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by Keyword: Neuron

Smith, CS, Alvarez, Z, Qiu, RM, Sasselli, IR, Clemons, T, Ortega, JA, Vilela-Picos, M, Wellman, H, Kiskinis, E, Stupp, SI, (2023). Enhanced Neuron Growth and Electrical Activity by a Supramolecular Netrin-1 Mimetic Nanofiber Acs Nano 17, 19887-19902

Neurotrophic factors are essential not only for guiding the organization of the developing nervous system but also for supporting the survival and growth of neurons after traumatic injury. In the central nervous system (CNS), inhibitory factors and the formation of a glial scar after injury hinder the functional recovery of neurons, requiring exogenous therapies to promote regeneration. Netrin-1, a neurotrophic factor, can initiate axon guidance, outgrowth, and branching, as well as synaptogenesis, through activation of deleted in colorectal cancer (DCC) receptors. We report here the development of a nanofiber-shaped supramolecular mimetic of netrin-1 with monomers that incorporate a cyclic peptide sequence as the bioactive component. The mimetic structure was found to activate the DCC receptor in primary cortical neurons using low molar ratios of the bioactive comonomer. The supramolecular nanofibers enhanced neurite outgrowth and upregulated maturation as well as pre- and postsynaptic markers over time, resulting in differences in electrical activity similar to neurons treated with the recombinant netrin-1 protein. The results suggest the possibility of using the supramolecular structure as a therapeutic to promote regenerative bioactivity in CNS injuries.

JTD Keywords: axon growth, axon guidance, cell-migration, colorectal-cancer, dcc, dopaminergic-neurons, force-field, functional recovery, netrin-1, neurite outgrowth, neuronal maturation, neurotrophic factor, neurotrophicfactor mimetic, synapsis, Axon growth, Coarse-grained model, Netrin-1, Neuronal maturation, Neurotrophic factor mimetic, Peptide amphiphile, Synapsis


Colom-Cadena, M, Davies, C, Sirisi, S, Lee, JE, Simzer, EM, Tzioras, M, Querol-Vilaseca, M, Sánchez-Aced, E, Chang, YY, Holt, K, McGeachan, RI, Rose, J, Tulloch, J, Wilkins, L, Smith, C, Andrian, T, Belbin, O, Pujals, S, Horrocks, MH, Lleó, A, Spires-Jones, TL, (2023). Synaptic oligomeric tau in Alzheimer's disease - A potential culprit in the spread of tau pathology through the brain Neuron 111, 2170-+

In Alzheimer's disease, fibrillar tau pathology accumulates and spreads through the brain and synapses are lost. Evidence from mouse models indicates that tau spreads trans-synaptically from pre- to postsynapses and that oligomeric tau is synaptotoxic, but data on synaptic tau in human brain are scarce. Here we used sub-diffraction-limit microscopy to study synaptic tau accumulation in postmortem temporal and occipital cortices of human Alzheimer's and control donors. Oligomeric tau is present in pre- and postsynaptic terminals, even in areas without abundant fibrillar tau deposition. Furthermore, there is a higher proportion of oligomeric tau compared with phosphorylated or misfolded tau found at synaptic terminals. These data suggest that accumulation of oligomeric tau in synapses is an early event in pathogenesis and that tau pathology may progress through the brain via trans-synaptic spread in human disease. Thus, specifically reducing oligomeric tau at synapses may be a promising therapeutic strategy for Alzheimer's disease.Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: accumulation, alpha-synuclein, array tomography, cognitive impairment, dendritic spines, mouse model, neurodegeneration, neurons, synapses, Alzheimer, Amyloid-beta, Synapse, Tau


Brewer MK, Torres P, Ayala V, Portero-Otin M, Pamplona R, Andrés-Benito P, Ferrer I, Gentry MS, Guinovart JJ, Duran J, (2023). Glycogen accumulation modulates life span in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Journal Of Neurochemistry ,

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a devastating neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord. Glial cells, including astrocytes and microglia, have been shown to contribute to neurodegeneration in ALS, and metabolic dysfunction plays an important role in the progression of the disease. Glycogen is a soluble polymer of glucose found at low levels in the central nervous system that plays an important role in memory formation, synaptic plasticity, and the prevention of seizures. However, its accumulation in astrocytes and/or neurons is associated with pathological conditions and aging. Importantly, glycogen accumulation has been reported in the spinal cord of human ALS patients and mouse models. In the present work, using the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS, we show that glycogen accumulates in the spinal cord and brainstem during symptomatic and end stages of the disease and that the accumulated glycogen is associated with reactive astrocytes. To study the contribution of glycogen to ALS progression, we generated SOD1G93A mice with reduced glycogen synthesis (SOD1G93A GShet mice). SOD1G93A GShet mice had a significantly longer life span than SOD1G93A mice and showed lower levels of the astrocytic pro-inflammatory cytokine Cxcl10, suggesting that the accumulation of glycogen is associated with an inflammatory response. Supporting this, inducing an increase in glycogen synthesis reduced life span in SOD1G93A mice. Altogether, these results suggest that glycogen in reactive astrocytes contributes to neurotoxicity and disease progression in ALS.© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Society for Neurochemistry.

JTD Keywords: activation, astrocytes, brain, contributes, expression, glycogen, impairment, mice, motor neurons, neurodegeneration, reactive astrocytes, spinal cord, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Astrocytes, Glycogen, Motor neurons, Motor-neuron degeneration, Neurodegeneration, Spinal cord


Placci, M, Giannotti, MI, Muro, S, (2023). Polymer-based drug delivery systems under investigation for enzyme replacement and other therapies of lysosomal storage disorders Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews 197, 114683

Lysosomes play a central role in cellular homeostasis and alterations in this compartment associate with many diseases. The most studied example is that of lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs), a group of 60 + maladies due to genetic mutations affecting lysosomal components, mostly enzymes. This leads to aberrant intracellular storage of macromolecules, altering normal cell function and causing multiorgan syndromes, often fatal within the first years of life. Several treatment modalities are available for a dozen LSDs, mostly consisting of enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) strategies. Yet, poor biodistribution to main targets such as the central nervous system, musculoskeletal tissue, and others, as well as generation of blocking antibodies and adverse effects hinder effective LSD treatment. Drug delivery systems are being studied to surmount these obstacles, including polymeric constructs and nanoparticles that consti-tute the focus of this article. We provide an overview of the formulations being tested, the diseases they aim to treat, and the results observed from respective in vitro and in vivo studies. We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these strategies, the remaining gaps of knowledge regarding their per-formance, and important items to consider for their clinical translation. Overall, polymeric nanocon-structs hold considerable promise to advance treatment for LSDs.(c) 2023 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: cellular and animal models, enzyme replacement therapy, lysosomal storage disorders, nanoemulsions, nanoparticles, Beta-glucuronidase deficiency, Blood-brain-barrier, Cellular and animal models, Central-nervous-system, Enzyme replacement therapy, Feline gm1 gangliosidosis, Human acid sphingomyelinase, Human alpha-galactosidase, Lysosomal storage disorders, Mucopolysaccharidosis type-ii, Nanoemulsions, Nanoparticles, Neuronal ceroid-lipofuscinosis, Niemann-pick-disease, Pluripotent stem-cells, Polymer-based drug delivery systems


Pereira, I, Lopez-Martinez, MJ, Villasante, A, Introna, C, Tornero, D, Canals, JM, Samitier, J, (2023). Hyaluronic acid-based bioink improves the differentiation and network formation of neural progenitor cells Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 11, 1110547

Introduction: Three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting is a promising technique for the development of neuronal in vitro models because it controls the deposition of materials and cells. Finding a biomaterial that supports neural differentiation in vitro while ensuring compatibility with the technique of 3D bioprinting of a self-standing construct is a challenge.Methods: In this study, gelatin methacryloyl (GelMA), methacrylated alginate (AlgMA), and hyaluronic acid (HA) were examined by exploiting their biocompatibility and tunable mechanical properties to resemble the extracellular matrix (ECM) and to create a suitable material for printing neural progenitor cells (NPCs), supporting their long-term differentiation. NPCs were printed and differentiated for up to 15 days, and cell viability and neuronal differentiation markers were assessed throughout the culture.Results and Discussion: This composite biomaterial presented the desired physical properties to mimic the ECM of the brain with high water intake, low stiffness, and slow degradation while allowing the printing of defined structures. The viability rates were maintained at approximately 80% at all time points. However, the levels of beta-III tubulin marker increased over time, demonstrating the compatibility of this biomaterial with neuronal cell culture and differentiation. Furthermore, these cells showed increased maturation with corresponding functional properties, which was also demonstrated by the formation of a neuronal network that was observed by recording spontaneous activity via Ca2+ imaging.

