Browsing by Author "Achim, Kaia"

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  • Achim, Kaia (Helsingin yliopisto, 2010)
    Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the most abundant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the vertebrate brain. In the midbrain, GABAergic neurons contribute to the regulation of locomotion, nociception, defensive behaviours, fear and anxiety, as well as sensing reward and addiction. Despite the clinical relevance of this group of neurons, the mechanisms regulating their development are largely unknown. In addition, their migration and connectivity patterns are poorly characterized. This study focuses on the molecular mechanisms specifying the GABAergic fate, and the developmental origins of midbrain GABAergic neurons. First, we have characterized the function of a zink-finger transcription factor Gata2. Using a tissue-specific mutagenesis in mouse midbrain and anteror hindbrain, we showed that Gata2 is a crucial determinant of the GABAergic fate in midbrain. In the absence of Gata2, no GABAergic neurons are produced from the otherwise competent midbrain neuroepithelium. Instead, the Gata2-mutant cells acquire a glutamatergic neuron phenotype. Ectopic expression of Gata2 was also sufficient to induce GABAergic in chicken midbrain. Second, we have analyzed the midbrain phenotype of mice mutant for a proneural gene Ascl1, and described the variable and region-dependent requirements for Ascl1 in the midbrain GABAergic neurogenesis. These studies also have implications on the origin of distinct anatomical and functional GABAergic subpopulations in midbrain. Third, we have identified unique developmental properties of GABAergic neurons that are associated with the midbrain dopaminergic nuclei, the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNpr) and ventral tegmental area (VTA). Namely, the genetic regulation of GABAergic fate in these cells is distinct from the rest of midbrain. In accordance to this phenomenon, our detailed fate-mapping analyses indicated that the SNpr-VTA GABAergic neurons are generated outside midbrain, in the neuroepithelium of anterior hindbrain.