Laboratory of neurogenetics

Ivan Rodriguez

Full Professor

  • T: +41 22 379 31 01
  • office 4037b (Sciences III)

We explore the molecular and cellular bases of the neural circuits that direct innate behaviors in mammals.

Our research uses the mouse as a model, and is particularly interested in the olfactory system, the activation of which induces innate and stereotyped behaviors in many species. These include for example aggression between males, sexual interactions between individuals of the opposite sex, escape when facing predators, or avoidance of sick conspecifics.

We use a variety of approaches ranging from transcriptomic screens to the generation of transgenic mice. In these genetically modified animals for example, we visualize and modulate the activity of specific neuronal circuits to identify those involved in the studied behavior, define their organization, and understand their functioning.

  • Dense encoding of natural odorants by ensembles of sparsely activated neurons in the olfactory bulb. Sci Rep 2016 Nov;6():36514. srep36514. 10.1038/srep36514.

    abstract

    Sensory information undergoes substantial transformation along sensory pathways, usually encompassing sparsening of activity. In the olfactory bulb, though natural odorants evoke dense glomerular input maps, mitral and tufted (M/T) cells tuning is considered to be sparse because of highly odor-specific firing rate change. However, experiments used to draw this conclusion were either based on recordings performed in anesthetized preparations or used monomolecular odorants presented at arbitrary concentrations. In this study, we evaluated the lifetime and population sparseness evoked by natural odorants by capturing spike temporal patterning of neuronal assemblies instead of individual M/T tonic activity. Using functional imaging and tetrode recordings in awake mice, we show that natural odorants at their native concentrations are encoded by broad assemblies of M/T cells. While reducing odorant concentrations, we observed a reduced number of activated glomeruli representations and consequently a narrowing of M/T tuning curves. We conclude that natural odorants at their native concentrations recruit M/T cells with phasic rather than tonic activity. When encoding odorants in assemblies, M/T cells carry information about a vast number of odorants (lifetime sparseness). In addition, each natural odorant activates a broad M/T cell assembly (population sparseness).

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  • Alteration of Nrp1 signaling at different stages of olfactory neuron maturation promotes glomerular shifts along distinct axes in the olfactory bulb. Development 2016 Aug;():. dev.138941. 10.1242/dev.138941.

    abstract

    The building of the topographic map in the mammalian olfactory bulb is explained by a model based on two axes along which sensory neurons are guided: one dorso-ventral and the other antero-posterior. This latter axis relies on specific expression levels of Neuropilin 1 (Nrp1). To evaluate the role played by this receptor in this process, we used an in vivo genetic approach to decrease or suppress it in specific neuronal populations and at different time points during axonal targeting. We observed, in neurons that express either the M71 or the M72 odorant receptors, that the inactivation of Nrp1 leads to two distinct wiring alterations, whose incidence depends on the time at which Nrp1 expression is altered: first, a surprising dorsal shift of the M71 and M72 glomeruli that often fuse with their contralateral counterparts, and second, the formation of anteriorized glomeruli. The two phenotypes are partly recapitulated in mice lacking the Nrp1 ligand Semaphorin 3A (Sema3A), and in mice whose sensory neurons express a Nrp1 mutant unable to bind Sema3A. Finally, by using a mosaic conditional approach, we show that M71 axonal fibers can bypass the Nrp1 signals that define their target area, since they are hijacked and coalesce with Nrp1-deficient M71-expressing axons that target somewhere else. Together, these findings show drastically different axonal targeting outcomes dependent on the timing at which Nrp1/Sema3A signaling is altered.

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  • Large-scale transcriptional profiling of chemosensory neurons identifies receptor-ligand pairs in vivo. Nat. Neurosci. 2015 Oct;18(10):1455-63. nn.4100. 10.1038/nn.4100.

    abstract

    In mammals, olfactory perception is based on the combinatorial activation of G protein-coupled receptors. Identifying the full repertoire of receptors activated by a given odorant in vivo, a quest that has been hampered for over 20 years by technical difficulties, would represent an important step in deciphering the rules governing chemoperception. We found that odorants induced a fast and reversible concentration-dependent decrease in the transcription of genes corresponding to activated receptors in intact mice. On the basis of this finding, we developed a large-scale transcriptomic approach to uncover receptor-ligand pairs in vivo. We identified the mouse and rat odorant receptor signatures corresponding to specific odorants. Finally, we found that this approach, which can be used for species for which no genomic sequence is available, is also applicable to non-vertebrate species such as Drosophila.

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  • Neuronal pattern separation in the olfactory bulb improves odor discrimination learning. Nat. Neurosci. 2015 Oct;18(10):1474-82. nn.4089. 10.1038/nn.4089. PMC4845880. EMS64374.

    abstract

    Neuronal pattern separation is thought to enable the brain to disambiguate sensory stimuli with overlapping features, thereby extracting valuable information. In the olfactory system, it remains unknown whether pattern separation acts as a driving force for sensory discrimination and the learning thereof. We found that overlapping odor-evoked input patterns to the mouse olfactory bulb (OB) were dynamically reformatted in the network on the timescale of a single breath, giving rise to separated patterns of activity in an ensemble of output neurons, mitral/tufted (M/T) cells. Notably, the extent of pattern separation in M/T assemblies predicted behavioral discrimination performance during the learning phase. Furthermore, exciting or inhibiting GABAergic OB interneurons, using optogenetics or pharmacogenetics, altered pattern separation and thereby odor discrimination learning in a bidirectional way. In conclusion, we propose that the OB network can act as a pattern separator facilitating olfactory stimulus distinction, a process that is sculpted by synaptic inhibition.

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  • Sensory-Evoked Intrinsic Imaging Signals in the Olfactory Bulb Are Independent of Neurovascular Coupling. Cell Rep 2015 Jul;12(2):313-25. S2211-1247(15)00614-2. 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.06.016.

    abstract

    Functional brain-imaging techniques used in humans and animals, such as functional MRI and intrinsic optical signal (IOS) imaging, are thought to largely rely on neurovascular coupling and hemodynamic responses. Here, taking advantage of the well-described micro-architecture of the mouse olfactory bulb, we dissected the nature of odor-evoked IOSs. Using in vivo pharmacology in transgenic mouse lines reporting activity in different cell types, we show that parenchymal IOSs are largely independent of neurotransmitter release and neurovascular coupling. Furthermore, our results suggest that odor-evoked parenchymal IOSs originate from changes in light scattering of olfactory sensory neuron axons, mostly due to water movement following action potential propagation. Our study sheds light on a direct correlate of neuronal activity, which may be used for large-scale functional brain imaging.

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  • The vomeronasal system mediates sick conspecific avoidance. Curr. Biol. 2015 Jan;25(2):251-5. S0960-9822(14)01555-3. 10.1016/j.cub.2014.11.061.

    abstract

    Although sociability offers many advantages, a major drawback is the increased risk of exposure to contagious pathogens, like parasites, viruses, or bacteria. Social species have evolved various behavioral strategies reducing the probability of pathogen exposure. In rodents, sick conspecific avoidance can be induced by olfactory cues emitted by parasitized or infected conspecifics. The neural circuits involved in this behavior remain largely unknown. We observed that olfactory cues present in bodily products of mice in an acute inflammatory state or infected with a viral pathogen are aversive to conspecifics. We found that these chemical signals trigger neural activity in the vomeronasal system, an olfactory subsystem controlling various innate behaviors. Supporting the functional relevance of these observations, we show that preference toward healthy individuals is abolished in mice with impaired vomeronasal function. These findings reveal a novel function played by the vomeronasal system.

