Compared to our current knowledge of neuronal excitation, little is known about the development and maturation of inhibitory circuits. Recent studies show that inhibitory circuits develop and mature in a similar way like excitatory circuit. One such similarity is the development through excitation, irrespective of its inhibitory nature. Here in this current study, I used the inhibitory projection between the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) and the lateral superior olive (LSO) as a model system to unravel some aspects of the development of inhibitory synapses. In LSO neurons of the rat auditory brainstem, glycine receptor-mediated responses change from depolarizing to hyperpolarizing during the first two postnatal weeks (Kandler and Friauf 1995, J. Neurosci. 15:6890-6904). The depolarizing effect of glycine is due to a high intracellular chloride concentration ([Cl-]i), which induces a reversal potential of glycine (EGly) more positive than the resting membrane potential (Vrest). In older LSO neurons, the hyperpolarizing effect is due to a low [Cl-]i (Ehrlich et al., 1999, J. Physiol. 520:121-137). Aim of the present study was to elucidate the molecular mechanism behind Clhomeostasis in LSO neurons which determines polarity of glycine response. To do so, the role and developmental expression of Cl-cotransporters, such as NKCC1 and KCC2 were investigated. Molecular biological and gramicidin perforated patchclamp experiments revealed, the role of KCC2 as an outward Cl-cotransporter in mature LSO neurons (Balakrishnan et al., 2003, J Neurosci. 23:4134-4145). But, NKCC1 does not appear to be involved in accumulating chloride in immature LSO neurons. Further experiments, indicated the role of GABA and glycine transporters (GAT1 and GLYT2) in accumulating Cl- in immature LSO neurons. Finally, the experiments with hypothyroid animals suggest the possible role of thyroid hormone in the maturation of inhibitory synapse. Altogether, this thesis addressed the molecular mechanism underlying the Cl- regulation in LSO neurons and deciphered it to some extent.
Herbivory is discussed as a key agent in maintaining dynamics and stability of tropical forested ecosystems. Accordingly increasing attention has been paid to the factors that structure tropical herbivore communities. The aim of this study was (1) to describe diversity, density, distribution and host range of the phasmid community (Phasmatodea) of a moist neotropical forest in Panamá, and (2) to experimentally assess bottom-up and top-down factors that may regulate populations of the phasmid Metriophasma diocles. The phasmid community of Barro Colorado Island was poor in species and low in density. Phasmids mainly occurred along forest edges and restricted host ranges of phasmid species reflected the successional status of their host plants. Only M. diocles that fed on early and late successional plants occurred regularly in the forest understory. A long generation time with a comparably low fecundity converted into a low biotic potential of M. diocles. However, modeled potential population density increased exponentially and exceeded the realized densities of this species already after one generation indicating that control factors continuously affect M. diocles natural populations. Egg hatching failure decreased potential population growth by 10 % but was of no marked effect at larger temporal scale. Interspecific differences in defensive physical and chemical leaf traits of M. diocles host plants, amongst them leaf toughness the supposedly most effective anti-herbivore defense, seemed not to affect adult female preference and nymph performance. Alternatively to these defenses, I suggest that the pattern of differential preference and performance may be based on interspecific differences in qualitative toxic compounds or in nutritive quality of leaves. The significant rejection of leaf tissue with a low artificial increase of natural phenol contents by nymphs indicated a qualitative defensive pathway in Piper evolution. In M. diocles, oviposition may not be linked to nymph performance, because the evolutionary prediction of a relation between female adult preference and nymph performance was missing. Consequently, the recruitment of nymphs into the reproductive adult phase may be crucially affected by differential performance of nymphs. Neonate M. diocles nymphs suffered strong predation pressure when exposed to natural levels of predation. Concluding from significantly increased predation-related mortality at night, I argue that arthropods may be the main predators of this nocturnal herbivore. Migratory behavior of nymphs seemed not to reflect predation avoidance. Instead, I provided first evidence that host plant quality may trigger off-plant migration. In conclusion, I suggest that predation pressure with its direct effects on nymph survival may be a stronger factor regulating M. diocles populations, compared to direct and indirect effects of host plant quality, particularly because slow growth and off-host migration both may feed back into an increase of predation related mortality.
