Normal formation and function of spinal cord circuits requires differentiation of sensory, motor and interneuron subtypes. Our work addresses the role that voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels play in neuronal subtype differentiation in the embryonic vertebrate spinal cord. We propose that a select subset of Kv channels regulate neuronal differentiation by determining electrical membrane properties that control spontaneous elevations of intracellular calcium, known as calcium (Ca) spikes. Long-duration action potentials occur spontaneously and trigger Ca spikes during a restricted ~6 hr period prior to synapse formation (Stages [St] 20-28). The frequency of Ca spikes determines downstream effects on differentiation programs. We have found that a subset of Kv channels show patterned expression in the embryonic spinal cord and regulate Ca spike properties differently in the dorsal versus ventral embryonic spinal cord. We test the roles of dorsally-expressed Kv channel (Kv1.1) in differentiation of spinal interneurons (Aim 1) and ventrally-expressed Kv channel (Kv2.2) in differentiation of motor neurons (Aim 2).
For Aim 3, we focus on subtypes within the motor neuron population and test whether differences in Kv currents account for subtype-specific Ca spike properties and encoded developmental signals Our studies take advantage of the experimental strengths of the Xenopus and zebrafish embryo models and our experience using (1) antisense (AS), morpholino (MO) and dominant negative (DN) overexpression methods in Xenopus and zebrafish embryos, (2) zebrafish genetic mutants and transgenic lines, (3) electrophysiological recording and Ca imaging from neurons in vivo, and (4) morphological methods to analyze spinal cord development. The results of the proposed experiments will provide new insights into molecular mechanisms that allow early spinal cord neuron activity to direct generation of the diverse neuronal identities required for formation of functional circuits.

Public Health Relevance

The developing nervous system not only generates a staggering number of neurons but also endows them with diverse identities. Neuronal circuit formation requires neurons of diverse identities. Our studies seek to identify novel mechanisms generating neuronal diversity in the embryonic spinal cord.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-MDCN-J (02))
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Silberberg, Shai D
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University of Colorado Denver
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Moreno, Rosa L; Josey, Megan; Ribera, Angeles B (2017) Zebrafish In Situ Spinal Cord Preparation for Electrophysiological Recordings from Spinal Sensory and Motor Neurons. J Vis Exp :
Carmean, V; Yonkers, M A; Tellez, M B et al. (2015) pigk Mutation underlies macho behavior and affects Rohon-Beard cell excitability. J Neurophysiol 114:1146-57
Hanson, M Gartz; Wilde, Jonathan J; Moreno, Rosa L et al. (2015) Potassium dependent rescue of a myopathy with core-like structures in mouse. Elife 4:
Carlisle, Tara C; Ribera, Angeles B (2014) Connexin 35b expression in the spinal cord of Danio rerio embryos and larvae. J Comp Neurol 522:861-75
Moreno, Rosa L; Ribera, Angeles B (2014) Spinal neurons require Islet1 for subtype-specific differentiation of electrical excitability. Neural Dev 9:19
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Wright, Melissa A; Ribera, Angeles B (2010) Brain-derived neurotrophic factor mediates non-cell-autonomous regulation of sensory neuron position and identity. J Neurosci 30:14513-21
Moreno, Rosa L; Ribera, Angeles B (2009) Zebrafish motor neuron subtypes differ electrically prior to axonal outgrowth. J Neurophysiol 102:2477-84
Pineda, Ricardo H; Ribera, Angeles B (2008) Dorsal-ventral gradient for neuronal plasticity in the embryonic spinal cord. J Neurosci 28:3824-34

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