Honors & Awards
Dean’s Postdoctoral Fellowship, Stanford University (July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018)
Doctor of Philosophy, New York University (2016)
Master of Science, Seoul National University (2006)
Bachelor of Science, Chung-Ang University (2003)
Andrew Huberman, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The Ancient Origins of Neural Substrates for Land Walking.
2018; 172 (4): 667–82.e15
Walking is the predominant locomotor behavior expressed by land-dwelling vertebrates, but it is unknown when the neural circuits that are essential for limb control first appeared. Certain fish species display walking-like behaviors, raising the possibility that the underlying circuitry originated in primitive marine vertebrates. We show that the neural substrates of bipedalism are present in the little skate Leucoraja erinacea, whose common ancestor with tetrapods existed ∼420 million years ago. Leucoraja exhibits core features of tetrapod locomotor gaits, including left-right alternation and reciprocal extension-flexion of the pelvic fins. Leucoraja also deploys a remarkably conserved Hox transcription factor-dependent program that is essential for selective innervation of fin/limb muscle. This network encodes peripheral connectivity modules that are distinct from those used in axial muscle-based swimming and has apparently been diminished in most modern fish. These findings indicate that the circuits that are essential for walking evolved through adaptation of a genetic regulatory network shared by all vertebrates with paired appendages. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2018.01.013
View details for PubMedID 29425489
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5808577
Parallel Pbx-Dependent Pathways Govern the Coalescence and Fate of Motor Columns
2016; 91 (5): 1005-1020
The clustering of neurons sharing similar functional properties and connectivity is a common organizational feature of vertebrate nervous systems. Within motor networks, spinal motor neurons (MNs) segregate into longitudinally arrayed subtypes, establishing a central somatotopic map of peripheral target innervation. MN organization and connectivity relies on Hox transcription factors expressed along the rostrocaudal axis; however, the developmental mechanisms governing the orderly arrangement of MNs are largely unknown. We show that Pbx genes, which encode Hox cofactors, are essential for the segregation and clustering of neurons within motor columns. In the absence of Pbx1 and Pbx3 function, Hox-dependent programs are lost and the remaining MN subtypes are unclustered and disordered. Identification of Pbx gene targets revealed an unexpected and apparently Hox-independent role in defining molecular features of dorsally projecting medial motor column (MMC) neurons. These results indicate Pbx genes act in parallel genetic pathways to orchestrate neuronal subtype differentiation, connectivity, and organization.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.07.043
View details for Web of Science ID 000383463000009
View details for PubMedID 27568519
Mir-17 similar to 92 Governs Motor Neuron Subtype Survival by Mediating Nuclear PTEN
2015; 11 (8): 1305-1318
Motor neurons (MNs) are unique because they project their axons outside of the CNS to innervate the peripheral muscles. Limb-innervating lateral motor column MNs (LMC-MNs) travel substantially to innervate distal limb mesenchyme. How LMC-MNs fine-tune the balance between survival and apoptosis while wiring the sensorimotor circuit en route remains unclear. Here, we show that the mir-17∼92 cluster is enriched in embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived LMC-MNs and that conditional mir-17∼92 deletion in MNs results in the death of LMC-MNs in vitro and in vivo. mir-17∼92 overexpression rescues MNs from apoptosis, which occurs spontaneously during embryonic development. PTEN is a primary target of mir-17∼92 responsible for LMC-MN degeneration. Additionally, mir-17∼92 directly targets components of E3 ubiquitin ligases, affecting PTEN subcellular localization through monoubiquitination. This miRNA-mediated regulation modulates both target expression and target subcellular localization, providing LMC-MNs with an intricate defensive mechanism that controls their survival.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.04.050
View details for Web of Science ID 000355140300014
View details for PubMedID 26004179
Evolution of Patterning Systems and Circuit Elements for Locomotion
2015; 32 (4): 408-422
Evolutionary modifications in nervous systems enabled organisms to adapt to their specific environments and underlie the remarkable diversity of behaviors expressed by animals. Resolving the pathways that shaped and modified neural circuits during evolution remains a significant challenge. Comparative studies have revealed a surprising conservation in the intrinsic signaling systems involved in early patterning of bilaterian nervous systems but also raise the question of how neural circuit compositions and architectures evolved within specific animal lineages. In this review, we discuss the mechanisms that contributed to the emergence and diversity of animal nervous systems, focusing on the circuits governing vertebrate locomotion.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2015.01.008
View details for Web of Science ID 000350094800003
View details for PubMedID 25710528
Evolving Hox Activity Profiles Govern Diversity in Locomotor Systems
2014; 29 (2): 171-187
The emergence of limb-driven locomotor behaviors was a key event in the evolution of vertebrates and fostered the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life. We show that the generation of limb-projecting lateral motor column (LMC) neurons in mice relies on a transcriptional autoregulatory module initiated via transient activity of multiple genes within the HoxA and HoxC clusters. Repression of this module at thoracic levels restricts expression of LMC determinants, thus dictating LMC position relative to the limbs. This suppression is mediated by a key regulatory domain that is specifically found in the Hoxc9 proteins of appendage-bearing vertebrates. The profile of Hoxc9 expression inversely correlates with LMC position in land vertebrates and likely accounts for the absence of LMC neurons in limbless species such as snakes. Thus, modulation of both Hoxc9 protein function and Hoxc9 gene expression likely contributed to evolutionary transitions between undulatory and ambulatory motor circuit connectivity programs.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2014.03.008
View details for Web of Science ID 000335422500008
View details for PubMedID 24746670
BMI1 represses Ink4a/Arf and Hox genes to regulate stem cells in the rodent incisor
NATURE CELL BIOLOGY
2013; 15 (7): 846-?
