Bachelor of Science, University of Rochester, genetics (2003)
Doctor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University (2009)
Thomas Sudhof, Postdoctoral Research Mentor
The myenteric plexus of the enteric nervous system controls the movement of smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal system. They extend their axons between two peripheral smooth muscle layers to form a tubular meshwork arborizing the gut wall. How a tubular axonal meshwork becomes established without invading centrally toward the gut epithelium has not been addressed. We provide evidence here that sonic hedgehog (Shh) secreted from the gut epithelium prevents central projections of enteric axons, thereby forcing their peripheral tubular distribution. Exclusion of enteric central projections by Shh requires its binding partner growth arrest specific gene 1 (Gas1) and its signaling component smoothened (Smo) in enteric neurons. Using enteric neurons differentiated from neurospheres in vitro, we show that enteric axon growth is not inhibited by Shh. Rather, when Shh is presented as a point source, enteric axons turn away from it in a Gas1-dependent manner. Of the Gαi proteins that can couple with Smo, G protein α Z (Gnaz) is found in enteric axons. Knockdown and dominant negative inhibition of Gnaz dampen the axon-repulsive response to Shh, and Gnaz mutant intestines contain centrally projected enteric axons. Together, our data uncover a previously unsuspected mechanism underlying development of centrifugal tubular organization and identify a previously unidentified effector of Shh in axon guidance.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1418629112
View details for Web of Science ID 000347447100013
View details for PubMedID 25535338
Neurexins are essential presynaptic cell adhesion molecules that are linked to schizophrenia and autism and are subject to extensive alternative splicing. Here, we used a genetic approach to test the physiological significance of neurexin alternative splicing. We generated knockin mice in which alternatively spliced sequence #4 (SS4) of neuexin-3 is constitutively included but can be selectively excised by cre-recombination. SS4 of neurexin-3 was chosen because it is highly regulated and controls neurexin binding to neuroligins, LRRTMs, and other ligands. Unexpectedly, constitutive inclusion of SS4 in presynaptic neurexin-3 decreased postsynaptic AMPA, but not NMDA receptor levels, and enhanced postsynaptic AMPA receptor endocytosis. Moreover, constitutive inclusion of SS4 in presynaptic neurexin-3 abrogated postsynaptic AMPA receptor recruitment during NMDA receptor-dependent LTP. These phenotypes were fully rescued by constitutive excision of SS4 in neurexin-3. Thus, alternative splicing of presynaptic neurexin-3 controls postsynaptic AMPA receptor trafficking, revealing an unanticipated alternative splicing mechanism for trans-synaptic regulation of synaptic strength and long-term plasticity.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.060
View details for Web of Science ID 000321327900011
View details for PubMedID 23827676
C1q-like genes (C1ql1-C1ql4) encode small, secreted proteins that are expressed in differential patterns in the brain but whose receptors and functions remain unknown. BAI3 protein, in contrast, is a member of the cell-adhesion class of G protein-coupled receptors that are expressed at high levels in the brain but whose ligands have thus far escaped identification. Using a biochemical approach, we show that all four C1ql proteins bind to the extracellular thrombospondin-repeat domain of BAI3 with high affinity, and that this binding is mediated by the globular C1q domains of the C1ql proteins. Moreover, we demonstrate that addition of submicromolar concentrations of C1ql proteins to cultured neurons causes a significant decrease in synapse density, and that this decrease was prevented by simultaneous addition of the thrombospondin-repeat fragment of BAI3, which binds to C1ql proteins. Our data suggest that C1ql proteins are secreted signaling molecules that bind to BAI3 and act, at least in part, to regulate synapse formation and/or maintenance.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1019577108
View details for Web of Science ID 000287084500066
View details for PubMedID 21262840
Holoprosencephaly (HPE) is a common birth defect predominantly affecting the forebrain and face and has been linked to mutations in the sonic hedgehog (SHH) gene. HPE is genetically heterogeneous, and clinical presentation represents a spectrum of phenotypes. We have previously shown that Gas1 encodes a cell-autonomous Hedgehog signaling enhancer. Combining cell surface binding, in vitro activity, and explant culture assays, we provide evidence that SHH contains a previously unknown unique binding surface for its interaction with GAS1 and that this surface is also important for maximal signaling activity. Within this surface, the Asn-115 residue of human SHH has been documented to associate with HPE when mutated to lysine (N115K). We provide evidence that HPE associated with this mutation can be mechanistically explained by a severely reduced binding of SHH to GAS1, and we predict a similar result if a mutation were to occur at Tyr-80. Our data should encourage future searches for mutations in GAS1 as possible modifiers contributing to the wide spectrum of HPE.
