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Publications in Synapses by NOMIS researchers

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 16, 2022

Here, we describe a highly adaptable toolbox for characterizing and analyzing molecular and histopathological changes in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mouse models. We detail optimized and streamlined approaches from sample preparation to image analysis to facilitate reproducible analyses. We also describe the extraction and measurement of the soluble Aβ level by sandwich ELISA in the cortex and hippocampus of AD mouse models before and after plaque deposition. Finally, we outline the steps for image quantification and analysis using Imaris and ImageJ. For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Huang et al. (2021).1

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

December 1, 2022

Microglia play a role in the emergence and preservation of a healthy brain microenvironment. Dysfunction of microglia has been associated with neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. Investigating the function of human microglia in health and disease has been challenging due to the limited models of the human brain available. Here, we develop a method to generate functional microglia in human cortical organoids (hCOs) from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). We apply this system to study the role of microglia during inflammation induced by amyloid-β (Aβ). The overexpression of the myeloid-specific transcription factor PU.1 generates microglia-like cells in hCOs, producing mhCOs (microglia-containing hCOs), that we engraft in the mouse brain. Single-cell transcriptomics reveals that mhCOs acquire a microglia cell cluster with an intact complement and chemokine system. Functionally, microglia in mhCOs protect parenchyma from cellular and molecular damage caused by Aβ. Furthermore, in mhCOs, we observed reduced expression of Aβ-induced expression of genes associated with apoptosis, ferroptosis, and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) stage III. Finally, we assess the function of AD-associated genes highly expressed in microglia in response to Aβ using pooled CRISPRi coupled with single-cell RNA sequencing in mhCOs. In summary, we provide a protocol to generate mhCOs that can be used in fundamental and translational studies as a model to investigate the role of microglia in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

November 2, 2022

In the central nervous system (CNS), microglia carry out multiple tasks related to brain development, maintenance of brain homeostasis, and function of the CNS. Recent advanced in vitro model systems allow us to perform more detailed and specific analyses of microglial functions in the CNS. The development of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs)-based 2D and 3D cell culture methods, particularly advancements in brain organoid models, offers a better platform to dissect microglial function in various contexts. Despite the improvement of these methods, there are still definite restrictions. Understanding their drawbacks and benefits ensures their proper use. In this primer, we review current developments regarding in vitro microglial production and characterization and their use to address fundamental questions about microglial function in healthy and diseased states, and we discuss potential future improvements with a particular emphasis on brain organoid models.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

May 1, 2021

Two microglial TAM receptor tyrosine kinases, Axl and Mer, have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, but their roles in disease have not been tested experimentally. We find that in Alzheimer’s disease and its mouse models, induced expression of Axl and Mer in amyloid plaque–associated microglia was coupled to induced plaque decoration by the TAM ligand Gas6 and its co-ligand phosphatidylserine. In the APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease, genetic ablation of Axl and Mer resulted in microglia that were unable to normally detect, respond to, organize or phagocytose amyloid-β plaques. These major deficits notwithstanding, TAM-deficient APP/PS1 mice developed fewer dense-core plaques than APP/PS1 mice with normal microglia. Our findings reveal that the TAM system is an essential mediator of microglial recognition and engulfment of amyloid plaques and that TAM-driven microglial phagocytosis does not inhibit, but rather promotes, dense-core plaque development.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Immunology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

February 1, 2021

Synaptic connectivity within neural circuits is characterized by high degrees of cellular and subcellular specificity. This precision arises from the combined action of several classes of molecular cues, transmembrane receptors, secreted cues and extracellular matrix components, coordinating transitions between axon guidance, dendrite patterning, axon branching and synapse specificity. We focus this review on recent insights into some of the molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling these transitions and present the results of large-scale efforts and technological developments aimed at mapping neural connectivity at single cell resolution in the mouse cortex as a mammalian model organism. Finally, we outline some of the technical and conceptual challenges lying ahead as the field is starting to explore one of the most challenging problems in neuroscience: the molecular and cellular logic underlying the emergence of the connectome characterizing specific circuits within the central nervous system of mammals.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

September 1, 2020

Prion diseases are caused by PrPSc, a self-replicating pathologically misfolded protein that exerts toxicity predominantly in the brain. The administration of PrPSc causes a robust, reproducible and specific disease manifestation. Here, we have applied a combination of translating ribosome affinity purification and ribosome profiling to identify biologically relevant prion-induced changes during disease progression in a cell-type-specific and genome-wide manner. Terminally diseased mice with severe neurological symptoms showed extensive alterations in astrocytes and microglia. Surprisingly, we detected only minor changes in the translational profiles of neurons. Prion-induced alterations in glia overlapped with those identified in other neurodegenerative diseases, suggesting that similar events occur in a broad spectrum of pathologies. Our results suggest that aberrant translation within glia may suffice to cause severe neurological symptoms and may even be the primary driver of prion disease.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Biomedical Research, Developmental Biology

