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- An exciting in vivo function of ATP-sensitive potassium channels in substantia nigra dopamine neurons : implications for burst firing and novelty coding (2012)
- An exciting in vivo function of ATP-sensitive potassium channels in substantia nigra dopamine neurons Ð Implications for burst firing and novelty coding ÐPhasic burst activity is a key feature of dopamine (DA) midbrain neurons. This particular pattern of excitation of DA neurons occurs via a synaptically triggered transition from low-frequency background spiking to transient high-frequency discharges. Burst-firing mediated phasic DA release is critical for flexible switching of behavioural strategies in response to unexpected rewards, novelty and other salient stimuli. However, the cellular and molecular bases of burst signalling in distinct DA subpopulations of the substantia nigra (SN) or the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are unknown. DA neuron excitability is controlled by synaptic network inputs, neurotransmitter receptors and ion channels, which generate action potentials and determine frequency and pattern of electrical activity in a complex interplay. ATP-sensitive potassium (K-ATP) channels are widely expressed throughout the brain, where in most cases they are believed to act as metabolically-controlled 'excitation brakes' by matching excitability to cellular energy states. However, their precise physiological in vivo function in DA neurons remains elusive. To study burst firing and the underlying ionic mechanisms with single cell resolution, in vivo single-unit recordings were combined with juxtacellular neurobiotin labelling as well as immunohistochemical and anatomical identification of individual DA neurons. In vivo recordings were performed in adult isoflurane-anaesthetised wildtype (WT) and global K-ATP channel knockout mice, lacking the pore forming Kir6.2 subunit (Kir6.2-/-). In addition, DA cell-selective functional silencing of K-ATP channel activity in vivo was established using virus-mediated expression of dominant-negative Kir6.2 subunits. Careful control experiments ruled out any significant contributions from nonDA neurons as transduction was effectively limited to SN DA neurons rather than affecting those cells that innervate them. Virus-based K-ATP channel silencing in combination with juxtacellular recording and labelling was achieved to define the electrophysiological phenotype of individually identified, virally-transduced DA neurons in vivo. Single-unit recordings revealed that K-ATP channels Ð in contrast to their conventional hyperpolarising role Ð in a subpopulation of DA neurons located in the medial SN (m-SN) act as cell-type selective gates for excitatory burst firing in vivo. The percentage of spikes in bursts was threefold reduced in Kir6.2-/- compared to WT mice. Classification of firing patterns based on visual inspection of autocorrelation histograms and on a newly developed spike-train-model confirmed the dramatic shift from phasic burst to tonic single-spike oscillatory firing in Kir6.2-/-. This significant decrease of burstiness was selective for m-SN DA neurons and was not exhibited by DA cells in the lateral SN or VTA. Virus-based K-ATP channel silencing in vivo unequivocally demonstrated that the activity of postsynaptic K-ATP channels was sufficient to disrupt bursting in m-SN DA neuron subtypes. Patch-clamp recordings in brain slices indicated an essential role of K-ATP channels for NMDA-mediated in vitro bursting. In accordance with previous studies in DA midbrain neurons, NMDA receptor stimulation triggered burst-like firing in m-SN DA cells in vitro, but only when K-ATP channels were co-activated in these neurons. K-ATP channel-gated burst firing in m-SN DA neurons might be functionally relevant in awake, freely moving mice. To explore the behavioural consequences of SN DA neuron subtype-selective K-ATP channel suppression, spontaneous open field (OF) behaviour of mice with bilateral K-ATP silencing across the whole SN (medial + lateral) or in only the lateral SN was tested. Analysis of WT and global Kir6.2-/- mice showed reduced exploratory locomotor activity of Kir6.2-/- in a novel OF environment. Remarkably, K-ATP channel silencing in m-SN DA neurons phenocopied this novelty-exploration deficit, indicating that K-ATP channel-gated burst firing in medial but not lateral SN DA neurons is crucial for WT-like novelty-dependent exploratory behaviour. In summary, a novel role of K-ATP channels in promoting the excitatory switch from tonic to phasic firing in vivo in a cell-type specific manner was discovered. The present PhD thesis provides several important insights into the pivotal function of K-ATP channels in medial SN DA cells, which project to the dorsomedial striatum, for burst firing and its important consequences for context-dependent exploratory behaviour. In collaboration with two other research groups transcriptional up-regulation of K-ATP channel and NMDA receptor subunits and high levels of in vivo burst firing were detected in surviving SN DA neurons from Parkinson's disease (PD) patients Ð providing a potential link of K-ATP channel activity to neurodegenerative pathomechanisms of PD. Using high-resolution fMRI imaging another study in humans has recently identified distinct DA midbrain regions that are preferentially activated by either reward or novelty. Taken together, these human data and the results of the present PhD thesis suggest that burst-gating K-ATP channel function in SN DA neurons impacts on phenotypes in disease as well as in health.
