Zebrafish dscaml1 Deficiency Impairs Retinal Patterning and Oculomotor Function
Down Syndrome Cell Adhesion Molecules (dscam and dscaml1) are essential regulators of neural circuit assembly, but their roles in vertebrate neural circuit function are still mostly unexplored. We investigated the functional consequences of dscaml1 deficiency in the larval zebrafish (sexually undifferentiated) oculomotor system, where behavior, circuit function, and neuronal activity can be precisely quantified. Genetic perturbation of dscaml1 resulted in deficits in retinal patterning and light adaptation, consistent with its known roles in mammals. Oculomotor analyses revealed specific deficits related to the dscaml1 mutation, including severe fatigue during gaze stabilization, reduced saccade amplitude and velocity in the light, greater disconjugacy, and impaired fixation. Two-photon calcium imaging of abducens neurons in control and dscaml1 mutant animals confirmed deficits in saccade-command signals (indicative of an impairment in the saccadic premotor pathway), while abducens activation by the pretectum-vestibular pathway was not affected. Together, we show that loss of dscaml1 resulted in impairments in specific oculomotor circuits, providing a new animal model to investigate the development of oculomotor premotor pathways and their associated human ocular disorders.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTDscaml1 is a neural developmental gene with unknown behavioral significance. Using the zebrafish model, this study shows that dscaml1 mutants have a host of oculomotor (eye movement) deficits. Notably, the oculomotor phenotypes in dscaml1 mutants are reminiscent of human ocular motor apraxia, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by reduced saccade amplitude and gaze stabilization deficits. Population-level recording of neuronal activity further revealed potential subcircuit-specific requirements for dscaml1 during oculomotor behavior. These findings underscore the importance of dscaml1 in the development of visuomotor function and characterize a new model to investigate potential circuit deficits underlying human oculomotor disorders.
A primal role for the vestibular sense in the development of coordinated locomotion
Mature locomotion requires that animal nervous systems coordinate distinct groups of muscles. The pressures that guide the development of coordination are not well understood. To understand how and why coordination might emerge, we measured the kinematics of spontaneous vertical locomotion across early development in zebrafish (Danio rerio) . We found that zebrafish used their pectoral fins and bodies synergistically during upwards swims. As larvae developed, they changed the way they coordinated fin and body movements, allowing them to climb with increasingly stable postures. This fin-body synergy was absent in vestibular mutants, suggesting sensed imbalance promotes coordinated movements. Similarly, synergies were systematically altered following cerebellar lesions, identifying a neural substrate regulating fin-body coordination. Together these findings link the vestibular sense to the maturation of coordinated locomotion. Developing zebrafish improve postural stability by changing fin-body coordination. We therefore propose that the development of coordinated locomotion is regulated by vestibular sensation.
Encoding of Wind Direction by Central Neurons in Drosophila
Wind is a major navigational cue for insects, but how wind direction is decoded by central neurons in the insect brain is unknown. Here we find that walking flies combine signals from both antennae to orient to wind during olfactory search behavior. Movements of single antennae are ambiguous with respect to wind direction, but the difference between left and right antennal displacements yields a linear code for wind direction in azimuth. Second-order mechanosensory neurons share the ambiguous responses of a single antenna and receive input primarily from the ipsilateral antenna. Finally, we identify novel "wedge projection neurons" that integrate signals across the two antennae and receive input from at least three classes of second-order neurons to produce a more linear representation of wind direction. This study establishes how a feature of the sensory environment-wind direction-is decoded by neurons that compare information across two sensors.
Balance Sense: Response Motifs that Pervade the Brain
Measuring how the brain encodes and processes an animal's own motion presents major technical challenges. New approaches demonstrate the viability and merit of measuring vestibular responses throughout the entire brain.
Sensory Gating: Cellular Substrates of Surprise
Context modulates the brain's response to sensory input. Recent work has identified the neurons that implement contextual gating of a startle behavior in zebrafish and suggests a synaptic mechanism for this modulation.
Expansion microscopy of zebrafish for neuroscience and developmental biology studies
Expansion microscopy (ExM) allows scalable imaging of preserved 3D biological specimens with nanoscale resolution on fast diffraction-limited microscopes. Here, we explore the utility of ExM in the larval and embryonic zebrafish, an important model organism for the study of neuroscience and development. Regarding neuroscience, we found that ExM enabled the tracing of fine processes of radial glia, which are not resolvable with diffraction-limited microscopy. ExM further resolved putative synaptic connections, as well as molecular differences between densely packed synapses. Finally, ExM could resolve subsynaptic protein organization, such as ring-like structures composed of glycine receptors. Regarding development, we used ExM to characterize the shapes of nuclear invaginations and channels, and to visualize cytoskeletal proteins nearby. We detected nuclear invagination channels at late prophase and telophase, potentially suggesting roles for such channels in cell division. Thus, ExM of the larval and embryonic zebrafish may enable systematic studies of how molecular components are configured in multiple contexts of interest to neuroscience and developmental biology.
