Paul A St John
- Associate Professor, Cellular and Molecular Medicine
- Director, Course - Clinical Reasoning
- Associate Professor, Neuroscience - GIDP
- Ph.D. Cell & Developmental Biology / Neuroscience
- Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
- B.A. Biology
- Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
- Furrow Award for Excellence in Basic Science Teaching for Medical Students
- University of Arizona College of Medicine, Fall 2016
- Chair, Academy of Medical Education Scholars
- AMES, UA-COM-T, Spring 2015
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ThesisCMM 910 (Fall 2016)
Human HistologyCMM 410 (Summer I 2016)
Human HistologyCMM 510 (Summer I 2016)
Functional Human HistologyCMM 425A (Spring 2016)
Functional Human HistologyCMM 525A (Spring 2016)
Musculoskeletal SystemMED 804 (Spring 2016)
ThesisCMM 910 (Spring 2016)
ThesisCMM 910 (Fall 2015)
Human HistologyCMM 410 (Summer I 2015)
Human HistologyCMM 510 (Summer I 2015)
Musculoskeletal SystemMED 804 (Spring 2015)
ResearchCMM 900 (Spring 2015)
Tch In Med:Cbi FacilitatMED 896B (Spring 2015)
ThesisCMM 910 (Spring 2015)
ThesisCMM 910 (Fall 2014)
Human HistologyCMM 410 (Summer I 2014)
Human HistologyCMM 510 (Summer I 2014)
Musculoskeletal SystemMED 814 (Spring 2014)
Tch In Med:Cbi FacilitatMED 891J (Spring 2014)
ThesisCMM 910 (Spring 2014)
ThesisCMM 910 (Fall 2013)
Human HistologyCMM 410 (Summer I 2013)
Human HistologyCMM 510 (Summer I 2013)
- Nematollahi, S., St John, P. A., & Adamas-Rappaport, W. J. (2015). Lessons learned with a flipped classroom. Medical education, 49(11), 1143.
- Liu, Q., Xie, X., Lukas, R. J., St John, P. A., & Wu, J. (2013). A novel nicotinic mechanism underlies β-amyloid-induced neuronal hyperexcitation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 33(17), 7253-63.More infoThere is a significantly elevated incidence of epilepsy in Alzheimer's disease (AD). Moreover, there is neural hyperexcitation/synchronization in transgenic mice expressing abnormal levels or forms of amyloid precursor protein and its presumed, etiopathogenic product, amyloid-β1-42 (Aβ). However, the underlying mechanisms of how Aβ causes neuronal hyperexcitation remain unclear. Here, we report that exposure to pathologically relevant levels of Aβ induces Aβ form-dependent, concentration-dependent, and time-dependent neuronal hyperexcitation in primary cultures of mouse hippocampal neurons. Similarly, Aβ exposure increases levels of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) α7 subunit protein on the cell surface and α7-nAChR function, but not α7 subunit mRNA, suggesting post-translational upregulation of functional α7-nAChRs. These effects are prevented upon coexposure to brefeldin A, an inhibitor of endoplasmic reticulum-to-Golgi protein transport, consistent with an effect on trafficking of α7 subunits and assembled α7-nAChRs to the cell surface. Aβ exposure-induced α7-nAChR functional upregulation occurs before there is expression of neuronal hyperexcitation. Pharmacological inhibition using an α7-nAChR antagonist or genetic deletion of nAChR α7 subunits prevents induction and expression of neuronal hyperexcitation. Collectively, these results, confirmed in studies using slice cultures, indicate that functional activity and perhaps functional upregulation of α7-nAChRs are necessary for production of Aβ-induced neuronal hyperexcitation and possibly AD pathogenesis. This novel mechanism involving α7-nAChRs in mediation of Aβ effects provides potentially new therapeutic targets for treatment of AD.
