Dick Nässel

Dick Nässel


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Works at Department of Zoology
Telephone 08-16 40 77
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.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2019. Dick R. Nässel, Meet Zandawala. Progress in Neurobiology 179

    This review focuses on neuropeptides and peptide hormones, the largest and most diverse class of neuroactive substances, known in Drosophila and other animals to play roles in almost all aspects of daily life, as w;1;ell as in developmental processes. We provide an update on novel neuropeptides and receptors identified in the last decade, and highlight progress in analysis of neuropeptide signaling in Drosophila. Especially exciting is the huge amount of work published on novel functions of neuropeptides and peptide hormones in Drosophila, largely due to the rapid developments of powerful genetic methods, imaging techniques and innovative assays. We critically discuss the roles of peptides in olfaction, taste, foraging, feeding, clock function/sleep, aggression, mating/reproduction, learning and other behaviors, as well as in regulation of development, growth, metabolic and water homeostasis, stress responses, fecundity, and lifespan. We furthermore provide novel information on neuropeptide distribution and organization of peptidergic systems, as well as the phylogenetic relations between Drosophila neuropeptides and those of other phyla, including mammals. As will be shown, neuropeptide signaling is phylogenetically ancient, and not only are the structures of the peptides, precursors and receptors conserved over evolution, but also many functions of neuropeptide signaling in physiology and behavior.

  • 2019. Maria E. Yurgel (et al.). PLoS biology 17 (2)

    Dysregulation of sleep and feeding has widespread health consequences. Despite extensive epidemiological evidence for interactions between sleep and metabolic function, little is known about the neural or molecular basis underlying the integration of these processes. D. melanogaster potently suppress sleep in response to starvation, and powerful genetic tools allow for mechanistic investigation of sleep-metabolism interactions. We have previously identified neurons expressing the neuropeptide leucokinin (Lk) as being required for starvation-mediated changes in sleep. Here, we demonstrate an essential role for Lk neuropeptide in metabolic regulation of sleep. The activity of Lk neurons is modulated by feeding, with reduced activity in response to glucose and increased activity under starvation conditions. Both genetic silencing and laser-mediated microablation localize Lk-dependent sleep regulation to a single pair of Lk neurons within the Lateral Horn (LHLK neurons). A targeted screen identified a role for 50 adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in starvation-modulated changes in sleep. Knockdown of AMPK in Lk neurons suppresses sleep and increases LHLK neuron activity in fed flies, phenocopying the starvation state. Further, we find a requirement for the Lk receptor in the insulin-producing cells (IPCs), suggesting LHLK-IPC connectivity is critical for sleep regulation under starved conditions. Taken together, these findings localize feeding-state-dependent regulation of sleep to a single pair of neurons within the fruit fly brain and provide a system for investigating the cellular basis of sleep-metabolism interactions.

  • 2019. Stephanie Post (et al.). Aging Cell 18 (1)

    Insulin/IGF signaling (IIS) regulates essential processes including development, metabolism, and aging. The Drosophila genome encodes eight insulin/IGF-like peptide (dilp) paralogs, including tandem-encoded dilp1 and dilp2. Many reports show that longevity is increased by manipulations that decrease DILP2 levels. It has been shown that dilp1 is expressed primarily in pupal stages, but also during adult reproductive diapause. Here, we find that dilp1 is also highly expressed in adult dilp2 mutants under nondiapause conditions. The inverse expression of dilp1 and dilp2 suggests these genes interact to regulate aging. Here, we study dilp1 and dilp2 single and double mutants to describe epistatic and synergistic interactions affecting longevity, metabolism, and adipokinetic hormone (AKH), the functional homolog of glucagon. Mutants of dilp2 extend lifespan and increase Akh mRNA and protein in a dilp1-dependent manner. Loss of dilp1 alone has no impact on these traits, whereas transgene expression of dilp1 increases lifespan in dilp1-dilp2 double mutants. On the other hand, dilp1 and dilp2 redundantly or synergistically interact to control circulating sugar, starvation resistance, and compensatory dilp5 expression. These interactions do not correlate with patterns for how dilp1 and dilp2 affect longevity and AKH. Thus, repression or loss of dilp2 slows aging because its depletion induces dilp1, which acts as a pro-longevity factor. Likewise, dilp2 regulates Akh through epistatic interaction with dilp1. Akh and glycogen affect aging in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila. Our data suggest that dilp2 modulates lifespan in part by regulating Akh, and by repressing dilp1, which acts as a pro-longevity insulin-like peptide.

  • 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.

  • 2018. Meet Zandawala (et al.). PLoS Genetics 14 (11)

    Behavior and physiology are orchestrated by neuropeptides acting as central neuromodulators and circulating hormones. An outstanding question is how these neuropeptides function to coordinate complex and competing behaviors. In Drosophila, the neuropeptide leucokinin (LK) modulates diverse functions, but mechanisms underlying these complex interactions remain poorly understood. As a first step towards understanding these mechanisms, we delineated LK circuitry that governs various aspects of post-feeding physiology and behavior. We found that impaired LK signaling in Lk and Lk receptor (Lkr) mutants affects diverse but coordinated processes, including regulation of stress, water homeostasis, feeding, locomotor activity, and metabolic rate. Next, we sought to define the populations of LK neurons that contribute to the different aspects of this physiology. We find that the calcium activity in abdominal ganglia LK neurons (ABLKs), but not in the two sets of brain neurons, increases specifically following water consumption, suggesting that ABLKs regulate water homeostasis and its associated physiology. To identify targets of LK peptide, we mapped the distribution of Lkr expression, mined a brain single-cell transcriptome dataset for genes coexpressed with Lkr, and identified synaptic partners of LK neurons. Lkrexpression in the brain insulin-producing cells (IPCs), gut, renal tubules and chemosensory cells, correlates well with regulatory roles detected in the Lkand Lkr mutants. Furthermore, these mutants and flies with targeted knockdown of Lkr in IPCs displayed altered expression of insulin-like peptides (DILPs) and transcripts in IPCs and increased starvation resistance. Thus, some effects of LK signaling appear to occur via DILP action. Collectively, our data suggest that the three sets of LK neurons have different targets, but modulate the establishment of postprandial homeostasis by regulating distinct physiological processes and behaviors such as diuresis, metabolism, organismal activity and insulin signaling. These findings provide a platform for investigating feeding-related neuroendocrine regulation of vital behavior and physiology.

Show all publications by Dick Nässel at Stockholm University

Last updated: August 23, 2019

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