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199 Publications

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    08/12/19 | An automatic behavior recognition system classifies animal behaviors using movements and their temporal context.
    Ravbar P, Branson K, Simpson JH
    Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 2019 Aug 12;326:108352. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2019.108352

    Animals can perform complex and purposeful behaviors by executing simpler movements in flexible sequences. It is particularly challenging to analyze behavior sequences when they are highly variable, as is the case in language production, certain types of birdsong and, as in our experiments, flies grooming. High sequence variability necessitates rigorous quantification of large amounts of data to identify organizational principles and temporal structure of such behavior. To cope with large amounts of data, and minimize human effort and subjective bias, researchers often use automatic behavior recognition software. Our standard grooming assay involves coating flies in dust and videotaping them as they groom to remove it. The flies move freely and so perform the same movements in various orientations. As the dust is removed, their appearance changes. These conditions make it difficult to rely on precise body alignment and anatomical landmarks such as eyes or legs and thus present challenges to existing behavior classification software. Human observers use speed, location, and shape of the movements as the diagnostic features of particular grooming actions. We applied this intuition to design a new automatic behavior recognition system (ABRS) based on spatiotemporal features in the video data, heavily weighted for temporal dynamics and invariant to the animal’s position and orientation in the scene. We use these spatiotemporal features in two steps of supervised classification that reflect two time-scales at which the behavior is structured. As a proof of principle, we show results from quantification and analysis of a large data set of stimulus-induced fly grooming behaviors that would have been difficult to assess in a smaller dataset of human-annotated ethograms. While we developed and validated this approach to analyze fly grooming behavior, we propose that the strategy of combining alignment-invariant features and multi-timescale analysis may be generally useful for movement-based classification of behavior from video data.

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    08/09/19 | A Neural Circuit Arbitrates between Persistence and Withdrawal in Hungry Drosophila.
    Sayin S, De Backer J, Siju KP, Wosniack ME, Lewis LP, Frisch L, Gansen B, Schlegel P, Edmondson-Stait A, Sharifi N, Fisher CB, Calle-Schuler SA, Lauritzen JS, Bock DD, Costa M, Jefferis GS, Gjorgjieva J, Grunwald Kadow IC
    Neuron. 2019 Aug 09:. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.07.028

    In pursuit of food, hungry animals mobilize significant energy resources and overcome exhaustion and fear. How need and motivation control the decision to continue or change behavior is not understood. Using a single fly treadmill, we show that hungry flies persistently track a food odor and increase their effort over repeated trials in the absence of reward suggesting that need dominates negative experience. We further show that odor tracking is regulated by two mushroom body output neurons (MBONs) connecting the MB to the lateral horn. These MBONs, together with dopaminergic neurons and Dop1R2 signaling, control behavioral persistence. Conversely, an octopaminergic neuron, VPM4, which directly innervates one of the MBONs, acts as a brake on odor tracking by connecting feeding and olfaction. Together, our data suggest a function for the MB in internal state-dependent expression of behavior that can be suppressed by external inputs conveying a competing behavioral drive.

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    08/07/19 | A small number of cholinergic neurons mediate hyperaggression in female Drosophila.
    Palavicino-Maggio CB, Chan Y, McKellar C, Kravitz EA
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2019 Aug 07;116(34):17029-38. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1907042116

    In the Drosophila model of aggression, males and females fight in same-sex pairings, but a wide disparity exists in the levels of aggression displayed by the 2 sexes. A screen of Drosophila Flylight Gal4 lines by driving expression of the gene coding for the temperature sensitive dTRPA1 channel, yielded a single line (GMR26E01-Gal4) displaying greatly enhanced aggression when thermoactivated. Targeted neurons were widely distributed throughout male and female nervous systems, but the enhanced aggression was seen only in females. No effects were seen on female mating behavior, general arousal, or male aggression. We quantified the enhancement by measuring fight patterns characteristic of female and male aggression and confirmed that the effect was female-specific. To reduce the numbers of neurons involved, we used an intersectional approach with our library of enhancer trap flp-recombinase lines. Several crosses reduced the populations of labeled neurons, but only 1 cross yielded a large reduction while maintaining the phenotype. Of particular interest was a small group (2 to 4 pairs) of neurons in the approximate position of the pC1 cluster important in governing male and female social behavior. Female brains have approximately 20 doublesex (dsx)-expressing neurons within pC1 clusters. Using dsxFLP instead of 357FLP for the intersectional studies, we found that the same 2 to 4 pairs of neurons likely were identified with both. These neurons were cholinergic and showed no immunostaining for other transmitter compounds. Blocking the activation of these neurons blocked the enhancement of aggression.