- Parker, S. S., Mandell, E. K., Hapak, S. M., Maskaykina, I. Y., Kusne, Y., Kim, J., Moy, J. K., St John, P. A., Wilson, J. M., Gothard, K. M., Price, T. J., & Ghosh, S. (2013). Competing molecular interactions of aPKC isoforms regulate neuronal polarity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(35), 14450-5.More infoAtypical protein kinase C (aPKC) isoforms ζ and λ interact with polarity complex protein Par3 and are evolutionarily conserved regulators of cell polarity. Prkcz encodes aPKC-ζ and PKM-ζ, a truncated, neuron-specific alternative transcript, and Prkcl encodes aPKC-λ. Here we show that, in embryonic hippocampal neurons, two aPKC isoforms, aPKC-λ and PKM-ζ, are expressed. The localization of these isoforms is spatially distinct in a polarized neuron. aPKC-λ, as well as Par3, localizes at the presumptive axon, whereas PKM-ζ and Par3 are distributed at non-axon-forming neurites. PKM-ζ competes with aPKC-λ for binding to Par3 and disrupts the aPKC-λ-Par3 complex. Silencing of PKM-ζ or overexpression of aPKC-λ in hippocampal neurons alters neuronal polarity, resulting in neurons with supernumerary axons. In contrast, the overexpression of PKM-ζ prevents axon specification. Our studies suggest a molecular model wherein mutually antagonistic intermolecular competition between aPKC isoforms directs the establishment of neuronal polarity.
- St John, P., & St John, P. A. (2009). Cellular trafficking of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Acta pharmacologica Sinica, 30(6).More infoNicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) play critical roles throughout the body. Precise regulation of the cellular location and availability of nAChRs on neurons and target cells is critical to their proper function. Dynamic, post-translational regulation of nAChRs, particularly control of their movements among the different compartments of cells, is an important aspect of that regulation. A combination of new information and new techniques has the study of nAChR trafficking poised for new breakthroughs.
- Yue, X., Tumati, S., Navratilova, E., Strop, D., St John, P. A., Vanderah, T. W., Roeske, W. R., Yamamura, H. I., & Varga, E. V. (2008). Sustained morphine treatment augments basal CGRP release from cultured primary sensory neurons in a Raf-1 dependent manner. European journal of pharmacology, 584(2-3), 272-7.More infoRecent studies suggest that sustained morphine-mediated paradoxical pain may play an important role in the development of analgesic tolerance. The intracellular signal transduction pathways involved in sustained opioid mediated augmentation of spinal pain neurotransmitter (such as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP)) release are not fully clarified. Cyclic AMP (cAMP)-dependent protein kinase (PKA) plays an important role in the modulation of presynaptic neurotransmitter release. Moreover, we have shown earlier that sustained opioid agonist treatment leads to a Raf-1-dependent sensitization of adenylyl cyclase(s) (AC superactivation), augmenting forskolin-stimulated cAMP formation upon opioid withdrawal (cAMP overshoot). Therefore, in the present study we examined the role of Raf-1 in sustained morphine-mediated regulation of cAMP formation and basal CGRP release in vitro, in cultured neonatal rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. We found that sustained morphine treatment significantly augments intracellular cAMP production as well as basal CGRP release from cultured neonatal rat DRG neurons. The selective PKA inhibitor, H-89, attenuates the sustained morphine-mediated augmentation of basal CGRP release, indicating that the cAMP/PKA pathway plays an important role in regulation of CGRP release from sensory neurons. Since our present data also demonstrated that selective Raf-1 inhibitor, GW 5074, attenuated both the cAMP overshoot and the augmentation of CGRP release mediated by sustained morphine in neonatal rat DRG neurons, we suggest that Raf-1-mediated sensitization of the intracellular cAMP formation may play an important role in sustained morphine-mediated augmentation of spinal pain neurotransmitter release.
