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197 Publications

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    04/06/22 | Voltage imaging identifies spinal circuits that modulate locomotor adaptation in zebrafish.
    Böhm UL, Kimura Y, Kawashima T, Ahrens MB, Higashijima S, Engert F, Cohen AE
    Neuron. 2022 Apr 06;110(7):1211-1222.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.01.001

    Motor systems must continuously adapt their output to maintain a desired trajectory. While the spinal circuits underlying rhythmic locomotion are well described, little is known about how the network modulates its output strength. A major challenge has been the difficulty of recording from spinal neurons during behavior. Here, we use voltage imaging to map the membrane potential of large populations of glutamatergic neurons throughout the spinal cord of the larval zebrafish during fictive swimming in a virtual environment. We characterized a previously undescribed subpopulation of tonic-spiking ventral V3 neurons whose spike rate correlated with swimming strength and bout length. Optogenetic activation of V3 neurons led to stronger swimming and longer bouts but did not affect tail beat frequency. Genetic ablation of V3 neurons led to reduced locomotor adaptation. The power of voltage imaging allowed us to identify V3 neurons as a critical driver of locomotor adaptation in zebrafish.

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    04/05/22 | Learning to represent continuous variables in heterogeneous neural networks
    Ran Darshan , Alexander Rivkind
    Cell Reports. 2022 Apr 05;39(1):110612. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110612

    Manifold attractors are a key framework for understanding how continuous variables, such as position or head direction, are encoded in the brain. In this framework, the variable is represented along a continuum of persistent neuronal states which forms a manifold attactor. Neural networks with symmetric synaptic connectivity that can implement manifold attractors have become the dominant model in this framework. In addition to a symmetric connectome, these networks imply homogeneity of individual-neuron tuning curves and symmetry of the representational space; these features are largely inconsistent with neurobiological data. Here, we developed a theory for computations based on manifold attractors in trained neural networks and show how these manifolds can cope with diverse neuronal responses, imperfections in the geometry of the manifold and a high level of synaptic heterogeneity. In such heterogeneous trained networks, a continuous representational space emerges from a small set of stimuli used for training. Furthermore, we find that the network response to external inputs depends on the geometry of the representation and on the level of synaptic heterogeneity in an analytically tractable and interpretable way. Finally, we show that a too complex geometry of the neuronal representation impairs the attractiveness of the manifold and may lead to its destabilization. Our framework reveals that continuous features can be represented in the recurrent dynamics of heterogeneous networks without assuming unrealistic symmetry. It suggests that the representational space of putative manifold attractors in the brain dictates the dynamics in their vicinity.

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    03/31/22 | A natural timeless polymorphism allowing circadian clock synchronization in "white nights".
    Lamaze A, Chen C, Leleux S, Xu M, George R, Stanewsky R
    Nature Communications. 2022 Mar 31;13(1):1724. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-29293-6

    Daily temporal organisation offers a fitness advantage and is determined by an interplay between environmental rhythms and circadian clocks. While light:dark cycles robustly synchronise circadian clocks, it is not clear how animals experiencing only weak environmental cues deal with this problem. Like humans, Drosophila originate in sub-Saharan Africa and spread North up to the polar circle, experiencing long summer days or even constant light (LL). LL disrupts clock function, due to constant activation of CRYPTOCHROME, which induces degradation of the clock protein TIMELESS (TIM), but temperature cycles are able to overcome these deleterious effects of LL. We show here that for this to occur a recently evolved natural timeless allele (ls-tim) is required, encoding the less light-sensitive L-TIM in addition to S-TIM, the only form encoded by the ancient s-tim allele. We show that only ls-tim flies can synchronise their behaviour to semi-natural conditions typical for Northern European summers, suggesting that this functional gain is driving the Northward ls-tim spread.

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    09/28/21 | Connectome-constrained Latent Variable Model of Whole-Brain Neural Activity
    Lu Mi , Richard Xu , Sridhama Prakhya , Albert Lin , Nir Shavit , Aravinthan Samuel , Srinivas C Turaga
    International Conference on Learning Representations. 09/2021:

    The availability of both anatomical connectivity and brain-wide neural activity measurements in C. elegans make the worm a promising system for learning detailed, mechanistic models of an entire nervous system in a data-driven way. However, one faces several challenges when constructing such a model. We often do not have direct experimental access to important modeling details such as single-neuron dynamics and the signs and strengths of the synaptic connectivity. Further, neural activity can only be measured in a subset of neurons, often indirectly via calcium imaging, and significant trial-to-trial variability has been observed. To address these challenges, we introduce a connectome-constrained latent variable model (CC-LVM) of the unobserved voltage dynamics of the entire C. elegans nervous system and the observed calcium signals. We used the framework of variational autoencoders to fit parameters of the mechanistic simulation constituting the generative model of the LVM to calcium imaging observations. A variational approximate posterior distribution over latent voltage traces for all neurons is efficiently inferred using an inference network, and constrained by a prior distribution given by the biophysical simulation of neural dynamics. We applied this model to an experimental whole-brain dataset, and found that connectomic constraints enable our LVM to predict the activity of neurons whose activity were withheld significantly better than models unconstrained by a connectome. We explored models with different degrees of biophysical detail, and found that models with realistic conductance-based synapses provide markedly better predictions than current-based synapses for this system.

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    03/27/22 | Petascale pipeline for precise alignment of images from serial section electron microscopy.
    Sergiy Popovych , Thomas Macrina , Nico Kemnitz , Manuel Castro , Barak Nehoran , Zhen Jia , J. Alexander Bae , Eric Mitchell , Shang Mu , Eric T. Trautman , Stephan Saalfeld , Kai Li , Sebastian Seung
    bioRxiv. 2022 Mar 27:. doi: 10.1101/2022.03.25.485816

    The reconstruction of neural circuits from serial section electron microscopy (ssEM) images is being accelerated by automatic image segmentation methods. Segmentation accuracy is often limited by the preceding step of aligning 2D section images to create a 3D image stack. Precise and robust alignment in the presence of image artifacts is challenging, especially as datasets are attaining the petascale. We present a computational pipeline for aligning ssEM images with several key elements. Self-supervised convolutional nets are trained via metric learning to encode and align image pairs, and they are used to initialize iterative fine-tuning of alignment. A procedure called vector voting increases robustness to image artifacts or missing image data. For speedup the series is divided into blocks that are distributed to computational workers for alignment. The blocks are aligned to each other by composing transformations with decay, which achieves a global alignment without resorting to a time-consuming global optimization. We apply our pipeline to a whole fly brain dataset, and show improved accuracy relative to prior state of the art. We also demonstrate that our pipeline scales to a cubic millimeter of mouse visual cortex. Our pipeline is publicly available through two open source Python packages.

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    03/26/22 | Transverse endoplasmic reticulum expansion in hereditary spastic paraplegia corticospinal axons.
    Zhu P, Hung H, Batchenkova N, Nixon-Abell J, Henderson J, Zheng P, Renvoisé B, Pang S, Xu CS, Saalfeld S, Funke J, Xie Y, Svara F, Hess HF, Blackstone C
    Human Molecular Genetics. 2022 Mar 26:. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddac072

    Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) comprise a large group of inherited neurologic disorders affecting the longest corticospinal axons (SPG1-86 plus others), with shared manifestations of lower extremity spasticity and gait impairment. Common autosomal dominant HSPs are caused by mutations in genes encoding the microtubule-severing ATPase spastin (SPAST; SPG4), the membrane-bound GTPase atlastin-1 (ATL1; SPG3A), and the reticulon-like, microtubule-binding protein REEP1 (REEP1; SPG31). These proteins bind one another and function in shaping the tubular endoplasmic reticulum (ER) network. Typically, mouse models of HSPs have mild, later-onset phenotypes, possibly reflecting far shorter lengths of their corticospinal axons relative to humans. Here, we have generated a robust, double mutant mouse model of HSP in which atlastin-1 is genetically modified with a K80A knock-in (KI) missense change that abolishes its GTPase activity, while its binding partner Reep1 is knocked out. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice exhibit early-onset and rapidly progressive declines in several motor function tests. Also, ER in mutant corticospinal axons dramatically expands transversely and periodically in a mutation dosage-dependent manner to create a ladder-like appearance, based on reconstructions of focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy datasets using machine learning-based auto-segmentation. In lockstep with changes in ER morphology, axonal mitochondria are fragmented and proportions of hypophosphorylated neurofilament H and M subunits are dramatically increased in Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- spinal cord. Co-occurrence of these findings links ER morphology changes to alterations in mitochondrial morphology and cytoskeletal organization. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice represent an early-onset rodent HSP model with robust behavioral and cellular readouts for testing novel therapies.