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  • Physiological characterization of formyl peptide receptor expressing cells in the mouse vomeronasal organ. Front Neuroanat 2014 ;8():134. 10.3389/fnana.2014.00134. PMC4240171.

    abstract

    The mouse vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a chemosensory structure that detects both hetero- and conspecific social cues. Based on largely monogenic expression of either type 1 or 2 vomeronasal receptors (V1Rs/V2Rs) or members of the formyl peptide receptor (FPR) family, the vomeronasal sensory epithelium harbors at least three neuronal subpopulations. While various neurophysiological properties of both V1R- and V2R-expressing neurons have been described using genetically engineered mouse models, the basic biophysical characteristics of the more recently identified FPR-expressing vomeronasal neurons have not been studied. Here, we employ a transgenic mouse strain that coexpresses an enhanced variant of yellow fluorescent protein together with FPR-rs3 allowing to identify and analyze FPR-rs3-expressing neurons in acute VNO tissue slices. Single neuron electrophysiological recordings allow comparative characterization of the biophysical properties inherent to a prototypical member of the FPR-expressing subpopulation of VNO neurons. In this study, we provide an in-depth analysis of both passive and active membrane properties, including detailed characterization of several types of voltage-activated conductances and action potential discharge patterns, in fluorescently labeled vs. unmarked vomeronasal neurons. Our results reveal striking similarities in the basic (electro) physiological architecture of both transgene-expressing and non-expressing neurons, confirming the suitability of this genetically engineered mouse model for future studies addressing more specialized issues in vomeronasal FPR neurobiology.

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  • Neurobiology: To care or not to care. Nature 2014 May;509(7500):294-6. 509294a. 10.1038/509294a.

    abstract

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  • A population of glomerular glutamatergic neurons controls sensory information transfer in the mouse olfactory bulb. Nat Commun 2014 ;5():3791. ncomms4791. 10.1038/ncomms4791. PMC4028618. EMS57959.

    abstract

    In sensory systems, peripheral organs convey sensory inputs to relay networks where information is shaped by local microcircuits before being transmitted to cortical areas. In the olfactory system, odorants evoke specific patterns of sensory neuron activity that are transmitted to output neurons in olfactory bulb (OB) glomeruli. How sensory information is transferred and shaped at this level remains still unclear. Here we employ mouse genetics, 2-photon microscopy, electrophysiology and optogenetics, to identify a novel population of glutamatergic neurons (VGLUT3+) in the glomerular layer of the adult mouse OB as well as several of their synaptic targets. Both peripheral and serotoninergic inputs control VGLUT3+ neurons firing. Furthermore, we show that VGLUT3+ neuron photostimulation in vivo strongly suppresses both spontaneous and odour-evoked firing of bulbar output neurons. In conclusion, we identify and characterize here a microcircuit controlling the transfer of sensory information at an early stage of the olfactory pathway.

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  • Long term functional plasticity of sensory inputs mediated by olfactory learning. Elife 2014 ;3():e02109. PMC3953949. 10.7554/eLife.02109.

    abstract

    Sensory inputs are remarkably organized along all sensory pathways. While sensory representations are known to undergo plasticity at the higher levels of sensory pathways following peripheral lesions or sensory experience, less is known about the functional plasticity of peripheral inputs induced by learning. We addressed this question in the adult mouse olfactory system by combining odor discrimination studies with functional imaging of sensory input activity in awake mice. Here we show that associative learning, but not passive odor exposure, potentiates the strength of sensory inputs up to several weeks after the end of training. We conclude that experience-dependent plasticity can occur in the periphery of adult mouse olfactory system, which should improve odor detection and contribute towards accurate and fast odor discriminations. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02109.001.

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  • Singular expression of olfactory receptor genes. Cell 2013 Oct;155(2):274-7. S0092-8674(13)01206-3. 10.1016/j.cell.2013.09.032.

    abstract

    Understanding the mechanisms of monogenic and monoallelic transcription of the large repertoire of olfactory receptor genes represents a challenging task. A picture is now emerging in which odorant receptor choice and stabilization involve an escape from silencing followed by the activation of an unconventional feedback loop.

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  • Convergence of FPR-rs3-expressing neurons in the mouse accessory olfactory bulb. Mol. Cell. Neurosci. 2013 Sep;56():140-7. S1044-7431(13)00056-0. 10.1016/j.mcn.2013.04.008.

    abstract

    In the mouse, most members of the FPR receptor family are expressed by vomeronasal sensory neurons. The neural circuitry corresponding to this class of chemical sensors is unknown. Taking advantage of the presence of FPR-rs3 on both vomeronasal dendrites and axonal fibers, we visualized the distribution of sensory cells expressing this member of the FPR family, and their corresponding axonal projections in the olfactory bulb. We found a rostrocaudal gradient of receptor choice frequency in the vomeronasal sensory neuroepithelium, and observed a convergence of FPR-rs3 axons into multiple, linked and deeply located glomeruli. These were homogenously innervated, and spatially restricted to the basal portion of the rostral accessory olfactory bulb. This organization, reminiscent of the one that characterizes axonal projections of V1R-expressing neurons, supports a role played by these receptors in the perception of semiochemicals.

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  • Contrasted evolution of the vomeronasal receptor repertoires in mammals and squamate reptiles. Genome Biol Evol 2013 ;5(2):389-401. evt013. 10.1093/gbe/evt013. PMC3590772.

    abstract

    The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is an olfactory structure that detects pheromones and environmental cues. It consists of sensory neurons that express evolutionary unrelated groups of transmembrane chemoreceptors. The predominant V1R and V2R receptor repertoires are believed to detect airborne and water-soluble molecules, respectively. It has been suggested that the shift in habitat of early tetrapods from water to land is reflected by an increase in the ratio of V1R/V2R genes. Snakes, which have a very large VNO associated with a sophisticated tongue delivery system, are missing from this analysis. Here, we use RNA-seq and RNA in situ hybridization to study the diversity, evolution, and expression pattern of the corn snake vomeronasal receptor repertoires. Our analyses indicate that snakes and lizards retain an extremely limited number of V1R genes but exhibit a large number of V2R genes, including multiple lineages of reptile-specific and snake-specific expansions. We finally show that the peculiar bigenic pattern of V2R vomeronasal receptor gene transcription observed in mammals is conserved in squamate reptiles, hinting at an important but unknown functional role played by this expression strategy. Our results do not support the hypothesis that the shift to a vomeronasal receptor repertoire dominated by V1Rs in mammals reflects the evolutionary transition of early tetrapods from water to land. This study sheds light on the evolutionary dynamics of the vomeronasal receptor families in vertebrates and reveals how mammals and squamates differentially adapted the same ancestral vomeronasal repertoire to succeed in a terrestrial environment.

