Research has identified distinct neuronal circuits within the basolateral amygdala (BLA) that differentially mediate fear expression versus inhibition; however, molecular markers of these populations remain unknown. Here we examine whether optogenetic activation of a cellular subpopulation, which may correlate with the physiologically identified extinction neurons in the BLA, would differentially support fear conditioning versus fear inhibition/extinction. We first molecularly characterized Thy1-channelrhodopsin-2 (Thy1-ChR2-EYFP)-expressing neurons as a subpopulation of glutamatergic pyramidal neurons within the BLA. Optogenetic stimulation of these neurons inhibited a subpopulation of medial central amygdala neurons and shunted excitation from the lateral amygdala. Brief activation of these neurons during fear training disrupted later fear memory in male mice. Optogenetic activation during unreinforced stimulus exposure enhanced extinction retention, but had no effect on fear expression, locomotion, or open-field behavior. Together, these data suggest that the Thy1-expressing subpopulation of BLA pyramidal neurons provide an important molecular and pharmacological target for inhibiting fear and enhancing extinction and for furthering our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of fear processing.
The activity of neurons in the anterolateral cell group of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTALG) plays a critical role in anxiety- and stress-related behaviors. Histochemical studies have suggested that multiple distinct neuronal phenotypes exist in the BNSTALG. Consistent with this observation, the physiological properties of BNSTALG neurons are also heterogeneous, and three distinct cell types can be defined (Type I–III) based primarily on their expression of four key membrane currents, namely Ih, IA, IT, and IK(IR). Significantly, all four channels are multimeric proteins and can comprise of more than one pore-forming α subunit. Hence, differential expression of α subunits may further diversify the neuronal population. However, nothing is known about the relative expression of these ion channel α subunits in BNSTALG neurons.
We have addressed this lacuna by combining whole cell patch clamp recording together with single cell reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (scRT-PCR) to assess the mRNA transcript expression for each of the subunits for the four key ion channels in Type I-III neurons of the BNSTALG. Here, cytosolic mRNA from single neurons was probed for the expression of transcripts for each of the α subunits of Ih (HCN1- HCN4), IT (Cav3.1- Cav3.3), IA (Kv1.4, Kv3.4, Kv4.1- Kv 4.3) and IK(IR) (Kir2.1-Kir2.4).
An unbiased hierarchical cluster analysis followed by discriminant function analysis revealed that a positive correlation exists between the physiological and genetic phenotype of BNSTALG neurons. Thus, the analysis segregated BNSTALG neurons into 3 distinct groups, based on their α subunit mRNA expression profile, which positively correlated with our existing electrophysiological classification (Type I–III). Furthermore, analysis of mRNA transcript expression in Type I –Type III neurons suggested that, whereas Type I and III neurons appear to represent genetically homologous cell populations, Type II neurons may be further subdivided into three genetically distinct subgroups. These data not only validate our original classification scheme, but further refine the classification at the molecular level, and thus identifies novel targets for potential disruption and/or pharmacotherapeutic intervention in stress-related anxiety-like behaviors.
Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; ion channels; α subunits; patch clamp recording; single cell reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction
The strength of synaptic connections in the brain varies with activity and this plasticity depends on remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton in dendritic spines. Critical to this are the Rho family GTPases, whose activity is controlled by various modulatory proteins including the Rho GEF, Lfc. In cultured neurons and non-neuronal cells, Lfc has been shown to both bind to microtubules and to regulate the actin cytoskeleton. Significantly, Lfc was found to be concentrated in the dendritic shafts of cultured hippocampal neurons under control conditions but then translocated into spines when neural activity was stimulated. In this study, we used immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy to examine activity dependent changes in the distribution of Lfc in the neuropil of monkey prefrontal cortex. We found that while Lfc was concentrated in dendrites, it also had a complex distribution in the neuropil, including being present in spines, axons, terminals and glial processes. Moreover, Lfc distribution varied in different layers of cortex. Using an in vitro slice preparation of monkey prefrontal cortex, we demonstrated an activity dependent translocation of Lfc from dendritic shafts to spines. The results of this study support a role for Lfc in activity-dependent spine plasticity and demonstrate the feasibility of studying activity dependent changes in protein localization in tissue slices.