JTD Keywords: biomaterials, bioprinting, differentiation, in vitro models, neural progenitor cells, 2d, Biomaterials, Bioprinting, C17.2, Differentiation, Extracellular-matrix, Hydrogels, In vitro models, In-vitro, Neural progenitor cells, Neuronal models, Proliferation, Scaffolds, Stem-cells, Substrate stiffness


Álvarez Z, Ortega JA, Sato K, Sasselli IR, Kolberg-Edelbrock AN, Qiu R, Marshall KA, Nguyen TP, Smith CS, Quinlan KA, Papakis V, Syrgiannis Z, Sather NA, Musumeci C, Engel E, Stupp SI, Kiskinis E, (2023). Artificial extracellular matrix scaffolds of mobile molecules enhance maturation of human stem cell-derived neurons Cell Stem Cell 30, 219-+

Human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technologies offer a unique resource for modeling neurological diseases. However, iPSC models are fraught with technical limitations including abnormal aggregation and inefficient maturation of differentiated neurons. These problems are in part due to the absence of synergistic cues of the native extracellular matrix (ECM). We report on the use of three artificial ECMs based on peptide amphiphile (PA) supramolecular nanofibers. All nanofibers display the laminin-derived IKVAV signal on their surface but differ in the nature of their non-bioactive domains. We find that nanofibers with greater intensity of internal supramolecular motion have enhanced bioactivity toward hiPSC-derived motor and cortical neurons. Proteomic, biochemical, and functional assays reveal that highly mobile PA scaffolds caused enhanced β1-integrin pathway activation, reduced aggregation, increased arborization, and matured electrophysiological activity of neurons. Our work highlights the importance of designing biomimetic ECMs to study the development, function, and dysfunction of human neurons.Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: differentiation, force-field, laminin, migration, nanostructures, peptide amphiphiles, spinal-cord, statistical-model, supramolecular materials, Coarse-grained model, Dynamics, Extracellular matrix, Ikvav, Ipsc-derived neurons, Laminin, Neuronal maturation, Peptide amphiphiles, Supramolecular motion, Supramolecular nanofibers


Lagunas, A, Belloir, C, Briand, L, Gorostiza, P, Samitier, J, (2022). Determination of the nanoscale electrical properties of olfactory receptor hOR1A1 and their dependence on ligand binding: Towards the development of capacitance-operated odorant biosensors Biosensors & Bioelectronics 218, 114755

The transduction of odorant binding into cellular signaling by olfactory receptors (ORs) is not understood and knowing its mechanism would enable developing new pharmacology and biohybrid electronic detectors of volatile organic compounds bearing high sensitivity and selectivity. The electrical characterization of ORs in bulk experiments is subject to microscopic models and assumptions. We have directly determined the nanoscale electrical properties of ORs immobilized in a fixed orientation, and their change upon odorant binding, using electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy (EC-STM) in near-physiological conditions. Recordings of current versus time, distance, and electrochemical potential allows determining the OR impedance parameters and their dependence with odorant binding. Our results allow validating OR structural-electrostatic models and their functional activation processes, and anticipating a novel macroscopic biosensor based on ORs.Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: electrochemical scanning tunneling, electrochemical scanning tunneling microscopy (ec-stm), microscopy (ec-stm), neurons, odorant binding, olfactory receptors (ors), open-circuit voltage(voc), Olfactory receptors (ors), Open-circuit voltage (v(oc)), Transport


Badiola-Mateos M, Osaki T, Kamm RD, Samitier J, (2022). In vitro modelling of human proprioceptive sensory neurons in the neuromuscular system Scientific Reports 12, 21318

Proprioceptive sensory neurons (pSN) are an essential and undervalued part of the neuromuscular circuit. A protocol to differentiate healthy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) human neural stem cells (hNSC) into pSN, and their comparison with the motor neuron (MN) differentiation process from the same hNSC sources, facilitated the development of in vitro co-culture platforms. The obtained pSN spheroids cultured interact with human skeletal myocytes showing the formation of annulospiral wrapping-like structures between TrkC + neurons and a multinucleated muscle fibre, presenting synaptic bouton-like structures in the contact point. The comparative analysis of the genetic profile performed in healthy and sporadic ALS hNSC differentiated to pSN suggested that basal levels of ETV1, critical for motor feedback from pSN, were much lower for ALS samples and that the differences between healthy and ALS samples, suggest the involvement of pSN in ALS pathology development and progression.© 2022. The Author(s).

JTD Keywords: Amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis,pluripotent stem-cells,peripheral nervous-system,stretch reflex arc,mechanosensory circuit,cellular-localization,molecular-cloning,motor-neurons,muscle,expressio


Mesquida-Veny, Francina, Martínez-Torres, Sara, Del Río, José Antonio, Hervera, Arnau, (2022). Genetic control of neuronal activity enhances axonal growth only on permissive substrates Molecular Medicine 28, 97

Abstract Background Neural tissue has limited regenerative ability. To cope with that, in recent years a diverse set of novel tools has been used to tailor neurostimulation therapies and promote functional regeneration after axonal injuries. Method In this report, we explore cell-specific methods to modulate neuronal activity, including opto- and chemogenetics to assess the effect of specific neuronal stimulation in the promotion of axonal regeneration after injury. Results Opto- and chemogenetic stimulations of neuronal activity elicited increased in vitro neurite outgrowth in both sensory and cortical neurons, as well as in vivo regeneration in the sciatic nerve, but not after spinal cord injury. Mechanistically, inhibitory substrates such as chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans block the activity induced increase in axonal growth. Conclusions We found that genetic modulations of neuronal activity on both dorsal root ganglia and corticospinal motor neurons increase their axonal growth capacity but only on permissive environments.