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  • The wiring of Grueneberg ganglion axons is dependent on neuropilin 1. Development 2012 Aug;139(15):2783-91. dev.077008. 10.1242/dev.077008.

    abstract

    The Grueneberg ganglion is a specialized olfactory sensor. In mice, its activation induces freezing behavior. The topographical map corresponding to the central projections of its sensory axons is poorly defined, as well as the guidance molecules involved in its establishment. We took a transgenic approach to label exclusively Grueneberg sensory neurons and their axonal projections. We observed that a stereotyped convergence map in a series of coalescent neuropil-rich structures is already present at birth. These structures are part of a peculiar and complex neuronal circuit, composed of a chain of glomeruli organized in a necklace pattern that entirely surrounds the trunk of the olfactory bulb. We found that the necklace chain is composed of two different sets of glomeruli: one exclusively innervated by Grueneberg ganglion neurons, the other by axonal inputs from the main olfactory neuroepithelium. Combining the transgenic Grueneberg reporter mouse with a conditional null genetic approach, we then show that the axonal wiring of Grueneberg neurons is dependent on neuropilin 1 expression. Neuropilin 1-deficient Grueneberg axonal projections lose their strict and characteristic avoidance of vomeronasal glomeruli, glomeruli that are innervated by secondary neurons expressing the repulsive guidance cue and main neuropilin 1 ligand Sema3a. Taken together, our observations represent a first step in the understanding of the circuitry and the coding strategy used by the Grueneberg system.

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  • The Krüppel-associated box repressor domain can induce reversible heterochromatization of a mouse locus in vivo. J. Biol. Chem. 2012 Jul;287(30):25361-9. M112.350884. 10.1074/jbc.M112.350884. PMC3408170.

    abstract

    The study of chromatin and its regulators is key to understanding and manipulating transcription. We previously exploited the Krüppel-associated box (KRAB) transcriptional repressor domain, present in hundreds of vertebrate-specific zinc finger proteins, to assess the effect of its binding to gene bodies. These experiments revealed that the ectopic and doxycycline (dox)-controlled tet repressor KRAB fusion protein (tTRKRAB) can induce reversible and long-range silencing of cellular promoters. Here, we extend this system to in vivo applications and use tTRKRAB to achieve externally controllable repression of an endogenous mouse locus. We employed lentiviral-mediated transgenesis with promoterless TetO-containing gene traps to engineer a mouse line where the endogenous kinesin family member 2A (Kif2A) promoter drives a YFP reporter gene. When these mice were crossed to animals expressing the TetO-binding tTRKRAB repressor, this regulator was recruited to the Kif2A locus, and YFP expression was reduced. This effect was reversed when dox was given to embryos or adult mice, demonstrating that the cellular Kif2A promoter was only silenced upon repressor binding. Molecular analyses confirmed that tTRKRAB induced transcriptional repression through the spread of H3K9me3-containing heterochromatin, without DNA methylation of the trapped Kif2A promoter. Therefore, we demonstrate that targeting of tTRKRAB to a gene body in vivo results in reversible transcriptional repression through the spreading of facultative heterochromatin. This finding not only sheds light on KRAB-mediated transcriptional processes, but also suggests approaches for the externally controllable and reversible modulation of chromatin and transcription in vivo.

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  • Imaging pheromone sensing in a mouse vomeronasal acute tissue slice preparation. J Vis Exp 2011 ;(58):. 3311. 10.3791/3311. PMC3369656.

    abstract

    Peter Karlson and Martin Lüscher used the term pheromone for the first time in 1959 to describe chemicals used for intra-species communication. Pheromones are volatile or non-volatile short-lived molecules secreted and/or contained in biological fluids, such as urine, a liquid known to be a main source of pheromones. Pheromonal communication is implicated in a variety of key animal modalities such as kin interactions, hierarchical organisations and sexual interactions and are consequently directly correlated with the survival of a given species. In mice, the ability to detect pheromones is principally mediated by the vomeronasal organ (VNO), a paired structure located at the base of the nasal cavity, and enclosed in a cartilaginous capsule. Each VNO has a tubular shape with a lumen allowing the contact with the external chemical world. The sensory neuroepithelium is principally composed of vomeronasal bipolar sensory neurons (VSNs). Each VSN extends a single dendrite to the lumen ending in a large dendritic knob bearing up to 100 microvilli implicated in chemical detection. Numerous subpopulations of VSNs are present. They are differentiated by the chemoreceptor they express and thus possibly by the ligand(s) they recognize. Two main vomeronasal receptor families, V1Rs and V2Rs, are composed respectively by 240 and 120 members and are expressed in separate layers of the neuroepithelium. Olfactory receptors (ORs) and formyl peptide receptors (FPRs) are also expressed in VSNs. Whether or not these neuronal subpopulations use the same downstream signalling pathway for sensing pheromones is unknown. Despite a major role played by a calcium-permeable channel (TRPC2) present in the microvilli of mature neurons TRPC2 independent transduction channels have been suggested. Due to the high number of neuronal subpopulations and the peculiar morphology of the organ, pharmacological and physiological investigations of the signalling elements present in the VNO are complex. Here, we present an acute tissue slice preparation of the mouse VNO for performing calcium imaging investigations. This physiological approach allows observations, in the natural environment of a living tissue, of general or individual subpopulations of VSNs previously loaded with Fura-2AM, a calcium dye. This method is also convenient for studying any GFP-tagged pheromone receptor and is adaptable for the use of other fluorescent calcium probes. As an example, we use here a VG mouse line, in which the translation of the pheromone V1rb2 receptor is linked to the expression of GFP by a polycistronic strategy.

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  • The chemical MUPpeteer. Cell 2010 May;141(4):568-70. S0092-8674(10)00486-1. 10.1016/j.cell.2010.04.032.

    abstract

    Rodents exhibit an innate fear-like behavior when they sense the chemical traces of predators. In this issue, Papes et al. (2010) report that the major urinary proteins (Mups) released by predators are detected by sensory neurons in the mouse vomeronasal organ (which also detects pheromones involved in aggression), triggering a fear response.

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  • Formyl peptide receptor-like proteins are a novel family of vomeronasal chemosensors. Nature 2009 May;459(7246):574-7. nature08029. 10.1038/nature08029.

    abstract

    Mammals rely heavily on olfaction to interact adequately with each other and with their environment. They make use of seven-transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptors to identify odorants and pheromones. These receptors are present on dendrites of olfactory sensory neurons located in the main olfactory or vomeronasal sensory epithelia, and pertain to the odorant, trace amine-associated receptor and vomeronasal type 1 (ref. 4) or 2 (refs 5-7) receptor superfamilies. Whether these four sensor classes represent the complete olfactory molecular repertoire used by mammals to make sense of the outside world is unknown. Here we report the expression of formyl peptide receptor-related genes by vomeronasal sensory neurons, in multiple mammalian species. Similar to the four known olfactory receptor gene classes, these genes encode seven-transmembrane proteins, and are characterized by monogenic transcription and a punctate expression pattern in the sensory neuroepithelium. In vitro expression of mouse formyl peptide receptor-like 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 provides sensitivity to disease/inflammation-related ligands. Establishing an in situ approach that combines whole-mount vomeronasal preparations with dendritic calcium imaging in the intact neuroepithelium, we show neuronal responses to the same molecules, which therefore represent a new class of vomeronasal agonists. Taken together, these results suggest that formyl peptide receptor-like proteins have an olfactory function associated with the identification of pathogens, or of pathogenic states.

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  • A common gene exclusion mechanism used by two chemosensory systems. Eur. J. Neurosci. 2009 Feb;29(4):671-8. EJN6630. 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.06630.x. PMC3709462. NIHMS144959.

    abstract

    Sensory coding strategies within vertebrates involve the expression of a limited number of receptor types per sensory cell. In mice, each vomeronasal sensory neuron transcribes monoallelically a single V1R pheromone receptor gene, chosen from a large V1R repertoire. The nature of the signals leading to this strict receptor expression is unknown, but is apparently based on a negative feedback mechanism initiated by the transcription of the first randomly chosen functional V1R gene. We show, in vivo, that the genetic replacement of the V1rb2 pheromone receptor coding sequence by an unrelated one from the odorant receptor gene M71 maintains gene exclusion. The expression of this exogenous odorant receptor in vomeronasal neurons does not trigger the transcription of odorant receptor-associated signalling molecules. These results strongly suggest that despite the different odorant and vomeronasal receptor expression sites, function and transduction cascades, a common mechanism is used by these chemoreceptors to regulate their transcription.

