The development of the mammalian brain depends on the migrations of neuronal precursors from germinal zones, where they are generated, and their assembly into neuronal laminae, where synaptic connections form. Since CNS migration disorders are associated with a number of cortical malformations, and are a major cause of disease in the developing human brain, including mental retardation and epilepsy, a clearer understanding of the molecular control of CNS neuronal migration could be relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of human developmental brain disorders. Neuronal migration critically depends on the polarization of the neuron in the direction of moment, and with support from this grant, we previously established that the conserved mPar61 polarity complex localizes to the centrosome and coordinates the forward movement of the centrosome and soma, by a mechanism that includes activation of acto-myosin contractile motors in the proximal region of the leading process, in migrating cerebellar granule neurons. The overall goal of the proposed research is to define the relative contributions of the master polarity regulator Cdc42 and the three Par6 isoforms to critical steps in CNS migration, including the formation and maintenance of a highly polarized leading process, and to define their role(s) in receptor trafficking of neuronal adhesion proteins. Although a clear role for Cdc42 has been established in the migration of many non-neuronal cells, and in dendritic arborization and axon guidance, the roles of Cdc42 and the relative role of the Par6 isoforms have not been analyzed in high-resolution time-lapse imaging of live, migrating CNS neurons. Given the importance of glial-guided migration to the formation of neuronal layers in cortical regions of brain, we will focus on this highly specialized migration system, using cerebellar granule neurons migrating on glia as our model system.
In Aim 1, we will study a conditional loss of function of Cdc42;a similar plan will be implemented in Aim 3 for each of the three Par6 isoforms expressed in granule cell progenitors (GCPs). As a complementary approach, in Aims 2 &3, we will use siRNAs and shRNAs to knockdown Cdc42 and Par6 isoform levels and compare knockdown phenotypes with conditional loss of function phenotypes. If Cdc42 is in the same genetic pathway with any or all of the Par6 isoforms, we would expect to see similar phenotypes for Cdc42 and Par6 isoform loss of function. We will also use Raichu probes for Cdc42, kindly provided by Dr. Miki Matsuda, which are FRET-based probes that monitor Cdc42 activation in localized regions of a cell. These probes will enable us to evaluate the spatiotemporal localization of Cdc42 activation relative to the Par6 isoforms in migrating GCPs. The discovery of changing patterns of Par6 expression during cerebellar development is an exciting opportunity to understand their relative contributions to neuronal migration and whether they act within a Cdc42 signaling pathway.
The proposed research will examine the molecular pathways that control cell polarity during neuronal migration in the developing brain. We will test the role of wild type and conditional loss of function of the polarity regulator Cdc42 and three isoforms of the Par6 polarity proteins on two critical steps in glial-guided neuronal migration: (1) the extension of a leading process in the direction of migration, and (2) the localization of adhesion proteins that bind the neuron to the glial fiber. These studies will be important for understanding the mechanisms of diseases that affect normal brain development, including mental retardation, autism and epilepsy.
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