Molecular and cellular neurobiotechnology

José Antonio Del Río Fernández | Group Leader
Rosalina Gavín Marín | Senior Researcher
Vanessa Gil Fernández | Postdoctoral Researcher
Arnau Hervera Abad | Postdoctoral Researcher
Laia Lidón Gil | PhD Student
Ana López Mengual | PhD Student
Agata Mata Rodríguez | PhD Student
Andreu Matamoros Anglès | PhD Student
Laura Urrea Zazurca | PhD Student
Miriam Segura Feliu | Laboratory Technician
Francina Mesquida Veny | Masters Student


Our research interests are focused on three main aspects of developmental neurobiology and regeneration:

1) Reelin and neurodegeneration
Reelin is an extracellular glycoprotein involved in key cellular processes in developing and adult nervous system, including regulation of neuronal migration, synapse formation and plasticity. Most of these roles are mediated by the intracellular phosphorylation of Dab1, an intracellular adaptor molecule, in turn mediated by binding Reelin to its receptors. Altered expression and glycosylation patterns of Reelin in cerebrospinal and cortical extracts have been reported in Alzheimer’s disease. However, putative changes in Reelin are not described in natural prionopathies or experimental models of prion infection or toxicity. With this is mind, in the study we determined that Reelin protein and mRNA levels increased in CJD human samples and in mouse models of human prion disease in contrast to murine models of prion infection. However, changes in Reelin expression appeared only at late terminal stages of the disease, which prevents their use as an efficient diagnostic biomarker. In addition, increased Reelin in CJD and in in vitro models does not correlate with Dab1 phosphorylation, indicating failure in its intracellular signaling. Overall, these findings widen our understanding of the putative changes of Reelin in neurodegeneration.

Primary neuronal culture. Neurons (green) and astrocytes (red) derived from a E16.5 eGFP transgenic mouse embryo after 15 days in vitro

2) New in vitro models for neurodegeneration
The cellular prion protein, encoded by the gene PRNP, has been reported as receptor of b-amyloid. Their interaction is mandatory for neurotoxic effects of b-amyloid oligomers. In the study we aimed to explore whether the cellular prion protein participates in the spreading of a-synuclein. For this we developed cell to cell transport using microfluidic devices. Results demonstrate that PRNP expression is not mandatory for a-synuclein spreading. However, although the pathological spreading of a-synuclein can take place in the absence of PRNP, a-synuclein fibrils bind strongly on PRNP expressing cells, suggesting a role modulating the effect of a-synuclein fibrils.

3) Development of new lab on a chip devices for neurobiological research
We recently developed a new device able to reproduce axon lesioning in vitro in a single chip. Current experiments of our group in collaboration with groups of IBEC and CIBER-BBN aimed at developing new lab on chip devices to mimics and modulate particular neurobiological processes. For example: cortico-spinal chips to develop genetic studies; molecular gradient generation for migrating neurons and in silico 3D modeling for neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer chip).


A cellular model to help study the relationship between neurodegenerative diseases

From the cells of a patient with a rare neurodegenerative disease, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker syndrome (GSS), researchers at IBEC have managed to generate neurons that also present parallel neurodegenerative processes unrelated to the syndrome.

A new therapeutic target that could slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease

Researchers at IBEC have identified a potential way to slow down the neurodegenerative progression of Parkinson’s disease

Findings on seizure susceptibility open new avenues to understanding epilepsy in rapid progressive dementia

IBEC researchers have revealed the role played by the cellular prion protein (PrPC) – which is associated with a plethora of biological functions including cell proliferation, differentiation and signaling – in epilepsy.

A major step towards repairing the spinal cord

Researchers at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and their collaborators reveal that they’re a step closer to optimizing cells able to guide regeneration of the spine

IBEC groups in neuroscience map

IBEC’s Nanoprobes and nanoswitches and Molecular and Cellular Neurobiotechnology groups are two of the 120 groups featured on the Mapa de la Recerca en Neurociències a Catalunya. Created by the Societat Catalana de Biologia and hosted by IEC, the map aims to be a useful way of depicting the state-of-the-art of research in neuroscience in the region, and also a practical tool for researchers and science communicators.
Check it out here.

IBEC group to receive Marató funding for Parkinson’s research

IBEC’s Molecular and Cellular Neurobiotechnology group is to receive funding from 2013’s La Marató de TV3 for their project “Role of the cellular prion protein as “cross-talk” protein between a-syn/ LRRK2 and p-Tau in sporadic and familiar Parkinson´s disease.

Why Alzheimer’s patients have no memory loss when the disease starts

Researchers at IBEC and the UB have discovered a new factor that participates in the lack of symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – which is one handicap that makes the disease so hard to diagnose.

Molecular mechanisms that regulate the migration of Cajal-Retzius cells during brain development shown for the first time

Researchers from IBEC and the University de Barcelona (UB), in collaboration with the Institute of Marseille Luminy, University of the Mediterranean in France and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, USA, have identified for the first time a new molecular mechanism regulating the migration of Cajal-Retzius cells in the early stages of development of the cerebral cortex, the outermost layer of the brain.

Shedding new light on myelination and potential therapies for MS

Research done at IBEC that was published in the journal Cell. Mol. Life Sci. last week reveals a hopeful new lead in the quest to understand neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

EU funding for research into Alzheimer’s and prioniopathies

A project involving IBEC through its affiliation with CIBERNED has been approved by the EU for funding.

Shedding light on misbehaving cells

Much like a kindergarten full of unruly toddlers, the cells that contribute to the body’s crucial processes can’t always be trusted to do what you want or expect them to do. Now IBEC researchers have made an important breakthrough that could contribute to the development of therapies for spinal and neural diseases: they’ve figured out exactly what it is that makes certain cells misbehave in particular circumstances.

‘Identifying an essential interaction for epilepsy’

The Molecular and Cellular Neurotechnology group’s recent paper on the development of epilepsy made the news today in Diario Medico, Spain’s leading newspaper for health professionals.

‘Beating the regeneration blockers’ on the web

The 12 November press release about the Molecular and Cellular Neurobiotechnology group’s research on inhibitory molecules in neuroregeneration, ‘Beating the regeneration blockers’, was picked up by various online scientific and health news sites including, the UK’s MS Trust and Cell DNA.

Beating the regeneration blockers

IBEC researchers shed light on inhibitory molecules in neuroregeneration

Advances in neuronal regeneration

Prof. José Antonio del Río, leader of the Molecular and Cellular Neurobiotechnology research line at IBEC, has participated in a study on neural regeneration published in the journal Chemistry and Biology of the Cell group.


National projects
DEVREG Nuevas funciones de PlexinD1/Sema3E, PrPC y las proteínas asociadas a la mielina durante el desarrollo de la corteza cerebral de roedores y en neurodegeneración (2013-2016) MINECO Investigación fundamental no orientada José Antonio Del Río
Red Nacional de Priones (2015-2017) MINECO, Acciones Dinamización “Redes Excelencia” José Antonio Del Río
ANGIODEVSNC Funciones de genes implicados en angiogénesis y remodelación vascular durante el desarrollo cortical y en neurodegeneración MINECO, Retos investigación: Proyectos I+D José Antonio Del Río
Role of the cellular prion protein as “cross-talk” protein between a-syn/ LRRK2 and p-Tau in sporadic and familiar Parkinson’s disease (2015-2018) Fundació La Marató de TV3 José Antonio Del Río
NEURODEV Nuevas funciones de PlexinD1/Sema3E, PrPC y las proteínas asociadas a la mielina durante el desarrollo de la corteza cerebral (2013-2016) MINECO, I+D-Investigación fundamental no orientada José Antonio Del Río
Mecanismos epigenéticos implicados en la etiología y progresión de las demencias neurodegenerativas rápidamente progresivas (2015-2016) MINECO José Antonio Del Río/Miguel Calero
Privately-funded projects
Monitoring neurocognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases using saliva or blood-derived biomarkers and a multiplexed approach Obra Social La Caixa José Antonio Del Río


Urrea, L., Segura-Feliu, M., Masuda-Suzukake, M., Hervera, A., Pedraz, L., Aznar, J. M. G., Vila, M., Samitier, J., Torrents, E., Ferrer, I., Gavín, R., Hagesawa, M., Del Río, J. A., (2017). Involvement of cellular prion protein in Molecular Neurobiology online, 1-14

The cellular prion protein, encoded by the gene Prnp, has been reported to be a receptor of

Keywords: Amyloid spreading, Microfluidic devices, Prnp, Synuclein

Matamoros-Angles, A., Gayosso, L. M., Richaud-Patin, Y., Di Domenico, A., Vergara, C., Hervera, A., Sousa, A., Fernández-Borges, N., Consiglio, A., Gavín, R., López de Maturana, R., Ferrer, I., López de Munain, A., Raya, A., Castilla, J., Sánchez-Pernaute, R., Del Río, J. A., (2017). iPS cell cultures from a Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker patient with the Y218N PRNP mutation recapitulate tau pathology Molecular Neurobiology online

Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker (GSS) syndrome is a fatal autosomal dominant neurodegenerative prionopathy clinically characterized by ataxia, spastic paraparesis, extrapyramidal signs and dementia. In some GSS familiar cases carrying point mutations in the PRNP gene, patients also showed comorbid tauopathy leading to mixed pathologies. In this study we developed an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell model derived from fibroblasts of a GSS patient harboring the Y218N PRNP mutation, as well as an age-matched healthy control. This particular PRNP mutation is unique with very few described cases. One of the cases presented neurofibrillary degeneration with relevant Tau hyperphosphorylation. Y218N iPS-derived cultures showed relevant astrogliosis, increased phospho-Tau, altered microtubule-associated transport and cell death. However, they failed to generate proteinase K-resistant prion. In this study we set out to test, for the first time, whether iPS cell-derived neurons could be used to investigate the appearance of disease-related phenotypes (i.e, tauopathy) identified in the GSS patient.

