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Visualising neuronal signalling dynamics within intact neuronal circuits: Deciphering the role of cell-specific MeCP2 dynamics in neuronal function and dysfunction

Project description

Research deciphers how MECP2 gene dynamics affect brain functions

Epigenetic processes are essential for complex brain functions. Disrupted epigenetic signals could lead to devastating brain pathologies such as Rett syndrome – a postnatal neurodevelopmental disease causing rapid deterioration of sensory, motor, cognitive and social functions. Rett syndrome is caused by mutations of the X chromosome on a gene called MECP2. The EU-funded 2CE MECP2 project will develop an imaging-based approach to monitor endogenous MeCP2 signalling and dynamics in intact neuronal circuits in mice. Using genome editing and fluorescence imaging techniques, the researchers will map MeCP2 activity in the intact mouse brain across cell types, circuits and sensory experiences.

Objective

Epigenetic signalling pathways are required to translate external sensory input to neuronal gene modulation and function, and disruption of epigenetic signals leads to devastating brain pathologies. One prominent example is Rett syndrome (RTT), a postnatal neurodevelopmental disease which results in rapid deterioration of sensory, motor, cognitive, and social functions. RTT is caused by loss of function mutations in a single gene encoding for Methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2), an abundant and multifunctional methylation reader in the brain. While transgenic mouse models of MeCP2 loss have provided significant insights into RTT, they also revealed the vast complexity of the regulation of MeCP2 signalling and cell- specific heterogeneity. Importantly both a deficit and a surplus of MeCP2 give rise to pathological phenotypes. Here, we will develop an imaging-based approach to monitor endogenous MeCP2 signalling and dynamics in intact neuronal circuits in awake behaving mice. We will combine CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to fluorescently label endogenous MeCP2 with FRET based biosensors to detect dynamic MeCP2 signalling without perturbing its innate regulation. In vivo two-photon fluorescence lifetime imaging will enable dual imaging of MeCP2 signalling and concurrent neuronal activity. Using this approach, we will map the functional landscape of MeCP2 activity in the intact mouse brain across cell-type, circuit, and sensory experience. We will also image in vivo MeCP2 signalling in transgenic mice with common RTT mutations. This will allow us to detect early cell-type specific MeCP2 dysfunction and avoid broad late-stage RTT symptoms. The direct visualisation of the intricate interplay between MeCP2 signalling and neuronal function within intact neuronal circuits will be transformative since it will shed light on the physiological role of epigenetic signalling in the brain and provide vital insights to future therapeutic interventions.

Host institution

TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY
Net EU contribution
€ 1 500 000,00
Total cost
€ 1 500 000,00

Beneficiaries (1)