Professional Education

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Simon Fraser University (2015)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications

  • SPARCL1 promotes excitatory but not inhibitory synapse formation and function independent of neurexins and neuroligins. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience Gan, K. J., Sudhof, T. C. 2020


    Emerging evidence supports roles for secreted extracellular matrix proteins in boosting synaptogenesis, synaptic transmission, and synaptic plasticity. SPARCL1 (a.k.a. Hevin), a secreted non-neuronal protein, was reported to increase synaptogenesis by simultaneously binding to presynaptic neurexin-1alpha and to postsynaptic neuroligin-1B, thereby catalyzing formation of trans-synaptic neurexin/neuroligin complexes. However, neurexins and neuroligins do not themselves mediate synaptogenesis, raising the question of how SPARCL1 enhances synapse formation by binding to these molecules. Moreover, it remained unclear whether SPARCL1 acts on all synapses containing neurexins and neuroligins or only on a subset of synapses, and whether it enhances synaptic transmission in addition to boosting synaptogenesis or induces silent synapses. To explore these questions, we examined the synaptic effects of SPARCL1 and their dependence on neurexins and neuroligins. Using mixed neuronal and glial cultures from neonatal mouse cortex of both sexes, we show that SPARCL1 selectively increases excitatory but not inhibitory synapse numbers, enhances excitatory but not inhibitory synaptic transmission, and augments NMDA-receptor-mediated synaptic responses more than AMPAR-mediated synaptic responses. None of these effects were mediated by SPARCL1-binding to neurexins or neuroligins. Neurons from triple neurexin-1/2/3 or from quadruple neuroligin-1/2/3/4 conditional knockout mice that lacked all neurexins or all neuroligins were fully responsive to SPARCL1. Taken together, our results reveal that SPARCL1 selectively boosts excitatory but not inhibitory synaptogenesis and synaptic transmission by a novel mechanism that is independent of neurexins and neuroligins.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT:Emerging evidence supports roles for extracellular matrix proteins in boosting synapse formation and function. Previous studies demonstrated that SPARCL1, a secreted non-neuronal protein, promotes synapse formation in rodent and human neurons. However, it remained unclear whether SPARCL1 acts on all or on only a subset of synapses, induces functional or largely inactive synapses, and generates synapses by bridging presynaptic neurexins and postsynaptic neuroligins. Here, we report that SPARCL1 selectively induces excitatory synapses, increases their efficacy, and enhances their NMDA receptor content. Moreover, using rigorous genetic manipulations, we show that SPARCL1 does not require neurexins and neuroligins for its activity. Thus, SPARCL1 selectively boosts excitatory synaptogenesis and synaptic transmission by a novel mechanism that is independent of neurexins and neuroligins.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0454-20.2020

    View details for PubMedID 32973045

  • GSK3ß impairs KIF1A transport in a cellular model of Alzheimer's disease but does not regulate motor motility at S402. eNeuro Gan, K. J., Akram, A., Blasius, T. L., Ramser, E. M., Budaitis, B. G., Gabrych, D. R., Verhey, K. J., Silverman, M. A. 2020