Keywords: Cellular prion protein, Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker, Induced pluripotent stem cells, Tau

Gutiérrez-Franco, Ana, Eixarch, Herena, Costa, Carme, Gil, Vanessa, Castillo, Mireia, Calvo-Barreiro, Laura, Montalban, Xavier, Del Río, José A., Espejo, Carmen, (2017). Semaphorin 7A as a potential therapeutic target for multiple sclerosis Molecular Neurobiology 54, (6), 4820-4831

Semaphorin 7A (sema7A) is classified as an immune semaphorin with dual functions in the immune system and in the central nervous system (CNS). These molecules are of interest due to their potential role in multiple sclerosis (MS), which is a chronic demyelinating and neurodegenerative disease of autoimmune origin. In this study, we elucidated the role of sema7A in neuroinflammation using both in vitro and in vivo experimental models. In an in vitro model of neuroinflammation, using cerebellar organotypic slice cultures, we observed that challenge with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) endotoxin did not affect demyelination or cell death in sema7A-deficient cultures compared to wild-type cultures. Moreover, the in vivo outcome of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in sema7A-deficient mice was altered in an antigen- and adjuvant-dose-dependent manner, while no differences were observed in the wild-type counterparts. Altogether, these results indicate that sema7A is involved in peripheral immunity and CNS inflammation in MS pathogenesis. Indeed, these data suggest that sema7A might be a potential therapeutic target to treat MS and autoimmune conditions.

Frau-Méndez, Margalida A., Fernández-Vega, Iván, Ansoleaga, Belén, Blanco, Rosa, Carmona, Margarita, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Zerr, Inga, Llorens, Franc, Zarranz, Juan José, Ferrer, Isidro, (2017). Fatal familial insomnia: Mitochondrial and protein synthesis machinery decline in the mediodorsal thalamus Brain Pathology 27, (1), 95-106

The expression of subunits of mitochondrial respiratory complexes and components of the protein synthesis machinery from the nucleolus to the ribosome was analyzed in the mediodorsal thalamus in seven cases of Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) compared with age-matched controls. NDUFB8 (complex I subunit), SDHB (complex II subunit), UQCRC2 (complex III subunit), COX2 (complex IV subunit) and ATP50 (complex V subunit) expression levels, as revealed by western blotting, were reduced in FFI. Voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) and ATP5H were also reduced due to the marked depopulation of neurons. In contrast, a marked increase in superoxide dismutase 2 (SOD2) was found in reactive astrocytes thus suggesting that astrocytes are key factors in oxidative stress responses. The histone-binding chaperones nucleolin and nucleoplasmin 3, and histone H3 di-methylated K9 were markedly reduced together with a decrease in the expression of protein transcription elongation factor eEF1A. These findings show severe impairment in the expression of crucial components of mitochondrial function and protein synthesis in parallel with neuron loss in mediodorsal thalamus at terminal stages of FFI. Therapeutic measures must be taken long before the appearance of clinical symptoms to prevent the devastating effects of FFI.

Keywords: Fatal familial insomnia, Mitochondria, Protein synthesis, Mitochondrial respiratory chain, Nucleolus, Ribosome

Vilches, S., Vergara, C., Nicolás, O., Mata, A., Del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2016). Domain-specific activation of death-associated intracellular signalling cascades by the cellular prion protein in neuroblastoma cells Molecular Neurobiology 53, (7), 4438–4448

The biological functions of the cellular prion protein remain poorly understood. In fact, numerous studies have aimed to determine specific functions for the different protein domains. Studies of cellular prion protein (PrPC) domains through in vivo expression of molecules carrying internal deletions in a mouse Prnp null background have provided helpful data on the implication of the protein in signalling cascades in affected neurons. Nevertheless, understanding of the mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicity induced by these PrPC deleted forms is far from complete. To better define the neurotoxic or neuroprotective potential of PrPC N-terminal domains, and to overcome the heterogeneity of results due to the lack of a standardized model, we used neuroblastoma cells to analyse the effects of overexpressing PrPC deleted forms. Results indicate that PrPC N-terminal deleted forms were properly processed through the secretory pathway. However, PrP

Keywords: Cellular prion protein, Neurotoxicity, Truncated prion protein

Garcia-Calero, Elena, Botella-Lopez, Arancha, Bahamonde, Olga, Perez-Balaguer, Ariadna, Martinez, Salvador, (2016). FoxP2 protein levels regulate cell morphology changes and migration patterns in the vertebrate developing telencephalon Brain Structure and Function 221, (6), 2905-2917

In the mammalian telencephalon, part of the progenitor cells transition from multipolar to bipolar morphology as they invade the mantle zone. This associates with changing patterns of radial migration. However, the molecules implicated in these morphology transitions are not well known. In the present work, we analyzed the function of FoxP2 protein in this process during telencephalic development in vertebrates. We analyzed the expression of FoxP2 protein and its relation with cell morphology and migratory patterns in mouse and chicken developing striatum. We observed FoxP2 protein expressed in a gradient from the subventricular zone to the mantle layer in mice embryos. In the FoxP2 low domain cells showed multipolar migration. In the striatal mantle layer where FoxP2 protein expression is higher, cells showed locomoting migration and bipolar morphology. In contrast, FoxP2 showed a high and homogenous expression pattern in chicken striatum, thus bipolar morphology predominated. Elevation of FoxP2 in the striatal subventricular zone by in utero electroporation promoted bipolar morphology and impaired multipolar radial migration. In mouse cerebral cortex we obtained similar results. FoxP2 promotes transition from multipolar to bipolar morphology by means of gradiental expression in mouse striatum and cortex. Together these results indicate a role of FoxP2 differential expression in cell morphology control of the vertebrate telencephalon.

Keywords: Radial migration, Bipolar morphology, Striatum, Cortex

Ansoleaga, B., Garcia-Esparcia, Paula, Llorens, Franc, Hernández-Ortega, Karina, Carmona Tech, Margarita, Antonio del Rio, José, Zerr, Inga, Ferrer, Isidro, (2016). Altered mitochondria, protein synthesis machinery, and purine metabolism are molecular contributors to the pathogenesis of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology 75, (8), 755-769

Neuron loss, synaptic decline, and spongiform change are the hallmarks of sporadic Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (sCJD), and may be related to deficiencies in mitochondria, energy metabolism, and protein synthesis. To investigate these relationships, we determined the expression levels of genes encoding subunits of the 5 protein complexes of the electron transport chain, proteins involved in energy metabolism, nucleolar and ribosomal proteins, and enzymes of purine metabolism in frontal cortex samples from 15 cases of sCJD MM1 and age-matched controls. We also assessed the protein expression levels of subunits of the respiratory chain, initiation and elongation translation factors of protein synthesis, and localization of selected mitochondrial components. We identified marked, generalized alterations of mRNA and protein expression of most subunits of all 5 mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes in sCJD cases. Expression of molecules involved in protein synthesis and purine metabolism were also altered in sCJD. These findings point to altered mRNA and protein expression of components of mitochondria, protein synthesis machinery, and purine metabolism as components of the pathogenesis of CJD.

Keywords: Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, Electron transport chain, Mitochondria, Oxidative phosphorylation, Protein synthesis, Purine.

Tomas-Roig, J., Piscitelli, F., Gil, V., del Río, J. A., Moore, T. P., Agbemenyah, H., Salinas-Riester, G., Pommerenke, C., Lorenzen, S., Beißbarth, T., Hoyer-Fender, S., Di Marzo, V., Havemann-Reinecke, U., (2016). Social defeat leads to changes in the endocannabinoid system: An overexpression of calreticulin and motor impairment in mice Behavioural Brain Research 303, 34-43

Prolonged and sustained stimulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis have adverse effects on numerous brain regions, including the cerebellum. Motor coordination and motor learning are essential for animal and require the regulation of cerebellar neurons. The G-protein-coupled cannabinoid CB1 receptor coordinates synaptic transmission throughout the CNS and is of highest abundance in the cerebellum. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to investigate the long-lasting effects of chronic psychosocial stress on motor coordination and motor learning, CB1 receptor expression, endogenous cannabinoid ligands and gene expression in the cerebellum. After chronic psychosocial stress, motor coordination and motor learning were impaired as indicated the righting reflex and the rota-rod. The amount of the endocannabinoid 2-AG increased while CB1 mRNA and protein expression were downregulated after chronic stress. Transcriptome analysis revealed 319 genes differentially expressed by chronic psychosocial stress in the cerebellum; mainly involved in synaptic transmission, transmission of nerve impulse, and cell-cell signaling. Calreticulin was validated as a stress candidate gene. The present study provides evidence that chronic stress activates calreticulin and might be one of the pathological mechanisms underlying the motor coordination and motor learning dysfunctions seen in social defeat mice.

Keywords: Psychosocial stress, Cerebellum, Calreticulin, Endocannabinoid system, Behavior, RNA seq.

del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2016). Functions of the cellular prion protein, the end of Moore's law, and Ockham's razor theory Prion 10, (1), 25-40

Since its discovery the cellular prion protein (encoded by the Prnp gene) has been associated with a large number of functions. The proposed functions rank from basic cellular processes such as cell cycle and survival to neural functions such as behavior and neuroprotection, following a pattern similar to that of Moore's law for electronics. In addition, particular interest is increasing in the participation of Prnp in neurodegeneration. However, in recent years a redefinition of these functions has begun, since examples of previously attributed functions were increasingly re-associated with other proteins. Most of these functions are linked to so-called “Prnp-flanking genes” that are close to the genomic locus of Prnp and which are present in the genome of some Prnp mouse models. In addition, their role in neuroprotection against convulsive insults has been confirmed in recent studies. Lastly, in recent years a large number of models indicating the participation of different domains of the protein in apoptosis have been uncovered. However, after more than 10 years of molecular dissection our view is that the simplest mechanistic model in PrPC-mediated cell death should be considered, as Ockham's razor theory suggested.

