staff

Daniel Rossier

Postdoctoral fellow in Neurogenetics

  • T: +41 22 379 67 67
  • office 4082a (Sciences III)
  • A neural circuit for competing approach and defense underlying prey capture Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 118,15 (2021): e2013411118. doi:10.1073/pnas.2013411118

    abstract

    Predators must frequently balance competing approach and defensive behaviors elicited by a moving and potentially dangerous prey. Several brain circuits supporting predation have recently been localized. However, the mechanisms by which these circuits balance the conflict between approach and defense responses remain unknown. Laboratory mice initially show alternating approach and defense responses toward cockroaches, a natural prey, but with repeated exposure become avid hunters. Here, we used in vivo neural activity recording and cell-type specific manipulations in hunting male mice to identify neurons in the lateral hypothalamus and periaqueductal gray that encode and control predatory approach and defense behaviors. We found a subset of GABAergic neurons in lateral hypothalamus that specifically encoded hunting behaviors and whose stimulation triggered predation but not feeding. This population projects to the periaqueductal gray, and stimulation of these projections promoted predation. Neurons in periaqueductal gray encoded both approach and defensive behaviors but only initially when the mouse showed high levels of fear of the prey. Our findings allow us to propose that GABAergic neurons in lateral hypothalamus facilitate predation in part by suppressing defensive responses to prey encoded in the periaqueductal gray. Our results reveal a neural circuit mechanism for controlling the balance between conflicting approach and defensive behaviors elicited by the same stimulus.

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  • SARS-CoV-2 receptors and entry genes are expressed in the human olfactory neuroepithelium and brain. iScience 2020 Nov;():101839. 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101839. S2589-0042(20)31036-1. PMC7685946.

    abstract

    Reports indicate an association between COVID-19 and anosmia, as well as the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virions in the olfactory bulb. To test whether the olfactory neuroepithelium may represent a target of the virus, we generated RNA-seq libraries from human olfactory neuroepithelia, in which we found substantial expression of the genes coding for the virus receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2), and for the virus internalization enhancer TMPRSS2. We analyzed a human olfactory single-cell RNA-seq dataset and determined that sustentacular cells, which maintain the integrity of olfactory sensory neurons, express and . ACE2 protein was highly expressed in a subset of sustentacular cells in human and mouse olfactory tissues. Finally, we found transcripts in specific brain cell types, both in mice and humans. Sustentacular cells thus represent a potential entry door for SARS-CoV-2 in a neuronal sensory system that is in direct connection with the brain.

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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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  • 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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  • 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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