Functional imaging and gene expression studies both implicate the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), particularly deep-layer projection neurons, as a potential locus for autism pathology. Here, we explored how speciﬁc deep-layer prefrontal neurons contribute to abnormal physiology and behavior in mouse models of autism. First, we ﬁnd that across three etiologically distinct models — in utero valproic acid (VPA) exposure, CNTNAP2 knockout and FMR1 knockout — layer 5 subcortically projecting (SC) neurons consistently exhibit reduced input resistance and action potential ﬁring. To explore how altered SC neuron physiology might impact behavior, we took advantage of the fact that in deep layers of the mPFC, dopamine D2 receptors (D2Rs) are mainly expressed by SC neurons, and used D2-Cre mice to label D2R+ neurons for calcium imaging or optogenetics. We found that social exploration preferentially recruits mPFC D2R+ cells, but that this recruitment is attenuated in VPA-exposed mice. Stimulating mPFC D2R+ neurons disrupts normal social interaction. Conversely, inhibiting these cells enhances social behavior in VPA-exposed mice. Importantly, this effect was not reproduced by nonspeciﬁcally inhibiting mPFC neurons in VPA-exposed mice, or by inhibiting D2R+ neurons in wild-type mice. These ﬁndings suggest that multiple forms of autism may alter the physiology of speciﬁc deep-layer prefrontal neurons that project to subcortical targets. Furthermore, a highly overlapping population — prefrontal D2R+ neurons — plays an important role in both normal and abnormal social behavior, such that targeting these cells can elicit potentially therapeutic effects.
Mice lacking DIX domain containing-1 (DIXDC1), an intracellular Wnt/β-catenin signal pathway protein, have abnormal measures of anxiety, depression and social behavior. Pyramidal neurons in these animals' brains have reduced dendritic spines and glutamatergic synapses. Treatment with lithium or a glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) inhibitor corrects behavioral and neurodevelopmental phenotypes in these animals. Analysis of DIXDC1 in over 9000 cases of autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia reveals higher rates of rare inherited sequence-disrupting single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) in these individuals compared with psychiatrically unaffected controls. Many of these SNVs alter Wnt/β-catenin signaling activity of the neurally predominant DIXDC1 isoform; a subset that hyperactivate this pathway cause dominant neurodevelopmental effects. We propose that rare missense SNVs in DIXDC1 contribute to psychiatric pathogenesis by reducing spine and glutamatergic synapse density downstream of GSK3 in the Wnt/β-catenin pathway.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 18 October 2016; doi:10.1038/mp.2016.184.
OBJECTIVES: High levels of expression of the Na+-K+-2Cl- (NKCC1) cotransporter in immature neurons cause the accumulation of intracellular chloride and, therefore, a depolarized Cl- equilibrium potential (E(Cl)). This results in the outward flux of Cl- through GABA(A) channels, the opposite direction compared with mature neurons, in which GABA(A) receptor activation is inhibitory because Cl- flows into the cell. This outward flow of Cl- in neonatal neurons is excitatory and contributes to a greater seizure propensity and poor electroencephalographic response to GABAergic anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital and benzodiazepines. Blocking the NKCC1 transporter with bumetanide prevents outward Cl- flux and causes a more negative GABA equilibrium potential (E(GABA)) in immature neurons. We therefore tested whether bumetanide enhances the anticonvulsant action of phenobarbital in the neonatal brain
METHODS: Recurrent seizures were induced in the intact hippocampal preparation in vitro by continuous 5-hour exposure to low-Mg2+ solution. The anticonvulsant efficacy of phenobarbital, bumetanide, and the combination of these drugs was studied
RESULTS: Phenobarbital failed to abolish or depress recurrent seizures in 70% of hippocampi. In contrast, phenobarbital in combination with bumetanide abolished seizures in 70% of hippocampi and significantly reduced the frequency, duration, and power of seizures in the remaining 30%
INTERPRETATION: Thus, alteration of Cl- transport by bumetanide enables the anticonvulsant action of phenobarbital in immature brain. This is a mechanistic demonstration of rational anticonvulsant polypharmacy. The combination of these agents may comprise an effective therapy for early-life seizures.
In the adult brain, chloride (Cl-) influx through GABA(A) receptors is an important mechanism of synaptic inhibition. However, under a variety of circumstances, including acquired epilepsy, neuropathic pain, after trains of action potentials or trauma, and during normal early brain development, GABA(A) receptor activation excites neurons by gating Cl- efflux because the intracellular Cl- concentration (Cl(i)) is elevated. These findings require an inducible, active mechanism of chloride accumulation. We used gramicidin-perforated patch recordings to characterize Cl- transport via NKCC1, the principal neuronal Cl- accumulator, in neonatal CA1 pyramidal neurons. NKCC1 activity was required to maintain elevated Cl(i) such that GABA(A) receptor activation was depolarizing. Kinetic analysis of NKCC1 revealed reversible transmembrane Cl- transport characterized by a large maximum velocity (vmax) and high affinity (Km), so that NKCC1 transport was limited only by the net electrochemical driving force for Na+, K+, and Cl-. At the steady-state Cl(i), NKCC1 was at thermodynamic equilibrium, and there was no evidence of net Cl- transport. Trains of action potentials that have been previously shown to induce persistent changes in neuronal E(Cl) (reversal potential for Cl-) did not alter vmax or Km of NKCC1. Rather, action potentials shifted the thermodynamic set point, the steady-state Cl(i) at which there was no net NKCC1-mediated Cl- transport. The persistent increase in Cl(i) required intact alpha2/alpha3 Na+-K+-ATPase activity, indicating that trains of action potentials reset the thermodynamic equilibrium for NKCC1 transport by lowering Na(i). Activity-induced changes in Na+-K+-ATPase activity comprise a novel mechanism for persistent alterations in synaptic signaling mediated by GABA.
During development, activation of Cl(-)-permeable GABA(A) receptors (GABA(A)-R) excites neurons as a result of elevated intracellular Cl(-) levels and a depolarized Cl(-) equilibrium potential (E(Cl)). GABA becomes inhibitory as net outward neuronal transport of Cl(-) develops in a caudal-rostral progression. In line with this caudal-rostral developmental pattern, GABAergic anticonvulsant compounds inhibit motor manifestations of neonatal seizures but not cortical seizure activity. The Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) cotransporter (NKCC1) facilitates the accumulation of Cl(-) in neurons. The NKCC1 blocker bumetanide shifted E(Cl) negative in immature neurons, suppressed epileptiform activity in hippocampal slices in vitro and attenuated electrographic seizures in neonatal rats in vivo. Bumetanide had no effect in the presence of the GABA(A)-R antagonist bicuculline, nor in brain slices from NKCC1-knockout mice. NKCC1 expression level versus expression of the Cl(-)-extruding transporter (KCC2) in human and rat cortex showed that Cl(-) transport in perinatal human cortex is as immature as in the rat. Our results provide evidence that NKCC1 facilitates seizures in the developing brain and indicate that bumetanide should be useful in the treatment of neonatal seizures.
In the study of neuropeptide secretion and membrane trafficking, the fluorescent dye FM1-43 provides the ability to label selectively those structures that are undergoing exocytosis and endocytosis in living cells in real time. This review describes the unique properties of the FM dyes that make them ideal for studying neuropeptide granule dynamics and discusses various techniques that take advantage of FM dyes.