Keywords: Neurodegeneration, Prion, PrP

Requena, J. R., Kristensson, K., Korth, C., Zurzolo, C., Simmons, M., Aguilar-Calvo, P., Aguzzi, A., Andreoletti, O., Benestad, S. L., Böhm, R., Brown, K., Calgua, B., del Río, J. A., Espinosa, J. C., Girones, R., Godsave, S., Hoelzle, L. E., Knittler, M. R., Kuhn, F., Legname, G., Laeven, P., Mabbott, N., Mitrova, E., Müller-Schiffmann, A., Nuvolone, M., Peters, P. J., Raeber, A., Roth, K., Schmitz, M., Schroeder, B., Sonati, T., Stitz, L., Taraboulos, A., Torres, J. M., Yan, Z. X., Zerr, I., (2016). The Priority position paper: Protecting Europe's food chain from prions Prion 10, (3), 165-181

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) created a global European crisis in the 1980s and 90s, with very serious health and economic implications. Classical BSE now appears to be under control, to a great extent as a result of a global research effort that identified the sources of prions in meat and bone meal (MBM) and developed new animal-testing tools that guided policy. Priority ( was a European Union (EU) Framework Program 7 (FP7)-funded project through which 21 European research institutions and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) joined efforts between 2009 and 2014, to conduct coordinated basic and applied research on prions and prion diseases. At the end of the project, the Priority consortium drafted a position paper ( position paper) with its main conclusions. In the present opinion paper, we summarize these conclusions. With respect to the issue of re-introducing ruminant protein into the feed-chain, our opinion is that sustaining an absolute ban on feeding ruminant protein to ruminants is essential. In particular, the spread and impact of non-classical forms of scrapie and BSE in ruminants is not fully understood and the risks cannot be estimated. Atypical prion agents will probably continue to represent the dominant form of prion diseases in the near future in Europe. Atypical L-type BSE has clear zoonotic potential, as demonstrated in experimental models. Similarly, there are now data indicating that the atypical scrapie agent can cross various species barriers. More epidemiological data from large cohorts are necessary to reach any conclusion on the impact of its transmissibility on public health. Re-evaluations of safety precautions may become necessary depending on the outcome of these studies. Intensified searching for molecular determinants of the species barrier is recommended, since this barrier is key for important policy areas and risk assessment. Understanding the structural basis for strains and the basis for adaptation of a strain to a new host will require continued fundamental research, also needed to understand mechanisms of prion transmission, replication and how they cause nervous system dysfunction and death. Early detection of prion infection, ideally at a preclinical stage, also remains crucial for development of effective treatment strategies.

Keywords: Atypical BSE, Atypical scrapie, BSE, CJD, Prion, Scrapie

Ferrer, I., Llorens, F., Frau-Mendez, L., Fernandez-Vega, I., Thune, K., del Río, J. A., Schmizt, M., Ansoleaga, B., Gotzmann, N., Cramm, M., Zerr, I., Zarranz, Juan José, (2016). EfiIdentification of new molecular alterations in Fatal Familial Insomnia Prion PRION 2016 , Taylor & Francis (Tokyo, Japan) 10, (Supplement), P-092

Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is an autosomal dominant prion disease caused by a D178N mutation in PRNP in combination with methionine at codon 129 in the mutated allele of the same gene. The present study analyzes pathological and molecular features in 7 FFI cases carrying the mutation D178N and M homozygous at the codon 129 of PRNP. Severe neuronal loss and marked astrocytic gliosis was observed in every case in the mediodorsal and anterior nuclei of the thalamus whereas the entorhinal cortex (EC) was variably affected. Spongiform degeneration was only observed in the EC. Synaptic and fine granular PrPSc immunoreactivity was found in the EC but not in thalamus. Microglia was barely increased in the mediodorsal thalamus, but mRNA expression of IL6, IL10RA, CSF3R and TLR7 was found in the thalamus in FFI. PrPC levels were significantly decreased in the thalamus, EC and cerebellum in FFI compared with controls. However, increased expression of the non-glycosylated band of about 19 kDa was observed in the thalamus when using PrP antibodies mapping to the central region of the PrP comprising the

Reginensi, Diego, Carulla, Patricia, Nocentini, Sara, Seira, Oscar, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Torres-Espín, Abel, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Gavín, Rosalina, Moreno-Flores, María Teresa, Wandosell, Francisco, Samitier, Josep, Trepat, Xavier, Navarro, Xavier, del Río, José Antonio, (2015). Increased migration of olfactory ensheathing cells secreting the Nogo receptor ectodomain over inhibitory substrates and lesioned spinal cord Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 72, (14), 2719-2737

Olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) transplantation emerged some years ago as a promising therapeutic strategy to repair injured spinal cord. However, inhibitory molecules are present for long periods of time in lesioned spinal cord, inhibiting both OEC migration and axonal regrowth. Two families of these molecules, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPG) and myelin-derived inhibitors (MAIs), are able to trigger inhibitory responses in lesioned axons. Mounting evidence suggests that OEC migration is inhibited by myelin. Here we demonstrate that OEC migration is largely inhibited by CSPGs and that inhibition can be overcome by the bacterial enzyme Chondroitinase ABC. In parallel, we have generated a stable OEC cell line overexpressing the Nogo receptor (NgR) ectodomain to reduce MAI-associated inhibition in vitro and in vivo. Results indicate that engineered cells migrate longer distances than unmodified OECs over myelin or oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein (OMgp)-coated substrates. In addition, they also show improved migration in lesioned spinal cord. Our results provide new insights toward the improvement of the mechanisms of action and optimization of OEC-based cell therapy for spinal cord lesion.

Keywords: Olfactory ensheathing cells, Traction force microscopy, Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans, Cell migration, Nogo receptor ectodomain

Vergara, C., Ordóñez-Gutiérrez, L., Wandosell, F., Ferrer, I., del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2015). Role of PrPC expression in tau protein levels and phosphorylation in alzheimer's disease evolution Molecular Neurobiology 51, (3), 1206-1220

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by the presence of amyloid plaques mainly consisting of hydrophobic β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) aggregates and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) composed principally of hyperphosphorylated tau. Aβ oligomers have been described as the earliest effectors to negatively affect synaptic structure and plasticity in the affected brains, and cellular prion protein (PrPC) has been proposed as receptor for these oligomers. The most widely accepted theory holds that the toxic effects of Aβ are upstream of change in tau, a neuronal microtubule-associated protein that promotes the polymerization and stabilization of microtubules. However, tau is considered decisive for the progression of neurodegeneration, and, indeed, tau pathology correlates well with clinical symptoms such as dementia. Different pathways can lead to abnormal phosphorylation, and, as a consequence, tau aggregates into paired helical filaments (PHF) and later on into NFTs. Reported data suggest a regulatory tendency of PrPC expression in the development of AD, and a putative relationship between PrPC and tau processing is emerging. However, the role of tau/PrPC interaction in AD is poorly understood. In this study, we show increased susceptibility to Aβ-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs) in neuronal primary cultures from PrPC knockout mice, compared to wild-type, which correlates with increased tau expression. Moreover, we found increased PrPC expression that paralleled with tau at early ages in an AD murine model and in early Braak stages of AD in affected individuals. Taken together, these results suggest a protective role for PrPC in AD by downregulating tau expression, and they point to this protein as being crucial in the molecular events that lead to neurodegeneration in AD.

Keywords: Aβ oligomers, Alzheimer's disease, Cellular prion protein, Microtubule-associated protein tau

Carulla, Patricia, Llorens, Franc, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Aguilar-Calvo, Patricia, Espinosa, Juan Carlos, Gavín, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidre, Legname, Giuseppe, Torres, Juan Maria, del Río, José A., (2015). Involvement of PrPC in kainate-induced excitotoxicity in several mouse strains Scientific Reports 5, 11971

The cellular prion protein (PrPC) has been associated with a plethora of cellular functions ranging from cell cycle to neuroprotection. Mice lacking PrPC show an increased susceptibility to epileptic seizures; the protein, then, is neuroprotective. However, lack of experimental reproducibility has led to considering the possibility that other factors besides PrPC deletion, such as the genetic background of mice or the presence of so-called “Prnp flanking genes”, might contribute to the reported susceptibility. Here, we performed a comparative analysis of seizure-susceptibility using characterized Prnp+/+ and Prnp0/0 mice of B6129, B6.129, 129/Ola or FVB/N genetic backgrounds. Our study indicates that PrPC plays a role in neuroprotection in KA-treated cells and mice. For this function, PrPC should contain the aa32–93 region and needs to be linked to the membrane. In addition, some unidentified “Prnp-flanking genes” play a role parallel to PrPC in the KA-mediated responses in B6129 and B6.129 Prnp0/0 mice.

Llorens, Franc, Zafar, Saima, Ansoleaga, Belén, Shafiq, Mohsin, Blanco, Rosi, Carmona, Marga, Grau-Rivera, Oriol, Nos, Carlos, Gelpí, Ellen, del Río, José Antonio, Zerr, Inga, Ferrer, Isidre, (2015). Subtype and regional regulation of prion biomarkers in sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology 41, (5), 631-645

Aims Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rapid progressive neurological disease leading to dementia and death. Prion biomarkers are altered in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of CJD patients, but the pathogenic mechanisms underlying these alterations are still unknown. The present study examined prion biomarker levels in the brain and CSF of sporadic CJD (sCJD) cases and their correlation with neuropathological lesion profiles. Methods The expression levels of 14-3-3, Tau, phospho-Tau and α-synuclein were measured in the CSF and brain of sCJD cases in a subtype- and region-specific manner. In addition, the activity of prion biomarker kinases, the expression levels of CJD hallmarks and the most frequent neuropathological sCJD findings were analysed. Results Prion biomarkers levels were increased in the CSF of sCJD patients; however, correlations between mRNA, total protein and their phosphorylated forms in brain were different. The observed downregulation of the main Tau kinase, GSK3, in sCJD brain samples may help to explain the differential phospho-Tau/Tau ratios between sCJD and other dementias in the CSF. Importantly, CSF biomarkers levels do not necessarily correlate with sCJD neuropathological findings. Interpretation Present findings indicate that prion biomarkers levels in sCJD tissues and their release into the CSF are differentially regulated following specific modulated responses, and suggest a functional role for these proteins in sCJD pathogenesis.

