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Development of vestibular behaviors in zebrafish

Bagnall, Martha W; Schoppik, David
Most animals orient their bodies with respect to gravity to facilitate locomotion and perception. The neural circuits responsible for these orienting movements have long served as a model to address fundamental questions in systems neuroscience. Though postural control is vital, we know little about development of either balance reflexes or the neural circuitry that produces them. Recent work in a genetically and optically accessible vertebrate, the larval zebrafish, has begun to reveal the mechanisms by which such vestibular behaviors and circuits come to function. Here we highlight recent work that leverages the particular advantages of the larval zebrafish to illuminate mechanisms of postural development, the role of sensation for balance circuit development, and the organization of developing vestibular circuits. Further, we frame open questions regarding the developmental mechanisms for functional circuit assembly and maturation where studying the zebrafish vestibular system is likely to open new frontiers.
PMID: 29957408
ISSN: 1873-6882
CID: 3178972

The Ancient Origins of Neural Substrates for Land Walking

Jung, Heekyung; Baek, Myungin; D'Elia, Kristen P; Boisvert, Catherine; Currie, Peter D; Tay, Boon-Hui; Venkatesh, Byrappa; Brown, Stuart M; Heguy, Adriana; Schoppik, David; Dasen, Jeremy S
Walking is the predominant locomotor behavior expressed by land-dwelling vertebrates, but it is unknown when the neural circuits that are essential for limb control first appeared. Certain fish species display walking-like behaviors, raising the possibility that the underlying circuitry originated in primitive marine vertebrates. We show that the neural substrates of bipedalism are present in the little skate Leucoraja erinacea, whose common ancestor with tetrapods existed ∼420 million years ago. Leucoraja exhibits core features of tetrapod locomotor gaits, including left-right alternation and reciprocal extension-flexion of the pelvic fins. Leucoraja also deploys a remarkably conserved Hox transcription factor-dependent program that is essential for selective innervation of fin/limb muscle. This network encodes peripheral connectivity modules that are distinct from those used in axial muscle-based swimming and has apparently been diminished in most modern fish. These findings indicate that the circuits that are essential for walking evolved through adaptation of a genetic regulatory network shared by all vertebrates with paired appendages. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
PMID: 29425489
ISSN: 1097-4172
CID: 2948352

Control of Movement Initiation Underlies the Development of Balance

Ehrlich, David E; Schoppik, David
Balance arises from the interplay of external forces acting on the body and internally generated movements. Many animal bodies are inherently unstable, necessitating corrective locomotion to maintain stability. Understanding how developing animals come to balance remains a challenge. Here we study the interplay among environment, sensation, and action as balance develops in larval zebrafish. We first model the physical forces that challenge underwater balance and experimentally confirm that larvae are subject to constant destabilization. Larvae propel in swim bouts that, we find, tend to stabilize the body. We confirm the relationship between locomotion and balance by changing larval body composition, exacerbating instability and eliciting more frequent swimming. Intriguingly, developing zebrafish come to control the initiation of locomotion, swimming preferentially when unstable, thus restoring preferred postures. To test the sufficiency of locomotor-driven stabilization and the developing control of movement timing, we incorporate both into a generative model of swimming. Simulated larvae recapitulate observed postures and movement timing across early development, but only when locomotor-driven stabilization and control of movement initiation are both utilized. We conclude the ability to move when unstable is the key developmental improvement to balance in larval zebrafish. Our work informs how emerging sensorimotor ability comes to impact how and why animals move when they do.
PMID: 28111151
ISSN: 1879-0445
CID: 2418232

Extraocular motoneuron pools develop along a dorsoventral axis in zebrafish, Danio rerio

Greaney, Marie R; Privorotskiy, Ann E; D'Elia, Kristen P; Schoppik, David
Both spatial and temporal cues determine the fate of immature neurons. A major challenge at the interface of developmental and systems neuroscience is to relate this spatiotemporal trajectory of maturation to circuit-level functional organization. This study examined the development of two extraocular motor nuclei (nIII and nIV), structures in which a motoneuron's identity, or choice of muscle partner, defines its behavioral role. We used retro-orbital dye fills, in combination with fluorescent markers for motoneuron location and birthdate, to probe spatial and temporal organization of the oculomotor (nIII) and trochlear (nIV) nuclei in the larval zebrafish. We describe a dorsoventral organization of the four nIII motoneuron pools, in which inferior and medial rectus motoneurons occupy dorsal nIII, while inferior oblique and superior rectus motoneurons occupy distinct divisions of ventral nIII. Dorsal nIII motoneurons are, moreover, born before motoneurons of ventral nIII and nIV. The order of neurogenesis can therefore account for the dorsoventral organization of nIII and may play a primary role in determining motoneuron identity. We propose that the temporal development of extraocular motoneurons plays a key role in assembling a functional oculomotor circuit. J. Comp. Neurol. 525:65-78, 2017. (c) 2016 The Authors The Journal of Comparative Neurology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
PMID: 27197595
ISSN: 0021-9967
CID: 2314012

