Bachelor of Science, Hong Kong University Of Science & Technology (2010)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Iowa (2015)
The brilliant and often prescient hypotheses of Ramon y Cajal have proven foundational for modern neuroscience, but his statement that "In adult centers the nerve paths are something fixed, ended, immutable ? " is an exception that did not stand the test of empirical study. Mechanisms of cellular and circuit-level plasticity continue to shape and reshape many regions of the adult nervous system long after the neurodevelopmental period. Initially focused on neurons alone, the field has followed a meteoric trajectory in understanding of activity-regulated neurodevelopment and ongoing neuroplasticity with an arc toward appreciating neuron-glial interactions and the role that each neural cell type plays in shaping adaptable neural circuity. In this review, as part of a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Society for Neuroscience, we provide a historical perspective, following this arc of inquiry from neuronal to neuron-glial mechanisms by which activity and experience modulate circuit structure and function. The scope of this consideration is broad, and it will not be possible to cover the wealth of knowledge about all aspects of activity-dependent circuit development and plasticity in depth.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0740-19.2019
View details for PubMedID 31996470
One of the clinical hallmarks of low-grade gliomas (LGGs) arising in children with the neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) cancer predisposition syndrome is significant clinical variability with respect to tumor growth, associated neurologic deficits, and response to therapy. Numerous factors could contribute to this clinical heterogeneity, including the tumor cell of origin, the specific germline NF1 gene mutation, and the coexistence of additional genomic alterations. Since human specimens are rarely acquired, and have proven difficult to maintain in vitro or as xenografts in vivo, we have developed a series of Nf1 mutant optic glioma mouse strains representing each of these contributing factors.Optic glioma stem cells (o-GSCs) were generated from this collection of Nf1 genetically engineered mice, and analyzed for their intrinsic growth properties, as well as the production of chemokines that could differentially attract T cells and microglia.The observed differences in Nf1 optic glioma growth are not the result of cell autonomous growth properties of o-GSCs, but rather the unique patterns of o-GSC chemokine expression, which differentially attract T cells and microglia. This immune profile collectively dictates the levels of chemokine C-C ligand 5 (Ccl5) expression, the key stromal factor that drives murine Nf1 optic glioma growth.These findings reveal that genetic and genomic alterations create murine LGG biological heterogeneity through the differential recruitment of T cells and microglia by o-GSC-produced chemokines, which ultimately determine the expression of stromal factors that drive tumor growth.
View details for DOI 10.1093/neuonc/noz080
View details for PubMedID 31111915
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6784288
This paper begins to build a theoretical framework that would enable the pharmaceutical industry to use network complexity measures as a way to identify drug targets. The variability of a betweenness measure for a network node is examined through different methods of network perturbation. Our results indicate a robustness of betweenness centrality in the identification of target genes.
View details for PubMedID 30350013
Conventional differential expression analyses have been successfully employed to identify genes whose levels change across experimental conditions. One limitation of this approach is the inability to discover central regulators that control gene expression networks. In addition, while methods for identifying central nodes in a network are widely implemented, the bioinformatics validation process and the theoretical error estimates that reflect the uncertainty in each step of the analysis are rarely considered. Using the betweenness centrality measure, we identified Etv5 as a potential tissue-level regulator in murine neurofibromatosis type 1 (Nf1) low-grade brain tumors (optic gliomas). As such, the expression of Etv5 and Etv5 target genes were increased in multiple independently-generated mouse optic glioma models relative to non-neoplastic (normal healthy) optic nerves, as well as in the cognate human tumors (pilocytic astrocytoma) relative to normal human brain. Importantly, differential Etv5 and Etv5 network expression was not directly the result of Nf1 gene dysfunction in specific cell types, but rather reflects a property of the tumor as an aggregate tissue. Moreover, this differential Etv5 expression was independently validated at the RNA and protein levels. Taken together, the combined use of network analysis, differential RNA expression findings, and experimental validation highlights the potential of the computational network approach to provide new insights into tumor biology.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0190001
View details for PubMedID 29787563
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5963759
Pediatric low-grade gliomas (LGGs) frequently do not engraft in immunocompromised mice, limiting their use as an experimental platform. In contrast, murine Neurofibromatosis-1 (Nf1) optic LGG stem cells (o-GSCs) form glioma-like lesions in wild-type, but not athymic, mice following transplantation. Here, we show that the inability of athymic mice to support o-GSC engraftment results from impaired microglia/macrophage function, including reduced expression of Ccr2 and Ccl5, both of which are required for o-GSC engraftment and Nf1 optic glioma growth. Impaired Ccr2 and Ccl5 expression in athymic microglia/macrophages was restored by T-cell exposure, establishing T-cell-microglia/macrophage interactions as critical stromal determinants that support NF1 LGG growth.