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    08/06/19 | Transsynaptic Fish-lips signaling prevents misconnections between nonsynaptic partner olfactory neurons.
    Xie Q, Wu B, Li J, Xu C, Li H, Luginbuhl DJ, Wang X, Ward A, Luo L
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 08/2019;116(32):16068-16073. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1905832116

    Our understanding of the mechanisms of neural circuit assembly is far from complete. Identification of wiring molecules with novel mechanisms of action will provide insights into how complex and heterogeneous neural circuits assemble during development. In the olfactory system, 50 classes of olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs) make precise synaptic connections with 50 classes of partner projection neurons (PNs). Here, we performed an RNA interference screen for cell surface molecules and identified the leucine-rich repeat-containing transmembrane protein known as Fish-lips (Fili) as a novel wiring molecule in the assembly of the olfactory circuit. Fili contributes to the precise axon and dendrite targeting of a small subset of ORN and PN classes, respectively. Cell-type-specific expression and genetic analyses suggest that Fili sends a transsynaptic repulsive signal to neurites of nonpartner classes that prevents their targeting to inappropriate glomeruli in the antennal lobe.

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    Svoboda Lab
    08/03/19 | Response to "Fallacies of mice experiments".
    Gao Z, Thomas AM, Economo MN, Abrego AM, Svoboda K, De Zeeuw CI, Li N
    Neuroinformatics. 2019 Aug 03:. doi: 10.1007/s12021-019-09433-y

    In a recent Editorial, De Schutter commented on our recent study on the roles of a cortico-cerebellar loop in motor planning in mice (De Schutter 2019, Neuroinformatics, 17, 181-183, Gao et al. 2018, Nature, 563, 113-116). Two issues were raised. First, De Schutter questions the involvement of the fastigial nucleus in motor planning, rather than the dentate nucleus, given previous anatomical studies in non-human primates. Second, De Schutter suggests that our study design did not delineate different components of the behavior and the fastigial nucleus might play roles in sensory discrimination rather than motor planning. These comments are based on anatomical studies in other species and homology-based arguments and ignore key anatomical data and neurophysiological experiments from our study. Here we outline our interpretation of existing data and point out gaps in knowledge where future studies are needed.

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    The palette of tools for stimulation and regulation of neural activity is continually expanding. One of the new methods being introduced is magnetogenetics, where mechano-sensitive and thermo-sensitive ion channels are genetically engineered to be closely coupled to the iron-storage protein ferritin. Such genetic constructs could provide a powerful new way of non-invasively activating ion channels in-vivo using external magnetic fields that easily penetrate biological tissue. Initial reports that introduced this new technology have sparked a vigorous debate on the plausibility of physical mechanisms of ion channel activation by means of external magnetic fields. I argue that the initial criticisms leveled against magnetogenetics as being physically implausible were possibly based on the overly simplistic and unnecessarily pessimistic assumptions about the magnetic spin configurations of iron in ferritin protein. Additionally, all the possible magnetic-field-based mechanisms of ion channel activation in magnetogenetics might not have been fully considered. I present and propose several new magneto-mechanical and magneto-thermal mechanisms of ion channel activation by iron-loaded ferritin protein that may elucidate and clarify some of the mysteries that presently challenge our understanding of the reported biological experiments. Finally, I present some additional puzzles that will require further theoretical and experimental investigation.

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    08/01/19 | An actin-based protrusion originating from a podosome-enriched region initiates macrophage fusion.
    Faust JJ, Balabiyev A, Heddleston JM, Podolnikova NP, Baluch DP, Chew T, Ugarova TP
    Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2019 Aug 1;30(17):2254-67. doi: 10.1101/538314

    Macrophage fusion resulting in the formation of multinucleated giant cells occurs in a variety of chronic inflammatory diseases, yet the mechanism responsible for initiating macrophage fusion is unknown. Here, we used live cell imaging to show that actin-based protrusions at the leading edge initiate macrophage fusion. Phase contrast video microscopy demonstrated that in the majority of events, short protrusions (3 ± 1 μm) between two closely apposed cells initiated fusion, but occasionally we observed long protrusions (16 ± 7 μm). Using macrophages isolated from LifeAct mice and imaging with lattice light sheet microscopy, we further found that fusion-competent actin-based protrusions formed at sites enriched in podosomes. Inducing fusion in mixed populations of GFP- and mRFP-LifeAct macrophages showed rapid spatial overlap between GFP and RFP signal at the site of fusion. Cytochalasin B strongly reduced fusion and when rare fusion events occurred, protrusions were not observed. Fusion of macrophages deficient in Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein and Cdc42, key molecules involved in the formation of actin-based protrusions and podosomes, was also impaired both in vitro and in vivo. Finally, inhibiting the activity of the Arp2/3 complex decreased fusion and podosome formation. Together these data indicate that an actin-based protrusion formed at the leading edge macrophage fusion.

