Only a small fraction of the mammalian genome codes for messenger RNAs destined to be translated into proteins, and it is generally assumed that a large portion of transcribed sequences--including introns and several classes of noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs)--do not give rise to peptide products. A systematic examination of translation and physiological regulation of ncRNAs has not been conducted. Here we use computational methods to identify the products of non-canonical translation in mouse neurons by analysing unannotated transcripts in combination with proteomic data. This study supports the existence of non-canonical translation products from both intragenic and extragenic genomic regions, including peptides derived from antisense transcripts and introns. Moreover, the studied novel translation products exhibit temporal regulation similar to that of proteins known to be involved in neuronal activity processes. These observations highlight a potentially large and complex set of biologically regulated translational events from transcripts formerly thought to lack coding potential.
In this report, we describe the development of a modified adeno-associated virus (AAV) capsid and promoter for transduction of retinal ON-bipolar cells. The bipolar cells, which are post-synaptic to the photoreceptors, are important retinal targets for both basic and preclinical research. In particular, a therapeutic strategy under investigation for advanced forms of blindness involves using optogenetic molecules to render ON-bipolar cells light-sensitive. Currently, delivery of adequate levels of gene expression is a limiting step for this approach. The synthetic AAV capsid and promoter described here achieves high level of optogenetic transgene expression in ON-bipolar cells. This evokes high-frequency (~100 Hz) spiking responses in ganglion cells of previously blind, rd1, mice. Our vector is a promising vehicle for further development toward potential clinical use.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) is a helper-dependent parvovirus which has not been linked with human disease. This aspect, in combination with its broad cell and tissue tropism, and limited viral host response has made it an attractive vector system for gene therapy. The viral protein capsid, the primary interface with the host, is the main determinant for these phenotypes, is highly variable, and is most subject to pressures during replication. Here, we explore the evolutionary path of AAV and other parvoviruses in respect to these phenotypes, as well as directed evolution and engineering strategies that have exploited the lessons learned from natural selection in order to address remaining limitations of AAV as a therapeutic gene transfer platform.
Experience-dependent gene transcription is required for nervous system development and function. However, the DNA regulatory elements that control this program of gene expression are not well defined. Here we characterize the enhancers that function across the genome to mediate activity-dependent transcription in mouse cortical neurons. We find that the subset of enhancers enriched for monomethylation of histone H3 Lys4 (H3K4me1) and binding of the transcriptional coactivator CREBBP (also called CBP) that shows increased acetylation of histone H3 Lys27 (H3K27ac) after membrane depolarization of cortical neurons functions to regulate activity-dependent transcription. A subset of these enhancers appears to require binding of FOS, which was previously thought to bind primarily to promoters. These findings suggest that FOS functions at enhancers to control activity-dependent gene programs that are critical for nervous system function and provide a resource of functional cis-regulatory elements that may give insight into the genetic variants that contribute to brain development and disease.