View details for DOI 10.1101/gad.310797.117
View details for PubMedID 29632086
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5959233
Converging evidence from numerous laboratories has revealed that malignant brain cancers are complex ecological systems composed of distinct cellular and acellular elements that collectively dictate glioblastoma biology. Our understanding of the individual contributions of each of these components is vital to the design of effective therapies against these cancers. In this issue of Genes & Development, Zanca and colleagues (pp. 1212-1227) demonstrate that one subpopulation of glioblastoma cells expressing a mutant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFRvIII) is responsible for the survival of non-EGFRvIII-expressing tumor cells as well as for evading molecularly targeted therapy.
View details for DOI 10.1101/gad.303453.117
View details for PubMedID 28765159
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5558920
The concept that solid tumors are maintained by a productive interplay between neoplastic and non-neoplastic elements has gained traction with the demonstration that stromal fibroblasts and immune system cells dictate cancer development and progression. While less studied, brain tumor (glioma) biology is likewise influenced by non-neoplastic immune system cells (macrophages and microglia) which interact with neoplastic glioma cells to create a unique physiological state (glioma ecosystem) distinct from that found in the normal tissue. To explore this neoplastic ground state, we leveraged several preclinical mouse models of neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) optic glioma, a low-grade astrocytoma whose formation and maintenance requires productive interactions between non-neoplastic and neoplastic cells, and employed whole tumor RNA-sequencing and mathematical deconvolution strategies to characterize this low-grade glioma ecosystem as an aggregate of cellular and acellular elements. Using this approach, we demonstrate that optic gliomas generated by altering the germline Nf1 gene mutation, the glioma cell of origin, or the presence of co-existing genetic alterations represent molecularly-distinct tumors. However, these optic glioma tumors share a 25-gene core signature, not found in normal optic nerve, that is normalized by microglia inhibition (minocycline), but not conventional (carboplatin) or molecularly-targeted (rapamycin) chemotherapy. Lastly, we identify a genetic signature conferred by Pten reduction and corrected by PI3K inhibition. This signature predicts progression-free survival in patients with either low-grade or high-grade glioma. Collectively, these findings support the concept that gliomas are composite ecological systems whose biology and response to therapy may be best defined by examining the tumor as a whole.
View details for DOI 10.18632/oncotarget.17193
View details for PubMedID 28881745
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5581044
Low-grade gliomas are one of the most common brain tumors in children, where they frequently form within the optic pathway (optic pathway gliomas; OPGs). Since many OPGs occur in the context of the Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1) cancer predisposition syndrome, we have previously employed Nf1 genetically-engineered mouse (GEM) strains to study the pathogenesis of these low-grade glial neoplasms. In the light of the finding that human and mouse low-grade gliomas are composed of Olig2+ cells and that Olig2+ oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs) give rise to murine high-grade gliomas, we sought to determine whether Olig2+ OPCs could be tumor-initiating cells for Nf1 optic glioma. Similar to the GFAP-Cre transgenic strain previously employed to generate Nf1 optic gliomas, Olig2+ cells also give rise to astrocytes in the murine optic nerve in vivo. However, in contrast to the GFAP-Cre strain where somatic Nf1 inactivation in embryonic neural progenitor/stem cells (Nf1flox/mut; GFAP-Cre mice) results in optic gliomas by 3 months of age in vivo, mice with Nf1 gene inactivation in Olig2+ OPCs (Nf1flox/mut; Olig2-Cre mice) do not form optic gliomas until 6 months of age. These distinct patterns of glioma latency do not reflect differences in the timing or brain location of somatic Nf1 loss. Instead, they most likely reflect the cell of origin, as somatic Nf1 loss in CD133+ neural progenitor/stem cells during late embryogenesis results in optic gliomas at 3 months of age. Collectively, these data demonstrate that the cell of origin dictates the time to tumorigenesis in murine optic glioma.