- St John, P., & St John, P. A. (2007). Differential binding and activation of caspase-3 in cultured hippocampal neurons by assembly forms of A beta 1-42. Journal of neuroscience research, 85(6).More infoAmyloid-beta (A beta) peptides, the primary constituents of amyloid plaques in the brain in Alzheimer's disease (AD), may cause AD, but how they do so is not clear. A beta peptides spontaneously aggregate, or self-assemble, to generate several distinct macromolecular and morphological forms that can differ significantly in their effects on cells. We have compared different assembly forms of A beta(1-42) (A beta 42) for their ability to trigger apoptosis in cultured hippocampal neurons at a submicromolar concentration and for their binding to such neurons. Fibrillar A beta 42 caused both morphological changes indicative of apoptosis and specific activation of caspase-3, a characteristic marker of neurodegeneration in AD, in hippocampal neurons, whereas other preparations tested did not do so under the same conditions. More aggregated forms of A beta 42, including both fibrils and a mixture of assembly forms termed A beta-derived diffusible ligands (ADDLs), bound to neurons much more extensively and at lower concentrations than preparations that contained smaller forms. Fibrillar A beta 42, in particular, bound to neurons at concentrations as low as 1 nM. Colocalization studies showed that fibrillar A beta 42 bound almost exclusively at nonsynaptic sites. These results show differences between assembly forms of A beta 42 in the ability to trigger apoptotic signaling in CNS neurons, and they directly demonstrate differences between assembly forms in the binding to CNS neurons, a possible first step in the pathogenesis of AD. These results suggest that fibrillar A beta 42 contributes to the pathogenesis of AD.
- Wu, J., Hu, J., Chen, Y., Takeo, T., Suga, S., Dechon, J., Liu, Q., Yang, K., St John, P. A., Hu, G., Wang, H., & Wakui, M. (2006). Iptakalim modulates ATP-sensitive K(+) channels in dopamine neurons from rat substantia nigra pars compacta. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, 319(1), 155-64.More infoIptakalim, a novel cardiovascular ATP-sensitive K(+) (K(ATP)) channel opener, exerts neuroprotective effects on dopaminergic (DA) neurons against metabolic stress-induced neurotoxicity, but the mechanisms are largely unknown. Here, we examined the effects of iptakalim on functional K(ATP) channels in the plasma membrane (pm) and mitochondrial membrane using patch-clamp and fluorescence-imaging techniques. In identified DA neurons acutely dissociated from rat substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc), both the mitochondrial metabolic inhibitor rotenone and the sulfonylurea receptor subtype (SUR) 1-selective K(ATP) channel opener (KCO) diazoxide induced neuronal hyperpolarization and abolished action potential firing, but the SUR2B-selective KCO cromakalim exerted little effect, suggesting that functional K(ATP) channels in rat SNc DA neurons are mainly composed of SUR1. Immunocytochemical staining showed a SUR1-rather than a SUR2B-positive reaction in most dissociated DA neurons. At concentrations between 3 and 300 microM, iptakalim failed to hyperpolarize DA neurons; however, 300 microM iptakalim increased neuronal firing. In addition, iptakalim restored DA neuronal firing during rotenone-induced hyperpolarization and suppressed rotenone-induced outward current, suggesting that high concentrations of iptakalim close neuronal K(ATP) channels. Furthermore, in human embryonic kidney 293 cells, iptakalim (300-500 microM) closed diazoxide-induced Kir6.2/SUR1 K(ATP) channels, which were heterologously expressed. In rhodamine-123-preloaded DA neurons, iptakalim neither depolarized mitochondrial membrane nor prevented rotenone-induced mitochondrial depolarization. These data indicate that iptakalim is not a K(ATP) channel opener in rat SNc DA neurons; instead, iptakalim is a pm-K(ATP) channel closer at high concentrations. These effects of iptakalim stimulate further pharmacological investigation and the development of possible therapeutic applications.