Keywords: Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Prion Protein, Cerebrospinal fluid, Prion Biomarkers, disease subtype, Glycogen synthase kinase 3

Perez-Balaguer, Ariadna, Ortiz-Martínez, Fernando, García-Martínez, Araceli, Pomares-Navarro, Critina, Lerma, Enrique, Peiró, Gloria, (2015). FOXA2 mRNA expression is associated with relapse in patients with Triple-Negative/Basal-like breast carcinoma Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 153, (2), 465-474

The FOXA family of transcription factors regulates chromatin structure and gene expression especially during embryonic development. In normal breast tissue FOXA1 acts throughout mammary development; whereas in breast carcinoma its expression promotes luminal phenotype and correlates with good prognosis. However, the role of FOXA2 has not been previously studied in breast cancer. Our purpose was to analyze the expression of FOXA2 in breast cancer cells, to explore its role in breast cancer stem cells, and to correlate its mRNA expression with clinicopathological features and outcome in a series of patients diagnosed with breast carcinoma. We analyzed FOXA2 mRNA expression in a retrospective cohort of 230 breast cancer patients and in cell lines. We also knocked down FOXA2 mRNA expression by siRNA to determine the impact on cell proliferation and mammospheres formation using a cancer stem cells culture assay. In vitro studies demonstrated higher FOXA2 mRNA expression in Triple-Negative/Basal-like cells. Further, when it was knocked down, cells decreased proliferation and its capability of forming mammospheres. Similarly, FOXA2 mRNA expression was detected in 10 % (23/230) of the tumors, especially in Triple-Negative/Basal-like phenotype (p < 0.001, Fisher's test). Patients whose tumors expressed FOXA2 had increased relapses (59 vs. 79 %, p = 0.024, log-rank test) that revealed an independent prognostic value (HR = 3.29, C.I.95 % = 1.45-7.45, p = 0.004, Cox regression). Our results suggest that FOXA2 promotes cell proliferation, maintains cancer stem cells, favors the development of Triple-Negative/Basal-like tumors, and is associated with increase relapses.

Keywords: Breast carcinoma, Cancer stem cells, FOXA2, Prognosis

Tomas Roig, J., Piscitelli, F., Gil, V., Havemann Reinecke, U., (2015). Chronic psychosocial stress and endocannabinoid system interact to affect the transcription of SLC6A4, in the mouse corticostriatal circuits European Neuropsychopharmacology 28th ECNP Congress , Elsevier (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) 25, (Supplement 2), P.1.a.001

Vulnerability for psychosis is determined by the interacting contributions of multiple genetic and environmental factors. Dysregulation of corticostriatal circuitry has long been thought to be critical in the etiology of psychotic disorders. Psychosocial stress is known to have a great influence on brain function and behavior. In response to persistent stress exposure, chronic glucocorticoid exposure appears to have adverse effects on numerous brain regions. Glucocorticoid receptor (GR) functioning is regulated in part by FKBP5 and its activity modulates serotoninergic neurotransmission. Extracellular serotonin reuptake is monitored by the serotonin transporter gene SLC6A4. Cannabinoid CB1 receptor mediates glucocorticoid effects and it’s highly expressed in the corticostriatal circuits.

Bribián, A., Nocentini, S., Llorens, F., Gil, V., Mire, E., Reginensi, D., Yoshida, Y., Mann, F., Del Río, J. A., (2014). Sema3E/PlexinD1 regulates the migration of hem-derived Cajal-Retzius cells in developing cerebral cortex Nature Communications 5, 4265

During the development of the cerebral cortex, Cajal-Retzius (CR) cells settle in the preplate and coordinate the precise growth of the neocortex. Indeed, CR cells migrate tangentially from specific proliferative regions of the telencephalon (for example, the cortical hem (CH)) to populate the entire cortical surface. This is a very finely tuned process regulated by an emerging number of factors that has been sequentially revealed in recent years. However, the putative participation of one of the major families of axon guidance molecules in this process, the Semaphorins, was not explored. Here we show that Semaphorin-3E (Sema3E) is a natural negative regulator of the migration of PlexinD1-positive CR cells originating in the CH. Our results also indicate that Sema3E/PlexinD1 signalling controls the motogenic potential of CR cells in vitro and in vivo. Indeed, absence of Sema3E/PlexinD1 signalling increased the migratory properties of CR cells. This modulation implies negative effects on CXCL12/CXCR4 signalling and increased ADF/Cofilin activity.

Llorens, F., Ferrer, I., del Río, J. A., (2014). Gene expression resulting from PrPC ablation and PrPC overexpression in murine and cellular models Molecular Neurobiology 49, (1), 413-423

The cellular prion protein (PrPC) plays a key role in prion diseases when it converts to the pathogenic form scrapie prion protein. Increasing knowledge of its participation in prion infection contrasts with the elusive and controversial data regarding its physiological role probably related to its pleiotropy, cell-specific functions, and cellular-specific milieu. Multiple approaches have been made to the increasing understanding of the molecular mechanisms and cellular functions modulated by PrPC at the transcriptomic and proteomic levels. Gene expression analyses have been made in several mouse and cellular models with regulated expression of PrPC resulting in PrPC ablation or PrPC overexpression. These analyses support previous functional data and have yielded clues about new potential functions. However, experiments on animal models have shown moderate and varied results which are difficult to interpret. Moreover, studies in cell cultures correlate little with in vivo counterparts. Yet, both animal and cell models have provided some insights on how to proceed in the future by using more refined methods and selected functional experiments.

Seira, O., del Río, J. A., (2014). Glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3 Molecular Neurobiology 49, (2), 931-944

Gaining a basic understanding of the inhibitory molecules and the intracellular signaling involved in axon development and repulsion after neural lesions is of clear biomedical interest. In recent years, numerous studies have described new molecules and intracellular mechanisms that impair axonal outgrowth after injury. In this scenario, the role of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3β) in the axonal responses that occur after central nervous system (CNS) lesions began to be elucidated. GSK3β function in the nervous tissue is associated with neural development, neuron polarization, and, more recently, neurodegeneration. In fact, GSK3β has been considered as a putative therapeutic target for promoting functional recovery in injured or degenerative CNS. In this review, we summarize current understanding of the role of GSK3β during neuronal development and regeneration. In particular, we discuss GSK3β activity levels and their possible impact on cytoskeleton dynamics during both processes.

Tong, Z., Seira, O., Casas, C., Reginensi, D., Homs-Corbera, A., Samitier, J., Del Río, J. A., (2014). Engineering a functional neuro-muscular junction model in a chip RSC Advances 4, (97), 54788-54797

Healthy bi-directional intracellular transport along the axons between the somatodendritic and synaptic terminals is crucial to maintain the function and viability of neurons. When misbalanced, there is neuronal homeostasis failure that compromises its function and viability. In fact, several neurodegenerative diseases originate from misbalanced axonal transport and function. Thus numerous techniques have been developed to establish and maintain neuronal cultures in compartmented microfluidic devices to better understand these processes mimicking neuronal polarization. Although useful, these in vitro platforms do not allow for a full specific and temporal analysis in a completely monitored way. In this study, we have utilized a microfluidic system with large open cell culture reservoirs to precisely control neuronal microenvironments, capable of mimicking axon transport and synapse formation and to facilitate their analysis. We demonstrate using this lab-on-a-chip system for long-term motoneuron co-culture with C2C12-derived myotubes to mimic neuro-muscular junction (NMJ) formation. Furthermore, by integration with a calcium (Ca2+) imaging technique, we have proved the NMJ functionality in-chip through KCl-induced Ca2+ transient in connected myotubes. This platform can potentially become a useful tool as a straightforward, reproducible, and high-throughput in vitro model for basic NMJ research, and for high-throughput drug screening.

Gil, V., Nocentini, S., del Río, J. A., (2014). Historical first descriptions of Cajal-Retzius cells: From pioneer studies to current knowledge Frontiers in Neuroanatomy 8, Article 32 (9)

Santiago Ramón y Cajal developed a great body of scientific research during the last decade of 19th century, mainly between 1888 and 1892, when he published more than 30 manuscripts. The neuronal theory, the structure of dendrites and spines, and fine microscopic descriptions of numerous neural circuits are among these studies. In addition, numerous cell types (neuronal and glial) were described by Ramón y Cajal during this time using this "reazione nera" or Golgi method. Among these neurons were the special cells of the molecular layer of the neocortex. These cells were also termed Cajal cells or Retzius cells by other colleagues. Today these cells are known as Cajal-Retzius cells. From the earliest description, several biological aspects of these fascinating cells have been analyzed (e.g., cell morphology, physiological properties, origin and cellular fate, putative function during cortical development, etc). In this review we will summarize in a temporal basis the emerging knowledge concerning this cell population with specific attention the pioneer studies of Santiago Ramón y Cajal.

Keywords: Calretinin, Cortical hem, Neocortical development, Pioneer neurons, Radial glia, Reelin

La Torre, A., Del Mar Masdeu, M., Cotrufo, T., Moubarak, R. S., Del Río, J. A., Comella, J. X., Soriano, E., Ureña, J. M., (2013). A role for the tyrosine kinase ACK1 in neurotrophin signaling and neuronal extension and branching Cell Death and Disease 4, (4), e602

Neurotrophins are involved in many crucial cellular functions, including neurite outgrowth, synapse formation, and plasticity. Although these events have long been known, the molecular determinants underlying neuritogenesis have not been fully characterized. Ack1 (activated Cdc42-associated tyrosine kinase) is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase that is highly expressed in the brain. Here, we demonstrate that Ack1 is a molecular constituent of neurotrophin signaling cascades in neurons and PC12 cells. We report that Ack1 interacts with Trk receptors and becomes tyrosine phosphorylated and its kinase activity is increased in response to neurotrophins. Moreover, our data indicate that Ack1 acts upstream of the Akt and MAPK pathways. We show that Ack1 overexpression induces neuritic outgrowth and promotes branching in neurotrophin-treated neuronal cells, whereas the expression of Ack1 dominant negatives or short-hairpin RNAs counteract neurotrophin-stimulated differentiation. Our results identify Ack1 as a novel regulator of neurotrophin-mediated events in primary neurons and in PC12 cells.