    Impairment of axonal transport is an early pathological event that precedes neurotoxicity in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Soluble amyloid-? oligomers (A?Os), a causative agent of AD, activate intracellular signaling cascades that trigger phosphorylation of many target proteins, including tau, resulting in microtubule destabilization and transport impairment. Here, we investigated how KIF1A, a kinesin-3 family motor protein required for the transport of neurotrophic factors, is impaired in mouse hippocampal neurons treated with A?Os. By live cell imaging, we observed that A?Os inhibit transport of KIF1A-GFP similarly in wildtype and tau knockout neurons, indicating that tau is not required for this effect. Pharmacological inhibition of glycogen synthase kinase 3? (GSK3?), a kinase overactivated in AD, prevented the transport defects. By mass spectrometry on KIF1A immunoprecipitated from transgenic AD mouse brain, we detected phosphorylation at Ser 402, which conforms to a highly conserved GSK3? consensus site, and confirmed that this site is phosphorylated by GSK3? in vitro Finally, we tested whether a phosphomimic of S402 could modulate KIF1A motility in control and A?O-treated mouse neurons and in a Golgi dispersion assay devoid of endogenous KIF1A. In both systems, transport driven by mutant motors was similar to that of wildtype motors. In conclusion, GSK3? impairs KIF1A transport but does not regulate motor motility at S402. Further studies are required to determine the specific phosphorylation sites on KIF1A that regulate its cargo binding and/or motility in physiological and disease states.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Axonal transport of proteins and organelles is required for neuronal function and survival and is impaired in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Pathogenic mechanisms that directly impact motor protein motility prior to neuronal toxicity have not been widely investigated. Here, we show that KIF1A, the primary kinesin motor required for transport of neurotrophic factors, is impaired in mouse neurons treated with amyloid-? oligomers, a causative agent of AD. Inhibition of GSK3?, a kinase overactivated in AD, prevents these defects. We detected phosphorylation of S402, a highly conserved GSK3? consensus site, in KIF1A immunoprecipitated from AD mouse brain. However, a phosphomimic of S402 did not modulate KIF1A motility in cell-based assays. Thus, GSK3? impairs KIF1A transport but likely not through phosphorylation at S402.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/ENEURO.0176-20.2020

    View details for PubMedID 33067366

  • Neuromodulator Signaling Bidirectionally Controls Vesicle Numbers in Human Synapses. Cell Patzke, C., Brockmann, M. M., Dai, J., Gan, K. J., Grauel, M. K., Fenske, P., Liu, Y., Acuna, C., Rosenmund, C., Südhof, T. C. 2019; 179 (2): 498?513.e22


    Neuromodulators bind to pre- and postsynaptic G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), are able to quickly change intracellular cyclic AMP (cAMP) and Ca2+ levels, and are thought to play important roles in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we discovered in human neurons an unanticipated presynaptic mechanism that acutely changes synaptic ultrastructure and regulates synaptic communication. Activation of neuromodulator receptors bidirectionally controlled synaptic vesicle numbers within nerve terminals. This control correlated with changes in the levels of cAMP-dependent protein kinase A-mediated phosphorylation of synapsin-1. Using a conditional deletion approach, we reveal that the neuromodulator-induced control of synaptic vesicle numbers was largely dependent on synapsin-1. We propose a mechanism whereby non-phosphorylated synapsin-1 "latches" synaptic vesicles to presynaptic clusters at the active zone. cAMP-dependent phosphorylation of synapsin-1 then removes the vesicles. cAMP-independent dephosphorylation of synapsin-1 in turn recruits vesicles. Synapsin-1 thereby bidirectionally regulates synaptic vesicle numbers and modifies presynaptic neurotransmitter release as an effector of neuromodulator signaling in human neurons.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2019.09.011

    View details for PubMedID 31585084

  • Specific factors in blood from young but not old mice directly promote synapse formation and NMDA-receptor recruitment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Gan, K. J., Südhof, T. C. 2019


