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  • Hippocampal plasticity induced by primed burst, but not long-term potentiation, stimulation is impaired in area CA1 of aged Fischer 344 rats.

    23 July 2018

    The effect of two types of electrical stimulation designed to induce long-lasting plasticity of the Schaffer/commissural inputs to CA1 pyramidal neurons was investigated using in vitro hippocampal slices made from young (3-6 month) and old (24-27 month) Fischer 344 rats. The first stimulation paradigm, primed burst (PB) stimulation, consisted of a total of five physiologically patterned stimuli: a single priming pulse followed 170 ms later by a burst of four pulses at 200 Hz. The second stimulation paradigm, long-term potentiation (LTP) stimulation, consisted of a 200 Hz/1 second train (a total of 200 stimuli). Primed burst and LTP stimulation were equally effective at inducing a lasting increase in the population spike recorded from slices made from young rats. However, the enhancement of population spike amplitude produced by PB, but not LTP, stimulation was significantly less in slices made from old rats. These results suggest that the capacity of the hippocampus to demonstrate long-lasting synaptic plasticity is not altered with age, but that engaging plasticity-inducing mechanisms becomes more difficult. Furthermore, these data suggest that physiologically patterned paradigms for inducing long-lasting synaptic plasticity may more accurately assess the functional status of hippocampal memory encoding mechanisms than does conventional LTP stimulation.

  • Phosphorylation of the GABAA receptor by cAMP-dependent protein kinase and by protein kinase C: analysis of the substrate domain.

    23 July 2018

    Previous work has shown that the GABAA-receptor (GABAA-R) could be phosphorylated by cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), protein kinase C (PKC), and a receptor associated kinase. However, no clear picture has yet emerged concerning the particular subunit/subtypes of the GABAA-R that were phosphorylated by PKA and PKC. In the present report we show that an antibody raised against a 23 amino acid polypeptide corresponding to a sequence in the putative intracellular loop of the beta 1 subunit of the receptor blocks the in vitro phosphorylation of the purified receptor by PKA and PKC. Moreover, N-terminal sequence analysis of the principal phosphopeptide fragment obtained after proteolysis of the receptor yielded a sequence that corresponds to the beta 3 subunit of the receptor. Such data provide additional support for our hypothesis (Browning et al., 1990, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 87:1315-1317) that both PKA and PKC phosphorylate the beta-subunit of the GABAA-R.

  • Activators of protein kinase C increase the phosphorylation of the synapsins at sites phosphorylated by cAMP-dependent and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase in the rat hippocampal slice.

    23 July 2018

    Previous studies have shown that activators of protein kinase C (C kinase) produce synaptic potentiation in the hippocampus. For example, the C kinase activator phorbol dibutyrate has been shown to increase transmitter release in the hippocampus. In addition, a role for C kinase in long-term potentiation has been proposed. A common assumption in such studies has been that substrates for C kinase were responsible for producing these forms of synaptic potentiation. However, we have recently shown that phorbol dibutyrate increased the phosphorylated of synapsin II (formerly protein III, Browning et al., 1987) in chromaffin cells (Haycock et al., 1988). Synapsin II is a synaptic vesicle-associated phosphoprotein that is a very poor substrate for C kinase but an excellent substrate for cAMP-dependent and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase. We felt, therefore, that activation of C kinase might lead to activation of a kinase cascade. Thus effects of C kinase activation might be produced via the phosphorylation of proteins that are not substrates for C kinase. In this report we test the hypothesis that activators of C kinase increase the phosphorylation of synapsin II and an homologous protein synapsin I. Our data indicate that PdBu produced dose-dependent increases in the phosphorylation of synapsin I and synapsin II. We also performed phospho-site analysis of synapsin I using limited proteolysis. These studies indicated that PdBu increased the phosphorylation of multiple sites on synapsin I. These sites have previously been shown to be phosphorylated by both cAMP-dependent protein kinase and the multifunctional Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

  • Isoproterenol increases the phosphorylation of the synapsins and increases synaptic transmission in dentate gyrus, but not in area CA1, of the hippocampus.

    23 July 2018

    Previous studies have shown that either norepinephrine (NE) or isoproterenol (ISO) enhances the slope of the field excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSP) in the dentate gyrus of the rat hippocampal formation. In contrast, NE and ISO cause no increase in excitatory transmission in area CA1 of the hippocampus. The molecular mechanism underlying this brain region-specific increase in synaptic transmission is not known. The phosphorylation of synapsin I and synapsin II, two homologous presynaptic vesicle-associated proteins, is thought to promote neurotransmitter release. The authors have observed previously NE- and ISO-enhanced phosphorylation of synapsins I and II in the dentate gyrus. The purpose of this study was to determine whether ISO-stimulated phosphorylation also occurs in the CA1, where ISO has no effect on excitatory neurotransmission. These studies were correlated with electrophysiological studies in in vitro hippocampal slices. Superfusion of slices with ISO resulted in an increase in EPSP slope in the dentate but not in area CA1. The enhanced dentate EPSP returned to baseline levels within 30 minutes of washout of the drug. Isoproterenol produced corresponding increases in the phosphorylation of the synapsins in dentate slices but had no effect on these proteins in CA1 slices. Moreover, in dentate slices exposed to a 30-minute wash following incubation with ISO, phosphorylation of the synapsins returned to control levels. This close temporal and brain regional correlation between ISO stimulation of both synapsin phosphorylation and synaptic transmission suggests that the synapsin proteins may play a role in the synaptic potentiation produced by ISO in the dentate.

