The inner workings of the Quintana lab

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NEW ARTICLE!

Emma is the first author of an article published in Nature Communications about the existing differences among neurons expressing dopamine D2 receptors in the striatum. It is an international collaboration in which Albert and Eli also participated.

The striatum is a brain region involved in motor control, habit formation, decision-making, motivation and reinforcement, among other aspects, and its disfunction has been associated with many neurological and psychiatric disorders. One of the most important neurotransmitters in the striatum is dopamine, which exerts different functions depending on the kind of receptor it binds to.

This study, which is an international collaboration, focused on D2 receptors, and showed that, contrary to paradigm, not all D2 neurons within the striatum have the same molecular identify or function, but that their neuro-anatomical localization is key.

Using cutting-edge technologies, they analyzed mouse models to see what genes are expressed in D2 neurons from the two main areas of the striatum: the ventral striatum, consisting mainly of the nucleus accumbens, and the dorsal striatum, and revealed overwhelming differences among them. Thus, depending on their precise anatomical location, they express different kinds of proteins, changing neurons’ features and functions.

They also focused on a group of neurons mainly located in the accumbens, which express the protein WFS1, and studied the effects of deleting their D2 receptors. What they observed was a significant reduction in digging, an innate behavior used in many species to seek or hoard food, as shelter, or to hide away from predators, whose underlying neuronal mechanisms were still unknown. Additionally, the authors found that these animals present an exacerbated hyperlocomotor response when their dopamine levels are increased through amphetamine administration, suggesting a key role of D2 receptors from WFS1 neurons in the response to psychostimulants.

Overall, this study demonstrates that there is a huge complexity and functional specificity among D2 neuron subpopulations, and reveals the possibility to manipulate them specifically to better understand their functions, in both physiological and pathological contexts.

We try to stay safe and help as much as we can!

These are difficult days all around the world. Here in Barcelona, the number of infected people is still increasing, with no prospects for improvement in the short term. Hospitals are facing a lack of human and material resources, hence our University made a call to gather protection and detection equipment. Among other material, they collected around 90000 gloves and 4000 masks. Great job!

In the Quintana lab we are trying to help as much as we can, donating protection equipment and loaning an extraction station to Parc Taulí Hospital. This machine is an automatic processor for obtaining nucleic acids, that can be used for the diagnose of CO-VID19.  Also, some people in the lab offered their hands to help doing PCR diagnosis if the Health Department needed it.

We stay at home, but try our best to continue with the scientific activity. Today we did our first long distance lab meeting, pyjamas allowed:

We hope everything will get better soon, and all of you will be okay!

Take care <3

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Weren’t you missing a post about Thanksgiving? We celebrated it, OF COURSE! Almost all of us gathered together in Albert and Eli’s house, to eat delicious food and drink delicious wine. The hosts prepared the main dish: a huge turkey (14-pounder) that went into the oven at 10 in the morning so it could be ready at a reasonable time (unlike other years). Guests brought other tasty side dishes, such as cornbread or amazing cakes. Big applause for everyone, as everything was excellent!

With some extra kilos (or should I say pounds?), we then played a game Alex brought, called Timeline, in which you have to put in order historical events. Guess who won? Albert, of course. And also Mel, who was playing with the youth handicap.

It was a lovely day with the best company!

The VII INc Scientific Conferences

At the beginning of the month, the Institut de Neurociències celebrated its 7th Scientific Conferences, and we were -obviously- there!

The event was held in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, by the sea, in the nicest hotel, and gathered together more than 120 students and institute members.

Albert was the conference coordinator and worked very hard for everything to be perfect.

There were more than 30 talks, poster sessions and time for having fun, as well:

(Please, take your time to observe this picture of the costume contest, don’t miss any details…)

Several members of the group participated in the conferences: Elisenda gave a talk on the first day regarding new techniques we are using, Patrizia explained the research she is currently carrying out, and Emma chaired a scientific session. Also, Andrea, Laura, Pablo, Pati and Patrizia presented a poster.

On the fun side, Abel organized an amazing trivia game, on the first night, that Laura’s team won. Pablo’s team won the costume contest, dressing as Disney characters; and Albert and Eli won the partying contest, almost closing the disco.

They were great days with great people! Already looking forward next year’s edition!

We received a CaixaImpulse grant

We are very glad to announce that our MitoCBD project has been selected for a CaixaImpulse grant.

MitoCBD consists in investigating the use of Cannabidiol (CBD), a substance obtained from the cannabis plant, for the treatment of mitochondrial disease.

It has been proved that CBD has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties, and it was also found to restore deficits and prolong life expectancy in a mitochondrial disease model.

The aim of this project is to test the effectiveness of the CBD in other preclinical models of mitochondrial disease, with the final objective of finding a treatment for these devastating rare diseases.

There has only been 21 projects selected from all around the UE, so we are veeeery happy that MitoCBD is one of them!

 

New article!

We have a new article! Elife published our study in Leigh Syndrome, the most common mitochondrial disease with affectation of the central nervous System. In this disease, there are two brain regions that are particularly compromised: the brainstem (that controls all basic functions that keep us alive) and the basal ganglia, involved in refining motor coordination. In our study, we wanted to explore the role the protein Ndufs4 has in this affectation.

Ndufs4 is a subunit of the Complex I. It is located in the mitochondrial membrane and is involved in the respiratory chain. We knew that animal models lacking this subunit in all their cells reproduce the classical signs of Leigh Syndrome, but do symptoms appear due to all cells in the body not working properly, or some specific cells are responsible for them?

To study this, we selectively inactivate the gene codifying the protein Ndufs4 in three neuronal populations we suspected could be key, and keep it working in all other cells in the body. Observing what symptoms remained we could know the role of these neurons in the alterations these patients suffer.

What we found was that the inactivation of this subunit in a certain kind of excitatory neurons (the fancy-scientist name is vlgut2-expression glutamatergic neurons) caused brainstem inflammation, motor and respiratory deficits, and early death; and that its inactivation in inhibitory (GABAergic neurons) led to basal ganglia inflammation, severe refractory epileptic seizures and premature death.

These results are very important to contribute understand the underlying cellular mechanisms of Leigh Syndrome, as we identified which specific neurons are behind the brain alterations. Therefore, now we have new knowledge to try to identify which cellular aspects are failing in those cells so we can start to envisage different methods to correct them.

Congrats to all the team and collaborators!

Celebrating the 4th of July

Albert, Eli, Álex and Irene are a bit nostalgic of their lives in USA, and they celebrate every North-American festivity they can.

This time, we met at Andrea’s house in el Penedès (thank you again for offering the house) to honour the USA independence on the 4th of July.

Cold beers in the swimming pool, to fight the heat, and all this tasty food waiting to be cooked in the barbecue.

The burgers needed to be prepared. We mixed the meat while Albert and Eli were singing the US National Anthem. We also had frankfurts and pulled pork, which was extremely delicious.


After the meal, we made up a game with water balloons in the swimming-pool, and we played Dixit while Fabien was putting great music. Abel won not because he was the best but because we used his weird point-counting system.

It was a lovely day! It is great to be part of the Quintanalab 🙂