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    08/01/19 | Comparing 3D ultrastructure of presynaptic and postsynaptic mitochondria.
    Delgado T, Petralia RS, Freeman DW, Sedlacek M, Wang Y, Brenowitz SD, Sheu S, Gu JW, Kapogiannis D, Mattson MP, Yao PJ
    Biology Open. 2019 Aug 01;8(8):. doi: 10.1242/bio.044834

    Serial-section electron microscopy such as FIB-SEM (focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy) has become an important tool for neuroscientists to trace the trajectories and global architecture of neural circuits in the brain, as well as to visualize the 3D ultrastructure of cellular organelles in neurons. In this study, we examined 3D features of mitochondria in electron microscope images generated from serial sections of four regions of mouse brains: nucleus accumbens (NA), hippocampal CA1, somatosensory cortex and dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN). We compared mitochondria in the presynaptic terminals to those in the postsynaptic/dendritic compartments, and we focused on the shape and size of mitochondria. A common feature of mitochondria among the four brain regions is that presynaptic mitochondria generally are small and short, and most of them do not extend beyond presynaptic terminals. In contrast, the majority of postsynaptic/dendritic mitochondria are large and many of them spread through significant portions of the dendrites. Comparing among the brain areas, the cerebral cortex and DCN have even larger postsynaptic/dendritic mitochondria than the NA and CA1. Our analysis reveals that mitochondria in neurons are differentially sized and arranged according to their subcellular locations, suggesting a spatial organizing principle of mitochondria at the synapse.

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    Looger Lab
    08/01/19 | Inaccurate secondary structure predictions often indicate protein fold switching.
    Mishra S, Looger LL, Porter LL
    Protein Science. 2019 Aug;28(9):1487-93. doi: 10.1002/pro.3664

    Although most proteins conform to the classical one-structure/one-function paradigm, an increasing number of proteins with dual structures and functions have been discovered. In response to cellular stimuli, such proteins undergo structural changes sufficiently dramatic to remodel even their secondary structures and domain organization. This "fold-switching" capability fosters protein multi-functionality, enabling cells to establish tight control over various biochemical processes. Accurate predictions of fold-switching proteins could both suggest underlying mechanisms for uncharacterized biological processes and reveal potential drug targets. Recently, we developed a prediction method for fold-switching proteins using structure-based thermodynamic calculations and discrepancies between predicted and experimentally determined protein secondary structure. Here we seek to leverage the negative information found in these secondary structure prediction discrepancies. To do this, we quantified secondary structure prediction accuracies of 192 known fold-switching regions (FSRs) within solved protein structures found in the Protein Data Bank (PDB). We find that the secondary structure prediction accuracies for these FSRs vary widely. Inaccurate secondary structure predictions are strongly associated with fold-switching proteins compared to equally long segments of non-fold-switching proteins selected at random. These inaccurate predictions are enriched in helix-to-strand and strand-to-coil discrepancies. Finally, we find that most proteins with inaccurate secondary structure predictions are underrepresented in the PDB compared with their alternatively folded cognates, suggesting that unequal representation of fold-switching conformers within the PDB could be an important cause of inaccurate secondary structure predictions. These results demonstrate that inconsistent secondary structure predictions can serve as a useful preliminary marker of fold switching. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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    Looger Lab
    08/01/19 | Quantitative in vivo imaging of neuronal glucose concentrations with a genetically encoded fluorescence lifetime sensor.
    Díaz-García CM, Lahmann C, Martínez-François JR, Li B, Koveal D, Nathwani N, Rahman M, Keller JP, Marvin JS, Looger LL, Yellen G
    Journal of Neuroscience Research. 2019 Aug 01;97(8):946-60. doi: 10.1002/jnr.24433

    Glucose is an essential source of energy for the brain. Recently, the development of genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors has allowed real time visualization of glucose dynamics from individual neurons and astrocytes. A major difficulty for this approach, even for ratiometric sensors, is the lack of a practical method to convert such measurements into actual concentrations in ex vivo brain tissue or in vivo. Fluorescence lifetime imaging provides a strategy to overcome this. In a previous study, we reported the lifetime glucose sensor iGlucoSnFR-TS (then called SweetieTS) for monitoring changes in neuronal glucose levels in response to stimulation. This genetically encoded sensor was generated by combining the Thermus thermophilus glucose-binding protein with a circularly permuted variant of the monomeric fluorescent protein T-Sapphire. Here, we provide more details on iGlucoSnFR-TS design and characterization, as well as pH and temperature sensitivities. For accurate estimation of glucose concentrations, the sensor must be calibrated at the same temperature as the experiments. We find that when the extracellular glucose concentration is in the range 2-10 mM, the intracellular glucose concentration in hippocampal neurons from acute brain slices is ~20% of the nominal external glucose concentration (~0.4-2 mM). We also measured the cytosolic neuronal glucose concentration in vivo, finding a range of ~0.7-2.5 mM in cortical neurons from awake mice.

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