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New method for topographic transcriptome mapping of the mouse brain

In our latest paper, we demonstrate that spatially resolved RNA-seq is ideally suited for high resolution topographical mapping of genome-wide gene expression in heterogeneous anatomical structures such as the mammalian central nervous system. The work has  appeared online in Genome Biology

Cortical interneurons originating from the medial ganglionic eminence, MGE, are among the most diverse cells within the CNS. Different pools of proliferating progenitor cells are thought to exist in the ventricular zone of the MGE, but whether the underlying subventricular and mantle regions of the MGE are spatially patterned has not yet been addressed. In this work, we combined laser-capture microdissection and multiplex RNA-sequencing to map the transcriptome of MGE cells at a spatial resolution of 50 microns. Distinct groups of progenitor cells showing different stages of interneuron maturation were identified and topographically mapped based on their genome-wide transcriptional pattern. Although proliferating potential decreased rather abruptly outside the ventricular zone, a ventro-lateral gradient of increasing migratory capacity was identified, revealing heterogeneous cell populations within this neurogenic structure. Read the full article HERE.

Two new postdoc fellows join KI group to study roles of growth factor receptors in neuron differentiation, survival and function

Favio Krapacher obtained his PhD at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina, in December 2013. His thesis work focused on studies of p35 transgenic mice as a model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and included a series of behavioral, pharmacological and biochemical studies. Favio joins the KI team to study the role of Alk4 signaling in controlling the differentiation and migration of specific subtypes of forebrain GABAergic interneurons.

Nuria Gresa-Arribas obtained her PhD at the Universiy of Barcelona, Spain, in 2011. Her thesis examined the neurotoxic role of pro-inflammatory microglial cells and the role of C/EBPs transcription factors. She later worked as postdoctoral fellow under the direction of Dr. Josep Dalmau at the same university for studies of autoimmune neurologic diseases associated with antibodies to neuronal cell surface or synaptic proteins. Nuria will join the KI team in November to pursue studies of p75 signaling mutant mice.

Research Assistant joins KI group to help with mouse genotyping

Petronella Johansson trained at Kristianstad Highschool and subsequently pursued doctoral studies at the Scottish Fish Immunology Research Centre, University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom, where she obtained a PhD in 2014. Petronella joins our group to help with mouse breeding and genotyping, as well as molecular techniques and admin duties.

New discovery explains how ALK7 receptor regulates fat accumulation in obesity

In our latest paper, we report that the sensitivity of fat cells to signals that increase the breakdown of fat is linked to the receptor ALK7. The discovery, which is published in eLife, suggests that ALK7 is an interesting target for future strategies to treat obesity.

The ALK7 receptor is predominantly found in fat cells and tissues involved in controlling the metabolism. Intriguingly, mice with a mutation in ALK7 accumulate less fat than mice with a functional version of the protein. Until now, it has not been known why.

We created mice whose fat cells lack ALK7, but whose other cells all produce ALK7 as normal. We found that fat cells lacking the ALK7 receptor are more sensitive to adrenaline and noradrenaline signals, a finding that can explain why they accumulate less fat even though the mice were on a high-fat diet. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are central players in metabolism. These hormones trigger the burst of energy and increase in heart rate and blood pressure that are needed for the “fight-or-flight” response. The hormones normally stimulate the breakdown of fat, but when nutrients are plentiful, fat cells become resistant to this signal and instead store fat. This mechanism evolved to facilitate energy storage during times of abundant food supply, enhancing survival upon starvation. In the industrialized world where food is constantly accessible, this resistance can cause an unhealthy increase in body fat and result in obesity.

We then investigated if it is possible to prevent obesity by blocking ALK7. At present, there are no known ALK7 inhibitors, but we solved this by generating mice with a special mutation in ALK7 which renders it sensitive to inhibition by a chemical substance. This made it possible for us to block the receptor at any time in an otherwise normal adult animal.

Using this approach, we could get these mice to be leaner on a high fat diet simply by administration of the chemical. This suggests that acute inhibition of the ALK7 receptor can prevent obesity in adult animals, says Tingqing Guo, first author of the study.

