Toll-like receptors （TLRs） are germline-encoded pattern-recognition receptors that initiate innate immune re- sponses by recognizing molecular structures shared by a wide range of pathogens, known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns （PAMPs）. After tissue injury or cellular stress, TLRs also detect endogenous ligands known as danger-associated molecular patterns （DAMPs）. TLRs are expressed in both non-neuronal and neuronal cell types in the central nervous system （CNS） and contribute to both infectious and non-infectious disorders in the CNS. Following tissue insult and nerve injury, TLRs （such as TLR2, TLR3, and TLR4） induce the activation of microglia and astrocytes and the production of the proinflammatory cytokines in the spinal cord, leading to the development and maintenance of inflammatory pain and neu- ropathic pain. In particular, primary sensory neurons, such as nociceptors, express TLRs （e.g., TLR4 and TLR7） to sense exogenous PAMPs and endogenous DAMPs released after tissue injury and cellular stress. These neuronal TLRs are new players in the processing of pain and itch by increasing the excitability of primary sensory neurons. Given the prevalence of chronic pain and itch and the suffering of affected people, insights into TLR signaling in the nervous system will open a new avenue for the management of clinical pain and itch.
Oxidative stress plays a significant role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), a devastating disease of the elderly. The brain is more vulnerable than other organs to oxidative stress, and most of the components of neurons (lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids) can be oxidized in AD due to mitochondrial dysfunction, increased metal levels, inflammation, and beta-amyloid (A beta) peptides. Oxidative stress participates in the development of AD by promoting A beta deposition, tau hyperphosphorylation, and the subsequent loss of synapses and neurons. The relationship between oxidative stress and AD suggests that oxidative stress is an essential part of the pathological process, and antioxidants may be useful for AD treatment.
Death-mediating proteases such as caspases and caspase-3 in particular, have been implicated in neurodegenerative processes, aging and Alzheimer＇s disease. However, emerging evidence suggests that in addition to their classical role in cell death, caspases play a key role in modulating synaptic function. It is remarkable that active caspases-3, which can trigger widespread damage and degeneration, aggregates in structures as delicate as synapses and persists in neurons without causing acute cell death. Here, we evaluate this dichotomy, and discuss the hypothesis that caspase-3 may be a bifurcation point in cellular signaling, able to orient the neuronal response to stress down either pathological/apoptotic pathways or towards physiological cellular remodeling. We propose that temporal, spatial and other regulators of caspase activity are key determinants of the ultimate effect of caspase-3 activation in neurons. This concept has implications for differential roles of caspase-3 activation across the lifespan. Specifically, we propose that limited caspase-3 activation is critical for synaptic function in the healthy adult brain while chronic activation is involved in degenerative processes in the aging brain.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a pervasive neurodevelopmental condition characterized by variable impairments in communication and social interaction as well as restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. Heterogeneity of presentation is a hallmark. Investigations of immune system problems in ASD, including aberrations in cytokine profiles and signaling, have been increasing in recent times and are the subject of ongoing interest. With the aim of establishing whether cytokines have utility as potential biomarkers that may define a subgroup of ASD, or function as an objective measure of response to treatment, this review summarizes the role of the immune system, discusses the relationship between the immune system, the brain, and behavior, and presents previously-identified immune system abnormalities in ASD, specifically addressing the role of cytokines in these aberrations. The roles and identification of biomarkers are also addressed, particularly with respect to cytokine profiles in ASD.
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder characterized by impaired perception, delusions, thought disorder, abnormal emotion regulation, altered motor function, and impaired drive. The default mode network （DMN）, since it was first proposed in 2001, has become a central research theme in neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. In this review, first we define the DMN and describe its functional activity, functional and anatomical connectivity, heritability, and inverse correlation with the task positive network. Second, we review empirical studies of the anatomical and functional DMN, and anti-correlation between DMN and the task positive network in schizophrenia. Finally, we review preliminary evidence about the relationship between antipsychotic medications and regulation of the DMN, review the role of DMN as a treatment biomarker for this disease, and consider the DMN effects of individualized therapies for schizophrenia.