In this doctoral thesis, several aspects of neuronal activity in the rat superior olivary complex (SOC), an auditory brainstem structure, were analyzed using optical imaging with voltage-sensitive dyes (VSD). The thesis is divided into 5 Chapters. Chapter 1 is a general introduction, which gives an overview of the auditory brainstem and VSD imaging. In Chapter 2, an optical imaging method for the SOC was standardized, using the VSD RH795. To do so, the following factors were optimized: (1) An extracellular potassium concentration of 5 mM is necessary during the incubation and recording to observe synaptically evoked responses in the SOC. (2) Employing different power supplies reduced the noise. (3) Averaging of 10 subsequent trials yielded a better signal-to-noise ratio. (4) RH795 of 100 µM with 50 min prewash was optimal to image SOC slices for more than one hour. (5) Stimulus-evoked optical signals were TTX sensitive, revealing action potential-driven input. (6) Synaptically evoked optical signals were characterized to be composed of pre- and postsynaptic components. (7) Optical signals were well correlated with anatomical structures. Overall, this method allows the comparative measurement of electrical activity of cell ensembles with high spatio-temporal resolution. In Chapter 3, the nature of functional inputs to the lateral superior olive (LSO), the medial superior olive (MSO), and the superior paraolivary nucleus (SPN) were analyzed using the glycine receptor blocker strychnine and the AMPA/kainate receptor blocker CNQX. In the LSO, the known glutamatergic inputs from the ipsilateral, and the glycinergic inputs from the ipsilateral and contralateral sides, were confirmed. Furthermore, a CNQX-sensitive input from the contralateral was identified. In the MSO, the glutamatergic and glycinergic inputs from the ipsilateral and contralateral sides were corroborated. In the SPN, besides the known glycinergic input from the contralateral, I found a glycinergic input from the ipsilateral and I also identified CNQX-sensitive inputs from the contralateral and ipsilateral sides. Together, my results thus corroborate findings obtained with different preparations and methods, and provide additional information on the pharmacological nature of the inputs. In Chapter 4, the development of glycinergic inhibition for the LSO, the MSO, the SPN, and the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) was studied by characterizing the polarity of strychnine-sensitive responses. In the LSO, the high frequency region displayed a shift in the polarity at P4, whereas the low frequency region displayed at P6. In the MSO, both the regions displayed the shift at P5. The SPN displayed a shift in the polarity at E18-20 without any regional differences. The MNTB lacked a shift between P3-10. Together, these results demonstrate a differential timing in the development of glycinergic inhibition in these nuclei. In Chapter 5, the role of the MSO in processing bilateral time differences (t) was investigated. This was done by stimulating ipsilateral and contralateral inputs to the MSO with different t values. In preliminary experiments, the postsynaptic responses showed a differential pattern in the spread of activity upon different t values. This data demonstrates a possible presence of delay lines as proposed by Jeffress in the interaural time difference model of sound localization. In conclusion, this study demonstrates the usage of VSD imaging to analyze the neuronal activity in auditory brainstem slices. Moreover, this study expands the knowledge of the inputs to the SOC, and has identified one glycinergic and three AMPA/kainate glutamatergic novel inputs to the SOC nuclei.
The hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), a heterodimer composed of HIF-1alpha and HIF-1beta, is activated in response to low oxygen tension and serves as the master regulator for cells to adapt to hypoxia. HIF-1 is usually considered to be regulated via degradation of its a-subunit. Recent findings, however, point to the existence of alternative mechanisms of HIF-1 regulation which appear to be important for down-regulating HIF-1 under prolonged and severe oxygen depletion. The aims of my Ph.D. thesis, therefore, were to further elucidate mechanisms involved in such down-regulation of HIF-1. The first part of the thesis addresses the impact of the severity and duration of oxygen depletion on HIF-1alpha protein accumulation and HIF-1 transcriptional activity. A special focus was put on the influence of the transcription factor p53 on HIF-1. I found that p53 only accumulates under prolonged anoxia (but not hypoxia), thus limiting its influence on HIF-1 to severe hypoxic conditions. At low expression levels, p53 inhibits HIF-1 transactivity. I attributed this effect to a competition between p53 and HIF-1alpha for binding to the transcriptional co-factor p300, since p300 overexpression reverses this inhibition. This assumption is corroborated by competitive binding of IVTT-generated p53 and HIF-1alpha to the CH1-domain of p300 in vitro. High p53 expression, on the other hand, affects HIF-1alpha protein negatively, i.e., p53 provokes pVHL-independent degradation of HIF-1alpha. Therefore, I conclude that low p53 expression attenuates HIF-1 transactivation by competing for p300, while high p53 expression negatively affects HIF-1alpha protein, thereby eliminating HIF-1 transactivity. Thus, once p53 becomes activated under prolonged anoxia, it contributes to terminating HIF-1 responses. In the second part of my study, I intended to further characterize the effects induced by prolonged periods of low oxygen, i.e., hypoxia, as compared to anoxia, with respect to alterations in HIF-1alpha mRNA. Prolonged anoxia, but not hypoxia, showed pronounced effects on HIF-1alpha mRNA. Long-term anoxia induced destabilization of HIF-1alpha mRNA, which manifests itself in a dramatic reduction of the half-life. The mechanistic background points to natural anti-sense HIF-1alpha mRNA, which is induced in a HIF-1-dependent manner, and additional factors, which most likely influence HIF-1alpha mRNA indirectly via anti-sense HIF-1alpha mRNA mediated trans-effects. In summary, the data provide new information concerning the impact of p53 on HIF-1, which might be of importance for the decision between pro- and anti-apoptotic mechanisms depending upon the severity and duration of hypoxia. Furthermore, the results of this project give further insights into a novel mechanism of HIF-1 regulation, namely mRNA down-regulation under prolonged anoxic incubations. These mechanisms appear to be activated only in response to prolonged anoxia, but not to hypoxia. These considerations regarding HIF-1 regulation should be taken into account when prolonged incubations to hypoxic or anoxic conditions are analyzed at the level of HIF-1 stability regulation.
In my doctoral thesis, I present new information about the developmental expression pattern of the potassium chloride cotransporter KCC2 in the rat auditory brain stem and the morphometrical effects caused by KCC2 gene silencing in mice. The thesis is divided into 3 Chapters. Chapter 1 is a general introduction which gives a brief outline of the primary ascending auditory pathway in mammals. Also, it provides information about the presence of a large number of inhibitory inputs in the auditory system and how these inputs develop; the involvement of inhibition in the acoustic processing is mentioned. In addition, the role of the KCC2 cotransporter in the shift of GABA/glycine transmission, and thus, in maintaining the normal level of inhibition in the mature brain, is described. The focus of Chapter 2 was to investigate the KCC2 immunofluorescent signal from postnatal day (P) 0 to P60 in four major nuclei of the rats superior olivary complex (SOC), namely the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB), the medial superior olive (MSO), the lateral superior olive (LSO), and the superior paraolivary nucleus (SPN). The lack of a correlation between the continuous presence of KCC2 mRNA/protein in the postnatal rat brain stem on one side, and the shift in GABA/glycinergic polarity (i.e. KCC2 functionality) on the other side, prompted me to search for a specific cellular expression pattern of the KCC2 protein that might correlate with the switch in GABA/glycine signalling. To do so, the KCC2 immunoreactivity was analysed using high-resolution confocal microscopy in three cellular regions of interest: the soma surface, the soma interior, and the neuropil. In the soma surface, I observed an increase of the KCC2 immunofluorescent signal intensity, yet with a moderate magnitude (1.1 to 1.6-fold). Therefore, I conclude that the change in the soma surface signal is only of minor importance and does not explain the change in KCC2 functionality. The KCC2 signal intensity in the soma interior decreased in all nuclei (1.4 to 2-fold) with the exception of the MNTB where no statistically significant change was found. The decrease in the soma interior was probably related to the increase in the soma surface immunoreactivity