JTD Keywords: activation, chemogenetics, electrical-stimulation, expression, functional recovery, increases, injury, motor cortex, neuronal activity, optogenetics, permissive substrate, promotes recovery, regeneration, Optogenetics, Regeneration, Spinal-cord


Ahmad, J, Ellis, C, Leech, R, Voytek, B, Garces, P, Jones, E, Buitelaar, J, Loth, E, dos Santos, FP, Amil, AF, Verschure, PFMJ, Murphy, D, McAlonan, G, (2022). From mechanisms to markers: novel noninvasive EEG proxy markers of the neural excitation and inhibition system in humans Translational Psychiatry 12, 467

Brain function is a product of the balance between excitatory and inhibitory (E/I) brain activity. Variation in the regulation of this activity is thought to give rise to normal variation in human traits, and disruptions are thought to potentially underlie a spectrum of neuropsychiatric conditions (e.g., Autism, Schizophrenia, Downs' Syndrome, intellectual disability). Hypotheses related to E/I dysfunction have the potential to provide cross-diagnostic explanations and to combine genetic and neurological evidence that exists within and between psychiatric conditions. However, the hypothesis has been difficult to test because: (1) it lacks specificity-an E/I dysfunction could pertain to any level in the neural system- neurotransmitters, single neurons/receptors, local networks of neurons, or global brain balance - most researchers do not define the level at which they are examining E/I function; (2) We lack validated methods for assessing E/I function at any of these neural levels in humans. As a result, it has not been possible to reliably or robustly test the E/I hypothesis of psychiatric disorders in a large cohort or longitudinal patient studies. Currently available, in vivo markers of E/I in humans either carry significant risks (e.g., deep brain electrode recordings or using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) with radioactive tracers) and/or are highly restrictive (e.g., limited spatial extent for Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS). More recently, a range of novel Electroencephalography (EEG) features has been described, which could serve as proxy markers for E/I at a given level of inference. Thus, in this perspective review, we survey the theories and experimental evidence underlying 6 novel EEG markers and their biological underpinnings at a specific neural level. These cheap-to-record and scalable proxy markers may offer clinical utility for identifying subgroups within and between diagnostic categories, thus directing more tailored sub-grouping and, therefore, treatment strategies. However, we argue that studies in clinical populations are premature. To maximize the potential of prospective EEG markers, we first need to understand the link between underlying E/I mechanisms and measurement techniques.

JTD Keywords: Cortical networks, Direction selectivity, Excitation/inhibition balance, Fast network oscillations, Gaba concentration, Gamma oscillation frequency, Neuronal oscillations, Range temporal correlations, Self-organized criticality, Theta-oscillations


Mesquida-Veny, F, Martinez-Torres, S, Del Rio, JA, Hervera, A, (2022). Nociception-Dependent CCL21 Induces Dorsal Root Ganglia Axonal Growth via CCR7-ERK Activation Frontiers In Immunology 13, 880647

While chemokines were originally described for their ability to induce cell migration, many studies show how these proteins also take part in many other cell functions, acting as adaptable messengers in the communication between a diversity of cell types. In the nervous system, chemokines participate both in physiological and pathological processes, and while their expression is often described on glial and immune cells, growing evidence describes the expression of chemokines and their receptors in neurons, highlighting their potential in auto- and paracrine signalling. In this study we analysed the role of nociception in the neuronal chemokinome, and in turn their role in axonal growth. We found that stimulating TRPV1(+) nociceptors induces a transient increase in CCL21. Interestingly we also found that CCL21 enhances neurite growth of large diameter proprioceptors in vitro. Consistent with this, we show that proprioceptors express the CCL21 receptor CCR7, and a CCR7 neutralizing antibody dose-dependently attenuates CCL21-induced neurite outgrowth. Mechanistically, we found that CCL21 binds locally to its receptor CCR7 at the growth cone, activating the downstream MEK-ERK pathway, that in turn activates N-WASP, triggering actin filament ramification in the growth cone, resulting in increased axonal growth.

JTD Keywords: axonal growth, ccl21, ccr7, mek-erk, Actin dynamics, Axonal growth, Ccl21, Ccr7, Cell-migration, Central-nervous-system, Chemokine, Ligands, Mek-erk, Microglia, Neurons, Neuropathic pain, Nociception, Phosphorylation, Regeneration


Varea, O, Guinovart, JJ, Duran, J, (2022). Malin restoration as proof of concept for gene therapy for Lafora disease Brain Commun 4, fcac168

Abstract Lafora disease is a fatal neurodegenerative childhood dementia caused by loss-of-function mutations in either the laforin or malin gene. The hallmark of the disease is the accumulation of abnormal glycogen aggregates known as Lafora bodies (LBs) in the brain and other tissues. These aggregates are responsible for the pathological features of the disease. As a monogenic disorder, Lafora disease is a good candidate for gene therapy-based approaches. However, most patients are diagnosed after the appearance of the first symptoms and thus when LBs are already present in the brain. In this context, it was not clear whether the restoration of a normal copy of the defective gene (either laforin or malin) would prove effective. Here we evaluated the effect of restoring malin in a malin-deficient mouse model of Lafora disease as a proof of concept for gene replacement therapy. To this end, we generated a malin-deficient mouse in which malin expression can be induced at a certain time. Our results reveal that malin restoration at an advanced stage of the disease arrests the accumulation of LBs in brain and muscle, induces the degradation of laforin and glycogen synthase bound to the aggregates, and ameliorates neuroinflammation. These results identify malin restoration as the first therapeutic strategy to show effectiveness when applied at advanced stages of Lafora disease.

JTD Keywords: accumulation, gene therapy, glycogen, lafora disease, neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation, neurons, targets, Carbohydrate-binding domain, Glycogen, Neuroinflammation


Castagna, R, Kolarski, D, Durand-de Cuttoli, R, Maleeva, G, (2022). Orthogonal Control of Neuronal Circuits and Behavior Using Photopharmacology Journal Of Molecular Neuroscience 72, 1433-1442

Over the last decades, photopharmacology has gone far beyond its proof-of-concept stage to become a bona fide approach to study neural systems in vivo. Indeed, photopharmacological control has expanded over a wide range of endogenous targets, such as receptors, ion channels, transporters, kinases, lipids, and DNA transcription processes. In this review, we provide an overview of the recent progresses in the in vivo photopharmacological control of neuronal circuits and behavior. In particular, the use of small aquatic animals for the in vivo screening of photopharmacological compounds, the recent advances in optical modulation of complex behaviors in mice, and the development of adjacent techniques for light and drug delivery in vivo are described.

JTD Keywords: brain circuits, circadian rhythm, in vivo photomodulation, in vivo technology, neuronal receptors, Architecture, Azobenzene photoswitches, Brain circuits, Channels, Circadian rhythm, In vivo photomodulation, In vivo technology, Light, Modulator, Neuronal receptors, Optical control, Optogenetics, Pharmacology, Photopharmacology, Receptors, Systems


Lopez-Mengual, A, Segura-Feliu, M, Sunyer, R, Sanz-Fraile, H, Otero, J, Mesquida-Veny, F, Gil, V, Hervera, A, Ferrer, I, Soriano, J, Trepat, X, Farre, R, Navajas, D, del Rio, JA, (2022). Involvement of Mechanical Cues in the Migration of Cajal-Retzius Cells in the Marginal Zone During Neocortical Development Frontiers In Cell And Developmental Biology 10, 886110

Emerging evidence points to coordinated action of chemical and mechanical cues during brain development. At early stages of neocortical development, angiogenic factors and chemokines such as CXCL12, ephrins, and semaphorins assume crucial roles in orchestrating neuronal migration and axon elongation of postmitotic neurons. Here we explore the intrinsic mechanical properties of the developing marginal zone of the pallium in the migratory pathways and brain distribution of the pioneer Cajal-Retzius cells. These neurons are generated in several proliferative regions in the developing brain (e.g., the cortical hem and the pallial subpallial boundary) and migrate tangentially in the preplate/marginal zone covering the upper portion of the developing cortex. These cells play crucial roles in correct neocortical layer formation by secreting several molecules such as Reelin. Our results indicate that the motogenic properties of Cajal-Retzius cells and their perinatal distribution in the marginal zone are modulated by both chemical and mechanical factors, by the specific mechanical properties of Cajal-Retzius cells, and by the differential stiffness of the migratory routes. Indeed, cells originating in the cortical hem display higher migratory capacities than those generated in the pallial subpallial boundary which may be involved in the differential distribution of these cells in the dorsal-lateral axis in the developing marginal zone.

JTD Keywords: atomic force microscopy, cajal-retzius cells, cortical development, marginal zone, mechanical cues, Atomic force microscopy, Cajal-retzius cells, Central-nervous-system, Cortical development, Cortical hem, Developing cerebral-cortex, Expression, Growth, Marginal zone, Mechanical cues, Mouse, Neuronal migration, Nogo receptor, Olfactory ensheathing cells, Tangential migration, Traction force microscopy


Karkali, K, Tiwari, P, Singh, A, Tlili, S, Jorba, I, Navajas, D, Munoz, JJ, Saunders, TE, Martin-Blanco, E, (2022). Condensation of the Drosophila nerve cord is oscillatory and depends on coordinated mechanical interactions Developmental Cell 57, 867-+

During development, organs reach precise shapes and sizes. Organ morphology is not always obtained through growth; a classic counterexample is the condensation of the nervous system during Drosophila embryogenesis. The mechanics underlying such condensation remain poorly understood. Here, we characterize the condensation of the embryonic ventral nerve cord (VNC) at both subcellular and tissue scales. This analysis reveals that condensation is not a unidirectional continuous process but instead occurs through oscillatory contractions. The VNC mechanical properties spatially and temporally vary, and forces along its longitudinal axis are spatially heterogeneous. We demonstrate that the process of VNC condensation is dependent on the coordinated mechanical activities of neurons and glia. These outcomes are consistent with a viscoelastic model of condensation, which incorporates time delays and effective frictional interactions. In summary, we have defined the progressive mechanics driving VNC condensation, providing insights into how a highly viscous tissue can autonomously change shape and size.

JTD Keywords: actomyosin, central nervous system, drosophila, glia, mechanics, morphogenesis, neuron, ventral nerve cord, Collagen-iv, Contraction, Forces, Gene, Glial-cells, Migration, Morphogenesis, Quantification, System, Tissue, Viscolelastic model


Bravo, J, Ribeiro, I, Terceiro, AF, Andrade, EB, Portugal, CC, Lopes, IM, Azevedo, MM, Sousa, M, Lopes, CDF, Lobo, AC, Canedo, T, Relvas, JB, Summavielle, T, (2022). Neuron-Microglia Contact-Dependent Mechanisms Attenuate Methamphetamine-Induced Microglia Reactivity and Enhance Neuronal Plasticity Cells 11,

Exposure to methamphetamine (Meth) has been classically associated with damage to neuronal terminals. However, it is now becoming clear that addiction may also result from the interplay between glial cells and neurons. Recently, we demonstrated that binge Meth administration promotes microgliosis and microglia pro-inflammation via astrocytic glutamate release in a TNF/IP(3)R2-Ca2+-dependent manner. Here, we investigated the contribution of neuronal cells to this process. As the crosstalk between microglia and neurons may occur by contact-dependent and/or contact-independent mechanisms, we developed co-cultures of primary neurons and microglia in microfluidic devices to investigate how their interaction affects Meth-induced microglia activation. Our results show that neurons exposed to Meth do not activate microglia in a cell-autonomous way but require astrocyte mediation. Importantly, we found that neurons can partially prevent Meth-induced microglia activation via astrocytes, which seems to be achieved by increasing arginase 1 expression and strengthening the CD200/CD200r pathway. We also observed an increase in synaptic individual area, as determined by co-localization of pre- and post-synaptic markers. The present study provides evidence that contact-dependent mechanisms between neurons and microglia can attenuate pro-inflammatory events such as Meth-induced microglia activation.

JTD Keywords: cd200, contact-dependent, methamphetamine, neuron-to-microglia, psd95, Activation, Cd200, Contact-dependent, Expression, Glutamate, Methamphetamine, Neuron-to-microglia, Neuroprotection, Platform, Psd95


Páscoa dos Santos F, Verschure PFMJ, (2022). Excitatory-Inhibitory Homeostasis and Diaschisis: Tying the Local and Global Scales in the Post-stroke Cortex Frontiers In Systems Neuroscience 15, 806544

Maintaining a balance between excitatory and inhibitory activity is an essential feature of neural networks of the neocortex. In the face of perturbations in the levels of excitation to cortical neurons, synapses adjust to maintain excitatory-inhibitory (EI) balance. In this review, we summarize research on this EI homeostasis in the neocortex, using stroke as our case study, and in particular the loss of excitation to distant cortical regions after focal lesions. Widespread changes following a localized lesion, a phenomenon known as diaschisis, are not only related to excitability, but also observed with respect to functional connectivity. Here, we highlight the main findings regarding the evolution of excitability and functional cortical networks during the process of post-stroke recovery, and how both are related to functional recovery. We show that cortical reorganization at a global scale can be explained from the perspective of EI homeostasis. Indeed, recovery of functional networks is paralleled by increases in excitability across the cortex. These adaptive changes likely result from plasticity mechanisms such as synaptic scaling and are linked to EI homeostasis, providing a possible target for future therapeutic strategies in the process of rehabilitation. In addition, we address the difficulty of simultaneously studying these multiscale processes by presenting recent advances in large-scale modeling of the human cortex in the contexts of stroke and EI homeostasis, suggesting computational modeling as a powerful tool to tie the meso- and macro-scale processes of recovery in stroke patients. Copyright © 2022 Páscoa dos Santos and Verschure.

JTD Keywords: balanced excitation, canonical microcircuit, cerebral-cortex, cortical excitability, cortical reorganization, diaschisis, excitability, excitatory-inhibitory balance, functional networks, homeostatic plasticity, ischemic-stroke, neuronal avalanches, photothrombotic lesions, state functional connectivity, whole-brain models, Algorithm, Biological marker, Brain, Brain cell, Brain cortex, Brain function, Brain radiography, Cerebrovascular accident, Cortical reorganization, Diaschisis, Down regulation, Excitability, Excitatory-inhibitory balance, Fluorine magnetic resonance imaging, Functional networks, Homeostasis, Homeostatic plasticity, Human, Motor dysfunction, Neuromodulation, Plasticity, Pyramidal nerve cell, Review, Simulation, Stroke, Stroke patient, Theta-burst stimulation, Visual cortex


Amil, Adrián Fernández, Verschure, Paul F.M.J., (2021). Supercritical dynamics at the edge-of-chaos underlies optimal decision-making Journal Of Physics-Complexity 2,

Abstract Critical dynamics, characterized by scale-free neuronal avalanches, is thought to underlie optimal function in the sensory cortices by maximizing information transmission, capacity, and dynamic range. In contrast, deviations from criticality have not yet been considered to support any cognitive processes. Nonetheless, neocortical areas related to working memory and decision-making seem to rely on long-lasting periods of ignition-like persistent firing. Such firing patterns are reminiscent of supercritical states where runaway excitation dominates the circuit dynamics. In addition, a macroscopic gradient of the relative density of Somatostatin (SST+) and Parvalbumin (PV+) inhibitory interneurons throughout the cortical hierarchy has been suggested to determine the functional specialization of low- versus high-order cortex. These observations thus raise the question of whether persistent activity in high-order areas results from the intrinsic features of the neocortical circuitry. We used an attractor model of the canonical cortical circuit performing a perceptual decision-making task to address this question. Our model reproduces the known saddle-node bifurcation where persistent activity emerges, merely by increasing the SST+/PV+ ratio while keeping the input and recurrent excitation constant. The regime beyond such a phase transition renders the circuit increasingly sensitive to random fluctuations of the inputs -i.e., chaotic-, defining an optimal SST+/PV+ ratio around the edge-of-chaos. Further, we show that both the optimal SST+/PV+ ratio and the region of the phase transition decrease monotonically with increasing input noise. This suggests that cortical circuits regulate their intrinsic dynamics via inhibitory interneurons to attain optimal sensitivity in the face of varying uncertainty. Hence, on the one hand, we link the emergence of supercritical dynamics at the edge-of-chaos to the gradient of the SST+/PV+ ratio along the cortical hierarchy, and, on the other hand, explain the behavioral effects of the differential regulation of SST+ and PV+ interneurons by neuromodulators like acetylcholine in the presence of input uncertainty.

