Inhibitory neurons are crucial for shaping and regulating the dynamics of the entire network, and disturbances in these neurons contribute to brain disorders. Despite the recent progress in genetic labeling techniques, the heterogeneity of inhibitory neurons requires the development of highly characterized tools that allow accurate, convenient, and versatile visualization of inhibitory neurons in the mouse brain. Here, we report a novel genetic technique to visualize the vast majority and/or sparse subsets of inhibitory neurons in the mouse brain without using techniques that require advanced skills. We developed several lines of Cre-dependent tdTomato reporter mice based on the vesicular GABA transporter (VGAT)-BAC, named VGAT-stop-tdTomato mice. The most useful line (line #54) was selected for further analysis based on two characteristics: the inhibitory neuron-specificity of tdTomato expression and the transgene integration site, which confers efficient breeding and fewer adverse effects resulting from transgene integration-related genomic disruption. Robust and inhibitory neuron-specific expression of tdTomato was observed in a wide range of developmental and cellular contexts. By breeding the VGAT-stop-tdTomato mouse (line #54) with a novel Cre driver mouse line, Galntl4-CreER, sparse labeling of inhibitory neurons was achieved following tamoxifen administration. Furthermore, another interesting line (line #58) was generated through the unexpected integration of the transgene into the X-chromosome and will be used to map X-chromosome inactivation of inhibitory neurons. Taken together, our studies provide new, well-characterized tools with which multiple aspects of inhibitory neurons can be studied in the mouse.
Elimination of redundant synapses formed early in development and strengthening of necessary connections are crucial for shaping functional neural circuits. Purkinje cells (PCs) in the neonatal cerebellum are innervated by multiple climbing fibers (CFs) with similar strengths. A single CF is strengthened whereas the other CFs are eliminated in each PC during postnatal development. The underlying mechanisms, particularly for the strengthening of single CFs, are poorly understood. Here we report that progranulin, a multi-functional growth factor implicated in the pathogenesis of frontotemporal dementia, strengthens developing CF synaptic inputs and counteracts their elimination from postnatal day 11 to 16. Progranulin derived from PCs acts retrogradely onto its putative receptor Sort1 on CFs. This effect is independent of semaphorin 3A, another retrograde signaling molecule that counteracts CF synapse elimination. We propose that progranulin-Sort1 signaling strengthens and maintains developing CF inputs, and may contribute to selection of single "winner" CFs that survive synapse elimination.
Phenotypic development of neocortical GABA neurons is highly plastic and promoted by various neurotrophic factors such as neuregulin-1. A subpopulation of GABA neurons expresses not only neuregulin receptor (ErbB4) but also epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (ErbB1) during development, but the neurobiological action of EGF on this cell population is less understood than that of neuregulin-1. Here, we examined the effects of exogenous EGF on immature GABA neurons both in culture and in vivo and also explored physiological consequences in adults. We prepared low density cultures from the neocortex of rat embryos and treated neocortical neurons with EGF. EGF decreased protein levels of glutamic acid decarboxylases (GAD65 and GAD67), and EGF influences on neuronal survival and glial proliferation were negligible or limited. The EGF treatment also diminished the frequency of miniature inhibitory postsynaptic currents (mIPSCs). In vivo administration of EGF to mouse pups reproduced the above GABAergic phenomena in neocortical culture. In EGF-injected postnatal mice, GAD- and parvalbumin-immunoreactivities were reduced in the frontal cortex. In addition, postnatal EGF treatment decreased mIPSC frequency in, and the density of, GABAergic terminals on pyramidal cells. Although these phenotypic influences on GABA neurons became less marked during development, it later resulted in the reduced β- and γ-powers of sound-evoked electroencephalogram in adults, which is regulated by parvalbumin-positive GABA neurons and implicated in the schizophrenia pathophysiology. These findings suggest that, in contrast to the ErbB4 ligand of neuregulin-1, the ErbB1 ligand of EGF exerts unique maturation-attenuating influences on developing cortical GABAergic neurons.