondria, uncovered completely different localization pattern, with the latter much enriched in the axon fraction. This discovery is intriguing since the protein products encoded by the nuclear and mitochondrial genome form large co-complexes. Finally, focusing on alternative splice variants that are specific to axonal fractions, we find short sequence motifs that are enriched in the axonal transcriptome. Together our findings shed light on the extensive role of RNA localization and its characteristics. (c) 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 74: 365-381, 2014
Guidance receptor signaling is crucial for neural circuit formation and elicits diverse cellular events in specific neurons. We found that signaling from the guidance cue semaphorin 3A diverged through distinct cytoplasmic domains in its receptor Plexin-A4 to promote disparate cellular behavior in different neuronal cell types. Plexin-A4 has three main cytoplasmic domains-C1, Hinge/RBD, and C2-and interacts with family members of the Rho guanine nucleotide exchange factor FARP proteins. We show that growth cone collapse occurred in Plexin-A4-deficient dorsal root ganglion sensory neurons reconstituted with Plexin-A4 containing either the Hinge/RBD or C2 domain, whereas both of the Hinge/RBD and C1 domains were required for dendritic arborization in cortical neurons. Although knockdown studies indicated that both the collapse and arborization responses involved FARP2, mutations in the cytoplasmic region of Plexin-A4 that reduced its interaction with FARP2 strongly inhibited semaphorin 3A-induced dendritic branching but not growth cone collapse, suggesting that different degrees of interaction are required for the two responses or that developing axons have an indirect path to FARP2 activation. Thus, our study provided insights into the multifunctionality of guidance receptors, in particular showing that the semaphorin 3A signal diverges through specific functions of the modular domains of Plexin-A4.
During development, neurons are initially overproduced and excess neurons are eliminated later on by programmed cell death. In a more refined developmental process termed pruning, excess axons and dendritic branches are removed while the cell body remains intact. In mature animals, axons that become disconnected as a result of injury are eliminated through a series of events collectively known as Wallerian degeneration. Recent evidence points to unexpected similarities between these three types of obliterative processes, as they share common regulators. These findings provide new ideas on how cellular destruction programs are spatially regulated in neurons.
Extensive axonal pruning and neuronal cell death are critical events for the development of the nervous system. Like neuronal cell death, axonal elimination occurs in discrete steps; however, the regulators of these processes remain mostly elusive. Here, we identify the kinesin superfamily protein 2A (KIF2A) as a key executor of microtubule disassembly and axonal breakdown during axonal pruning. Knockdown of Kif2a, but not other microtubule depolymerization or severing proteins, protects axonal microtubules from disassembly upon trophic deprivation. We further confirmed and extended this result to demonstrate that the entire degeneration process is delayed in neurons from the Kif2a knockout mice. Finally, we show that the Kif2a-null mice exhibit normal sensory axon patterning early during development, but abnormal target hyperinnervation later on, as they compete for limited skin-derived trophic support. Overall, these findings reveal a central regulatory mechanism of axonal pruning during development.
CLP1 was the first mammalian RNA kinase to be identified. However, determining its in vivo function has been elusive. Here we generated kinase-dead Clp1 (Clp1(K/K)) mice that show a progressive loss of spinal motor neurons associated with axonal degeneration in the peripheral nerves and denervation of neuromuscular junctions, resulting in impaired motor function, muscle weakness, paralysis and fatal respiratory failure. Transgenic rescue experiments show that CLP1 functions in motor neurons. Mechanistically, loss of CLP1 activity results in accumulation of a novel set of small RNA fragments, derived from aberrant processing of tyrosine pre-transfer RNA. These tRNA fragments sensitize cells to oxidative-stress-induced p53 (also known as TRP53) activation and p53-dependent cell death. Genetic inactivation of p53 rescues Clp1(K/K) mice from the motor neuron loss, muscle denervation and respiratory failure. Our experiments uncover a mechanistic link between tRNA processing, formation of a new RNA species and progressive loss of lower motor neurons regulated by p53.