- Intrinsic response properties of auditory thalamic neurons in the Gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) (2007)
- Neurons in the medial geniculate body (MGB) have the complex task of processing the auditory ascending information from the periphery and a more extensive descending input from the cortex. Differences in the pattern of afferent and efferent neuronal connections suggest that neurons in the ventral and dorsal divisions of the MGB take different roles in this complex task. The ventral MGB (vMGB) is the primary, tonotopic, division and the dorsal MGB (dMGB) is one of the higher order, nontonotopic divisions. The vMGB neurons are arranged tonotopically, have sharp tuning properties, and a short response delay to acoustic stimuli. The dMGB neurons are not tonotopically arranged, have broad tuning properties, and a long response delay to acoustical stimuli. These two populations of neurons, with inherently different tasks, may display differences in intrinsic physiological properties, e.g. the capacity to integrate information on a single cell level. Neurons of the ventral and dorsal divisions of the MGB offer an ideal system to explore and compare the intrinsic neuronal properties related to auditory processing. Coronal slices of 200 μm thicknesses were prepared from the thalamus of 4 - 5 week old gerbils. The current-clamp configuration of the patch-clamp technique was used to do experiments on the dorsal and ventral divisions of the medial geniculate body. Slices were subsequently Nissl stained to verify the location of recording. Recordings from the dorsal and ventral divisions exhibited differences in response to depolarizing current injections. The ventral division responded with significantly shorter first spike latency (vMGB = 41.50 ± 7.7, dMGB = 128.43 ± 16.28; (p < 0.01)) and rise time constant (vMGB = 6.95 ± 0.90, dMGB = 116.67 ± 0.13; (p < 0.01)) than the dMGB. Neurons in the dorsal division possessed a larger proportion of slowly accommodating neurons (rapidly accommodating: vMGB: 89%, dMGB: 64%), including a subpopulation of neurons that fired at resting membrane potential. Neurons in the vMGB are primarily responsible for relaying primary auditory input. Dorsal MGB neurons relay converging multimodal input. A comparative analysis with the primary auditory neurons, the Type I and Type II spiral ganglion neurons, reveals a similar pattern. Type I neurons relay primary auditory input and exhibit short first spike latencies and rise time constants. The Type II neurons relay converging input from many sources, while possessing significantly slower response properties and a greater subpopulation of slowly accommodating neurons. Hence, accommodation, first spike latency, and rise time constant are suggested to be a reflection of the amount of input that must be integrated before an action potential can be fired. More converging input correlates to slower accommodation, a longer first spike latency and rise time. Conversely, a greater capacity to derive discrete input is associated with rapid accommodation, along with a short first spike latency and rise time.
- Neurobiological correlates of orientation-specific interocular transfer in humans (2008)
- Visual information is processed hierarchically in the human visual system. Early during processing basic features are analysed separately while at later stages of processing, they are integrated into a unified percept. By investigating a basic visual feature and following its integration at different levels of processing one can identify specific patterns. In certain visual impairments, these patterns can function defectively and their detailed study can clarify the cause of the visual deficit. Here we investigate orientation as a basic feature and use a property of the visual system called adaptation. Adaptation occurs as a decrease in the level of neural activity during repetitive presentation of the same stimulus. Psychophysical studies have shown that adaptation transfers interocularly, meaning that if only one eye is adapted the other eye shows also adaptation effects. Our aim was to investigate interocular transfer by means of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Even though adaptation was demonstrated in the fMRI environment, the interocular transfer was never investigated in such a setup. First, we developed a method to measure interocular transfer of adaptation to gratings with fMRI. We then went further to test it in various groups of subjects. In normally sighted humans interocular transfer was present both in early (striate) as well as later visual areas (extrastriate). In subjects with impaired stereovision (with or without normal visual acuity) interocular transfer was absent in the investigated regions. Detailed analysis of the recorded differences between subjects with and subjects without stereovision was performed. The results of this analysis are presented in detail in this book. These results suggest that the neuronal mechanisms involved in the interocular transfer of pattern adaptation share, at least in part, the neural circuitry underlying binocular functions and stereopsis. We conclude that fMRI adaptation can be used for the assessment of cortical binocularity in humans with normal and impaired stereopsis. Further investigations are needed to address more subtle aspects of the lack of interocular transfer. Towards this purpose, through a fourth experiment we propose further directions that might shed more light on the issue of stereovision and its clinical implications. We show that carefully tuned variations in our experimental procedure might reveal other aspects of binocularity in the human visual system. We believe that the method we developed, apart from the interesting results shown here, has a high potential to be further used for other research questions. Following the above summarized ideas, the thesis comprises of three parts (chapters). The first chapter provides the main theoretical backgrounds of the visual system and of the MRI imaging technique, chapter two describes the experimental procedures while the results and their detailed discussion are detailed in chapter three.
