New avenue for antidepressant therapy discovered

Promoting adult hippocampal neurogenesis is expected to induce neuroplastic changes that improve mood and alleviate anxiety. However, the underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown and the hypothesis itself is controversial. Here we show that mice lacking Jnk1, or c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) inhibitor-treated mice, display increased neurogenesis in adult hippocampus characterized by enhanced cell proliferation and survival, and increased maturation in the ventral region. Correspondingly, anxiety behaviour is reduced in a battery of tests, except when neurogenesis is prevented by AraC treatment. Using engineered retroviruses, we show that exclusive inhibition of JNK in adult-born granule cells alleviates anxiety and reduces depressive-like behaviour. These data validate the neurogenesis hypothesis of anxiety. Moreover, we establish a causal role for JNK in the hippocampal neurogenic niche and anxiety behaviour, and advocate targeting of JNK as an avenue for novel therapies against affective disorders. Further investigation of JNK role in molecular pathways involved in adult hippocampal neurogenesis is being done in our current projects. Read more

KIF5C S176 Phosphorylation Regulates Microtubule Binding and Transport Efficiency in Mammalian Neurons.

Increased phosphorylation of the KIF5 anterograde motor is associated with impaired axonal transport and neurodegeneration, but paradoxically also with normal transport, though the details are not fully defined. JNK phosphorylates KIF5C on S176 in the motor domain; a site that we show is phosphorylated in brain. Microtubule pelleting assays demonstrate that phosphomimetic KIF5C(1-560)(S176D) associates weakly with microtubules compared to KIF5C(1-560)(WT). Consistent with this, 50% of KIF5C(1-560)(S176D) shows diffuse movement in neurons. However, the remaining 50% remains microtubule bound and displays decreased pausing and increased bidirectional movement. The same directionality switching is observed with KIF5C(1-560)(WT) in the presence of an active JNK chimera, MKK7-JNK. Yet, in cargo trafficking assays where peroxisome cargo is bound, KIF5C(1-560)(S176D)-GFP-FRB transports normally to microtubule plus ends. We also find that JNK increases the ATP hydrolysis of KIF5C in vitro. These data suggest that phosphorylation of KIF5C-S176 primes the motor to either disengage entirely from microtubule tracks as previously observed in response to stress, or to display improved efficiency. The final outcome may depend on cargo load and motor ensembles. Read more


JNK1 regulates dendritic field size

Genetic anomalies on the JNK pathway confer susceptibility to autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and intellectual disability. The mechanism whereby a gain or loss of function in JNK signalling predisposes to these prevalent dendrite disorders, with associated motor dysfunction, remains unclear. Here we find that JNK1 regulates the dendritic field of L2/3 and L5 pyramidal neurons of the mouse motor cortex (M1), the main excitatory pathway controlling voluntary movement. In Jnk1-/- mice, basal dendrite branching of L5 pyramidal neurons is increased in M1, as is cell soma size, whereas in L2/3, dendritic arborisation is decreased. We show that JNK1 phosphorylates rat HMW-MAP2 on T1619, T1622, and T1625 (Uniprot P15146) corresponding to mouse T1617, T1620, T1623, to create a binding motif, that is critical for MAP2 interaction with and stabilization of microtubules, and dendrite growth control. Targeted expression in M1 of GFP-HMW-MAP2 that is pseudo-phosphorylated on T1619, T1622, and T1625 increases dendrite complexity in L2/3 indicating that JNK1 phosphorylation of HMW-MAP2 regulates the dendritic field. Consistent with the morphological changes observed in L2/3 and L5, Jnk1-/- mice exhibit deficits in limb placement and motor coordination, while stride length is reduced in older animals. In summary, JNK1 phosphorylates HMW-MAP2 to increase its stabilization of microtubules while at the same time controlling dendritic fields in the main excitatory pathway of M1. Moreover, JNK1 contributes to normal functioning of fine motor coordination. We report for the first time, a quantitative Sholl analysis of dendrite architecture, and of motor behavior in Jnk1-/- mice. Our results illustrate the molecular and behavioral consequences of interrupted JNK1 signalling and provide new ground for mechanistic understanding of those prevalent neuropsychiatric disorders where genetic disruption of the JNK pathway is central. Read more

Researchers found out how brain cells control their movement to form the cerebral cortex

Cell migration is the consequence of the sum of positive and negative regulatory mechanisms. Although appropriate migration of neurons is a principal feature of brain development, the negative regulatory mechanisms remain obscure. We found that JNK1 was highly active in developing cortex and that selective inhibition of JNK in the cytoplasm markedly increased both the frequency of exit from the multipolar stage and radial migration rate and ultimately led to an ill-defined cellular organization. Moreover, regulation of multipolar-stage exit and radial migration in Jnk1(-/-) (also known as Mapk8) mice, resulted from consequential changes in phosphorylation of the microtubule regulator SCG10 (also called stathmin-2). Expression of an SCG10 mutant that mimics the JNK1-phosphorylated form restored normal migration in the brains of Jnk1(-/-) mouse embryos. These findings indicate that the phosphorylation of SCG10 by JNK1 is a fundamental mechanism that governs the transition from the multipolar stage and the rate of neuronal cell movement during cortical development. Read more


MARCKSL1 Phosphorylation Determines Migration

Cell migration is a fundamental biological function, critical during development and regeneration, whereas deregulated migration underlies neurological birth defects and cancer metastasis. MARCKS-like protein 1 (MARCKSL1) is widely expressed in nervous tissue, where, like Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK), it is required for neural tube formation, though the mechanism is unknown. Here we show that MARCKSL1 is directly phosphorylated by JNK on C-terminal residues (S120, T148, and T183). This phosphorylation enables MARCKSL1 to bundle and stabilize F-actin, increase filopodium numbers and dynamics, and retard migration in neurons. Conversely, when MARCKSL1 phosphorylation is inhibited, actin mobility increases and filopodium formation is compromised whereas lamellipodium formation is enhanced, as is cell migration. We find that MARCKSL1 mRNA is upregulated in a broad range of cancer types and that MARCKSL1 protein is strongly induced in primary prostate carcinomas. Gene knockdown in prostate cancer cells or in neurons reveals a critical role for MARCKSL1 in migration that is dependent on the phosphorylation state; phosphomimetic MARCKSL1 (MARCKSL1 (S120D,T148D,T183D)) inhibits whereas dephospho-MARCKSL1(S120A,T148A,T183A) induces migration. In summary, these data show that JNK phosphorylation of MARCKSL1 regulates actin homeostasis, filopodium and lamellipodium formation, and neuronal migration under physiological conditions and that, when ectopically expressed in prostate cancer cells, MARCKSL1 again determines cell movement. Read more