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  • Impact of Vital Dyes on Cell Viability and Transduction Efficiency of AAV Vectors Used in Retinal Gene Therapy Surgery: An In Vitro and In Vivo Analysis.

    7 December 2017

    PURPOSE: Treatment of inherited retinal degenerations using adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors involves delivery by subretinal injection. In the latter stages, alteration of normal anatomy may cause difficulty in visualizing the retinotomy, retinal detachment extension, and vector diffusion. Vital dyes may be useful surgical adjuncts, but their safety and impact on AAV transduction are largely unknown. METHODS: The effects of Sodium Fluorescein (SF), Membrane Blue (MB), and Membrane Blue Dual (DB) at a range of dilutions were assessed on human embryonic kidney cells in vitro using an AAV2-green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter at different multiplicities of infection. Flow cytometry analysis was performed to assess both cell viability and transduction efficiency. The effect on quantitative (q)PCR titer was determined. Balanced salt solution (BSS) or dilute DB (1:5 in BSS) were delivered subretinally into left/right eyes of C57BL/6J mice (n = 12). Retinal structure and function were analyzed by optical coherence tomography, autofluorescence, dark-and light-adapted full-field electroretinography. RESULTS: DB and MB were not toxic at any concentration tested, SF only when undiluted. The presence of dyes did not adversely affect the genomic titer. DB even increased the values, due to presence of surfactant in the formulation. AAV2-GFP transduction efficiency was not reduced by the dyes. No structural and functional toxic effects were observed following subretinal delivery of DB. CONCLUSIONS: Only undiluted SF affected cell viability. No effects on qPCR titer and transduction efficiency were observed. DB does not appear toxic when delivered subretinally and improves titer accuracy. DB may therefore be a safe and helpful adjunct during gene therapy surgery. TRANSLATIONAL RELEVANCE: This paper might be of interest to the retinal gene therapy community: it is a "bench to bedside" research paper about the potential use of dyes as a surgical adjunct during the gene therapy surgery. We have tested the potential toxicity and impact on transduction efficiency in an in vitro and in vivo model.

  • The interaction between subclinical psychotic experiences, insomnia and objective measures of sleep.

    7 December 2017

    Investigations into schizophrenia have revealed a high incidence of comorbidity with disturbed sleep and circadian timing. Acknowledging this comorbidity on a dimensional level, we tested prospectively whether subclinical psychotic symptoms are more prevalent in individuals with insomnia. An insomnia group (n=21) and controls (n=22) were recruited on their subjective sleep quality, recorded actigraphically for 3weeks and assessed for psychotic-like experiences with The Prodromal Questionnaire-16. Using multivariate Poisson regression analyses, we found that objective and subjective sleep measures interact to predict the highest risk for psychotic experiences. Objective measures of sleep and statistical modelling are rarely used in either clinical trials or practice for schizophrenia, yet this study highlights their value in these areas.

  • Computing the Social Brain Connectome Across Systems and States.

    6 December 2017

    Social skills probably emerge from the interaction between different neural processing levels. However, social neuroscience is fragmented into highly specialized, rarely cross-referenced topics. The present study attempts a systematic reconciliation by deriving a social brain definition from neural activity meta-analyses on social-cognitive capacities. The social brain was characterized by meta-analytic connectivity modeling evaluating coactivation in task-focused brain states and physiological fluctuations evaluating correlations in task-free brain states. Network clustering proposed a functional segregation into (1) lower sensory, (2) limbic, (3) intermediate, and (4) high associative neural circuits that together mediate various social phenomena. Functional profiling suggested that no brain region or network is exclusively devoted to social processes. Finally, nodes of the putative mirror-neuron system were coherently cross-connected during tasks and more tightly coupled to embodied simulation systems rather than abstract emulation systems. These first steps may help reintegrate the specialized research agendas in the social and affective sciences.

  • Specifying the brain anatomy underlying temporo-parietal junction activations for theory of mind: A review using probabilistic atlases from different imaging modalities.

