I graduated from Reed College in Portland, OR in 2000. I conducted my undergraduate senior thesis research with Larry Trussell at Oregon Health Sciences University. I then spent three years as a research technician, studying ion channel physiology and the regulation of neurotransmitter release. I earned my Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Austin, where I investigated the cellular and synaptic properties of midbrain dopamine neurons as a potential substrate for reward-dependent learning and addictive disorders in the laboratory of Hitoshi Morikawa,. I joined Jeff Magee’s lab here at Janelia in 2009.
I am interested in understanding how integrative operations in single neurons give rise to circuit-level computation. My approach employs electrophysiological, optical, and genetic techniques to assess the biophysical mechanisms neurons use to perform input-output transformations. In particular, I focus on how excitatory neurons in hippocampal and cortical networks process spatio-temporal patterns of dendritic input.
Active dendritic synaptic integration enhances the computational power of neurons. Such nonlinear processing generates an object-localization signal in the apical dendritic tuft of layer 5B cortical pyramidal neurons during sensory-motor behavior. Here, we employ electrophysiological and optical approaches in brain slices and behaving animals to investigate how excitatory synaptic input to this distal dendritic compartment influences neuronal output. We find that active dendritic integration throughout the apical dendritic tuft is highly compartmentalized by voltage-gated potassium (KV) channels. A high density of both transient and sustained KV channels was observed in all apical dendritic compartments. These channels potently regulated the interaction between apical dendritic tuft, trunk, and axosomatic integration zones to control neuronal output in vitro as well as the engagement of dendritic nonlinear processing in vivo during sensory-motor behavior. Thus, KV channels dynamically tune the interaction between active dendritic integration compartments in layer 5B pyramidal neurons to shape behaviorally relevant neuronal computations.
An optimized fluorescent probe for visualizing glutamate neurotransmission.Nature methods 2013
J. S. Marvin, B. G. Borghuis, L. Tian, J. Cichon, M. T. Harnett, J. Akerboom, A. Gordus, S. L. Renninger, T. Chen, C. I. Bargmann, M. B. Orger, E. R. Schreiter, J. B. Demb, W. Gan, A. S. Hires, and L. L. Looger Nature methods, 10:162-70 (2013)
We describe an intensity-based glutamate-sensing fluorescent reporter (iGluSnFR) with signal-to-noise ratio and kinetics appropriate for in vivo imaging. We engineered iGluSnFR in vitro to maximize its fluorescence change, and we validated its utility for visualizing glutamate release by neurons and astrocytes in increasingly intact neurological systems. In hippocampal culture, iGluSnFR detected single field stimulus-evoked glutamate release events. In pyramidal neurons in acute brain slices, glutamate uncaging at single spines showed that iGluSnFR responds robustly and specifically to glutamate in situ, and responses correlate with voltage changes. In mouse retina, iGluSnFR-expressing neurons showed intact light-evoked excitatory currents, and the sensor revealed tonic glutamate signaling in response to light stimuli. In worms, glutamate signals preceded and predicted postsynaptic calcium transients. In zebrafish, iGluSnFR revealed spatial organization of direction-selective synaptic activity in the optic tectum. Finally, in mouse forelimb motor cortex, iGluSnFR expression in layer V pyramidal neurons revealed task-dependent single-spine activity during running.
Active dendrites provide neurons with powerful processing capabilities. However, little is known about the role of neuronal dendrites in behaviourally related circuit computations. Here we report that a novel global dendritic nonlinearity is involved in the integration of sensory and motor information within layer 5 pyramidal neurons during an active sensing behaviour. Layer 5 pyramidal neurons possess elaborate dendritic arborizations that receive functionally distinct inputs, each targeted to spatially separate regions. At the cellular level, coincident input from these segregated pathways initiates regenerative dendritic electrical events that produce bursts of action potential output and circuits featuring this powerful dendritic nonlinearity can implement computations based on input correlation. To examine this in vivo we recorded dendritic activity in layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the barrel cortex using two-photon calcium imaging in mice performing an object-localization task. Large-amplitude, global calcium signals were observed throughout the apical tuft dendrites when active touch occurred at particular object locations or whisker angles. Such global calcium signals are produced by dendritic plateau potentials that require both vibrissal sensory input and primary motor cortex activity. These data provide direct evidence of nonlinear dendritic processing of correlated sensory and motor information in the mammalian neocortex during active sensation.