Nociception is an important physiological process that detects harmful signals and results in pain perception. In this review, we discuss important experimental evidence involving some TRP ion channels as molecular sensors of chemical, thermal, and mechanical noxious stimuli to evoke the pain and itch sensations. Among them are the TRPA1 channel, members of the vanilloid subfamily (TRPV1, TRPV3, and TRPV4), and finally members of the melastatin group (TRPM2, TRPM3, and TRPM8). Given that pain and itch are pro-survival, evolutionarily-honed protective mechanisms, care has to be exercised when developing inhibitory/modulatory compounds targeting specific pain/itch-TRPs so that physiological protective mechanisms are not disabled to a degree that stimulus-mediated injury can occur. Such events have impeded the development of safe and effective TRPV1-modulating compounds and have diverted substantial resources. A beneficial outcome can be readily accomplished via simple dosing strategies, and also by incorporating medicinal chemistry design features during compound design and synthesis. Beyond clinical use, where compounds that target more than one channel might have a place and possibly have advantageous features, highly specific and high-potency compounds will be helpful in mechanistic discovery at the structure-function level.
Increasing evidence suggests that spinal microglia regulate pathological pain in males. In this study, we investigated the effects of several microglial and astroglial modulators on inflammatory and neuropathic pain following intrathecal injection in male and female mice. These modulators were the microglial inhibitors minocycline and ZVEID (a caspase-6 inhibitor) and the astroglial inhibitors L-α-aminoadipate (L-AA, an astroglial toxin) and carbenoxolone (a connexin 43 inhibitor), as well as U0126 (an ERK kinase inhibitor) and D-JNKI-1 (a c-Jun N-terminal kinase inhibitor). We found that spinal administration of minocycline or ZVEID, or Caspase6 deletion, reduced formalin-induced inflammatory and nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain primarily in male mice. In contrast, intrathecal L-AA reduced neuropathic pain but not inflammatory pain in both sexes. Intrathecal U0126 and D-JNKI-1 reduced neuropathic pain in both sexes. Nerve injury caused spinal upregulation of the astroglial markers GFAP and Connexin 43 in both sexes. Collectively, our data confirmed male-dominant microglial signaling but also revealed sex-independent astroglial signaling in the spinal cord in inflammatory and neuropathic pain.
The degeneration of cholinergic neurons and cholinergic hypofunction are pathologies associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) mediate acetylcholine-induced neurotransmission and five mAChR subtypes (M1-M5) have been identified. Among them, M1 mAChR is widely expressed in the central nervous system and has been implicated in many physiological and pathological brain functions. In addition, M1 mAChR is postulated to be an important therapeutic target for AD and several other neurodegenerative diseases. In this article, we review recent progress in understanding the functional involvement of M1 mAChR in AD pathology and in developing M1 mAChR agonists for AD treatment.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, correlating with genetic susceptibility and environmental risk factors. Molecular, functional, and structural imaging approaches have been increasingly used to detect neurobiological changes, analyze neurochemical correlates, and parse pathophysiological mechanisms underlying MDD. We reviewed recent neuroimaging publications on MDD in terms of molecular, functional, and structural alterations as detected mainly by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography. Altered structure and function of brain regions involved in the cognitive control of affective state have been demonstrated. An abnormal default mode network, as revealed by resting-state functional MRI, is likely associated with aberrant metabolic and serotonergic function revealed by radionuclide imaging. Further multi-modal investigations are essential to clarify the characteristics of the cortical network and serotonergic system associated with behavioral and genetic variations in MDD.
Neuroinflammatory processes are a central feature of Alzheimer’s disease(AD) in which microglia are over-activated, resulting in the increased production of proinflammatory cytokines. Moreover, deficiencies in the antiinflammatory system may also contribute to neuroinflammation. Recently, advanced methods for the analysis of genetic polymorphisms have further supported the relationship between neuroinflammatory factors and AD risk because a series of polymorphisms in inflammation-related genes have been shown to be associated with AD. In this review, we summarize the polymorphisms of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines related to AD, primarily interleukin-1(IL-1), IL-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, IL-4, IL-10, and transforming growth factor beta, as well as their functional activity in AD pathology. Exploration of the relationship between inflammatory cytokine polymorphisms and AD risk may facilitate our understanding of AD pathogenesis and contribute to improved treatment strategies.