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    Svoboda Lab
    03/17/22 | A midbrain-thalamus-cortex circuit reorganizes cortical dynamics to initiate movement.
    Inagaki HK, Chen S, Ridder MC, Sah P, Li N, Yang Z, Hasanbegovic H, Gao Z, Gerfen CR, Svoboda K
    Cell. 2022 Mar 17;185(8):1065. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2022.02.006

    Motor behaviors are often planned long before execution but only released after specific sensory events. Planning and execution are each associated with distinct patterns of motor cortex activity. Key questions are how these dynamic activity patterns are generated and how they relate to behavior. Here, we investigate the multi-regional neural circuits that link an auditory "Go cue" and the transition from planning to execution of directional licking. Ascending glutamatergic neurons in the midbrain reticular and pedunculopontine nuclei show short latency and phasic changes in spike rate that are selective for the Go cue. This signal is transmitted via the thalamus to the motor cortex, where it triggers a rapid reorganization of motor cortex state from planning-related activity to a motor command, which in turn drives appropriate movement. Our studies show how midbrain can control cortical dynamics via the thalamus for rapid and precise motor behavior.

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    03/16/22 | Small molecule inhibitors of mammalian glycosylation.
    Almahayni K, Spiekermann M, Fiore A, Yu G, Pedram K, Möckl L
    Matrix Biology Plus. 2022 Mar 16;16:100108. doi: 10.1016/j.mbplus.2022.100108

    Glycans are one of the fundamental biopolymers encountered in living systems. Compared to polynucleotide and polypeptide biosynthesis, polysaccharide biosynthesis is a uniquely combinatorial process to which interdependent enzymes with seemingly broad specificities contribute. The resulting intracellular cell surface, and secreted glycans play key roles in health and disease, from embryogenesis to cancer progression. The study and modulation of glycans in cell and organismal biology is aided by small molecule inhibitors of the enzymes involved in glycan biosynthesis. In this review, we survey the arsenal of currently available inhibitors, focusing on agents which have been independently validated in diverse systems. We highlight the utility of these inhibitors and drawbacks to their use, emphasizing the need for innovation for basic research as well as for therapeutic applications.

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    03/15/22 | Myosin VI regulates the spatial organisation of mammalian transcription initiation.
    Hari-Gupta Y, Fili N, Dos Santos Á, Cook AW, Gough RE, Reed HC, Wang L, Aaron J, Venit T, Wait E, Grosse-Berkenbusch A, Gebhardt JC, Percipalle P, Chew T, Martin-Fernandez M, Toseland CP
    Nature Communications. 2022 Mar 15;13(1):1346. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-28962-w

    During transcription, RNA Polymerase II (RNAPII) is spatially organised within the nucleus into clusters that correlate with transcription activity. While this is a hallmark of genome regulation in mammalian cells, the mechanisms concerning the assembly, organisation and stability remain unknown. Here, we have used combination of single molecule imaging and genomic approaches to explore the role of nuclear myosin VI (MVI) in the nanoscale organisation of RNAPII. We reveal that MVI in the nucleus acts as the molecular anchor that holds RNAPII in high density clusters. Perturbation of MVI leads to the disruption of RNAPII localisation, chromatin organisation and subsequently a decrease in gene expression. Overall, we uncover the fundamental role of MVI in the spatial regulation of gene expression.

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    03/15/22 | When light meets biology - how the specimen affects quantitative microscopy.
    Reiche MA, Aaron JS, Boehm U, DeSantis MC, Hobson CM, Khuon S, Lee RM, Chew T
    Journal of Cell Science. 2022 Mar 15;135(6):. doi: 10.1242/jcs.259656

    Fluorescence microscopy images should not be treated as perfect representations of biology. Many factors within the biospecimen itself can drastically affect quantitative microscopy data. Whereas some sample-specific considerations, such as photobleaching and autofluorescence, are more commonly discussed, a holistic discussion of sample-related issues (which includes less-routine topics such as quenching, scattering and biological anisotropy) is required to appropriately guide life scientists through the subtleties inherent to bioimaging. Here, we consider how the interplay between light and a sample can cause common experimental pitfalls and unanticipated errors when drawing biological conclusions. Although some of these discrepancies can be minimized or controlled for, others require more pragmatic considerations when interpreting image data. Ultimately, the power lies in the hands of the experimenter. The goal of this Review is therefore to survey how biological samples can skew quantification and interpretation of microscopy data. Furthermore, we offer a perspective on how to manage many of these potential pitfalls.

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