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25 Publications

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    Zuker Lab
    11/26/15 | Sweet and bitter taste in the brain of awake behaving animals.
    Peng Y, Gillis-Smith S, Jin H, Tränkner D, Ryba NJ, Zuker CS
    Nature. 2015 Nov 26;527(7579):512-5. doi: 10.1038/nature15763

    Taste is responsible for evaluating the nutritious content of food, guiding essential appetitive behaviours, preventing the ingestion of toxic substances, and helping to ensure the maintenance of a healthy diet. Sweet and bitter are two of the most salient sensory percepts for humans and other animals; sweet taste allows the identification of energy-rich nutrients whereas bitter warns against the intake of potentially noxious chemicals. In mammals, information from taste receptor cells in the tongue is transmitted through multiple neural stations to the primary gustatory cortex in the brain. Recent imaging studies have shown that sweet and bitter are represented in the primary gustatory cortex by neurons organized in a spatial map, with each taste quality encoded by distinct cortical fields. Here we demonstrate that by manipulating the brain fields representing sweet and bitter taste we directly control an animal's internal representation, sensory perception, and behavioural actions. These results substantiate the segregation of taste qualities in the cortex, expose the innate nature of appetitive and aversive taste responses, and illustrate the ability of gustatory cortex to recapitulate complex behaviours in the absence of sensory input.

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    Zuker LabMouseLight
    01/15/15 | The neural representation of taste quality at the periphery.
    Barretto RP, Gillis-Smith S, Chandrashekar J, Yarmolinsky DA, Schnitzer MJ, Ryba NJ, Zuker CS
    Nature. 2015 Jan 15;517(7534):373-6. doi: 10.1038/nature13873

    The mammalian taste system is responsible for sensing and responding to the five basic taste qualities: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Previously, we showed that each taste is detected by dedicated taste receptor cells (TRCs) on the tongue and palate epithelium. To understand how TRCs transmit information to higher neural centres, we examined the tuning properties of large ensembles of neurons in the first neural station of the gustatory system. Here, we generated and characterized a collection of transgenic mice expressing a genetically encoded calcium indicator in central and peripheral neurons, and used a gradient refractive index microendoscope combined with high-resolution two-photon microscopy to image taste responses from ganglion neurons buried deep at the base of the brain. Our results reveal fine selectivity in the taste preference of ganglion neurons; demonstrate a strong match between TRCs in the tongue and the principal neural afferents relaying taste information to the brain; and expose the highly specific transfer of taste information between taste cells and the central nervous system.

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    Zuker Lab
    08/05/14 | Population of sensory neurons essential for asthmatic hyperreactivity of inflamed airways.
    Tränkner D, Hahne N, Sugino K, Hoon MA, Zuker C
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014 Aug 5;111(31):11515-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1411032111

    Asthma is a common debilitating inflammatory lung disease affecting over 200 million people worldwide. Here, we investigated neurogenic components involved in asthmatic-like attacks using the ovalbumin-sensitized murine model of the disease, and identified a specific population of neurons that are required for airway hyperreactivity. We show that ablating or genetically silencing these neurons abolished the hyperreactive broncho-constrictions, even in the presence of a fully developed lung inflammatory immune response. These neurons are found in the vagal ganglia and are characterized by the expression of the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) ion channel. However, the TRPV1 channel itself is not required for the asthmatic-like hyperreactive airway response. We also demonstrate that optogenetic stimulation of this population of TRP-expressing cells with channelrhodopsin dramatically exacerbates airway hyperreactivity of inflamed airways. Notably, these cells express the sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor 3 (S1PR3), and stimulation with a S1PR3 agonist efficiently induced broncho-constrictions, even in the absence of ovalbumin sensitization and inflammation. Our results show that the airway hyperreactivity phenotype can be physiologically dissociated from the immune component, and provide a platform for devising therapeutic approaches to asthma that target these pathways separately.