    Aging drives a progressive decline in cognition and decreases synapse numbers and synaptic function in the brain, thereby increasing the risk for neurodegenerative disease. Pioneering studies showed that introduction of blood from young mice into aged mice reversed age-associated cognitive impairments and increased synaptic connectivity in brain, suggesting that young blood contains specific factors that remediate age-associated decreases in brain function. However, whether such factors in blood from young animals act directly on neurons to enhance synaptic connectivity, or whether they act by an indirect mechanism remains unknown. Moreover, which factors in young blood mediate cognitive improvements in old mice is incompletely understood. Here, we show that serum extracted from the blood of young but not old mice, when applied to neurons transdifferentiated from human embryonic stem cells, directly increased dendritic arborization, augmented synapse numbers, doubled dendritic spine-like structures, and elevated synaptic N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, thereby increasing synaptic connectivity. Mass spectrometry revealed that thrombospondin-4 (THBS4) and SPARC-like protein 1 (SPARCL1) were enriched in serum from young mice. Strikingly, recombinant THBS4 and SPARCL1 both increased dendritic arborization and doubled synapse numbers in cultured neurons. In addition, SPARCL1 but not THBS4 tripled NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic responses. Thus, at least two proteins enriched in young blood, THBS4 and SPARCL1, directly act on neurons as synaptogenic factors. These proteins may represent rejuvenation factors that enhance synaptic connectivity by increasing dendritic arborization, synapse formation, and synaptic transmission.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1902672116

    View details for PubMedID 31160442

  • Imaging organelle transport in primary hippocampal neurons treated with amyloid-? oligomers. Methods in cell biology Gan, K. J., Silverman, M. A. 2016; 131: 425?51


    We describe a strategy for fluorescent imaging of organelle transport in primary hippocampal neurons treated with amyloid-? (A?) peptides that cause Alzheimer's disease (AD). This method enables careful, rigorous analyses of axonal transport defects, which are implicated in AD and other neurodegenerative diseases. Moreover, we present and emphasize guidelines for investigating A?-induced mechanisms of axonal transport disruption in the absence of nonspecific, irreversible cellular toxicity. This approach should be accessible to most laboratories equipped with cell culture facilities and a standard fluorescent microscope and may be adapted to other cell types.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/bs.mcb.2015.06.012

    View details for PubMedID 26794527

  • Atlas stumbled: Kinesin light chain-1 variant E triggers a vicious cycle of axonal transport disruption and amyloid-ß generation in Alzheimer's disease. BioEssays Gan, K. J., Morihara, T., Silverman, M. A. 2015; 37 (2): 131-141


    Substantial evidence implicates fast axonal transport (FAT) defects in neurodegeneration. In Alzheimer's disease (AD), it is controversial whether transport defects cause or arise from amyloid-? (A?)-induced toxicity. Using a novel, unbiased genetic screen, Morihara et al. identified kinesin light chain-1 splice variant E (KLC1vE) as a modifier of A? accumulation. Here, we propose three mechanisms to explain this causal role. First, KLC1vE reduces APP transport, leading to A? accumulation. Second, reduced transport of APP by KLC1vE triggers an ER stress response that activates the amyloidogenic pathway. Third, KLC1vE impairs transport of other KLC1 cargos that regulate amyloidogenesis, promoting A? retention within the secretory pathway. Collectively, KLC1vE perpetuates a vicious cycle of A? generation, kinase dysregulation, and global FAT impairment that inevitably leads to cellular toxicity. These concepts implicate alternative splicing of KLC1 in AD and suggest that the reciprocal influence of transport mechanisms on disease states contributes to neurodegeneration.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/bies.201400131

    View details for PubMedID 25394182

  • Dendritic and axonal mechanisms of Ca2+ elevation impair BDNF transport in A? oligomer-treated hippocampal neurons. Molecular biology of the cell Gan, K. J., Silverman, M. A. 2015


    Disruption of fast axonal transport (FAT) and intracellular Ca(2+) dysregulation are early pathological events in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Amyloid-? oligomers (A?Os), a causative agent of AD, impair transport of BDNF independent of tau by non-excitotoxic activation of calcineurin (CaN). Ca(2+)-dependent mechanisms that regulate the onset, severity, and spatiotemporal progression of BDNF transport defects from dendritic and axonal A?O binding sites are unknown. Here, we show that BDNF transport defects in dendrites and axons are induced simultaneously but exhibit different rates of decline. The spatiotemporal progression of FAT impairment correlates with Ca(2+) elevation and CaN activation first in dendrites and subsequently in axons. Although many axonal pathologies have been described in AD, studies have primarily focused only on the dendritic effects of A?Os despite compelling reports of presynaptic A?Os in AD models and patients. Indeed, we observe that dendritic CaN activation converges on Ca(2+) influx through axonal voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels to impair FAT. Finally, FAT defects are prevented by dantrolene, a clinical compound that reduces Ca(2+) release from the ER. This work establishes a novel role for Ca(2+) dysregulation in BDNF transport disruption and tau-independent A? toxicity in early AD.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E14-12-1612

