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- A tonically active neuron continuously drives mutually exclusive motor states at different timescales.
Jun Meng, Tosif Ahamed, Bin Yu, Wesley Hung, Sonia EL Mouridi, Zezhen Wang, Yongning Zhang, Quan Wen, Thomas Boulin, Shangbang Gao, Mei Zhen
bioRxiv (2022) — Show abstract
Behaviors consist of distinct states and state transitions. How a neural system continuously modulates each state, which underlies smooth state transitions, is not well understood. C. elegans spontaneously switches between two mutually exclusive motor states, forward and backward movements, a behavior long thought to reflect the reciprocal antagonism between interneurons that separately gate the forward and backward motor circuits. We report here that during spontaneous locomotion, these interneurons are not functionally equivalent, and are not strictly reciprocally inhibitory. Instead, AVA, the premotor interneuron thought to exclusively gate the backward motor circuit, functions as a master regulator for both motor states. AVA's transient activation inhibits the forward circuit while initiating backward movement. In parallel, AVA maintains a constitutive and excitatory input to the forward circuit to promote the exit from backward movement and to maintain forward movement. This excitation results from AVA's sustained depolarized membrane potential, which makes its chemical synapse tonically active. A tonically active master neuron breaks the symmetry between the forward and backward motor circuit and offers a powerful circuit solution for smooth transitions when animals switch between two mutually exclusive motor states.
- Confounds of using the unc-58 selection marker highlights the importance of genotyping co-CRISPR genes.
Rawsthorne-Manning H, Calahorro F, G Izquierdo P, Tardy P, Boulin T, Holden-Dye L, O'Connor V, Dillon J.
PLoS One (2022) — Show abstract
Multiple advances have been made to increase the efficiency of CRISPR/Cas9 editing using the model genetic organism Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans). Here we report on the use of co-CRISPR 'marker' genes: worms in which co-CRISPR events have occurred have overt, visible phenotypes which facilitates the selection of worms that harbour CRISPR events in the target gene. Mutation in the co-CRISPR gene is then removed by outcrossing to wild type but this can be challenging if the CRISPR and co-CRISPR gene are hard to segregate. However, segregating away the co-CRISPR modified gene can be less challenging if the worms selected appear wild type and are selected from a jackpot brood. These are broods in which a high proportion of the progeny of a single injected worm display the co-CRISPR phenotype suggesting high CRISPR efficiency. This can deliver worms that harbour the desired mutation in the target gene locus without the co-CRISPR mutation. We have successfully generated a discrete mutation in the C. elegans nlg-1 gene using this method. However, in the process of sequencing to authenticate editing in the nlg-1 gene we discovered genomic rearrangements that arise at the co-CRISPR gene unc-58 that by visual observation were phenotypically silent but nonetheless resulted in a significant reduction in motility scored by thrashing behaviour. This highlights that careful consideration of the hidden consequences of co-CRISPR mediated genetic changes should be taken before downstream analysis of gene function. Given this, we suggest sequencing of co-CRISPR genes following CRISPR procedures that utilise phenotypic selection as part of the pipeline.
- Functional analysis of a de novo variant in the neurodevelopment and generalized epilepsy disease gene NBEA.
Boulin T, Itani O, El Mouridi S, Leclercq-Blondel A, Gendrel M, Macnamara E, Soldatos A, Murphy JL, Gorman MP, Lindsey A, Shimada S, Turner D, Silverman GA, Baldridge D; Undiagnosed Diseases Network, Malicdan MC, Schedl T, Pak SC.
Molecular Genetics and Metabolism (2021) — Show abstract
Neurobeachin (NBEA) was initially identified as a candidate gene for autism. Recently, variants in NBEA have been associated with neurodevelopmental delay and childhood epilepsy. Here, we report on a novel NBEA missense variant (c.5899G > A, p.Gly1967Arg) in the Domain of Unknown Function 1088 (DUF1088) identified in a child enrolled in the Undiagnosed Diseases Network (UDN), who presented with neurodevelopmental delay and seizures. Modeling of this variant in the Caenorhabditis elegans NBEA ortholog, sel-2, indicated that the variant was damaging to in vivo function as evidenced by altered cell fate determination and trafficking of potassium channels in neurons. The variant effect was indistinguishable from that of the reference null mutation suggesting that the variant is a strong hypomorph or a complete loss-of-function. Our experimental data provide strong support for the molecular diagnosis and pathogenicity of the NBEA p.Gly1967Arg variant and the importance of the DUF1088 for NBEA function.
