Stress eating: hypothalamic control over dopamine system drives bingeing
Does stress eating sound familiar? Stress can increase the intake of high caloric food, which can contribute to obesity and eating disorders, but the neurobiology underlying this process is not clear. In a new paper out in Nature Communications the lab of Frank Meye describes how stress changes synaptic strength from the Lateral Hypothalamus (LHA) to the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA) midbrain dopamine system to drive binge eating behavior.
First author Louisa Linders observed in mice that social stress resulted in binge-like intake of high caloric fat. Calcium recordings done by Lefkothea Patrikiou and Evelien Schut showed that LHA glutamatergic neurons controlling the VTA were responsive to such social stress, as well as to fat intake. Using patch-clamp electrophysiological approaches, Louisa went on to show that social stress strengthened the glutamatergic synaptic connection from the LHA to the VTA. Optogenetic tweaking of the strength of these LHA-VTA synapses proved critical in regulating whether stress eating took place. Overall, this paper highlights an important causal role of stress-induced plasticity in the synaptic connection from the lateral hypothalamus to the midbrain dopamine reward system for stress-driven food intake.
“I’m excited that we can share our findings on how stress changes synaptic function to causally contribute to stress eating.” Louisa Linders
The work was performed in the Translational Neuroscience Dept of the UMC Utrecht Brain Center. Check out the tweet by Frank Meye as well.
We look forward to seeing the upcoming work from the Meye group!
Studying synapses in specific neural circuits
In recent years the combination of brain slice electrophysiological recordings of neurons in response to optogenetic stimulation of their input, has become an indispensable staple to probe the function of neural circuits. The large amounts of distinct metrics that one can obtain this way are both informative but also daunting to the newcomer. In a recent review paper, Frank Meye’s team summarized the methodological state-of-the-art for this approach. The paper featured several team members including co-first authors Laura Supiot and Louisa Linders. In particular, the authors reviewed the rationale behind the different metrics used to study synaptic connectivity and changes in synaptic strength. They compiled a guide for the implementation of these methodologies in practice and discussed future directions to decipher neural circuits.
“We aimed to provide the rationale for distinct electrophysiological synaptic metrics, as well as practically explain how to obtain them.” Laura Supiot
Also see the tweet by Frank Meye. Congratulations to the whole team! 🎉
Renata Vieira de Sá finalises her PhD on ALS
Another successful PhD on ALS! On Thursday 20th of October Renata Vieira de Sa defended her PhD thesis “Repeat expansions in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Lessons from patient-derived models” at the Academiegebouw of Utrecht University. In her PhD thesis, Renata studied the contribution of C9orf72 and Ataxin2 repeat expansion to ALS using different patient-derived models including brain organoids and 2D motor neurons. She was supervised by promotors Jeroen Pasterkamp and Leonard van den Berg. This PhD on ALS further solidifies UMC Utrecht Brain Center as a leader in the field. Her work on human organoid models was instrumental in developing the cellular diversity. Renata continues her career as a post doctoral researcher at uniQure B.V. and the OrganoVIR labs in the AMC where she will continue developing advanced human models.
“It was a pleasure to defend my thesis after working on this topic for so long! It was a great way to conclude my time at the brain Center ” Renata
Once again, congratulations!
PhD defense of Christiaan Huffels
On Tuesday October 18, Christiaan Huffels successfully defended his PhD thesis, titled “Tracing the signals: Unravelling neuron-glia interactions in Alzheimer’s disease”, at the Academiegebouw of Utrecht University. In his thesis, Christiaan examined the role of astrocytes and microglia in the early development of Alzheimer’s disease using a multidisciplinary approach, combining the use of slice electrophysiology, calcium imaging, immunohistochemistry, behavioral analyses, and pharmacological interventions. He was supervised by promotor Prof. dr. Elly Hol and co-promotor Dr. Jinte Middeldorp. For his next career step, he will continue his work as a postdoc in the lab of Prof. dr. Elly Hol at the University Medical Center Utrecht Brain Center, where he will focus on developing functional assays on human cell culture systems.
“I enjoyed working on this interesting topic for 4.5 years and I am grateful to have ended it in such a great way! It was a great day and I’m happy to continue working in the Hol lab to further develop my skills as a researcher” Christiaan Huffels
The work for his thesis was performed at the Translational Neuroscience department. His output include articles titled “Aß Pathology and Neuron-Glia Interactions: A Synaptocentric View” published at the Neurochemical Research and “Systemic Injection of Aged Blood Plasma in Adult C57BL/6 Mice Induces Neurophysiological Impairments in the Hippocampal CA1” published at Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. We are looking forward to his contribution to the scientific research.
GliaNed meeting 2022
Big success with the annual GliaNed meeting! The main goals of this informal meeting are to stimulate interaction between glia researchers in The Netherlands and to exchange knowledge. Elly Hol (translational neuroscience, UMCU) and Wia Baron (UMCG) put together a great program and were thrilled to have Prof. Inge Huitinga to open the show with her keynote lecture on ‘The role of microglia in MS and major depression’.
The meeting got additional contribution from our department. Carla Gomes da Silva presented her work on how oligodendrocyte precursors regulate cortical networks during mammalian development. Werner Dykstra explained how he studies the role of the astrocyte cytoskeletion in brain organoids. Several other researchers throughout the Netherlands have presented their latest research.
“It is very impressive how glia is involved practically in every brain process and disease you can imagine. GliaNed is providing an essential platform to bring researchers of this rapidly growing field together” Onur Basak
We hope to see the community at the next GliaNed meeting in Groningen.