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  • Pheromone sensing in mice. Results Probl Cell Differ 2009 ;47():77-96. 10.1007/400_2008_8.

    abstract

    Beginning with the neuroepithelium of the vomeronasal organ, the accessory olfactory system in rodents runs parallel to the main olfactory system and is specialized in the detection of pheromones. Only a small number of vomeronasal agonists carrying pheromonal information have been identified this far. These structurally diverse classes of chemicals include peptides secreted by exocrine glands and range from small volatile molecules to proteins and fragments thereof present in urine. Most pheromones activate both vomeronasal and main olfactory sensory neurons, making the identification of functionally relevant populations of sensory neurons difficult. Analyses of gene-targeted mice selectively affecting either vomeronasal or main olfactory signaling have attempted to elucidate the functional contribution of the different chemosensory epithelia to pheromone sensing in mice. These mouse models suggest that both the main and the accessory olfactory systems can converge and synergize to express the complex array of stereotyped behaviors and hormonal changes triggered by pheromones.

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  • Odorant and pheromone receptor gene regulation in vertebrates. Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 2007 Oct;17(5):465-70. S0959-437X(07)00123-2. 10.1016/j.gde.2007.07.005.

    abstract

    The largest mammalian gene family codes for odorant receptors and is exclusively devoted to the perception of the outside world. Its expression is very peculiar, since olfactory sensory neurons are only allowed to express a single of its numerous members, from a single parental allele. How this is achieved is unknown, but recent work points to multiple regulatory mechanisms, possibly shared by pheromone receptor genes, acting at (a) a general level, via the expression of the chemoreceptor itself and (b) a more restricted level, defined by activator elements.

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  • Gene cluster lock after pheromone receptor gene choice. EMBO J. 2007 Jul;26(14):3423-30. 7601782. 10.1038/sj.emboj.7601782. PMC1933412.

    abstract

    In mammals, perception of pheromones is based on the expression in each vomeronasal sensory neuron of a limited set of receptor genes, chosen among a large repertoire. Here, we report an extremely tight control of the monogenic and monoallelic transcription of the V1rb2 receptor gene. Combining genetic and electrophysiological approaches, we show that the transcription of a non-functional V1r allele leads to the coexpression of another, functional V1r gene. The choice of this coexpressed gene surprisingly includes genes located on the cluster homologous to the one from which the mutant allele is transcribed. However, V1r genes located in cis relative to the transcribed mutant allele are excluded from the coexpression choice. Our observations strongly suggest a monogenic regulatory mechanism acting (a) at a general level, via the expression of the V1r receptor itself, and (b) at a more local level, defined by the V1r gene cluster.

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  • Adenylyl cyclase-dependent axonal targeting in the olfactory system. Development 2007 Jul;134(13):2481-9. dev.006346. 10.1242/dev.006346.

    abstract

    The vertebrate olfactory bulb is a remarkably organized neuronal structure, in which hundreds of functionally different sensory inputs are organized into a highly stereotyped topographical map. How this wiring is achieved is not yet understood. Here, we show that the olfactory bulb topographical map is modified in adenylyl cyclase 3 (adenylate cyclase 3)-deficient mice. In these mutants, axonal projection targets corresponding to specific odorant receptors are disorganized, are no longer exclusively innervated by functionally identical axonal projections and shift dramatically along the anteroposterior axis of the olfactory bulb. Moreover, the cyclase depletion leads to the prevention of neuropilin 1 (Nrp1) expression in olfactory sensory neuron axonal projections. Taken together, our data point to a major role played by a crucial element of the odorant-induced transduction cascade, adenylyl cyclase 3, in the targeting of olfactory sensory neuron axons towards the brain. This mechanism probably involves the regulation of receptor genes known to be crucial in axonal guidance processes.

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  • Divergent evolution among teleost V1r receptor genes. PLoS ONE 2007 ;2(4):e379. 10.1371/journal.pone.0000379. PMC1849887.

    abstract

    The survival of vertebrate species is dependent on the ability of individuals to adequately interact with each other, a function often mediated by the olfactory system. Diverse olfactory receptor repertoires are used by this system to recognize chemicals. Among these receptors, the V1rs, encoded by a very large gene family in most mammals, are able to detect pheromones. Teleosts, which also express V1r receptors, possess a very limited V1r repertoire. Here, taking advantage of the possibility to unequivocally identify V1r orthologs in teleosts, we analyzed the olfactory expression and evolutionary constraints of a pair of clustered fish V1r receptor genes, V1r1 and V1r2. Orthologs of the two genes were found in zebrafish, medaka, and threespine stickleback, but a single representative was observed in tetraodontidae species. Analysis of V1r1 and V1r2 sequences from 12 different euteleost species indicate different evolutionary rates between the two paralogous genes, leading to a highly conserved V1r2 gene and a V1r1 gene under more relaxed selective constraint. Moreover, positively-selected sites were detected in specific branches of the V1r1 clade. Our results suggest a conserved agonist specificity of the V1R2 receptor between euteleost species, its loss in the tetraodontidae lineage, and the acquisition of different chemosensory characteristics for the V1R1 receptor.

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  • Projection of the Grüneberg ganglion to the mouse olfactory bulb. Eur. J. Neurosci. 2006 Jun;23(11):2887-94. EJN4818. 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.04818.x.

    abstract

    In mammals, sensory neurons from the main olfactory and vomeronasal systems project their axons to the olfactory bulbs in the brain. We here report that a cluster of neurons, distinct from these two systems, located at the very tip of the mouse nose and called the Grüneberg ganglion expresses the mature olfactory-sensory neuron-specific marker olfactory marker protein (OMP), but is unlikely to express known odorant or pheromone receptors. The ganglion is present at birth and maintained during adult life. Tracing experiments indicate that these neurons target ipsilaterally to a specific set of glomeruli located on the caudal part of the olfactory bulb, and that this connection is necessary for the survival of the ganglion. The glomerular targets are structures previously proposed to be associated with suckling behaviour. These observations strongly suggest that this peculiar olfactory neuronal population plays a sensory role, possibly linked to chemoperception.

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  • Remarkable diversity of mammalian pheromone receptor repertoires. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2005 May;102(19):6639-40. 0502318102. 10.1073/pnas.0502318102. PMC1100792.

    abstract

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  • Olfactory expression of a single and highly variable V1r pheromone receptor-like gene in fish species. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2005 Apr;102(15):5489-94. 0402581102. 10.1073/pnas.0402581102. PMC556222.

    abstract

    Sensory neurons expressing members of the seven-transmembrane V1r receptor superfamily allow mice to perceive pheromones. These receptors, which exhibit no sequence homology to any known protein except a weak similarity to taste receptors, have only been found in mammals. In the mouse, the V1r repertoire contains >150 members, which are expressed by neurons of the vomeronasal organ, a structure present exclusively in some tetrapod species. Here, we report the existence of a single V1r gene in multiple species of a non-terrestrial, vomeronasal organ-lacking taxon, the teleosts. In zebrafish, this V1r gene is expressed in chemosensory neurons of the olfactory rosette with a punctate distribution, strongly suggesting a role in chemodetection. This unique receptor gene exhibits a remarkably high degree of sequence variability between fish species. It likely corresponds to the original V1r present in the common ancestor of vertebrates, which led to the large and very diverse expansion of vertebrate pheromone receptor repertoires, and suggests the presence of V1rs in multiple nonmammalian phyla.