Keywords: Axonal, Branching, Dendritic, Neurotrophins, Tyrosine kinase

Berenguer, Jordi, Herrera, Antonio, Vuolo, Laura, Torroba, Blanca, Llorens, Franc, Sumoy, Lauro, Pons, Sebastian, (2013). MicroRNA 22 Regulates Cell Cycle Length in Cerebellar Granular Neuron Precursors Molecular and Cellular Biology 33, (14), 2706-2717

During cerebellum development, Sonic hedgehog (Shh)-induced proliferation of cerebellar granular neuronal precursors (CGNPs) is potently inhibited by bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). We have previously reported the upregulation of TIEG-1 and Mash1, two antimitotic factors that modulate MYCN transcription and N-Myc activity, in response to BMP2. To gain further insight into the BMP antimitotic mechanism, we used microRNA (miRNA) arrays to compare the miRNAs of CGNPs proliferating in response to Shh with those of CGNPs treated with Shh plus BMP2. The array analysis revealed that miRNA 11 (miR-22) levels significantly increased in cells treated with BMP2. Additionally, in P7 mouse cerebellum, miR-22 distribution mostly recapitulated the combination of BMP2 and BMP4 expression patterns. Accordingly, in CGNP cultures, miR-22 overexpression significantly reduced cell proliferation, whereas miR-22 suppression diminished BMP2 antiproliferative activity. In contrast to BMP2, miR-22 did not induce neural differentiation but instead significantly increased cell cycle length. Consistent with the central role played by N-myc on CGNP proliferation, Max was revealed as a direct target of miR-22, and miR-22 expression caused a significant reduction of Max protein levels and N-myc/Max-dependent promoter activity. Therefore, we conclude that, in addition to the previously described mechanisms, miR-22 plays a specific role on downstream BMPs through cerebellum growth.

Ordoñez-Gutiérrez, L., Torres, J. M., Gavín, R., Antón, M., Arroba-Espinosa, A. I., Espinosa, J. C., Vergara, C., del Río, J. A., Wandosell, F., (2013). Cellular prion protein modulates Neurobiology of Aging 34, (12), 2793-2804

Alzheimer's disease and prion diseases are neuropathological disorders that are caused by abnormal processing and aggregation of amyloid and prion proteins. Interactions between amyloid precursor protein (APP) and PrPc proteins have been described at the neuron level. Accordingly to this putative interaction, we investigated whether β-amyloid accumulation may affect prion infectivity and, conversely, whether different amounts of PrP may affect β-amyloid accumulation. For this purpose, we used the APPswe/PS1dE9 mouse line, a common model of Alzheimer's disease, crossed with mice that either overexpress (Tga20) or that lack prion protein (knock-out) to generate mice that express varying amounts of prion protein and deposit β-amyloid. On these mouse lines, we investigated the influence of each protein on the evolution of both diseases. Our results indicated that although the presence of APP/PS1 and β-amyloid accumulation had no effect on prion infectivity, the accumulation of β-amyloid deposits was dependent on PrPc, whereby increasing levels of prion protein were accompanied by a significant increase in β-amyloid aggregation associated with aging.

Keywords: Aging, Amyloid, Neurodegeneration, Prion, Signaling

Llorens, F., Carulla, P., Villa, A., Torres, J. M., Fortes, P., Ferrer, I., Del Río, J. A., (2013). PrPC regulates epidermal growth factor receptor function and cell shape dynamics in Neuro2a cells Journal of Neurochemistry 127, (1), 124-138

The prion protein (PrP) plays a key role in prion disease pathogenesis. Although the misfolded and pathologic variant of this protein (PrPSC) has been studied in depth, the physiological role of PrPC remains elusive and controversial. PrPC is a cell-surface glycoprotein involved in multiple cellular functions at the plasma membrane, where it interacts with a myriad of partners and regulates several intracellular signal transduction cascades. However, little is known about the gene expression changes modulated by PrPC in animals and in cellular models. In this article, we present PrPC-dependent gene expression signature in N2a cells and its implication in the most overrepresented functions: cell cycle, cell growth and proliferation, and maintenance of cell shape. PrPC over-expression enhances cell proliferation and cell cycle re-entrance after serum stimulation, while PrPC silencing slows down cell cycle progression. In addition, MAP kinase and protein kinase B (AKT) pathway activation are under the regulation of PrPC in asynchronous cells and following mitogenic stimulation. These effects are due in part to the modulation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) by PrPC in the plasma membrane, where the two proteins interact in a multimeric complex. We also describe how PrPC over-expression modulates filopodia formation by Rho GTPase regulation mainly in an AKT-Cdc42-N-WASP-dependent pathway.

Keywords: Cell signaling, Cellular prion protein, Filopodia, Gene expression, Microarray, Proliferation

Llorens, Franc, Banez-Coronel, Monica, Pantano, Lorena, del Rio, Jose, Ferrer, Isidre, Estivill, Xavier, Marti, Eulalia, (2013). A highly expressed miR-101 isomiR is a functional silencing small RNA BMC Genomics 14, (1), 104

BACKGROUND:MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding regulatory RNAs that control gene expression usually producing translational repression and gene silencing. High-throughput sequencing technologies have revealed heterogeneity at length and sequence level for the majority of mature miRNAs (IsomiRs). Most isomiRs can be explained by variability in either Dicer1 or Drosha cleavage during miRNA biogenesis at 5' or 3' of the miRNA (trimming variants). Although isomiRs have been described in different tissues and organisms, their functional validation as modulators of gene expression remains elusive. Here we have characterized the expression and function of a highly abundant miR-101 5'-trimming variant (5'-isomiR-101).RESULTS:The analysis of small RNA sequencing data in several human tissues and cell lines indicates that 5'-isomiR-101 is ubiquitously detected and a highly abundant, especially in the brain. 5'-isomiR-101 was found in Ago-2 immunocomplexes and complementary approaches showed that 5'-isomiR-101 interacted with different members of the silencing (RISC) complex. In addition, 5'-isomiR-101 decreased the expression of five validated miR-101 targets, suggesting that it is a functional variant. Both the binding to RISC members and the degree of silencing were less efficient for 5'-isomiR-101 compared with miR-101. For some targets, both miR-101 and 5'-isomiR-101 significantly decreased protein expression with no changes in the respective mRNA levels. Although a high number of overlapping predicted targets suggest similar targeted biological pathways, a correlation analysis of the expression profiles of miR-101 variants and predicted mRNA targets in human brains at different ages, suggest specific functions for miR-101- and 5'-isomiR-101.CONCLUSIONS:These results suggest that isomiRs are functional variants and further indicate that for a given miRNA, the different isomiRs may contribute to the overall effect as quantitative and qualitative fine-tuners of gene expression.

Llorens, F., Hummel, M., Pantano, L., Pastor, X., Vivancos, A., Castillo, E., Mattlin, H., Ferrer, A., Ingham, M., Noguera, M., Kofler, R., Dohm, J. C., Pluvinet, R., Bayés, M., Himmelbauer, H., del Rio, J. A., Martí, E., Sumoy, L., (2013). Microarray and deep sequencing cross-platform analysis of the mirRNome and isomiR variation in response to epidermal growth factor BMC Genomics 14, (1), 1-15

Background: Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) plays an important function in the regulation of cell growth, proliferation, and differentiation by binding to its receptor (EGFR) and providing cancer cells with increased survival responsiveness. Signal transduction carried out by EGF has been extensively studied at both transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels. Little is known about the involvement of microRNAs (miRNAs) in the EGF signaling pathway. miRNAs have emerged as major players in the complex networks of gene regulation, and cancer miRNA expression studies have evidenced a direct involvement of miRNAs in cancer progression.Results: In this study, we have used an integrative high content analysis approach to identify the specific miRNAs implicated in EGF signaling in HeLa cells as potential mediators of cancer mediated functions. We have used microarray and deep-sequencing technologies in order to obtain a global view of the EGF miRNA transcriptome with a robust experimental cross-validation. By applying a procedure based on Rankprod tests, we have delimited a solid set of EGF-regulated miRNAs. After validating regulated miRNAs by reverse transcription quantitative PCR, we have derived protein networks and biological functions from the predicted targets of the regulated miRNAs to gain insight into the potential role of miRNAs in EGF-treated cells. In addition, we have analyzed sequence heterogeneity due to editing relative to the reference sequence (isomiRs) among regulated miRNAs.Conclusions: We propose that the use of global genomic miRNA cross-validation derived from high throughput technologies can be used to generate more reliable datasets inferring more robust networks of co-regulated predicted miRNA target genes.

Vilches, S., Vergara, C., Nicolás, O., Sanclimens, G., Merino, S., Varón, S., Acosta, G. A., Albericio, F., Royo, M., Del Río, J. A., Gavín, R., (2013). Neurotoxicity of prion peptides mimicking the central domain of the cellular prion protein PLoS ONE 8, (8), e70881

The physiological functions of PrPC remain enigmatic, but the central domain, comprising highly conserved regions of the protein may play an important role. Indeed, a large number of studies indicate that synthetic peptides containing residues 106-126 (CR) located in the central domain (CD, 95-133) of PrPC are neurotoxic. The central domain comprises two chemically distinct subdomains, the charge cluster (CC, 95-110) and a hydrophobic region (HR, 112-133). The aim of the present study was to establish the individual cytotoxicity of CC, HR and CD. Our results show that only the CD peptide is neurotoxic. Biochemical, Transmission Electron Microscopy and Atomic Force Microscopy experiments demonstrated that the CD peptide is able to activate caspase-3 and disrupt the cell membrane, leading to cell death.