  • Caloric restriction prevents age-related deficits in LTP and in NMDA receptor expression.

    23 July 2018

    A major focus of aging research has been the search for treatments that will prevent or ameliorate the memory deficits associated with aging. One paradigm, lifelong caloric restriction, has been reported to reduce some of the effects of aging. In the current report, we examined the effects of this treatment on age-related deficits in LTP, a putative cellular building block for memory formation. We report here that lifelong caloric restriction completely prevents the age-related deficit in LTP. In addition, we report that there is a dramatic decrease in the expression of the NMDA receptor subunit NR1 in aged rats and this age-related defect is also prevented by caloric restriction. These data provide a molecular and cellular mechanism by which life long caloric restriction may ameliorate some of the cognitive deficits associated with the aging process.

  • Characterization and validation of new tools for measuring site-specific cardiac troponin I phosphorylation.

    23 July 2018

    Phosphorylation of cardiac troponin I is a well established mechanism by which cardiac contractility is modulated. However, there are a number of phosphorylation sites on TnI which contribute singly or in combination to influence cardiac function. Accordingly, methods for accurately measuring site-specific TnI phosphorylation are needed. Currently, two strategies are employed: mass spectrometry, which is costly, difficult and has a low throughput; and Western blotting using phospho-specific antibodies, which is limited by the availability of reagents. In this report, we describe a cohort of new site-specific TnI phosphoantibodies, generated against physiologically relevant phosphorylation sites, that are superior to the current commercially available antibodies: to phospho-serine 22/23 which shows a >5-fold phospho-specificity for phosphorylated TnI; to phospho-serine 43, which has >3-fold phospho-specificity for phosphorylated TnI; and phospho-serine 150 which has >2-fold phospho-specificity for phosphorylated TnI. These new antibodies demonstrated greater sensitivity and specificity for the phosphorylated TnI than the most widely used commercially available reagents. For example, at a protein load of 20 μg of total cardiac extract, a commercially available antibody recognized both phosphorylated and dephosphorylated TnI to the same degree. At the same protein load our phospho-serine 22/23 antibody exhibited no cross-reactivity with dephosphorylated TnI. These new tools should allow a more accurate assessment and a better understanding of the role of TnI phosphorylation in the response of the heart to pathologic stress.

  • Long term synaptic depression that is associated with GluR1 dephosphorylation but not alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor internalization.

    23 July 2018

    Long lasting changes in the strength of synaptic transmission in the hippocampus are thought to underlie certain forms of learning and memory. Accordingly, the molecular mechanisms that account for these changes are heavily studied. Postsynaptically, changes in synaptic strength can occur by altering the amount of neurotransmitter receptors at the synapse or by altering the functional properties of synaptic receptors. In this study, we examined the biochemical changes produced following chemically induced long term depression in acute hippocampal CA1 minislices. Using three independent methods, we found that this treatment did not lead to an internalization of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors. Furthermore, when the plasma membrane was separated into synaptic membrane-enriched and extrasynaptic membrane-enriched fractions, we actually observed a significant increase in the concentration of AMPA receptors at the synapse. However, phosphorylation of Ser-845 on the AMPA receptor subunit GluR1 was significantly decreased throughout the neuron, including in the synaptic membrane-enriched fraction. In addition, phosphorylation of Ser-831 on GluR1 was decreased specifically in the synaptic membrane-enriched fraction. Phosphorylation of these residues has been demonstrated to control AMPA receptor function. From these data, we conclude that the decrease in synaptic strength is likely the result of a change in the functional properties of AMPA receptors at the synapse and not a decrease in the amount of synaptic receptors.

  • Exogenous NGF restores endogenous NGF distribution in the brain of the cognitively impaired aged rat.

    23 July 2018

    Alzheimer's disease and normal aging may impair retrograde transport of nerve growth factor (NGF) from cortical areas to basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. We demonstrate a relationship between performance in a spatial reference memory task and NGF distribution in the aged rat brain. In addition, exogenous NGF restored endogenous NGF distribution in cognitively impaired aged rats. These data suggest that NGF administration restores utilization of endogenous growth factor in the brain of cognitively impaired aged rats.