Dendritic spines are the nearly ubiquitous site of excitatory synaptic input onto neurons and as such are critically positioned to influence diverse aspects of neuronal signalling. Decades of theoretical studies have proposed that spines may function as highly effective and modifiable chemical and electrical compartments that regulate synaptic efficacy, integration and plasticity. Experimental studies have confirmed activity-dependent structural dynamics and biochemical compartmentalization by spines. However, there is a longstanding debate over the influence of spines on the electrical aspects of synaptic transmission and dendritic operation. Here we measure the amplitude ratio of spine head to parent dendrite voltage across a range of dendritic compartments and calculate the associated spine neck resistance (R(neck)) for spines at apical trunk dendrites in rat hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons. We find that R(neck) is large enough (~500 MΩ) to amplify substantially the spine head depolarization associated with a unitary synaptic input by ~1.5- to ~45-fold, depending on parent dendritic impedance. A morphologically realistic compartmental model capable of reproducing the observed spatial profile of the amplitude ratio indicates that spines provide a consistently high-impedance input structure throughout the dendritic arborization. Finally, we demonstrate that the amplification produced by spines encourages electrical interaction among coactive inputs through an R(neck)-dependent increase in spine head voltage-gated conductance activation. We conclude that the electrical properties of spines promote nonlinear dendritic processing and associated forms of plasticity and storage, thus fundamentally enhancing the computational capabilities of neurons.
Prior Publications (9)
IP3 receptor sensitization during in vivo amphetamine experience enhances NMDA receptor plasticity in dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmental area.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2010
K. Ahn, B. E. Bernier, M. T. Harnett, and H. Morikawa The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 30:6689-99 (2010)
Synaptic plasticity in the mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system is critically involved in reward-based conditioning and the development of drug addiction. Ca2+ signals triggered by postsynaptic action potentials (APs) drive the induction of synaptic plasticity in the CNS. However, it is not clear how AP-evoked Ca2+ signals and the resulting synaptic plasticity are altered during in vivo exposure to drugs of abuse. We have recently described long-term potentiation (LTP) of NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-mediated transmission onto DA neurons that is induced in a manner dependent on bursts of APs. LTP induction requires amplification of burst-evoked Ca2+ signals by preceding activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) generating inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3). In this study, using brain slices prepared from male rats, we show that repeated in vivo exposure to the psychostimulant amphetamine (5 mg/kg, i.p., 3-7 d) upregulates mGluR-dependent facilitation of burst-evoked Ca2+ signals in DA neurons of the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Protein kinase A (PKA)-induced sensitization of IP3 receptors mediates this upregulation of mGluR action. As a consequence, NMDAR-mediated transmission becomes more susceptible to LTP induction after repeated amphetamine exposure. We have also found that the magnitude of amphetamine-conditioned place preference (CPP) in behaving rats correlates with the magnitude of mGluR-dependent Ca2+ signal facilitation measured in VTA slices prepared from these rats. Furthermore, the development of amphetamine CPP is significantly attenuated by intra-VTA infusion of the PKA inhibitor H89. We propose that enhancement of mGluR-dependent NMDAR plasticity in the VTA may promote the learning of environmental stimuli repeatedly associated with amphetamine experience.
Bursts of spikes triggered by sensory stimuli in midbrain dopamine neurons evoke phasic release of dopamine in target brain areas, driving reward-based reinforcement learning and goal-directed behavior. NMDA-type glutamate receptors (NMDARs) play a critical role in the generation of these bursts. Here we report LTP of NMDAR-mediated excitatory transmission onto dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra. Induction of LTP requires burst-evoked Ca2+ signals amplified by preceding metabotropic neurotransmitter inputs in addition to the activation of NMDARs themselves. PKA activity gates LTP induction by regulating the magnitude of Ca2+ signal amplification. This form of plasticity is associative, input specific, reversible, and depends on the relative timing of synaptic input and postsynaptic bursting in a manner analogous to the timing rule for cue-reward learning paradigms in behaving animals. NMDAR plasticity might thus represent a potential neural substrate for conditioned dopamine neuron burst responses to environmental stimuli acquired during reward-based learning.