Riggio, C., Nocentini, S., Catalayud, M. P., Goya, G. F., Cuschieri, A., Raffa, V., del Río, J. A., (2013). Generation of magnetized olfactory ensheathing cells for regenerative studies in the central and peripheral nervous tissue International Journal of Molecular Sciences 14, (6), 10852-10868

As olfactory receptor axons grow from the peripheral to the central nervous system (CNS) aided by olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), the transplantation of OECs has been suggested as a plausible therapy for spinal cord lesions. The problem with this hypothesis is that OECs do not represent a single homogeneous entity, but, instead, a functionally heterogeneous population that exhibits a variety of responses, including adhesion and repulsion during cell-matrix interactions. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical gradients. In this paper, we report a system based on modified OECs carrying magnetic nanoparticles as a proof of concept experiment enabling specific studies aimed at exploring the potential of OECs in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Our studies have confirmed that magnetized OECs (i) survive well without exhibiting stress-associated cellular responses; (ii) in vitro, their migration can be modulated by magnetic fields; and (iii) their transplantation in organotypic slices of spinal cord and peripheral nerve showed positive integration in the model. Altogether, these findings indicate the therapeutic potential of magnetized OECs for CNS injuries.

Keywords: Magnetic nanoparticle, Nerve regeneration, Olfactory ensheathing cell, Organotypic culture

Llorens, F., Ansoleaga, B., Garcia-Esparcia, P., Zafar, S., Grau-Rivera, O., López-González, I., Blanco, R., Carmona, M., Yagüe, J., Nos, C., Del Río, J. A., Gelpí, E., Zerr, I., Ferrer, I., (2013). PrP mRNa and protein expression in brain and PrPc in CSF in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease MM1 and VV2 Prion 7, (5), 383-393

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (cJD) is a heterogenic neurodegenerative disorder associated with abnormal posttranslational processing of cellular prion protein (PrPc). cJD displays distinctive clinical and pathological features which correlate with the genotype at the codon 129 (methionine or valine: M or V respectively) in the prion protein gene and with size of the protease-resistant core of the abnormal prion protein PrPsc (type 1:20/21 kDa and type 2:19 kDa). MM1 and VV2 are the most common sporadic cJD (scJD) subtypes. PrP mRNa expression levels in the frontal cortex and cerebellum are reduced in scJD in a form subtype-dependent. Total PrP protein levels and PrPsc levels in the frontal cortex and cerebellum accumulate differentially in scJD MM1 and scJD VV2 with no relation between PrPsc deposition and spongiform degeneration and neuron loss, but with microgliosis, and IL6 and TNF-α response. In the cSF, reduced PrPc, the only form present in this compartment, occurs in scJD MM1 and VV2. PrP mRNa expression is also reduced in the frontal cortex in advanced stages of alzheimer disease, Lewy body disease, progressive supranuclear palsy, and frontotemporal lobe degeneration, but PrPc levels in brain varies from one disease to another. Reduced PrPc levels in cSF correlate with PrP mRNa expression in brain, which in turn reflects severity of degeneration in scJD.

Gil, V., Del Río, J. A., (2012). Analysis of axonal growth and cell migration in 3D hydrogel cultures of embryonic mouse CNS tissue Nature Protocols 7, (2), 268-280

This protocol uses rat tail-derived type I collagen hydrogels to analyze key processes in developmental neurobiology, such as chemorepulsion and chemoattraction. The method is based on culturing small pieces of brain tissue from embryonic or early perinatal mice inside a 3D hydrogel formed by rat tail-derived type I collagen or, alternatively, by commercial Matrigel. The neural tissue is placed in the hydrogel with other brain tissue pieces or cell aggregates genetically modified to secrete a particular molecule that can generate a gradient inside the hydrogel. The present method is uncomplicated and generally reproducible, and only a few specific details need to be considered during its preparation. Moreover, the degree and behavior of axonal growth or neural migration can be observed directly using phase-contrast, fluorescence microscopy or immunocytochemical methods. This protocol can be carried out in 4 weeks.

Keywords: Cell biology, Cell culture, Developmental biology, Imaging, Model organisms, Neuroscience, Tissue culture

Nocentini, S., Reginensi, D., Garcia, S., Carulla, P., Moreno-Flores, Wandosell, F., Trepat, X., Bribian, A., Del Rí, (2012). Myelin-associated proteins block the migration of olfactory ensheathing cells: an in vitro study using single-cell tracking and traction force microscopy Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 69, (10), 1689-1703

Newly generated olfactory receptor axons grow from the peripheral to the central nervous system aided by olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs). Thus, OEC transplantation has emerged as a promising therapy for spinal cord injuries and for other neural diseases. However, these cells do not present a uniform population, but instead a functionally heterogeneous population that exhibits a variety of responses including adhesion, repulsion, and crossover during cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical gradients. Here, we demonstrated that rodent OECs express all the components of the Nogo receptor complex and that their migration is blocked by myelin. Next, we used cell tracking and traction force microscopy to analyze OEC migration and its mechanical properties over myelin. Our data relate the decrease of traction force of OEC with lower migratory capacity over myelin, which correlates with changes in the F-actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesion distribution. Lastly, OEC traction force and migratory capacity is enhanced after cell incubation with the Nogo receptor inhibitor NEP1-40.

Keywords: Ensheathing glia, Traction force, microscopy, Migration, Myelin-associated inhibitors

Armendáriz, Beatriz G., Bribian, Ana, Pérez-Martínez, Esther, Martínez, Albert, de Castro, Fernando, Soriano, Eduardo, Burgaya, Ferran, (2012). Expression of Semaphorin 4F in neurons and brain oligodendrocytes and the regulation of oligodendrocyte precursor migration in the optic nerve Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 49, (1), 54-67

Semaphorins are secreted or membrane-anchored proteins that play critical roles in neural development and adult brain plasticity. Sema4F is a transmembrane semaphorin found on glutamatergic synapses, in which it is attached to the PSD-95-scaffolding protein. Here we further examined the expression of Sema4F by raising specific antibodies. We show that Sema4F protein is widely expressed by neurons during neural development and in the adult brain. We also demonstrate a preferential localization of this protein in postsynaptic dendrites. Moreover, Sema4F is expressed not only by neurons but also by oligodendrocyte precursors in the optic nerve and along the migratory pathways of oligodendroglial cells, and also by subsets of postnatal oligodendroglial cells in the brain. Finally, in vitro experiments demonstrate that endogenous Sema4F expressed by brain cells of oligodendroglial lineage regulates the outgrowth migration of oligodendrocyte precursors and promotes their differentiation. The present data extend our knowledge about the expression of Sema4F and uncover a novel function in the control of oligodendrocyte precursor migration in the developing brain.

Keywords: Semaphorin, Oligodendrocyte, Guidance, Optic nerve, Brain

Bribián, Ana, Fontana, Xavier, Llorens, Franc, Gavín, Rosalina, Reina, Manuel, García-Verdugo, José Manuel, Torres, Juan María, de Castro, Fernando, Del Río, J.A., (2012). Role of the cellular prion protein in oligodendrocyte precursor cell proliferation and differentiation in the developing and adult mouse CNS PLoS ONE 7, (4), e33872

There are numerous studies describing the signaling mechanisms that mediate oligodendrocyte precursor cell (OPC) proliferation and differentiation, although the contribution of the cellular prion protein (PrPc) to this process remains unclear. PrPc is a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored glycoprotein involved in diverse cellular processes during the development and maturation of the mammalian central nervous system (CNS). Here we describe how PrPc influences oligodendrocyte proliferation in the developing and adult CNS. OPCs that lack PrPc proliferate more vigorously at the expense of a delay in differentiation, which correlates with changes in the expression of oligodendrocyte lineage markers. In addition, numerous NG2-positive cells were observed in cortical regions of adult PrPc knockout mice, although no significant changes in myelination can be seen, probably due to the death of surplus cells.

Llorens, F., Del Rio, J. A., (2012). Unraveling the neuroprotective mechanisms of PrPC in excitotoxicity Prion 6, (3), 245-251

Knowledge of the natural roles of cellular prion protein (PrPC) is essential to an understanding of the molecular basis of prion pathologies. This GPIanchored protein has been described in synaptic contacts, and loss of its synaptic function in complex systems may contribute to the synaptic loss and neuronal degeneration observed in prionopathy. In addition, Prnp knockout mice show enhanced susceptibility to several excitotoxic insults, GABAA receptor-mediated fast inhibition was weakened, LTP was modified and cellular stress increased. Although little is known about how PrPC exerts its function at the synapse or the downstream events leading to PrPCmediated neuroprotection against excitotoxic insults, PrPC has recently been reported to interact with two glutamate receptor subunits (NR2D and GluR6/7). In both cases the presence of PrPC blocks the neurotoxicity induced by NMDA and Kainate respectively. Furthermore, signals for seizure and neuronal cell death in response to Kainate in Prnp knockout mouse are associated with JNK3 activity, through enhancing the interaction of GluR6 with PSD-95. In combination with previous data, these results shed light on the molecular mechanisms behind the role of PrPC in excitotoxicity. Future experimental approaches are suggested and discussed.

Keywords: Prion protein, Excitotoxicity, Neuroprotection, Glutamate receptors, Synapse, prionopathy

Llorens, Franc, Gil, Vanessa, Antonio del Rio, Jose, (2011). Emerging functions of myelin-associated proteins during development, neuronal plasticity, and neurodegeneration FASEB Journal 25, (2), 463-475

Adult mammalian central nervous system (CNS) axons have a limited regrowth capacity following injury. Myelin-associated inhibitors (MAIs) limit axonal outgrowth, and their blockage improves the regeneration of damaged fiber tracts. Three of these proteins, Nogo-A, MAG, and OMgp, share two common neuronal receptors: NgR1, together with its coreceptors [p75(NTR), TROY, and Lingo-1]; and the recently described paired immunoglobulin-like receptor B (PirB). These proteins impair neuronal regeneration by limiting axonal sprouting. Some of the elements involved in the myelin inhibitory pathways may still be unknown, but the discovery that blocking both PirB and NgR1 activities leads to near-complete release from myelin inhibition, sheds light on one of the most competitive and intense fields of neuroregeneration study in recent decades. In parallel with the identification and characterization of the roles and functions of these inhibitory molecules in axonal regeneration, data gathered in the field strongly suggest that most of these proteins have roles other than axonal growth inhibition. The discovery of a new group of interacting partners for myelin-associated receptors and ligands, as well as functional studies within or outside the CNS environment, highlights the potential new physiological roles for these proteins in processes, such as development, neuronal homeostasis, plasticity, and neurodegeneration.-Llorens, F., Gil, V., del Rio, J. A. Emerging functions of myelin-associated proteins during development, neuronal plasticity, and neurodegeneration.