JTD Keywords: attractor model, cortex, cortical networks, edge-of-chaos, model, nmda receptors, Attractor model, Cortical hierarchies, Decision making, Dynamics, Edge of chaos, Edge-of-chaos, High-order, Higher-order, Inhibitory interneurons, Neurons, Optimal decision making, Persistent activities, Persistent activity, Supercritical, Supercriticality


Grechuta, K, Costa, JD, Ballester, BR, Verschure, P, (2021). Challenging the Boundaries of the Physical Self: Distal Cues Impact Body Ownership Frontiers In Human Neuroscience 15, 704414

The unique ability to identify one's own body and experience it as one's own is fundamental in goal-oriented behavior and survival. However, the mechanisms underlying the so-called body ownership are yet not fully understood. Evidence based on Rubber Hand Illusion (RHI) paradigms has demonstrated that body ownership is a product of reception and integration of self and externally generated multisensory information, feedforward and feedback processing of sensorimotor signals, and prior knowledge about the body. Crucially, however, these designs commonly involve the processing of proximal modalities while the contribution of distal sensory signals to the experience of ownership remains elusive. Here we propose that, like any robust percept, body ownership depends on the integration and prediction across all sensory modalities, including distal sensory signals pertaining to the environment. To test our hypothesis, we created an embodied goal-oriented Virtual Air Hockey Task, in which participants were to hit a virtual puck into a goal. In two conditions, we manipulated the congruency of distal multisensory cues (auditory and visual) while preserving proximal and action-driven signals entirely predictable. Compared to a fully congruent condition, our results revealed a significant decrease on three dimensions of ownership evaluation when distal signals were incongruent, including the subjective report as well as physiological and kinematic responses to an unexpected threat. Together, these findings support the notion that the way we represent our body is contingent upon all the sensory stimuli, including distal and action-independent signals. The present data extend the current framework of body ownership and may also find applications in rehabilitation scenarios.



JTD Keywords: active perception, body ownership, distal sensory cues, embodied cognition, forward model, Active perception, Adult, Article, Body ownership, Brain, Cortex, Distal sensory cues, Embodied cognition, Feel, Female, Forward model, Hockey, Human, Human experiment, Integration, Male, Models, Neurons, Perception, Peripersonal space, Prediction, Rehabilitation, Rubber hand illusion, Sensory prediction error, Touch


Duran, J, Hervera, A, Markussen, KH, Varea, O, Lopez-Soldado, I, Sun, RC, del Rio, JA, Gentry, MS, Guinovart, JJ, (2021). Astrocytic glycogen accumulation drives the pathophysiology of neurodegeneration in Lafora disease Brain 144, 2349-2360

The hallmark of Lafora disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, is the accumulation of intracellular glycogen aggregates called Lafora bodies. Until recently, it was widely believed that brain Lafora bodies were present exclusively in neurons and thus that Lafora disease pathology derived from their accumulation in this cell population. However, recent evidence indicates that Lafora bodies are also present in astrocytes. To define the role of astrocytic Lafora bodies in Lafora disease pathology, we deleted glycogen synthase specifically from astrocytes in a mouse model of the disease (malin(KO)). Strikingly, blocking glycogen synthesis in astrocytes-thus impeding Lafora bodies accumulation in this cell type-prevented the increase in neurodegeneration markers, autophagy impairment, and metabolic changes characteristic of the malin(KO) model. Conversely, mice that over-accumulate glycogen in astrocytes showed an increase in these markers. These results unveil the deleterious consequences of the deregulation of glycogen metabolism in astrocytes and change the perspective that Lafora disease is caused solely by alterations in neurons.

JTD Keywords: Bodies, Deficient mice, Epilepsy, Glycogen, Impairment, Lafora disease, Malin, Modulation, Mouse model, Neurodegeneration, Neuroinflammation, Neurons, Progressive myoclonus epilepsy, Seizure susceptibility, Synthase


Barbero-Castillo, A, Riefolo, F, Matera, C, Caldas-Martínez, S, Mateos-Aparicio, P, Weinert, JF, Garrido-Charles, A, Claro, E, Sanchez-Vives, MV, Gorostiza, P, (2021). Control of Brain State Transitions with a Photoswitchable Muscarinic Agonist Advanced Science 8, 2005027

The ability to control neural activity is essential for research not only in basic neuroscience, as spatiotemporal control of activity is a fundamental experimental tool, but also in clinical neurology for therapeutic brain interventions. Transcranial-magnetic, ultrasound, and alternating/direct current (AC/DC) stimulation are some available means of spatiotemporal controlled neuromodulation. There is also light-mediated control, such as optogenetics, which has revolutionized neuroscience research, yet its clinical translation is hampered by the need for gene manipulation. As a drug-based light-mediated control, the effect of a photoswitchable muscarinic agonist (Phthalimide-Azo-Iper (PAI)) on a brain network is evaluated in this study. First, the conditions to manipulate M2 muscarinic receptors with light in the experimental setup are determined. Next, physiological synchronous emergent cortical activity consisting of slow oscillations-as in slow wave sleep-is transformed into a higher frequency pattern in the cerebral cortex, both in vitro and in vivo, as a consequence of PAI activation with light. These results open the way to study cholinergic neuromodulation and to control spatiotemporal patterns of activity in different brain states, their transitions, and their links to cognition and behavior. The approach can be applied to different organisms and does not require genetic manipulation, which would make it translational to humans.

JTD Keywords: brain states, light-mediated control, muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, neuromodulation, Activation, Alternating/direct currents, Basal forebrain, Brain, Brain states, Clinical research, Clinical translation, Controlled drug delivery, Cortex, Forebrain cholinergic system, Genetic manipulations, Higher frequencies, Hz oscillation, Light‐, Light-mediated control, Mediated control, Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, Muscarinic agonists, Muscarinic receptor, Neurology, Neuromodulation, Neurons, Noradrenergic modulation, Parvalbumin-positive interneurons, Photopharmacology, Receptor-binding, Slow, Spatiotemporal control, Spatiotemporal patterns


Santos-Pata D, Amil AF, Raikov IG, Rennó-Costa C, Mura A, Soltesz I, Verschure PFMJ, (2021). Epistemic Autonomy: Self-supervised Learning in the Mammalian Hippocampus Trends In Cognitive Sciences 25, 582-595

Biological cognition is based on the ability to autonomously acquire knowledge, or epistemic autonomy. Such self-supervision is largely absent in artificial neural networks (ANN) because they depend on externally set learning criteria. Yet training ANN using error backpropagation has created the current revolution in artificial intelligence, raising the question of whether the epistemic autonomy displayed in biological cognition can be achieved with error backpropagation-based learning. We present evidence suggesting that the entorhinal–hippocampal complex combines epistemic autonomy with error backpropagation. Specifically, we propose that the hippocampus minimizes the error between its input and output signals through a modulatory counter-current inhibitory network. We further discuss the computational emulation of this principle and analyze it in the context of autonomous cognitive systems. © 2021 Elsevier Ltd

JTD Keywords: computational model, dentate gyrus, error backpropagation, granule cells, grid cells, hippocampus, inhibition, input, neural-networks, neurons, transformation, Artificial intelligence, Artificial neural network, Back propagation, Backpropagation, Brain, Cognitive systems, Counter current, Error back-propagation, Error backpropagation, Errors, Expressing interneurons, Hippocampal complex, Hippocampus, Human experiment, Input and outputs, Learning, Mammal, Mammalian hippocampus, Mammals, Neural networks, Nonhuman, Review, Self-supervised learning