- A single-nucleotide change underlies the genetic assimilation of a plastic trait.
Vigne P, Gimond C, Ferrari C, Vielle A, Hallin J, Pino-Querido A, El Mouridi S, Mignerot L, Frøkjær-Jensen C, Boulin T, Teotónio H, Braendle C.
Science Advances (2021) — Show abstract
Genetic assimilation-the evolutionary process by which an environmentally induced phenotype is made constitutive-represents a fundamental concept in evolutionary biology. Thought to reflect adaptive phenotypic plasticity, matricidal hatching in nematodes is triggered by maternal nutrient deprivation to allow for protection or resource provisioning of offspring. Here, we report natural Caenorhabditis elegans populations harboring genetic variants expressing a derived state of near-constitutive matricidal hatching. These variants exhibit a single amino acid change (V530L) in KCNL-1, a small-conductance calcium-activated potassium channel subunit. This gain-of-function mutation causes matricidal hatching by strongly reducing the sensitivity to environmental stimuli triggering egg-laying. We show that reestablishing the canonical KCNL-1 protein in matricidal isolates is sufficient to restore canonical egg-laying. While highly deleterious in constant food environments, KCNL-1 V530L is maintained under fluctuating resource availability. A single point mutation can therefore underlie the genetic assimilation-by either genetic drift or selection-of an ancestrally plastic trait.
- Mutation of a single residue promotes gating of vertebrate and invertebrate two-pore domain potassium channels.
Ben Soussia I, El Mouridi S, Kang D, Leclercq-Blondel A, Khoubza L, Tardy P, Zariohi N, Gendrel M, Lesage F, Kim EJ, Bichet D, Andrini O, Boulin T.
Nature Communications (2019) — Show abstract
Mutations that modulate the activity of ion channels are essential tools to understand the biophysical determinants that control their gating. Here, we reveal the conserved role played by a single amino acid position (TM2.6) located in the second transmembrane domain of two-pore domain potassium (K2P) channels. Mutations of TM2.6 to aspartate or asparagine increase channel activity for all vertebrate K2P channels. Using two-electrode voltage-clamp and single-channel recording techniques, we find that mutation of TM2.6 promotes channel gating via the selectivity filter gate and increases single channel open probability. Furthermore, channel gating can be progressively tuned by using different amino acid substitutions. Finally, we show that the role of TM2.6 was conserved during evolution by rationally designing gain-of-function mutations in four Caenorhabditis elegans K2P channels using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. This study thus describes a simple and powerful strategy to systematically manipulate the activity of an entire family of potassium channels.
- CRELD1 is an evolutionarily-conserved maturational enhancer of ionotropic acetylcholine receptors.
D’Alessandro M, Richard M, Stigloher C, Gache V, Boulin T, Richmond JE, Bessereau JL.
Elife (2018) — Show abstract
The assembly of neurotransmitter receptors in the endoplasmic reticulum limits the number of receptors delivered to the plasma membrane, ultimately controlling neurotransmitter sensitivity and synaptic transfer function. In a forward genetic screen conducted in the nematode C. elegans, we identified crld-1 as a gene required for the synaptic expression of ionotropic acetylcholine receptors (AChR). We demonstrated that the CRLD-1A isoform is a membrane-associated ER-resident protein disulfide isomerase (PDI). It physically interacts with AChRs and promotes the assembly of AChR subunits in the ER. Mutations of Creld1, the human ortholog of crld-1a, are responsible for developmental cardiac defects. We showed that Creld1 knockdown in mouse muscle cells decreased surface expression of AChRs and that expression of mouse Creld1 in C. elegans rescued crld-1a mutant phenotypes. Altogether these results identify a novel and evolutionarily-conserved maturational enhancer of AChR biogenesis, which controls the abundance of functional receptors at the cell surface.
- Reliable CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Engineering in Caenorhabditis elegans Using a Single Efficient sgRNA and an Easily Recognizable Phenotype.
El Mouridi S, Lecroisey C, Tardy P, Mercier M, Leclercq-Blondel A, Zariohi N, Boulin T.
