Whole-brain serial-section electron microscopy in larval zebrafish

May 18, 2017

Hildebrand DGC, Cicconet M, Torres RM, Choi W, Quan TM, Moon J, Wetzel AW, Scott Champion A, Graham BJ, Randlett O, Plummer GS, Portugues R, Bianco IH, Saalfeld S, Baden AD, Lillaney K, Burns R, Vogelstein JT, Schier AF, Lee WA, Jeong WK, Lichtman JW, Engert F.

High-resolution serial-section electron microscopy (ssEM) makes it possible to investigate the dense meshwork of axons, dendrites, and synapses that form neuronal circuits. However, the imaging scale required to comprehensively reconstruct these structures is more than ten orders of magnitude smaller than the spatial extents occupied by networks of interconnected neurons, some of which span nearly the entire brain. Difficulties in generating and handling data for large volumes at nanoscale resolution have thus restricted vertebrate studies to fragments of circuits. These efforts were recently transformed by advances in computing, sample handling, and imaging techniques, but high-resolution examination of entire brains remains a challenge. Here, we present ssEM data for the complete brain of a larval zebrafish (Daniorerio) at 5.5 days post-fertilization. Our approach utilizes multiple rounds of targeted imaging at different scales to reduce acquisition time and data management requirements. The resulting dataset can be analysed to reconstruct neuronal processes, permitting us to survey all myelinated axons (the projectome). These reconstructions enable precise investigations of neuronal morphology, which reveal remarkable bilateral symmetry in myelinated reticulospinal and lateral line afferent axons. We further set the stage for whole-brain structure-function comparisons by co-registering functional reference atlases and in vivo two-photon fluorescence microscopy data from the same specimen. All obtained images and reconstructions are provided as an open-access resource.


Joshua Sanes wins 2017 Gruber Neuroscience Prize

May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017, New Haven, CT - Joshua R. Sanes, PhD, of Harvard University, is the recipient of the 2017 Gruber Neuroscience Prize for his seminal contributions regarding the mechanisms and molecules that drive the formation and specificity of neural connections within the nervous system. His work has fundamentally transformed the study of these connections, known as synapses, and has led to influential new ideas about how the brain processes information. Sanes has also helped to develop innovative technologies for marking and manipulating neurons and the synapses they form.

Cell diversity and network dynamics in photosensitive human brain organoids

May 4, 2017

Quadrato G, Nguyen T, Macosko EZ, Sherwood JL, Min Yang S, Berger DR, Maria N, Scholvin J, Goldman M, Kinney JP, Boyden ES, Lichtman JW, Williams ZM, McCarroll SA, Arlotta P.

In vitro models of the developing brain such as three-dimensional brain organoids offer an unprecedented opportunity to study aspects of human brain development and disease. However, the cells generated within organoids and the extent to which they recapitulate the regional complexity, cellular diversity and circuit functionality of the brain remain undefined. Here we analyse gene expression in over 80,000 individual cells isolated from 31 human brain organoids. We find that organoids can generate a broad diversity of cells, which are related to endogenous classes, including cells from the cerebral cortex and the retina. Organoids could be developed over extended periods (more than 9 months), allowing for the establishment of relatively mature features, including the formation of dendritic spines and spontaneously active neuronal networks. Finally, neuronal activity within organoids could be controlled using light stimulation of photosensitive cells, which may offer a way to probe the functionality of human neuronal circuits using physiological sensory stimuli.



The genetic basis of parental care evolution in monogamous mice

April 27, 2017

Bendesky A, Kwon YM, Lassance JM, Lewarch CL, Yao S, Peterson BK, He MX, Dulac C, Hoekstra HE.

Parental care is essential for the survival of mammals, yet the mechanisms underlying its evolution remain largely unknown. Here we show that two sister species of mice, Peromyscus polionotus and Peromyscus maniculatus, have large and heritable differences in parental behaviour. Using quantitative genetics, we identify 12 genomic regions that affect parental care, 8 of which have sex-specific effects, suggesting that parental care can evolve independently in males and females. Furthermore, some regions affect parental care broadly, whereas others affect specific behaviours, such as nest building. Of the genes linked to differences in nest-building behaviour, vasopressin is differentially expressed in the hypothalamus of the two species, with increased levels associated with less nest building. Using pharmacology in Peromyscus and chemogenetics in Mus, we show that vasopressin inhibits nest building but not other parental behaviours. Together, our results indicate that variation in an ancient neuropeptide contributes to interspecific differences in parental care.


Somatosensory Cortex Plays an Essential Role in Forelimb Motor Adaptation in Mice

March 24, 2017

Mackenzie Weygandt Mathis, Alexander Mathis, Naoshige Uchida