Mesquida-Veny, F, Del Río, JA, Hervera, A, (2021). Macrophagic and microglial complexity after neuronal injury Progress In Neurobiology 200, 101970

© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Central nervous system (CNS) injuries do not heal properly in contrast to normal tissue repair, in which functional recovery typically occurs. The reason for this dichotomy in wound repair is explained in part by macrophage and microglial malfunction, affecting both the extrinsic and intrinsic barriers to appropriate axonal regeneration. In normal healing tissue, macrophages promote the repair of injured tissue by regulating transitions through different phases of the healing response. In contrast, inflammation dominates the outcome of CNS injury, often leading to secondary damage. Therefore, an understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying this dichotomy is critical to advance in neuronal repair therapies. Recent studies highlight the plasticity and complexity of macrophages and microglia beyond the classical view of the M1/M2 polarization paradigm. This plasticity represents an in vivo continuous spectrum of phenotypes with overlapping functions and markers. Moreover, macrophage and microglial plasticity affect many events essential for neuronal regeneration after injury, such as myelin and cell debris clearance, inflammation, release of cytokines, and trophic factors, affecting both intrinsic neuronal properties and extracellular matrix deposition. Until recently, this complexity was overlooked in the translation of therapies modulating these responses for the treatment of neuronal injuries. However, recent studies have shed important light on the underlying molecular mechanisms of this complexity and its transitions and effects on regenerative events. Here we review the complexity of macrophages and microglia after neuronal injury and their roles in regeneration, as well as the underlying molecular mechanisms, and we discuss current challenges and future opportunities for treatment.

JTD Keywords: chemokines and cytokines, macrophages, microglia, neuroinflammation, neuronal injury, regeneration, Chemokines and cytokines, Macrophages, Microglia, Neuroinflammation, Neuronal injury, Regeneration


Lidón, L, Llaó-Hierro, L, Nuvolone, M, Aguzzi, A, Avila, J, Ferrer, I, del Río, JA, Gavín, R, (2021). Tau exon 10 inclusion by prpc through downregulating gsk3? activity International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 22, 5370

Tau protein is largely responsible for tauopathies, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), where it accumulates in the brain as insoluble aggregates. Tau mRNA is regulated by alternative splicing, and inclusion or exclusion of exon 10 gives rise to the 3R and 4R isoforms respectively, whose balance is physiologically regulated. In this sense, one of the several factors that regulate alternative splicing of tau is GSK3?, whose activity is inhibited by the cellular prion protein (PrPC), which has different physiological functions in neuroprotection and neuronal differentiation. Moreover, a relationship between PrPC and tau expression levels has been reported during AD evolution. For this reason, in this study we aimed to analyze the role of PrPC and the implication of GSK3? in the regulation of tau exon 10 alternative splicing. We used AD human samples and mouse models of PrPC ablation and tau overexpression. In addition, we used primary neuronal cultures to develop functional studies. Our results revealed a paralleled association between PrPC expression and tau 4R isoforms in all models analyzed. In this sense, reduction or ablation of PrPC levels induces an increase in tau 3R/4R balance. More relevantly, our data points to GSK3? activity downstream from PrPC in this phenomenon. Our results indicate that PrPC plays a role in tau exon 10 inclusion through the inhibitory capacity of GSK3?. © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

JTD Keywords: alternative splicing, alzheimer's disease, alzheimers-disease, alzheimer’s disease, amyloid-beta, cellular prion protein, frontotemporal dementia, glycogen-synthase kinase-3, gsk3 beta, gsk3?, gsk3β, messenger-rna, microtubule-associated protein tau, neurofibrillary tangles, progressive supranuclear palsy, promotes neuronal differentiation, stem-cells, tauopathies, Alternative splicing, Alzheimer’s disease, Cellular prion protein, Gsk3?, Microtubule-associated protein tau, Tauopathies


Maleeva, G, Nin-Hill, A, Rustler, K, Petukhova, E, Ponomareva, D, Mukhametova, E, Gomila, AMJ, Wutz, D, Alfonso-Prieto, M, König, B, Gorostiza, P, Bregestovski, P, (2021). Subunit-specific photocontrol of glycine receptors by azobenzene-nitrazepam photoswitcher Eneuro 8, 0294-20.2020

© 2021 Maleeva et al. Photopharmacology is a unique approach that through a combination of photochemistry methods and advanced life science techniques allows the study and control of specific biological processes, ranging from intracellular pathways to brain circuits. Recently, a first photochromic channel blocker of anion-selective GABAA receptors, the azobenzene-nitrazepam-based photochromic compound (Azo-NZ1), has been described. In the present study, using patch-clamp technique in heterologous system and in mice brain slices, site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modeling we provide evidence of the interaction of Azo-NZ1 with glycine receptors (GlyRs) and determine the molecular basis of this interaction. Glycinergic synaptic neurotransmission determines an important inhibitory drive in the vertebrate nervous system and plays a crucial role in the control of neuronal circuits in the spinal cord and brain stem. GlyRs are involved in locomotion, pain sensation, breathing, and auditory function, as well as in the development of such disorders as hyperekplexia, epilepsy, and autism. Here, we demonstrate that Azo-NZ1 blocks in a UV-dependent manner the activity of a2 GlyRs (GlyR2), while being barely active on a1 GlyRs (GlyR1). The site of Azo-NZ1 action is in the chloride-selective pore of GlyR at the 2’ position of transmembrane helix 2 and amino acids forming this site determine the difference in Azo-NZ1 blocking activity between GlyR2 and GlyR1. This subunit-specific modulation is also shown on motoneurons of brainstem slices from neonatal mice that switch during development from expressing “fetal” GlyR2 to “adult” GlyR1 receptors.

JTD Keywords: brain slices, glycine receptors, hypoglossal motoneurons, molecular modelling, patch-clamp, photopharmacology, Brain slices, Glycine receptors, Hypoglossal motoneurons, Molecular modelling, Patch-clamp, Photopharmacology


Convertino, D., Fabbri, F., Mishra, N., Mainardi, M., Cappello, V., Testa, G., Capsoni, S., Albertazzi, L., Luin, S., Marchetti, L., Coletti, C., (2020). Graphene promotes axon elongation through local stall of nerve growth factor signaling endosomes Nano Letters 20, (5), 3633-3641

Several works reported increased differentiation of neuronal cells grown on graphene; however, the molecular mechanism driving axon elongation on this material has remained elusive. Here, we study the axonal transport of nerve growth factor (NGF), the neurotrophin supporting development of peripheral neurons, as a key player in the time course of axonal elongation of dorsal root ganglion neurons on graphene. We find that graphene drastically reduces the number of retrogradely transported NGF vesicles in favor of a stalled population in the first 2 days of culture, in which the boost of axon elongation is observed. This correlates with a mutual charge redistribution, observed via Raman spectroscopy and electrophysiological recordings. Furthermore, ultrastructural analysis indicates a reduced microtubule distance and an elongated axonal topology. Thus, both electrophysiological and structural effects can account for graphene action on neuron development. Unraveling the molecular players underneath this interplay may open new avenues for axon regeneration applications.