NOMIS Researcher(s)

February 1, 2020

A rapidly ageing population and a limited therapeutic toolbox urgently necessitate new approaches to treat neurodegenerative diseases. Brain ageing, the key risk factor for neurodegeneration, involves complex cellular and molecular processes that eventually result in cognitive decline. Although cell-intrinsic defects in neurons and glia may partially explain this decline, cell-extrinsic changes in the systemic environment, mediated by blood, have recently been shown to contribute to brain dysfunction with age. Here, we review the current understanding of how systemic factors mediate brain ageing, how these factors are regulated and how we can translate these findings into therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

February 1, 2020

Microglia become progressively activated and seemingly dysfunctional with age, and genetic studies have linked these cells to the pathogenesis of a growing number of neurodegenerative diseases. Here we report a striking buildup of lipid droplets in microglia with aging in mouse and human brains. These cells, which we call ‘lipid-droplet-accumulating microglia’ (LDAM), are defective in phagocytosis, produce high levels of reactive oxygen species and secrete proinflammatory cytokines. RNA-sequencing analysis of LDAM revealed a transcriptional profile driven by innate inflammation that is distinct from previously reported microglial states. An unbiased CRISPR–Cas9 screen identified genetic modifiers of lipid droplet formation; surprisingly, variants of several of these genes, including progranulin (GRN), are causes of autosomal-dominant forms of human neurodegenerative diseases. We therefore propose that LDAM contribute to age-related and genetic forms of neurodegeneration.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

April 11, 2019

Microglia maintain homeostasis in the central nervous system through phagocytic clearance of protein aggregates and cellular debris. This function deteriorates during ageing and neurodegenerative disease, concomitant with cognitive decline. However, the mechanisms of impaired microglial homeostatic function and the cognitive effects of restoring this function remain unknown. We combined CRISPR–Cas9 knockout screens with RNA sequencing analysis to discover age-related genetic modifiers of microglial phagocytosis. These screens identified CD22, a canonical B cell receptor, as a negative regulator of phagocytosis that is upregulated on aged microglia. CD22 mediates the anti-phagocytic effect of α2,6-linked sialic acid, and inhibition of CD22 promotes the clearance of myelin debris, amyloid-β oligomers and α-synuclein fibrils in vivo. Long-term central nervous system delivery of an antibody that blocks CD22 function reprograms microglia towards a homeostatic transcriptional state and improves cognitive function in aged mice. These findings elucidate a mechanism of age-related microglial impairment and a strategy to restore homeostasis in the ageing brain.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

January 16, 2019

Microglia are increasingly recognized for their major contributions during brain development and neurodegenerative disease. It is currently unknown whether these functions are carried out by subsets of microglia during different stages of development and adulthood or within specific brain regions. Here, we performed deep single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) of microglia and related myeloid cells sorted from various regions of embryonic, early postnatal, and adult mouse brains. We found that the majority of adult microglia expressing homeostatic genes are remarkably similar in transcriptomes, regardless of brain region. By contrast, early postnatal microglia are more heterogeneous. We discovered a proliferative-region-associated microglia (PAM) subset, mainly found in developing white matter, that shares a characteristic gene signature with degenerative disease-associated microglia (DAM). Such PAM have amoeboid morphology, are metabolically active, and phagocytose newly formed oligodendrocytes. This scRNA-seq atlas will be a valuable resource for dissecting innate immune functions in health and disease.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery

NOMIS Researcher(s)

Published in

April 14, 2016

Microglia are damage sensors for the central nervous system (CNS), and the phagocytes responsible for routine non-inflammatory clearance of dead brain cells. Here we show that the TAM receptor tyrosine kinases Mer and Axl regulate these microglial functions. We find that adult mice deficient in microglial Mer and Axl exhibit a marked accumulation of apoptotic cells specifically in neurogenic regions of the CNS, and that microglial phagocytosis of the apoptotic cells generated during adult neurogenesis is normally driven by both TAM receptor ligands Gas6 and protein S. Using live two-photon imaging, we demonstrate that the microglial response to brain damage is also TAM-regulated, as TAM-deficient microglia display reduced process motility and delayed convergence to sites of injury. Finally, we show that microglial expression of Axl is prominently upregulated in the inflammatory environment that develops in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Together, these results establish TAM receptors as both controllers of microglial physiology and potential targets for therapeutic intervention in CNS disease.

Research field(s)
Health Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Neurology & Neurosurgery