dendritic spines; neuronal plasticity; actin; ultrastructure; immunoelectron microscopy; in vitro; electrophysiology
Activation of neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) plays a critical role in stress and anxiety-related behaviors. Previously, we have shown that serotonin (5-HT) can directly modulate BNST neuronal excitability by an action at postsynaptic receptors. In this study we built upon that work to examine the effects of 5-HT on excitatory neurotransmission in an in vitro BNST slice preparation. Bath application of 5-HT reversibly reduced the amplitude of evoked excitatory postsynaptic currents (eEPSCs). These effects were mimicked by the 5-HT1B/D receptor agonist, sumatriptan, and by the 5-HT1B receptor selective agonist, CP93129. Conversely, the effects of 5-HT and sumatriptan could be blocked by the 5-HT1B receptor selective antagonist, GR55562. In contrast, the 5-HT1A receptor agonist 8-OH DPAT or antagonist WAY 100635 could not mimic or block the effect of 5-HT on eEPSCs. Together, these data suggest that the 5-HT-induced attenuation of eEPSCs was mediated by 5-HT1B receptor activation. Moreover, sumatriptan had no effect on the amplitude of the postsynaptic current elicited by pressure applied AMPA, suggesting a possible presynaptic locus for the 5-HT1B receptor. Furthermore, 5-HT, sumatriptan and CP93129 all increased the paired pulse ratio of eEPSCs while they concomitantly decreased the amplitude of eEPSCs, suggesting that these agonists act to reduce glutamate release probability at presynaptic locus. Consistent with this observation, sumatriptan decreased the frequency of miniature EPSCs, but had no effect on their amplitude. Taken together, these results suggest that 5-HT suppresses glutamatergic neurotransmission in the BNST by activating presynaptic 5-HT1B receptors to decrease glutamate release from presynaptic terminals. This study illustrates a new pathway by which the activity of BNST neurons can be indirectly modulated by 5-HT, and suggests a potential new target for the development of novel treatments for depression and anxiety disorders.
serotonin; excitatory postsynaptic currents; presynaptic receptor; patch clamp recording; anxiety disorders
Activation of neurons in the anterolateral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTALG) plays an important role in mediating the behavioral response to stressful and anxiogenic stimuli. Application of 5-HT elicits complex postsynaptic responses in BNSTALG neurons, which includes 1) membrane hyperpolarization (5-HTHyp), 2) hyperpolarization followed by depolarization (5-HTHyp-Dep), 3) depolarization (5-HTDep) or 4) no response (5-HTNR). We have shown that the inhibitory response is mediated by activation of postsynaptic 5-HT1A receptors. Here, we used a combination of in vitro whole-cell patch-clamp recording and single cell reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to determine the pharmacological properties and molecular profile of 5-HT receptor subtypes mediating the excitatory response to 5-HT in BNSTALG neurons. We show that the depolarizing component of both the 5-HTHyp/Dep and the 5-HTDep response was mediated by activation of 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C and/or 5-HT7 receptors. Single cell RT-PCR data revealed that 5-HT7 receptors (46%) and 5-HT1A receptors (41%) are the most prevalent receptor subtypes expressed in BNSTALG neurons. Moreover, 5-HT receptor subtypes are differentially expressed in Type I – III BNSTALG neurons. Hence, 5-HT2C receptors are almost exclusively expressed by Type III neurons, whereas 5-HT7 receptors are expressed by Type I and II neurons, but not Type III neurons. Conversely, 5-HT2A receptors are found predominantly in Type II neurons. Finally, bi-directional modulation of individual neurons occurs only in Type I and II neurons. Significantly the distribution of 5-HT receptor subtypes in BNSTALG neurons predicted the observed expression pattern of 5-HT responses determined pharmacologically. Together, these results suggest that 5-HT can differentially modulate the excitability of Type I – III neurons, and further suggest that bi-directional modulation of BNSTALG neurons occurs primarily through an interplay between 5-HT1A and 5-HT7 receptors. Hence, modulation of 5-HT7 receptor activity in the BNSTALG may offer a novel avenue for the design of anxiolytic medications.
extended amygdala; anxiety disorders; whole cell patch clamp recording; reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction
Increased discharge activity of mesopontine cholinergic neurons participates in the production of electroencephalographic (EEG) arousal; such arousal diminishes as a function of the duration of prior wakefulness or of brain hyperthermia. Whole-cell and extracellular recordings in a brainstem slice show that mesopontine cholinergic neurons are under the tonic inhibitory control of endogenous adenosine, a neuromodulator released during brain metabolism. This inhibitory tone is mediated postsynaptically by an inwardly rectifying potassium conductance and by an inhibition of the hyperpolarization-activated current. These data provide a coupling mechanism linking neuronal control of EEG-arousal with the effects of prior wakefulness, brain hyperthermia, and the use of the adenosine receptor blockers caffeine and theophylline.