Keywords: MAIs, Neural stem cells, Synapse formation

Carulla, Patricia, Bribian, Ana, Rangel, Alejandra, Gavin, Rosalina, Ferrer, Isidro, Caelles, Carme, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Llorens, Franc, (2011). Neuroprotective role of PrP(C) against kainate-induced epileptic seizures and cell death depends on the modulation of JNK3 activation by GluR6/7-PSD-95 binding Molecular Biology of the Cell 22, (17), 3041-3054

Cellular prion protein (PrP(C)) is a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol-anchored glycoprotein. When mutated or misfolded, the pathogenic form (PrP(SC)) induces transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In contrast, PrP(C) has a number of physiological functions in several neural processes. Several lines of evidence implicate PrP(C) in synaptic transmission and neuroprotection since its absence results in an increase in neuronal excitability and enhanced excitotoxicity in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, PrP(C) has been implicated in the inhibition of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA)-mediated neurotransmission, and prion protein gene (Prnp) knockout mice show enhanced neuronal death in response to NMDA and kainate (KA). In this study, we demonstrate that neurotoxicity induced by KA in Prnp knockout mice depends on the c-Jun N-terminal kinase 3 (JNK3) pathway since Prnp(%) Jnk3(%) mice were not affected by KA. Pharmacological blockage of JNK3 activity impaired PrP(C)-dependent neurotoxicity. Furthermore, our results indicate that JNK3 activation depends on the interaction of PrP(C) with postsynaptic density 95 protein (PSD-95) and glutamate receptor 6/7 (GluR6/7). Indeed, GluR6-PSD-95 interaction after KA injections was favored by the absence of PrP(C). Finally, neurotoxicity in Prnp knockout mice was reversed by an AMPA/KA inhibitor (6,7-dinitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione) and the GluR6 antagonist NS-102. We conclude that the protection afforded by PrP(C) against KA is due to its ability to modulate GluR6/7-mediated neurotransmission and hence JNK3 activation.

Keywords: Ischemic brain-injury, Prion protein PrP(C), Stress-inducible protein-1, Synaptic plasticity, Neurite outgrowth, Signaling module, Caspase-3 activation, Organotypic cultures, Cerebral-ischemia

Llorens, Franc, Hummel, Manuela, Pastor, Xavier, Ferrer, Anna, Pluvinet, Raquel, Vivancos, Ana, Castillo, Ester, Iraola, Susana, Mosquera, Ana M., Gonzalez, Eva, Lozano, Juanjo, Ingham, Matthew, Dohm, Juliane C., Noguera, Marc, Kofler, Robert, Antonio del Rio, Jose, Bayes, Monica, Himmelbauer, Heinz, Sumoy, Lauro, (2011). Multiple platform assessment of the EGF dependent transcriptome by microarray and deep tag sequencing analysis BMC Genomics 12, 326

Background: Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) is a key regulatory growth factor activating many processes relevant to normal development and disease, affecting cell proliferation and survival. Here we use a combined approach to study the EGF dependent transcriptome of HeLa cells by using multiple long oligonucleotide based microarray platforms (from Agilent, Operon, and Illumina) in combination with digital gene expression profiling (DGE) with the Illumina Genome Analyzer. Results: By applying a procedure for cross-platform data meta-analysis based on RankProd and GlobalAncova tests, we establish a well validated gene set with transcript levels altered after EGF treatment. We use this robust gene list to build higher order networks of gene interaction by interconnecting associated networks, supporting and extending the important role of the EGF signaling pathway in cancer. In addition, we find an entirely new set of genes previously unrelated to the currently accepted EGF associated cellular functions. Conclusions: We propose that the use of global genomic cross-validation derived from high content technologies (microarrays or deep sequencing) can be used to generate more reliable datasets. This approach should help to improve the confidence of downstream in silico functional inference analyses based on high content data.

Keywords: Gene-expression measurements, Quality-control maqc, Cancer-cell-lines, Real-time pcr, Oligonucleotide microarrays, Phosphorylation dynamics, In-vivo, Networks, Signal, Technologies

del Rio, Jose Antonio, Soriano, Eduardo, (2010). Regenerating cortical connections in a dish: the entorhino-hippocampal organotypic slice co-culture as tool for pharmacological screening of molecules promoting axon regeneration Nature Protocols 5, (2), 217-226

We present a method for using long-term organotypic slice co-cultures of the entorhino-hippocampal formation to analyze the axon-regenerative properties of a determined compound. The culture method is based on the membrane interphase method, which is easy to perform and is generally reproducible. The degree of axonal regeneration after treatment in lesioned cultures can be seen directly using green fluorescent protein (GFP) transgenic mice or by axon tracing and histological methods. Possible changes in cell morphology after pharmacological treatment can be determined easily by focal in vitro electroporation. The well-preserved cytoarchitectonics in the co-culture facilitate the analysis of identified cells or regenerating axons. The protocol takes up to a month.

Keywords: Cajal-retzius cells, Green-fluorescent-protein, In-vitro model, Rat hippocampus, Nervous-tissue, Brain-slices, Dentate gyrus, Gene-transfer, Cultures, Damage

Martí, E., Pantano, L., Bañez-Coronel, M., Llorens, F., Miñones-Moyano, E., Porta, S., Sumoy, L., Ferrer, I., Estivill, X., (2010). A myriad of miRNA variants in control and Huntington's disease brain regions detected by massively parallel sequencing Nucleic Acids Research 38, (20), 7219-7235

Huntington disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that predominantly affects neurons of the forebrain. We have applied the Illumina massively parallel sequencing to deeply analyze the small RNA populations of two different forebrain areas, the frontal cortex (FC) and the striatum (ST) of healthy individuals and individuals with HD. More than 80% of the small-RNAs were annotated as microRNAs (miRNAs) in all samples. Deep sequencing revealed length and sequence heterogeneity (IsomiRs) for the vast majority of miRNAs. Around 80–90% of the miRNAs presented modifications in the 3′-terminus mainly in the form of trimming and/or as nucleotide addition variants, while the 5′-terminus of the miRNAs was specially protected from changes. Expression profiling showed strong miRNA and isomiR expression deregulation in HD, most being common to both FC and ST. The analysis of the upstream regulatory regions in co-regulated miRNAs suggests a role for RE1-Silencing Transcription Factor (REST) and P53 in miRNAs downregulation in HD. The putative targets of deregulated miRNAs and seed-region IsomiRs strongly suggest that their altered expression contributes to the aberrant gene expression in HD. Our results show that miRNA variability is a ubiquitous phenomenon in the adult human brain, which may influence gene expression in physiological and pathological conditions.

Keywords: -----

Gil, Vanessa, Bichler, Zoe, Lee, Jae K., Seira, Oscar, Llorens, Franc, Bribian, Ana, Morales, Ricardo, Claverol-Tinture, Enric, Soriano, Eduardo, Sumoy, Lauro, Zheng, Binhai, del Rio, Jose A., (2010). Developmental expression of the oligodendrocyte myelin glycoprotein in the mouse telencephalon Cerebral Cortex 20, (8), 1769-1779

The oligodendrocyte myelin glycoprotein is a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored protein expressed by neurons and oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system. Attempts have been made to identify the functions of the myelin-associated inhibitory proteins (MAIPs) after axonal lesion or in neurodegeneration. However, the developmental roles of some of these proteins and their receptors remain elusive. Recent studies indicate that NgR1 and the recently discovered receptor PirB restrict cortical synaptic plasticity. However, the putative factors that trigger these effects are unknown. Because Nogo-A is mostly associated with the endoplasmic reticulum and myelin associated glycoprotein appears late during development, the putative participation of OMgp should be considered. Here, we examine the pattern of development of OMgp immunoreactive elements during mouse telencephalic development. OMgp immunoreactivity in the developing cortex follows the establishment of the thalamo-cortical barrel field. At the cellular level, we located OMgp neuronal membranes in dendrites and axons as well as in brain synaptosome fractions and axon varicosities. Lastly, the analysis of the barrel field in OMgp-deficient mice revealed that although thalamo-cortical connections were formed, their targeting in layer IV was altered, and numerous axons ectopically invaded layers II-III. Our data support the idea that early expressed MAIPs play an active role during development and point to OMgp participating in thalamo-cortical connections.

Keywords: Axon plasticity, Barrel-field specification, Cortical lamination, Myelin

Gavín, R., Ferrer, I., del Río, J. A., (2010). Involvement of Dab1 in APP processing and [beta]-amyloid deposition in sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob patients Neurobiology of Disease 37, (2), 324-329

Alzheimer's disease and prion pathologies (e.g., Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)) display profound neural lesions associated with aberrant protein processing and extracellular amyloid deposits. Dab1 has been implicated in the regulation of amyloid precursor protein (APP), but a direct link between human prion diseases and Dab1/APP interactions has not been published. Here we examined this putative relationship in 17 cases of sporadic CJD (sCJD) post-mortem. Biochemical analyses of brain tissue revealed two groups, which also correlated with PrPsc types 1 and 2. One group with PrPsc type 1 showed increased Dab1 phosphorylation and lower [beta]CTF production with an absence of A[beta] deposition. The second sCJD group, which carried PrPsc type 2, showed lower levels of Dab1 phosphorylation and [beta]CTF production, and A[beta] deposition. Thus, the present observations suggest a correlation between Dab1 phosphorylation, A[beta] deposition and PrPsc type in sCJD.