We have also showed that the ALK7 receptor works in a similar way in human fat cells as it does in mice.

Overall, these results suggest that blockade of the ALK7 receptor could represent a novel strategy to combat human obesity, says Carlos Ibanez, principal investigator of the study.

The work was supported by grants from the European Research Council, Swedish Research Council, Strategic Research Program in Diabetes of Karolinska Institutet, Swedish Cancer Society, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the National University of Singapore and the National Medical Research Council of Singapore. eLife is a peer-reviewed open-access scientific journal established at the end of 2012 by Nobel Prize Winner Randy Schekman, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Max Planck Society and Wellcome Trust.

The paper is freely accessible and can be found HERE.

New Call: Postdoc Fellows in Neurobiology | Metabolism

Work at Carlos Ibanez laboratory focuses on understanding the functions and signaling mechanisms of  growth factors and their receptors in neural development and injury responses and metabolic regulation, for the development of better therapies to diseases of the nervous system and metabolic disorders.

Carlos Ibanez is Professor of Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Postdoctoral fellows are currently being recruited to the laboratory to advance research on growth factor receptor signaling and function in neurodevelopment and neural injury. We are seeking talented, innovative and enthusiastic researchers with a PhD awarded within the last 5 years. Candidates with expertise in i) molecular and cellular neurobiology, neurodevelopment or ii) molecular and cellular endocrinology, metabolic research and iii) mouse genetics are encouraged to apply.

Applications, including CV, list of publications and statement of future interests should be sent to Prof. Carlos Ibanez (). Applicants should arrange to have at least two confidential letters of reference sent independently by referees to this email address.

Funding is available for an initial period of 2 to 3 years, starting any time during 2014.

Deadline for application is May 10, 2014

New paper reveals differential regulation of pancreatic insulin secretion by Smad proteins and activin ligands

Diabetologia has now published online our latest paper describing differential actions of activins A and B and Smad proteins 2 and 3 on the regulation of insulin secretion by pancreatic beta cells (Wu et al., 2013).

Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) from pancreatic beta-cells is regulated by paracrine factors whose identity and mechanisms of action are incompletely understood. Activins are expressed in pancreatic islets and have been implicated in the regulation of GSIS. Activins A and B signal through a common set of intracellular components, but it is unclear whether they display similar or distinct functions in glucose homeostasis. Glucose homeostatic responses were examined in mice lacking activin B and in pancreatic islets derived from these mutants. The ability of activins A and B to regulate downstream signalling, ATP production and GSIS in islets and in beta-cells was compared. Mice lacking activin-B displayed elevated serum insulin levels and glucose-stimulated insulin release. Injection of a soluble activin B antagonist phenocopied these changes in wild type mice. Isolated pancreatic islets from mutant mice showed enhanced GSIS which could be rescued by exogenous activin B. Activin B negatively regulated GSIS and ATP production in wild type islets, while activin-A displayed opposite effects. The downstream mediator Smad3 responded preferentially to activin B in pancreatic islets and beta-cells, while Smad2 showed preference for activin A, indicating distinct signalling effects of the two activins. In line with this, overexpression of Smad3, but not Smad2, decreased GSIS in pancreatic islets. These results reveal a tug-of-war between activin ligands in the regulation of insulin secretion by beta-cells and suggest that manipulation of activin signalling could be a useful strategy for the control of glucose homeostasis in diabetes and metabolic disease.

Read the full article HERE.

Carlos Ibanez Lab wins consecutive Advanced Grant from the European Research Council

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced that Carlos Ibanez is among the winners of the 2013 Advanced Grant competition. At 2.5 million Euros –for a 5 year project– the ERC Advanced Grant has become one of the most prestigious research awards in Europe. In this round, a total of 284 researchers were awarded from over 2,400 applicants, a success rate of 11.8%.

