The development of novel approaches to stimulate neuronal circuits is crucial to understand the physiology of neuronal networks, and to provide new strategies to treat neurological disorders. Nowadays, chemical, electrical or optical approaches are the main exploited strategies to interrogate and dissect neuronal circuit functions. However, although all these methods have contributed to achieve important insights into neuroscience research field, they all present relevant limitations for their use in in-vivo studies or clinical applications. For example, while chemical stimulation does not require invasive surgical procedures, it is difficult to control the pharmacokinetics and the spatial selectivity of the stimulus; electrical stimulation provides high temporal bandwidth, but it has low spatial resolution and it requires implantation of electrodes; optical stimulation provides subcellular resolution but the low depth penetration in dense tissue still requires the invasive insertion of stimulating probes. Due to all these drawbacks, there is still a strong need to develop new stimulation strategies to remotely activate neuronal circuits as deep as possible. The development of remote stimulation techniques would allow the combination of functional and behavioral studies, and the design of novel and minimally invasive prosthetic approaches. Alternative approaches to circumvent surgical implantation of probes include transcranial electrical, thermal, magnetic, and ultrasound stimulation. Among v these methods, the use of magnetic and ultrasound (US) fields represents the most promising vector to remotely convey information to the brain tissue. Both magnetic and low-intensity US fields provide an efficient mean for delicate and reversible alteration of cells and tissues through the generation of local mechanical perturbations. In this regard, advances in the mechanobiology research field have led to the discovery, design and engineering of cellular transduction pathways to perform stimulation of cellular activity. Furthermore, the use of US pressure fields is attracting considerable interest due to its potential for the development of miniaturized, portable and implantation-free US stimulation devices. The purpose of my PhD research activity was the establishment of a novel neuronal stimulation paradigm adding a cellular selectivity to the US stimulation technology through the selective mechano-sensitization of neuronal cells, in analogy to the well-established optogenetic approach. In order to achieve the above mentioned goal, we propose the cellular overexpression of mechanosensitive (MS) ion channels, which could then be gated upon the application of an US generated pressure field. Therefore, we selected the bacterial large conductance mechanosensitive ion channel (MscL), an exclusively-MS ion channel, as ideal tool to develop a mechanogenetic approach. Indeed, the MscL with its extensive characterization represents a malleable nano-valve that could be further engineered with respect to channel sensitivity, conductance and gating mechanism, in order to obtain the desired biophysical properties to achieve reliable and efficient remote mechanical stimulation of neuronal activity. In the first part of the work, we report the development of an engineered MscL construct, called eMscL, to induce the heterologous expression of the bacterial protein in rodent primary neuronal cultures. Furthermore, we report the structural and functional characterization of neuronal cells expressing the eMscL channel, at both single-cell and network levels, in order to show that the functional expression of the engineered MscL channel induces an effective vi neuronal sensitization to mechanical stimulation, which does not affect the physiological development of the neuronal itself. In the second part of the work, we report the design and development of a water tank-free ultrasound delivery system integrated to a custom inverted fluorescence microscope, which allows the simultaneous US stimulation and monitoring of neuronal network activity at single resolution. Overall, this work represents the first development of a genetically mechanosensitized neuronal in-vitro model. Moreover, the developed US delivery system provides the platform to perform high-throughput and reliable investigation, testing and calibration of the stimulation protocols. In this respect, we propose, and envisage in the near future, the exploitation of the engineered MscL ion channel as a mature tool for novel neuro-technological applications.
|Titolo della tesi:||Engineering mechanobiology: the bacterial exclusively-mechanosensitive ion channel MscL as a future tool for neuronal stimulation technology|
|Data di discussione:||28-feb-2018|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||Tesi di dottorato|