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    Zuker Lab
    09/02/11 | A gustotopic map of taste qualities in the mammalian brain.
    Chen X, Gabitto M, Peng Y, Ryba NJ, Zuker CS
    Science. 2011 Sep 2;333(6047):1262-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1204076

    The taste system is one of our fundamental senses, responsible for detecting and responding to sweet, bitter, umami, salty, and sour stimuli. In the tongue, the five basic tastes are mediated by separate classes of taste receptor cells each finely tuned to a single taste quality. We explored the logic of taste coding in the brain by examining how sweet, bitter, umami, and salty qualities are represented in the primary taste cortex of mice. We used in vivo two-photon calcium imaging to demonstrate topographic segregation in the functional architecture of the gustatory cortex. Each taste quality is represented in its own separate cortical field, revealing the existence of a gustotopic map in the brain. These results expose the basic logic for the central representation of taste.

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    Zuker LabReiser Lab
    06/09/11 | Visual place learning in Drosophila melanogaster.
    Ofstad TA, Zuker CS, Reiser MB
    Nature. 2011 Jun 9;474(7350):204-7. doi: 10.1038/nature10131

    The ability of insects to learn and navigate to specific locations in the environment has fascinated naturalists for decades. The impressive navigational abilities of ants, bees, wasps and other insects demonstrate that insects are capable of visual place learning, but little is known about the underlying neural circuits that mediate these behaviours. Drosophila melanogaster (common fruit fly) is a powerful model organism for dissecting the neural circuitry underlying complex behaviours, from sensory perception to learning and memory. Drosophila can identify and remember visual features such as size, colour and contour orientation. However, the extent to which they use vision to recall specific locations remains unclear. Here we describe a visual place learning platform and demonstrate that Drosophila are capable of forming and retaining visual place memories to guide selective navigation. By targeted genetic silencing of small subsets of cells in the Drosophila brain, we show that neurons in the ellipsoid body, but not in the mushroom bodies, are necessary for visual place learning. Together, these studies reveal distinct neuroanatomical substrates for spatial versus non-spatial learning, and establish Drosophila as a powerful model for the study of spatial memories.

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    Zuker Lab
    02/18/11 | The coding of temperature in the Drosophila brain.
    Gallio M, Ofstad TA, Macpherson LJ, Wang JW, Zuker CS
    Cell. 2011 Feb 18;144(4):614-24. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.01.028

    Thermosensation is an indispensable sensory modality. Here, we study temperature coding in Drosophila, and show that temperature is represented by a spatial map of activity in the brain. First, we identify TRP channels that function in the fly antenna to mediate the detection of cold stimuli. Next, we identify the hot-sensing neurons and show that hot and cold antennal receptors project onto distinct, but adjacent glomeruli in the Proximal-Antennal-Protocerebrum (PAP) forming a thermotopic map in the brain. We use two-photon imaging to reveal the functional segregation of hot and cold responses in the PAP, and show that silencing the hot- or cold-sensing neurons produces animals with distinct and discrete deficits in their behavioral responses to thermal stimuli. Together, these results demonstrate that dedicated populations of cells orchestrate behavioral responses to different temperature stimuli, and reveal a labeled-line logic for the coding of temperature information in the brain.

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    Zuker Lab
    03/11/10 | The cells and peripheral representation of sodium taste in mice.
    Chandrashekar J, Kuhn C, Oka Y, Yarmolinsky DA, Hummler E, Ryba NJ, Zuker CS
    Nature. 2010 Mar 11;464(7286):297-301. doi: 10.1038/nature08783

