Surface protein dynamics dictate synaptic connectivity and function in neuronal circuits. , a gene disrupted by copy number variations (CNVs) in neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum, was previously shown to regulate the surface expression of ASTN1 in glial-guided neuronal migration. Here, we demonstrate that ASTN2 binds to and regulates the surface expression of multiple synaptic proteins in postmigratory neurons by endocytosis, resulting in modulation of synaptic activity. In cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs), by immunogold electron microscopy, ASTN2 localizes primarily to endocytic and autophagocytic vesicles in the cell soma and in subsets of dendritic spines. Overexpression of ASTN2 in PCs, but not of ASTN2 lacking the FNIII domain, recurrently disrupted by CNVs in patients, including in a family presented here, increases inhibitory and excitatory postsynaptic activity and reduces levels of ASTN2 binding partners. Our data suggest a fundamental role for ASTN2 in dynamic regulation of surface proteins by endocytic trafficking and protein degradation.
Cerebellar granule cells originate from precursors located in the dorsal region of rhombomere one within the hindbrain of developing embryos. They undergo proliferation for an extensive period well into postnatal stages of development to form the major cell type of the cerebellum, the most populous structure within the mammalian brain. Granule cell development is highly dependent upon the cerebellar environment and contact with neighbouring cells. In recent years, the molecular basis of these interactions has started to be unravelled. Granule cell precursors and the molecular mechanisms involved in controlling their proliferation have been shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant pediatric brain tumour. Here, we review the control of granule cell generation with emphasis on the molecular regulators of cell proliferation and differentiation during normal and malignant development.
BMI1 is a potent inducer of neural stem cell self-renewal and neural progenitor cell proliferation during development and in adult tissue homeostasis. It is overexpressed in numerous human cancers - including medulloblastomas, in which its functional role is unclear. We generated transgenic mouse lines with targeted overexpression of Bmi1 in the cerebellar granule cell lineage, a cell type that has been shown to act as a cell of origin for medulloblastomas. Overexpression of Bmi1 in granule cell progenitors (GCPs) led to a decrease in cerebellar size due to decreased GCP proliferation and repression of the expression of cyclin genes, whereas Bmi1 overexpression in postmitotic granule cells improved cell survival in response to stress by altering the expression of genes in the mitochondrial cell death pathway and of Myc and Lef-1. Although no medulloblastomas developed in ageing cohorts of transgenic mice, crosses with Trp53(-/-) mice resulted in a low incidence of medulloblastoma formation. Furthermore, analysis of a large collection of primary human medulloblastomas revealed that tumours with a BMI1(high) TP53(low) molecular profile are significantly enriched in Group 4 human medulloblastomas. Our data suggest that different levels and timing of Bmi1 overexpression yield distinct cellular outcomes within the same cellular lineage. Importantly, Bmi1 overexpression at the GCP stage does not induce tumour formation, suggesting that BMI1 overexpression in GCP-derived human medulloblastomas probably occurs during later stages of oncogenesis and might serve to enhance tumour cell survival.