and the proposed (weak) intracellular trafficking process of the KCC2 protein. The main developmental reorganization (in qualitative as well as in quantitative aspects) of the KCC2 immunofluorescence in the SOC nuclei was observed in the neuropil. The signal changed its pattern from a diffusely stained neuropil early in development (P0-P4) to a crisp and membrane-confined signal later on (P8-P60), with single dendrites becoming apparent. The exception was found in the MNTB, where the neuropil became almost unlabeled. Quantification revealed a statistically significant decrease (2.2 to 3.8-fold) in the neuropil immunoreactivity in all four nuclei, although the remaining KCC2-stained dendrites became thicker and the signal became stronger. I suppose that, at least in part, the neuropil reorganization can be explained by an age-related reduction of dendritic branches via a pruning mechanism and with the absence of an abnormal Cl- load via extrasynaptic GABAA receptors. This is consistent with the proposed additional role of KCC2, namely to maintain the cellular ionic homeostasis and to prevent dendritic swelling (Gulyás et al., 2001). In conclusion, neither the increase in the KCC2 soma surface signal intensity, nor the reorganization in the neuropil can be strictly related to the developmental switch in the GABA/glycine polarity and the onset of KCC2 function, although some correlation (the appearance of a specific membrane-confined dendritic pattern) between structure and function was found. Further implication of different molecular methods, regarding the proposed posttranslational modification of KCC2, will shed light upon the question of what leads to the functional activation of the cotransporter. In Chapter 3, the advantage of loss-of-function KCC2 mice made it possible, via manipulating the duration of the depolarizing phase of GABA/glycine transmission, to analyse the effect of disturbed Cl- regulation and, thus, the effect of disrupted GABA/glycine neurotransmission (lack of inhibition). I asked the following question: how important is the Cl- homeostasis to maintain general aspects (brain weight) and specific aspects (nucleus volume, neuron number, and soma cross-sectional area) of brain development? Brain stem slices from KCC2 knock-out animals (-/-), with a trace amount of transporter (~5%), as well as from wild type animals (+/+) at P3 and P12 were stained for Nissl substance and the analyses were performed with the help of basic morphometrical and stereological methods. In KCC2 (-/-) animals, body growth impairment was observed, in part related to the seizure activity preventing normal feeding (Woo et al., 2002). However, their brains, in terms of brain weight, were less affected. Therefore, I conclude that Cl- homeostasis is not essential per se to maintain the brain weight. Four auditory nuclei (MNTB, MSO, LSO, and ventral cochlear nucleus (VCN)), were compared with respect to the KCC2 null mutation. The SOC nuclei were not influenced by the lack of KCC2 at P3 considering the morphometric parameters. A difference in the number of neurons occurred in the VCN at P3. I suggest to perform additional immunohistochemical studies of glial presence related to its involvement in the structural and functional support of the neurons and their survival. At P12, the volume of the auditory nuclei in KCC2 (-/-) animals was smaller than in (+/+) animals. However, this is likely to be an epiphenomenon since the brain weight increase was also impaired with the same magnitude. Therefore, I suppose that the Cl- homeostasis is not crucial for the nucleus volume increase in the VCN, the MNTB and the MSO during development. An exception was found for the LSO. Regarding the other morphometric parameters at P12, the four nuclei behaved in a different way: (1) in the VCN, after P3, no parameter underwent a disproportional change due to impaired Cl- homeostasis; (2) the MNTB and the LSO showed less pronounced neuropil in mutants in comparison to age-matched controls and two reasons were proposed: first, the depolarizing GABA/glycine transmission in mutants may contribute to excessive Ca2+ load, excitotoxicity and dendrite damage; second, a decrease of some trophic factors may prevent dendrite development in addition to impaired normal body growth; (3) the MSO neurons in P12 (-/-) animals had smaller soma cross-sectional area than in P12 (+/+) animals. I conclude that the normal Cl- homeostasis is required in the MSO at older ages (P12) to achieve and maintain a proper soma size; (4) the lack of KCC2 did not prevent the process of neuronal differentiation in the VCN and the MNTB during development in both mutant and control animals. In conclusion, the various auditory nuclei have to be discussed independently regarding the influence of Cl- homeostasis on some morphometric parameters. Presumably, this is related to the different time of the shift in the GABA/glycine polarity i.e., the onset of KCC2 function (Srinivasan et al., 2004a). Taken together, my thesis accumulated data about the immunohistological expression pattern of KCC2 in various auditory brain stem nuclei and the influence of impaired Cl- homeostasis on some morphometric features in these nuclei. This information will be helpful for further investigations involved to discover the mechanisms and the events that govern the inhibition and the inhibitory pathway in the central auditory system.