neuroscientist, former rower/current runner, lover of live music
Honors & Awards
NIH NRSA for Individual Postdoctoral Fellows (F32), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (2011-2014)
Graduate Research Fellowship, National Science Foundation (2007-2010)
Best Teaching Assistant, Biology Dept., University of California, San Diego (2007, 2008)
Best Student Research Presentation, Annual Departmental Retreat, University of California, San Diego (2007)
Cell and Molecular Genetics Training Grant, University of California, San Diego (2006-2007)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of California San Diego (2010)
Bachelor of Science, University of Washington, Biology (2003)
Liqun Luo, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Current Research and Scholarly Interests
I'm interested in uncovering how norepinephrine circuits in the brain modulate diverse behaviors in the mouse.
Liqun Luo, (12/1/2010)
Viral-genetic tracing of the input-output organization of a central noradrenaline circuit.
2015; 524 (7563): 88-92
Deciphering how neural circuits are anatomically organized with regard to input and output is instrumental in understanding how the brain processes information. For example, locus coeruleus noradrenaline (also known as norepinephrine) (LC-NE) neurons receive input from and send output to broad regions of the brain and spinal cord, and regulate diverse functions including arousal, attention, mood and sensory gating. However, it is unclear how LC-NE neurons divide up their brain-wide projection patterns and whether different LC-NE neurons receive differential input. Here we developed a set of viral-genetic tools to quantitatively analyse the input-output relationship of neural circuits, and applied these tools to dissect the LC-NE circuit in mice. Rabies-virus-based input mapping indicated that LC-NE neurons receive convergent synaptic input from many regions previously identified as sending axons to the locus coeruleus, as well as from newly identified presynaptic partners, including cerebellar Purkinje cells. The 'tracing the relationship between input and output' method (or TRIO method) enables trans-synaptic input tracing from specific subsets of neurons based on their projection and cell type. We found that LC-NE neurons projecting to diverse output regions receive mostly similar input. Projection-based viral labelling revealed that LC-NE neurons projecting to one output region also project to all brain regions we examined. Thus, the LC-NE circuit overall integrates information from, and broadcasts to, many brain regions, consistent with its primary role in regulating brain states. At the same time, we uncovered several levels of specificity in certain LC-NE sub-circuits. These tools for mapping output architecture and input-output relationship are applicable to other neuronal circuits and organisms. More broadly, our viral-genetic approaches provide an efficient intersectional means to target neuronal populations based on cell type and projection pattern.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature14600
View details for PubMedID 26131933
Circuit Architecture of VTA Dopamine Neurons Revealed by Systematic Input-Output Mapping.
2015; 162 (3): 622-634
Dopamine (DA) neurons in the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) integrate complex inputs to encode multiple signals that influence motivated behaviors via diverse projections. Here, we combine axon-initiated viral transduction with rabies-mediated trans-synaptic tracing and Cre-based cell-type-specific targeting to systematically map input-output relationships of VTA-DA neurons. We found that VTA-DA (and VTA-GABA) neurons receive excitatory, inhibitory, and modulatory input from diverse sources. VTA-DA neurons projecting to different forebrain regions exhibit specific biases in their input selection. VTA-DA neurons projecting to lateral and medial nucleus accumbens innervate largely non-overlapping striatal targets, with the latter also sending extensive extra-striatal axon collaterals. Using electrophysiology and behavior, we validated new circuits identified in our tracing studies, including a previously unappreciated top-down reinforcing circuit from anterior cortex to lateral nucleus accumbens via VTA-DA neurons. This study highlights the utility of our viral-genetic tracing strategies to elucidate the complex neural substrates that underlie motivated behaviors.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2015.07.015
View details for PubMedID 26232228
Synaptic Strength Is Bidirectionally Controlled by Opposing Activity-Dependent Regulation of Nedd4-1 and USP8
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
2014; 34 (50): 16637-16649