    6 December 2017

    In this quantitative review, we specified the anatomical basis of brain activity reported in the Temporo-Parietal Junction (TPJ) in Theory of Mind (ToM) research. Using probabilistic brain atlases, we labeled TPJ peak coordinates reported in the literature. This was carried out for four different atlas modalities: (i) gyral-parcellation, (ii) sulco-gyral parcellation, (iii) cytoarchitectonic parcellation and (iv) connectivity-based parcellation. In addition, our review distinguished between two ToM task types (false belief and social animations) and a nonsocial task (attention reorienting). We estimated the mean probabilities of activation for each atlas label, and found that for all three task types part of TPJ activations fell into the same areas: (i) Angular Gyrus (AG) and Lateral Occpital Cortex (LOC) in terms of a gyral atlas, (ii) AG and Superior Temporal Sulcus (STS) in terms of a sulco-gyral atlas, (iii) areas PGa and PGp in terms of cytoarchitecture and (iv) area TPJp in terms of a connectivity-based parcellation atlas. Beside these commonalities, we also found that individual task types showed preferential activation for particular labels. Main findings for the right hemisphere were preferential activation for false belief tasks in AG/PGa, and in Supramarginal Gyrus (SMG)/PFm for attention reorienting. Social animations showed strongest selective activation in the left hemisphere, specifically in left Middle Temporal Gyrus (MTG). We discuss how our results (i.e., identified atlas structures) can provide a new reference for describing future findings, with the aim to integrate different labels and terminologies used for studying brain activity around the TPJ. Hum Brain Mapp 38:4788-4805, 2017. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

  • Hippocampal synaptic plasticity, spatial memory and anxiety.

    19 February 2018

    Recent studies using transgenic mice lacking NMDA receptors in the hippocampus challenge the long-standing hypothesis that hippocampal long-term potentiation-like mechanisms underlie the encoding and storage of associative long-term spatial memories. However, it may not be the synaptic plasticity-dependent memory hypothesis that is wrong; instead, it may be the role of the hippocampus that needs to be re-examined. We present an account of hippocampal function that explains its role in both memory and anxiety.

  • Serotonin, Amygdala and Fear: Assembling the Puzzle.

    9 February 2018

    The fear circuitry orchestrates defense mechanisms in response to environmental threats. This circuitry is evolutionarily crucial for survival, but its dysregulation is thought to play a major role in the pathophysiology of psychiatric conditions in humans. The amygdala is a key player in the processing of fear. This brain area is prominently modulated by the neurotransmitter serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT). The 5-HT input to the amygdala has drawn particular interest because genetic and pharmacological alterations of the 5-HT transporter (5-HTT) affect amygdala activation in response to emotional stimuli. Nonetheless, the impact of 5-HT on fear processing remains poorly understood.The aim of this review is to elucidate the physiological role of 5-HT in fear learning via its action on the neuronal circuits of the amygdala. Since 5-HT release increases in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) during both fear memory acquisition and expression, we examine whether and how 5-HT neurons encode aversive stimuli and aversive cues. Next, we describe pharmacological and genetic alterations of 5-HT neurotransmission that, in both rodents and humans, lead to altered fear learning. To explore the mechanisms through which 5-HT could modulate conditioned fear, we focus on the rodent BLA. We propose that a circuit-based approach taking into account the localization of specific 5-HT receptors on neurochemically-defined neurons in the BLA may be essential to decipher the role of 5-HT in emotional behavior. In keeping with a 5-HT control of fear learning, we review electrophysiological data suggesting that 5-HT regulates synaptic plasticity, spike synchrony and theta oscillations in the BLA via actions on different subcellular compartments of principal neurons and distinct GABAergic interneuron populations. Finally, we discuss how recently developed optogenetic tools combined with electrophysiological recordings and behavior could progress the knowledge of the mechanisms underlying 5-HT modulation of fear learning via action on amygdala circuits. Such advancement could pave the way for a deeper understanding of 5-HT in emotional behavior in both health and disease.