Administration of aminoglycoside antibiotics can precipitate sudden, profound bouts of weakness that have been attributed to block of presynaptic voltage-activated calcium channels (VACCs) and failure of neuromuscular transmission. This serious adverse drug reaction is more likely in neuromuscular diseases such as myasthenia gravis. The relatively low affinity of VACC for aminoglycosides prompted us to explore alternative mechanisms. We hypothesized that the presynaptic Ca(2+)-sensing receptor (CaSR) may contribute to aminoglycoside-induced weakness due to its role in modulating synaptic transmission and its sensitivity to aminoglycosides in heterologous expression systems. We have previously shown that presynaptic CaSR controls a non-selective cation channel (NSCC) that regulates nerve terminal excitability and transmitter release. Using direct, electrophysiological recording, we report that neuronal VACCs are inhibited by neomycin (IC(50) 830 +/- 110 microM) at a much lower affinity than CaSR-modulated NSCC currents recorded from acutely isolated presynaptic terminals (synaptosomes; IC(50) 20 +/- 1 microM). Thus, at clinically relevant concentrations, aminoglycoside-induced weakness is likely precipitated by enhanced CaSR activation and subsequent decrease in terminal excitability rather than through direct inhibition of VACCs themselves.
Calcium-sensing receptor activation depresses synaptic transmission.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2008
C. G. Phillips, M. T. Harnett, W. Chen, and S. M. Smith The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 28:12062-70 (2008)
At excitatory synapses, decreases in cleft [Ca] arising from activity-dependent transmembrane Ca flux reduce the probability of subsequent transmitter release. Intense neural activity, induced by physiological and pathological stimuli, disturb the external microenvironment reducing extracellular [Ca] ([Ca](o)) and thus may impair neurotransmission. Increases in [Ca](o) activate the extracellular calcium sensing receptor (CaSR) which in turn inhibits nonselective cation channels at the majority of cortical nerve terminals. This pathway may modulate synaptic transmission by attenuating the impact of decreases in [Ca](o) on synaptic transmission. Using patch-clamp recording from isolated cortical terminals, cortical neuronal pairs and isolated neuronal soma we examined the modulation of synaptic transmission by CaSR. EPSCs were increased on average by 88% in reduced affinity CaSR-mutant (CaSR(-/-)) neurons compared with wild-type. Variance-mean analysis indicates that the enhanced synaptic transmission was due largely to an increase in average probability of release (0.27 vs 0.46 for wild-type vs CaSR(-/-) pairs) with little change in quantal size (23 +/- 4 pA vs 22 +/- 4 pA) or number of release sites (11 vs 13). In addition, the CaSR agonist spermidine reduced synaptic transmission and increased paired-pulse depression at physiological [Ca](o). Spermidine did not affect quantal size, consistent with a presynaptic mechanism of action, nor did it affect voltage-activated Ca channel currents. In summary, reduced CaSR function enhanced synaptic transmission and CaSR stimulation had the opposite effect. Thus CaSR provides a mechanism that may compensate for the fall in release probability that accompanies decreases in [Ca](o).