View details for DOI 10.18632/oncotarget.17589
View details for PubMedID 28525381
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5564557
Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common malignant brain tumor in adults, with a median survival of 15 months. These poor clinical outcomes have prompted the development of drugs that block neoplastic cancer cell growth; however, non-neoplastic cell-derived signals (chemokines and cytokines) in the tumor microenvironment may also represent viable treatment targets. One such chemokine, Ccl5, produced by low-grade tumor-associated microglia, is responsible for maintaining neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) mouse optic glioma growth in vivo. Since malignant gliomas may achieve partial independence from growth regulatory factors produced by non-neoplastic cells in the tumor microenvironment by producing the same cytokines secreted by the stromal cells in their low-grade counterparts, we tested the hypothesis that CCL5/CCL5-receptor signaling in glioblastoma creates an autocrine circuit important for high-grade glioma growth. Herein, we demonstrate that increased CCL5 expression was restricted to both human and mouse mesenchymal GBM (M-GBM), a molecular subtype characterized by NF1 loss. We further show that the NF1 protein, neurofibromin, negatively regulates Ccl5 expression through suppression of AKT/mTOR signaling. Consistent with its role as a glioblastoma growth regulator, Ccl5 knockdown in M-GBM cells reduces M-GBM cell survival in vitro, and increases mouse glioblastoma survival in vivo. Finally, we demonstrate that Ccl5 operates through an unconventional CCL5 receptor, CD44, to inhibit M-GBM apoptosis. Collectively, these findings reveal an NF1-dependent CCL5-mediated pathway that regulates M-GBM cell survival, and support the concept that paracrine factors important for low-grade glioma growth can be usurped by high-grade tumors to create autocrine regulatory circuits that maintain malignant glioma survival.
View details for DOI 10.18632/oncotarget.16516
View details for PubMedID 28380429
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5464843
Children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) cancer predisposition syndrome are prone to the development of low-grade brain tumors (gliomas) within the optic pathway (optic gliomas). One of the key obstacles to developing successful therapeutic strategies for these tumors is the striking lack of information about the mechanical properties that characterize these tumors relative to non-neoplastic optic nerve tissue. To study the physical changes that may occur when an optic nerve glioma is present, we employed atomic force microscopy to measure the stiffness of healthy versus tumor-bearing optic nerve tissue. We found that the average elastic moduli of non-neoplastic and tumor-bearing optic nerves were ?3 and ?6 kPa, respectively. Based on previous studies implicating changes in extracellular matrix remodeling in other, related optic nerve pathological states, we found decreased expression of one major metalloproteinase protein (MMP-2) and unchanged expression of lysyl oxidase and a second metalloproteinase, MMP-9, in murine optic gliomas relative to normal non-neoplastic optic nerve. Collectively, these observations suggest a productive interplay between physical properties of mouse optic nerve gliomas and the extracellular matrix.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpj.2017.03.017
View details for PubMedID 28445745
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5406378
Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is an autosomal dominant disorder that results from germline mutations of the NF1 gene, creating a predisposition to low-grade gliomas (LGGs; pilocytic astrocytoma) in young children. Insufficient data and resources represent major challenges to identifying the best possible drug therapies for children with this tumor. Herein, we summarize the currently available cell lines, genetically engineered mouse models, and therapeutic targets for these LGGs. Conspicuously absent are human tumor-derived cell lines or patient-derived xenograft models for NF1-LGG. New collaborative initiatives between patients and their families, research groups, and pharmaceutical companies are needed to create transformative resources and broaden the knowledge base relevant to identifying cooperating genetic drivers and possible drug therapeutics for this common pediatric brain tumor.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fonc.2016.00259
View details for PubMedID 28066715
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5167692
Na(+) /K(+) -ATPase (NKA) participates in setting electrochemical gradients, cardiotonic steroid signaling and cellular adhesion. Distinct isoforms of NKA are found in different tissues and subcellular localization patterns. For example, NKA ?1 is widely expressed, NKA ?3 is enriched in neurons and NKA ?4 is a testes-specific isoform found in sperm flagella. In some tissues, ankyrin, a key component of the membrane cytoskeleton, can regulate the trafficking of NKA. In the retina, NKA and ankyrin-B are expressed in multiple cell types and immunostaining for each is striking in the synaptic layers. Labeling for NKA is also prominent along the inner segment plasma membrane (ISPM) of photoreceptors. NKA co-immunoprecipitates with ankyrin-B, but on a subcellular level colocalization of these two proteins varies dependent on the cell type. We used transgenic Xenopus laevis tadpoles to evaluate the subcellular trafficking of NKA in photoreceptors. GFP-NKA ?3 and ?1 are localized to the ISPM, but ?4 is localized to outer segments (OSs). We identified a VxP motif responsible for the OS targeting by using a series of chimeric and mutant NKA constructs. This motif is similar to previously identified ciliary targeting motifs. Given the structural similarities between OSs and flagella, our findings shed light on the subcellular targeting of this testes-specific NKA isoform.
