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34 Janelia Publications

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    06/18/18 | A novel pyramidal cell type promotes sharp-wave synchronization in the hippocampus.
    Hunt DL, Linaro D, Si B, Romani S, Spruston N
    Nature Neuroscience. 2018 Jun 18:. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0172-7

    To support cognitive function, the CA3 region of the hippocampus performs computations involving attractor dynamics. Understanding how cellular and ensemble activities of CA3 neurons enable computation is critical for elucidating the neural correlates of cognition. Here we show that CA3 comprises not only classically described pyramid cells with thorny excrescences, but also includes previously unidentified 'athorny' pyramid cells that lack mossy-fiber input. Moreover, the two neuron types have distinct morphological and physiological phenotypes and are differentially modulated by acetylcholine. To understand the contribution of these athorny pyramid neurons to circuit function, we measured cell-type-specific firing patterns during sharp-wave synchronization events in vivo and recapitulated these dynamics with an attractor network model comprising two principal cell types. Our data and simulations reveal a key role for athorny cell bursting in the initiation of sharp waves: transient network attractor states that signify the execution of pattern completion computations vital to cognitive function.

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    06/05/18 | Persistent sodium current mediates the steep voltage dependence of spatial coding in hippocampal pyramidal neurons.
    Hsu C, Zhao X, Milstein AD, Spruston N
    Neuron. 2018 Jun 05:. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.05.025

    The mammalian hippocampus forms a cognitive map using neurons that fire according to an animal's position ("place cells") and many other behavioral and cognitive variables. The responses of these neurons are shaped by their presynaptic inputs and the nature of their postsynaptic integration. In CA1 pyramidal neurons, spatial responses in vivo exhibit a strikingly supralinear dependence on baseline membrane potential. The biophysical mechanisms underlying this nonlinear cellular computation are unknown. Here, through a combination of in vitro, in vivo, and in silico approaches, we show that persistent sodium current mediates the strong membrane potential dependence of place cell activity. This current operates at membrane potentials below the action potential threshold and over seconds-long timescales, mediating a powerful and rapidly reversible amplification of synaptic responses, which drives place cell firing. Thus, we identify a biophysical mechanism that shapes the coding properties of neurons composing the hippocampal cognitive map.

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    05/23/18 | Cell-type specific changes in glial morphology and glucocorticoid expression during stress and aging in the medial prefrontal cortex.
    Chan TE, Grossman YS, Bloss EB, Janssen WG, Lou W, McEwen BS, Dumitriu D, Morrison JH
    Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2018 May 23;10:. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2018.00146

    Repeated exposure to stressors is known to produce large-scale remodeling of neurons within the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Recent work suggests stress-related forms of structural plasticity can interact with aging to drive distinct patterns of pyramidal cell morphological changes. However, little is known about how other cellular components within PFC might be affected by these challenges. Here, we examined the effects of stress exposure and aging on medial prefrontal cortical glial subpopulations. Interestingly, we found no changes in glial morphology with stress exposure but a profound morphological change with aging. Furthermore, we found an upregulation of non-nuclear glucocorticoid receptors (GR) with aging, while nuclear levels remained largely unaffected. Both changes are selective for microglia, with no stress or aging effect found in astrocytes. Lastly, we show that the changes found within microglia inversely correlated with the density of dendritic spines on layer III pyramidal cells. These findings suggest microglia play a selective role in synaptic health within the aging brain.

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    04/10/18 | Dissociable structural and functional hippocampal outputs via distinct subiculum cell classes.
    Cembrowski MS, Phillips MG, DiLisio SF, Shields BC, Winnubst J, Chandrashekar J, Bas E, Spruston N
    Cell. 2018 Apr 10;173(5):1280-92. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.03.031

    The mammalian hippocampus, comprised of serially connected subfields, participates in diverse behavioral and cognitive functions. It has been postulated that parallel circuitry embedded within hippocampal subfields may underlie such functional diversity. We sought to identify, delineate, and manipulate this putatively parallel architecture in the dorsal subiculum, the primary output subfield of the dorsal hippocampus. Population and single-cell RNA-seq revealed that the subiculum can be divided into two spatially adjacent subregions associated with prominent differences in pyramidal cell gene expression. Pyramidal cells occupying these two regions differed in their long-range inputs, local wiring, projection targets, and electrophysiological properties. Leveraging gene-expression differences across these regions, we use genetically restricted neuronal silencing to show that these regions differentially contribute to spatial working memory. This work provides a coherent molecular-, cellular-, circuit-, and behavioral-level demonstration that the hippocampus embeds structurally and functionally dissociable streams within its serial architecture.