Neuroinflammatory processes are a central feature of Alzheimer's disease (AD) in which microglia are over-activated, resulting in the increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Moreover, deficiencies in the anti-inflammatory system may also contribute to neuroinflammation. Recently, advanced methods for the analysis of genetic polymorphisms have further supported the relationship between neuroinflammatory factors and AD risk because a series of polymorphisms in inflammation-related genes have been shown to be associated with AD. In this review, we summarize the polymorphisms of both pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines related to AD, primarily interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, IL-4, IL-10, and transforming growth factor beta, as well as their functional activity in AD pathology. Exploration of the relationship between inflammatory cytokine polymorphisms and AD risk may facilitate our understanding of AD pathogenesis and contribute to improved treatment strategies.
Voltage-gated sodium channels (Navs) play an important role in human pain sensation. However, the expression and role of Nav subtypes in native human sensory neurons are unclear. To address this issue, we obtained human dorsal root ganglion (hDRG) tissues from healthy donors. PCR analysis of seven DRG-expressed Nav subtypes revealed that the hDRG has higher expression of Nav1.7 (~50% of total Nav expression) and lower expression of Nav1.8 (~12%), whereas the mouse DRG has higher expression of Nav1.8 (~45%) and lower expression of Nav1.7 (~18%). To mimic Nav regulation in chronic pain, we treated hDRG neurons in primary cultures with paclitaxel (0.1–1 μmol/L) for 24 h. Paclitaxel increased the Nav1.7 but not Nav1.8 expression and also increased the transient Na+ currents and action potential firing frequency in small-diameter (<50 μm) hDRG neurons. Thus, the hDRG provides a translational model in which to study “human pain in a dish” and test new pain therapeutics.
Depression is a chronic, recurring and potentially life-threatening illness that affects up to 20% of the population across the world. Despite its prevalence and considerable impact on human, little is known about its pathogenesis. One of the major reasons is the restricted availability of validated animal models due to the absence of consensus on the pathology and etiology of depression. Besides, some core symptoms such as depressed mood, feeling of worthlessness, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide, are impossible to be modeled on laboratory animals. Currently, the criteria for identifying animal models of depression rely on either of the 2 principles: actions of known antidepressants and responses to stress. This review mainly focuses on the most widely used animal models of depression, including learned helplessness, chronic mild stress, and social defeat paradigms. Also, the behavioral tests for screening antidepressants, such as forced swimming test and tail suspension test, are also discussed. The advantages and major drawbacks of each model are evaluated. In prospective, new techniques that will be beneficial for developing novel animal models or detecting depression are discussed.
Considerable debate and controversy surround the cause(s) of Alzheimer's disease (AD). To date, several theories have gained notoriety, however none is universally accepted. In this review, we provide evidence for the oxidative stress-induced AD cascade that posits aged mitochondria as the critical origin of neurodegeneration in AD.
Schizophrenia is hypothesized to arise from disrupted brain connectivity. This "dysconnectivity hypothesis" has generated interest in discovering whether there is anatomical and functional dysconnectivity between the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and other brain regions, and how this dysconnectivity is linked to the impaired cognitive functions and aberrant behaviors of schizophrenia. Critical advances in neuroimaging technologies, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), make it possible to explore these issues. DTI affords the possibility to explore anatomical connectivity in the human brain in vivo and fMRI can be used to make inferences about functional connections between brain regions. In this review, we present major advances in the understanding of PFC anatomical and functional dysconnectivity and their implications in schizophrenia. We then briefly discuss future prospects that need to be explored in order to move beyond simple mapping of connectivity changes to elucidate the neuronal mechanisms underlying schizophrenia.
