(2019) Annual Review of Neuroscience. 42, p. 365-383 Abstract
The structural and functional properties of neurons have intrigued scientists since the pioneering work of Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Since then, emerging cutting- edge technologies, including light and electron microscopy, electrophysiology, biochemistry, optogenetics, and molecular biology, have dramatically increased our understanding of dendritic properties. This advancement was also facilitated by the establishment of different animal model organisms, from flies to mammals. Here we describe the emerging model system of a Caenorhabditis elegans polymodal neuron named PVD, whose dendritic tree follows a stereotypical structure characterized by repeating candelabra- like structural units. In the past decade, progress has been made in understanding PVD's functions, morphogenesis, regeneration, and aging, yet many questions still remain.
(2017) Development. 144, 13, p. 2364-2374 Abstract
The aging brain undergoes structural changes that affect brain homeostasis, neuronal function and consequently cognition. The complex architecture of dendritic arbors poses a challenge to understanding age-dependent morphological alterations, behavioral plasticity and remodeling following brain injury. Here, we use the PVD polymodal neurons of C. elegans as a model to study how aging affects neuronal plasticity. Using confocal live imaging of C. elegans PVD neurons, we demonstrate age-related progressive morphological alterations of intricate dendritic arbors. We show that mutations in daf-2, which encodes an insulin-like growth factor receptor ortholog, fail to inhibit the progressive morphological aging of dendrites and do not prevent the minor decline in response to harsh touch during aging. We uncovered that PVD aging is characterized by a major decline in the regenerative potential of dendrites following experimental laser dendrotomy. Furthermore, the remodeling of transected dendritic trees by AFF-1-mediated self-fusion can be restored in old animals by daf-2 mutations, and can be differentially re-established by ectopic expression of the fusion protein AFF-1. Thus, ectopic expression of the fusogen AFF-1 in the PVD and mutations in daf-2 differentially rejuvenate some aspects of dendritic regeneration following injury.
(2012) Current Biology. 22, 19, p. 1774-1782 Abstract
Background: The molecular mechanisms that determine axonal growth potential are poorly understood. Intrinsic growth potential decreases with age, and thus one strategy to identify molecular pathways controlling intrinsic growth potential is by studying developing young neurons. The programmed and stereotypic remodeling of Drosophila mushroom body (MB) neurons during metamorphosis offers a unique opportunity to uncover such mechanisms. Despite emerging insights into MB gamma-neuron axon pruning, nothing is known about the ensuing axon re-extension. Results: Using mosaic loss of function, we found that the nuclear receptor UNF (Nr2e3) is cell autonomously required for the re-extension of MB gamma-axons following pruning, but not for the initial growth or guidance of any MB neuron type. We found that UNF promotes this process of developmental axon regrowth via the TOR pathway as well as a late axon guidance program via an unknown mechanism. We have thus uncovered a novel developmental program of axon regrowth that is cell autonomously regulated by the UNF nuclear receptor and the TOR pathway. Conclusions: Our results suggest that UNF activates neuronal re-extension during development. Taken together, we show that axon growth during developmental remodeling is mechanistically distinct from initial axon outgrowth. Due to the involvement of the TOR pathway in axon regeneration following injury, our results also suggests that developmental regrowth shares common molecular mechanisms with regeneration following injury.