Astrocytes refine cortical connectivity at dendritic spines.

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2014-12-17

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Abstract

During cortical synaptic development, thalamic axons must establish synaptic connections despite the presence of the more abundant intracortical projections. How thalamocortical synapses are formed and maintained in this competitive environment is unknown. Here, we show that astrocyte-secreted protein hevin is required for normal thalamocortical synaptic connectivity in the mouse cortex. Absence of hevin results in a profound, long-lasting reduction in thalamocortical synapses accompanied by a transient increase in intracortical excitatory connections. Three-dimensional reconstructions of cortical neurons from serial section electron microscopy (ssEM) revealed that, during early postnatal development, dendritic spines often receive multiple excitatory inputs. Immuno-EM and confocal analyses revealed that majority of the spines with multiple excitatory contacts (SMECs) receive simultaneous thalamic and cortical inputs. Proportion of SMECs diminishes as the brain develops, but SMECs remain abundant in Hevin-null mice. These findings reveal that, through secretion of hevin, astrocytes control an important developmental synaptic refinement process at dendritic spines.

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10.7554/eLife.04047

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Risher, WC, S Patel, IH Kim, A Uezu, S Bhagat, DK Wilton, L Pilaz, J Singh Alvarado, et al. (2014). Astrocytes refine cortical connectivity at dendritic spines. Elife, 3. 10.7554/eLife.04047 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9362.

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Scholars@Duke

Akiyoshi Uezu

Assistant Research Professor of Cell Biology
Silver

Debra Lynn Silver

Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

How is the brain assembled and sculpted during embryonic development?  Addressing this question has enormous implications for understanding neurodevelopmental disorders affecting brain size and function. In evolutionary terms, our newest brain structure is the cerebral cortex, which drives higher cognitive capacities. The overall mission of my research lab is to elucidate genetic and cellular mechanisms controlling cortical development and contributing to neurodevelopmental pathologies and brain evolution. We study neural progenitors, essential cells which generate neurons and are the root of brain development. We are guided by the premise that the same mechanisms at play during normal development were co-opted during evolution and when dysregulated, can cause neurodevelopmental disease.

My research program employs a multifaceted strategy to bridge developmental neurobiology, RNA biology, and evolution. 1) We investigate how cell fates are specified, by studying how progenitor divisions influence development and disease.  2) We study diverse layers of post-transcriptional regulation in neural progenitors. We investigate RNA binding proteins implicated in development and neurological disease. Using live imaging, we also investigate how sub-cellular control of mRNA localization and translation influences neural progenitors. 3) A parallel research focus is to understand how human-specific genetic changes influence species-specific brain development. Our goal is to integrate our efforts across these three major lines of research to understand the intricacies controlling brain development.

Calakos

Nicole Calakos

Lincoln Financial Group Distinguished Professor of Neurobiology
Soderling

Scott Haydn Soderling

George Barth Geller Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology
Eroglu

Cagla Eroglu

Chancellor's Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology

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