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  • Pheromone receptors in mammals. Horm Behav 2004 Sep;46(3):219-30. 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2004.03.014. S0018-506X(04)00126-6.

    abstract

    In most mammals, pheromone perception mediates intraspecies interactions related to reproduction, such as mate recognition, intermale aggressive behaviors, or exchanges between females and their offspring. Recent molecular findings, particularly the identification of two large pheromone receptor gene superfamilies, provide today invaluable tools to better understand the way mammals make sense of pheromonal information.

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  • Axon guidance of mouse olfactory sensory neurons by odorant receptors and the beta2 adrenergic receptor. Cell 2004 Jun;117(6):833-46. 10.1016/j.cell.2004.05.013. S0092867404005318.

    abstract

    Odorant receptors (ORs) provide the core determinant of identity for axons of olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs) to coalesce into glomeruli in the olfactory bulb. Here, using gene targeting in mice, we examine how the OR protein determines axonal identity. An OR::GFP fusion protein is present in axons, consistent with a direct function of ORs in axon guidance. When the OR coding region is deleted, we observe OSNs that coexpress other ORs that function in odorant reception and axonal identity. It remains unclear if such coexpression is normally prevented by negative feedback on OR gene choice. A drastic reduction in OR protein level produces axonal coalescence into novel, remote glomeruli. By contrast, chimeric ORs and ORs with minor mutations perturb axon outgrowth. Strikingly, the beta2 adrenergic receptor can substitute for an OR in glomerular formation when expressed from an OR locus. Thus, ORs have not evolved a unique function in axon guidance.

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  • Odorant and vomeronasal receptor genes in two mouse genome assemblies. Genomics 2004 May;83(5):802-11. 10.1016/j.ygeno.2003.10.009. S0888754303003392.

    abstract

    Odorant receptors (ORs) and vomeronasal receptors (V1Rs and V2Rs) are large superfamilies of chemosensory receptors. As an extension of previous research using the 2001 Celera mouse genome assembly, we analyzed OR and V1R genes in the 2002 public mouse genome assembly. We identified 1403 OR genes (1068 potentially intact) and 332 V1R genes (164 potentially intact) in this C57BL/6J mouse genome. This expands the mouse OR and V1R superfamilies by adding approximately 100 OR and approximately 40 V1R potentially intact genes. The description of the genomic distribution of OR genes is more complete and accurate, and two major errors in OR gene distribution in the 2001 Celera assembly were corrected. For the first time, the complete genomic distribution of V1R genes was investigated in detail and placed in context with that of OR genes. V1R genes, like OR genes, tend to form clusters of similar genes in the genome. Comparison between the two genome assemblies revealed a high rate of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in both OR and V1R genes. The high ratio of nonsynonymous SNPs over synonymous SNPs in V1R genes suggests positive selection for these genes, possibly favoring species-specific and strain-specific pheromone detection. In addition, detailed analysis of the SNP rate aided in the identification of key residues in ORs.

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  • Synthesis of mono- and bisdihydrodipyridopyrazines and assessment of their DNA binding and cytotoxic properties. J. Med. Chem. 2004 Feb;47(4):978-87. 10.1021/jm0309351.

    abstract

    Aminoalkyl-substituted monomeric and dimeric dihydrodipyridopyrazines have been synthesized and evaluated as antitumor agents. Potent cytotoxic compounds were identified in both series. Biochemical and biophysical studies indicated that all these compounds strongly stabilized the duplex structure of DNA and some of them elicited a selectivity for GC-rich sequences. Sequence recognition by of the dimeric dihydrodipyridopyrazines is reminiscent of that of certain antitumor bisnaphthalimides. Compared to monomers, corresponding dimeric derivatives showed higher affinity for DNA. This property was attributed to a bisintercalative binding to DNA. This assumption was indirectly probed by electric linear dichroism and DNA relaxation experiments. DNA provides a bioreceptor for these dihydrodipyridopyrazine derivatives, but no poisoning of human topoisomerases I or II was detected. Most of the compounds efficiently inhibited the growth of L1210 murine leukemia cells and perturbed the cell cycle progression (with a G2/M block in most cases). A weak but noticeable in vivo antitumor activity was observed with one of the dimeric compounds. This studies identifies monomeric and dimeric dihydrodipyridopyrazines as a new class of DNA-targeted antitumor agents.

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  • Nosing into pheromone detectors. Nat. Neurosci. 2003 May;6(5):438-40. 10.1038/nn0503-438. nn0503-438.

    abstract

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  • Pheromone detection mediated by a V1r vomeronasal receptor. Nat. Neurosci. 2002 Dec;5(12):1261-2. 10.1038/nn978. nn978.

    abstract

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  • A divergent pattern of sensory axonal projections is rendered convergent by second-order neurons in the accessory olfactory bulb. Neuron 2002 Sep;35(6):1057-66. S0896627302009042.

    abstract

    The mammalian vomeronasal system is specialized in pheromone detection. The neural circuitry of the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) provides an anatomical substrate for the coding of pheromone information. Here, we describe the axonal projection pattern of vomeronasal sensory neurons to the AOB and the dendritic connectivity pattern of second-order neurons. Genetically traced sensory neurons expressing a given gene of the V2R class of vomeronasal receptors project their axons to six to ten glomeruli distributed in globally conserved areas of the AOB, a theme similar to V1R-expressing neurons. Surprisingly, second-order neurons tend to project their dendrites to glomeruli innervated by axons of sensory neurons expressing the same V1R or the same V2R gene. Convergence of receptor type information in the olfactory bulb may represent a common design in olfactory systems.

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  • Deficient pheromone responses in mice lacking a cluster of vomeronasal receptor genes. Nature 2002 Sep;419(6902):70-4. 10.1038/nature00955. nature00955.

    abstract

    The mammalian vomeronasal organ (VNO), a part of the olfactory system, detects pheromones--chemical signals that modulate social and reproductive behaviours. But the molecular receptors in the VNO that detect these chemosensory stimuli remain undefined. Candidate pheromone receptors are encoded by two distinct and complex superfamilies of genes, V1r and V2r (refs 3 and 4), which code for receptors with seven transmembrane domains. These genes are selectively expressed in sensory neurons of the VNO. However, there is at present no functional evidence for a role of these genes in pheromone responses. Here, using chromosome engineering technology, we delete in the germ line of mice an approximately 600-kilobase genomic region that contains a cluster of 16 intact V1r genes. These genes comprise two of the 12 described V1r gene families, and represent approximately 12% of the V1r repertoire. The mutant mice display deficits in a subset of VNO-dependent behaviours: the expression of male sexual behaviour and maternal aggression is substantially altered. Electrophysiologically, the epithelium of the VNO of such mice does not respond detectably to specific pheromonal ligands. The behavioural impairment and chemosensory deficit support a role of V1r receptors as pheromone receptors.