- Wu, J., Liu, Q., Yu, K., Hu, J., Kuo, Y., Segerberg, M., St John, P. A., & Lukas, R. J. (2006). Roles of nicotinic acetylcholine receptor beta subunits in function of human alpha4-containing nicotinic receptors. The Journal of physiology, 576(Pt 1), 103-18.More infoNaturally expressed nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChR) containing alpha4 subunits (alpha4*-nAChR) in combination with beta2 subunits (alpha4beta2-nAChR) are among the most abundant, high-affinity nicotine binding sites in the mammalian brain. beta4 subunits are also richly expressed and colocalize with alpha4 subunits in several brain regions implicated in behavioural responses to nicotine and nicotine dependence. Thus, alpha4beta4-nAChR also may exist and play important functional roles. In this study, properties were determined of human alpha4beta2- and alpha4beta4-nAChR heterologously expressed de novo in human SH-EP1 epithelial cells. Whole-cell currents mediated via human alpha4beta4-nAChR have approximately 4-fold higher amplitude than those mediated via human alpha4beta2-nAChR and exhibit much slower acute desensitization and functional rundown. Nicotinic agonists induce peak whole-cell current responses typically with higher functional potency at alpha4beta4-nAChR than at alpha4beta2-nAChR. Cytisine and lobeline serve as full agonists at alpha4beta4-nAChR but are only partial agonists at alpha4beta2-nAChR. However, nicotinic antagonists, except hexamethonium, have comparable affinities for functional alpha4beta2- and alpha4beta4-nAChR. Whole-cell current responses show stronger inward rectification for alpha4beta2-nAChR than for alpha4beta4-nAChR at a positive holding potential. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that human nAChR beta2 or beta4 subunits can combine with alpha4 subunits to generate two forms of alpha4*-nAChR with distinctive physiological and pharmacological features. Diversity in alpha4*-nAChR is of potential relevance to nervous system function, disease, and nicotine dependence.
- Wu, J., Xu, L., Kim, D. Y., Rho, J. M., St John, P. A., Lue, L., Coons, S., Ellsworth, K., Nowak, L., Johnson, E., Rekate, H., & Kerrigan, J. F. (2005). Electrophysiological properties of human hypothalamic hamartomas. Annals of neurology, 58(3), 371-82.More infoThe hypothalamic hamartoma (HH) is a rare developmental malformation often characterized by gelastic seizures, which are usually refractory to medical therapy. The mechanisms of epileptogenesis operative in this subcortical lesion are unknown. In this study, we used standard patch-clamp electrophysiological techniques combined with histochemical approaches to study individual cells from human HH tissue immediately after surgical resection. More than 90% of dissociated HH cells were small (6-9 microm soma) and exhibited immunoreactivity to the neuronal marker NeuN, and to glutamic acid decarboxylase, but not to glial fibrillary acidic protein. Under current-clamp, whole-cell recordings in single dissociated cells or in intact HH slices demonstrated typical neuronal responses to depolarizing and hyperpolarizing current injection. In some cases, HH cells exhibited a "sag-like" membrane potential change during membrane hyperpolarization. Interestingly, most HH cells exhibited robust, spontaneous "pacemaker-like" action potential firing. Under voltage-clamp, dissociated HH cells exhibited functional tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive Na(+) and tetraethylammonium-sensitive K(+) currents. Both GABA and glutamate evoked whole-cell currents, with GABA exhibiting a peak current amplitude 10-fold greater than glutamate. These findings suggest that human HH tissues, associated with gelastic seizures, contained predominantly small GABAergic inhibitory neurons that exhibited intrinsic "pacemaker-like" behavior.
