• Identification and characterization of retinoic acid-induced morphological and electrophysiological changes in an invertebrate nervous system

      Vesprini, Nicholas; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2012-07-31)
      The vitamin A metabolite, retinoic acid (RA) is known to play an important role in the development, patterning and regeneration of nervous tissue, both in the embryo and in the adult. Classically, RA is known to mediate the transcription of target genes through the binding and activation ofits nuclear receptors: the retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and retinoid X receptors (RXRs). Recently, mounting evidence from many animal models has implicated a number of RA-mediated effects operating independently of gene transcription, and thus highlights nove~ nongenornic actions of RA. For example, recent work utilizing cultured neurons from the pond snaa Lymnaea stagnalis, has shown that RA can elicit a regenerative response, growth cone turning, independently of "classical" transcriptional activation While this work illustrates a novel regeneration-inducing effect in culture, it is currently -unknown whether RA also induces regeneration in situ. This study has sought to determine RA's regenerative effucts at the morphological and molecular levels by utilizing an in situ approach focusing on a single identified dopaminergic neuron which possesses a known "mapped" morphology within the CNS. These studies show, for the first time in an invertebrate, that RA can increase neurite outgrowth of dopaminergic cells that have undergone a nerve-crush injury. Utilizing Western blot analysis, it was shown that this effect appears to be independent of any changes in whole CNS expression levels of either the RAR or RXR. Additionally, utilizing immunohistochemistry, to examine protein localization, there does not appear to be any obvious changes in the RXR expression level at the crush site. Changes in cell morphology such as neurity extension are known to be modulated by changes in neuronal firing activity. It has been previously shown that exposure to RA over many days can lead to changes in the electrophysiological properties of cultured Lymnaea neurons; however, no studies have investigated whether short-term exposure to RA can elicit electrophysiological changes and/or changes in firing pattern of neurons in Lymnaea or any other species. The studies performed here show, for the first time in any species, that short-tenn treatment with RA can elicit significant changes in the firing properties of both identified dopaminergic neurons and peptidergic neurons. This effect appears to be independent of protein synthesis, activation of protein kinase A or phospholipase C, and calcium influx but is both dose-dependent and isomer-dependent. These studies provide evidence that the RXR, but not RAR, may be involved, and that intracellular calcium concentrations decrease upon RAexposure with a time course, dose-dependency and isomer-dependency that coincide with the RA-induced electrophysiological changes. Taken together, these studies provide important evidence highlighting RA as a multifunctional molecule, inducing morphological, molecular and electrophysiological changes within the CNS, and highlight the many pathways through which RA may operate to elicit its effects.
    • Identification of novel retinoid receptors and their roles in vertebrate and invertebrate nervous systems

      Charter, Christopher J; Department of Biological Sciences (Brock University, 2012-07-30)
      In vertebrates, signaling by retinoic acid (RA) is known to play an important role in embryonic development, as well as organ homeostasis in the adult. In organisms such as adult axolotls and newts, RA is also important for regeneration of the CNS, limb, tail, and many other organ systems. RA mediates many of its effects in development and regeneration through nuclear receptors, known as retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and retinoid X receptors (RXRs). This study provides evidence for an important role of the RA receptor, RAR~2, in ,( '. regeneration ofthe spinal cord and tail of the adult newt. It has previously been proposed that the ability of the nervous system to regenerate might depend on the presence or absence of this RAR~2 isoform. Here, I show for the very first time, that the regenerating spinal cord of the adult newt expresses this ~2 receptor isoform, and inhibition of retinoid signaling through this specific receptor with a selective antagonist inhibits tail and spinal cord regeneration. This provides the first evidence for a role of this receptor in this process. Another species capable of CNS ~~generation in the adult is the invertebrate, " Lymnaea stagnalis. Although RA has been detected in a small number of invertebrates (including Lymnaea), the existence and functional roles of the retinoid receptors in most invertebrate non-chordates, have not been previously studied. It has been widely believed, however, that invertebrate non-chordates only possess the RXR class of retinoid receptors, but not the RARs. In this study, a full-length RXR cDNA has been cloned, which was the first retinoid receptor to be discovered in Lymnaea. I then went on to clone the very first full-length RAR eDNA from any non-chordate, invertebrate species. The functional role of these receptors was examined, and it was shown that normal molluscan development was altered, to varying degrees, by the presence of various RXR and RAR agonists or antagonists. The resulting disruptions in embryogenesis ranged from eye and shell defects, to complete lysis of the early embryo. These studies strongly suggest an important role for both the RXR and RAR in non-chordate development. The molluscan RXR and RAR were also shown to be expressed in the adult, nonregenerating eNS, as well as in individual motor neurons regenerating in culture. More specifically, their expression displayed a non-nuclear distfibution, suggesting a possible non-genomic role for these 'nuclear' receptors. It was shown that immunoreactivity for the RXR was present in almost all regenerating growth cones, and (together with N. Farrar) it was shown that this RXR played a novel, non-genomic role in mediating growth cone turning toward retinoic acid. Immunoreactivity for the novel invertebrate RAR was also found in the regenerating growth cones, but future work will be required to determine its functional role in nerve cell regeneration. Taken together, these data provide evidence for the importance of these novel '. retinoid receptors in development and regeneration, particularly in the adult nervous system, and the conservation of their effects in mediating RA signaling from invertebrates to vertebrates.