Two new postdoc fellows to join KI group

Lilian Kisiswa obtained a PhD in 2011 in Visual Neursocience at Cardiff University, UK, under the direction of Prof. James E Morgan. Her PhD thesis was entitled “The role of inhibitor of apoptosis (IAPs) in retinal ganglion cell death and dendrite remodelling“. She then did postdoctoral studies at the Department of Molecular Biosciences, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, under the direction of Prof. Alun M Davies. Her postdoctoral work on reverse signaling by TNF ligands was recently published in Nature Neuroscience. Lilian will join the Stockholm p75 team in August 2013 to investigate the interplay between RIP2 and RhoGDI in the control of axon growth and degeneration by p75NTR and its ligands.

Diana Fernandez Suarez obtained her PhD in 2012 at the Center for Applied Medical Research University of Navarra, Pamplona, Spain, under the direction of Drs.Rafael Franco and Maria Soledad Aymerich. Her PhD thesis was dedicated to anatomical and funcitonal studies of the globus pallidus after manipulation of the endocanabinoid system in animal models of Parkinson’s disease. She performed postdoctoral work at the same laboratory during the past year. Diana will join the KI GDNF team in August 2013 to investigate adult functions of GFRa1 signaling in the healthy and diseased brain.

Open Positions: Postdoc Fellows in Neurobiology | Metabolism

Work at our laboratory focuses on understanding the functions and signaling mechanisms of neuronal growth factors in neural development, injury responses and metabolic regulation, for the development of better therapies to diseases of the nervous system and metabolism.

Postdoctoral fellows are currently being recruited to the laboratory. We are seeking talented, innovative and enthusiastic researchers with a PhD awarded within the last 10 years. Candidates with expertise in neurobiology, metabolism and mouse genetics are encouraged to apply.

Applications, including CV, list of publications and statement of future interests should be sent to Prof. Carlos Ibanez . Applicants should arrange to have at least two confidential letters of reference sent independently by referees to this email address.

Funding is available for an initial period of 2 to 3 years, starting any time during 2013.

Deadline for application is March 31, 2013.

New review explores the structure, evolution and function of the RET receptor tyrosine kinase

Cold Spring Harbour Perspectives in Biology has published Carlos Ibanez’s review on the structure and physiology of the RET receptor tyrosine kinase as part of their collection of reviews on receptor tyrosine kinases. RET, GDNF family ligands, and GFRα coreceptors activate signaling pathways involved in kidney and nervous system development. RET mutations cause Hirschsprung’s disease and at least four cancers. Read the full paper HERE.

 

New paper provides insights into the logic of neurotrophin signaling through the p75 neurotrophin receptor

Cell Reports publishes today our latest paper describing a structure-function map of the death domain of the p75 neurotrophin receptor (Charalampopoulos et al. 2012)

Structural determinants underlying signaling specificity in the tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily (TNFRSF) are poorly characterized and it is unclear whether different signaling outputs can be genetically dissociated. The p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR), also known as TNFRSF16, is a key regulator of trophic and injury responses in the nervous system. In this paper, we describe a genetic approach to dissect p75NTR signaling and decipher its underlying logic. Structural determinants important for regulation of cell death, NF-kB and RhoA pathways were identified in the p75NTR death domain. Pro-apoptotic and pro-survival pathways mapped onto non-overlapping epitopes, demonstrating that different signaling outputs can be genetically separated in p75NTR. Dissociation of JNK and caspase-3 activities indicated that JNK is necessary but not sufficient for p75NTR-mediated cell death. RIP2 recruitment and RhoGDI release were mechanistically linked, indicating that competition for DD binding underlies cross-talk between NF-kB and RhoA pathways in p75NTR signaling. These results provide new insights into the logic of p75NTR signaling and pave the way for a genetic dissection of p75NTR function and physiology.

Read the full paper HERE.

Carlos Ibanez appointed as Wallenberg Scholar

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has today appointed Carlos Ibanez as a Wallenberg Scholar. The award includes a research grant of 15 million Swedish crowns over 5 years. Quote from the Foundation’s website: “The Foundation’s purpose is to support Swedish research and thereby strengthen Sweden as a research nation. Since 2009, we have appointed a total of 46 Wallenberg Scholars. The appointed researchers all belong to the international research forefornt in all areas of science, with an emphasis on medicine and the natural sciences, says Peter Wallenberg Jr., vice chairman of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.” Read the text of the announcement (in Swedish) HERE and press release from Karolinska Institute HERE.

