skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on March 23, 2024

Title: Nutrigenomic regulation of sensory plasticity
Diet profoundly influences brain physiology, but how metabolic information is transmuted into neural activity and behavior changes remains elusive. Here, we show that the metabolic enzyme O-GlcNAc Transferase (OGT) moonlights on the chromatin of the D. melanogaster gustatory neurons to instruct changes in chromatin accessibility and transcription that underlie sensory adaptations to a high-sugar diet. OGT works synergistically with the Mitogen Activated Kinase/Extracellular signal Regulated Kinase (MAPK/ERK) rolled and its effector stripe (also known as EGR2 or Krox20) to integrate activity information. OGT also cooperates with the epigenetic silencer Polycomb Repressive Complex 2.1 (PRC2.1) to decrease chromatin accessibility and repress transcription in the high-sugar diet. This integration of nutritional and activity information changes the taste neurons’ responses to sugar and the flies’ ability to sense sweetness. Our findings reveal how nutrigenomic signaling generates neural activity and behavior in response to dietary changes in the sensory neurons.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    Diets rich in sugar, salt, and fat alter taste perception and food preference, contributing to obesity and metabolic disorders, but the molecular mechanisms through which this occurs are unknown. Here, we show that in response to a high sugar diet, the epigenetic regulator Polycomb Repressive Complex 2.1 (PRC2.1) persistently reprograms the sensory neurons of Drosophila melanogaster flies to reduce sweet sensation and promote obesity. In animals fed high sugar, the binding of PRC2.1 to the chromatin of the sweet gustatory neurons is redistributed to repress a developmental transcriptional network that modulates the responsiveness of these cells to sweet stimuli, reducing sweet sensation. Half of these transcriptional changes persist despite returning the animals to a control diet, causing a permanent decrease in sweet taste. Our results uncover a new epigenetic mechanism that, in response to the dietary environment, regulates neural plasticity and feeding behavior to promote obesity. 
    more » « less
  2. INTRODUCTION Neurons are by far the most diverse of all cell types in animals, to the extent that “cell types” in mammalian brains are still mostly heterogeneous groups, and there is no consensus definition of the term. The Drosophila optic lobes, with approximately 200 well-defined cell types, provides a tractable system with which to address the genetic basis of neuronal type diversity. We previously characterized the distinct developmental gene expression program of each of these types using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), with one-to-one correspondence to the known morphological types. RATIONALE The identity of fly neurons is determined by temporal and spatial patterning mechanisms in stem cell progenitors, but it remained unclear how these cell fate decisions are implemented and maintained in postmitotic neurons. It was proposed in Caenorhabditis elegans that unique combinations of terminal selector transcription factors (TFs) that are continuously expressed in each neuron control nearly all of its type-specific gene expression. This model implies that it should be possible to engineer predictable and complete switches of identity between different neurons just by modifying these sustained TFs. We aimed to test this prediction in the Drosophila visual system. RESULTS Here, we used our developmental scRNA-seq atlases to identify the potential terminal selector genes in all optic lobe neurons. We found unique combinations of, on average, 10 differentially expressed and stably maintained (across all stages of development) TFs in each neuron. Through genetic gain- and loss-of-function experiments in postmitotic neurons, we showed that modifications of these selector codes are sufficient to induce predictable switches of identity between various cell types. Combinations of terminal selectors jointly control both developmental (e.g., morphology) and functional (e.g., neurotransmitters and their receptors) features of neurons. The closely related Transmedullary 1 (Tm1), Tm2, Tm4, and Tm6 neurons (see the figure) share a similar code of terminal selectors, but can be distinguished from each other by three TFs that are continuously and specifically expressed in one of these cell types: Drgx in Tm1, Pdm3 in Tm2, and SoxN in Tm6. We showed that the removal of each of these selectors in these cell types reprograms them to the default Tm4 fate. We validated these conversions using both morphological features and molecular markers. In addition, we performed scRNA-seq to show that ectopic expression of pdm3 in Tm4 and Tm6 neurons converts them to neurons with transcriptomes that are nearly indistinguishable from that of wild-type Tm2 