G3 (Bethesda) (2017) — Show abstract
CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering strategies allow the directed modification of the Caenorhabditis elegans genome to introduce point mutations, generate knock-out mutants, and insert coding sequences for epitope or fluorescent tags. Three practical aspects, however, complicate such experiments. First, the efficiency and specificity of single-guide RNAs (sgRNA) cannot be reliably predicted. Second, the detection of animals carrying genome edits can be challenging in the absence of clearly visible or selectable phenotypes. Third, the sgRNA target site must be inactivated after editing to avoid further double-strand break events. We describe here a strategy that addresses these complications by transplanting the protospacer of a highly efficient sgRNA into a gene of interest to render it amenable to genome engineering. This sgRNA targeting the dpy-10 gene generates genome edits at comparatively high frequency. We demonstrate that the transplanted protospacer is cleaved at the same time as the dpy-10 gene. Our strategy generates scarless genome edits because it no longer requires the introduction of mutations in endogenous sgRNA target sites. Modified progeny can be easily identified in the F1 generation, which drastically reduces the number of animals to be tested by PCR or phenotypic analysis. Using this strategy, we reliably generated precise deletion mutants, transcriptional reporters, and translational fusions with epitope tags and fluorescent reporter genes. In particular, we report here the first use of the new red fluorescent protein mScarlet in a multicellular organism. wrmScarlet, a C. elegans-optimized version, dramatically surpassed TagRFP-T by showing an eightfold increase in fluorescence in a direct comparison.
- Microtubule severing by the katanin complex is activated by PPFR-1-dependent MEI-1 dephosphorylation.
Gomes JE, Tavernier N, Richaudeau B, Formstecher E, Boulin T, Mains PE, Dumont J, Pintard L.
Journal of Cell Biology (2013) — Show abstract
Katanin is an evolutionarily conserved microtubule (MT)-severing complex implicated in multiple aspects of MT dynamics. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the katanin homologue MEI-1 is required for meiosis, but must be inactivated before mitosis. Here we show that PPFR-1, a regulatory subunit of a trimeric protein phosphatase 4 complex, enhanced katanin MT-severing activity during C. elegans meiosis. Loss of ppfr-1, similarly to the inactivation of MT severing, caused a specific defect in meiosis II spindle disassembly. We show that a fraction of PPFR-1 was degraded after meiosis, contributing to katanin inactivation. PPFR-1 interacted with MEL-26, the substrate recognition subunit of the CUL-3 RING E3 ligase (CRL3(MEL-26)), which also targeted MEI-1 for post-meiotic degradation. Reversible protein phosphorylation of MEI-1 may ensure temporal activation of the katanin complex during meiosis, whereas CRL3(MEL-26)-mediated degradation of both MEI-1 and its activator PPFR-1 ensure efficient katanin inactivation in the transition to mitosis.
- Biosynthesis of ionotropic acetylcholine receptors requires the evolutionarily conserved ER membrane complex.
Richard M, Boulin T, Robert VJ, Richmond JE, Bessereau JL.
PNAS (2013) — Show abstract
The number of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (AChRs) present in the plasma membrane of muscle and neuronal cells is limited by the assembly of individual subunits into mature pentameric receptors. This process is usually inefficient, and a large number of the synthesized subunits are degraded by endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-associated degradation. To identify cellular factors required for the synthesis of AChRs, we performed a genetic screen in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans for mutants with decreased sensitivity to the cholinergic agonist levamisole. We isolated a partial loss-of-function allele of ER membrane protein complex-6 (emc-6), a previously uncharacterized gene in C. elegans. emc-6 encodes an evolutionarily conserved 111-aa protein with two predicted transmembrane domains. EMC-6 is ubiquitously expressed and localizes to the ER. Partial inhibition of EMC-6 caused decreased expression of heteromeric levamisole-sensitive AChRs by destabilizing unassembled subunits in the ER. Inhibition of emc-6 also reduced the expression of homomeric nicotine-sensitive AChRs and GABAA receptors in C. elegans muscle cells. emc-6 is orthologous to the yeast and human EMC6 genes that code for a component of the recently identified ER membrane complex (EMC). Our data suggest this complex is required for protein folding and is connected to ER-associated degradation. We demonstrated that inactivation of additional EMC members in C. elegans also impaired AChR synthesis and induced the unfolded protein response. These results suggest that the EMC is a component of the ER folding machinery. AChRs might provide a valuable proxy to decipher the function of the EMC further.
- Positive modulation of a Cys-loop acetylcholine receptor by an auxiliary transmembrane subunit.
Boulin T, Rapti G, Briseño-Roa L, Stigloher C, Richmond JE, Paoletti P, Bessereau JL.
