Rapid transcriptional response to physiological neuronal activity in vivo revealed by transcriptome sequencing


Neuronal activity serves as a gateway between external stimulus from environment and the brain, often inducing gene expression changes. Alternative splicing (AS) is a widespread mechanism of increasing the number of transcripts produced from a single gene and has been shown to alter properties of neuronal genes, such as ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors. Patterns of neural tissue-specific AS have been identified, often regulated by neuron-specific splicing factors that are essential for survival, demonstrating the importance of AS in neurons. In vitro studies of neuronal activity found AS changes in response to neuronal activity in addition to transcriptional ones, raising the question of whether such changes are recapitulated in vivo on behaviorally relevant timescales. We developed a paradigm for studying physiological neuronal activity through controlled stimulation of the olfactory bulb, and performed RNA-Seq transcriptome analysis of olfactory bulbs from odor-deprived and stimulated mice. We found that physiological stimulation induces large, rapid and reproducible changes in transcription in vivo, and that the activation of a core set of activity-regulated factors is recapitulated in an in vitro model of neuronal stimulation. However, physiological activity did not induce global changes in post-transcriptional mRNA processing, such as AS or alternative cleavage and polyadenylation. In contrast, analysis of RNA-Seq from in vitro stimulation models showed rapid activity-dependent changes in both transcription and mRNA processing. Our results provide the first genome-wide look at neuronal activity-dependent mRNA processing and suggest that rapid changes in AS might not be the dominant form of transcriptome alterations that take place during olfactory rodent behavior.

Proceedings of Thirtieth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (2008)