Automated analyses of neuronal morphology are important for quantifying connectivity and circuitry in vivo, as well as in high content imaging of primary neuron cultures. The currently available tools for quantification of neuronal morphology either are highly expensive commercial packages or cannot provide automated image quantifications at single cell resolution. Here, we describe a new software package called WIS-NeuroMath, which fills this gap and provides solutions for automated measurement of neuronal processes in both in vivo and in vitro preparations. Diverse image types can be analyzed without any preprocessing, enabling automated and accurate detection of neurites followed by their quantification in a number of application modules. A cell morphology module detects cell bodies and attached neurites, providing information on neurite length, number of branches, cell body area, and other parameters for each cell. A neurite length module provides a solution for images lacking cell bodies, such as tissue sections. Finally, a ganglion explant module quantifies outgrowth by identifying neurites at different distances from the ganglion. Quantification of a diverse series of preparations with WIS-NeuroMath provided data that were well matched with parallel analyses of the same preparations in established software packages such as MetaXpress or NeuronJ. The capabilities of WIS-NeuroMath are demonstrated in a range of applications, including in dissociated and explant cultures and histological analyses on thin and whole-mount sections. WIS-NeuroMath is freely available to academic users, providing a versatile and cost-effective range of solutions for quantifying neurite growth, branching, regeneration, or degeneration under different experimental paradigms. (c) 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2013
Peripheral neuropathy is a devastating complication of diabetes conferring vast morbidity and mortality. Despite prolonged efforts to elucidate the mechanisms underlying diabetic related neuropathic phenomena and develop effective therapies, current treatment is for the most part glycemic control and symptomatic care. This is partially due to the intricate pathophysiology of diabetic neuropathy and the scarcity of valid experimental models. The aim of the study was to establish novel systems enabling monitoring and dissection of significant processes in the development of diabetic neuropathy. In a non-invasive in vivo model, two-photon microscopy is applied to evaluate mechanoreceptors (Meissner corpuscles) within an intact footpad of transgenic mice expressing a fluorescent neuronal tracer. By applying this advanced technology, which couples potent tissue penetration with superb resolution, we documented qualitative and quantitative diabetes-specific alterations in these sensory structures. Detection of such changes previously required laborious invasive histopathological techniques. In parallel, we present an ex vivo system that mimics the native microenvironment of the nerve ending via a unique co-culture of primary sensory neurons and thin skin slices. In conjunction with innovative high-throughput digital axonal measurements and computerized quantification tools, this method enables an unbiased exploration of neuronal autonomous and non-autonomous malfunctions. Using this setup we demonstrate that while the diabetic nerve retains a near-normal growth and regeneration capacities, the diabetic skin exhibits a decreased ability to support axonal outgrowth. Thus, an early target organ failure rather than intrinsic neuronal failure may initiate the neuropathy. Overall, the illustrated experimental platforms may greatly facilitate the holistic investigation of diabetic neuropathy.
Subcellular localization of mRNA enables compartmentalized regulation within large cells. Neurons are the longest known cells; however, so far, evidence is lacking for an essential role of endogenous mRNA localization in axons. Localized upregulation of Importin beta 1 in lesioned axons coordinates a retrograde injury-signaling complex transported to the neuronal cell body. Here we show that a long 3' untranslated region (3' UTR) directs axonal localization of Importin beta 1. Conditional targeting of this 3' UTR region in mice causes subcellular loss of Importin beta 1 mRNA and protein in axons, without affecting cell body levels or nuclear functions in sensory neurons. Strikingly, axonal knockout of lmportin beta 1 attenuates cell body transcriptional responses to nerve injury and delays functional recovery in vivo. Thus, localized translation of Importin beta 1 mRNA enables separation of cytoplasmic and nuclear transport functions of importins and is required for efficient retrograde signaling in injured axons.
Cell-cell communication by juxtacrine signaling plays a key role in the development of the nervous system, from cell fate determination through axonal guidance to synaptogenesis. Interestingly, several juxtacrine signaling systems exhibit an inhibitory interaction between receptors and ligands in the same cell, termed cis inhibition. These include the Notch, semaphorin and ephrin signaling systems. Here we review the role of cis inhibition in these signaling systems in the development of the nervous system. We compare and contrast cis inhibition mechanisms and discuss their potential cellular function as a threshold-generating mechanism. The prevalence of cis inhibition suggests that these interactions and their functional regulatory roles may serve as a general design principle for juxtacrine signaling-mediated processes during and beyond neurodevelopment.
Dorsal root ganglia (DRG) contain somatosensory neurons of diverse sensory modalities. Among these different types of sensory neurons, the molecular mechanisms that regulate the development and specification of touch neurons are the least well understood. We took a candidate approach and searched for transcription factors that are expressed in subsets of DRG neurons, and found that the transcription factor Shox2 (short stature homeobox 2) is expressed in subpopulations of TrkB (tropomyosin-related kinase B)-and Ret-expressing neurons at neonatal stages. Since TrkB is a known marker that is selectively expressed in touch sensory neurons, we decided to examine the function of Shox2 in specifying TrkB-positive DRG neurons. Conditional deletion of Shox2 in neural crest cells (which give rise to all DRG neurons) caused a 60 similar to 65% reduction in the number of TrkB-expressing neurons. It also resulted in an increase in coexpression of TrkC in Ret-positive sensory neurons. Deletion of Shox2 in differentiating DRG neurons at later time points caused only a moderate reduction in TrkB expression. Overexpression of Shox2 in all neural crest cells resulted in a small increase in the number of TrkB-expressing neurons. Finally, Shox2 deletion also caused reduced touch sensory axonal innervation to layers III/IV of the spinal cord. Together, our findings identify Shox2 as an essential but not sufficient component of the transcription programs required in neural progenitor cells for the proper specification of subsets of TrkB-expressing touch/mechanosensory neurons.
