Lateralization is a fundamental principle of nervous system organization but its molecular determinants are mostly unknown. In humans, asymmetric gene expression in the fetal cortex has been suggested as the molecular basis of handedness. However, human fetuses already show considerable asymmetries in arm movements before the motor cortex is functionally linked to the spinal cord, making it more likely that spinal gene expression asymmetries form the molecular basis of handedness. We analyzed genome-wide mRNA expression and DNA methylation in cervical and anterior thoracal spinal cord segments of five human fetuses and show development-dependent gene expression asymmetries. These gene expression asymmetries were epigenetically regulated by miRNA expression asymmetries in the TGF-β signaling pathway and lateralized methylation of CpG islands. Our findings suggest molecular mechanisms for epigenetic regulation within the spinal cord constitute the starting point for handedness, implying a fundamental shift in our understanding of the ontogenesis of hemispheric asymmetries in humans.
- Onur Güntürkün
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Medical Faculty of the Ruhr-University Bochum (registration number 5056-14). All fetal tissue donors signed written informed consent
- Heidi Johansen-Berg, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
© 2017, Ocklenburg et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
At CA1→subiculum synapses, alternatively spliced neurexin-1 (Nrxn1SS4+) and neurexin-3 (Nrxn3SS4+) enhance NMDA-receptors and suppress AMPA-receptors, respectively, without affecting synapse formation. Nrxn1SS4+ and Nrxn3SS4+ act by binding to secreted cerebellin-2 (Cbln2) that in turn activates postsynaptic GluD1 receptors. Whether neurexin-Cbln2-GluD1 signaling has additional functions besides regulating NMDA- and AMPA-receptors, and whether such signaling performs similar roles at other synapses, however, remains unknown. Here, we demonstrate using constitutive Cbln2 deletions in mice that at CA1→subiculum synapses, Cbln2 performs no additional developmental roles besides regulating AMPA- and NMDA-receptors. Moreover, low-level expression of functionally redundant Cbln1 did not compensate for a possible synapse-formation function of Cbln2 at CA1→subiculum synapses. In exploring the generality of these findings, we examined the prefrontal cortex where Cbln2 was recently implicated in spinogenesis, and the cerebellum where Cbln1 is known to regulate parallel-fiber synapses. In the prefrontal cortex, Nrxn1SS4+-Cbln2 signaling selectively controlled NMDA-receptors without affecting spine or synapse numbers, whereas Nrxn3SS4+-Cbln2 signaling had no apparent role. In the cerebellum, conversely, Nrxn3SS4+-Cbln1 signaling regulated AMPA-receptors, whereas now Nrxn1SS4+-Cbln1 signaling had no manifest effect. Thus, Nrxn1SS4+- and Nrxn3SS4+-Cbln1/2 signaling complexes differentially control NMDA- and AMPA-receptors in different synapses in diverse neural circuits without regulating synapse or spine formation.
We created a new nonhuman primate model of the genetic neurodegenerative disorder Huntington’s disease (HD) by injecting a mixture of recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors, serotypes AAV2 and AAV2.retro, each expressing a fragment of human mutant HTT (mHTT) into the caudate and putamen of adult rhesus macaques. This modeling strategy results in expression of mutant huntingtin protein (mHTT) and aggregate formation in the injected brain regions, as well as dozens of other cortical and subcortical brain regions affected in human HD patients. We queried the disruption of cortico-basal ganglia circuitry for 30 months post-surgery using a variety of behavioral and imaging readouts. Compared to controls, mHTT-treated macaques developed working memory decline and progressive motor impairment. Multimodal imaging revealed circuit-wide white and gray matter degenerative processes in several key brain regions affected in HD. Taken together, we have developed a novel macaque model of HD that may be used to develop disease biomarkers and screen promising therapeutics.