- Huang, Y., Stamer, W. D., Anthony, T. L., Kumar, D. V., St John, P. A., & Regan, J. W. (2002). Expression of alpha(2)-adrenergic receptor subtypes in prenatal rat spinal cord. Brain research. Developmental brain research, 133(2), 93-104.More infoThe results of molecular cloning have revealed three subtypes of the alpha(2)-adrenergic receptors (alpha(2) AR) that have been defined alpha(2)C10 (alpha(2A)), alpha(2)C2 (alpha(2B)) and alpha(2)C4 (alpha(2C)). The differential expression of alpha(2) AR subtypes is affected by developmental factors in rat submandibular gland, lung and brain. In the spinal cord of postnatal and adult rats, alpha(2A) and alpha(2C) AR subtypes are expressed and appear to mediate pain perception. However, the relative expression of alpha(2) AR subtypes in the prenatal spinal cord is unknown. In the present study subtype-specific antibodies and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) were used to determine the expression and localization of the alpha(2) AR subtypes in sections of embryonic day 14 rat spinal cords and primary cultures of cells isolated from these cords. Spinal cords were removed from day 14 embryos, and were sectioned or used for the preparation of cell cultures. After 9 days in culture, neurons were examined by immunofluorescence microscopy or used for preparation of total RNA. In both intact spinal cords and isolated cells, positive immunoreactivity was detected with antibodies against alpha(2A) and alpha(2B) subtypes, but not with antibodies against the alpha(2C) subtype. Using a dual-labeling approach, anti-alpha(2A) and anti-alpha(2B) immunoreactivity was present on the same population of neurons. RT-PCR results were consistent with immunofluorescence studies, and showed that mRNA encoding the alpha(2A) and alpha(2B) subtypes was present in total RNA prepared from primary cultures of rat spinal cord neurons. In contrast to spinal cords of postnatal or adult rats that express alpha(2A) and alpha(2C) AR subtypes on different neurons, prenatal spinal cords contain alpha(2A) and alpha(2B) AR subtypes, and these two subtypes appear to be co-expressed in the same cells.
- St John, P., Kumar, D. V., Nighorn, A., & St John, P. A. (2002). Role of Nova-1 in regulating alpha2N, a novel glycine receptor splice variant, in developing spinal cord neurons. Journal of neurobiology, 52(2).More infoInhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) subunits undergo developmental regulation, but the molecular mechanisms of GlyR regulation in developing neurons are little understood. Using RT-PCR, we investigated the regulation of GlyR alpha-subunit splice forms during the development of the spinal cord of the rat. Experiments to compare the amounts of mRNA for two known splice variants of the GlyR alpha2 subunit, alpha2A and alpha2B, in the developing rat spinal cord revealed the presence of an additional, novel variant that lacked any exon 3, herein named "alpha2N." Examination of the RNA from spinal cords of different-aged rats showed a dramatic down-regulation of alpha2N during prenatal development: alpha2N mRNA formed a significant portion of the alpha2 subunit pool at E14, but its relative level was reduced by 85% by birth and was undetectable in adults. Two proteins previously implicated in regulating the splicing of GlyR alpha2 pre-mRNA, the neurooncological ventral antigen-1 (Nova-1) and the brain isoform of the polypyrimidine tract binding protein (brPTB), underwent small changes over the same period that did not correlate directly with the changes in the level of alpha2N, calling into question their involvement in the developmental regulation of alpha2N. However, treatment of spinal cord neurons in culture with antisense oligonucleotides designed selectively to knock down one of three Nova-1 variants significantly altered the relative level of GlyR alpha2N, showing that Nova-1 isoforms can regulate GlyR alpha2 pre-mRNA splicing in developing neurons. These results provide evidence for a novel splice variant of the GlyR alpha2 subunit that undergoes dramatic developmental regulation, reveal the expression profiles of Nova-1 and brPTB in the developing spinal cord, and suggest that Nova-1 plays a role in regulating GlyR alpha2N in developing neurons.
- St John, P. A., & Gordon, H. (2001). Agonists cause endocytosis of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors on cultured myotubes. Journal of neurobiology, 49(3), 212-23.More infoRegulated trafficking of neurotransmitter receptors in excitable cells may play an important role in synaptic plasticity. In addition, agonist-induced endocytosis of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in particular might be involved in nicotine tolerance and addiction. The existing evidence concerning regulated internalization of cell-surface nAChRs is indirect and equivocal, however. In the present study, radioligand binding and fluorescence microscopy were used to show that agonists cause substantial endocytosis of nAChRs on cultured myotubes. Exposure to carbachol or nicotine caused a decrease in the intensity of fluorescent labeling of clusters of cell-surface nAChRs that was blocked by low temperature. Overall, myotubes exposed to carbachol or nicotine bound 50-70% less [(125)I]-alpha-bungarotoxin on the cell surface than untreated cells. The effect of carbachol was significant within 5 min, increased progressively for at least 4 h, and had a sensitivity of 100 nM or less. Exposure to carbachol caused the appearance or dramatic expansion of an intracellular pool of nAChRs, which were localized to discrete, largely perinuclear structures. A pulse-chase labeling protocol allowed the selective labeling and localization of nAChRs that had been internalized from the cell surface. In untreated cells, very little internalization of nAChRs occurred over a period of 3 h, indicating that constitutive endocytosis of receptors over this period was minimal. Exposure to carbachol, however, caused a dramatic increase in the endocytosis of nAChRs. These results provide direct evidence that agonists, including the tobacco alkaloid nicotine, can cause substantial endocytosis of cell-surface nAChRs.