JTD Keywords: Axon elongation, Graphene, Material-neuron interface, Membrane-associated periodic skeleton, Nerve growth factor retrograde transport, Peripheral dorsal root ganglion neuron


Maleeva, Galyna, Nin-Hill, Alba, Rustler, Karin, Petukhova, Elena, Ponomareva, Daria, Mukhametova, Elvira, Gomila-Juaneda, Alexandre, Wutz, Daniel, Alfonso-Prieto, Mercedes, König, Burkhard, Gorostiza, Pau, Bregestovski, Piotr, (2020). Subunit-specific photocontrol of glycine receptors by azobenzene-nitrazepam photoswitcher eneuro 8, (1), 0294-20

Photopharmacology is a unique approach that through a combination of photochemistry methods and advanced life science techniques allows the study and control of specific biological processes, ranging from intracellular pathways to brain circuits. Recently, a first photochromic channel blocker of anion-selective GABAA receptors, Azo-NZ1, has been described. In the present study using patch-clamp technique in heterologous system and in mice brain slices, site-directed mutagenesis and molecular modelling we provide evidence of the interaction of Azo-NZ1 with glycine receptors (GlyRs) and determine the molecular basis of this interaction. Glycinergic synaptic neurotransmission determines an important inhibitory drive in the vertebrate nervous system and plays a crucial role in the control of neuronal circuits in the spinal cord and brain stem. GlyRs are involved in locomotion, pain sensation, breathing and auditory function, as well as in the development of such disorders as hyperekplexia, epilepsy and autism. Here we demonstrate that Azo-NZ1 blocks in a UV dependent manner the activity of alpha2 GlyRs (GlyR2), while being barely active on alpha1 GlyRs (GlyR1). The site of Azo-NZ1 action is in the chloride-selective pore of GlyR at the 2’ position of transmembrane helix 2 and amino acids forming this site determine the difference in Azo-NZ1 blocking activity between GlyR2 and GlyR1. This subunit specific modulation is also shown on motoneurons of brainstem slices from neonatal mice that switch during development from expressing "foetal" GlyR2 to "adult" GlyR1 receptors. Significance Statement Photochromic molecules are becoming widely used for studying and modulating various biological processes. Successful application of these compounds, whose activity can be controlled with light, potentially provides a promising tool for future therapeutic approaches. The main advantage of such compounds is their precise spatial and temporal selectivity, a property that favours specific drug action and diminishes their side effects. In the present study, we describe in detail the interaction of the novel azobenzene-nitrazepam-based photochromic compound (Azo-NZ1) with glycine receptors (GlyRs) and determine its subunit-specific blocking activity in the Cl-selective pore of GlyRs. This compound offers a new strategy for specific control of glycinergic circuits and stepping stone for design of new GlyR-active drugs.

JTD Keywords: Brain slices, Glycine receptors, Hypoglossal motoneurons, Molecular modelling, Patch-clamp, Photopharmacology


Bos, J. J., Vinck, M., Marchesi, P., Keestra, A., van Mourik-Donga, L. A., Jackson, J. C., Verschure, P., Pennartz, C. M. A., (2019). Multiplexing of self and other information in hippocampal ensembles Cell Reports 29, (12), 3859-3871.e6

In addition to coding a subject’s location in space, the hippocampus has been suggested to code social information, including the spatial position of conspecifics. “Social place cells” have been reported for tasks in which an observer mimics the behavior of a demonstrator. We examine whether rat hippocampal neurons may encode the behavior of a minirobot, but without requiring the animal to mimic it. Rather than finding social place cells, we observe that robot behavioral patterns modulate place fields coding animal position. This modulation may be confounded by correlations between robot movement and changes in the animal’s position. Although rat position indeed significantly predicts robot behavior, we find that hippocampal ensembles code additional information about robot movement patterns. Fast-spiking interneurons are particularly informative about robot position and global behavior. In conclusion, when the animal’s own behavior is conditional on external agents, the hippocampus multiplexes information about self and others.

JTD Keywords: CA1, Decoding, Information theory, Interneuron, Mutual information, Place cells, Place field, Tobot, Docial behavior, Tetrode


Gil, Vanessa, del Río, José Antonio, (2019). Functions of plexins/neuropilins and their ligands during hippocampal development and neurodegeneration Cells 8, (3), 206

There is emerging evidence that molecules, receptors, and signaling mechanisms involved in vascular development also play crucial roles during the development of the nervous system. Among others, specific semaphorins and their receptors (neuropilins and plexins) have, in recent years, attracted the attention of researchers due to their pleiotropy of functions. Their functions, mainly associated with control of the cellular cytoskeleton, include control of cell migration, cell morphology, and synapse remodeling. Here, we will focus on their roles in the hippocampal formation that plays a crucial role in memory and learning as it is a prime target during neurodegeneration.

JTD Keywords: PlexinD1, Sema3E, Neuropilins, Neuronal migration, Synapse formation


Franco, Rafael, Aguinaga, David, Reyes, Irene, Canela, Enric I., Lillo, Jaume, Tarutani, Airi, Hasegawa, Masato, del Ser-Badia, Anna, del Rio, José A., Kreutz, Michael R., Saura, Carlos A., Navarro, Gemma, (2018). N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor link to the MAP kinase pathway in cortical and hippocampal neurons and microglia Is dependent on calcium sensors and Is blocked by α-Synuclein, Tau, and phospho-Tau in non-transgenic and transgenic APPSw,Ind Mice Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 11, (273), Article 273

N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) respond to glutamate to allow the influx of calcium ions and the signaling to the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade. Both MAPK- and Ca2+-mediated events are important for both neurotransmission and neural cell function and fate. Using a heterologous expression system, we demonstrate that NMDAR may interact with the EF-hand calcium-binding proteins calmodulin, calneuron-1, and NCS1 but not with caldendrin. NMDARs were present in primary cultures of both neurons and microglia from cortex and hippocampus. Calmodulin in microglia, and calmodulin and NCS1 in neurons, are necessary for NMDA-induced MAP kinase pathway activation. Remarkably, signaling to the MAP kinase pathway was blunted in primary cultures of cortical and hippocampal neurons and microglia from wild-type animals by proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases: α-synuclein, Tau, and p-Tau. A similar blockade by pathogenic proteins was found using samples from the APPSw,Ind transgenic Alzheimer’s disease model. Interestingly, a very marked increase in NMDAR–NCS1 complexes was identified in neurons and a marked increase of both NMDAR–NCS1 and NMDAR–CaM complexes was identified in microglia from the transgenic mice. The results show that α-synuclein, Tau, and p-Tau disrupt the signaling of NMDAR to the MAPK pathway and that calcium sensors are important for NMDAR function both in neurons and microglia. Finally, it should be noted that the expression of receptor–calcium sensor complexes, specially those involving NCS1, is altered in neural cells from APPSw,Ind mouse embryos/pups.

JTD Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, Calmodulin, Calneuron-1, Caldendrin, NCS1, Extracellular signal-regulated kinase, Glutamate receptor, Proximity ligation assay


Mattotti, M., Alvarez, Z., Delgado, L., Mateos-Timoneda, M. A., Aparicio, C., Planell, J. A., Alcántara, S., Engel, E., (2017). Differential neuronal and glial behavior on flat and micro patterned chitosan films Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 158, 569-577

Chitosan is a biodegradable natural polysaccharide that has been widely studied for regenerative purposes in the central nervous system. In this study we assessed the in vitro glial and neuronal cells response to chitosan either flat or patterned with grooves in the micrometric range. Chitosan demonstrated to be a good substrate for the attachment and growth of both neurons and glial cells. Chitosan micropatterns promoted glial cell maturation, suggesting astroglial activation. Nevertheless, those mature/reactive glial cells were permissive for axonal growth. Axons aligned and organized along the patterned grooves and the size of the linear topographic patterns is also affecting neurite and cell response. Patterns with 10 μm width induced fasciculation of axons, which can be useful for CNS tissue engineering substrates when precise orientation of the axonal outgrowth is desired.