The polycomb group gene Bmi1 is required for maintenance of adult stem cells in many organs. Inactivation of Bmi1 leads to impaired stem cell self-renewal due to deregulated gene expression. One critical target of BMI1 is Ink4a/Arf, which encodes the cell-cycle inhibitors p16(Ink4a) and p19(Arf). However, deletion of Ink4a/Arf only partially rescues Bmi1-null phenotypes, indicating that other important targets of BMI1 exist. Here, using the continuously growing mouse incisor as a model system, we report that Bmi1 is expressed by incisor stem cells and that deletion of Bmi1 resulted in fewer stem cells, perturbed gene expression and defective enamel production. Transcriptional profiling revealed that Hox expression is normally repressed by BMI1 in the adult, and functional assays demonstrated that BMI1-mediated repression of Hox genes preserves the undifferentiated state of stem cells. As Hox gene upregulation has also been reported in other systems when Bmi1 is inactivated, our findings point to a general mechanism whereby BMI1-mediated repression of Hox genes is required for the maintenance of adult stem cells and for prevention of inappropriate differentiation.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ncb2766
View details for Web of Science ID 000321181400017
View details for PubMedID 23728424
Genetic and Functional Modularity of Hox Activities in the Specification of Limb-Innervating Motor Neurons
2013; 9 (1)
A critical step in the assembly of the neural circuits that control tetrapod locomotion is the specification of the lateral motor column (LMC), a diverse motor neuron population targeting limb musculature. Hox6 paralog group genes have been implicated as key determinants of LMC fate at forelimb levels of the spinal cord, through their ability to promote expression of the LMC-restricted genes Foxp1 and Raldh2 and to suppress thoracic fates through exclusion of Hoxc9. The specific roles and mechanisms of Hox6 gene function in LMC neurons, however, are not known. We show that Hox6 genes are critical for diverse facets of LMC identity and define motifs required for their in vivo specificities. Although Hox6 genes are necessary for generating the appropriate number of LMC neurons, they are not absolutely required for the induction of forelimb LMC molecular determinants. In the absence of Hox6 activity, LMC identity appears to be preserved through a diverse array of Hox5-Hox8 paralogs, which are sufficient to reprogram thoracic motor neurons to an LMC fate. In contrast to the apparently permissive Hox inputs to early LMC gene programs, individual Hox genes, such as Hoxc6, have specific roles in promoting motor neuron pool diversity within the LMC. Dissection of motifs required for Hox in vivo specificities reveals that either cross-repressive interactions or cooperativity with Pbx cofactors are sufficient to induce LMC identity, with the N-terminus capable of promoting columnar, but not pool, identity when transferred to a heterologous homeodomain. These results indicate that Hox proteins orchestrate diverse aspects of cell fate specification through both the convergent regulation of gene programs regulated by many paralogs and also more restricted actions encoded through specificity determinants in the N-terminus.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003184
View details for Web of Science ID 000314651500032
View details for PubMedID 23359544
Global Control of Motor Neuron Topography Mediated by the Repressive Actions of a Single Hox Gene
2010; 67 (5): 781-796
In the developing spinal cord, regional and combinatorial activities of Hox transcription factors are critical in controlling motor neuron fates along the rostrocaudal axis, exemplified by the precise pattern of limb innervation by more than fifty Hox-dependent motor pools. The mechanisms by which motor neuron diversity is constrained to limb levels are, however, not well understood. We show that a single Hox gene, Hoxc9, has an essential role in organizing the motor system through global repressive activities. Hoxc9 is required for the generation of thoracic motor columns, and in its absence, neurons acquire the fates of limb-innervating populations. Unexpectedly, multiple Hox genes are derepressed in Hoxc9 mutants, leading to motor pool disorganization and alterations in the connections by thoracic and forelimb-level subtypes. Genome-wide analysis of Hoxc9 binding suggests that this mode of repression is mediated by direct interactions with Hox regulatory elements, independent of chromatin marks typically associated with repressed Hox genes.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.008
View details for Web of Science ID 000281938900013
View details for PubMedID 20826310
Regulation of the Drosophila apoptosome through feedback inhibition
NATURE CELL BIOLOGY
2008; 10 (12): 1440-U134
Apoptosis is induced by caspases, which are members of the cysteine protease family. Caspases are synthesized as inactive zymogens and initiator caspases first gain activity by associating with an oligomeric complex of their adaptor proteins, such as the apoptosome. Activated initiator caspases subsequently cleave and activate effector caspases. Although such a proteolytic cascade would predict that a small number of active caspases could irreversibly amplify caspase activity and trigger apoptosis, many cells can maintain moderate levels of caspase activity to perform non-apoptotic roles in cellular differentiation, shape change and migration. Here we show that the Drosophila melanogaster apoptosome engages in a feedback inhibitory loop, which moderates its activation level in vivo. Specifically, the adaptor protein Apaf-1 lowers the level of its associated initiator caspase Dronc, without triggering apoptosis. Conversely, Dronc lowers Apaf-1 protein levels. This mutual suppression depends on the catalytic site of Dronc and a caspase cleavage site within Apaf-1. Moreover, the Drosophila inhibitor of apoptosis protein 1 (Diap1) is required for this process. We speculate that this feedback inhibition allows cells to regulate the degree of caspase activation for apoptotic and non-apoptotic purposes.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ncb1803
View details for Web of Science ID 000261261800014
View details for PubMedID 19011620