View details for DOI 10.1074/jbc.C109.011957
View details for Web of Science ID 000267908300004
View details for PubMedID 19478089
Primary cilia mediate Hh signalling and mutations in their protein components affect Hh activity. We show that in mice mutant for a cilia intraflagellar transport (IFT) protein, IFT88/polaris, Shh activity is increased in the toothless diastema mesenchyme of the embryonic jaw primordia. This results in the formation of ectopic teeth in the diastema, mesial to the first molars. This phenotype is specific to loss of polaris activity in the mesenchyme since loss of Polaris in the epithelium has no detrimental affect on tooth development. To further confirm that upregulation of Shh activity is responsible for the ectopic tooth formation, we analysed mice mutant for Gas1, a Shh protein antagonist in diastema mesenchyme. Gas1 mutants also had ectopic diastema teeth and accompanying increased Shh activity. In this context, therefore, primary cilia exert a specific negative regulatory effect on Shh activity that functions to repress tooth formation and thus determine tooth number. Strikingly, the ectopic teeth adopt a size and shape characteristic of premolars, a tooth type that was lost in mice around 50-100 million years ago.
View details for DOI 10.1242/dev.027979
View details for Web of Science ID 000263558100003
View details for PubMedID 19211681
Growth Arrest Specific Gene 1 (Gas1) has long been regarded as a cell cycle inhibitor of the G(0) to S phase transition. How GAS1, a GPI-anchored plasma membrane protein, directs intracellular changes without an extracellular ligand or a transmembrane protein partner has been puzzling. A recent series of biochemical and molecular genetic studies assigned the mammalian Hedgehog (HH) growth factor to be a ligand for GAS1 in vitro and in vivo. HH has enjoyed considerable attention for its profound role in embryonic patterning as a classic morphogen, i.e. inducing various cell types in a concentration-dependent manner. GAS1 appears to help transform the HH concentration gradient into its morphogenic activity gradient by acting cooperatively with the HH receptor, the 12-transmembrane protein Patched 1 (PTC1). These findings provoke intriguing thoughts on how HH and GAS1 may coordinate cell proliferation and differentiation to create biological patterns. The role of HH extends to human genetic diseases, stem cell renewal, and cancer growth, and we consider the possibility of GAS1's involvement in these processes as well.
View details for Web of Science ID 000251615200012
View details for PubMedID 17726382
Holoprosencephaly (HPE) is a clinically heterogeneous developmental anomaly affecting the CNS and face, in which the embryonic forebrain fails to divide into distinct halves. Numerous genetic loci and environmental factors are implicated in HPE, but mutation in the sonic hedgehog (Shh) gene is an established cause in both humans and mice. As growth arrest-specific 1 (Gas1) encodes a membrane glycoprotein previously identified as a Shh antagonist in the somite, we analyzed the craniofacial phenotype of mice harboring a targeted Gas1 deletion. Gas1(-/-) mice exhibited microform HPE, including midfacial hypoplasia, premaxillary incisor fusion, and cleft palate, in addition to severe ear defects; however, gross integrity of the forebrain remained intact. These defects were associated with partial loss of Shh signaling in cells at a distance from the source of transcription, suggesting that Gas1 can potentiate hedgehog signaling in the early face. Loss of a single Shh allele in a Gas1(-/-) background significantly exacerbated the midline craniofacial phenotype, providing genetic evidence that Shh and Gas1 interact. As human GAS1 maps to chromosome 9q21.3-q22, a region previously associated with nonsyndromic cleft palate and congenital deafness, our results establish GAS1 as a potential locus for several human craniofacial malformations.
View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI32032
View details for Web of Science ID 000247052200017
View details for PubMedID 17525797
Cellular signaling initiated by Hedgehog binding to Patched1 has profound importance in mammalian embryogenesis, genetic disease, and cancer. Hedgehog acts as a morphogen to specify distinctive cell fates using different concentration thresholds, but our knowledge of how the concentration gradient is interpreted into the activity gradient is incomplete. The membrane protein Growth Arrest-Specific Gene 1 (GAS1) was thought to be a negative regulator of the Hedgehog concentration gradient. Here, we report unexpected genetic evidence that Gas1 positively regulates Hedgehog signaling in multiple developmental contexts, an effect particularly noticeable at regions where Hedgehog acts at low concentration. Using a combination of in vitro cell culture and in ovo electroporation assays, we demonstrate that GAS1 acts cooperatively with Patched1 for Hedgehog binding and enhances signaling activity in a cell-autonomous manner. Our data support a model in which GAS1 helps transform the Hedgehog protein gradient into the observed activity gradient. We propose that Gas1 is an evolutionarily novel, vertebrate-specific Hedgehog pathway regulator.
View details for DOI 10.1101/gad.1546307
View details for Web of Science ID 000246531800011
View details for PubMedID 17504940