  • Tyrosine dephosphorylation and ethanol inhibition of N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor function.

    23 July 2018

    The inhibitory effect of ethanol on N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) is well documented in several brain regions. However, the molecular mechanisms by which ethanol affects NMDARs are not well understood. In contrast to the inhibitory effect of ethanol, phosphorylation of the NMDAR potentiates channel currents (Lu, W. Y., Xiong, Z. G., Lei, S., Orser, B. A., Dudek, E., Browning, M. D., and MacDonald, J. F. (1999) Nat. Neurosci. 2, 331-338). We have previously shown that protein kinase C activators induce tyrosine phosphorylation and potentiation of the NMDAR (Grosshans, D. R., Clayton, D. R., Coultrap, S. J., and Browning, M. D. (2002) Nat. Neurosci. 5, 27-33). We therefore hypothesized that the ethanol inhibition of NMDARs might be due to changes in tyrosine phosphorylation of NMDAR subunits. In support of this hypothesis, we found that tyrosine phosphorylation of both NR2A and NR2B subunits was significantly reduced following in situ exposure of hippocampal slices to 100 mm ethanol. Specifically, phosphorylation of tyrosine 1472 on NR2B was reduced 23.5%. These data suggest a possible mechanism by which ethanol may inhibit the NMDAR via activation of a tyrosine phosphatase. Electrophysiological studies demonstrated that ethanol inhibited NMDAR field excitatory postsynaptic potential slope and amplitude to a similar degree as previously reported by our laboratory and others (Schummers, J., Bentz, S., and Browning, M. D. (1997) Alcohol Clin. Exp. Res. 21, 404-408). Inclusion of bpV(phen), a potent phosphotyrosine phosphatase inhibitor, in the recording chamber prior to and during ethanol exposure significantly reduced the inhibitory effect of ethanol on NMDAR field excitatory postsynaptic potentials. Taken together, these data suggest that phosphatase-mediated dephosphorylation of NMDAR subunits may play an important role in mediating the inhibitory effects of ethanol on the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor.

  • Undergraduate Research Internships 2014

    14 March 2014

    The Cognitive Health in Ageing research group at the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry is offering up to two Undergraduate Research Internships to be undertaken over an 8-week period this summer. This an ideal opportunity for undergraduate students interested in research to gain hands-on experience and develop their potential. Successful applicants will be reimbursed £180 a week for the duration of the internship. Applicants must be currently studying for their undergraduate degree in psychology, and be able to work for an eight week period during the summer (between June and October, 2014) in Oxford.

  • Listen to Daniel Freeman on BBC Radio 4!

    22 May 2013

    Jenni Murray interviews Professor Daniel Freeman about his new book: "The Stressed Sex"

  • Prize for best scientific publication awarded to Prof. Alan Stein

    10 December 2013

    At the recent conference of the International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health (INDEPTH) my co-authors and I were awarded the prize for the best scientific publication over the past two years for our paper “Young children’s risk of dying before and after their mother’s death, a rural Southern African population - based surveillance study” (published in PLOS Medicine). This was a collaboration with the University of Witwatrsrand ( South Africa) and the University of Washington (USA).

  • The Gosling Fellowship

    27 February 2015

    Due to a generous gift from the Gosling Estate, the Royal College of Psychiatrists would like to award the sum of £5000 each to two Psychiatry trainees specifically for the purpose of enabling them to complete a research project in the area of Neuropsychiatry as part of their psychiatry training programme. The award can be used for anything that is directly needed for the research project, as justified in the application.

  • Depression linked to violent crime, study finds

    27 February 2015

    Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow Prof Seena Fazel said: "We wanted to determine whether there was an increased risk of violence in individuals with clinical depression, and without other factors which are known to contribute to this risk. "One important finding was that the vast majority of depressed persons were not convicted of violent crimes, and that the rates reported are below those for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and considerably lower than for alcohol or drug abuse. "There is considerable concern about self-harm and suicide in depression," he added. "We demonstrate that the rates of violent crime are at least as high, but they don't receive the same level of attention in clinical guidelines or mainstream clinical practice."

  • John Radcliffe Hospital’s Psychological Medicine Team awarded gold in the Trust's 'Team of the Year' category

    10 December 2014

    Trust lead for psychological medicine Michael Sharpe, who nominated the team, said it deserved recognition after transforming the care of patients over the past year.

  • Dementias Platform UK launches unparalleled resource for research

    20 October 2015

    The Data Portal is a secure research environment, using the latest privacy preserving methods to provide researchers with high quality information and tools to facilitate collaborative research.

  • Seena Fazel comments on German Wings crash

    30 March 2015

    "It's not so much a mental illness problem – it's young men who feel socially excluded, angry and disaffected," he said, although he noted that he couldn't say whether this was true in the case of the Germanwings co-pilot.