The correct navigation of axons to their targets depends on guidance molecules in the extra-cellular environment. Differential responsiveness to a particular guidance cue is largely an outcome of disparity in the expression of its receptors on the reacting axons. Here, we show that the differential responsiveness of sympathetic and sensory neurons to the transmembrane Semaphorin Sema6A is mainly determined by its co-expression in the responding neurons. Both sympathetic and sensory neurons express the Sema6A receptor Plexin-A4, but only sympathetic neurons respond to it. The expression of Sema6A counteracts this responsiveness and is detected only in sensory neurons. Remarkably, sensory neurons that lack Sema6A gain sensitivity to it in a Plexin-A4-dependent manner. Using heterologus systems, we show that the co-expression of Sema6A and Plexin-A4 hinders the binding of exogenous ligand, suggesting that a Sema6A-Plexin-A4 cis interaction serves as an inhibitory mechanism. Finally, we provide evidence for differential modes of interaction in cis versus in trans. Thus, co-expression of a transmembrane cue together with its receptor can serve as a guidance response modulator. The EMBO Journal (2010) 29, 2635-2645. doi:10.1038/emboj.2010.147; Published online 6 July 2010
Selective degeneration of neuronal projections and neurite pruning are critical for establishment and maintenance of functional neural circuits in both insects and mammals. However, the molecular mechanisms that govern developmental neurite pruning versus injury-induced neurite degeneration are still mostly unclear. Here, we show that the effector caspases 6 and 3 are both expressed within axons and that, on trophic deprivation, they exhibit distinct modes of activation. Surprisingly, inhibition of caspases is not sufficient for axonal protection and a parallel modulation of a NAD(+)-sensitive pathway is required. The proapoptotic protein BAX is a key element in both pathways as its genetic ablation protected sensory axons against developmental degeneration both in vitro and in vivo. Last, we demonstrate that both pathways are also involved in developmental dendritic pruning in Drosophila. More specifically, the mouse Wld(S) ( Wallerian degeneration slow) protein, which is mainly composed of the full-length sequence of the NAD(+) biosynthetic Nmnat1 enzyme, can suppress dendritic pruning in C4da (class IV dendritic arborization) sensory neurons in parallel to the fly effector caspases. These findings indicate that two distinct autodestruction pathways act separately or in concert to regulate developmental neurite pruning.
Keywords: Developmental Biology; Neurosciences
Extensive neuronal cell death during development is believed to be due to a limiting supply of neurotrophic factors. In vitro studies suggest that axon guidance molecules directly regulate neuronal survival, raising the possibility that they play a direct role in neuronal cell death in vivo. However, guidance errors may also influence survival indirectly due to loss of target-derived neurotrophic support. The role of guidance molecules in neuronal death in vivo has thus been difficult to decipher. Semaphorin3A, a repulsive guidance cue for sensory neurons, can induce sensory neuron death in vitro. Null mice studies of the Semaphorin3A coreceptors showed that guidance activity is mediated by PlexinA4, but PlexinA3 partially compensates in PlexinA4(-/-) mice. Here we demonstrate that both Plexins contribute to Sema3A-induced cell death in vitro, albeit in a different hierarchy. PlexinA3 is absolutely required, while PlexinA4 makes a smaller contribution to cell death. We found that PlexinA3(-/-) mice, which, unlike PlexinA4(-/-) mice, do not exhibit sensory axon patterning defects, show reduced neuronal apoptosis and an increased number of DRG neurons. Semaphorin3A involvement in neuronal death in vivo was demonstrated by a sensitization experiment using the proapoptotic effector Bax. Our results identify Plexins as mediators of Semaphorin-induced cell death in vitro, and provide the first evidence implicating Semaphorin/Plexin signaling in neuronal survival independent of its role in axon guidance. The results also support the idea that naturally occurring neuronal cell death reflects not only competition for target-derived trophic factors, but also the action of proapoptotic signaling via a Semaphorin/Plexin pathway.
The mechanisms underlying formation of the basic network of the nervous system are of fundamental interest in developmental neurobiology. During the wiring of the nervous system, newborn neurons send axons that travel long distances to their targets. These axons are directed by environmental cues, known as guidance cues, to their correct destinations. Through extensive studies in vertebrates and invertebrates many of the guidance cues and their receptors have been identified. Recently, guidance molecules have been suggested to have important roles in pathological conditions of the nervous system. Mutations in guidance receptors have been associated with hereditary neurological disorders, and deregulation of guidance cues might be associated with predisposition to epilepsy. In addition, it was suggested that guidance molecules play roles in the ability of the adult nervous system to recover and repair after injury. Thus, molecules that were first discovered as "developmental cues" are now emerging as important factors in neurological disease and injury in the adult. (C) 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.