Whole-brain activity mapping onto a zebrafish brain atlas
In order to localize the neural circuits involved in generating behaviors, it is necessary to assign activity onto anatomical maps of the nervous system. Using brain registration across hundreds of larval zebrafish, we have built an expandable open-source atlas containing molecular labels and definitions of anatomical regions, the Z-Brain. Using this platform and immunohistochemical detection of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) as a readout of neural activity, we have developed a system to create and contextualize whole-brain maps of stimulus- and behavior-dependent neural activity. This mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP)-mapping assay is technically simple, and data analysis is completely automated. Because MAP-mapping is performed on freely swimming fish, it is applicable to studies of nearly any stimulus or behavior. Here we demonstrate our high-throughput approach using pharmacological, visual and noxious stimuli, as well as hunting and feeding. The resultant maps outline hundreds of areas associated with behaviors.
A Convergent and Essential Interneuron Pathway for Mauthner-Cell-Mediated Escapes
The Mauthner cell (M-cell) is a command-like neuron in teleost fish whose firing in response to aversive stimuli is correlated with short-latency escapes [1-3]. M-cells have been proposed as evolutionary ancestors of startle response neurons of the mammalian reticular formation , and studies of this circuit have uncovered important principles in neurobiology that generalize to more complex vertebrate models . The main excitatory input was thought to originate from multisensory afferents synapsing directly onto the M-cell dendrites . Here, we describe an additional, convergent pathway that is essential for the M-cell-mediated startle behavior in larval zebrafish. It is composed of excitatory interneurons called spiral fiber neurons, which project to the M-cell axon hillock. By in vivo calcium imaging, we found that spiral fiber neurons are active in response to aversive stimuli capable of eliciting escapes. Like M-cell ablations, bilateral ablations of spiral fiber neurons largely eliminate short-latency escapes. Unilateral spiral fiber neuron ablations shift the directionality of escapes and indicate that spiral fiber neurons excite the M-cell in a lateralized manner. Their optogenetic activation increases the probability of short-latency escapes, supporting the notion that spiral fiber neurons help activate M-cell-mediated startle behavior. These results reveal that spiral fiber neurons are essential for the function of the M-cell in response to sensory cues and suggest that convergent excitatory inputs that differ in their input location and timing ensure reliable activation of the M-cell, a feedforward excitatory motif that may extend to other neural circuits.
Neuropeptidergic signaling partitions arousal behaviors in zebrafish
Animals modulate their arousal state to ensure that their sensory responsiveness and locomotor activity match environmental demands. Neuropeptides can regulate arousal, but studies of their roles in vertebrates have been constrained by the vast array of neuropeptides and their pleiotropic effects. To overcome these limitations, we systematically dissected the neuropeptidergic modulation of arousal in larval zebrafish. We quantified spontaneous locomotor activity and responsiveness to sensory stimuli after genetically induced expression of seven evolutionarily conserved neuropeptides, including adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide 1b (adcyap1b), cocaine-related and amphetamine-related transcript (cart), cholecystokinin (cck), calcitonin gene-related peptide (cgrp), galanin, hypocretin, and nociceptin. Our study reveals that arousal behaviors are dissociable: neuropeptide expression uncoupled spontaneous activity from sensory responsiveness, and uncovered modality-specific effects upon sensory responsiveness. Principal components analysis and phenotypic clustering revealed both shared and divergent features of neuropeptidergic functions: hypocretin and cgrp stimulated spontaneous locomotor activity, whereas galanin and nociceptin attenuated these behaviors. In contrast, cart and adcyap1b enhanced sensory responsiveness yet had minimal impacts on spontaneous activity, and cck expression induced the opposite effects. Furthermore, hypocretin and nociceptin induced modality-specific differences in responsiveness to changes in illumination. Our study provides the first systematic and high-throughput analysis of neuropeptidergic modulation of arousal, demonstrates that arousal can be partitioned into independent behavioral components, and reveals novel and conserved functions of neuropeptides in regulating arousal.
Zebrabow: multispectral cell labeling for cell tracing and lineage analysis in zebrafish
Advances in imaging and cell-labeling techniques have greatly enhanced our understanding of developmental and neurobiological processes. Among vertebrates, zebrafish is uniquely suited for in vivo imaging owing to its small size and optical translucency. However, distinguishing and following cells over extended time periods remains difficult. Previous studies have demonstrated that Cre recombinase-mediated recombination can lead to combinatorial expression of spectrally distinct fluorescent proteins (RFP, YFP and CFP) in neighboring cells, creating a 'Brainbow' of colors. The random combination of fluorescent proteins provides a way to distinguish adjacent cells, visualize cellular interactions and perform lineage analyses. Here, we describe Zebrabow (Zebrafish Brainbow) tools for in vivo multicolor imaging in zebrafish. First, we show that the broadly expressed ubi:Zebrabow line provides diverse color profiles that can be optimized by modulating Cre activity. Second, we find that colors are inherited equally among daughter cells and remain stable throughout embryonic and larval stages. Third, we show that UAS:Zebrabow lines can be used in combination with Gal4 to generate broad or tissue-specific expression patterns and facilitate tracing of axonal processes. Fourth, we demonstrate that Zebrabow can be used for long-term lineage analysis. Using the cornea as a model system, we provide evidence that embryonic corneal epithelial clones are replaced by large, wedge-shaped clones formed by centripetal expansion of cells from the peripheral cornea. The Zebrabow tool set presented here provides a resource for next-generation color-based anatomical and lineage analyses in zebrafish.