New paper reveals critical role of GFRa1 signaling in the development and function of the main olfactory system

The Journal of Neuroscience publishes today our paper on the role of the GDNF receptor GFRa1 in the main olfactory system (Marks et al. 2012). In this work, we investigated the consequences of GFRα1 deficiency for mouse olfactory system development and function.

GDNF and its receptor GFRα1 are prominently expressed in the olfactory epithelium (OE) and olfactory bulb (OB), but their importance for olfactory system development has been unknown. In the OE, we found that GFRα1 was expressed in basal precursors, immature olfactory sensory neurons (OSNs), and olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), but was excluded from mature OSNs. The OE of newborn Gfra1 knock-out mice was thinner and contained fewer OSNs, but more dividing precursors, suggesting deficient neurogenesis. Immature OSN axon bundles were enlarged and associated OECs increased, indicating impaired migration of OECs and OSN axons. In the OB, GFRα1 was expressed in immature OSN axons and OECs of the nerve layer, as well as mitral and tufted cells, but was excluded from GABAergic interneurons. In newborn knock-outs, the nerve layer was dramatically reduced, exhibiting fewer axons and OECs. Bulbs were smaller and presented fewer and disorganized glomeruli and a significant reduction in mitral cells. Numbers of tyrosine hydroxylase-, calbindin-, and calretinin-expressing interneurons were also reduced in newborn mice lacking Gfra1. At birth, the OE and OB of Gdnf knock-out mice displayed comparable phenotypes. Similar deficits were also found in adult heterozygous Gfra1+/− mutants, which in addition displayed diminished responses in behavioral tests of olfactory function. We conclude that GFRα1 is critical for the development and function of the main olfactory system, contributing to the development and allocation of all major classes of neurons and glial cells.

Read the full paper HERE.

Thesis nailing


PhD student Carolyn Marks nailed her thesis at the KI library this week. Tradition obliges, and the golden nail went into the wooden slab one more time.

The event marks the final count-down for her thesis defense, to take place on December 7. Attracted by the prospect of champagne and refreshments, fellow lab mates joined in for the occassion.

Photograph by postdoc fellow Tingqing Guo.

Carlos Ibanez starts new laboratory at the Life Sciences Institute of the National University of Singapore

Starting in the Fall of 2012, a new laboratory dedicated to neurotrophic factor research will be established at the Life Sciences Institute (Neurobiology Programme) of the National University of Singapore. The research actitivies of the NUS lab will run in parallel to and complement with those ongoing at the KI lab. The initial focus of the NUS group will be on genetic studies of death receptor signaling and physiology, as well as the identification of novel, mechanism-based receptor inhibitors. Follow developments in the NUS lab at carlosibanezlab.se/NUS.

PhD student Carolyn Marks to defend doctoral thesis in December

PhD student Carolyn Marks is set to defend her thesis, entitled “Regulatory mechanisms in olfactory system assembly and function”, on December 7, 2012. Her external examiner will be Professor Charles Greer from Yale University. Faculty members in the thesis committee will be Professors Ole Kiehn (KI), Jonas Muhr (KI), Tibor Harkany (KI) and Anders Lansner (KTH). Watch this space for updates on thesis nailing and other rituals.

New paper reveals role of activin receptor ALK7 in female reproduction

The FASEB Journal has published our paper on the role of the activin receptor ALK7 in the control of female reproduction (Sandoval-Guzman et al. 2012). In this work, we investigated the expression and function of the activin receptor ALK7 in the female reproductive axis using Alk7-knockout mice.

