Decodificado o sistema de navegação das células do cérebro: mero acaso, fortuita necessidade ou design inteligente???

quinta-feira, dezembro 14, 2017

Ephrin-A/EphA specific co-adaptation as a novel mechanism in topographic axon guidance

Felix Fiederling, Markus Weschenfelder, Martin Fritz, Anne von Philipsborn, Martin Bastmeyer, Franco Weth


The retinotectal projection.
The topographic projection in the chicken visual system connects RGCs from the retina to the midbrain's optic tectum.


Genetic hardwiring during brain development provides computational architectures for innate neuronal processing. Thus, the paradigmatic chick retinotectal projection, due to its neighborhood preserving, topographic organization, establishes millions of parallel channels for incremental visual field analysis. Retinal axons receive targeting information from quantitative guidance cue gradients. Surprisingly, novel adaptation assays demonstrate that retinal growth cones robustly adapt towards ephrin-A/EphA forward and reverse signals, which provide the major mapping cues. Computational modeling suggests that topographic accuracy and adaptability, though seemingly incompatible, could be reconciled by a novel mechanism of coupled adaptation of signaling channels. Experimentally, we find such ‘co-adaptation’ in retinal growth cones specifically for ephrin-A/EphA signaling. Co-adaptation involves trafficking of unliganded sensors between the surface membrane and recycling endosomes, and is presumably triggered by changes in the lipid composition of membrane microdomains. We propose that co-adaptative desensitization eventually relies on guidance sensor translocation into cis-signaling endosomes to outbalance repulsive trans-signaling.

eLife digest

The human brain contains roughly 100 billion neurons, which are organized into complex networks. But how does the brain establish these networks in the first place? Neurons have long projections known as axons and, in the developing brain, these axons form structures called growth cones at their tips. The growth cones possess finger-like appendages that probe their surroundings in search of signals displayed on the surface of other cells. These signals guide the growth cones to their targets and move the axon tip into a position where it can form connections with other neurons within a particular network.

The signals that growth cones follow are often distributed in concentration gradients so that the levels of a signal may be low at one end of a brain structure and gradually increase to a maximum level at the other end. In the developing visual system, for example, about one million axons from the retina reach their proper targets in visual regions of the brain by reading gradients of signals called ephrins and Ephs. However, when Fiederling et al. studied retinal neurons in a petri dish, they found that the axons became much less sensitive to both signals upon prolonged exposure to them. This unexpected finding raised a new question. If neurons rely upon these gradients for navigation, how do they continue to find their way if they also become less sensitive to those signals over time?

Fiederling et al. used a computer to simulate the events occurring in the developing brain. The simulations were based on the idea that navigating growth cones sense the ratio of ephrins to Ephs, instead of sensing the individual concentrations of these signals. Thus, by keeping the amounts of all involved sensors in strict proportion to each other while continuously re-adjusting them, the axons could still be accurately guided to their targets even though the neurons would become less sensitive to the signals. Experiments in neurons grown in petri dishes confirmed that retinal growth cones do exactly this and regulate the amounts of ephrin and Eph sensors on their outer membranes in a highly coordinated manner using a previously unknown mechanism.

Given that signaling requires energy, the brain may have evolved this system to reduce the costs associated with wiring itself up. The system also offers greater flexibility than guidance based on the absolute concentrations of the signals. If other regions of the brain use a similar mechanism to establish their own wiring patterns, then understanding such basic mechanisms might eventually provide insights into diseases of miswiring such as schizophrenia and autism.