    View details for PubMedID 25609087

  • Amyloid-beta oligomers induce tau-independent disruption of BDNF axonal transport via calcineurin activation in cultured hippocampal neurons MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL Ramser, E. M., Gan, K. J., Decker, H., Fan, E. Y., Suzuki, M. M., Ferreira, S. T., Silverman, M. A. 2013; 24 (16): 2494-2505


    Disruption of fast axonal transport (FAT) is an early pathological event in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Soluble amyloid-? oligomers (A?Os), increasingly recognized as proximal neurotoxins in AD, impair organelle transport in cultured neurons and transgenic mouse models. A?Os also stimulate hyperphosphorylation of the axonal microtubule-associated protein, tau. However, the role of tau in FAT disruption is controversial. Here we show that A?Os reduce vesicular transport of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in hippocampal neurons from both wild-type and tau-knockout mice, indicating that tau is not required for transport disruption. FAT inhibition is not accompanied by microtubule destabilization or neuronal death. Significantly, inhibition of calcineurin (CaN), a calcium-dependent phosphatase implicated in AD pathogenesis, rescues BDNF transport. Moreover, inhibition of protein phosphatase 1 and glycogen synthase kinase 3?, downstream targets of CaN, prevents BDNF transport defects induced by A?Os. We further show that A?Os induce CaN activation through nonexcitotoxic calcium signaling. Results implicate CaN in FAT regulation and demonstrate that tau is not required for A?O-induced BDNF transport disruption.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E12-12-0858

    View details for Web of Science ID 000324492900002

    View details for PubMedID 23783030

  • Thyroid hormone accelerates opsin expression during early photoreceptor differentiation and induces opsin switching in differentiated TRa-expressing cones of the salmonid retina. Developmental dynamics Gan, K. J., Novales Flamarique, I. 2010; 239 (10): 2700-2713


    Thyroid hormone and its receptors (TRs) regulate photoreceptor differentiation and visual pigment protein (opsin) expression in the retinas of several vertebrates, including rodents and fish. In some of these animals, opsin expression can arise through switches within differentiated cone photoreceptors. In salmonid fishes, single cones express ultraviolet (SWS1) opsin during embryonic development and switch to blue (SWS2) opsin as the fishes grow. It is unknown whether thyroid hormone regulates opsin expression during early cone differentiation and acts through TRs to induce opsin switches in differentiated cones of the salmonid retina. Using in situ hybridization, we characterized the spatiotemporal dynamics of opsin expression and switching in embryos treated with exogenous thyroid hormone or propylthiouracil (PTU), a pharmacological inhibitor of thyroid hormone synthesis. We combined immunohistochemistry with in situ hybridization to map TR? expression with respect to cones undergoing the opsin switch in older juvenile fish. Thyroid hormone accelerated opsin expression in differentiating cones and induced the opsin switch in differentiated single cones, whereas PTU repressed the opsin switch. TR? was not detected in differentiating photoreceptors as opsin expression initiated, but was later expressed in differentiated single cones before the onset of the opsin switch. TR? expression exhibited a dynamic dorsoventral distribution that paralleled the progression of the opsin switch. Together, our results show that thyroid hormone is required for opsin switching in the retina of salmonid fishes and suggest that TR? may be involved in regulating this phenomenon.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/dvdy.22392