The endogenous polyamines spermine, spermidine and putrescine are present at high concentrations inside neurons and can be released into the extracellular space where they have been shown to modulate ion channels. Here, we have examined polyamine modulation of voltage-activated Ca(2+) channels (VACCs) and voltage-activated Na(+) channels (VANCs) in rat superior cervical ganglion neurons using whole-cell voltage-clamp at physiological divalent concentrations. Polyamines inhibited VACCs in a concentration-dependent manner with IC(50)s for spermine, spermidine, and putrescine of 4.7 +/- 0.7, 11.2 +/- 1.4 and 90 +/- 36 mM, respectively. Polyamines caused inhibition by shifting the VACC half-activation voltage (V(0.5)) to depolarized potentials and by reducing total VACC permeability. The shift was described by Gouy-Chapman-Stern theory with a surface charge density of 0.120 +/- 0.005 e(-) nm(-2) and a surface potential of -19 mV. Attenuation of spermidine and spermine inhibition of VACC at decreased pH was explained by H(+) titration of surface charge. Polyamine-mediated effects also decreased at elevated pH due to the inhibitors having lower valence and being less effective at screening surface charge. Polyamines affected VANC currents indirectly by reducing TTX inhibition of VANCs at high pH. This may reflect surface charge induced decreases in the local TTX concentration or polyamine-TTX interactions. In conclusion, polyamines inhibit neuronal VACCs via complex interactions with extracellular H(+) and Ca. Many of the observed effects can be explained by a model incorporating polyamine binding, H(+) binding and surface charge screening.
Differential regulation of action potential- and metabotropic glutamate receptor-induced Ca2+ signals by inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate in dopaminergic neurons.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2007
G. Cui, B. E. Bernier, M. T. Harnett, and H. Morikawa The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 27:4776-85 (2007)
Ca2+ signals associated with action potentials (APs) and metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) activation exert distinct influences on neuronal activity and synaptic plasticity. However, it is not clear how these two types of Ca2+ signals are differentially regulated by neurotransmitter inputs in a single neuron. We investigated this issue in dopaminergic neurons of the ventral midbrain using brain slices. Intracellular Ca2+ was assessed by measuring Ca2+-sensitive K+ currents or imaging the fluorescence of Ca2+ indicator dyes. Tonic activation of metabotropic neurotransmitter receptors (mGluRs, alpha1 adrenergic receptors, and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors), attained by superfusion of agonists or weak, sustained (approximately 1 s) synaptic stimulation, augmented AP-induced Ca2+ transients. In contrast, Ca2+ signals elicited by strong, transient (50-200 ms) activation of mGluRs with aspartate iontophoresis were suppressed by superfusion of agonists. These opposing effects on Ca2+ signals were both mediated by an increase in intracellular inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) levels, because they were blocked by heparin, an IP3 receptor antagonist, and reproduced by photolytic application of IP3. Evoking APs repetitively at low frequency (2 Hz) caused inactivation of IP3 receptors and abolished IP3 facilitation of single AP-induced Ca2+ signals, whereas facilitation of Ca2+ signals triggered by bursts of APs (five at 20 Hz) was attenuated by less than half. We further obtained evidence suggesting that the psychostimulant amphetamine may augment burst-induced Ca2+ signals via both depression of basal firing and production of IP3. We propose that intracellular IP3 tone provides a mechanism to selectively amplify burst-induced Ca2+ signals in dopaminergic neurons.
Transcriptional signatures of cellular plasticity in mice lacking the alpha1 subunit of GABAA receptors.The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience 2006
I. Ponomarev, R. Maiya, M. T. Harnett, G. L. Schafer, A. E. Ryabinin, Y. A. Blednov, H. Morikawa, S. L. Boehm, G. E. Homanics, A. E. Berman, A. Berman, K. H. Lodowski, S. E. Bergeson, and A. R. Harris The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 26:5673-83 (2006)
GABAA receptors mediate the majority of inhibitory neurotransmission in the CNS. Genetic deletion of the alpha1 subunit of GABAA receptors results in a loss of alpha1-mediated fast inhibitory currents and a marked reduction in density of GABAA receptors. A grossly normal phenotype of alpha1-deficient mice suggests the presence of neuronal adaptation to these drastic changes at the GABA synapse. We used cDNA microarrays to identify transcriptional fingerprints of cellular plasticity in response to altered GABAergic inhibition in the cerebral cortex and cerebellum of alpha1 mutants. In silico analysis of 982 mutation-regulated transcripts highlighted genes and functional groups involved in regulation of neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission, suggesting an adaptive response of the brain to an altered inhibitory tone. Public gene expression databases permitted identification of subsets of transcripts enriched in excitatory and inhibitory neurons as well as some glial cells, providing evidence for cellular plasticity in individual cell types. Additional analysis linked some transcriptional changes to cellular phenotypes observed in the knock-out mice and suggested several genes, such as the early growth response 1 (Egr1), small GTP binding protein Rac1 (Rac1), neurogranin (Nrgn), sodium channel beta4 subunit (Scn4b), and potassium voltage-gated Kv4.2 channel (Kcnd2) as cell type-specific markers of neuronal plasticity. Furthermore, transcriptional activation of genes enriched in Bergman glia suggests an active role of these astrocytes in synaptic plasticity. Overall, our results suggest that the loss of alpha1-mediated fast inhibition produces diverse transcriptional responses that act to regulate neuronal excitability of individual neurons and stabilize neuronal networks, which may account for the lack of severe abnormalities in alpha1 null mutants.