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    Spruston LabMenon Lab
    03/22/18 | Continuous Variation within Cell Types of the Nervous System.
    Cembrowski MS, Menon V
    Trends in Neurosciences. 2018 Mar 22:. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2018.02.010

    The brain is an organ of immense complexity. Next-generation RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) is becoming increasingly popular in the deconstruction of this complexity into distinct classes of 'cell types'. Notably, in addition to revealing the organization of this distinct cell-type landscape, the technology has also begun to illustrate that continuous variation can be found within narrowly defined cell types. Here we summarize the evidence for graded transcriptomic heterogeneity being present, widespread, and functionally relevant in the nervous system. We explain how these graded differences can map onto higher-order organizational features and how they may reframe existing interpretations of higher-order heterogeneity. Ultimately, a multimodal approach incorporating continuously variable cell types will facilitate an accurate reductionist interpretation of the nervous system.

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    02/19/18 | Single excitatory axons form clustered synapses onto CA1 pyramidal cell dendrites.
    Bloss EB, Cembrowski MS, Karsh B, Colonell J, Fetter RD, Spruston N
    Nature Neuroscience. 2018 Mar;21(3):353-63. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0084-6

    CA1 pyramidal neurons are a major output of the hippocampus and encode features of experience that constitute episodic memories. Feature-selective firing of these neurons results from the dendritic integration of inputs from multiple brain regions. While it is known that synchronous activation of spatially clustered inputs can contribute to firing through the generation of dendritic spikes, there is no established mechanism for spatiotemporal synaptic clustering. Here we show that single presynaptic axons form multiple, spatially clustered inputs onto the distal, but not proximal, dendrites of CA1 pyramidal neurons. These compound connections exhibit ultrastructural features indicative of strong synapses and occur much more commonly in entorhinal than in thalamic afferents. Computational simulations revealed that compound connections depolarize dendrites in a biophysically efficient manner, owing to their inherent spatiotemporal clustering. Our results suggest that distinct afferent projections use different connectivity motifs that differentially contribute to dendritic integration.

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    05/17/17 | Integrating Results across Methodologies Is Essential for Producing Robust Neuronal Taxonomies.
    Cembrowski MS, Spruston N
    Neuron. 2017 May 17;94(4):747-751.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.04.023

    Elucidating the diversity and spatial organization of cell types in the brain is an essential goal of neuroscience, with many emerging technologies helping to advance this endeavor. Using a new in situ hybridization method that can measure the expression of hundreds of genes in a given mouse brain section (amplified seqFISH), Shah et al. (2016) describe a spatial organization of hippocampal cell types that differs from previous reports. In seeking to understand this discrepancy, we find that many of the barcoded genes used by seqFISH to characterize this spatial organization, when cross-validated by other sensitive methodologies, exhibit negligible expression in the hippocampus. Additionally, the results of Shah et al. (2016) do not recapitulate canonical cellular hierarchies and improperly classify major neuronal cell types. We suggest that, when describing the spatial organization of brain regions, cross-validation using multiple techniques should be used to yield robust and informative cellular classification. This Matters Arising paper is in response to Shah et al. (2016), published in Neuron. See also the response by Shah et al. (2017), published in this issue.

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    11/03/16 | Illuminating the neuronal architecture underlying context in fear memory.
    Cembrowski MS, Spruston N
    Cell. 2016 Nov 3;167(4):888-9

    Context plays a foundational role in determining how to interpret potentially fear-producing stimuli, yet the precise neurobiological substrates of context are poorly understood. In this issue of Cell, Xu et al. elegantly show that parallel neuronal circuits are necessary for two distinct roles of context in fear conditioning.

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    11/02/16 | To the cloud! A grassroots proposal to accelerate brain science discovery.
    Neuro Cloud Consortium
    Neuron. 2016 Nov 2;92(3):622-7

    The revolution in neuroscientific data acquisition is creating an analysis challenge. We propose leveraging cloud-computing technologies to enable large-scale neurodata storing, exploring, analyzing, and modeling. This utility will empower scientists globally to generate and test theories of brain function and dysfunction.

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    05/04/16 | Brain derived neurotrophic factor differentially modulates excitability of two classes of hippocampal output neurons.
    Graves AR, Moore SJ, Spruston N, Tryba AK, Kaczorowski CC
    Journal of Neurophysiology. 2016 May 4;116(2):466-71. doi: 10.1152/jn.00186.2016

    Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays an important role in hippocampus-dependent learning and memory. Canonically, this has been ascribed to an enhancing effect on neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity in the CA1 region. However, it is the pyramidal neurons in the subiculum that form the primary efferent pathways conveying hippocampal information to other areas of the brain, and yet the effect of BDNF on these neurons has remained unexplored. We present new data that BDNF regulates neuronal excitability and cellular plasticity in a much more complex manner than previously suggested. Subicular pyramidal neurons can be divided into two major classes, which have different electrophysiological and morphological properties, different requirements for the induction of plasticity and different extra-hippocampal projections. We found that BDNF increases excitability in one class of subicular pyramidal neurons, yet decreases excitability of the other class. Further, while endogenous BDNF was necessary for the induction of synaptic plasticity in both cell types, BDNF enhanced intrinsic plasticity in one class of pyramidal neurons, yet suppressed intrinsic plasticity in the other. Taken together, these data suggest a novel role for BDNF signaling, as it appears to dynamically and bidirectionally regulate the output of hippocampal information to different regions of the brain.

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