neurons. We also show that Drgx expression in Tm1 neurons is regulated by Klumpfuss, a TF expressed in stem cells that instructs this fate in progenitors, establishing a link between the regulatory programs that specify neuronal fates and those that implement them. We identified an intronic enhancer in the Drgx locus whose chromatin is specifically accessible in Tm1 neurons and in which Klu motifs are enriched. Genomic deletion of this region knocked down Drgx expression specifically in Tm1 neurons, leaving it intact in the other cell types that normally express it. We further validated this concept by demonstrating that ectopic expression of Vsx (visual system homeobox) genes in Mi15 neurons not only converts them morphologically to Dm2 neurons, but also leads to the loss of their aminergic identity. Our results suggest that selector combinations can be further sculpted by receptor tyrosine kinase signaling after neurogenesis, providing a potential mechanism for postmitotic plasticity of neuronal fates. Finally, we combined our transcriptomic datasets with previously generated chromatin accessibility datasets to understand the mechanisms that control brain wiring downstream of terminal selectors. We built predictive computational models of gene regulatory networks using the Inferelator framework. Experimental validations of these networks revealed how selectors interact with ecdysone-responsive TFs to activate a large and specific repertoire of cell surface proteins and other effectors in each neuron at the onset of synapse formation. We showed that these network models can be used to identify downstream effectors that mediate specific cellular decisions during circuit formation. For instance, reduced levels of cut expression in Tm2 neurons, because of its negative regulation by pdm3 , controls the synaptic layer targeting of their axons. Knockdown of cut in Tm1 neurons is sufficient to redirect their axons to the Tm2 layer in the lobula neuropil without affecting other morphological features. CONCLUSION Our results support a model in which neuronal type identity is primarily determined by a relatively simple code of continuously expressed terminal selector TFs in each cell type throughout development. Our results provide a unified framework of how specific fates are initiated and maintained in postmitotic neurons and open new avenues to understanding synaptic specificity through gene regulatory networks. The conservation of this regulatory logic in both C. elegans and Drosophila makes it likely that the terminal selector concept will also be useful in understanding and manipulating the neuronal diversity of mammalian brains. Terminal selectors enable predictive cell fate reprogramming. Tm1, Tm2, Tm4, and Tm6 neurons of the Drosophila visual system share a core set of TFs continuously expressed by each cell type (simplified). The default Tm4 fate is overridden by the expression of a single additional terminal selector to generate Tm1 ( Drgx ), Tm2 ( pdm3 ), or Tm6 ( SoxN ) fates. 
    more » « less
  3. Ramaswami, Mani (Ed.)
    Abstract Social experience and pheromone signaling in olfactory neurons affect neuronal responses and male courtship behaviors in Drosophila. We previously showed that social experience and pheromone signaling modulate chromatin around behavioral switch gene fruitless, which encodes a transcription factor necessary and sufficient for male sexual behaviors. Fruitless drives social experience-dependent modulation of courtship behaviors and physiological sensory neuron responses to pheromone; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying this modulation of neural responses remain less clear. To identify the molecular mechanisms driving social experience-dependent changes in neuronal responses, we performed RNA-seq from antennal samples of mutants in pheromone receptors and fruitless, as well as grouped or isolated wild-type males. Genes affecting neuronal physiology and function, such as neurotransmitter receptors, ion channels, ion and membrane transporters, and odorant binding proteins are differentially regulated by social context and pheromone signaling. While we found that loss of pheromone detection only has small effects on differential promoter and exon usage within fruitless gene, many of the differentially regulated genes have Fruitless binding sites or are bound by Fruitless in the nervous system. Recent studies showed that social experience and juvenile hormone signaling co-regulate fruitless chromatin to modify pheromone responses in olfactory neurons. Interestingly, genes involved in juvenile hormone metabolism are also misregulated in different social contexts and mutant backgrounds. Our results suggest that modulation of neuronal activity and behaviors in response to social experience and pheromone signaling likely arise due to large-scale changes in transcriptional programs for neuronal function downstream of behavioral switch gene function. 