Nature Neuroscience (2012) — Show abstract
Auxiliary subunits regulate the trafficking, localization or gating kinetics of voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels by associating tightly and specifically with pore-forming subunits. However, no auxiliary subunits have been identified for members of the Cys-loop receptor superfamily. Here we identify MOLO-1, a positive regulator of levamisole-sensitive acetylcholine receptors (L-AChRs) at the Caenorhabditis elegans neuromuscular junction. MOLO-1 is a one-pass transmembrane protein that contains a single extracellular globular domain-the TPM domain, found in bacteria, plants and invertebrates, including nonvertebrate chordates. Loss of MOLO-1 impairs locomotion and renders worms resistant to the anthelmintic drug levamisole. In molo-1 mutants, L-AChR-dependent synaptic transmission is reduced by half, while the number and localization of receptors at synapses remain unchanged. In a heterologous expression system, MOLO-1 physically interacts with L-AChRs and directly enhances channel gating without affecting unitary conductance. The identification of MOLO-1 expands the mechanisms for generating functional and pharmacological diversity in the Cys-loop superfamily.
- Functional reconstitution of Haemonchus contortus acetylcholine receptors in Xenopus oocytes provides mechanistic insights into levamisole resistance.
Boulin T*, Fauvin A*, Charvet C, Cortet J, Cabaret J, Bessereau JL, Neveu C.
British Journal of Pharmacology (2011) — Show abstract
Background and purpose: The cholinergic agonist levamisole is widely used to treat parasitic nematode infestations. This anthelmintic drug paralyses worms by activating a class of levamisole-sensitive acetylcholine receptors (L-AChRs) expressed in nematode muscle cells. However, levamisole efficacy has been compromised by the emergence of drug-resistant parasites, especially in gastrointestinal nematodes such as Haemonchus contortus. We report here the first functional reconstitution and pharmacological characterization of H. contortus L-AChRs in a heterologous expression system.
Experimental approach: In the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, five AChR subunit and three ancillary protein genes are necessary in vivo and in vitro to synthesize L-AChRs. We have cloned the H. contortus orthologues of these genes and expressed them in Xenopus oocytes. We reconstituted two types of H. contortus L-AChRs with distinct pharmacologies by combining different receptor subunits.
Key results: The Hco-ACR-8 subunit plays a pivotal role in selective sensitivity to levamisole. As observed with C. elegans L-AChRs, expression of H. contortus receptors requires the ancillary proteins Hco-RIC-3, Hco-UNC-50 and Hco-UNC-74. Using this experimental system, we demonstrated that a truncated Hco-UNC-63 L-AChR subunit, which was specifically detected in a levamisole-resistant H. contortus isolate, but not in levamisole-sensitive strains, hampers the normal function of L-AChRs, when co-expressed with its full-length counterpart.
Conclusions and implications: We provide the first functional evidence for a putative molecular mechanism involved in levamisole resistance in any parasitic nematode. This expression system will provide a means to analyse molecular polymorphisms associated with drug resistance at the electrophysiological level.
- A neuronal acetylcholine receptor regulates the balance of muscle excitation and inhibition in Caenorhabditis elegans.
Jospin M, Qi YB, Stawicki TM, Boulin T, Schuske KR, Horvitz HR, Bessereau JL, Jorgensen EM, Jin Y.
PLoS Biology (2009) — Show abstract
In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, cholinergic motor neurons stimulate muscle contraction as well as activate GABAergic motor neurons that inhibit contraction of the contralateral muscles. Here, we describe the composition of an ionotropic acetylcholine receptor that is required to maintain excitation of the cholinergic motor neurons. We identified a gain-of-function mutation that leads to spontaneous muscle convulsions. The mutation is in the pore domain of the ACR-2 acetylcholine receptor subunit and is identical to a hyperactivating mutation in the muscle receptor of patients with myasthenia gravis. Screens for suppressors of the convulsion phenotype led to the identification of other receptor subunits. Cell-specific rescue experiments indicate that these subunits function in the cholinergic motor neurons. Expression of these subunits in Xenopus oocytes demonstrates that the functional receptor is comprised of three alpha-subunits, UNC-38, UNC-63 and ACR-12, and two non-alpha-subunits, ACR-2 and ACR-3. Although this receptor exhibits a partially overlapping subunit composition with the C. elegans muscle acetylcholine receptor, it shows distinct pharmacology. Recordings from intact animals demonstrate that loss-of-function mutations in acr-2 reduce the excitability of the cholinergic motor neurons. By contrast, the acr-2(gf) mutation leads to a hyperactivation of cholinergic motor neurons and an inactivation of downstream GABAergic motor neurons in a calcium dependent manner. Presumably, this imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory input into muscles leads to convulsions. These data indicate that the ACR-2 receptor is important for the coordinated excitation and inhibition of body muscles underlying sinusoidal movement.