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94 Publications

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    09/27/11 | Abnormal behavior in mice mutant for the Disc1 binding partner, Dixdc1.
    Kivimäe S, Martin P, Kapfhamer D, Ruan Y, Heberlein U, Rubenstein JL, Cheyette BN
    Translational Psychiatry. 2011;1:e43. doi: 10.1038/tp.2011.41

    Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia-1 (DISC1) is a genetic susceptibility locus for major mental illness, including schizophrenia and depression. The Disc1 protein was recently shown to interact with the Wnt signaling protein, DIX domain containing 1 (Dixdc1). Both proteins participate in neural progenitor proliferation dependent on Wnt signaling, and in neural migration independently of Wnt signaling. Interestingly, their effect on neural progenitor proliferation is additive. By analogy to Disc1, mutations in Dixdc1 may lead to abnormal behavior in mice, and to schizophrenia or depression in humans. To explore this hypothesis further, we generated mice mutant at the Dixdc1 locus and analyzed their behavior. Dixdc1(-/-) mice had normal prepulse inhibition, but displayed decreased spontaneous locomotor activity, abnormal behavior in the elevated plus maze and deficits in startle reactivity. Our results suggest that Dixdc1(-/-) mice will be a useful tool to elucidate molecular pathophysiology involving Disc1 in major mental illnesses.

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    09/01/11 | Lmo genes regulate behavioral responses to ethanol in Drosophila melanogaster and the mouse.
    Lasek AW, Giorgetti F, Berger KH, Tayor S, Heberlein U
    Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research. 2011 Sep;35(9):1600-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01506.x

    BACKGROUND: Previous work from our laboratory demonstrated a role for the Drosophila Lim-only (dLmo) gene in regulating behavioral responses to cocaine. Herein, we examined whether dLmo influences the flies' sensitivity to ethanol's sedating effects. We also investigated whether 1 of the mammalian homologs of dLmo, Lmo3, is involved in behavioral responses to ethanol in mice.

    METHODS: To examine dLmo function in ethanol-induced sedation, mutant flies with reduced or increased dLmo expression were tested using the loss of righting (LOR) assay. To determine whether mouse Lmo3 regulates behavioral responses to ethanol, we generated transgenic mice expressing a short-hairpin RNA targeting Lmo3 for RNA interference-mediated knockdown by lentiviral infection of single cell embryos. Adult founder mice, expressing varying amounts of Lmo3 in the brain, were tested using ethanol loss-of-righting-reflex (LORR) and 2-bottle choice ethanol consumption assays.

    RESULTS: We found that in flies, reduced dLmo activity increased sensitivity to ethanol-induced sedation, whereas increased expression of dLmo led to increased resistance to ethanol-induced sedation. In mice, reduced levels of Lmo3 were correlated with increased sedation time in the LORR test and decreased ethanol consumption in the 2-bottle choice protocol.

    CONCLUSIONS: These data describe a novel and conserved role for Lmo genes in flies and mice in behavioral responses to ethanol. These studies also demonstrate the feasibility of rapidly translating findings from invertebrate systems to mammalian models of alcohol abuse by combining RNA interference in transgenic mice and behavioral testing.

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    09/01/11 | Tao kinases as coordinators of actin and microtubule dynamics in developing neurons.
    King I, Heberlein U
    Communicative & Integrative Biology. 2011 Sep;4(5):554-6. doi: 10.4161/cib.4.5.16051

    Drosophila tao, encoding a Ste20 family kinase, was identified as a gene involved in ethanol, cocaine and nicotine sensitivity. The behavioral phenotypes appear to be caused by defects in the development of the adult brain. Specifically, Drosophila tao functions to promote axon guidance of mushroom body (MB) neurons. The MB is a large structure in the central brain of the fly whose development and function have been well characterized. tao interacts genetically with mutations in the par-1 gene, also encoding a serine-threonine kinase. Since Par-1 has been implicated in the regulation of microtubule dynamics, this suggests that tao regulates the microtubule cytoskeleton in developing MB neurons. Here we discuss these results in light of previous studies that have proposed that Drosophila tao and its mammalian homologs function as a link between the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons, regulating microtubule stability in response to actin signals.

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    07/22/11 | An evolutionary conserved role for anaplastic lymphoma kinase in behavioral responses to ethanol.
    Lasek AW, Lim J, Kliethermes CL, Berger KH, Joslyn G, Brush G, Xue L, Robertson M, Moore MS, Vranizan K, Morris SW, Schuckit MA, White RL, Heberlein U
    PLoS One. 2011 Jul 22;6(7):e22636. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022636

    Anaplastic lymphoma kinase (Alk) is a gene expressed in the nervous system that encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase commonly known for its oncogenic function in various human cancers. We have determined that Alk is associated with altered behavioral responses to ethanol in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, in mice, and in humans. Mutant flies containing transposon insertions in dAlk demonstrate increased resistance to the sedating effect of ethanol. Database analyses revealed that Alk expression levels in the brains of recombinant inbred mice are negatively correlated with ethanol-induced ataxia and ethanol consumption. We therefore tested Alk gene knockout mice and found that they sedate longer in response to high doses of ethanol and consume more ethanol than wild-type mice. Finally, sequencing of human ALK led to the discovery of four polymorphisms associated with a low level of response to ethanol, an intermediate phenotype that is predictive of future alcohol use disorders (AUDs). These results suggest that Alk plays an evolutionary conserved role in ethanol-related behaviors. Moreover, ALK may be a novel candidate gene conferring risk for AUDs as well as a potential target for pharmacological intervention.