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  • Novel human vomeronasal receptor-like genes reveal species-specific families. Curr. Biol. 2002 Jun;12(12):R409-11. S0960982202009090.

    abstract

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  • Aberrant sensory innervation of the olfactory bulb in neuropilin-2 mutant mice. J. Neurosci. 2002 May;22(10):4025-35. 20026374. 22/10/4025.

    abstract

    The mammalian olfactory system consists of two anatomically segregated structures, the main olfactory system and the vomeronasal system, which each detect distinct types of chemical stimuli in the environment. During development, sensory neurons establish precise axonal connections with their respective targets within the olfactory bulb. The specificity of the odorant or vomeronasal receptor expressed by the sensory neuron is crucial in this process, yet it is less clear which of the more conventional axon guidance molecules are involved. Here, we show that neuropilin-2, a coreceptor for some of the class 3 semaphorins, is expressed in subpopulations of olfactory and vomeronasal sensory neurons. We generated a knock-out mutation in the neuropilin-2 gene by gene targeting in embryonic stem cells. Neuropilin-2 mutant mice exhibit profound and distinct effects on target innervation within the olfactory bulb. In the main olfactory system, axons of olfactory sensory neurons penetrate into the deeper layers of the main olfactory bulb. In the vomeronasal system, axonal fasciculation within the vomeronasal nerve is affected; some axons are misrouted and innervate glomeruli in an ectopic domain of the accessory olfactory bulb.

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  • Multiple new and isolated families within the mouse superfamily of V1r vomeronasal receptors. Nat. Neurosci. 2002 Feb;5(2):134-40. 10.1038/nn795. nn795.

    abstract

    Seven-transmembrane-domain proteins encoded by the vomeronasal receptor V1r and V2r gene superfamilies, and expressed by vomeronasal sensory neurons, are believed to be pheromone receptors in rodents. Four V1r gene families have been described in the mouse (V1ra, V1rb, V1rc and V3r). Here we have screened near-complete mouse genomic databases to obtain a first global draft of the mouse V1r repertoire, including 104 new V1r genes. It comprises eight new and extremely isolated families in addition to the four families previously identified. Members of these new families were expressed in vomeronasal sensory neurons. The genome-wide view revealed great sequence diversity within the V1r superfamily. Phylogenetic analyses suggested an ancient original radiation, followed by the isolation, divergence and expansion of families by extensive gene duplications and frequent gene loss. The isolated nature of these gene families probably reflects a specialization of different receptor classes in the detection of specific types of chemicals.

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  • The serine protease Omi/HtrA2 is released from mitochondria during apoptosis. Omi interacts with caspase-inhibitor XIAP and induces enhanced caspase activity. Cell Death Differ., 9(1):20-6

    abstract

    Proteome analysis of supernatant of isolated mitochondria exposed to recombinant tBid, a proapoptotic Bcl-2 member, revealed the presence of the serine protease Omi, also called HtrA2. This release was prevented in mitochondria derived from Bcl-2-transgenic mice. Release of Omi under apoptotic conditions was confirmed in vivo in livers from mice injected with agonistic anti-Fas antibodies and was prevented in livers from Bcl-2 transgenic mice. Omi release also occurs in apoptotic dying but not in necrotic dying fibrosarcoma L929 cells, treated with anti-Fas antibodies and TNF, respectively. The amino acid sequence reveals the presence of an XIAP interaction motif at the N-terminus of mature Omi. We demonstrate an interaction between endogeneous Omi and recombinant XIAP. Furthermore we show that endogenous Omi is involved in enhanced activation of caspases in cytosolic extracts.

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  • Endonuclease G: a mitochondrial protein released in apoptosis and involved in caspase-independent DNA degradation. Cell Death Differ., Dec;8(12):1136-42

    abstract

    A hallmark of apoptosis is the fragmentation of nuclear DNA. Although this activity involves the caspase-3-dependent DNAse CAD (caspase-activated DNAse), evidence exists that DNA fragmentation can occur independently of caspase activity. Here we report on the ability of truncated Bid (tBid) to induce the release of a DNAse activity from mitochondria. This DNAse activity was identified by mass spectrometry as endonuclease G, an abundant 30 kDa protein released from mitochondria under apoptotic conditions. No tBid-induced endonuclease G release could be observed in mitochondria from Bcl-2-transgenic mice. The in vivo occurrence of endonuclease G release from mitochondria during apoptosis was confirmed in the liver from mice injected with agonistic anti-Fas antibody and is completely prevented in Bcl-2 transgenic mice. These data indicate that endonuclease G may be involved in CAD-independent DNA fragmentation during cell death pathways in which truncated Bid is generated.

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  • Differentiation of embryonic stem cell lines generated from adult somatic cells by nuclear transfer. Science, 27;292(5517):740-3.

    abstract

    Embryonic stem (ES) cells are fully pluripotent in that they can differentiate into all cell types, including gametes. We have derived 35 ES cell lines via nuclear transfer (ntES cell lines) from adult mouse somatic cells of inbred, hybrid, and mutant strains. ntES cells contributed to an extensive variety of cell types, including dopaminergic and serotonergic neurons in vitro and germ cells in vivo. Cloning by transfer of ntES cell nuclei could result in normal development of fertile adults. These studies demonstrate the full pluripotency of ntES cells.

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  • Peripheral olfactory projections are differentially affected in mice deficient in a cyclic nucleotide-gated channel subunit. Neuron, 26. 81-91; doi: 10.1016/S0896-6273(00)81140-X

    abstract

    Axons of olfactory sensory neurons expressing a given odorant receptor converge to a few glomeruli in the olfactory bulb. We have generated mice with unresponsive olfactory sensory neurons by targeted mutagenesis of a cyclic nucleotide-gated channel subunit gene, OCNC1. When these anosmic mice were crossed with mice in which neurons expressing a given odorant receptor can be visualized by coexpression of an axonal marker, the pattern of convergence was affected for one but not another receptor. In a novel paradigm, termed monoallelic deprivation, axons from channel positive or negative neurons that express the same odorant receptor segregate into distinct glomeruli within the same bulb. Thus, the peripheral olfactory projections are in part influenced by mechanisms that depend on neuronal activity.

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  • Functional annotation of a full-length mouse cDNA collection. Nature, 409, 685-690

    abstract

    The RIKEN Mouse Gene Encyclopaedia Project, a systematic approach to determining the full coding potential of the mouse genome, involves collection and sequencing of full-length complementary DNAs and physical mapping of the corresponding genes to the mouse genome. We organized an international functional annotation meeting (FANTOM) to annotate the first 21,076 cDNAs to be analysed in this project. Here we describe the first RIKEN clone collection, which is one of the largest described for any organism. Analysis of these cDNAs extends known gene families and identifies new ones.

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  • Sequence diversity and genomic organization of vomeronasal receptor genes in the mouse. Genome Res. 2000. 10: 1958-1967; doi: 10.1101/gr.140600

    abstract

    The vomeronasal system of mice is thought to be specialized in the detection of pheromones. Two multigene families have been identified that encode proteins with seven putative transmembrane domains and that are expressed selectively in subsets of neurons of the vomeronasal organ. The products of these vomeronasal receptor (Vr) genes are regarded as candidate pheromone receptors. Little is known about their genomic organization and sequence diversity, and only five sequences of mouse V1r coding regions are publicly available. Here, we have begun to characterize systematically the V1r repertoire in the mouse. We isolated 107 bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) containing V1r genes from a 129 mouse library. Hybridization experiments indicate that at least 107 V1r-like sequences reside on these BACs. We assembled most of the BACs into six contigs, of which one major contig and one minor contig were characterized in detail. The major contig is 630-860 kb long, encompasses a cluster of 21-48 V1r genes, and contains marker D6Mit227. Sequencing of the coding regions was facilitated by the absence of introns. We determined the sequence of the coding region of 25 possibly functional V1r genes and seven pseudogenes. The functional V1rs can be arranged into three groups; V1rs of one group are novel and substantially divergent from the other V1rs. The genomic and sequence information described here should be useful in defining the biological function of these receptors.

