Presynaptic Inputs to Any CNS Projection Neuron Identified by Dual Recombinant Virus Infection.

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Although neuroanatomical tracing studies have defined the origin and targets of major projection neurons (PN) of the central nervous system (CNS), there is much less information about the circuits that influence these neurons. Recently, genetic approaches that use Cre recombinase-dependent viral vectors have greatly facilitated such circuit analysis, but these tracing approaches are limited by the availability of Cre-expressing mouse lines and the difficulty in restricting Cre expression to discrete regions of the CNS. Here, we illustrate an alternative approach to drive Cre expression specifically in defined subsets of CNS projection neurons, so as to map both direct and indirect presynaptic inputs to these cells. The method involves a combination of Cre-dependent transneuronal viral tracers that can be used in the adult and that does not require genetically modified mice. To trigger Cre-expression we inject a Cre-expressing adenovirus that is retrogradely transported to the projection neurons of interest. The region containing the retrogradely labeled projection neurons is next injected with Cre-dependent pseudorabies or rabies vectors, which results in labeling of poly- and monosynaptic neuronal inputs, respectively. In proof-of-concept experiments, we used this novel tracing system to study the circuits that engage projection neurons of the superficial dorsal horn of the spinal cord and trigeminal nucleus caudalis, neurons of the parabrachial nucleus of the dorsolateral pons that project to the amygdala and cortically-projecting neurons of the lateral geniculate nucleus. Importantly, because this dual viral tracing method does not require genetically derived Cre-expressing mouse lines, inputs to almost any projection system can be studied and the analysis can be performed in larger animals, such as the rat.





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Bráz, João M, Fan Wang and Allan I Basbaum (2015). Presynaptic Inputs to Any CNS Projection Neuron Identified by Dual Recombinant Virus Infection. PLoS One, 10(10). p. e0140681. 10.1371/journal.pone.0140681 Retrieved from

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Fan Wang

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Neurobiology

My lab studies neural circuit basis of sensory perception. 
Specifically we are interested in determining neural circuits underlying (1) active touch sensation including tactile processing stream and motor control of touch sensors on the face; (2) pain sensation including both sensory-discriminative and affective aspects of pain; and (3) general anesthesia including the active pain-suppression process. We use a combination of genetic, viral, electrophysiology, and in vivo imaging (in free-moving animals) techniques to study these questions.

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