staff

Virginie Sabado

  • Evaluating the Autonomy of the Drosophila Circadian Clock in Dissociated Neuronal Culture. Front Cell Neurosci 2017 ;11():317. 10.3389/fncel.2017.00317. PMC5643464.

    abstract

    Circadian behavioral rhythms offer an excellent model to study intricate interactions between the molecular and neuronal mechanisms of behavior. In mammals, pacemaker neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) generate rhythms cell-autonomously, which are synchronized by the network interactions within the circadian circuit to drive behavioral rhythms. However, whether this principle is universal to circadian systems in animals remains unanswered. Here, we examined the autonomy of the Drosophila circadian clock by monitoring transcriptional and post-transcriptional rhythms of individual clock neurons in dispersed culture with time-lapse microscopy. Expression patterns of the transcriptional reporter show that CLOCK/CYCLE (CLK/CYC)-mediated transcription is constantly active in dissociated clock neurons. In contrast, the expression profile of the post-transcriptional reporter indicates that PERIOD (PER) protein levels fluctuate and ~10% of cells display rhythms in PER levels with periods in the circadian range. Nevertheless, PER and TIM are enriched in the cytoplasm and no periodic PER nuclear accumulation was observed. These results suggest that repression of CLK/CYC-mediated transcription by nuclear PER is impaired, and thus the negative feedback loop of the molecular clock is incomplete in isolated clock neurons. We further demonstrate that, by pharmacological assays using the non-amidated form of neuropeptide pigment-dispersing factor (PDF), which could be specifically secreted from larval LNvs and adult s-LNvs, downstream events of the PDF signaling are partly impaired in dissociated larval clock neurons. Although non-amidated PDF is likely to be less active than the amidated one, these results point out the possibility that alteration in PDF downstream signaling may play a role in dampening of molecular rhythms in isolated clock neurons. Taken together, our results suggest that Drosophila clocks are weak oscillators that need to be in the intact circadian circuit to generate robust 24-h rhythms.

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  • Fluorescence circadian imaging reveals a PDF-dependent transcriptional regulation of the Drosophila molecular clock. Sci Rep 2017 Jan;7():41560. srep41560. 10.1038/srep41560. PMC5278502.

    abstract

    Circadian locomotor behaviour is controlled by a pacemaker circuit composed of clock-containing neurons. To interrogate the mechanistic relationship between the molecular clockwork and network communication critical to the operation of the Drosophila circadian pacemaker circuit, we established new fluorescent circadian reporters that permit single-cell recording of transcriptional and post-transcriptional rhythms in brain explants and cultured neurons. Live-imaging experiments combined with pharmacological and genetic manipulations demonstrate that the neuropeptide pigment-dispersing factor (PDF) amplifies the molecular rhythms via time-of-day- and activity-dependent upregulation of transcription from E-box-containing clock gene promoters within key pacemaker neurons. The effect of PDF on clock gene transcription and the known role of PDF in enhancing PER/TIM stability occur via independent pathways downstream of the PDF receptor, the former through a cAMP-independent mechanism and the latter through a cAMP-PKA dependent mechanism. These results confirm and extend the mechanistic understanding of the role of PDF in controlling the synchrony of the pacemaker neurons. More broadly, our results establish the utility of the new live-imaging tools for the study of molecular-neural interactions important for the operation of the circadian pacemaker circuit.

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  • A conserved role for p48 homologs in protecting dopaminergic neurons from oxidative stress. PLoS Genet. 2014 Oct;10(10):e1004718. 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004718. PGENETICS-D-14-00993. PMC4207665.

    abstract

    Parkinson's disease (PD) is the most common neurodegenerative movement disorder characterized by the progressive loss of dopaminergic (DA) neurons. Both environmental and genetic factors are thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of PD. Although several genes linked to rare familial PD have been identified, endogenous risk factors for sporadic PD, which account for the majority of PD cases, remain largely unknown. Genome-wide association studies have identified many single nucleotide polymorphisms associated with sporadic PD in neurodevelopmental genes including the transcription factor p48/ptf1a. Here we investigate whether p48 plays a role in the survival of DA neurons in Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. We show that a Drosophila p48 homolog, 48-related-2 (Fer2), is expressed in and required for the development and survival of DA neurons in the protocerebral anterior medial (PAM) cluster. Loss of Fer2 expression in adulthood causes progressive PAM neuron degeneration in aging flies along with mitochondrial dysfunction and elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, leading to the progressive locomotor deficits. The oxidative stress challenge upregulates Fer2 expression and exacerbates the PAM neuron degeneration in Fer2 loss-of-function mutants. hlh-13, the worm homolog of p48, is also expressed in DA neurons. Unlike the fly counterpart, hlh-13 loss-of-function does not impair development or survival of DA neurons under normal growth conditions. Yet, similar to Fer2, hlh-13 expression is upregulated upon an acute oxidative challenge and is required for the survival of DA neurons under oxidative stress in adult worms. Taken together, our results indicate that p48 homologs share a role in protecting DA neurons from oxidative stress and degeneration, and suggest that loss-of-function of p48 homologs in flies and worms provides novel tools to study gene-environmental interactions affecting DA neuron survival.

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