Role of monoamines in the development and regeneration of the zebrafish spinal cord
Mysiak, Karolina Sandra
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The hallmark of an adult mammalian central nervous system is the inability to regenerate after an injury. Zebrafish, on the other hand, have an astounding regenerative capacity. After a spinal cord lesion, zebrafish can re-establish the damaged neuronal network and regain their swimming ability within weeks. This is partly due to the presence of the ependymal radial glia (ERGs), which line the wall of the central canal and act as the stem/progenitor cells of the spinal cord. Under homeostatic conditions the ERGs are largely quiescent, however, the lesion triggers them to proliferate and replace cells that have been lost due to the damage. Previous studies have shown that the regeneration of the motor neurons is affected by the signalling pathways similar to those governing the first development of these cells during embryogenesis, such as Sonic hedgehog, Notch and dopamine signalling. Serotonin (5-HT), similar to dopamine, is a monoaminergic neurotransmitter with a wide range of physiological and behavioural functions. It has also been shown to play a role during development of the nervous system. In this doctoral thesis I address the hypothesis that 5-HT has a positive effect on the development and adult regeneration of motor neurons. In addition, I expand on the previously discovered augmenting effect of dopamine on motor neuron development, by analysing the downstream pathways of its action. I show that during the development, incubating embryos in 5-HT increases the proliferation of the motor neuron progenitor (pMN) cells, which leads to augmented motor neuron production. RT-PCR on FAC sorted pMN cells highlights a number of serotonergic receptors that might be responsible for this effect. Although the downstream pathways are still unknown, 5-HT appears not to act on the sonic hedgehog canonical pathway, as shown by the unchanged expression of the hedgehog effector gene, patched2 after 5-HT treatment. I show that 5-HT does not affect the generation of vsx1+ or pax2a+ interneurons, suggesting that it has a predominant effect on motor neuron production. In the intact spinal cord of an adult zebrafish, the pMN-like ERGs express serotonergic receptors, indicating they are responsive to 5-HT stimulation. After a lesion, 5-HT administration enhances the proliferation of the pMN-like ERGs caudal to the lesion site resulting in an increase in the number of newborn motor neurons. Rostral to the lesion site, administration of exogenous 5-HT does not have an effect on the ERG proliferation, possibly due to the fact that the endogenous source of 5-HT, in the form of the descending axons, is still present and might already elicit a maximal response of the progenitor cells. 5-HT does not have an effect on the proliferation of the progenitor cells dorsal or ventral to the pMNlike domain, nor does it affect the regeneration of the serotonergic interneurons. These results suggest that 5-HT from the brain preferentially contributes to the regeneration of the motor neurons. Dopamine is another monoamine shown to enhance motor neuron production during the development and regeneration. To investigate the downstream pathways of dopamine signalling on motor neuron production during embryogenesis, RNA-sequencing was performed on FAC sorted pMN cells after a treatment with a dopamine agonist, pergolide. The results yielded 14 differentially expressed genes (FDR<0.05) with diverse functions in the cell, indicating that dopamine might act on multiple targets to promote motor neuron production. Taken together, these results demonstrate the positive effect of monoaminergic stimulation on motor neuron development and regeneration. They provide an insight into the pathways that govern the proliferation of stem/progenitor cells in the embryonic and adult spinal cord, which might contribute to the research working on enhancing adult neurogenesis in mammals.