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  • A putative pheromone receptor gene expressed in human olfactory mucosa. Nature Genetics, 26. 18-19; doi:10.1038/79124

    abstract

    Pheromones elicit specific behavioural responses and physiological alterations in recipients of the same species. In mammals, these chemical signals are recognized within the nasal cavity by sensory neurons that express pheromone receptors. In rodents, these receptors are thought to be represented by two large multigene families, comprising the V1r and V2r genes, which encode seven-transmembrane proteins. Although pheromonal effects have been demonstrated in humans, V1R or V2R counterparts of the rodent genes have yet to be characterized.

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  • Activation of caspases in lethal experimental hepatitis and prevention by acute phase proteins. J. immunol., 163 (10) 5235-5241

    abstract

    Lethal hepatitis can be induced by an agonistic anti-Fas Ab in normal mice or by TNF in mice sensitized to d -(+)-galactosamine or actinomycin D. In all three models, we found that apoptosis of hepatocytes is an early and necessary step to cause lethality. In the three models, we observed activation of the major executioner caspases-3 and -7. Two acute-phase proteins, alpha1-acid glycoprotein and alpha1-antitrypsin, differentially prevent lethality: alpha1-acid glycoprotein protects in both TNF models and not in the anti-Fas model, while alpha1-antitrypsin confers protection in the TNF/d -(+)-galactosamine model only. The protection is inversely correlated with activation of caspase-3 and caspase-7. The data suggest that activation of caspase-3 and -7 is essential in the in vivo induction of apoptosis leading to lethal hepatitis and that acute phase proteins are powerful inhibitors of apoptosis and caspase activation. Furthermore, Bcl-2 transgenic mice, expressing Bcl-2 specifically in hepatocytes, are protected against a lethal challenge with anti-Fas or with TNF/d -(+)-galactosamine, but not against TNF/actinomycin D. The acute-phase proteins might constitute an inducible anti-apoptotic protective system, which in pathology or disturbed homeostasis prevents excessive apoptosis.

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  • Mice cloned from embryonic stem cells. PNAS., 96:(26) 14984-14989

    abstract

    Cloning allows the asexual reproduction of selected individuals such that the offspring have an essentially identical nuclear genome. Cloning by nuclear transfer thus far has been reported only with freshly isolated cells and cells from primary cultures. We previously reported a method of cloning mice from adult somatic cells after nuclear transfer by microinjection. Here, we apply this method to clone mice from widely available, established embryonic stem (ES) cell lines at late passage. With the ES cell line R1, 29% of reconstructed oocytes developed in vitro to the morula/blastocyst stage, and 8% of these embryos developed to live-born pups when transferred to surrogate mothers. We thus cloned 26 mice from R1 cells. Nuclei from the ES cell line E14 also were shown to direct development to term. We present evidence that the nuclei of ES cells at G(1)- or G(2)/M-phases are efficiently able to support full development. Our findings demonstrate that late-passage ES cells can be used to produce viable cloned mice and provide a link between the technologies of ES cells and animal cloning. It thus may be possible to clone from a single cell a large number of individuals over an extended period.

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  • Cutaneous delayed-type hypersensitivity response is inhibited in transgenic mice with keratinocyte-specific CD44 expression defect. J. invest. Dermatol., 113:(1) 137-138: doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.1999.00642.x

    abstract

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  • Variable patterns of axonal projections of sensory neurons in the mouse vomeronasal system. Cell, 97:(2) 199-208

    abstract

    The vomeronasal system mediates pheromonal effects in mammals. We have employed gene targeting technology to introduce mutations in a putative pheromone receptor gene, VR2, in the germline of mice. By generating alleles differentially tagged with the histological markers taulacZ and tauGFP, we show that VR2 is monoallelically expressed in a given neuron. Axons of VR2-expressing neurons converge onto numerous glomeruli in the accessory olfactory bulb. The pattern of axonal projections is complex and variable. This wiring diagram is substantially different from that of the main olfactory system. The projection pattern is disrupted by deleting the coding region of VR2, but an unrelated seven-transmembrane protein, the odorant receptor M71, can partially substitute for VR2.

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  • Oxygen toxicity in mouse lung: pathways to cell death. Am. J. of Resp. Cell . Mol., 19:(4) 573-581; doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb.19.4.3173

    abstract

    Mice exposed to 100% O2 die after 3 or 4 d with diffuse alveolar damage and alveolar edema. Extensive cell death is evident by electron microscopy in the alveolar septa, affecting both endothelial and epithelial cells. The damaged cells show features of both apoptosis (condensation and margination of chromatin) and necrosis (disruption of the plasma membrane). The electrophoretic pattern of lung DNA indicates both internucleosomal fragmentation, characteristic of apoptosis, and overall degradation, characteristic of necrosis. Hyperoxia induces a marked increase in RNA or protein levels of p53, bax, bcl-x, and Fas, which are known to be expressed in certain types of apoptosis. However, we did not detect an increased activity of proteases belonging to the apoptosis "executioner" machinery, such as CPP32 (caspase 3), ICE (caspase 1), or cathepsin D. Furthermore, administration of an ICE-like protease inhibitor did not significantly enhance the resistance to oxygen. Additionally, neither p53-deficient mice nor lpr mice (Fas null) manifested an increased resistance to hyperoxia-induced lung damage. These results show that both necrosis and apoptosis contribute to cell death during hyperoxia. Multiple apoptotic pathways seem to be involved in this, and an antiapoptotic strategy does not attenuate alveolar damage.

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  • An early and massive wave of germinal cell apoptosis is required for the development of functional spermatogenesis. EMBO J., 16,9, 2262-2270; doi: DOI 10.1093/emboj/16.9.2262

    abstract

    Transgenic mice expressing high levels of the BclxL or Bcl2 proteins in the male germinal cells show a highly abnormal adult spermatogenesis accompanied by sterility. This appears to result from the prevention of an early and massive wave of apoptosis in the testis, which occurs among germinal cells during the first round of spermatogenesis. In contrast, sporadic apoptosis among spermatogonia, which occurs in normal adult testis, is not prevented in adult transgenic mice. The physiological early apoptotic wave in the testis is coincident, in timing and localization, with a temporary high expression of the apoptosis-promoting protein Bax, which disappears at sexual maturity. The critical role played by the intracellular balance, probably hormonally controlled, of the BclxL and Bax proteins (Bcl2 is apparently not expressed in normal mouse testis) in this early apoptotic wave is shown by the occurrence of a comparable testicular syndrome in mice defective in the bax gene. The apoptotic wave appears necessary for normal mature spermatogenesis to develop, probably because it maintains a critical cell number ratio between some germinal cell stages and Sertoli cells, whose normal functions and differentiation involve an elaborate network of communication.

