Concept: Radial glia
The corpus callosum is the major axon tract that connects and integrates neural activity between the two cerebral hemispheres. Although ∼1:4,000 children are born with developmental absence of the corpus callosum, the primary etiology of this condition remains unknown. Here, we demonstrate that midline crossing of callosal axons is dependent upon the prior remodeling and degradation of the intervening interhemispheric fissure. This remodeling event is initiated by astroglia on either side of the interhemispheric fissure, which intercalate with one another and degrade the intervening leptomeninges. Callosal axons then preferentially extend over these specialized astroglial cells to cross the midline. A key regulatory step in interhemispheric remodeling is the differentiation of these astroglia from radial glia, which is initiated by Fgf8 signaling to downstream Nfi transcription factors. Crucially, our findings from human neuroimaging studies reveal that developmental defects in interhemispheric remodeling are likely to be a primary etiology underlying human callosal agenesis.
Although retinal neurodegenerative conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, and retinal detachment have different etiologies and pathological characteristics, they also have many responses in common at the cellular level, including neural and glial remodeling. Structural changes in Müller cells, the large radial glia of the retina in retinal disease and injury have been well described, that of the retinal astrocytes remains less so. Using modern imaging technology to describe the structural remodeling of retinal astrocytes after retinal detachment is the focus of this paper. We present both a review of critical literature as well as novel work focusing on the responses of astrocytes following rhegmatogenous and serous retinal detachment. The mouse presents a convenient model system in which to study astrocyte reactivity since the Mϋller cell response is muted in comparison to other species thereby allowing better visualization of the astrocytes. We also show data from rat, cat, squirrel, and human retina demonstrating similarities and differences across species. Our data from immunolabeling and dye-filling experiments demonstrate previously undescribed morphological characteristics of normal astrocytes and changes induced by detachment. Astrocytes not only upregulate GFAP, but structurally remodel, becoming increasingly irregular in appearance, and often penetrating deep into neural retina. Understanding these responses, their consequences, and what drives them may prove to be an important component in improving visual outcome in a variety of therapeutic situations. Our data further supports the concept that astrocytes are important players in the retina’s overall response to injury and disease.
The mechanisms underlying Zika virus (ZIKV)-related microcephaly and other neurodevelopment defects remain poorly understood. Here, we describe the derivation and characterization, including single-cell RNA-seq, of neocortical and spinal cord neuroepithelial stem (NES) cells to model early human neurodevelopment and ZIKV-related neuropathogenesis. By analyzing human NES cells, organotypic fetal brain slices, and a ZIKV-infected micrencephalic brain, we show that ZIKV infects both neocortical and spinal NES cells as well as their fetal homolog, radial glial cells (RGCs), causing disrupted mitoses, supernumerary centrosomes, structural disorganization, and cell death. ZIKV infection of NES cells and RGCs causes centrosomal depletion and mitochondrial sequestration of phospho-TBK1 during mitosis. We also found that nucleoside analogs inhibit ZIKV replication in NES cells, protecting them from ZIKV-induced pTBK1 relocalization and cell death. We established a model system of human neural stem cells to reveal cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental defects associated with ZIKV infection and its potential treatment.
PURPOSE: Muller glia respond to retinal injury by a reactive gliosis but only rarely do mammalian glial cells re-enter the cell cycle and generate new neurons. In the non-mammalian retina, however, Muller glia act as stem/progenitor cells. Here, we test the function of Wnt signaling in the post-injury retina, focusing on its ability to influence mammalian Muller cell de-differentiation, proliferation and neurogenesis. METHODS: A Nd:YAG laser was used to create light burns on the retina of Axin2(LacZ/+) Wnt reporter mice. At various timepoints after injury, retinas were analyzed for evidence of Wnt signaling as well as glial cell response, proliferation, and apoptosis. Laser injuries were also created in Axin2(LacZ/LacZ) mice, and the effect of potentiated Wnt signaling on retinal repair was assessed. RESULTS: A subpopulation of mammalian Muller cells are Wnt responsive and when Wnt signaling is increased these cells showed enchanced proliferation in response to injury. In an environment of heightened Wnt signaling, caused by the loss of Wnt negative regulator Axin2, Muller cells proliferate after injury and adopted the expression patterns of retinal progenitor cells (RPCs). The Wnt-responsive Muller cells also exhibited long-term survival and in some cases, expressed the rod photoreceptor marker, Rhodopsin. CONCLUSIONS: The Wnt pathway is activated by retinal injury, and prolonging the endogenous Wnt signal causes a subset of Muller cells to proliferate and de-differentiate into RPCs. These data raise the possibility that transient amplification of Wnt signaling after retinal damage may unlock the latent regenerative capacity long speculated to reside in mammalian neural tissues.
Treatment of cultures with toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands or cytokines has become a popular approach to investigate astrocyte neuroinflammatory responses and to simulate the neural environment in various CNS disorders. However, despite much effort, the mechanism of astrocyte activation such as their responses to the TLR ligands and IL-1 remain highly debated. We compared highly pure primary mouse and human astrocyte cultures in their ability to produce proinflammatory mediators (termed “A1”) and immunoregulatory mediators (termed “A2”) in response to LPS, poly IC, and IL-1 stimulation. In human astrocytes, IL-1 induced both A1 and A2 responses, poly IC induced mostly A2, and LPS induced neither. In mouse astrocytes, LPS induced mostly an A1-predominant response, poly IC induced both A1 and A2, and IL-1 neither. In addition, mouse astrocytes produce abundant IL-1 protein, whereas human astrocytes did not, despite robust IL-1 mRNA expression. Of the TLR4 receptor complex proteins, human astrocytes expressed TLR4 and MD2 but not CD14, whereas mouse astrocytes expressed all three. Mouse astrocyte CD14 (cell-associated and soluble) was potently upregulated by LPS. Silencing TLR4 or CD14 by siRNA suppressed LPS responses in mouse astrocytes. In vivo, astrocytes in LPS-injected mouse brains also expressed CD14. Our results show striking differences between human and mouse astrocytes in the use of TLR/IL-1R and subsequent downstream signaling and immune activation. IL-1 translational block in human astrocytes may be a built-in mechanism to prevent autocrine and paracrine cell activation and neuroinflammation. These results have important implications for translational research of human CNS diseases. GLIA 2014.