Gaze-stabilizing central vestibular neurons project asymmetrically to extraocular motoneuron pools

Schoppik, David; Bianco, Isaac H; Prober, David A; Douglass, Adam D; Robson, Drew N; Li, Jennifer M B; Greenwood, Joel S F; Soucy, Edward; Engert, Florian; Schier, Alexander F
Within reflex circuits, specific anatomical projections allow central neurons to relay sensations to effectors that generate movements. A major challenge is to relate anatomical features of central neural populations -- such as asymmetric connectivity -- to the computations the populations perform. To address this problem, we mapped the anatomy, modeled the function, and discovered a new behavioral role for a genetically-defined population of central vestibular neurons in rhombomeres 5-7 of larval zebrafish. First, we found that neurons within this central population project preferentially to motoneurons that move the eyes downward. Concordantly, when the entire population of asymmetrically-projecting neurons was stimulated collectively, only downward eye rotations were observed, demonstrating a functional correlate of the anatomical bias. When these neurons are ablated, fish failed to rotate their eyes following either nose-up or nose-down body tilts. This asymmetrically-projecting central population thus participates in both up and downward gaze stabilization. In addition to projecting to motoneurons, central vestibular neurons also receive direct sensory input from peripheral afferents. To infer whether asymmetric projections can facilitate sensory encoding or motor output, we modeled differentially-projecting sets of central vestibular neurons. Whereas motor command strength was independent of projection allocation, asymmetric projections enabled more accurate representation of nose-up stimuli. The model shows how asymmetric connectivity could enhance the representation of imbalance during nose-up postures while preserving gaze-stabilization performance. Finally, we found that central vestibular neurons were necessary for a vital behavior requiring maintenance of a nose-up posture: swim bladder inflation. These observations suggest that asymmetric connectivity in the vestibular system facilitates representation of ethologically-relevant stimuli without compromising reflexive behavior.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTInterneuron populations use specific anatomical projections to transform sensations into reflexive actions. Here we examined how the anatomical composition of a genetically-defined population of balance interneurons in the larval zebrafish relates to the computations it performs. First, we found that the population of interneurons that stabilize gaze preferentially project to motoneurons that move the eyes downward. Next, we discovered through modeling that such projection patterns can enhance the encoding of nose-up sensations without compromising gaze stabilization. Finally we found that loss of these interneurons impairs a vital behavior, swim bladder inflation, that relies on maintaining a nose-up posture. These observations suggest that anatomical specialization permits neural circuits to represent relevant features of the environment without compromising behavior.
PMID: 28972121
ISSN: 1529-2401
CID: 2720302

Astrocyte growth is driven by the Tre1/S1pr1 phospholipid-binding G protein-coupled receptor

Chen, Jiakun; Stork, Tobias; Kang, Yunsik; Nardone, Katherine A M; Auer, Franziska; Farrell, Ryan J; Jay, Taylor R; Heo, Dongeun; Sheehan, Amy; Paton, Cameron; Nagel, Katherine I; Schoppik, David; Monk, Kelly R; Freeman, Marc R
Astrocytes play crucial roles in regulating neural circuit function by forming a dense network of synapse-associated membrane specializations, but signaling pathways regulating astrocyte morphogenesis remain poorly defined. Here, we show the Drosophila lipid-binding G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) Tre1 is required for astrocytes to establish their intricate morphology in vivo. The lipid phosphate phosphatases Wunen/Wunen2 also regulate astrocyte morphology and, via Tre1, mediate astrocyte-astrocyte competition for growth-promoting lipids. Loss of s1pr1, the functional analog of Tre1 in zebrafish, disrupts astrocyte process elaboration, and live imaging and pharmacology demonstrate that S1pr1 balances proper astrocyte process extension/retraction dynamics during growth. Loss of Tre1 in flies or S1pr1 in zebrafish results in defects in simple assays of motor behavior. Tre1 and S1pr1 are thus potent evolutionarily conserved regulators of the elaboration of astrocyte morphological complexity and, ultimately, astrocyte control of behavior.
PMID: 38096817
ISSN: 1097-4199
CID: 5588882

Determinants of motor neuron functional subtypes important for locomotor speed

D'Elia, Kristen P; Hameedy, Hanna; Goldblatt, Dena; Frazel, Paul; Kriese, Mercer; Zhu, Yunlu; Hamling, Kyla R; Kawakami, Koichi; Liddelow, Shane A; Schoppik, David; Dasen, Jeremy S
Locomotion requires precise control of the strength and speed of muscle contraction and is achieved by recruiting functionally distinct subtypes of motor neurons (MNs). MNs are essential to movement and differentially susceptible in disease, but little is known about how MNs acquire functional subtype-specific features during development. Using single-cell RNA profiling in embryonic and larval zebrafish, we identify novel and conserved molecular signatures for MN functional subtypes and identify genes expressed in both early post-mitotic and mature MNs. Assessing MN development in genetic mutants, we define a molecular program essential for MN functional subtype specification. Two evolutionarily conserved transcription factors, Prdm16 and Mecom, are both functional subtype-specific determinants integral for fast MN development. Loss of prdm16 or mecom causes fast MNs to develop transcriptional profiles and innervation similar to slow MNs. These results reveal the molecular diversity of vertebrate axial MNs and demonstrate that functional subtypes are specified through intrinsic transcriptional codes.
PMID: 37676768
ISSN: 2211-1247
CID: 5607632