Ethanol stimulates the firing activity of midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons, leading to enhanced dopaminergic transmission in the mesolimbic system. This effect is thought to underlie the behavioral reinforcement of alcohol intake. Ethanol has been shown to directly enhance the intrinsic pacemaker activity of DA neurons, yet the cellular mechanism mediating this excitation remains poorly understood. The hyperpolarization-activated cation current, Ih, is known to contribute to the pacemaker firing of DA neurons. To determine the role of Ih in ethanol excitation of DA neurons, we performed patch-clamp recordings in acutely prepared mouse midbrain slices. Superfusion of ethanol increased the spontaneous firing frequency of DA neurons in a reversible fashion. Treatment with ZD7288, a blocker of Ih, irreversibly depressed basal firing frequency and significantly attenuated the stimulatory effect of ethanol on firing. Furthermore, ethanol reversibly augmented Ih amplitude and accelerated its activation kinetics. This effect of ethanol was accompanied by a shift in the voltage dependence of Ih activation to more depolarized potentials and an increase in the maximum Ih conductance. Cyclic AMP mediated the depolarizing shift in Ih activation but not the increase in the maximum conductance. Finally, repeated ethanol treatment in vivo induced downregulation of Ih density in DA neurons and an accompanying reduction in the magnitude of ethanol stimulation of firing. These results suggest an important role of Ih in the reinforcing actions of ethanol and in the neuroadaptations underlying escalation of alcohol consumption associated with alcoholism.
Functional properties of a brain-specific NH2-terminally spliced modulator of Kv4 channels.American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology 2003
L. M. Boland, M. Jiang, S. Lee, S. C. Fahrenkrug, M. T. Harnett, and S. M. O'Grady American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology, 285:C161-70 (2003)
Kv4/K channel-interacting protein (KChIP) potassium channels are a major class of rapidly inactivating K channels in brain and heart. Considering the importance of alternative splicing to the quantitative features of KChIP gating modulation, a previously uncharacterized splice form of KChIP1 was functionally characterized. The KChIP1b splice variant differs from the previously characterized KChIP1a splice form by the inclusion of a novel amino-terminal region that is encoded by an alternative exon that is conserved in mouse, rat, and human genes. The expression of KChIP1b mRNA was high in brain but undetectable in heart or liver by RT-PCR. In cerebellar tissue, KChIP1b and KChIP1a transcripts were expressed at nearly equal levels. Coexpression of KChIP1b or KChIP1a with Kv4.2 channels in oocytes slowed K current decay and destabilized open-inactivated channel gating. Like other KChIP subunits, KChIP1b increased Kv4.2 current amplitude and KChIP1b also shifted Kv4.2 conductance-voltage curves by -10 mV. The development of Kv4.2 channel inactivation accessed from closed gating states was faster with KChIP1b coexpression. Deletion of the novel amino-terminal region in KChIP1b selectively altered the subunit's modulation of Kv4.2 closed inactivation gating. The role of the KChIP1b NH2-terminal region was further confirmed by direct comparison of the properties of the NH2-terminal deletion mutant and the KChIP1a subunit, which is encoded by a transcript that lacks the novel exon. The features of KChIP1b modulation of Kv4 channels are likely to be conserved in mammals and demonstrate a role for the KChIP1 NH2-terminal region in the regulation of closed inactivation gating.