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See detailMissing heritability in Parkinson’s disease: the emerging role of non‑coding genetic variation
Ohnmacht, Jochen UL; May, Patrick UL; Sinkkonen, Lasse UL et al

in Journal of Neural Transmission (2020)

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. For the stratification of PD patients and the development of advanced clinical ... [more ▼]

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. For the stratification of PD patients and the development of advanced clinical trials, including causative treatments, a better understanding of the underlying genetic architecture of PD is required. Despite substantial efforts, genome-wide association studies have not been able to explain most of the observed heritability. The majority of PD-associated genetic variants are located in non-coding regions of the genome. A systematic assessment of their functional role is hampered by our incomplete understanding of genotype-phenotype correlations, for example through differential regulation of gene expression. Here, the recent progress and remaining challenges for the elucidation of the role of non-coding genetic variants is reviewed with a focus on PD as a complex disease with multifactorial origins. The function of gene regulatory elements and the impact of non-coding variants on them, and the means to map these elements on a genome-wide level, will be delineated. Moreover, examples of how the integration of functional genomic annotations can serve to identify disease-associated pathways and to prioritize disease- and cell type-specific regulatory variants will be given. Finally, strategies for functional validation and considerations for suitable model systems are outlined. Together this emphasizes the contribution of rare and common genetic variants to the complex pathogenesis of PD and points to remaining challenges for the dissection of genetic complexity that may allow for better stratification, improved diagnostics and more targeted treatments for PD in the future. [less ▲]

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See detailThe atypical chemokine receptor ACKR3/CXCR7 is a broad-spectrum scavenger for opioid peptides.
Meyrath, Max; Szpakowska, Martyna; Zeiner, Julian et al

in Nature communications (2020), 11(1), 3033

Endogenous opioid peptides and prescription opioid drugs modulate pain, anxiety and stress by activating opioid receptors, currently classified into four subtypes. Here we demonstrate that ACKR3/CXCR7 ... [more ▼]

Endogenous opioid peptides and prescription opioid drugs modulate pain, anxiety and stress by activating opioid receptors, currently classified into four subtypes. Here we demonstrate that ACKR3/CXCR7, hitherto known as an atypical scavenger receptor for chemokines, is a broad-spectrum scavenger of opioid peptides. Phylogenetically, ACKR3 is intermediate between chemokine and opioid receptors and is present in various brain regions together with classical opioid receptors. Functionally, ACKR3 is a scavenger receptor for a wide variety of opioid peptides, especially enkephalins and dynorphins, reducing their availability for the classical opioid receptors. ACKR3 is not modulated by prescription opioids, but we show that an ACKR3-selective subnanomolar competitor peptide, LIH383, can restrain ACKR3's negative regulatory function on opioid peptides in rat brain and potentiate their activity towards classical receptors, which may open alternative therapeutic avenues for opioid-related disorders. Altogether, our results reveal that ACKR3 is an atypical opioid receptor with cross-family ligand selectivity. [less ▲]

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See detailSpinal motor neurons are regenerated after mechanical lesion and genetic ablation in larval zebrafish
Ohnmacht, Jochen UL; Yang, Yujie; Maurer, Giana et al

in Development (2016), 143(9), 1464-1474

In adult zebrafish, relatively quiescent progenitor cells show lesion-induced generation of motor neurons. Developmental motor neuron generation from the spinal motor neuron progenitor domain (pMN ... [more ▼]

In adult zebrafish, relatively quiescent progenitor cells show lesion-induced generation of motor neurons. Developmental motor neuron generation from the spinal motor neuron progenitor domain (pMN) sharply declines at 48 hours post-fertilisation (hpf). After that, mostly oligodendrocytes are generated from the same domain. We demonstrate here that within 48 h of a spinal lesion or specific genetic ablation of motor neurons at 72 hpf, the pMN domain reverts to motor neuron generation at the expense of oligodendrogenesis. By contrast, generation of dorsal Pax2-positive interneurons was not altered. Larval motor neuron regeneration can be boosted by dopaminergic drugs, similar to adult regeneration. We use larval lesions to show that pharmacological suppression of the cellular response of the innate immune system inhibits motor neuron regeneration. Hence, we have established a rapid larval regeneration paradigm. Either mechanical lesions or motor neuron ablation is sufficient to reveal a high degree of developmental flexibility of pMN progenitor cells. In addition, we show an important influence of the immune system on motor neuron regeneration from these progenitor cells. [less ▲]

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See detailDopamine from the brain promotes spinal motor neuron generation during development and adult regeneration
Reimer, Michell; Norris, Annelise; Ohnmacht, Jochen UL et al

in Developmental Cell (2013), 25(5), 478-491

Coordinated development of brain stem and spinal target neurons is pivotal for the emergence of a precisely functioning locomotor system. Signals that match the development of these far-apart regions of ... [more ▼]

Coordinated development of brain stem and spinal target neurons is pivotal for the emergence of a precisely functioning locomotor system. Signals that match the development of these far-apart regions of the central nervous system may be redeployed during spinal cord regeneration. Here we show that descending dopaminergic projections from the brain promote motor neuron generation at the expense of V2 interneurons in the developing zebrafish spinal cord by activating the D4a receptor, which acts on the hedgehog pathway. Inhibiting this essential signal during early neurogenesis leads to a long-lasting reduction of motor neuron numbers and impaired motor responses of free-swimming larvae. Importantly, during successful spinal cord regeneration in adult zebrafish, endogenous dopamine promotes generation of spinal motor neurons, and dopamine agonists augment this process. Hence, we describe a supraspinal control mechanism for the development and regeneration of specific spinal cell types that uses dopamine as a signal. [less ▲]

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See detailChondrolectin Mediates Growth Cone Interactions of Motor Axons with an Intermediate Target
Zhong, Zhen; Ohnmacht, Jochen UL; Reimer, Michell et al

in Journal of Neuroscience (2012), 32(13), 4426-4439

The C-type lectin chondrolectin (chodl) represents one of the major gene products dysregulated in spinal muscular atrophy models in mice. However, to date, no function has been determined for the gene. We ... [more ▼]

The C-type lectin chondrolectin (chodl) represents one of the major gene products dysregulated in spinal muscular atrophy models in mice. However, to date, no function has been determined for the gene. We have identified chodl and other novel genes potentially involved in motor axon differentiation, by expression profiling of transgenically labeled motor neurons in embryonic zebrafish. To enrich the profile for genes involved in differentiation of peripheral motor axons, we inhibited the function of LIM-HDs (LIM homeodomain factors) by overexpression of a dominant-negative cofactor, thereby rendering labeled axons unable to grow out of the spinal cord. Importantly, labeled cells still exhibited axon growth and most cells retained markers of motor neuron identity. Functional tests of chodl, by overexpression and knockdown, confirm crucial functions of this gene for motor axon growth in vivo. Indeed, knockdown of chodl induces arrest or stalling of motor axon growth at the horizontal myoseptum, an intermediate target and navigational choice point, and reduced muscle innervation at later developmental stages. This phenotype is rescued by chodl overexpression, suggesting that correct expression levels of chodl are important for interactions of growth cones of motor axons with the horizontal myoseptum. Combined, these results identify upstream regulators and downstream functions of chodl during motor axon growth [less ▲]

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