Departmental Papers (Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics)
Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics involves the discovery of new drugs, the investigation of how drugs work and the use of drugs to probe mechanisms of disease. But pharmacology also involves the elucidation and manipulation of macromolecular structures, the analysis of regulatory mechanisms in cell biology and development, and the translation of this information into clinical research. Thus, the science of pharmacology spans the most fundamental aspects of basic research, through transgenic animal models, to clinical investigation. Pharmacology at Penn addresses all of these issues in an exciting, collegial and interactive environment.
PublicationEssential Role of SIRT1 Signaling in the Nucleus Accumbens in Cocain and Morphine Action(2013-10-09) Ferguson, Deveroux; Koo, Ja Wook; Feng, Jian; Heller, Elizabeth A; Rabkin, Jacqui; Heshmati, Mitra; Renthal, William; Liu, Xiaochuan; Shao, Ningyi; Sartorelli, Vittorio; Shen, Li; Nestler, Eric JSirtuins (SIRTs), class III histone deacetylases, are well characterized for their control of cellular physiology in peripheral tissues, but their influence in brain under normal and pathological conditions remains poorly understood. Here, we establish an essential role for brain reward region. We show that chronic cocain administration increases SIRT1 and SIRT2 expression in the mouse NAc, while chronic morphine administration induces SIRT1 expression alone, with no regulation of all other sirtuin family members observed. Drug induction of SIRT1 and SIRT2 is mediated in part at the transcriptional level via the drug-induced transcription factor ΔFosB and is associated with robust histone modifications at the Sirt1 and Sirt2 genes. Viral-mediated overexpression of SIRT1 or SIRT2 in the NAc enhances the rewarding effects of both cocain and morphine. In contrast, the local knockdown of SIRT1 from the NAc of floxed Sirt1 mice decreases drug reward. Such behavioral effects of SIRT1 occur in concert with its regulation of numerous synaptic proteins in NAc as well as with SIRT1-mediated induction of dendritic spines on NAc medium spiny neurons. These studies establish sirtuins as key mediators of the molecular and cellular plasticity induced by drugs of abuse in NAc, and of the associated behavioral adaptations, and point towards novel signaling pathways involved in drug action. PublicationThe Biochemical Anatomy of Cortical Inhibitory Synapses(2012-01-01) Heller, Elizabeth A; Zhang, Wenzhu; Selimi, Fekrije; Earnheart, John C; Ślimak, Marta A; Santos-Torres, Julio; Ibañez-Tallon, Ines; Aoki, Chiye; Chait, Brian T; Heintz, NathanielClassical electron microscopic studies of the mammalian brain revealed two major classes of synapses, distinguished by the presence of a large postsynaptic density (PSD) exclusively at type 1, excitatory synapses. Biochemical studies of the PSD have established the paradigm of the synapse as a complex signal-processing machine that controls synaptic plasticity. We report here the restuls of a proteomic analysis of type 2, inhibitory synaptic complexes isolated by affinity purification from the cerebral cortex. We show that these synaptic complexes contain a variety of neurotransmitter receptors, neural cell-scaffolding and adhesion molecules, but that they are entirely lacking in cell signaling proteins. This fundamental distinction between the functions of type 1 and type 2 synapses in the nervous system has far reaching implications for models of synaptic plasticity, rapid adaptations in neural circuits, and homeostatic mechanisms controlling the balance of excitation and inhibition in the mature brain. PublicationHistone Posttranslational Modifications Predict Specific Alternative Exon Subtypes in Mammalian Brain(2017-01-01) Hu, Qiwen; Kim, Eun J; Feng, Jian; Grant, Gregory R; Heller, Elizabeth AA compelling body of literature, based on next generation chromatin immunoprecipitation and RNA sequencing of reward brain regions indicates that the regulation of the epigenetic landscape likely underlies chronic drug abuse and addiction. It is now critical to develop highly innovative computational strategies to reveal the relevant regulatory transcriptional mechanisms that may underlie neuropsychiatric disease. We have analyzed chromatin regulation of alternative splicing, which is implicated in cocain exposure in mice. Recent literature has described chromatin-regulated alternative splicing, suggesting a novel function for drug-induced neuroepigenetic remodeling. However, the extent of the genome-wide association between particular histone modifications and alternative splicing remains unexplored. To address this, we have developed novel computational approaches to model the association between alternative splicing and histone posttranslational modifications in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain reward region. Using classical statistical methods and machine learning to combine ChIP-Seq and RNA-Seq data, we gound that specific histone modifications are strongly associated with various aspects of differential splicing. H3K36me3 and H3K4me1 have the strongest association with splicing indicating they play a significant role in alternative splicing in brain reward tissue. PublicationSIRT1-FOXO3a Regulate Cocain Actions in the Nucleus Accumbens(2015-02-18) Ferguson, Deveroux; Shao, Ningyi; Heller, Elizabeth A; Feng, Jian; Neve, Rachael L; Kim, Hee-Dae; Shen, Li; Nestler, Eric JPrevious studies have shown that chronic cocain administration induces SIRT1, a Class III histone deacetylase, in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a key brain reward region, and that such induction influences the gene regulation and place conditioning effects of cocaine. To determine the mechanisms by which SIRT1 mediates cocaine-induced plasticity in NAc, we used chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by massively parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq), 1 d after 7 daily cocain (20 mg/kg) or saline injections, to map SIRT1 binding genome-wide in mouse NAc. Our unbiased