The recent outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) in Brazil has been linked to substantial increases in fetal abnormalities and microcephaly. However, information about the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms connecting viral infection to these defects remains limited. In this study we have examined the expression of receptors implicated in cell entry of several enveloped viruses including ZIKV across diverse cell types in the developing brain. Using single-cell RNA-seq and immunohistochemistry, we found that the candidate viral entry receptor AXL is highly expressed by human radial glial cells, astrocytes, endothelial cells, and microglia in developing human cortex and by progenitor cells in developing retina. We also show that AXL expression in radial glia is conserved in developing mouse and ferret cortex and in human stem cell-derived cerebral organoids, highlighting multiple experimental systems that could be applied to study mechanisms of ZIKV infectivity and effects on brain development.
Memory, the ability to retain learned information, is necessary for survival. Thus far, molecular and cellular investigations of memory formation and storage have mainly focused on neuronal mechanisms. In addition to neurons, however, the brain comprises other types of cells and systems, including glia and vasculature. Accordingly, recent experimental work has begun to ask questions about the roles of non-neuronal cells in memory formation. These studies provide evidence that all types of glial cells (astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglia) make important contributions to the processing of encoded information and storing memories. In this review, we summarize and discuss recent findings on the critical role of astrocytes as providers of energy for the long-lasting neuronal changes that are necessary for long-term memory formation. We focus on three main findings: first, the role of glucose metabolism and the learning- and activity-dependent metabolic coupling between astrocytes and neurons in the service of long-term memory formation; second, the role of astrocytic glucose metabolism in arousal, a state that contributes to the formation of very long-lasting and detailed memories; and finally, in light of the high energy demands of the brain during early development, we will discuss the possible role of astrocytic and neuronal glucose metabolisms in the formation of early-life memories. We conclude by proposing future directions and discussing the implications of these findings for brain health and disease. Astrocyte glycogenolysis and lactate play a critical role in memory formation. Emotionally salient experiences form strong memories by recruiting astrocytic β2 adrenergic receptors and astrocyte-generated lactate. Glycogenolysis and astrocyte-neuron metabolic coupling may also play critical roles in memory formation during development, when the energy requirements of brain metabolism are at their peak.
Correct orientation of the mitotic spindle determines the plane of cellular cleavage and is crucial for organ development. In the developing cerebral cortex, spindle orientation defects result in severe neurodevelopmental disorders, but the precise mechanisms that control this important event are not fully understood. Here, we use a combination of high-content screening and mouse genetics to identify the miR-34/449 family as key regulators of mitotic spindle orientation in the developing cerebral cortex. By screening through all cortically expressed miRNAs in HeLa cells, we show that several members of the miR-34/449 family control mitotic duration and spindle rotation. Analysis of miR-34/449 knockout (KO) mouse embryos demonstrates significant spindle misorientation phenotypes in cortical progenitors, resulting in an excess of radial glia cells at the expense of intermediate progenitors and a significant delay in neurogenesis. We identify the junction adhesion molecule-A (JAM-A) as a key target for miR-34/449 in the developing cortex that might be responsible for those defects. Our data indicate that miRNA-dependent regulation of mitotic spindle orientation is crucial for cell fate specification during mammalian neurogenesis.
In vivo studies of human brain cellular function face challenging ethical and practical difficulties. Animal models are typically used but display distinct cellular differences. One specific example is astrocytes, recently recognized for contribution to neurological diseases and a link to the genetic risk factor apolipoprotein E (APOE). Current astrocytic in vitro models are questioned for lack of biological characterization. Here, we report human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived astroglia (NES-Astro) developed under defined conditions through long-term neuroepithelial-like stem (ltNES) cells. We characterized NES-Astro and astrocytic models from primary sources, astrocytoma (CCF-STTG1), and hiPSCs through transcriptomics, proteomics, glutamate uptake, inflammatory competence, calcium signaling response, and APOE secretion. Finally, we assess modulation of astrocyte biology using APOE-annotated compounds, confirming hits of the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway in adult and hiPSC-derived astrocytes. Our data show large diversity among astrocytic models and emphasize a cellular context when studying astrocyte biology.
Cortical expansion and folding are often linked to the evolution of higher intelligence, but molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying cortical folding remain poorly understood. The hominoid-specific gene TBC1D3 undergoes segmental duplications during hominoid evolution, but it’s role in brain development has not been explored. Here, we found that expression of TBC1D3 in ventricular cortical progenitors of mice via in utero electroporation caused delamination of ventricular radial glia cells (vRGs) and promotes generation of self-renewing basal progenitors with typical morphology of outer radial glia (oRG), which are most abundant in primates. Furthermore, down-regulation of TBC1D3 in cultured human brain slices decreased generation of oRGs. Interestingly, localized oRG proliferation resulting from either in utero electroporation or transgenic expression of TBC1D3, was often found to underlie cortical regions exhibiting folding. Thus, we have identified a hominoid gene that is required for oRG generation in regulating the cortical expansion and folding.