Alk7-knockout females showed delayed onset of puberty and abnormal estrous cyclicity, had abnormal diestrous levels of FSH and LH in serum, and their ovaries showed premature depletion of follicles, oocyte degeneration, and impaired responses to exogenous gonadotropins. In the arcuate nucleus, mutant mice showed reduced expression of Npy mRNA and lower numbers of Npy-expressing neurons than wild- type controls. Alk7 knockouts showed a selective loss of arcuate NPY/AgRP innervation in the medial preoptic area, a key central regulator of reproduction. These results indicate that ALK7 is an important regulator of female reproductive function and reveal a new role for activin signaling in the control of hypothalamic gene expression and wiring. Alk7 gene variants may contribute to female reproductive disorders in humans, such as polycystic ovary syndrome.

Read the full paper HERE.

New postdoc fellow to join metabolism team for islet biology work with Alk7 and Alk4 mutant mice

Karima Mezghenna obtained a PhD in Biology and Health Sciences at Montpellier 1 University under the direction of Prof. Anne-Dominique Lajoix with the title “Role of pancreatic and muscular neuronal NO synthases in the pathogenesis of prediabetic states”. Her work focused on unraveling compensatory mechanisms involved in insulin hypersecretion in insulin resistant rats with a special interest in the nitric oxide pathway. Karima will be joining our metabolism team in October to study the role of activin signaling through Alk7 and Alk4 in islet biology and the control of glucose homeostasis.

Upcoming event: grand finale of Molpark EU network on the island of Ischia

September 7-10 will see Carlos Ibanez and lab members Claire Kelly, Maritina Sergaki, Sabrina Zechel and Carolyn Marks heading to the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, for the Vth and final meeting of the Molpark EU network. A fitting venue to close a very exciting scientific partnership which we hope will continue in the future.

Molparkers meet at 4th EU network conference in Santorini: photographs

The Molpark crew met on the island of Santorini in the Aegean sea on October 30 to November 2, 2011, for the IVth Molpark network conference. Magnificent seascapes greeted the Molparkers as they locked themselves up to discuss the latest scientific advancements made by the different teams. Watch what they did when they were not talking science by visitng the photo gallery.

New review on p75NTR signaling in nervous system injury out in Trends in Neurosciences

Our review on p75 neurotrophin signaling in nervous system injury has been made available as a paper in press in the Trends In Neurosciences web site.

Injury or insult to the adult nervous system often results in reactivation of signaling pathways that are normally only active during development. The p75 neurotrophin receptor (p75NTR) is one such signaling molecule whose expression increases markedly following neural injury in many of the same cell types that express p75NTR during development. A series of studies during the past decade has demonstrated that p75NTR signaling contributes to neuronal and glial cell damage, axonal degeneration and dysfunction during injury and cellular stress. Why the nervous system reacts to injury by inducing a molecule that aids the demise of cells and axons is a biological paradox that remains to be explained satisfactorily. On the other hand, it may offer unique therapeutic opportunities for limiting the severity of nervous system injury and disease.

Read the full paper HERE.

 

Postdoc position in pancreatic islet biology

A postdoctoral position is available for experienced molecular endocrinologists to join our team investigating the role of growth factor signaling in metabolic regulation using mouse models carrying mutations in the Activin receptors ALK7 and ALK4, novel regulators of glucose homeostasis and energy balance (see Bertolino et al. and Andersson et al., PNAS 2008). The aim of the project is to understand the functional role of activin signaling through ALK7 and ALK4 in pancreatic islets and its contribution to the regulation of insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis. In order to tackle these questions, we have recently generated conditional and chemically inducible mutant mouse lines which will be available for analysis at the start of the project.

We are seeking a talented, innovative and enthusiastic researcher with a PhD awarded within the last 4 years. Highly motivated candidates with a genuine interest in metabolic regulation and mouse genetics are encouraged to apply. Priority will be given to candidates with strong expertise in pancreatic islet biology and studies of insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis.

Applications, including CV, list of publications and statement of future interests should be sent to . Applicants should arrange to have at least two confidential letters of reference to be sent directly by referees.

Funding is available for an initial period of 2 years, starting any time during 2012.

Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.