The trafficking of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) to and from synapses is crucial for synaptic plasticity. Previous work has demonstrated that AMPARs undergo activity-dependent ubiquitination by the E3 ubiquitin ligase Nedd4-1, which promotes their internalization and degradation in lysosomes. Here, we define the molecular mechanisms involved in ubiquitination and deubiquitination of AMPARs. We report that Nedd4-1 is rapidly redistributed to dendritic spines in response to AMPAR activation and not in response to NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activation in cultured rat neurons. In contrast, NMDAR activation directly antagonizes Nedd4-1 function by promoting the deubiquitination of AMPARs. We show that NMDAR activation causes the rapid dephosphorylation and activation of the deubiquitinating enzyme (DUB) USP8. Surface AMPAR levels and synaptic strength are inversely regulated by Nedd4-1 and USP8. Strikingly, we show that homeostatic downscaling of synaptic strength is accompanied by an increase and decrease in Nedd4-1 and USP8 protein levels, respectively. Furthermore, we show that Nedd4-1 is required for homeostatic loss of surface AMPARs and downscaling of synaptic strength. This study provides the first mechanistic evidence for rapid and opposing activity-dependent control of a ubiquitin ligase and DUB at mammalian CNS synapses. We propose that the dynamic regulation of these opposing forces is critical in maintaining synapses and scaling them during homeostatic plasticity.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2452-14.2014
View details for Web of Science ID 000346191500011
View details for PubMedID 25505317
Ubiquitin-dependent endocytosis, trafficking and turnover of neuronal membrane proteins
MOLECULAR AND CELLULAR NEUROSCIENCE
2012; 49 (3): 387-393
Extracellular signaling between cells is often transduced via receptors that reside at the cell membrane. In neurons this receptor-mediated signaling can promote a variety of cellular events such as differentiation, axon outgrowth and guidance, and synaptic development and function. Endocytic membrane trafficking of receptors ensures that the strength and duration of an extracellular signal is properly regulated. The covalent modification of membrane proteins by ubiquitin is a key biological mechanism controlling receptor internalization and endocytic sorting to recycling and degradative pathways in many cell types. In this review we highlight recent findings regarding the ubiquitin-dependent trafficking and turnover of receptors in neurons and the implications for neuronal development and function.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.mcn.2011.08.006
View details for Web of Science ID 000302202100014
View details for PubMedID 21884797
Activity-Dependent Ubiquitination of GluA1 Mediates a Distinct AMPA Receptor Endocytosis and Sorting Pathway
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
2010; 30 (49): 16718-16729
The accurate trafficking of AMPA receptors (AMPARs) to and from the synapse is a critical component of learning and memory in the brain, whereas dysfunction of AMPAR trafficking is hypothesized to be an underlying mechanism of Alzheimer's disease. Previous work has shown that ubiquitination of integral membrane proteins is a common posttranslational modification used to mediate endocytosis and endocytic sorting of surface proteins in eukaryotic cells. Here we report that mammalian AMPARs become ubiquitinated in response to their activation. Using a mutant of GluA1 that is unable to be ubiquitinated at lysines on its C-terminus, we demonstrate that ubiquitination is required for internalization of surface AMPARs and their trafficking to the lysosome in response to the AMPAR agonist AMPA but not for internalization of AMPARs in response to the NMDA receptor agonist NMDA. Through overexpression or RNA interference-mediated knockdown, we identify that a specific E3 ligase, Nedd4-1 (neural-precursor cell-expressed developmentally downregulated gene 4-1), is necessary for this process. Finally, we show that ubiquitination of GluA1 by Nedd4-1 becomes more prevalent as neurons mature. Together, these data show that ubiquitination of GluA1-containing AMPARs by Nedd4-1 mediates their endocytosis and trafficking to the lysosome. Furthermore, these results provide insight into how hippocampal neurons regulate AMPAR trafficking and degradation with high specificity in response to differing neuronal signaling cues and suggest that changes to this pathway may occur as neurons mature.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3686-10.2010
View details for Web of Science ID 000285089100033
View details for PubMedID 21148011
Regulation of the Proteasome by Neuronal Activity and Calcium/Calmodulin-dependent Protein Kinase II
JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY
2009; 284 (39): 26655-26665
Protein degradation via the ubiquitin proteasome system has been shown to regulate changes in synaptic strength that underlie multiple forms of synaptic plasticity. It is plausible, therefore, that the ubiquitin proteasome system is itself regulated by synaptic activity. By utilizing live-cell imaging strategies we report the rapid and dynamic regulation of the proteasome in hippocampal neurons by synaptic activity. We find that the blockade of action potentials (APs) with tetrodotoxin inhibited the activity of the proteasome, whereas the up-regulation of APs with bicuculline dramatically increased the activity of the proteasome. In addition, the regulation of the proteasome is dependent upon external calcium entry in part through N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and L-type voltage-gated calcium channels and requires the activity of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII). Using in vitro and in vivo assays we find that CaMKII stimulates proteasome activity and directly phosphorylates Rpt6, a subunit of the 19 S (PA700) subcomplex of the 26 S proteasome. Our data provide a novel mechanism whereby CaMKII may regulate the proteasome in neurons to facilitate remodeling of synaptic connections through protein degradation.
View details for DOI 10.1074/jbc.M109.021956
View details for Web of Science ID 000269969600046
View details for PubMedID 19638347