The locus coeruleus (LC) projects throughout the brain and spinal cord and is the major source of central noradrenaline. It remains unclear whether the LC acts functionally as a single global effector or as discrete modules. Specifically, while spinal-projections from LC neurons can exert analgesic actions, it is not known whether they can act independently of ascending LC projections. Using viral vectors taken up at axon terminals, we expressed chemogenetic actuators selectively in LC neurons with spinal (LC:SC) or prefrontal cortex (LC:PFC) projections. Activation of the LC:SC module produced robust, lateralised anti-nociception while activation of LC:PFC produced aversion. In a neuropathic pain model, LC:SC activation reduced hind-limb sensitisation and induced conditioned place preference. By contrast, activation of LC:PFC exacerbated spontaneous pain, produced aversion and increased anxiety-like behaviour. This independent, contrasting modulation of pain-related behaviours mediated by distinct noradrenergic neuronal populations provides evidence for a modular functional organisation of the LC.
The human ubiquitin ligase HUWE1 has key roles in tumorigenesis, yet it is unkown how its activity is regulated. We present the crystal structure of a C-terminal part of HUWE1, including the catalytic domain, and reveal an asymmetric auto-inhibited dimer. We show that HUWE1 dimerizes in solution and self-associates in cells, and that both occurs through the crystallographic dimer interface. We demonstrate that HUWE1 is inhibited in cells and that it can be activated by disruption of the dimer interface. We identify a conserved segment in HUWE1 that counteracts dimer formation by associating with the dimerization region intramolecularly. Our studies reveal, intriguingly, that the tumor suppressor p14ARF binds to this segment and may thus shift the conformational equilibrium of HUWE1 toward the inactive state. We propose a model, in which the activity of HUWE1 underlies conformational control in response to physiological cues-a mechanism that may be exploited for cancer therapy.