Lab retreat December 15-16 at Sigtuna Stiftelsen

Our group will be heading to the charming old town of Sigtuna for a 2-day lab retreat on December 15-16. We will be hosted by the Sigtuna Stiftelsen, originally founded as a forum for spiritual development, today functioning as a conference center. From its statutes, it can be read that “the Sigtuna Foundation, which begins its actual operations in 1917, has as its mission to support and prepare a home for volunteer work for the Lutheran faith and religious education in our country”. We will see about that. Our plan is to have each member of our group making a presentation on a free topic, with a connection to science. And there will be a hike and picnic in the forest, weather permitting. We are looking forward to an exciting and stimulating couple of days. Watch this space for more.

Heading to Santorini for the IVth meeting of the Molpark network

This weekend, Miriam Schiff and Carlos Ibanez will be on their way to the island of Santorini in the southern Aegean Sea for the IVth meeting of the Molpark EU network. We are hoping the Greek strikers will let us getting in and out without much hassle. Watch this space for more, and look HERE for other Molpark events and announcements.

New JCS paper reveals connection between MET and GDNF signaling in GABAergic interneuron development

The Journal of Cell Science publishes today our paper on the interaction between MET and GDNF signaling in the control of cortical GABAergic interneuron development (Perrinjaquet et al. 2011). This work demonstrates that responsiveness to GDNF in Gfra1 knock-out GABAergic interneurons can be restored upon addition of soluble GFRa1. As these neurons express neither RET nor NCAM, this result is only compatible with the existence of a novel transmembrane receptor partner for the GDNF-GFRa1 complex in GABAergic interneurons. Neither ErbB4 nor MET were found to fullfil this role. Unexpectedly, however, inhibition of MET (or its ligand HGF) per se promoted neuronal differentiation and migration and enhanced the activity of GDNF on GABAergic neurons. In agreement with this, Met mutant neurons showed enhanced responsiveness to GDNF and elevated levels of GFRa1 expression, both in vitro and in vivo. These results demonstrate the existence of a novel transmembrane receptor partner for the GDNF––GFRa1 complex and uncover an unexpected interplay between GDNF––GFRa1 and HGF––MET signaling in the early diversification of cortical GABAergic interneuron subtypes. Read the full paper HERE.

New postdoc fellow to join p75 team for in vivo work with mutant mice

Claire Kelly obtained her PhD earlier this year at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, UK. Her work, conducted under the direction of Dr. Vasso Episkopou, focused on the role of the E3 ubiquitin ligase Arkadia2C in motor neuron development in the mouse. Claire will be joining our p75 team in October to study the phenotypes of p75 mutant mice.

 

Photographs from Neurotrophic Factors GRC 2011 now available

Photographs taken during the GRC 2011 conference are now available for viewing at the Conferences Photo Gallery HERE. Watch speakers, discussion leaders and other participants enjoy 5 days of cutting edge science among cliff walks and seafood delicacies at the beautiful setting of Newport in the Rhode Island coast.

Gordon Research Conference on Neurotrophic Factors chaired by Carlos Ibanez to kick-off in Newport, Rhode Island, June 5

The 10th edition of the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) devoted to Neurotrophic Factors will take place at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, June 5-10, 2011. Carlos Ibanez, who was vice-chair in 2009, will chair the 2011 conference alongisde Rosalind Segal from Harvard University as vice-chair. This GRC is the most important forum showcasing cuting-edge developments in neurotrophic factor research. The 2011 edition will gather a mix of new and old comers and cover all aspects of neurotrophic factor research, from structure and signal transduction to functions in development, neuronal plasticity and disease. For program information and registration visit the conference website HERE. Registration closes May 8, 2011.

Science, Northern Lights meet at 3rd Molpark network conference in Finland

The third meeting of EU FP7 Molpark network took place on March 27-29, 2011, at Saariselka, 250km above the arctic circle in the Finnish Lapland. Excellent science met with white untouched snow from the Urho Kekkonen National Park, Northern Lights and a selection of Lapland food delicacies. Follow the adventures of the Molpark crew in this remote corner of the planet by visiting the photo gallery.

Imminent arrival of new laser confocal microscope

It is the Zeiss LSM700 with four solid-state lasers mounted on an AxioImager Z2 stand. There is big excitment in the lab and we all hope that this will significantly improve the workflow of our microscopy work. The proof of the pudding…