Initiating Complement-Dependent Synaptic Refinement: Mechanisms of Neuronal C1q Regulation

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Initiating Complement-Dependent Synaptic Refinement: Mechanisms of Neuronal C1q Regulation

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Title: Initiating Complement-Dependent Synaptic Refinement: Mechanisms of Neuronal C1q Regulation
Author: Bialas, Allison Marilyn
Citation: Bialas, Allison Marilyn. 2013. Initiating Complement-Dependent Synaptic Refinement: Mechanisms of Neuronal C1q Regulation. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Immune molecules, including complement proteins, C1q and C3, have emerged as critical mediators of synaptic refinement and plasticity. Complement proteins localize to synapses and refine the developing retinogeniculate system via C3-dependent microglial phagocytosis of synapses. Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) express C1q, the initiating protein of the classical complement cascade, during retinogeniculate refinement; however, the signals controlling C1q expression and function remain elusive. RGCs grown in the presence of astrocytes significantly upregulated C1q compared to controls, implicating an astrocyte-derived factor in neuronal C1q expression. A major goal of my dissertation research was to identify the signals that regulate C1q expression and function in the developing visual system. In this study, I have identified transforming growth factor beta \((TGF-\beta)\), an astrocyte-secreted cytokine, as both necessary and sufficient for C1q expression in RGCs through an activity-dependent mechanism. Specific disruption of retinal \(TGF-\beta\) signaling resulted in a significant reduction in the deposition of C1q and downstream C3 at retinogeniculate synapses and significant synaptic refinement defects in the retinogeniculate system. Microglia engulfment of RGC inputs in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) was also significantly reduced in retinal \(TGF\beta\)RII KOs, phenocopying the engulfment defects observed in C1q KOs, C3 KOs, and CR3 KOs. Interestingly, in C1q KOs and retinal \(TGF\beta\)RII KOs, microglia also failed to preferentially engulf less active inputs when retinal activity was manipulated, suggesting that retinal activity and \(TGF-\beta\) signaling cooperatively regulate complement mediated synaptic refinement. In support of this hypothesis, blocking spontaneous activity in RGC cultures significantly reduced C1q upregulation by \(TGF-\beta\). Moreover, manipulating spontaneous retinal activity in vivo modulated C1q expression levels in RGCs and C1q deposition in the LGN. Together these findings support a model in which retinal activity and \(TGF-\beta\) signaling control expression and local release of C1q in the LGN to regulate microglia-mediated, complement-dependent synaptic pruning. These results provide mechanistic insight into synaptic refinement and, potentially, pathological synapse loss which occurs in the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases concurrently with aberrant complement expression and reactive gliosis.
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