News

Rods Contribute to Visual Behavior in Larval Zebrafish

October 17, 2020

Purpose: Although zebrafish rods begin to develop as early as 2 days postfertilization (dpf), they are not deemed anatomically mature and functional until 15 to 21 dpf. A recent study detected a small electroretinogram (ERG) from rods in a cone mutant called no optokinetic response f (nof) at 5 dpf, suggesting that young rods are functional. Whether they can mediate behavioral responses in larvae is unknown.

Methods: We first confirmed rod function by measuring nof ERGs under photopic and scotopic illumination at 6 dpf. We evaluated the role of rods in visual behaviors using two different assays: the visual-motor response (VMR) and optokinetic response (OKR). We measured responses from wild-type (WT) larvae and nof mutants under photopic and scotopic illuminations at 6 dpf.

Results: Nof mutants lacked a photopic ERG. However, after prolonged dark adaptation, they displayed scotopic ERGs. Compared with WT larvae, the nof mutants displayed reduced VMRs. The VMR difference during light onset gradually diminished with decreased illumination and became nearly identical at lower light intensities. Additionally, light-adapted nof mutants did not display an OKR, whereas dark-adapted nof mutants displayed scotopic OKRs.

Conclusions: Because the nof mutants lacked a photopic ERG but displayed scotopic ERGs after dark adaptation, the mutants clearly had functional rods. WT larvae and the nof mutants displayed comparable scotopic light-On VMRs and scotopic OKRs after dark adaptation, suggesting that these responses were driven primarily by rods. Together, these obs

Embodied Navigation in Immersive Abstract Data Visualization: Is Overview+Detail or Zooming Better for 3D Scatterplots?

October 13, 2020

Data has no natural scale and so interactive data visualizations must provide techniques to allow the user to choose their viewpoint and scale. Such techniques are well established in desktop visualization tools. The two most common techniques are zoom+pan and overview+detail. However, how best to enable the analyst to navigate and view abstract data at different levels of scale in immersive environments has not previously been studied. We report the findings of the first systematic study of immersive navigation techniques for 3D scatterplots. We tested four conditions that represent our best attempt to adapt standard 2D navigation techniques to data visualization in an immersive environment while still providing standard immersive navigation techniques through physical movement and teleportation. We compared room-sized visualization versus a zooming interface, each with and without an overview. We find significant differences in participants' response times and accuracy for a number of standard visual analysis tasks. Both zoom and overview provide benefits over standard locomotion support alone (i.e., physical movement and pointer teleportation). However, which variation is superior, depends on the task. We obtain a more nuanced understanding of the results by analyzing them in terms of a time-cost model for the different components of navigation: way-finding, travel, number of travel steps, and context switching.

Pro-myogenic small molecules revealed by a chemical screen on primary muscle stem cells

October 9, 2020

Satellite cells are the canonical muscle stem cells that regenerate damaged skeletal muscle. Loss of function of these cells has been linked to reduced muscle repair capacity and compromised muscle health in acute muscle injury and congenital neuromuscular diseases. To identify new pathways that can prevent loss of skeletal muscle function or enhance regenerative potential, we established an imaging-based screen capable of identifying small molecules that promote the expansion of freshly isolated satellite cells. We found several classes of receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) inhibitors that increased freshly isolated satellite cell numbers in vitro. Further exploration of one of these compounds, the RTK inhibitor CEP-701 (also known as lestaurtinib), revealed potent activity on mouse satellite cells both in vitro and in vivo. This expansion potential was not seen upon exposure of proliferating committed myoblasts or non-myogenic fibroblasts to CEP-701. When delivered subcutaneously to acutely injured animals, CEP-701 increased both the total number of satellite cells and the rate of muscle repair, as revealed by an increased cross-sectional area of regenerating fibers. Moreover, freshly isolated satellite cells expanded ex vivo in the presence of CEP-701 displayed enhanced muscle engraftment potential upon in vivo transplantation. We provide compelling evidence that certain RTKs, and in particular RET, regulate satellite cell expansion during muscle regeneration. This study demonstrates the power of small molecule screens of even rare adult stem cell populations for identifying stem cell-targeting compounds with therapeutic potential.

Absence of Survival and Motor Deficits in 500 Repeat C9ORF72 BAC MiceA

September 28, 2020

A hexanucleotide repeat expansion at C9ORF72 is the most common genetic cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Initial studies of bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic mice harboring this expansion described an absence of motor and survival phenotypes. However, a recent study by Liu and colleagues described transgenic mice harboring a large repeat expansion (C9-500) and reported decreased survival and progressive motor phenotypes. To determine the utility of the C9-500 animals for understanding degenerative mechanisms, we validated and established two independent colonies of transgene carriers. However, extended studies of these animals for up to 1 year revealed no reproducible abnormalities in survival, motor function, or neurodegeneration. Here, we propose several potential explanations for the disparate nature of our findings from those of Liu and colleagues. Resolving the discrepancies we identify will be essential to settle the translational utility of C9-500 mice. This Matters Arising paper is in response to Liu et al. (2016), published in Neuron. See also the response by Nguyen et al. (2020), published in this issue.

Revealing the Structure of Pharmacobehavioral Space Through Motion Sequencing

September 26, 2020

Understanding how genes, drugs and neural circuits influence behavior requires the ability to effectively organize information about similarities and differences within complex behavioral datasets. Motion Sequencing (MoSeq) is an ethologically inspired behavioral analysis method that identifies modular components of three-dimensional mouse body language called 'syllables'. Here, we show that MoSeq effectively parses behavioral differences and captures similarities elicited by a panel of neuroactive and psychoactive drugs administered to a cohort of nearly 700 mice. MoSeq identifies syllables that are characteristic of individual drugs, a finding we leverage to reveal specific on- and off-target effects of both established and candidate therapeutics in a mouse model of autism spectrum disorder. These results demonstrate that MoSeq can meaningfully organize large-scale behavioral data, illustrate the power of a fundamentally modular description of behavior and suggest that behavioral syllables represent a new class of druggable target.