SAMPL is a high-throughput solution to study unconstrained vertical behavior in small animals

Zhu, Yunlu; Auer, Franziska; Gelnaw, Hannah; Davis, Samantha N; Hamling, Kyla R; May, Christina E; Ahamed, Hassan; Ringstad, Niels; Nagel, Katherine I; Schoppik, David
Balance and movement are impaired in many neurological disorders. Recent advances in behavioral monitoring provide unprecedented access to posture and locomotor kinematics but without the throughput and scalability necessary to screen candidate genes/potential therapeutics. Here, we present a scalable apparatus to measure posture and locomotion (SAMPL). SAMPL includes extensible hardware and open-source software with real-time processing and can acquire data from D. melanogaster, C. elegans, and D. rerio as they move vertically. Using SAMPL, we define how zebrafish balance as they navigate vertically and discover small but systematic variations among kinematic parameters between genetic backgrounds. We demonstrate SAMPL's ability to resolve differences in posture and navigation as a function of effect size and data gathered, providing key data for screens. SAMPL is therefore both a tool to model balance and locomotor disorders and an exemplar of how to scale apparatus to support screens.
PMID: 37267107
ISSN: 2211-1247
CID: 5543482

The Nature and Origin of Synaptic Inputs to Vestibulospinal Neurons in the Larval Zebrafish

Hamling, Kyla R; Harmon, Katherine; Schoppik, David
Vestibulospinal neurons integrate sensed imbalance to regulate postural reflexes. As an evolutionarily conserved neural population, understanding their synaptic and circuit-level properties can offer insight into vertebrate antigravity reflexes. Motivated by recent work, we set out to verify and extend the characterization of vestibulospinal neurons in the larval zebrafish. Using current-clamp recordings together with stimulation, we observed that larval zebrafish vestibulospinal neurons are silent at rest, yet capable of sustained spiking following depolarization. Neurons responded systematically to a vestibular stimulus (translation in the dark); responses were abolished after chronic or acute loss of the utricular otolith. Voltage-clamp recordings at rest revealed strong excitatory inputs with a characteristic multimodal distribution of amplitudes, as well as strong inhibitory inputs. Excitatory inputs within a particular mode (amplitude range) routinely violated refractory period criteria and exhibited complex sensory tuning, suggesting a nonunitary origin. Next, using a unilateral loss-of-function approach, we characterized the source of vestibular inputs to vestibulospinal neurons from each ear. We observed systematic loss of high-amplitude excitatory inputs after utricular lesions ipsilateral, but not contralateral, to the recorded vestibulospinal neuron. In contrast, while some neurons had decreased inhibitory inputs after either ipsilateral or contralateral lesions, there were no systematic changes across the population of recorded neurons. We conclude that imbalance sensed by the utricular otolith shapes the responses of larval zebrafish vestibulospinal neurons through both excitatory and inhibitory inputs. Our findings expand our understanding of how a vertebrate model, the larval zebrafish, might use vestibulospinal input to stabilize posture. More broadly, when compared with recordings in other vertebrates, our data speak to conserved origins of vestibulospinal synaptic input.
PMID: 37268420
ISSN: 2373-2822
CID: 5541592

Neuronal birthdate reveals topography in a vestibular brainstem circuit for gaze stabilization

Goldblatt, Dena; Huang, Stephanie; Greaney, Marie R; Hamling, Kyla R; Voleti, Venkatakaushik; Perez-Campos, Citlali; Patel, Kripa B; Li, Wenze; Hillman, Elizabeth M C; Bagnall, Martha W; Schoppik, David
Across the nervous system, neurons with similar attributes are topographically organized. This topography reflects developmental pressures. Oddly, vestibular (balance) nuclei are thought to be disorganized. By measuring activity in birthdated neurons, we revealed a functional map within the central vestibular projection nucleus that stabilizes gaze in the larval zebrafish. We first discovered that both somatic position and stimulus selectivity follow projection neuron birthdate. Next, with electron microscopy and loss-of-function assays, we found that patterns of peripheral innervation to projection neurons were similarly organized by birthdate. Finally, birthdate revealed spatial patterns of axonal arborization and synapse formation to projection neuron outputs. Collectively, we find that development reveals previously hidden organization to the input, processing, and output layers of a highly conserved vertebrate sensorimotor circuit. The spatial and temporal attributes we uncover constrain the developmental mechanisms that may specify the fate, function, and organization of vestibulo-ocular reflex neurons. More broadly, our data suggest that, like invertebrates, temporal mechanisms may assemble vertebrate sensorimotor architecture.
PMID: 36924768
ISSN: 1879-0445
CID: 5462542