    View details for PubMedID 20730870

  • Thyroid Hormone Induces a Time-Dependent Opsin Switch in the Retina of Salmonid Fishes INVESTIGATIVE OPHTHALMOLOGY & VISUAL SCIENCE Cheng, C. L., Gan, K. J., Flamarique, I. N. 2009; 50 (6): 3024-3032


    To determine the role of thyroid hormone in inducing the UV (SWS1)-to-blue (SWS2) opsin switch in the retina of two salmonid fishes, the coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and the rainbow trout (O. mykiss).Fish were treated with thyroid hormone (T(4)) or the vehicle solution (0.1 M NaOH, control), exogenously or by intraocular injection, at different life history stages. Microspectrophotometry and in situ hybridization with riboprobes against the SWS1 and SWS2 opsins were used to reveal the dynamics of opsin expression in treated and control animals. To assess whether thyroid hormone induced differentiation of retinal progenitor cells into cones, treated and control fish were injected intraocularly with bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) and the number of proliferating cells in the outer nuclear layer (ONL) determined. These observations were accompanied by histologic counts of cone densities.Thyroid hormone induced a reversible UV-to-blue opsin switch in differentiated single cones of juvenile salmonids (alevin and parr stages), but failed to exert any effect in the retina of older fish (smolt stage). The switch progressed from the ventral to the dorsal retina in clockwise fashion. Thyroid hormone did not induce cone density changes or alterations in the number of BrdU-labeled cells, which were the same in control and treated animals.Thyroid hormone induces a UV (SWS1)-to-blue (SWS2) opsin switch in the retina of young salmonid fishes that is identical with that occurring during natural development. The switch occurs in differentiated photoreceptors, is reversible (maintained by thyroid hormone exposure), and can be induced only before its natural onset. Thyroid hormone did not cause changes in the number of proliferating cells in the ONL. These results conform to the dynamics of thyroid hormone-induced opsin expression in the mouse and are consistent with the opsin plasticity found in differentiated photoreceptors of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. This work establishes a role for thyroid hormone in triggering opsin switches in the vertebrate retina.

    View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.08-2713

    View details for Web of Science ID 000266403800067

    View details for PubMedID 19218617

  • The ultraviolet opsin is the first opsin expressed during retinal development of salmonid fishes INVESTIGATIVE OPHTHALMOLOGY & VISUAL SCIENCE Cheng, C. L., Gan, K. J., Flamarique, I. N. 2007; 48 (2): 866-873


    To determine the spatial and temporal progression of opsin appearance during retinal development of salmonid fishes (genus Oncorhynchus and Salmo).Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and in situ hybridization with riboprobes against the five classes of opsins present in salmonids (UV, blue, green, red, and rhodopsin) were used to establish the sequence of opsin appearance and the localization of opsins to specific morphologic photoreceptor types.Both detection methods revealed that UV opsin mRNA was expressed first and was followed closely by red opsin mRNA. In situ hybridization results indicated the following opsin sequence: UV, red, rhodopsin, green, and blue. The UV opsin riboprobe labeled single cones, whereas the red and green riboprobes labeled opposite members of double cones. The blue riboprobe started labeling single center cones approximately 1 month after initial UV riboprobe labeling, confirming a switch in opsin expression of these cones from UV to blue. All probes first labeled a small patch of cells in the centrotemporal retina, and expression then expanded primarily toward the temporal and dorsal retina, with the exception of the blue opsin which expanded ventrally at first.The sequence of cone opsin appearance in salmonid fishes is similar to that in mammals, in which a violet-blue (SWS1) opsin is expressed first followed by a red (M/LWS) opsin. This sequence is different from that in zebrafish, goldfish, and chick, in which red and green opsins are expressed first. As in mammals, rhodopsin expression in salmonid fishes arises after the first cone opsin. The findings show similarity in the sequence of opsin expression between a group of lower vertebrates, the salmonid fishes, and mammals.

    View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.06-0442

    View details for Web of Science ID 000243729300052

    View details for PubMedID 17251489

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