Keywords: Prionopathies, Amyloid plaques, Alzheimer's disease, Dab1

Madronal, Noelia, Lopez-Aracil, Cristina, Rangel, Alejandra, del Rio, Jose A., Delgado-Garcia, Jose M., Gruart, Agnes, (2010). Effects of Enriched Physical and Social Environments on Motor Performance, Associative Learning, and Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Mice PLoS ONE 5, (6), e11130

We have studied the motor abilities and associative learning capabilities of adult mice placed in different enriched environments. Three-month-old animals were maintained for a month alone (AL), alone in a physically enriched environment (PHY), and, finally, in groups in the absence (SO) or presence (SOPHY) of an enriched environment. The animals' capabilities were subsequently checked in the rotarod test, and for classical and instrumental learning. The PHY and SOPHY groups presented better performances in the rotarod test and in the acquisition of the instrumental learning task. In contrast, no significant differences between groups were observed for classical eyeblink conditioning. The four groups presented similar increases in the strength of field EPSPs (fEPSPs) evoked at the hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapse across classical conditioning sessions, with no significant differences between groups. These trained animals were pulse-injected with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) to determine hippocampal neurogenesis. No significant differences were found in the number of NeuN/BrdU double-labeled neurons. We repeated the same BrdU study in one-month-old mice raised for an additional month in the above-mentioned four different environments. These animals were not submitted to rotarod or conditioned tests. Non-trained PHY and SOPHY groups presented more neurogenesis than the other two groups. Thus, neurogenesis seems to be related to physical enrichment at early ages, but not to learning acquisition in adult mice.

Keywords: Long-term potentiation, Adult neurogenesis, Synaptic transmission, Cell proliferation, CA3-CA1 synapse, Granule cells

Seira, O., Gavin, R., Gil, V., Llorens, F., Rangel, A., Soriano, E., del Rio, J. A., (2010). Neurites regrowth of cortical neurons by GSK3 beta inhibition independently of Nogo receptor 1 Journal of Neurochemistry 113, (6), 1644-1658

P>Lesioned axons do not regenerate in the adult mammalian CNS, owing to the over-expression of inhibitory molecules such as myelin-derived proteins or chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans. In order to overcome axon inhibition, strategies based on extrinsic and intrinsic treatments have been developed. For myelin-associated inhibition, blockage with NEP1-40, receptor bodies or IN-1 antibodies has been used. In addition, endogenous blockage of cell signalling mechanisms induced by myelin-associated proteins is a potential tool for overcoming axon inhibitory signals. We examined the participation of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta (GSK3 beta) and extracellular-related kinase (ERK) 1/2 in axon regeneration failure in lesioned cortical neurons. We also investigated whether pharmacological blockage of GSK3 beta and ERK1/2 activities facilitates regeneration after myelin-directed inhibition in two models: (i) cerebellar granule cells and (ii) lesioned entorhino-hippocampal pathway in slice cultures, and whether the regenerative effects are mediated by Nogo Receptor 1 (NgR1). We demonstrate that, in contrast to ERK1/2 inhibition, the pharmacological treatment of GSK3 beta inhibition strongly facilitated regrowth of cerebellar granule neurons over myelin independently of NgR1. Finally, these regenerative effects were corroborated in the lesioned entorhino-hippocampal pathway in NgR1-/- mutant mice. These results provide new findings for the development of new assays and strategies to enhance axon regeneration in injured cortical connections.

Keywords: Axon inhibition, Nogo Receptor complex, Organotypic slice cultures, Pharmacological treatment

Messeguer, J., Masip, I., Montolio, M., del Rio, J. A., Soriano, E., Messeguer, A., (2010). Peptoids bearing tertiary amino residues in the n-alkyl side chains: synthesis of a potent inhibitor of Semaphorin 3A Tetrahedron 66, (13), 2444-2454

A study on the preparation of N-alkylglycines (peptoids) that contain tertiary amino residues on the N-alkyl side chains is reported. The appropriate combination of the submonomer strategy with N-alkylglycine monomer couplings depending upon the structure of the N-alkyl side chain that must be incorporated into the peptoid is determinant for the efficiency of the synthetic pathway. The application of this strategy to the preparation of SICHI, an N-alkyglycine trimer containing tertiary amino residues in the three N-alkyl branches, and that has been identified as a potent Semaphorin 3A inhibitor, is presented.

Keywords: Peptoids, N-Alkylglycine monomers, Solid-phase synthesis, Semaphorin inhibition, Axonal regeneration

Nicolas, O., Gavin, R., Del Rio, J. A., (2009). New insights into cellular prion protein (PrPc) functions: The "ying and yang" of a relevant protein Brain Research Reviews 61, (2), 170-184

The conversion of cellular prion protein (PrPc) a GPI-anchored protein, into a protease-K-resistant and infective form (generally termed PrPsc) is mainly responsible for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs), characterized by neuronal degeneration and progressive loss of basic brain functions. Although PrPc is expressed by a wide range of tissues throughout the body, the complete repertoire of its functions has not been fully deter-mined. Recent studies have confirmed its participation in basic physiological processes such as cell proliferation and the regulation of cellular homeostasis. Other studies indicate that PrPc interacts with several molecules to activate signaling cascades with a high number of cellular effects. To deter-mine PrPc functions, transgenic mouse models have been generated in the last decade. In particular, mice lacking specific domains of the PrPc protein have revealed the contribution of these domains to neurodegenerative processes. A dual role of PrPc has been shown, since most authors report protective roles for this protein while others describe pro-apoptotic functions. in this review, we summarize new findings on PrPc functions, especially those related to neural degeneration and cell signaling.

Keywords: Prion, Doppel, Shadoo, Cell death, Cell proliferation, Cell differentiation

Rangel, A., Madroñal, N., Gruart i Massó, A., Gavin,, Llorens, Sumoy, Torres, Delgado-Gar, Del Rio, J. A., (2009). Regulation of GABA(A) and glutamate receptor expression, synaptic facilitation and long-term potentiation in the hippocampus of prion mutant mice PLoS ONE 4, (10), e7592 (1-14)

Background: Prionopathies are characterized by spongiform brain degeneration, myoclonia, dementia, and periodic electroencephalographic (EEG) disturbances. The hallmark of prioniopathies is the presence of an abnormal conformational isoform (PrPsc) of the natural cellular prion protein (PrPc) encoded by the Prnp gene. Although several roles have been attributed to PrPc, its putative functions in neuronal excitability are unknown. Although early studies of the behavior of Prnp knockout mice described minor changes, later studies report altered behavior. To date, most functional PrPc studies on synaptic plasticity have been performed in vitro. To our knowledge, only one electrophysiological study has been performed in vivo in anesthetized mice, by Curtis and coworkers. They reported no significant differences in paired-pulse facilitation or LTP in the CA1 region after Schaffer collateral/commissural pathway stimulation. Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we explore the role of PrPc expression in neurotransmission and neural excitability using wild-type, Prnp 2/2 and PrPc-overexpressing mice (Tg20 strain). By correlating histopathology with electrophysiology in living behaving mice, we demonstrate that both Prnp 2/2 mice but, more relevantly Tg20 mice show increased susceptibility to KA, leading to significant cell death in the hippocampus. This finding correlates with enhanced synaptic facilitation in paired-pulse experiments and hippocampal LTP in living behaving mutant mice. Gene expression profiling using IlluminaTM microarrays and Ingenuity pathways analysis showed that 129 genes involved in canonical pathways such as Ubiquitination or Neurotransmission were co-regulated in Prnp 2/2 and Tg20 mice. Lastly, RT-qPCR of neurotransmission-related genes indicated that subunits of GABAA and AMPA-kainate receptors are co-regulated in both Prnp 2/2 and Tg20 mice. Conclusions/Significance: Present results demonstrate that PrPc is necessary for the proper homeostatic functioning of hippocampal circuits, because of its relationships with GABAA and AMPA-Kainate neurotransmission. New PrPc functions have recently been described, which point to PrPc as a target for putative therapies in Alzheimer’s disease. However, our results indicate that a ‘‘gain of function’’ strategy in Alzheimer’s disease, or a ‘‘loss of function’’ in prionopathies, may impair PrPc function, with devastating effects. In conclusion, we believe that present data should be taken into account in the development of future therapies.

Keywords: Prions, Prionopathies, Natural cellular prion protein (PrPc), Hippocampus, GABA (A) receptor, Glutamate Receptor


  • Neural stem cell culture
  • Microscopy facility (Olympus BX61 and Olympus IX71 with LCi culture and OKOlab systems)
  • Electroporation system (BTX 600)
  • Pressure microinjection system
  • Protein expression and purification systems
  • Technology of neuronal culture facilities (2D and 3D)
  • Lentiviral production and characterization
  • Gradient thermocycler (PCR)
  • Protein and DNA electrophoresis
  • In situ hybridization oven


  • Dr. Fernando de Castro
    Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos, Toledo, Spain
  • Dr. Adolfo Lopéz de Munain
    Hospital de Donostia, San Sebastian, Spain
  • Dr. Jokin Castilla
    CiC Biogune, Bilbao, Spain
  • Prof. Jose Manuel García Verdugo
    Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Valencia, Spain
  • Prof. Jose Manuel García Aznar
    Nanotechnology Institute, Zaragoza, Spain
  • Prof. Fernando Albericio
    Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), Barcelona
  • Dra. Miriam Royo
    Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB), Barcelona
  • Dr. Elisabeth Engel, Prof. Josep Samitier, Prof. Xavier Trepat
  • Prof. Ángel Raya
    Center of Regenerative Medicine in Barcelona (CMRB), Barcelona
  • Prof. Jesús Ávila and Prof. Francisco Wandosell
    Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain
  • Prof. Isidro Ferrer
    Institut d’Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge, University of Barcelona, Spain
  • Prof. Fanny Mann
    Developmental Institute of Marseille Luminy, Université de la Méditerranée, Marseille, France
  • Prof. Yutaka Yoshida
    Division of Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
  • Prof. Masato Hagesawa
    Faculty of Medicine, Tokyo

Comments are closed