Role of Lmx1a and Lmx1b transcription factors in post-mitotic midbrain dopaminergic neurons

Authors: Chabrat, Audrey
Advisor: Lévesque, Martin
Abstract: Lmx1a and Lmx1b are transcription factors known for their role in the development of midbrain dopamine neurons (mDA). They were shown as essential for each stage of differentiation from progenitors to mature dopaminergic neurons. Recent studies have also highlighted the importance of these two transcription factors in dopaminergic neurons in adult mice. Lmx1a/b are involved in the regulation of mitochondrial genes and in autophagy. Although some evidence suggest that they could be involved in the formation of mDa circuit formation, their role in post-mitotic mDA neurons remains unknown. The aim of this thesis is to elucidate the role of Lmx1a/b in post-mitotic dopaminergic neurons. Analysis of dopaminergic axonal projections of double conditional mutant (cKO) mice for Lmx1a/b showed an axon guidance defect confirming the essential role of these transcription factors in the formation of dopaminergic circuits. In order to precisely identify the molecules involved in the regulation of the dopamine system, suitable techniques must be developed to identify the main genes that are regulated by Lmx1a/b. To this end we developed a new technique allowing gene profiling of brain sub-population. By combining rapid immunolabeling of mDA neurons with laser capture microdissection we manage to extract RNA from two sub-regions of mDA neurons such as ventral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc). The advantage of this technique is to compare quickly the regulation of genes expression by studying controls and mutant mice. A first methodological article has been published regarding this procedure. We then applied this technique on cKO mice for Lmx1a/b and their associated controls to identify genes regulated by Lmx1a and Lmx1b. Among these genes, we identified Plxnc1, an axon guidance receptor for the semaphorin 7a (Sema7a). In order to verify whether the regulation of Plxnc1 by Lmx1a/b is at the origin of the axon guidance defect observed in double conditional mutant for Lmx1a/b, we have made an in vitro analysis of the effect of Sema7a on mDA explants. Our study showed a chemorepulsive effect of Sema7a on Plxnc1 positives axons. In addition, the study of knockout mice for Sema7a shows an increase of DA innervation in the dorsal part of the striatum which is the region expressing Sema7a in control mice. This phenotype reveals a chemorepulsion induced by Sema7a/Plxnc1 interaction. The study of mice overexpressing Plxnc1 shows a loss of DA innervation in the dorsal striatum. Indeed, by overexpressing Plxnc1, the majority of midbrain cells begin to express this axon guidance protein instead of only mDA neurons from the VTA. Thus, all mDA neurons including neurons from the SNpc express Plxnc1 making them sensitive to Sema7a. This interaction Sema7a/Plxnc1 leads to a chemorepulsion of axons guided away from the dorsal striatum. Overall these results highlight the importance of the regulation of the axon guidance protein Plxnc1 by Lmx1a/b for the innervation of midbrain targets. The repression of Plxnc1 expression in dopaminergic neurons of the SNpc appears necessary for the innervation of dopaminergic axons in the dorsal striatum, rich in Sema7a. This study is the first to identify the molecular basis of the development of the dopaminergic system explaining the segregation of the nigrostriatal and mesolimbic pathways. These results should help to improve the effectiveness of cell therapies for Parkinson's disease. A second article will be submitted soon about the role of Lmx1a/b transciption factors in post-mitotic midbrain dopaminergic neurons. The main histopathological feature of Parkinson's disease (PD) is the degeneration of SNpc neurons. The cell replacement therapy using newly generated dopaminergic neurons from stem cells represents a promising therapy. However, a poor innervation of the newly grafted neurons limits the success of transplantation studies. The identification of factors regulating neuronal connectivity of mDA neurons becomes essential to elucidate the mechanisms involved in the establishment of the dopaminergic system. Therefore, in a final section of this thesis, I report preliminary study about cell replacement therapy in PD mouse model. I differentiated DA neurons from stem cells, knock-down Plxnc1 expression and performed grafting in 6-hydroxydopamine (6OHDA) mouse model to illustrate the possibility of improving a cell replacement therapy.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2016
Open Access Date: 24 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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