The anterolateral cell group of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTALG) serves as an important relay station in stress circuitry. Limbic inputs to the BNSTALG are primarily glutamatergic and activity-dependent changes in this input have been implicated in abnormal behaviors associated with chronic stress and addiction. Significantly, local infusion of acetylcholine (ACh) receptor agonists into the BNST trigger stress-like cardiovascular responses, however, little is known about the effects of these agents on glutamatergic transmission in the BNSTALG. Here, we show that glutamate- and ACh-containing fibers are found in close association in the BNSTALG. Moreover, in the presence of the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, eserine, endogenous ACh release evoked a long-lasting reduction of the amplitude of stimulus-evoked EPSCs. This effect was mimicked by exogenous application of the ACh analogue, carbachol, which caused a reversible, dose-dependent, reduction of the evoked EPSC amplitude, and an increase in both the paired pulse ratio and coefficient of variation, suggesting a presynaptic site of action. Uncoupling of postsynaptic G-proteins with intracellular GDP-β-S, or application of the nicotinic receptor antagonist, tubocurarine, failed to block the carbachol effect. In contrast, the carbachol effect was blocked by prior application of atropine or M2 receptor-preferring antagonists, and was absent in M2/M4 receptor knockout mice, suggesting that presynaptic M2 receptors mediate the effect of ACh. Immuno-electron microscopy studies further revealed the presence of M2 receptors on axon terminals that formed asymmetric synapses with BNST neurons. Our findings suggest that presynaptic M2 receptors might be an important modulator of the stress circuit and hence a novel target for drug development.
Acetylcholine; Eserine; Carbachol; Muscarinic receptor knockout mice; EPSCs
Corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) plays a key role in initiating many of the endocrine, autonomic, and behavioral responses to stress. CRF-containing neurons of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) are classically involved in regulating endocrine function through activation of the stress axis. However, CRF is also thought to play a critical role in mediating anxiety-like responses to environmental stressors, and dysfunction of the CRF system in extra-hypothalamic brain regions, like the bed nucleus of stria terminalis (BNST), has been linked to the etiology of many psychiatric disorders including anxiety and depression. Thus, although CRF neurons of the PVN and BNST share a common neuropeptide phenotype, they may represent two functionally diverse neuronal populations. Here, we employed dual-immunofluorescence, single-cell RT-PCR, and electrophysiological techniques to further examine this question and report that CRF neurons of the PVN and BNST are fundamentally different such that PVN CRF neurons are glutamatergic, whereas BNST CRF neurons are GABAergic. Moreover, these two neuronal populations can be further distinguished based on their electrophysiological properties, their co-expression of peptide neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and arginine-vasopressin, and their cognate receptors. Our results suggest that CRF neurons in the PVN and the BNST would not only differ in their response to local neurotransmitter release, but also in their action on downstream target structures.
CRF; BNST; PVN; Oxytocin; VGLUT2; GAD67; vasopressin
Activation of corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) is necessary for establishing the classic endocrine response to stress, while activation of forebrain CRF neurons mediates affective components of the stress response. Previous studies have reported that mRNA for CRF2 receptor (CRFR2) is expressed in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) as well as hypothalamic nuclei, but little is known about the localization and cellular distribution of CRFR2 in these regions. Using immunofluorescence with confocal microscopy, as well as electron microscopy, we demonstrate that in the BNST CRFR2-immunoreactive fibers represent moderate to strong labeling on axons terminals. Dual-immunofluorescence demonstrated that CRFR2-fibers co-localize oxytocin (OT), but not arginine-vasopressin (AVP), and make perisomatic contacts with CRF neurons. Dual-immunofluorescence and single cell RT-PCR demonstrate that in the hypothalamus, CRFR2 immunoreactivity and mRNA are found in OT, but not in CRF or AVP-neurons. Furthermore, CRF neurons of the PVN and BNST express mRNA for the oxytocin receptor, while the majority of OT/CRFR2 neurons in the hypothalamus do not. Finally, using adenoviral-based anterograde tracing of PVN neurons, we show that OT/CRFR2-immunoreactive fibers observed in the BNST originate in the PVN. Our results strongly suggest that CRFR2 located on oxytocinergic neurons and axon terminals might regulate the release of this neuropeptide and hence might be a crucial part of potential feedback loop between the hypothalamic oxytocin system and the forebrain CRF system that could significantly impact affective and social behaviors, in particular during times of stress.
The basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) is a critical component of the neural circuit regulating fear learning. During fear learning and recall, the amygdala and other brain regions, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, exhibit phase-locked oscillations in the high delta/low theta frequency band (∼2–6 Hz) that have been shown to contribute to the learning process. Network oscillations are commonly generated by inhibitory synaptic input that coordinates action potentials in groups of neurons. In the rat BLA, principal neurons spontaneously receive synchronized, inhibitory input in the form of compound, rhythmic, inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs), likely originating from burst-firing parvalbumin interneurons. Here we investigated the role of compound IPSPs in the rat and rhesus macaque BLA in regulating action potential synchrony and spike-timing precision. Furthermore, because principal neurons exhibit intrinsic oscillatory properties and resonance between 4 and 5 Hz, in the same frequency band observed during fear, we investigated whether compound IPSPs and intrinsic oscillations interact to promote rhythmic activity in the BLA at this frequency. Using whole-cell patch clamp in brain slices, we demonstrate that compound IPSPs, which occur spontaneously and are synchronized across principal neurons in both the rat and primate BLA, significantly improve spike-timing precision in BLA principal neurons for a window of ∼300 ms following each IPSP. We also show that compound IPSPs coordinate the firing of pairs of BLA principal neurons, and significantly improve spike synchrony for a window of ∼130 ms. Compound IPSPs enhance a 5 Hz calcium-dependent membrane potential oscillation (MPO) in these neurons, likely contributing to the improvement in spike-timing precision and synchronization of spiking. Activation of the cAMP-PKA signaling cascade enhanced the MPO, and inhibition of this cascade blocked the MPO. We discuss these results in the context of spike-timing dependent plasticity and modulation by neurotransmitters important for fear learning, such as dopamine.
Fear memory formation is thought to require dopamine, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and zinc release in the basolateral amygdala (BLA), as well as the induction of long term potentiation (LTP) in BLA principal neurons. However, no study to date has shown any relationship between these processes in the BLA. Here, we have used in vitro whole-cell patch clamp recording from BLA principal neurons to investigate how dopamine, BDNF, and zinc release may interact to modulate the LTP induction in the BLA. LTP was induced by either theta burst stimulation (TBS) protocol or spaced 5 times high frequency stimulation (5xHFS). Significantly, both TBS and 5xHFS induced LTP was fully blocked by the dopamine D1 receptor antagonist, SCH23390. LTP induction was also blocked by the BDNF scavenger, TrkB-FC, the zinc chelator, DETC, as well as by an inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), gallardin. Conversely, prior application of the dopamine reuptake inhibitor, GBR12783, or the D1 receptor agonist, SKF39393, induced robust and stable LTP in response to a sub-threshold HFS protocol (2xHFS), which does not normally induce LTP. Similarly, prior activation of TrkB receptors with either a TrkB receptor agonist, or BDNF, also reduced the threshold for LTP-induction, an effect that was blocked by the MEK inhibitor, but not by zinc chelation. Intriguingly, the TrkB receptor agonist-induced reduction of LTP threshold was fully blocked by prior application of SCH23390, and the reduction of LTP threshold induced by GBR12783 was blocked by prior application of TrkB-FC. Together, our results suggest a cellular mechanism whereby the threshold for LTP induction in BLA principal neurons is critically dependent on the level of dopamine in the extracellular milieu and the synergistic activation of postsynaptic D1 and TrkB receptors. Moreover, activation of TrkB receptors appears to be dependent on concurrent release of zinc and activation of MMPs.
Substantial evidence has suggested that the activity of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) mediates many forms of anxiety-like behavior in human and non-human animals. These data have led many investigators to suggest that abnormal processing within this nucleus may underlie anxiety disorders in humans, and effective anxiety treatments may restore normal BNST functioning. Currently some of the most effective treatments for anxiety disorders are drugs that modulate serotonin (5-HT) systems, and several decades of research have suggested that the activation of 5-HT can modulate anxiety-like behavior. Despite these facts, relatively few studies have examined how activity within the BNST is modulated by 5-HT. Here we review our own investigations using in vitro whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiological methods on brain sections containing the BNST to determine the response of BNST neurons to exogenous 5-HT application. Our data suggest that the response of BNST neurons to 5-HT is complex, displaying both inhibitory and excitatory components, which are mediated by 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2C and 5-HT7 receptors. Moreover, we have shown that the selective activation of the inhibitory response to 5-HT reduces anxiety-like behavior, and we describe data suggesting that the activation of the excitatory response to 5-HT may be anxiogenic. We propose that in the normal state, the function of 5-HT is to dampen activity within the BNST (and consequent anxiety-like behavior) during exposure to threatening stimuli; however, we suggest that changes in the balance of the function of BNST 5-HT receptor subtypes could alter the response of BNST neurons to favor excitation and produce a pathological state of increase anxiety.
