All Publications

  • An airway-to-brain sensory pathway mediates influenza-induced sickness NATURE Bin, N., Prescott, S. L., Horio, N., Wang, Y., Chiu, I. M., Liberles, S. D. 2023: 660-667


    Pathogen infection causes a stereotyped state of sickness that involves neuronally orchestrated behavioural and physiological changes1,2. On infection, immune cells release a 'storm' of cytokines and other mediators, many of which are detected by neurons3,4; yet, the responding neural circuits and neuro-immune interaction mechanisms that evoke sickness behaviour during naturalistic infections remain unclear. Over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen are widely used to alleviate sickness and act by blocking prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) synthesis5. A leading model is that PGE2 crosses the blood-brain barrier and directly engages hypothalamic neurons2. Here, using genetic tools that broadly cover a peripheral sensory neuron atlas, we instead identified a small population of PGE2-detecting glossopharyngeal sensory neurons (petrosal GABRA1 neurons) that are essential for influenza-induced sickness behaviour in mice. Ablating petrosal GABRA1 neurons or targeted knockout of PGE2 receptor 3 (EP3) in these neurons eliminates influenza-induced decreases in food intake, water intake and mobility during early-stage infection and improves survival. Genetically guided anatomical mapping revealed that petrosal GABRA1 neurons project to mucosal regions of the nasopharynx with increased expression of cyclooxygenase-2 after infection, and also display a specific axonal targeting pattern in the brainstem. Together, these findings reveal a primary airway-to-brain sensory pathway that detects locally produced prostaglandins and mediates systemic sickness responses to respiratory virus infection.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-023-05796-0

    View details for Web of Science ID 000946936400012

    View details for PubMedID 36890237

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10033449

  • Aging-induced microbleeds of the mouse thalamus compared to sensorimotor and memory defects NEUROBIOLOGY OF AGING Wang, Y., Taylor, E., Zikopoulos, B., Seta, F., Huang, N., Hamilton, J. A., Kantak, K. M., Morgan, K. G. 2021; 100: 39-47


    The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between aging and brain vasculature health. Three groups of mice, 3, 17-18, and 24 months, comparable to young adult, middle age, and old human were studied. Prussian blue histology and fast imaging with steady precession T2∗-weighted magnetic resonance imaging were used to quantify structural changes in the brain across age groups. The novel object recognition test was used to assess behavioral changes associated with anatomical changes. This study is the first to show that the thalamus is the most vulnerable brain region in the mouse model for aging-induced vascular damage. Magnetic resonance imaging data document the timeline of accumulation of thalamic damage. Histological data reveal that the majority of vascular damage accumulates in the ventroposterior nucleus and mediodorsal thalamic nucleus. Functional studies indicate that aging-induced vascular damage in the thalamus is associated with memory and sensorimotor deficits. This study points to the possibility that aging-associated vascular disease is a factor in irreversible brain damage as early as middle age.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2020.11.017

    View details for Web of Science ID 000621893900005

    View details for PubMedID 33477010

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC8162167

  • Area Postrema Cell Types that Mediate Nausea-Associated Behaviors NEURON Zhang, C., Kaye, J. A., Cai, Z., Wang, Y., Prescott, S. L., Liberles, S. D. 2021; 109 (3): 461-472.e5


    Nausea, the unpleasant sensation of visceral malaise, remains a mysterious process. The area postrema is implicated in some nausea responses and is anatomically privileged to detect blood-borne signals. To investigate nausea mechanisms, we built an area postrema cell atlas through single-nucleus RNA sequencing, revealing a few neuron types. Using mouse genetic tools for cell-specific manipulation, we discovered excitatory neurons that induce nausea-related behaviors, with one neuron type mediating aversion imposed by multiple poisons. Nausea-associated responses to agonists of identified area postrema receptors were observed and suppressed by targeted cell ablation and/or gene knockout. Anatomical mapping revealed a distributed network of long-range excitatory but not inhibitory projections with subtype-specific patterning. These studies reveal the basic organization of area postrema nausea circuitry and provide a framework toward understanding and therapeutically controlling nausea.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.11.010

    View details for Web of Science ID 000632656500001

    View details for PubMedID 33278342

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7864887

  • The brains of aged mice are characterized by altered tissue diffusion properties and cerebral microbleeds JOURNAL OF TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE Taylor, E. N., Huang, N., Wisco, J., Wang, Y., Morgan, K. G., Hamilton, J. A. 2020; 18 (1): 277


    Brain aging is a major risk factor in the progression of cognitive diseases including Alzheimer's disease (AD) and vascular dementia. We investigated a mouse model of brain aging up to 24 months old (mo).A high field (11.7T) MRI protocol was developed to characterize specific features of brain aging including the presence of cerebral microbleeds (CMBs), morphology of grey and white matter, and tissue diffusion properties. Mice were selected from age categories of either young (3 mo), middle-aged (18 mo), or old (24 mo) and fed normal chow over the duration of the study. Mice were imaged in vivo with multimodal MRI, including conventional T2-weighted (T2W) and T2*-weighted (T2*W) imaging, followed by ex vivo diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) and T2*W MR-microscopy to enhance the detection of microstructural features.Structural changes observed in the mouse brain with aging included reduced cortical grey matter volume and enlargement of the brain ventricles. A remarkable age-related change in the brains was the development of CMBs found starting at 18 mo and increasing in total volume at 24 mo, primarily in the thalamus. CMBs presence was confirmed with high resolution ex vivo MRI and histology. DWI detected further brain tissue changes in the aged mice including reduced fractional anisotropy, increased radial diffusion, increased mean diffusion, and changes in the white matter fibers visualized by color-coded tractography, including around a large cortical CMB.The mouse is a valuable model of age-related vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID). In composite, these methods and results reveal brain aging in older mice as a multifactorial process including CMBs and tissue diffusion alterations that can be well characterized by high field MRI.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/s12967-020-02441-6

    View details for Web of Science ID 000551941800002

    View details for PubMedID 32641073

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7346388