results revealed two modes of SIRT1 action. First, despite its induction in NAc, chronic cocain causes depletion of SIRT1 from most affected gene promoters in concert with enrichment of H4K16ac (itself a deacetylation target of SIRT1), which is associated with increased expression of these genes. Second, we deduced the forkhead transcription factor (FOXO) familty to be a downstream mechanis through which SIRT1 regulates cocaine action. We proceeded to demonstrate that SIRT1 induction causes the deacetylation and activation of FOXO3a in NAc, which leads to the induction of several known FOXO3a gene targets in other systems. Finally, we directly establish a role for FOXO3a in promoting cocaine-elicited behavioral responses by use of viral-mediated gene transfer: we show that overexpressing FOXO3a in NAc enhances cocaine place conditioning. The discovery of these two actions of SIRT1 in NAc in the context of behavioral adaptations to cocaine represents an important step forward in advancing our understanding of the molecular adaptations underlying cocaine action. PublicationSleep Deprivation Selectively Impairs Memory Consolidation for Contextual Fear Conditioning(2003-01-01) Graves, Laurel A; Heller, Elizabeth A; Pack, Allan I; Abel, TedMany behavioral and electrophysical studies in animals and humans have suggested that sleep and circadian rhythms influence memory consolidation. In rodents, hippocampus-dependent memory may be particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation after training, as spatial memory in the Morris water maze is impaired by rapid eye movement sleep deprivation following training. Spatial learning in the Morris water maze, however, requires multiple training trials and performance, as measured by time to reach the hidden platform is influenced by not only spatial learning but also procedural learning. To determine if sleep is important for the consolidation of a single-trial, hippocampus-dependent task, we sleep deprived animals for 0-5 and 5-10 h after training for contextual and cued fear conditioning. We found that sleep deprivation from 0-5 h after training for this task impaired memory consolidation for contextual fear conditioning whereas sleep deprivation from 5-10 h after training had no effect. Sleep deprivation at either time point had no effect on cued fear conditioning, a hippocampus-independent task. Previous studies have determined that memory consolidation for fear conditioning is impaired when protein kinase A and protein synthesis inhibitors are administered at the same time as when sleep deprivation is effective, suggesting that sleep deprivation may act by modifying these molecular mechanisms of memory storage. PublicationTargeted Epigenetic Remodeling of the Cdk5 Gene in Nucleus Accumbens Regulates Cocain- and Stress-Evoked Behavior(2016-04-27) Heller, Elizabeth A; Hamilton, Peter J; Burek, Dominika D; Lombroso, Sonia I; Peña, Catherine J; Neve, Rachael L; Nestler, Eric JRecent studies have implicated epigenetic remodeling in brain reward regions following psychostimulant or stress exposure. It has only recently become possible to target a given type of epigenetic remodeling to a single gene of interest, and to probe the functional relevance of such regulation to neuropsychiatric disease. We sought to examine the role of histone modifications at the murine Cdk5 (cyclin-dependent kinase 5) locus, given growing evidence of Cdk5 expression in nucleus accumbens (NAc) influencing reward-related behaviors. Viral-mediated delivery of engineered zinc finger proteins (ZFP) targeted histone H3 lysine 9/14 acetylation (H3K9/14ac), a transcriptionally active mark, or histone H3 lysine 9 dimethylation (H3K9me2), which is associated with transcriptional repression, specifically to the Cdk5 locus in NAc in vivo. We gound that Cdk5-ZFP transcription factors are sufficient to bidirectionally regulate Cdk5 gene expression via enrichment of their respective histone modifications. We examined the behavioral consequences of this epigenetic remodeling and found that Cdk5-targeted H3K9/14ac increased cocaine-induced locomotor behavior, as well as resilience to social stress. Conversely, Cdk5-targeted H3K9me2 attenuated both cocaine-induced locomotor behavior and conditioned place preference, but had no effect on stress-induced social avoidance behavior. The current study provides evidence for the causal role of Cdk5 epigenetic remodeling in NAc in Cdk5 gene expression and in the control of reward and stress responses. Moreover, these data are especially compelling given that previous work demonstrated opposite behavioral phenotypes compared with those reported here upon Cdk5 overexpression or knockdown, demonstrating the importance of targeted epigenetic remodeling tools for studying more subtle molecular changes that contribute to neuropsychiatric disease. PublicationProteomic Studies of a Single CNS Synapse Type: The Parallel Fiber/Purkinje Cell Synapse(2009-01-01) Selimi, Fekrije; Cristea, Ileana M; Heller, Elizabeth A; Chait, Brian T; Heintz, NathanielPrecise neuronal networks underlie normal brain function and require distinct classes of synaptic connections. Althought it has been shown that certain individual proteins can localize to different classes of synapses, the biochemical composition of specific synapse types is not known. Here, we have used a combination of genetically engineered mice, affinity purification, and mass spectrometry to profile proteins at parallel fiber/Purkinje cell synapses. We identify approximately 60 candidate postsynaptic proteins that can be classified into 11 functional categories. Proteins involved in phospholipid metabolism and signaling, such as the protein kinase MRCKγ, are major unrecognized components of this synapse type. We demonstrate that MRCKγ can modulate maturaion of dendritic spines in cultured cortical neurons, and that it is localized specifically to parallel fiber/Purkinje cell synapses in vivo. Our data identify a novel synapse-specific signaling pathway, and provide an approach for detailed investigations of the biochemical complexity of central nervous system synapse types.