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miR-124 Regulates the Phase of Drosophila Circadian Locomotor Behavior

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 11:02am

Animals use circadian rhythms to anticipate daily environmental changes. Circadian clocks have a profound effect on behavior. In Drosophila, for example, brain pacemaker neurons dictate that flies are mostly active at dawn and dusk. miRNAs are small, regulatory RNAs ( approximately 22 nt) that play important roles in posttranscriptional regulation. Here, we identify miR-124 as an important regulator of Drosophila circadian locomotor rhythms. Under constant darkness, flies lacking miR-124 (miR-124(KO)) have a dramatically advanced circadian behavior phase. However, whereas a phase defect is usually caused by a change in the period of the circadian pacemaker, this is not the case in miR-124(KO) flies. Moreover, the phase of the circadian pacemaker in the clock neurons that control rhythmic locomotion is not altered either. Therefore, miR-124 modulates the output of circadian clock neurons rather than controlling their molecular pacemaker. Circadian phase is also advanced under temperature cycles, but a light/dark cycle partially corrects the defects in miR-124(KO) flies. Indeed, miR-124(KO) shows a normal evening phase under the latter conditions, but morning behavioral activity is suppressed. In summary, miR-124 controls diurnal activity and determines the phase of circadian locomotor behavior without affecting circadian pacemaker function. It thus provides a potent entry point to elucidate the mechanisms by which the phase of circadian behavior is determined.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: In animals, molecular circadian clocks control the timing of behavioral activities to optimize them with the day/night cycle. This is critical for their fitness and survival. The mechanisms by which the phase of circadian behaviors is determined downstream of the molecular pacemakers are not yet well understood. Recent studies indicate that miRNAs are important regulators of circadian outputs. We found that miR-124 shapes diurnal behavioral activity and has a striking impact on the phase of circadian locomotor behavior. Surprisingly, the period and phase of the neural circadian pacemakers driving locomotor rhythms are unaffected. Therefore, miR-124 is a critical modulator of the circadian output pathways that control circadian behavioral rhythms.

Dye-Sensitized Core/Active Shell Upconversion Nanoparticles for Optogenetics and Bioimaging Applications

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 11:02am

Near-infrared (NIR) dye-sensitized upconversion nanoparticles (UCNPs) can broaden the absorption range and boost upconversion efficiency of UCNPs. Here, we achieved significantly enhanced upconversion luminescence in dye-sensitized core/active shell UCNPs via the doping of ytterbium ions (Yb(3+)) in the UCNP shell, which bridged the energy transfer from the dye to the UCNP core. As a result, we synergized the two most practical upconversion booster effectors (dye-sensitizing and core/shell enhancement) to amplify upconversion efficiency. We demonstrated two biomedical applications using these UCNPs. By using dye-sensitized core/active shell UCNP embedded poly(methyl methacrylate) polymer implantable systems, we successfully shifted the optogenetic neuron excitation window to a biocompatible and deep tissue penetrable 800 nm wavelength. Furthermore, UCNPs were water-solubilized with Pluronic F127 with high upconversion efficiency and can be imaged in a mouse model.

Neurobiology of Monarch Butterfly Migration

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 11:02am

Studies of the migration of the eastern North American monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) have revealed mechanisms behind its navigation. The main orientation mechanism uses a time-compensated sun compass during both the migration south and the remigration north. Daylight cues, such as the sun itself and polarized light, are processed through both eyes and integrated through intricate circuitry in the brain's central complex, the presumed site of the sun compass. Monarch circadian clocks have a distinct molecular mechanism, and those that reside in the antennae provide time compensation. Recent evidence shows that migrants can also use a light-dependent inclination magnetic compass for orientation in the absence of directional daylight cues. The monarch genome has been sequenced, and genetic strategies using nuclease-based technologies have been developed to edit specific genes. The monarch butterfly has emerged as a model system to study the neural, molecular, and genetic basis of long-distance animal migration.

Microglia: Architects of the Developing Nervous System

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 11:02am

Microglia are resident macrophages of the central nervous system (CNS), representing 5-10% of total CNS cells. Recent findings reveal that microglia enter the embryonic brain, take up residence before the differentiation of other CNS cell types, and become critical regulators of CNS development. Here, we discuss exciting new work implicating microglia in a range of developmental processes, including regulation of cell number and spatial patterning of CNS cells, myelination, and formation and refinement of neural circuits. Furthermore, we review studies suggesting that these cellular functions result in the modulation of behavior, which has important implications for a variety of neurological disorders.

Extracellular vesicles round off communication in the nervous system

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 11:02am

Functional neural competence and integrity require interactive exchanges among sensory and motor neurons, interneurons and glial cells. Recent studies have attributed some of the tasks needed for these exchanges to extracellular vesicles (such as exosomes and microvesicles), which are most prominently involved in shuttling reciprocal signals between myelinating glia and neurons, thus promoting neuronal survival, the immune response mediated by microglia, and synapse assembly and plasticity. Such vesicles have also been identified as important factors in the spread of neurodegenerative disorders and brain cancer. These extracellular vesicle functions add a previously unrecognized level of complexity to transcellular interactions within the nervous system.

Data from: Vitamin D Status in Pediatric Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Fri, 11/04/2016 - 7:10am

This dataset is the primary data source for a manuscript submitted for publication.

Manuscript abstract:

Importance: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is associated with significant morbidity in children and adolescents, and the therapeutic efficacy of available treatment options is limited. The role of vitamin D supplementation in pediatric IBS is unclear as the vitamin D status of pediatric patients with IBS is unknown. Equally the relationship of vitamin D status with psychosomatic symptoms in children and adolescents is unclear.

Aim: To characterize the vitamin D status of pediatric patients with IBS using a case-control study design.

Hypothesis: Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] concentration will be similar between patients with IBS and controls.

Subjects and Methods: A retrospective case-controlled study of 116 controls (age 14.6 ± 4.3 y), male (n=49; 42.2%) and 55 subjects with IBS (age 16.5 ± 3.1y), male (n=11; 20%). Vitamin D deficiency was defined as 25(OH)D of /L; overweight as BMI of ≥85th but <95th percentile, and obesity as BMI ≥95th percentile. Seasons were categorized as summer, winter, spring, and fall. Major psychosomatic manifestations included in the analysis were depression, anxiety, and migraine.

Results: More than 50% of IBS subjects had vitamin D deficiency at a cut-off point of/L (52.7% vs. 26.7%, p=0.001); and >90% of IBS subjects had vitamin D deficiency at a cut-off point of/L (92.7% vs. 75%, p=0.006). IBS subjects had significantly lower mean 25(OH)D: 53.2 ± 15.8 nmol/L vs. 65.2 ± 28.0 nmol/L, p=0.003; and albumin: 6.2 ± 0.6 vs. 6.5 ± 0.6 µmol/L, p = 0.014. IBS subjects with migraine had significantly lower mean 25(OH)D level compared to controls (p=0.012). BMI z-score was similar between the controls and IBS subjects (0.5 ± 1.4 vs. 1.2 ± 2.9, p = 0.109).

Conclusion: In this study, patients with IBS had similar BMI as controls, but significantly lower 25(OH)D concentration. More than 50% of children and adolescents with IBS had vitamin D deficiency, while only 7.3% of patients with IBS were vitamin D sufficient. Randomized control trials are warranted to determine the role of adjunctive vitamin D therapy in pediatric IBS.