Intra- and interregional coregulation of opioid genes: broken symmetry in spinal circuits
Regulation of the formation and rewiring of neural circuits by neuropeptides may require coordinated production of these signaling molecules and their receptors that may be established at the transcriptional level. Here, we address this hypothesis by comparing absolute expression levels of opioid peptides with their receptors, the largest neuropeptide family, and by characterizing coexpression (transcriptionally coordinated) patterns of these genes. We demonstrated that expression patterns of opioid genes highly correlate within and across functionally and anatomically different areas. Opioid peptide genes, compared with their receptor genes, are transcribed at much greater absolute levels, which suggests formation of a neuropeptide cloud that covers the receptor-expressed circuits. Surprisingly, we found that both expression levels and the proportion of opioid receptors are strongly lateralized in the spinal cord, interregional coexpression patterns are side-specific, and intraregional coexpression profiles are affected differently by left- and right-side unilateral body injury. We propose that opioid genes are regulated as interconnected components of the same molecular system distributed between distinct anatomic regions. The striking feature of this system is its asymmetric coexpression patterns, which suggest side-specific regulation of selective neural circuits by opioid neurohormones.
Many environmental stimuli present a quasi-rhythmic structure at different timescales that the brain needs to decompose and integrate. Cortical oscillations have been proposed as instruments of sensory de-multiplexing, i.e., the parallel processing of different frequency streams in sensory signals. Yet their causal role in such a process has never been demonstrated. Here, we used a neural microcircuit model to address whether coupled theta–gamma oscillations, as observed in human auditory cortex, could underpin the multiscale sensory analysis of speech. We show that, in continuous speech, theta oscillations can flexibly track the syllabic rhythm and temporally organize the phoneme-level response of gamma neurons into a code that enables syllable identification. The tracking of slow speech fluctuations by theta oscillations, and its coupling to gamma-spiking activity both appeared as critical features for accurate speech encoding. These results demonstrate that cortical oscillations can be a key instrument of speech de-multiplexing, parsing, and encoding.
Tk-hefu is an artificial peptide designed based on the α-hairpinin scaffold, which selectively blocks voltage-gated potassium channels Kv1.3. Here we present its spatial structure resolved by NMR spectroscopy and analyze its interaction with channels using computer modeling. We apply protein surface topography to suggest mutations and increase Tk-hefu affinity to the Kv1.3 channel isoform. We redesign the functional surface of Tk-hefu to better match the respective surface of the channel pore vestibule. The resulting peptide Tk-hefu-2 retains Kv1.3 selectivity and displays ∼15 times greater activity compared with Tk-hefu. We verify the mode of Tk-hefu-2 binding to the channel outer vestibule experimentally by site-directed mutagenesis. We argue that scaffold engineering aided by protein surface topography represents a reliable tool for design and optimization of specific ion channel ligands.
The mechanisms of lateralization of language processing are still not fully understood by neurolinguistics today. The current study aims to study the relation between language lateralization and such factors as individual handedness, familial sinistrality and tractography metrics of the corpus callosum (CC). We collected fMRI and DTI data, as well as information about individual handedness and familial sinistrality in 50 neurologically healthy Russian speakers. According to the results, language lateralization is related to the volume and fractional anisotropy of CC, as well as individual handedness. Specifically, people with greater right-hand preference and people with a larger volume and higher fractional anisotropy of CC have greater lateralization of language-related activation to the left hemisphere of a brain.
The endogenous opioid system (EOS) controls the processing of nociceptive stimuli and is a pharmacological target for opioids. Alterations in expression of the EOS genes under neuropathic pain condition may account for low efficacy of opioid drugs. We here examined whether EOS expression patterns are altered in the lumbar spinal cord of the rats with spinal nerve ligation (SNL) as a neuropathic pain model. Effects of the left- and right-side SNL on expression of EOS genes in the ipsi- and contralateral spinal domains were analysed. The SNL-induced changes were complex and different between the genes; between the dorsal and ventral spinal domains; and between the left and right sides of the spinal cord. Prodynorphin (Pdyn) expression was upregulated in the ipsilateral dorsal domains by each the left and right-side SNL, while changes in expression of μ-opioid receptor (Oprm1) and proenkephalin (Penk) genes were dependent on the SNL side. Changes in expression of the Pdyn and κ-opioid receptor (Oprk1) genes were coordinated between the ipsi- and contralateral sides. Withdrawal response thresholds, indicators of mechanical allodynia correlated negatively with Pdyn expression in the right ventral domain after right side SNL. These findings suggest multiple roles of the EOS gene products in spinal sensitization and changes in motor reflexes, which may differ between the left and right sides.
Neuroimaging research in emotion regulation reveals a decrease of amygdala response to affective stimuli when the stimuli are perceived during the performance of a cognitive task. Two types of tasks are usually used to investigate this effect: one distracts attention from the emotional content of stimuli and another directly addresses the emotional content, such as identification of the emotional facial expression. The present fMRI study tested the effect of a third type of task: a memory task that promotes attraction of one’s attention to the emotional stimuli, but does not directly address the emotional content. A total of 44 volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two groups. In the MRI scanner, participants in the experimental group were asked to memorize emotional and neutral images taken from the IAPS (International Affective Picture System) database. Their recognition memory was subsequently tested after the scanning. Participants in the control group passively viewed the same picture set. The ROI analysis of the BOLD signal change revealed a leftward asymmetry of amygdala activation during the passive viewing of the pictures and a rightward shift of activation induced by the memory task. Results from the control ROIs demonstrated the phenomena of “inattentional deafness” in the auditory cortex and functional asymmetry in the visual cortex. The results are discussed in terms of complex functional connections between the amygdala, sensory cortices, and frontal regions of the brain.
One of the key advances in genome assembly that has led to a significant improvement in contig lengths has been improved algorithms for utilization of paired reads (mate-pairs). While in most assemblers, mate-pair information is used in a post-processing step, the recently proposed Paired de Bruijn Graph (PDBG) approach incorporates the mate-pair information directly in the assembly graph structure. However, the PDBG approach faces difficulties when the variation in the insert sizes is high. To address this problem, we first transform mate-pairs into edge-pair histograms that allow one to better estimate the distance between edges in the assembly graph that represent regions linked by multiple mate-pairs. Further, we combine the ideas of mate-pair transformation and PDBGs to construct new data structures for genome assembly: pathsets and pathset graphs.