Profiles

Dick Nässel

Dick Nässel

Professor

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Works at Department of Zoology
Telephone 08-16 40 77
Email dick.nassel@zoologi.su.se
Visiting address Svante Arrheniusväg 18 B
Room D 425
Postal address Zoologiska institutionen: Funktionell zoomorfologi 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I am interested in neuropeptide signaling in the Drosophila brain and how it influences behavior and physiology. We also study the roles of Drosophila insulin/IGF and other neuropeptides in regulation of development, growth, metabolism, stress responses and lifespan.

Publications

A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Dick R. Nässel. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience 12

    It has been known for more than 40 years that individual neurons can produce more than one neurotransmitter and that neuropeptides often are colocalized with small molecule neurotransmitters (SMNs). Over the years much progress has been made in understanding the functional consequences of cotransmission in the nervous system of mammals. There are also some excellent invertebrate models that have revealed roles of coexpressed neuropeptides and SMNs in increasing complexity, flexibility, and dynamics in neuronal signaling. However, for the fly Drosophila there are surprisingly few functional studies on cotransmission, although there is ample evidence for colocalization of neuroactive compounds in neurons of the CNS, based both on traditional techniques and novel single cell transcriptome analysis. With the hope to trigger interest in initiating cotransmission studies, this review summarizes what is known about Drosophila neurons and neuronal circuits where different neuropeptides and SMNs are colocalized. Coexistence of neuroactive substances has been recorded in different neuron types such as neuroendocrine cells, interneurons, sensory cells and motor neurons. Some of the circuits highlighted here are well established in the analysis of learning and memory, circadian clock networks regulating rhythmic activity and sleep, as well as neurons and neuroendocrine cells regulating olfaction, nociception, feeding, metabolic homeostasis, diuretic functions, reproduction, and developmental processes. One emerging trait is the broad role of short neuropeptide F in cotransmission and presynaptic facilitation in a number of different neuronal circuits. This review also discusses the functional relevance of coexisting peptides in the intestine. Based on recent single cell transcriptomics data, it is likely that the neuronal systems discussed in this review are just a fraction of the total set of circuits where cotransmission occurs in Drosophila. Thus, a systematic search for colocalized neuroactive compounds in further neurons in anatomically defined circuits is of interest for the near future.

  • 2017. Jiangnan Luo, Yiting Liu, Dick R. Nassel. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience 10

    Neuroendocrine cells store and secrete bulk amounts of neuropeptides, and display morphological and molecular characteristics distinct from neurons signaling with classical neurotransmitters. In Drosophila the transcription factor Dimmed (Dimm), is a prime organizer of neuroendocrine capacity in a majority of the peptidergic neurons. These neurons display large cell bodies and extensive axon terminations that commonly do not form regular synapses. We ask which molecular compartments of a neuron are affected by Dimm to generate these morphological features. Thus, we ectopically expressed Dimm in glutamatergic, Dimm-negative, motor neurons and analyzed their characteristics in the central nervous system and the neuromuscular junction. Ectopic Dimm results in motor neurons with enlarged cell bodies, diminished dendrites, larger axon terminations and boutons, as well as reduced expression of synaptic proteins both pre and post-synaptically. Furthermore, the neurons display diminished vesicular glutamate transporter, and signaling components known to sustain interactions between the developing axon termination and muscle, such as wingless and frizzled are down regulated. Ectopic co-expression of Dimm and the insulin receptor augments most of the above effects on the motor neurons. In summary, ectopic Dimm expression alters the glutamatergic motor neuron phenotype toward a neuroendocrine one, both pre- and post-synaptically. Thus, Dimm is a key organizer of both secretory capacity and morphological features characteristic of neuroendocrine cells, and this transcription factor affects also post- synaptic proteins.

  • 2013. Jiangnan Luo, Yiting Liu, Dick R. Nässel. PLOS Genetics 9 (12)

    Neurons and other cells display a large variation in size in an organism. Thus, a fundamental question is how growth of individual cells and their organelles is regulated. Is size scaling of individual neurons regulated post-mitotically, independent of growth of the entire CNS? Although the role of insulin/IGF-signaling (IIS) in growth of tissues and whole organisms is well established, it is not known whether it regulates the size of individual neurons. We therefore studied the role of IIS in the size scaling of neurons in the Drosophila CNS. By targeted genetic manipulations of insulin receptor (dInR) expression in a variety of neuron types we demonstrate that the cell size is affected only in neuroendocrine cells specified by the bHLH transcription factor DIMMED (DIMM). Several populations of DIMM-positive neurons tested displayed enlarged cell bodies after overexpression of the dInR, as well as PI3 kinase and Akt1 (protein kinase B), whereas DIMM-negative neurons did not respond to dInR manipulations. Knockdown of these components produce the opposite phenotype. Increased growth can also be induced by targeted overexpression of nutrient-dependent TOR (target of rapamycin) signaling components, such as Rheb (small GTPase), TOR and S6K (S6 kinase). After Dimm-knockdown in neuroendocrine cells manipulations of dInR expression have significantly less effects on cell size. We also show that dInR expression in neuroendocrine cells can be altered by up or down-regulation of Dimm. This novel dInR-regulated size scaling is seen during postembryonic development, continues in the aging adult and is diet dependent. The increase in cell size includes cell body, axon terminations, nucleus and Golgi apparatus. We suggest that the dInR-mediated scaling of neuroendocrine cells is part of a plasticity that adapts the secretory capacity to changing physiological conditions and nutrient-dependent organismal growth.

  • 2010. Dick R. Nässel, Åsa M. E. Winther. Progress in Neurobiology 92, 42-104

    Studies of neuropeptide and peptide hormone signaling are coming of age in Drosophila due to rapid developments in molecular genetics approaches that overcome the difficulties caused by the small size of the fly. In addition we have genome-wide information on genes involved in peptide signaling, and growing pools of peptidomics data. A large number of different neuropeptides has been identified in a huge variety of neuron types in different parts of the Drosophila nervous system and cells in other locations. This review addresses questions related to peptidergic signaling in the Drosophila nervous system, especially how peptides regulate physiology and behavior during development and in the mature fly. We first summarize novel findings on neuropeptide precursor genes, processed bioactive peptides and their cognate receptors. Thereafter we provide an overview of the physiological and behavioral roles of peptide signaling in Drosophila. These roles include regulation of development, growth, feeding, metabolism, reproduction, homeostasis, and longevity, as well as neuromodulation in learning and memory, olfaction and locomotor control. The substrate of this signaling is the peptide products of about 42 precursor genes expressed in different combinations in a variety of neuronal circuits or that act as circulating hormones. Approximately 45 G-protein-coupled peptide receptors are known in Drosophila and for most of these the ligands have been identified. Functions of some peptides are better understood than others, and much work remains to reveal the spectrum of roles neuropeptides and peptide hormones play in the daily life of a fly

Show all publications by Dick Nässel at Stockholm University

Last updated: June 12, 2018

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