The correct regulation of specific target genes in response to incoming neuronal stimuli is essential to healthy cognitive function. NF-?B is a transcription factor with well- established and evolutionarily-conserved roles in synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory. In particular, neuronal NF-?B is known to be activated by both excitatory neurotransmission and neurotrophic factors, and to regulate the expression of genes that promote the growth and enhance the function of excitatory synapses. However, mechanisms responsible for determining the duration of NF-?B-dependent gene expression and for insuring the appropriate stimulus-specific selection of target genes remain unclear. In recent years, high-throughput approaches have highlighted frequently discordant relationships in the profiles of cellular mRNAs and the corresponding proteomes, indicating that additional levels of post-transcriptional control must also be considered in understanding stimulus-dependent programs of gene expression. We recently delineated a pathway by which post-transcriptional specificity in gene expression can be established through both positively and negatively regulating the biogenesis of mature miRNAs to determine whether specific gene transcripts are repressed or undergo enhanced translation. The focus of this proposal is to examine novel molecular mechanisms by which NF-?B may exert transcriptional and post-transcriptional control over activity-dependent neuronal gene expression, including both qualitative and temporal aspects of this regulation. Our proposed research incorporates approaches ranging from the cellular and molecular level, to behavioral studies. Results from our investigations will reveal previously unknown mechanisms controlling the target specificity and maintenance of changes in gene expression. This gain in fundamental knowledge will enhance our understanding of normal and abnormal brain function and has the potential to accelerate preclinical therapy development for disorders of brain plasticity and repair, brain cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, with known links to dysregulated gene expression.

Public Health Relevance

The regulation of gene expression is essential to brain development and to the enduring storage of information in the brain. Dysregulation in the appropriate control of gene expression underlies multiple neurological disorders, including deficits in learning and memory and other cognitive functions, such as those associated with brain plasticity and repair, neurodegenerative disease, age-related dementia, and Alzheimer's disease. Our proposal will increase knowledge of fundamental signaling mechanisms underlying enduring changes in gene expression with the potential to reveal new therapeutic targets and accelerate preclinical therapy development.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Synapses, Cytoskeleton and Trafficking Study Section (SYN)
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Driscoll, Jamie
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Johns Hopkins University
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Amen, Alexandra M; Ruiz-Garzon, Claudia R; Shi, Jay et al. (2017) A Rapid Induction Mechanism for Lin28a in Trophic Responses. Mol Cell 65:490-503.e7
Mihalas, Anca B; Meffert, Mollie K (2015) IKK kinase assay for assessment of canonical NF-?B activation in neurons. Methods Mol Biol 1280:61-74