    Salt taste in mammals can trigger two divergent behavioural responses. In general, concentrated saline solutions elicit robust behavioural aversion, whereas low concentrations of NaCl are typically attractive, particularly after sodium depletion. Notably, the attractive salt pathway is selectively responsive to sodium and inhibited by amiloride, whereas the aversive one functions as a non-selective detector for a wide range of salts. Because amiloride is a potent inhibitor of the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), ENaC has been proposed to function as a component of the salt-taste-receptor system. Previously, we showed that four of the five basic taste qualities-sweet, sour, bitter and umami-are mediated by separate taste-receptor cells (TRCs) each tuned to a single taste modality, and wired to elicit stereotypical behavioural responses. Here we show that sodium sensing is also mediated by a dedicated population of TRCs. These taste cells express the epithelial sodium channel ENaC, and mediate behavioural attraction to NaCl. We genetically engineered mice lacking ENaCalpha in TRCs, and produced animals exhibiting a complete loss of salt attraction and sodium taste responses. Together, these studies substantiate independent cellular substrates for all five basic taste qualities, and validate the essential role of ENaC for sodium taste in mice.

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    Zuker Lab
    10/16/09 | Common sense about taste: from mammals to insects.
    Yarmolinsky DA, Zuker CS, Ryba NJ
    Cell. 2009 Oct 16;139(2):234-44. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.10.001

    The sense of taste is a specialized chemosensory system dedicated to the evaluation of food and drink. Despite the fact that vertebrates and insects have independently evolved distinct anatomic and molecular pathways for taste sensation, there are clear parallels in the organization and coding logic between the two systems. There is now persuasive evidence that tastant quality is mediated by labeled lines, whereby distinct and strictly segregated populations of taste receptor cells encode each of the taste qualities.

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    Zuker Lab
    10/16/09 | The taste of carbonation.
    Chandrashekar J, Yarmolinsky D, von Buchholtz L, Oka Y, Sly W, Ryba NJ, Zuker CS
    Science. 2009 Oct 16;326:443-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1174601

    Carbonated beverages are commonly available and immensely popular, but little is known about the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the perception of carbonation in the mouth. In mammals, carbonation elicits both somatosensory and chemosensory responses, including activation of taste neurons. We have identified the cellular and molecular substrates for the taste of carbonation. By targeted genetic ablation and the silencing of synapses in defined populations of taste receptor cells, we demonstrated that the sour-sensing cells act as the taste sensors for carbonation, and showed that carbonic anhydrase 4, a glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored enzyme, functions as the principal CO2 taste sensor. Together, these studies reveal the basis of the taste of carbonation as well as the contribution of taste cells in the orosensory response to CO2.

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    Zuker Lab
    03/20/08 | Preserving cell shape under environmental stress.
    Cook B, Hardy RW, McConnaughey WB, Zuker CS
    Nature. 2008 Mar 20;452(7185):361-4. doi: 10.1038/nature06603

    Maintaining cell shape and tone is crucial for the function and survival of cells and tissues. Mechanotransduction relies on the transformation of minuscule mechanical forces into high-fidelity electrical responses. When mechanoreceptors are stimulated, mechanically sensitive cation channels open and produce an inward transduction current that depolarizes the cell. For this process to operate effectively, the transduction machinery has to retain integrity and remain unfailingly independent of environmental changes. This is particularly challenging for poikilothermic organisms, where changes in temperature in the environment may impact the function of mechanoreceptor neurons. Thus, we wondered how insects whose habitat might quickly vary over several tens of degrees of temperature manage to maintain highly effective mechanical senses. We screened for Drosophila mutants with defective mechanical responses at elevated ambient temperatures, and identified a gene, spam, whose role is to protect the mechanosensory organ from massive cellular deformation caused by heat-induced osmotic imbalance. Here we show that Spam protein forms an extracellular shield that guards mechanosensory neurons from environmental insult. Remarkably, heterologously expressed Spam protein also endowed other cells with superb defence against physically and chemically induced deformation. We studied the mechanical impact of Spam coating and show that spam-coated cells are up to ten times stiffer than uncoated controls. Together, these results help explain how poikilothermic organisms preserve the architecture of critical cells during environmental stress, and illustrate an elegant and simple solution to such challenge.

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