Member, Maternal & Child Health Research Institute (MCHRI)
Bachelor of Medicine, Peking University (2011)
Doctor of philosophy, Baylor College of Medicine, Neuroscience (2018)
Sergiu Pasca, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Loss of MeCP2 Function Across Several Neuronal Populations Impairs Breathing Response to Acute Hypoxia.
Frontiers in neurology
2020; 11: 593554
Rett Syndrome (RTT) is a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss of function of the transcriptional regulator Methyl-CpG-Binding Protein 2 (MeCP2). In addition to the characteristic loss of hand function and spoken language after the first year of life, people with RTT also have a variety of physiological and autonomic abnormalities including disrupted breathing rhythms characterized by bouts of hyperventilation and an increased frequency of apnea. These breathing abnormalities, that likely involve alterations in both the circuitry underlying respiratory pace making and those underlying breathing response to environmental stimuli, may underlie the sudden unexpected death seen in a significant fraction of people with RTT. In fact, mice lacking MeCP2 function exhibit abnormal breathing rate response to acute hypoxia and maintain a persistently elevated breathing rate rather than showing typical hypoxic ventilatory decline that can be observed among their wild-type littermates. Using genetic and pharmacological tools to better understand the course of this abnormal hypoxic breathing rate response and the neurons driving it, we learned that the abnormal hypoxic breathing response is acquired as the animals mature, and that MeCP2 function is required within excitatory, inhibitory, and modulatory populations for a normal hypoxic breathing rate response. Furthermore, mice lacking MeCP2 exhibit decreased hypoxia-induced neuronal activity within the nucleus tractus solitarius of the dorsal medulla. Overall, these data provide insight into the neurons driving the circuit dysfunction that leads to breathing abnormalities upon loss of MeCP2. The discovery that combined dysfunction across multiple neuronal populations contributes to breathing dysfunction may provide insight into sudden unexpected death in RTT.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fneur.2020.593554
View details for PubMedID 33193060
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7662121
Neurexophilin4 is a selectively expressed α-neurexin ligand that modulates specific cerebellar synapses and motor functions.
Neurexophilins are secreted neuropeptide-like glycoproteins, and neurexophilin1 and neurexophilin3 are ligands for the presynaptic cell adhesion molecule α-neurexin. Neurexophilins are more selectively expressed in the brain than α-neurexins, however, which led us to ask whether neurexophilins modulate the function of α-neurexin in a context-specific manner. We characterized the expression and function of neurexophilin4 in mice and found it to be expressed in subsets of neurons responsible for feeding, emotion, balance, and movement. Deletion of Neurexophilin4 caused corresponding impairments, most notably in motor learning and coordination. We demonstrated that neurexophilin4 interacts with α-neurexin and GABAARs in the cerebellum. Loss of Neurexophilin4 impaired cerebellar Golgi-granule inhibitory neurotransmission and synapse number, providing a partial explanation for the motor learning and coordination deficits observed in the Neurexophilin4 null mice. Our data illustrate how selectively expressed Neurexophilin4, an α-neurexin ligand, regulates specific synapse function and modulates cerebellar motor control.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.46773
View details for PubMedID 31524598
Loss and Gain of MeCP2 Cause Similar Hippocampal Circuit Dysfunction that Is Rescued by Deep Brain Stimulation in a Rett Syndrome Mouse Model.
2016; 91 (4): 739–47
Loss- and gain-of-function mutations in methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2) underlie two distinct neurological syndromes with strikingly similar features, but the synaptic and circuit-level changes mediating these shared features are undefined. Here we report three novel signs of neural circuit dysfunction in three mouse models of MECP2 disorders (constitutive Mecp2 null, mosaic Mecp2(+/-), and MECP2 duplication): abnormally elevated synchrony in the firing activity of hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons, an impaired homeostatic response to perturbations of excitatory-inhibitory balance, and decreased excitatory synaptic response in inhibitory neurons. Conditional mutagenesis studies revealed that MeCP2 dysfunction in excitatory neurons mediated elevated synchrony at baseline, while MeCP2 dysfunction in inhibitory neurons increased susceptibility to hypersynchronization in response to perturbations. Chronic forniceal deep brain stimulation (DBS), recently shown to rescue hippocampus-dependent learning and memory in Mecp2(+/-) (Rett) mice, also rescued all three features of hippocampal circuit dysfunction in these mice.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.07.018
View details for PubMedID 27499081
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5019177
Manipulations of MeCP2 in glutamatergic neurons highlight their contributions to Rett and other neurological disorders.
Many postnatal onset neurological disorders such as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and intellectual disability are thought to arise largely from disruption of excitatory/inhibitory homeostasis. Although mouse models of Rett syndrome (RTT), a postnatal neurological disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations in MECP2, display impaired excitatory neurotransmission, the RTT phenotype can be largely reproduced in mice simply by removing MeCP2 from inhibitory GABAergic neurons. To determine what role excitatory signaling impairment might play in RTT pathogenesis, we generated conditional mouse models with Mecp2 either removed from or expressed solely in glutamatergic neurons. MeCP2 deficiency in glutamatergic neurons leads to early lethality, obesity, tremor, altered anxiety-like behaviors, and impaired acoustic startle response, which is distinct from the phenotype of mice lacking MeCP2 only in inhibitory neurons. These findings reveal a role for excitatory signaling impairment in specific neurobehavioral abnormalities shared by RTT and other postnatal neurological disorders.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.14199
View details for PubMedID 27328325
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4946906