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  • Mouse vaginal opening is an apoptosis-dependent process which can be prevented by the overexpression of Bcl2. Dev. Biol. 1997 Apr;184(1):115-21. 10.1006/dbio.1997.8522. S0012-1606(97)98522-5.

    abstract

    In the mouse, opening of the vaginal cavity to the skin is a late event, occurring around the fifth week of life; it can be induced in sexually immature mice by beta-estradiol injections. We have generated two lines of transgenic mice expressing the human Bcl2 protein in a variety of tissues. The vaginal cavity of the transgenic females remained permanently closed, a condition completely resistant to beta-estradiol injections; this was accompanied by a considerable distension of the genital tract. Histologic studies of vaginal sections at the time of opening to the skin in normal mice showed, by the TUNEL method which detects nuclei with fragmented DNA characteristic of apoptosis, that this event coincides with extensive apoptosis in the lower part of the vaginal mucosa, a process prevented in the bcl2 transgenic mice, which express Bcl2 in suprabasal epithelial cells and in subepithelial cells of the vaginal mucosa. In contrast, two lines of mice bearing a Bcl2 transgene placed under the control of a K10 keratin promoter, whose expression is restricted to the suprabasal layers of the epidermis, had a normal phenotype. Eyelids' formation and opening of the external ear canals, which also occur after birth in the mouse, were not altered in any of these transgenic lines; histological study of eye and ear sections at the time of these events failed to detect apoptosis. In conclusion, the tissue remodeling required to complete maturation of the mouse female genital tract at the time of puberty is an hormonally triggered apoptosis-dependent process.

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  • Selective suppression of CD44 in keratinocytes of mice bearing an antisense CD44 transgene driven by a tissue-specific promoter disrupts hyaluronate metabolism in the skin and impairs keratinocyte proliferation. Genes & Dev., 11,996-1007; doi: 10.1101/gad.11.8.996

    abstract

    CD44 is a broadly distributed polymorphic glycoprotein that serves as the principal cell-surface receptor for hyaluronate. Although CD44-mediated cell interaction with hyaluronate has been implicated in a variety of physiologic events, including cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion, cell migration, proliferation, and activation, as well as hyaluronate uptake and degradation, the biologic role of CD44 in vivo in various tissues remains to be determined. In the present work we have developed transgenic mice that express an antisense CD44 cDNA driven by the keratin-5 promoter. These mice lack detectable CD44 expression in skin keratinocytes and corneal epithelium and display abnormal hyaluronate accumulation in the superficial dermis and corneal stroma, distinct morphologic alterations of basal keratinocytes and cornea, and defective keratinocyte proliferation in response to mitogen and growth factors. These alterations are reflected by a decrease in skin elasticity, impaired local inflammatory response and tissue repair, delayed hair regrowth, and failure of the epidermis to undergo hyperplasia in response to carcinogen. Our observations indicate that two major functions of CD44 in skin are the regulation of keratinocyte proliferation in response to extracellular stimuli and the maintenance of local hyaluronate homeostasis.

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  • Bcl-2 prevents activation of CPP32 cysteine protease and cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase and U1-70 kD proteins in staurosporine-mediated apoptosis. Cell Death and Differentiation (1997) 4, 34-38

    abstract

    Members of the the Bcl-2 and ICE/ced-3 gene families have been implicated as essential components in the control of the cell death pathway. Bcl-2 overexpression can prevent programmed cell death (PCD) in different cell types. ICE/ced-3-like proteases are synthesized as pro-enzymes and are activated by limited proteolysis. When overexpressed in diverse cell types, they trigger PCD. Bcl-2 can inhibit PCD mediated by these proteases, although as yet it is not clear at what specific step in the cell death pathway the protein acts. Here, we demonstrate that CPP32/Yama/Apopain, a member of the ICE/Ced-3 gene family, is processed during staurosporine-induced apoptosis in HeLa cells and that concomitant with CPP32 activation, two other proteins, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and the U1-70 K small ribonucleoprotein, also undergo proteolysis. Overexpression of Bcl-2 prevents cleavage of CPP32, PARP and U1-70 K and protects HeLa cells from PCD. These results demonstrate that Bcl-2 controls PCD, by acting upstream of CPP32/Yama/Apopain.

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  • Systemic injection of a tripeptide inhibits the intracellular activation of CPP32-like proteases in vivo and fully protects mice against Fas-mediated fulminant liver destruction and death. J.Exp.Med., 184, 2067-2072; doi: 10.1084/jem.184.5.2067

    abstract

    Mice injected with anti-Fas antibody die within a few hours with total liver destruction due to massive apoptosis of hepatocytes. We show that this is preceded and accompanied by the sequential activation of cysteine proteases of the interleukin 1 beta-converting enzyme (ICE) and CPP32 types in the cytosol of the hepatocytes, and that proCPP32 cleavage and enzymatic activity can be prevented by intravenous injections of the tripeptide N-benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone (Z-VAD.fmk), an inhibitor of ICE-like proteases. Four Z-VAD.fmk injections at 1-hour intervals abolished all signs of liver damage after anti-Fas antibody injection and resulted in 100% long-range recovery, without residual tissue damage, from a condition otherwise uniformly fatal within < 3 hours. This treatment was effective even when delayed until some liver DNA degradation was already detectable. Injections of the tetrapeptide Ac-YVAD.cmk, more specific for the ICE-like subfamily of cysteine proteases but less cell permeable, also gave protection, but at higher doses and when injections started before that of anti-Fas antibody. These observations afford a way of temporarily modulating a number of apoptotic processes in vivo and may have important therapeutic implications in some human diseases.

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  • A bcl-2 transgene expressed in hepatocytes protects mice from fulminant liver destruction but not from rapid death induced by anti-Fas antibody injection. J.Exp.Med., 183, 1031-1036; doi: 10.1084/jem.183.3.1031

    abstract

    Stimulation of the Fas (APO-1, CD95) receptor, which is present on a variety of cells, usually triggers a process of programmed cell death. Systemic injection of anti-Fas antibody into mice leads to fulminant liver destruction resulting from massive hepatocyte apoptosis, and to rapid death. Hepatocytes bear Fas but do not express Bcl-2, a protein that plays, in a number of conditions, a protective role against apoptosis. We have generated mice whose liver expresses Bcl-2 as the result of bcl-2 transgene placed under the control of the hepatocyte-specific alpha1-anti-trypsin gene promoter, but is otherwise not distinguishable from that of normal mice. These mice display a marked to almost total resistance to liver damage induced by anti-Fas antibody injection. This protective effect of Bcl-2 occurs in the absence of significant variations, in the stimulated livers, in the level of expression of other proteins also involved in resistance or sensitivity to apoptosis, namely Bcl-x, Bax, Bad, Bak, and p53. Mice with protected livers, however, die almost as rapidly as normal mice, which indicates that acute lethality results from stimulation of Fas receptors present on other target organs or cells.

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  • Overexpression of BCL-2 in transgenic mice protects neurons from naturally occurring cell death and experimental ischemia. Neuron, 13, 1017-1030; doi: 10.1016/0896-6273(94)90266-6

    abstract

    Naturally occurring cell death (NOCD) is a prominent feature of the developing nervous system. During this process, neurons express bcl-2, a major regulator of cell death whose expression may determine whether a neuron dies or survives. To gain insight into the possible role of bcl-2 during NOCD in vivo, we generated lines of transgenic mice in which neurons overexpress the human BCL-2 protein under the control of the neuron-specific enolase (NSE) or phosphoglycerate kinase (PGK) promoters. BCL-2 overexpression reduced neuronal loss during the NOCD period, which led to hypertrophy of the nervous system. For instance, the facial nucleus and the ganglion cell layer of the retina had, respectively, 40% and 50% more neurons than normal. Consistent with this finding, more axons than normal were found in the facial and optic nerves. We also tested whether neurons overexpressing BCL-2 were more resistant to permanent ischemia induced by middle cerebral artery occlusion; in transgenic mice, the volume of the brain infarction was reduced by 50% as compared with wild-type mice. These animals represent an invaluable tool for studying the effects of increased neuronal numbers on brain function as well as the mechanisms that control the survival of neurons during development and adulthood.

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