The genetic disorder Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), results in debilitating physical, endocrine, cognitive, and behavioral symptoms. Many of the characteristics of PWS, such as uncontrollable food intake, stunted growth, and emotional problems suggest that disruptions in brain regions such as the hypothalamus may cause this. Recently, the gene Magel2 was shown to be associated with PWS symptoms. Magel2 is expressed in brain regions such as the hypothalamus, but the precise cells types that express this gene are unknown. In addition it is not known if loss of Magel2 leads to alterations in neural activity. Here, we hypothesize that Magel2 is expressed primarily in inhibitory neurons in the hypothalamus and extended amygdala, and that disruptions of the Magel2 gene leads to pathological inhibitory neurotransmission that promotes behavioral and physiological characteristics of PWS. Collectively, this work will identify novel and critical neurocircuit connections and cellular alterations that may occur in PWS. With data generated from these experiments, we will be able to identify precise neurocircuit targets for the development of novel treatment strategies for PWS.
Garret Stuber, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill