A study of expression and function of the transcription factor Skor2 in glutamatergic neurons of the developing brainstem

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Title: A study of expression and function of the transcription factor Skor2 in glutamatergic neurons of the developing brainstem
Author: Sridharan, Ravindran
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202012094852
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: perinnöllisyystiede
Abstract: The brainstem monoaminergic neuronal systems are involved in regulation of mood, reward system, memory processing etc. Any defects or damage in these cells lead to many neurological disorders. The brainstem inhibitory GABAergic and excitatory glutamatergic cells in turn control these neuromodulatory neurons. The glutamatergic neurons are found in the Laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (LDTg), Interpeduncular nucleus (IPN) as well as in the Ventral tegmental are (VTA). The LDTg in particular sends these glutamatergic projections to the VTA to regulate their Dopaminergic (DA) neurons. During embryonic development, the brainstem GABAergic and glutamatergic neurons, that regulate the monoaminergic systems, are produced in the ventral rhombomere 1. Their subtypes are known to express various transcription factors (TFs), such as Nkx6-1, Vsx2 and Skor1 marking the glutamatergic neuron precursors in the ventral rhombomere 1. In this thesis project, I studied the expression of another TF, Skor2 in the embryonic brainstem precursors. The basis of the experiment came from an embryonic brainstem single cell mRNA sequencing study performed earlier, where Skor2 expression was observed in the cluster of neurons containing Nkx6-1, Vsx2 and Skor1 expressing cells. Based on this, I hypothesized that Skor2 expression could be seen in glutamatergic precursors in the ventral rhombomere (rV2) domain as well as later in the LDTg nucleus derived from these precursors. To test this, I performed immunohistochemistry (IMHC) studies on a transgenic mouse line expressing Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) from the Skor2 locus. In the second part of the thesis, I hypothesized that the Skor2 positive cells need this TF for their differentiation. To study this aspect, I performed similar IMHC studies on homozygous Skor2GFP/GFP mice, where Skor2 had been inactivated. My study showed that Skor2 positive cells expressed markers Nkx6-1 and Vsx2 and represented a specific subgroup of early embryonic post-mitotic precursors in the rV2 domain. Later in the brainstem, in contrast to my initial hypothesis, I did not observe Skor2 expression in the LDTg glutamatergic region. Instead, I observed Skor2 positive cells in a region more lateral to the Ventral and Dorsal tegmental nuclei of Gudden. In the homozygous Skor2 mutants, I observed no changes in cell fate during embryonic development. Based on my results, the TF Skor2 is expresses in the glutamatergic precursors and neurons in the rhombomere 1, but form a part of a new cluster of cells away from the LDTg. These neurons have not been studied in detail. However, the Ventral and Dorsal tegmental nuclei of Gudden have been shown to regulate memory and navigation. It is possible that the Skor2 expressing neurons also participate in these functions. Identification of specific molecular markers, such as Skor2, for these neurons now allows their focused functional studies. Skor2 and Skor1 are related TFs belonging to Ski family of transcriptional repressors and are seen to be expressed together. Further investigations into the roles and functional redundancy of these two TFs can be performed using mice carrying mutations in both of these genes.
Subject: Skor2
Laterodorsal tegmental nucleus
glutamatergic neurons
Ventral tegmental nucleus of Gudden
Dorsal tegmental nucleus of Gudden

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