Motor skill learning is characterized by improved performance and reduced motor variability. The neural mechanisms that couple skill level and variability, however, are not known. The zebra finch, a songbird, presents a unique opportunity to address this question because production of learned song and induction of vocal variability are instantiated in separate circuits that converge on a motor cortex analogue controlling vocal output. To probe the interplay between learning and variability, we made intracellular recordings from neurons in this area, characterizing how their inputs from the functionally distinct pathways change throughout song development. We found that inputs that drive stereotyped song-patterns are strengthened and pruned, while inputs that induce variability remain unchanged. A simple network model showed that strengthening and pruning of action-specific connections reduces the sensitivity of motor control circuits to variable input and neural 'noise'. This identifies a simple and general mechanism for learning-related regulation of motor variability.
Animal experimentation: The 124 male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) used for this study were obtained from our breeding colony. The care and experimental manipulation of the animals were carried out in accordance with guidelines of the National Institutes of Health and were reviewed and approved by the Harvard Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (Protocol #: 10-09).
- Ronald L Calabrese, Emory University, United States
© 2014, Garst-Orozco et al.
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A hexanucleotide repeat expansion in C9ORF72 is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). A hallmark of ALS/FTD pathology is the presence of dipeptide repeat (DPR) proteins, produced from both sense GGGGCC (poly-GA, poly-GP, poly-GR) and antisense CCCCGG (poly-PR, poly-PG, poly-PA) transcripts. Translation of sense DPRs, such as poly-GA and poly-GR, depends on non-canonical (non-AUG) initiation codons. Here, we provide evidence for canonical AUG-dependent translation of two antisense DPRs, poly-PR and poly-PG. A single AUG is required for synthesis of poly-PR, one of the most toxic DPRs. Unexpectedly, we found redundancy between three AUG codons necessary for poly-PG translation. Further, the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2D (EIF2D), which was previously implicated in sense DPR synthesis, is not required for AUG-dependent poly-PR or poly-PG translation, suggesting that distinct translation initiation factors control DPR synthesis from sense and antisense transcripts. Our findings on DPR synthesis from the C9ORF72 locus may be broadly applicable to many other nucleotide repeat expansion disorders.
The amyloid beta (Aβ) plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients’ brains contain collagens and are embedded extracellularly. Several collagens have been proposed to influence Aβ aggregate formation, yet their role in clearance is unknown. To investigate the potential role of collagens in forming and clearance of extracellular aggregates in vivo, we created a transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans strain that expresses and secretes human Aβ1-42. This secreted Aβ forms aggregates in two distinct places within the extracellular matrix. In a screen for extracellular human Aβ aggregation regulators, we identified different collagens to ameliorate or potentiate Aβ aggregation. We show that a disintegrin and metalloprotease a disintegrin and metalloprotease 2 (ADM-2), an ortholog of ADAM9, reduces the load of extracellular Aβ aggregates. ADM-2 is required and sufficient to remove the extracellular Aβ aggregates. Thus, we provide in vivo evidence of collagens essential for aggregate formation and metalloprotease participating in extracellular Aβ aggregate removal.