JTD Keywords: Brain, Chitosan, Glia, Micropattern, Neuron


Terni, Beatrice, Pacciolla, Paolo, Masanas, Helena, Gorostiza, Pau, Llobet, Artur, (2017). Tight temporal coupling between synaptic rewiring of olfactory glomeruli and the emergence of odor-guided behavior in Xenopus tadpoles Journal of Comparative Neurology , 525, (17), 3769-3783

Olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) are chemoreceptors that establish excitatory synapses within glomeruli of the olfactory bulb. OSNs undergo continuous turnover throughout life, causing the constant replacement of their synaptic contacts. Using Xenopus tadpoles as an experimental system to investigate rewiring of glomerular connectivity, we show that novel OSN synapses can transfer information immediately after formation, mediating olfactory-guided behavior. Tadpoles recover the ability to detect amino acids 4 days after bilateral olfactory nerve transection. Restoration of olfactory-guided behavior depends on the efficient reinsertion of OSNs to the olfactory bulb. Presynaptic terminals of incipient synaptic contacts generate calcium transients in response to odors, triggering long lasting depolarization of olfactory glomeruli. The functionality of reconnected terminals relies on well-defined readily releasable and cytoplasmic vesicle pools. The continuous growth of non-compartmentalized axonal processes provides a vesicle reservoir to nascent release sites, which contrasts to the gradual development of cytoplasmic vesicle pools in conventional excitatory synapses. The immediate availability of fully functional synapses upon formation supports an age-independent contribution of OSNs to the generation of odor maps.

JTD Keywords: Olfactory receptor neurons, Olfactory bulb, Presynaptic terminals, RRID:SCR_013731, RRID:SCR_007164, RRID: AB-887824, RRID: AB-221570, Synaptic vesicles


Urrea, Laura, Ferrer, Isidro, Gavín, Rosalina, del Río, José Antonio, (2017). The cellular prion protein (PrPC) as neuronal receptor for α-synuclein Prion , 11, (4), 226-233

The term ‘prion-like’ is used to define some misfolded protein species that propagate intercellularly, triggering protein aggregation in recipient cells. For cell binding, both direct plasma membrane interaction and membrane receptors have been described for particular amyloids. In this respect, emerging evidence demonstrates that several β-sheet enriched proteins can bind to the cellular prion protein (PrPC). Among other interactions, the physiological relevance of the binding between β-amyloid and PrPC has been a relevant focus of numerous studies. At the molecular level, published data point to the second charged cluster domain of the PrPC molecule as the relevant binding domain of the β-amyloid/PrPC interaction. In addition to β-amyloid, participation of PrPC in binding α-synuclein, responsible for neurodegenerative synucleopathies, has been reported. Although results indicate relevant participation of PrPC in the spreading of α-synuclein in living mice, the physiological relevance of the interaction remains elusive. In this comment, we focus our attention on summarizing current knowledge of PrPC as a receptor for amyloid proteins and its physiological significance, with particular focus on α-synuclein.

JTD Keywords: α-synuclein, Charged cluster domain, Interneuronal transport, LAG3, Neurodegeneration, PrPC, Parkinson disease


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.

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


Álvarez, Zaida, Mateos-Timoneda, Miguel A., Hyrossová, Petra, Castaño, Oscar, Planell, Josep A., Perales, José C., Engel, Elisabeth, Alcántara, Soledad, (2013). The effect of the composition of PLA films and lactate release on glial and neuronal maturation and the maintenance of the neuronal progenitor niche Biomaterials 34, (9), 2221-2233

To develop tissue engineering strategies useful for repairing damage in the central nervous system (CNS) it is essential to design scaffolds that emulate the NSC niche and its tight control of neural cell genesis, growth, and differentiation. In this study we tested two types of poly l/dl lactic acid (PLA95/5 and PLA70/30), a biodegradable material permissive for neural cell adhesion and growth, as materials for nerve regeneration. Both PLA were slightly hydrophobic and negatively charged but differed in crystallinity, stiffness and degradation rate. PLA95/5 films were highly crystalline, stiff (GPa), and did not degrade significantly in the one-month period analyzed in culture. In contrast, PLA70/30 films were more amorphous, softer (MPa) and degraded faster, releasing significant amounts of lactate into the culture medium. PLA70/30 performs better than PLA95/5 for primary cortical neural cell adhesion, proliferation and differentiation, maintaining the pools of neuronal and glial progenitor cells in vitro. l-lactate in the medium recapitulated PLA70/30's maintenance of neuronal restricted progenitors but did not sustain bipotential or glial restricted progenitors in the cultures, as occurred when neural cells were grown on PLA70/30. Our results suggest that PLA70/30 may mimic some of the physical and biochemical characteristics of the NSC niche. Its mechanical and surface properties may act synergistically in the modulation of bipotential and glial restricted progenitor phenotypes, while it is l-lactate, either added to the medium or released by the film that drives the maintenance of neuronal restricted progenitor cell phenotypes.

JTD Keywords: Polylactic acid, Degradation, Neurons, Progenitors, Lactate, Glial cells, NSC niche


Gorostiza, P., Isacoff, E. Y., (2008). Optical switches for remote and noninvasive control of cell signaling Science 322, (5900), 395-399

Although the identity and interactions of signaling proteins have been studied in great detail, the complexity of signaling networks cannot be fully understood without elucidating the timing and location of activity of individual proteins. To do this, one needs a means for detecting and controlling specific signaling events. An attractive approach is to use light, both to report on and control signaling proteins in cells, because light can probe cells in real time with minimal damage. Although optical detection of signaling events has been successful for some time, the development of the means for optical control has accelerated only recently. Of particular interest is the development of chemically engineered proteins that are directly sensitive to light.

JTD Keywords: Ion channels, Acetylcholine receptor, Glutamate-receptor, Potassium channel, K+ channel, Light, Neurons, Channelrhodopsin-2, Manipulation, Activation


Morales, R., Riss, M., Wang, L., Gavin, R., Del Rio, J. A., Alcubilla, R., Claverol-Tinture, E., (2008). Integrating multi-unit electrophysiology and plastic culture dishes for network neuroscience Lab on a Chip 8, (11), 1896-1905

The electrophysiological characterisation of cultured neurons is of paramount importance for drug discovery, safety pharmacology and basic research in the neurosciences. Technologies offering low cost, low technical complexity and potential for scalability towards high-throughput electrophysiology on in vitro neurons would be advantageous, in particular for screening purposes. Here we describe a plastic culture substrate supporting low-complexity multi-unit loose-patch recording and stimulation of developing networks while retaining manufacturability compatible with low-cost and large-scale production. Our hybrid polydimethylsilane (PDMS)-on-polystyrene structures include chambers (6 mm in diameter) and microchannels (25 mu m x 3.7 mu m 1 mm) serving as substrate-embedded recording pipettes. Somas are plated and retained in the chambers due to geometrical constraints and their processes grow along the microchannels, effectively establishing a loose-patch configuration without human intervention. We demonstrate that off-the-shelf voltage-clamp, current-clamp and extracellular amplifiers can be used to record and stimulate multi-unit activity with the aid of our dishes. Spikes up to 50 pA in voltage-clamp and 300 mu V in current-clamp modes are recorded in sparse and bursting activity patterns characteristic of 1 week-old hippocampal cultures. Moreover, spike sorting employing principal component analysis (PCA) confirms that single microchannels support the recording of multiple neurons. Overall, this work suggests a strategy to endow conventional culture plasticware with added functionality to enable cost-efficient network electrophysiology.

JTD Keywords: Electrophysiological characterisation, Cultured neurons, Polydimethylsilane (PDMS)-on-polystyrene structures