  • Ablating adult neurogenesis in the rat has no effect on spatial processing: evidence from a novel pharmacogenetic model.

    19 February 2018

    The function of adult neurogenesis in the rodent brain remains unclear. Ablation of adult born neurons has yielded conflicting results about emotional and cognitive impairments. One hypothesis is that adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus enables spatial pattern separation, allowing animals to distinguish between similar stimuli. We investigated whether spatial pattern separation and other putative hippocampal functions of adult neurogenesis were altered in a novel genetic model of neurogenesis ablation in the rat. In rats engineered to express thymidine kinase (TK) from a promoter of the rat glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), ganciclovir treatment reduced new neurons by 98%. GFAP-TK rats showed no significant difference from controls in spatial pattern separation on the radial maze, spatial learning in the water maze, contextual or cued fear conditioning. Meta-analysis of all published studies found no significant effects for ablation of adult neurogenesis on spatial memory, cue conditioning or ethological measures of anxiety. An effect on contextual freezing was significant at a threshold of 5% (P = 0.04), but not at a threshold corrected for multiple testing. The meta-analysis revealed remarkably high levels of heterogeneity among studies of hippocampal function. The source of this heterogeneity remains unclear and poses a challenge for studies of the function of adult neurogenesis.

  • BDNF-TrkB signaling in striatopallidal neurons controls inhibition of locomotor behavior.

    28 January 2018

    The physiology of brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling in enkephalinergic striatopallidal neurons is poorly understood. Changes in cortical Bdnf expression levels, and/or impairment in brain-derived neurotrophic factor anterograde transport induced by mutant huntingtin (mHdh) are believed to cause striatopallidal neuron vulnerability in early-stage Huntington's disease. Although several studies have confirmed a link between altered cortical brain-derived neurotrophic factor signaling and striatal vulnerability, it is not known whether the effects are mediated via the brain-derived neurotrophic factor receptor TrkB, and whether they are direct or indirect. Using a novel genetic mouse model, here, we show that selective removal of brain-derived neurotrophic factor-TrkB signaling from enkephalinergic striatal targets unexpectedly leads to spontaneous and drug-induced hyperlocomotion. This is associated with dopamine D2 receptor-dependent increased striatal protein kinase C and MAP kinase activation, resulting in altered intrinsic activation of striatal enkephalinergic neurons. Therefore, brain-derived neurotrophic factor/TrkB signaling in striatopallidal neurons controls inhibition of locomotor behavior by modulating neuronal activity in response to excitatory input through the protein kinase C/MAP kinase pathway.

  • Increased Serotonin Transporter Expression Reduces Fear and Recruitment of Parvalbumin Interneurons of the Amygdala.

    9 February 2018

    Genetic association studies suggest that variations in the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT; serotonin) transporter (5-HTT) gene are associated with susceptibility to psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder. Individuals carrying high 5-HTT-expressing gene variants display low amygdala reactivity to fearful stimuli. Mice overexpressing the 5-HTT (5-HTTOE), an animal model of this human variation, show impaired fear, together with reduced fear-evoked theta oscillations in the basolateral amygdala (BLA). However, it is unclear how variation in 5-HTT gene expression impacts on the microcircuitry of the BLA to change behavior. We addressed this issue by investigating the activity of parvalbumin (PV)-expressing interneurons (PVINs), the biggest IN population in the basal amygdala (BA). We found that increased 5-HTT expression impairs the recruitment of PVINs (measured by their c-Fos immunoreactivity) during fear. Ex vivo patch-clamp recordings demonstrated that the depolarizing effect of 5-HT on PVINs was mediated by 5-HT2A receptor. In 5-HTTOE mice, 5-HT-evoked depolarization of PVINs and synaptic inhibition of principal cells, which provide the major output of the BA, were impaired. This deficit was because of reduced 5-HT2A function and not because of increased 5-HT uptake. Collectively, these findings provide novel cellular mechanisms that are likely to contribute to differences in emotional behaviors linked with genetic variations of the 5-HTT.