- St John, P. A., Ludwig, C. P., & Lai, J. (1997). Substance P receptor expression and cellular responses to substance P in prenatal rat spinal cord cells. Journal of receptor and signal transduction research, 17(4), 569-83.More infoSubstance P receptors (SPRs) are expressed by prenatal rat spinal cord neurons and glial cells early in their differentiation, and SPRs may mediate developmental influences in the developing spinal cord. In order to understand better early SPR expression, we quantified SPR mRNA in the rat spinal cord during prenatal development using a cDNA probe for the rat SPR in nuclease protection assays. SPR mRNA was present in the rat spinal cord at E14, the earliest stage examined, and the presence of specific binding sites for radiolabeled SP suggested that SPRs were expressed at the protein level as well. Comparisons of samples from rats at different prenatal ages showed that the relative abundance of SPR mRNA declined by about 75% from E14 through the remainder of prenatal development. Assays of the hydrolysis of phosphatidyl inositol performed on prenatal spinal cord cells in culture revealed that SP caused a small but significant stimulation. These results show that expression of SPRs is an early molecular event in the development of the rat spinal cord in vivo and that SPRs on young spinal cord cells can mediate functional responses at early developmental stages.
- St John, P., Withers, M. D., & St John, P. A. (1997). Embryonic rat spinal cord neurons change expression of glycine receptor subtypes during development in vitro. Journal of neurobiology, 32(6).More infoThe expression of functional glycine receptors (GlyRs) by embryonic rat spinal cord neurons during development in vitro was investigated using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. Functional GlyRs were expressed by most neurons within 1 day in vitro, and by all neurons from 4 days onward. However, the extent to which responses to glycine were blocked by the antagonist strychnine differed significantly between the first few days and 8 days in culture. Responses to glycine by neurons during the first few days in culture exhibited significantly less blockade by strychnine than those in neurons after 1 week in culture. Responses to glycine at both ages reflected an increased conductance to chloride ions, ruling out involvement of N-methyl-D-aspartate type glutamate receptors, and were not due to cross activation of gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors. Monoclonal antibody 4a, which recognizes multiple subtypes of rat GlyR alpha subunits, labeled most neurons as early as 1 day in vitro, confirming that neurons express some form of GlyR alpha subunits by the first day in culture. These results show that rat spinal cord neurons express GlyRs early in their differentiation in vitro, and they suggest that individual neurons express as functional, cell-surface GlyRs a strychnine-insensitive isoform of the GlyR, possibly the previously described alpha 2* subunit. In addition, these results indicate that the expression of GlyR isoforms changes from predominantly a strychnine-insensitive isoform to other, strychnine-sensitive isoform(s) GlyR during development in vitro.
- St John, P., & St John, P. A. (1991). Toxicity of "DiI" for embryonic rat motoneurons and sensory neurons in vitro. Life sciences, 49(26).More infoThe carbocyanine dye DiIC18(3) ("DiI") is commonly used for both anterograde and retrograde labeling of neurons, including live neurons in situ and in vitro. In the present experiments, DiIC18(3) was used to label motoneurons in the spinal cords and sensory neurons in the dorsal root ganglia of embryonic rats. When the neurons from these regions were placed in culture, the neurons labeled by the dye were found to die rapidly, suggesting that DiIC18(3) can be toxic to neurons of these types. A related dye, DiIC12(3), was found to be equally suitable for labeling these neurons, and was found not to have detectable toxic effects in vitro.