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Date Available
Date Accessioned
Degree PhD
Discipline/Department Biology: Medical Sciences, Division of
Degree Level doctoral
University/Publisher Harvard University
Abstract Somatosensory neurons are essential for detecting diverse environmental stimuli, thus critical for survival of mammals. In order to achieve sensory modality specificity, many somatosensory subtypes emerge with various receptor and ion channel expression, as well as terminal morphologies. How the somatosensory system achieves such a high variety of neuronal subtypes is unknown. In this thesis, I used a newly discovered subtype, VGLUT3-expressing unmyelinated low-threshold mechanoreceptors (C-LTMRs), as a model to try to answer this question. C-LTMRs have been proposed to play a role in pleasant touch in humans or pain in mice. Previously, our lab has identified the Runt domain transcriptional factor Runx1 to be pivotal for the development of a cohort of sensory neurons such as pain related nociceptors, thermal receptors, as well as itch related pruriceptors. Here I found that Runx1 is also required to establish all known features associated with C-LTMRs. In search of the mechanism of how Runx1 controls C-LTMR development, I found that the zinc finger protein Zfp521 is predominantly expressed in C-LTMRs and its expression is Runx1 dependent. By generating and analyzing Zfp521 conditional knock out animals, I found Zfp521 is required for part of C-LTMR molecular identities and nerve terminal morphologies. Our studies suggest that Runx1 acts through Zfp521-dependent and Zfp521-independent pathways to specify C-LTMR identities. To study C-LTMR functions, we performed a series of behavioral analysis and found the loss of VGLUT3 and mechanosensitivities in C-LTMRs does not markedly affect acute or chronic mechanical pain measured from the hind paws, which argues against the proposed role of VGLUT3 in C-LTMRs in mediating mechanical pain in mice. In the future, we will continue to use our mutant mice to study physiological functions of C-LTMRs.
Subjects/Keywords Neurosciences; Developmental biology; Genetics; Mechanoreceptor; Piezo2; Runx1; Somatosensory; VGLUT3; Zfp521
Contributors Ma, Qiufu (advisor); Segal, Rosalind (committee member); Dong, Xinzhong (committee member); Gu, Chenghua (committee member); Bean, Bruce (committee member); Macklis, Jeffery (committee member); Woolf, Clifford (committee member)
Language en
Rights open
Country of Publication us
Record ID oai:dash.harvard.edu:1/11156790
Other Identifiers Lou, Shan. 2013. DEVELOPMENT AND FUNCTIONS OF C-LOW-THRESHOLD MECHANORECEPTORS. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
Repository harvard
Date Indexed 2018-02-26

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