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    07/01/11 | The genetic relationships between ethanol preference, acute ethanol sensitivity, and ethanol tolerance in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Devineni AV, McClure KD, Guarnieri DJ, Corl AB, Wolf FW, Eddison M, Heberlein U
    Fly (Austin). 2011 Jul-Sep;5(3):191-9

    The relationship between alcohol consumption, sensitivity, and tolerance is an important question that has been addressed in humans and rodent models. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption and risk of abuse may correlate with (1) increased sensitivity to the stimulant effects of alcohol, (2) decreased sensitivity to the depressant effects of alcohol, and (3) increased alcohol tolerance. However, many conflicting results have been observed. To complement these studies, we utilized a different organism and approach to analyze the relationship between ethanol consumption and other ethanol responses. Using a set of 20 Drosophila melanogaster mutants that were isolated for altered ethanol sensitivity, we measured ethanol-induced hyperactivity, ethanol sedation, sedation tolerance, and ethanol consumption preference. Ethanol preference showed a strong positive correlation with ethanol tolerance, consistent with some rodent and human studies, but not with ethanol hyperactivity or sedation. No pairwise correlations were observed between ethanol hyperactivity, sedation, and tolerance. The evolutionary conservation of the relationship between tolerance and ethanol consumption in flies, rodents, and humans indicates that there are fundamental biological mechanisms linking specific ethanol responses.

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    06/09/11 | Arouser reveals a role for synapse number in the regulation of ethanol sensitivity.
    Eddison M, Guarnieri DJ, Cheng L, Liu C, Moffat KG, Davis G, Heberlein U
    Neuron. 2011 Jun 9;70(5):979-90. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.03.030

    A reduced sensitivity to the sedating effects of alcohol is a characteristic associated with alcohol use disorders (AUDs). A genetic screen for ethanol sedation mutants in Drosophila identified arouser (aru), which functions in developing neurons to reduce ethanol sensitivity. Genetic evidence suggests that aru regulates ethanol sensitivity through its activation by Egfr/Erk signaling and its inhibition by PI3K/Akt signaling. The aru mutant also has an increased number of synaptic terminals in the larva and adult fly. Both the increased ethanol sensitivity and synapse number of the aru mutant are restored upon adult social isolation, suggesting a causal relationship between synapse number and ethanol sensitivity. We thus show that a developmental abnormality affecting synapse number and ethanol sensitivity is not permanent and can be reversed by manipulating the environment of the adult fly.

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    05/01/11 | A Drosophila model for alcohol reward.
    Kaun KR, Azanchi R, Maung Z, Hirsh J, Heberlein U
    Nature Neuroscience. 2011 May;14(5):612-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.2805

    The rewarding properties of drugs contribute to the development of abuse and addiction. We developed a new assay for investigating the motivational properties of ethanol in the genetically tractable model Drosophila melanogaster. Flies learned to associate cues with ethanol intoxication and, although transiently aversive, the experience led to a long-lasting attraction for the ethanol-paired cue, implying that intoxication is rewarding. Temporally blocking transmission in dopaminergic neurons revealed that flies require activation of these neurons to express, but not develop, conditioned preference for ethanol-associated cues. Moreover, flies acquired, consolidated and retrieved these rewarding memories using distinct sets of neurons in the mushroom body. Finally, mutations in scabrous, encoding a fibrinogen-related peptide that regulates Notch signaling, disrupted the formation of memories for ethanol reward. Our results thus establish that Drosophila can be useful for understanding the molecular, genetic and neural mechanisms underling the rewarding properties of ethanol.

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    05/01/11 | A Drosophila model for fetal alcohol syndrome disorders: role for the insulin pathway.
    McClure KD, French RL, Heberlein U
    Disease Models & Mechanisms. 2011 May;4(3):335-46. doi: 10.1242/dmm.006411

    Prenatal exposure to ethanol in humans results in a wide range of developmental abnormalities, including growth deficiency, developmental delay, reduced brain size, permanent neurobehavioral abnormalities and fetal death. Here we describe the use of Drosophila melanogaster as a model for exploring the effects of ethanol exposure on development and behavior. We show that developmental ethanol exposure causes reduced viability, developmental delay and reduced adult body size. We find that flies reared on ethanol-containing food have smaller brains and imaginal discs, which is due to reduced cell division rather than increased apoptosis. Additionally, we show that, as in mammals, flies reared on ethanol have altered responses to ethanol vapor exposure as adults, including increased locomotor activation, resistance to the sedating effects of the drug and reduced tolerance development upon repeated ethanol exposure. We have found that the developmental and behavioral defects are largely due to the effects of ethanol on insulin signaling; specifically, a reduction in Drosophila insulin-like peptide (Dilp) and insulin receptor expression. Transgenic expression of Dilp proteins in the larval brain suppressed both the developmental and behavioral abnormalities displayed by ethanol-reared adult flies. Our results thus establish Drosophila as a useful model system to uncover the complex etiology of fetal alcohol syndrome.

