STEPHEN J. SIMPSON
CHARLES PERKINS CENTRE
UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Towards resolving the Protein Paradox in longevity and late-life health
Reducing protein intake (and that of key amino acids) extends lifespan, especially during mid-life and early late-life. Yet, due to a powerful protein appetite, reducing protein in the diet leads to increased food intake, promoting obesity – which shortens lifespan. That is the protein paradox. In the talk I will bring together pieces of the jigsaw, including: specific nutrient appetites, protein leverage, macronutrient interactions on appetite and ageing, the role of branched-chain amino acids and FGF-21, and then I will conclude by showing how these pieces fit together and play out in the modern industrialised food environment to result in the global pandemic of obesity and metabolic disease.
Sex, guts and babies: the plasticity of the adult intestine and its neurons
Internal organs constantly exchange signals, and can respond with striking anatomical and functional transformations, even in fully developed organisms. We are exploring the mechanisms that drive and sustain such plasticity using the intestine and its neurons as experimental systems. I will present some of our recent work, which has characterised the enteric nervous system of Drosophila, and has explored its physiological plasticity as well as that of the intestine itself. This work has uncovered unexpected sexual dimorphisms, intestinal contributions to reproductive success and metabolic crosstalk between the gut and the brain. Interestingly, this crosstalk appears to be spatially constrained by the three dimensional arrangement of viscera, revealing a previously unrecognised layer of inter-organ signalling regulation. I may also describe our attempts to explore how broadly applicable our findings may be using mammalian systems.
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
BOSTON, MA, USA
Neuro-immune interactions in pain and host defense
The Chiu laboratory focuses on neuro-immune interactions in pain, itch, and tissue inflammation. Dr. Chiu’s research has uncovered molecular interactions between the nervous system, the immune system and microbes that modulates host defense. He has found that sensory neurons can directly detect bacterial pathogens and their toxins to produce pain. Neurons in turn release neuropeptides that modulate immune cells in host defense. These interactions occur at major tissue barriers in the body including the gut, skin and lungs. In this talk, he will discuss these major neuro-immune interactions and how understanding them could lead to novel approaches to treat pain or inflammation.
UNIVERSITY OF MÜNSTER
Glia-neuron metabolic interactions in Drosophila
To function properly, the nervous system consumes vast amounts of energy, which is mostly provided by carbohydrate metabolism. Neurons are very sensitive to changes in the extracellular fluid surrounding them, which necessitated shielding of the nervous system from fluctuating solute concentrations in circulation. This is achieved by the blood-brain barrier (BBB) that prevents paracellular diffusion of solutes into the nervous system. This in turn also means that all nutrients that are needed e.g. for sufficient energy supply need to be transported over the BBB. We use Drosophila as a model system to better understand the metabolic homeostasis in the central nervous system.
Glial cells play essential roles in both nutrient uptake and neural energy metabolism. Carbohydrate transport over the glial BBB is well-regulated and can be adapted to changes in carbohydrate availability. Furthermore, Drosophila glial cell are highly glycolytic cells that support the rather oxidative metabolism of neurons. Upon perturbations of carbohydrate metabolism, the glial cells prove to be metabolically very flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances. I will summarize what we know about carbohydrate transport at the Drosophila BBB and about the metabolic coupling between neurons and glial cells. Our data shows that many basic features of neural metabolism are well conserved between the fly and mammals.
WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
ST LOUIS, MO, USA
Meningeal lymphatics and peripheral immunity in brain function and dysfunction
Immune cells and their derived molecules have major impact on brain function. Mice deficient in adaptive immunity have impaired cognitive and social function compared to that of wild-type mice. Importantly, replenishment of the T cell compartment in immune deficient mice restored proper brain function. Despite the robust influence on brain function, T cells are not found within the brain parenchyma, a fact that only adds more mystery into these enigmatic interactions between T cells and the brain. Our results suggest that meningeal space, surrounding the brain, is the site where CNS-associated immune activity takes place. We have recently discovered a presence of meningeal lymphatic vessels that drain CNS molecules and immune cells to the deep cervical lymph nodes. This communication between the CNS and the peripheral immunity is playing a key role in neurophysiology and in several CNS disorders. Interestingly, meningeal lymphatics are impaired in aging and their dysfunction may be related to age-related cognitive decline as well as to Alzheimer’s pathology. In addition to providing new insights into age-related disorders, meningeal lymphatics may also serve as a novel therapeutic target for these diseases and are worth of in-depth mechanistic exploration.
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL
BOSTON, MA, USA
Vagal sensory neurons that guard the airways.
The vagus nerve contains a diversity of sensory neurons that detect peripheral stimuli such as blood pressure changes at the aortic arch, lung expansion during breathing, meal-induced stomach distension, and chemotherapeutics that induce nausea. Underlying vagal sensory mechanisms are largely unresolved at a molecular level, presenting tremendously important problems in sensory biology. We charted vagal sensory neurons by single cell RNA sequencing, identifying novel cell surface receptors and classifying a staggering diversity of sensory neuron types. We then generated a collection of ires-Cre knock-in mice to target each neuron type, and adapted genetic tools for Cre-based anatomical mapping, in vivo imaging, targeted ablation, and optogenetic control of vagal neuron activity. We found different sensory neuron types that innervate the lung and exert powerful effects on breathing, others that monitor and control the digestive system, and yet others that innervate that innervate the larynx and protect the airways. Together with Ardem Patapoutian, we also identified a critical role for Piezo mechanoreceptors in the sensation of airway stretch, which underlies a classical respiratory reflex termed the Hering-Breuer inspiratory reflex, as well as in the neuronal sensation of blood pressure and the baroreceptor reflex.
WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
Novel immunotherapy to treat Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia: from curiosity-driven research to prospect of therapy
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
ANN ARBOR, MI, USA
Epigenetic Reprogramming of Taste by Diet.
Diets rich in sugar, salt, and fat alter taste perception and food intake, leading to obesity and metabolic disorders, but the molecular mechanisms through which this occurs are unknown. Here we show that in response to a high sugar diet, the epigenetic regulator Polycomb Repressive Complex 2.1 (PRC2.1) persistently reprograms the sensory neurons of D. melanogaster flies to reduce sweet sensation and promote obesity. In animals fed high sugar, the binding of PRC2.1 to the chromatin of the sweet gustatory neurons is redistributed to repress a developmental transcriptional network that modulates the responsiveness of these cells to sweet stimuli, reducing sweet sensation. Importantly, half of these transcriptional changes persist despite returning the animals to a control diet, causing a permanent decrease in sweet taste. Our results uncover a new epigenetic mechanism that, in response to the dietary environment, regulates neural plasticity and feeding behavior to promote obesity.