Stress; Amygdala; Raphe; Fear; Patch Clamp; 5-HT
Dopamine, acting at the D1 family receptors (D1R) is critical for the functioning of the amygdala, including fear conditioning and cue-induced reinstatement of drug self administration. However, little is known about the different contributions of the two D1R subtypes, D1 and D5. W identified D1-immunoreactive patches in the primate that appear similar to the intercalated cell masses reported in the rodent; however, both receptors were present across the subdivisions of the primate amygdala including the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Using immunoelectron microscopy, we established that both receptors have widespread distributions in BLA. The D1R subtypes colocalize in dendritic spines and terminals, with D1 predominant in spines and D5 in terminals. Single cell PCR confirmed that individual BLA projection neurons express both D1 and D5 mRNA. The responses of primate BLA neurons to dopamine and D1R drugs were studied using in vitro slices. We found that responses were similar to those previously reported in rat BLA neurons and included a mixture of postsynaptic and presynaptic actions. Given this we investigated the distribution of D1R in the rat BLA and found that there were similarities between the species, such as more prominent D5 localization to presynaptic structures. The higher affinity of D5 for dopamine suggests that presynaptic actions may predominate in the BLA at low levels of dopamine, while postsynaptic effects increase and dominate as dopaminergic drive increases. The results presented here suggest a complex action of dopamine on BLA circuitry that may evolve with different degrees of dopaminergic stimulation.
ultrastructure; electrophysiology; non-human primate; rodent; RT-PCR; macaque; dopamine; receptor; D1; D5; electron microscopy
Interneurons expressing the calcium-binding protein parvalbumin (PV) are a critical component of the inhibitory circuitry of the basolateral nuclear complex (BLC) of the mammalian amygdala. These neurons form interneuronal networks interconnected by chemical and electrical synapses, and provide a strong perisomatic inhibition of local pyramidal projection neurons. Immunohistochemical studies in rodents have shown that most PV-positive (PV+) cells are GABAergic interneurons that co-express the calcium-binding protein calbindin (CB), but exhibit no overlap with interneuronal subpopulations containing the calcium-binding protein calretinin (CR) or neuropeptides. Despite the importance of identifying interneuronal subpopulations for clarifying the major players in the inhibitory circuitry of the BLC, very little is known about these subpopulations in primates. Therefore, in the present investigation dual-labeling immunofluorescence histochemical techniques were used to characterize PV+ interneurons in the basal and lateral nuclei of the monkey amygdala. These studies revealed that 90–94% of PV+ neurons were GABA+, depending on the nucleus, and that these neurons constituted 29–38 % of the total GABAergic population. CB+ and CR+ interneurons constituted 31–46% and 23–27%, respectively, of GABAergic neurons. Approximately one-quarter of PV+ neurons contained CB, and these cells constituted one-third of the CB+ interneuronal population. There was no colocalization of PV with the neuropeptides somatostatin or cholecystokinin, and virtually no colocalization with CR. These data indicate that the neurochemical characteristics of the PV+ interneuronal subpopulation in the monkey BLC are fairly similar to those seen in the rat, but there is far less colocalization of PV and CB in the monkey. These findings suggest that PV+ neurons are a discrete interneuronal subpopulation in the monkey BLC and undoubtedly play a unique functional role in the inhibitory circuitry of this brain region.
gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA); calbindin; calretinin; somatostatin; cholecystokinin
Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) orchestrates the mammalian endocrine, autonomic, and behavioral stress response and has been implicated in the pathophysiology of illnesses ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to mood and anxiety disorders. CRF is produced and released from a variety of cell types, making it difficult to distinguish the specific role of CRF from other neurotransmitters with which it colocalizes. To clarify the basic biology of the CRF neuron, we must be able to manipulate selectively CRFergic cells. Here we describe a novel transgenic mouse using 3.0Kb of the CRF promoter to drive expression of Cre-recombinase (CRFp3.0Cre). Crossing CRFp3.0Cre with a fluorescent reporter strain results in Cre-dependent GFP expression within CRF-producing cells. Thus CRF cells can be identified for single-cell PCR and electrophysiological procedures. Furthermore, the CRFp3.0Cre transgenic can be combined with other available mouse strains containing a “floxed” gene of interest to allow unparalleled detailed analysis of the CRF system.