- Electrophysiological characterization of surviving dopaminergic neurons in a mouse model of Parkinsonʼs disease (2012)
- The midbrain DA system comprising dopamine (DA) neurons of the substantia nigra (SN) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is involved in various brain functions, including voluntary movement and the encoding and prediction of behaviorally relevant stimuli. In Parkinsonʼs disease (PD), a progressive degeneration of particularly vulnerable SN DA neurons causes a progressive DA depletion of striatal projection sites. As a consequence, motor symptoms such as tremor, hypokinesia and rigidity appear once about 50 % to 70 % of SN DA neurons have been lost. Under physiological conditions, SN DA neurons can encode behaviorally salient events and coordinated movements through tonic and phasic activity and correlated striatal DA release. Burst-activity mediates a phasic, supralinear rise of striatal DA levels and allows to activate coordinated movements via modulation of corticostriatal signals. In the present dissertation project, pathophysiological adaptations of surviving SN DA neurons after a partial degeneration of the nigrostiatal system have been studied using a 6-hydroxydopamine mouse model of PD. Combining in vivo retrograde tracing techniques with in vitro whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, multifluorescent immunolabeling and confocal microscopy allowed an unambiguous correlation of electrophysiological phenotypes, anatomical positions and neurochemical phenotypes of recorded neurons on a single-cell level. In vitro, neuronal activity of SN DA neurons is characterized by spontaneous, slow pacemaker activity of 1 to 10 Hz and a high degree of spike-timing precision. In vitro current-clamp recordings of surviving SN DA neurons using acute brain slice preparations after a partial, PD-like degeneration of the nigrostriatal DA system showed a significant perturbation of spontaneous pacemaker activity, mirrored by a decreased spike-timing precision compared to controls. Selective pharmacology and whole-cell voltage-clamp recordings served to identify calciumactivated SK channels as molecular effectors of a perturbated pacemaker activity of surviving SN DA neurons. SK channels and have been shown to critically contribute to the spike-timing precision of SN DA neurons. Consistently, in vitro current-clamp recordings after pharmacological blockade of SK channels in vitro caused a significant decrease of spike-timing precision, occluding previously observed differences between surviving SN DA neurons and controls.In addition to in vitro patch-clamp recordings, extracellular single-unit recordings in anaesthetized animals in vivo served to study surviving SN DA neurons embedded in an intact neuronal network after a partial, PD-like degeneration of the nigrostriatal DA system. Combining in vivo single-unit recordings, juxtacellular neurobiotin labeling and multifluorescent immunohistochemistry allowed to directly correlate electrophysiological and neurochemical phenotypes as well as anatomical positions on a single-cell level. In vivo, surviving SN DA neurons showed a significant decrease of spike-timing precision as reflected by an increased irregularity and an augmented burst activity compared to controls. The present dissertation project provided a unique combination of a neurotoxicological PD mouse model, retrograde tracing techniques and in vitro as well as in vivo electrophysiologiy, allowing to unambiguously correlate electrophysiological adaptations, projection-specific anatomical positions and neurochemical phenotypes of SN DA neurons after a partial degeneration of the nigrostriatal system. Surviving SN DA neurons exhibited a significant deficit of SK channel activity after a partial degeneration of the nigrostriatal DA system. In consequence of a diminished SK channel activity observed in vitro, surviving SN DA neurons exhibited and enhanced burst activity in vivo, providing a plausible mechanism to compensate a striatal DA depletion.