    more » « less
  4. INTRODUCTION Diverse phenotypes, including large brains relative to body size, group living, and vocal learning ability, have evolved multiple times throughout mammalian history. These shared phenotypes may have arisen repeatedly by means of common mechanisms discernible through genome comparisons. RATIONALE Protein-coding sequence differences have failed to fully explain the evolution of multiple mammalian phenotypes. This suggests that these phenotypes have evolved at least in part through changes in gene expression, meaning that their differences across species may be caused by differences in genome sequence at enhancer regions that control gene expression in specific tissues and cell types. Yet the enhancers involved in phenotype evolution are largely unknown. Sequence conservation–based approaches for identifying such enhancers are limited because enhancer activity can be conserved even when the individual nucleotides within the sequence are poorly conserved. This is due to an overwhelming number of cases where nucleotides turn over at a high rate, but a similar combination of transcription factor binding sites and other sequence features can be maintained across millions of years of evolution, allowing the function of the enhancer to be conserved in a particular cell type or tissue. Experimentally measuring the function of orthologous enhancers across dozens of species is currently infeasible, but new machine learning methods make it possible to make reliable sequence-based predictions of enhancer function across species in specific tissues and cell types. RESULTS To overcome the limits of studying individual nucleotides, we developed the Tissue-Aware Conservation Inference Toolkit (TACIT). Rather than measuring the extent to which individual nucleotides are conserved across a region, TACIT uses machine learning to test whether the function of a given part of the genome is likely to be conserved. More specifically, convolutional neural networks learn the tissue- or cell type–specific regulatory code connecting genome sequence to enhancer activity using candidate enhancers identified from only a few species. This approach allows us to accurately associate differences between species in tissue or cell type–specific enhancer activity with genome sequence differences at enhancer orthologs. We then connect these predictions of enhancer function to phenotypes across hundreds of mammals in a way that accounts for species’ phylogenetic relatedness. We applied TACIT to identify candidate enhancers from motor cortex and parvalbumin neuron open chromatin data that are associated with brain size relative to body size, solitary living, and vocal learning across 222 mammals. Our results include the identification of multiple candidate enhancers associated with brain size relative to body size, several of which are located in linear or three-dimensional proximity to genes whose protein-coding mutations have been implicated in microcephaly or macrocephaly in humans. We also identified candidate enhancers associated with the evolution of solitary living near a gene implicated in separation anxiety and other enhancers associated with the evolution of vocal learning ability. We obtained distinct results for bulk motor cortex and parvalbumin neurons, demonstrating the value in applying TACIT to both bulk tissue and specific minority cell type populations. To facilitate future analyses of our results and applications of TACIT, we released predicted enhancer activity of >400,000 candidate enhancers in each of 222 mammals and their associations with the phenotypes we investigated. CONCLUSION TACIT leverages predicted enhancer activity conservation rather than nucleotide-level conservation to connect genetic sequence differences between species to phenotypes across large numbers of mammals. TACIT can be applied to any phenotype with enhancer activity data available from at least a few species in a relevant tissue or cell type and a whole-genome alignment available across dozens of species with substantial phenotypic variation. Although we developed TACIT for transcriptional enhancers, it could also be applied to genomic regions involved in other components of gene regulation, such as promoters and splicing enhancers and silencers. As the number of sequenced genomes grows, machine learning approaches such as TACIT have the potential to help make sense of how conservation of, or changes in, subtle genome patterns can help explain phenotype evolution. Tissue-Aware Conservation Inference Toolkit (TACIT) associates genetic differences between species with phenotypes. TACIT works by generating open chromatin data from a few species in a tissue related to a phenotype, using the sequences underlying open and closed chromatin regions to train a machine learning model for predicting tissue-specific open chromatin and associating open chromatin predictions across dozens of mammals with the phenotype. [Species silhouettes are from PhyloPic] 
    more » « less
  5. null (Ed.)
    Neural codes for sensory inputs have been hypothesized to reside in a broader space defined by ongoing patterns of spontaneous activity. To understand the structure of this spontaneous activity in the olfactory system, we performed high-density recordings of neural populations in the main olfactory bulb of awake mice. We observed changes in pairwise correlations of spontaneous activity between mitral and tufted (M/T) cells when animals were running, which resulted in an increase in the entropy of the population. Surprisingly, pairwise maximum entropy models that described the population activity using only assumptions about the firing rates and correlations of neurons were better at predicting the global structure of activity when animals were stationary as compared to when they were running, implying that higher order (3rd, 4th order) interactions governed population activity during locomotion. Taken together, we found that locomotion alters the functional interactions that shape spontaneous population activity at the earliest stages of olfactory processing, one synapse away from the sensory receptors in the nasal epithelium. These data suggest that the coding space available for sensory representations responds adaptively to the animal’s behavioral state. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The organization and structure of spontaneous population activity in the olfactory system places constraints of how odor information is represented. Using high-density electrophysiological recordings of mitral and tufted cells, we found that running increases the dimensionality of spontaneous activity, implicating higher order interactions among neurons during locomotion. Behavior, thus, flexibly alters neuronal activity at the earliest stages of sensory processing. 
    more » « less