Neuronal Networks of Movement Slc10a4 as a Modulator & Dmrt3 as a Gait-keeper
Abstract: Nerve cells are organized into complex networks that comprise the building blocks of our nervous system. Neurons communicate by transmitting messenger molecules released from synaptic vesicles. Alterations in neuronal circuitry and synaptic signaling contribute to a wide range of neurological conditions, often with consequences for movement. Intrinsic neuronal networks in the spinal cord serve to coordinate vital rhythmic motor functions. In spite of extensive efforts to address the organization of these neural circuits, much remains to be revealed regarding the identity and function of specific interneuron cell types and how neuromodulation tune network activity. In this thesis, two novel genes initially identified as markers for spinal neuronal populations were investigated: Slc10a4 and Dmrt3.The orphan transporter SLC10A4 was found to be expressed on synaptic vesicles of the cholinergic system, including motor neurons, as well as in the monoaminergic system, including dopaminergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic nuclei. Thus, it constitutes a novel molecular denominator shared by these classic neuromodulatory systems. SLC10A4 was found to influence vesicular transport of dopamine and affect neuronal release and reuptake efficiency in the striatum. Mice lacking Slc10a4 displayed impaired monoamine homeostasis and were hypersensitive to the drugs amphetamine and tranylcypromine. These findings demonstrate that SLC10A4 is capable of modulating the modulatory systems of the brain with potential clinical relevance for neurological and mental disorders.The transcription factor encoded by Dmrt3 was found to be expressed in a population of inhibitory commissural interneurons originating from the dorsal interneuron 6 (dI6) domain in the spinal cord. In parallel, a genome-wide association study revealed that a non-sense mutation in horse DMRT3 is permissive for the ability to perform pace among other alternate gaits. Further analysis of Dmrt3 null mutant mice showed that Dmrt3 has a central role for spinal neuronal network development with consequences for locomotor behavior. The dI6 class has been suggested to take part in motor circuits but remains one of the least studied classes due to lack of molecular markers. To further investigate the Dmrt3-derived neurons, and the dI6 population in general, a Dmrt3Cre mouse line was generated which allowed for characterization on the molecular, cellular and behavioral level. It was found that Dmrt3 neurons synapse onto motor neurons, receive extensive synaptic inputs from various neuronal sources and are rhythmically active during fictive locomotion. Furthermore, silencing of Dmrt3 neurons in Dmrt3Cre;Viaatlx/lx mice led to impaired motor coordination and alterations in gait, together demonstrating the importance of this neuronal population in the control of movement.
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