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impaired social interactions, communication deficits, and repetitive behavior. Although the mechanisms underlying its etiology and manifestations are poorly understood, several lines of evidence from rodent and human studies suggest involvement of the evolutionarily highly-conserved oxytocin (OXT) and arginine-vasopressin (AVP), as these neuropeptides modulate various aspects of mammalian social behavior. As far as we know, there is no comprehensive review of the roles of the OXT and AVP systems in the development of ASD from the genetic aspect. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge regarding associations between ASD and single-nucleotide variants of the human OXT-AVP pathway genes OXT, AVP, AVP receptor 1a (AVPR1a), OXT receptor (OXTR), the oxytocinase/vasopressinase (LNPEP), and ADP-ribosyl cyclase (CD38).
Emerging evidence indicates that CXCL12/ CXCR4 signaling is involved in chronic pain. However, few studies have systemically assessed its role in direct nerve injury-induced neuropathic pain and the underlying mech- anism. Here, we determined that spared nerve injury （SNI） increased the expression of CXCL12 and its cognate receptor CXCR4 in lumbar 5 dorsal root ganglia （DRG） neurons and satellite glial cells. SNI also induced long- lasting upregulation of CXCL12 and CXCR4 in the ipsi- lateral L4-5 spinal cord dorsal horn, characterized by CXCL12 expression in neurons and microglia, and CXCR4 expression in neurons and astrocytes. Moreover, SNI- induced a sustained increase in TNF-α expression in the DRG and spinal cord. Intraperitoneal injection （i.p.） of the TNF-α synthesis inhibitor thalidomide reduced the SNI-in- duced mechanical hypersensitivity and inhibited the expression of CXCL12 in the DRG and spinal cord. Intrathecal injection （i.t.） of the CXCR4 antagonist AMD3100, both 30 rain before and 7 days after SNI, reduced the behavioral signs of allodynia. Rats given an i.t. or i.p. bolus of AMD3100 on day 8 of SNI exhibited attenuated abnormal pain behaviors. The neuropathic pain established following SNI was also impaired by i.t. admin- istration of a CXCL12-neutralizing antibody. Moreover, repetitive i.t. AMD3100 administration prevented the acti- vation of ERK in the spinal cord. The mechanical hyper- sensitivity induced in nai＇ve rats by i.t. CXCL12 was alleviated by pretreatment with the MEK inhibitor PD98059. Collectively, our results revealed that TNF-α might mediate the upregulation of CXCL12 in the DRG and spinal cord following SNI, and that CXCL 12/CXCR4 sig- naling via ERK activation contributes to the development and maintenance of neuropathic pain.
Contrary to the previous belief that insulin does not act in the brain, studies in the last three decades have demonstrated important roles of insulin and insulin signal transduction in various functions of the central nervous system. Deregulated brain insulin signaling and its role in molecular pathogenesis have recently been reported in Alzheimer's disease (AD). In this article, we review the roles of brain insulin signaling in memory and cognition, the metabolism of amyloid beta precursor protein, and tau phosphorylation. We further discuss deficiencies of brain insulin signaling and glucose metabolism, their roles in the development of AD, and recent studies that target the brain insulin signaling pathway for the treatment of AD. It is clear now that deregulation of brain insulin signaling plays an important role in the development of sporadic AD. The brain insulin signaling pathway also offers a promising therapeutic target for treating AD and probably other neurodegenerative disorders.
Searching for effective biomarkers is one of the most challenging tasks in the research field of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a non-invasive and powerful tool for investigating changes in the structure, function, maturation, connectivity, and metabolism of the brain of children with ASD. Here, we review the more recent MRI studies in young children with ASD, aiming to provide candidate biomarkers for the diagnosis of childhood ASD. The review covers structural imaging methods, diffusion tensor imaging, resting-state functional MRI, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Future advances in neuroimaging techniques, as well as cross-disciplinary studies and large-scale collaborations will be needed for an integrated approach linking neuroimaging, genetics, and phenotypic data to allow the discovery of new, effective biomarkers.