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    04/26/11 | Genome-wide association and genetic functional studies identify autism susceptibility candidate 2 gene (AUTS2) in the regulation of alcohol consumption.
    Schumann G, Coin LJ, Lourdusamy A, Charoen P, Berger KH, Stacey D, Desrivières S, Aliev FA, Khan AA, Amin N, Aulchenko YS, Bakalkin G, Bakker SJ, Balkau B, Beulens JW, Bilbao A, de Boer RA, Beury D, Bots ML, Breetvelt EJ, Cauchi S, Cavalcanti-Proença C, Chambers JC, Clarke T, Dahmen N, de Geus EJ, Dick D, Ducci F, Easton A, Edenberg HJ, Esko T, Esk T, Fernández-Medarde A, Foroud T, Freimer NB, Girault J, Grobbee DE, Guarrera S, Gudbjartsson DF, Hartikainen A, Heath AC, Hesselbrock V, Hofman A, Hottenga J, Isohanni MK, Kaprio J, Khaw K, Kuehnel B, Laitinen J, Lobbens S, Luan J, Mangino M, Maroteaux M, Matullo G, McCarthy MI, Mueller C, Navis G, Numans ME, Núñez A, Nyholt DR, Onland-Moret CN, Oostra BA, O'Reilly PF, Palkovits M, Penninx BW, Polidoro S, Pouta A, Prokopenko I, Ricceri F, Santos E, Smit JH, Soranzo N, Song K, Sovio U, Stumvoll M, Surakk I, Thorgeirsson TE, Thorsteinsdottir U, Troakes C, Tyrfingsson T, Tönjes A, Uiterwaal CS, Uitterlinden AG, van der Harst P, van der Schouw YT, Staehlin O, Vogelzangs N, Vollenweider P, Waeber G, Wareham NJ, Waterworth DM, Whitfield JB, Wichmann EH, Willemsen G, Witteman JC, Yuan X, Zhai G, Zhao JH, Zhang W, Martin NG, Metspalu A, Doering A, Scott J, Spector TD, Loos RJ, Boomsma DI, Mooser V, Peltonen L, Stefansson K, van Duijn CM, Vineis P, Sommer WH, Kooner JS, Spanagel R, Heberlein UA, Jarvelin M, Elliott P
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011 Apr 26;108(17):7119-24. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1017288108

    Alcohol consumption is a moderately heritable trait, but the genetic basis in humans is largely unknown, despite its clinical and societal importance. We report a genome-wide association study meta-analysis of ∼2.5 million directly genotyped or imputed SNPs with alcohol consumption (gram per day per kilogram body weight) among 12 population-based samples of European ancestry, comprising 26,316 individuals, with replication genotyping in an additional 21,185 individuals. SNP rs6943555 in autism susceptibility candidate 2 gene (AUTS2) was associated with alcohol consumption at genome-wide significance (P = 4 × 10(-8) to P = 4 × 10(-9)). We found a genotype-specific expression of AUTS2 in 96 human prefrontal cortex samples (P = 0.026) and significant (P < 0.017) differences in expression of AUTS2 in whole-brain extracts of mice selected for differences in voluntary alcohol consumption. Down-regulation of an AUTS2 homolog caused reduced alcohol sensitivity in Drosophila (P < 0.001). Our finding of a regulator of alcohol consumption adds knowledge to our understanding of genetic mechanisms influencing alcohol drinking behavior.

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    01/19/11 | Drosophila tao controls mushroom body development and ethanol-stimulated behavior through par-1.
    King I, Tsai LT, Pflanz R, Voigt A, Lee S, Jäckle H, Lu B, Heberlein U
    The Journal of Neuroscience: The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2011 Jan 19;31(3):1139-48. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4416-10.2011

    In both mammalian and insect models of ethanol-induced behavior, low doses of ethanol stimulate locomotion. However, the mechanisms of the stimulant effects of ethanol on the CNS are mostly unknown. We have identified tao, encoding a serine-threonine kinase of the Ste20 family, as a gene necessary for ethanol-induced locomotor hyperactivity in Drosophila. Mutations in tao also affect behavioral responses to cocaine and nicotine, making flies resistant to the effects of both drugs. We show that tao function is required during the development of the adult nervous system and that tao mutations cause defects in the development of central brain structures, including the mushroom body. Silencing of a subset of mushroom body neurons is sufficient to reduce ethanol-induced hyperactivity, revealing the mushroom body as an important locus mediating the stimulant effects of ethanol. We also show that mutations in par-1 suppress both the mushroom body morphology and behavioral phenotypes of tao mutations and that the phosphorylation state of the microtubule-binding protein Tau can be altered by RNA interference knockdown of tao, suggesting that tao and par-1 act in a pathway to control microtubule dynamics during neural development.

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