View details for DOI 10.1111/tra.12332
View details for PubMedID 26373354
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4715669
Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated 1 (HCN1) channels are widely expressed in the retina. In photoreceptors, the hyperpolarization-activated current (Ih) carried by HCN1 is important for shaping the light response. It has been shown in multiple systems that trafficking HCN1 channels to specific compartments is key to their function. The localization of HCN1 in photoreceptors is concentrated in the plasma membrane of the inner segment (IS). The mechanisms controlling this localization are not understood. We previously identified a di-arginine endoplasmic reticulum (ER) retention motif that negatively regulates the surface targeting of HCN1. In this study, we sought to identify a forward trafficking signal that could counter the function of the ER retention signal.We studied trafficking of HCN1 and several mutants by imaging their subcellular localization in transgenic X. laevis photoreceptors. Velocity sedimentation was used to assay the assembly state of HCN1 channels.We found the HCN1 N-terminus can redirect a membrane reporter from outer segments (OS) to the plasma membrane of the IS. The sequence necessary for this behavior was mapped to a 20 amino acid region containing a leucine-based ER export motif. The ER export signal is necessary for forward trafficking but not channel oligomerization. Moreover, this ER export signal alone counteracted the di-arginine ER retention signal.We identified an ER export signal in HCN1 that functions with the ER retention signal to maintain equilibrium of HCN1 between the endomembrane system and the plasma membrane.
View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.15-16902
View details for PubMedID 26030105
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4464044
Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated 1 (HCN1) channels carry Ih, which contributes to neuronal excitability and signal transmission in the nervous system. Controlling the trafficking of HCN1 is an important aspect of its regulation, yet the details of this process are poorly understood. Here, we investigated how the C-terminus of HCN1 regulates trafficking by testing for its ability to redirect the localization of a non-targeted reporter in transgenic Xenopus laevis photoreceptors. We found that HCN1 contains an ER localization signal and through a series of deletion constructs, identified the responsible di-arginine ER retention signal. This signal is located in the intrinsically disordered region of the C-terminus of HCN1. To test the function of the ER retention signal in intact channels, we expressed wild type and mutant HCN1 in HEK293 cells and found this signal negatively regulates surface expression of HCN1. In summary, we report a new mode of regulating HCN1 trafficking: through the use of a di-arginine ER retention signal that monitors processing of the channel in the early secretory pathway.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s00018-014-1705-1
View details for PubMedID 25142030
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4309907
Cells experience mechanical forces throughout their lifetimes. Vinculin is critical for transmitting these forces, yet how it achieves its distinct functions at cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesions remains unanswered. Here, we show vinculin is phosphorylated at Y822 in cell-cell, but not cell-matrix, adhesions. Phosphorylation at Y822 was elevated when forces were applied to E-cadherin and was required for vinculin to integrate into the cadherin complex. The mutation Y822F ablated these activities and prevented cells from stiffening in response to forces on E-cadherin. In contrast, Y822 phosphorylation was not required for vinculin functions in cell-matrix adhesions, including integrin-induced cell stiffening. Finally, forces applied to E-cadherin activated Abelson (Abl) tyrosine kinase to phosphorylate vinculin; Abl inhibition mimicked the loss of vinculin phosphorylation. These data reveal an unexpected regulatory mechanism in which vinculin Y822 phosphorylation determines whether cadherins transmit force and provides a paradigm for how a shared component of adhesions can produce biologically distinct functions.
View details for DOI 10.1083/jcb.201309092
View details for PubMedID 24751539
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4003237
Hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels are cation-selective channels present in retina, brain and heart. The activity of HCN channels contributes to signal integration, cell excitability and pacemaker activity. HCN1 channels expressed in photoreceptors participate in keeping light responses transient and are required for normal mesopic vision. The subcellular localization of HCN1 varies among cell types. In photoreceptors HCN1 is concentrated in the inner segments while in other retinal neurons, HCN1 is evenly distributed though the cell. This is in contrast to hippocampal neurons where HCN1 is concentrated in a subset of dendrites. A key regulator of HCN1 trafficking and activity is tetratricopeptide repeat-containing Rab8b interacting protein (TRIP8b). Multiple splice isoforms of TRIP8b are expressed throughout the brain and can differentially regulate the surface expression and activity of HCN1. The purpose of the present study was to determine which isoforms of TRIP8b are expressed in the retina and to test if loss of TRIP8b alters HCN1 expression or trafficking. We found that TRIP8b colocalizes with HCN1 in multiple retina neurons and all major splice isoforms of TRIP8b are expressed in the retina. Photoreceptors express three different isoforms. In TRIP8b knockout mice, the ability of HCN1 to traffic to the surface of retinal neurons is unaffected. However, there is a large decrease in the total amount of HCN1. We conclude that TRIP8b in the retina is needed to achieve maximal expression of HCN1.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0085850
View details for PubMedID 24409334
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3883711