The majority of MDMA (ecstasy) recreational users also consume cannabis. Despite the rewarding effects that both drugs have, they induce several opposite pharmacological responses. MDMA causes hyperthermia, oxidative stress and neuronal damage, especially at warm ambient temperature. However, THC, the main psychoactive compound of cannabis, produces hypothermic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Therefore, THC may have a neuroprotective effect against MDMA-induced neurotoxicity. Mice receiving a neurotoxic regimen of MDMA (20 mg/kg ×4) were pretreated with THC (3 mg/kg ×4) at room (21°C) and at warm (26°C) temperature, and body temperature, striatal glial activation and DA terminal loss were assessed. To find out the mechanisms by which THC may prevent MDMA hyperthermia and neurotoxicity, the same procedure was carried out in animals pretreated with the CB1 receptor antagonist AM251 and the CB2 receptor antagonist AM630, as well as in CB1, CB2 and CB1/CB2 deficient mice. THC prevented MDMA-induced-hyperthermia and glial activation in animals housed at both room and warm temperature. Surprisingly, MDMA-induced DA terminal loss was only observed in animals housed at warm but not at room temperature, and this neurotoxic effect was reversed by THC administration. However, THC did not prevent MDMA-induced hyperthermia, glial activation, and DA terminal loss in animals treated with the CB1 receptor antagonist AM251, neither in CB1 and CB1/CB2 knockout mice. On the other hand, THC prevented MDMA-induced hyperthermia and DA terminal loss, but only partially suppressed glial activation in animals treated with the CB2 cannabinoid antagonist and in CB2 knockout animals. Our results indicate that THC protects against MDMA neurotoxicity, and suggest that these neuroprotective actions are primarily mediated by the reduction of hyperthermia through the activation of CB1 receptor, although CB2 receptors may also contribute to attenuate neuroinflammation in this process.
Reward intake optimization requires a balance between exploiting known sources of rewards and exploring for new sources. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) and associated basal ganglia circuits are likely candidates as neural structures responsible for such balance, while the hippocampus may be responsible for spatial/contextual information. Although studies have assessed interactions between hippocampus and PFC, and between hippocampus and the nucleus accumbens (NA), it is not known whether 3-way interactions among these structures vary under different behavioral conditions. Here, we investigated these interactions with multichannel recordings while rats explored an operant chamber and while they performed a learned lever-pressing task for reward in the same chamber shortly afterward. Neural firing and local field potentials in the NA core synchronized with hippocampal activity during spatial exploration, but during lever pressing they instead synchronized more strongly with the PFC. The latter is likely due to transient drive of NA neurons by bursting prefrontal activation, as in vivo intracellular recordings in anesthetized rats revealed that NA up states can transiently synchronize with spontaneous PFC activity and PFC stimulation with a bursting pattern reliably evoked up states in NA neurons. Thus, the ability to switch synchronization in a task-dependent manner indicates that the NA core can dynamically select its inputs to suit environmental demands, thereby contributing to decision-making, a function that was thought to primarily depend on the PFC.
Widespread use of microarrays has generated large amounts of data, the interrogation of the public microarray repositories, identifying similarities between microarray experiments is now one of the major challenges. Approaches using defined group of genes, such as pathways and cellular networks (pathway analysis), have been proposed to improve the interpretation of microarray experiments. We propose a novel method to compare microarray experiments at the pathway level, this method consists of two steps: first, generate pathway signatures, a set of descriptors recapitulating the biologically meaningful pathways related to some clinical/biological variable of interest, second, use these signatures to interrogate microarray databases. We demonstrate that our approach provides more reliable results than with gene-based approaches. While gene-based approaches tend to suffer from bias generated by the analytical procedures employed, our pathway based method successfully groups together similar samples, independently of the experimental design. The results presented are potentially of great interest to improve the ability to query and compare experiments in public repositories of microarray data. As a matter of fact, this method can be used to retrieve data from public microarray databases and perform comparisons at the pathway level.
Despite sharing the same genes, identical twins demonstrate substantial variability in behavioral traits and in their risk for disease. Epigenetic factors–DNA and chromatin modifications that affect levels of gene expression without affecting the DNA sequence–are thought to be important in establishing this variability. Epigenetically-mediated differences in the levels of gene expression that are associated with individual variability traditionally are thought to occur only in a gene-specific manner. We challenge this idea by exploring the large-scale organizational patterns of gene expression in an epigenetic model of behavioral variability.
To study the effects of epigenetic influences on behavioral variability, we examine gene expression in genetically identical mice. Using a novel approach to microarray analysis, we show that variability in the large-scale organization of gene expression levels, rather than differences in the expression levels of specific genes, is associated with individual differences in behavior. Specifically, increased activity in the open field is associated with increased variance of log-transformed measures of gene expression in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in open field activity. Early life experience that increases adult activity in the open field also similarly modifies the variance of gene expression levels. The same association of the variance of gene expression levels with behavioral variability is found with levels of gene expression in the hippocampus of genetically heterogeneous outbred populations of mice, suggesting that variation in the large-scale organization of gene expression levels may also be relevant to phenotypic differences in outbred populations such as humans. We find that the increased variance in gene expression levels is attributable to an increasing separation of several large, log-normally distributed families of gene expression levels. We also show that the presence of these multiple log-normal distributions of gene expression levels is a universal characteristic of gene expression in eurkaryotes. We use data from the MicroArray Quality Control Project (MAQC) to demonstrate that our method is robust and that it reliably detects biological differences in the large-scale organization of gene expression levels.
Our results contrast with the traditional belief that epigenetic effects on gene expression occur only at the level of specific genes and suggest instead that the large-scale organization of gene expression levels provides important insights into the relationship of gene expression with behavioral variability. Understanding the epigenetic, genetic, and environmental factors that regulate the large-scale organization of gene expression levels, and how changes in this large-scale organization influences brain development and behavior will be a major future challenge in the field of behavioral genomics.
Prefabricated expression microarrays are currently available for only a few species but methods have been proposed to extend their application to comparisons between divergent genomes.
Here we demonstrate that the hybridization intensity of genomic DNA is a poor basis on which to select unbiased probes on Affymetrix expression arrays for studies of comparative transcriptomics, and that doing so produces spurious results. We used the Affymetrix Xenopus laevis microarray to evaluate expression divergence between X. laevis, X. borealis, and their F1 hybrids. When data are analyzed with probes that interrogate only sequences with confirmed identity in both species, we recover results that differ substantially analyses that use genomic DNA hybridizations to select probes.
Our findings have implications for the experimental design of comparative expression studies that use single-species microarrays, and for our understanding of divergent expression in hybrid clawed frogs. These findings also highlight important limitations of single-species microarrays for studies of comparative transcriptomics of polyploid species.
Transgenic mice with mosaic, Golgi-staining-like expression of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) have been very useful in studying the dynamics of neuronal structure and function. In order to further investigate the molecular events regulating structural plasticity, it would be useful to express multiple proteins in the same sparse neurons, allowing co-expression of functional proteins or co-labeling of subcellular compartments with other fluorescent proteins. However, it has been difficult to obtain reproducible expression in the same subset of neurons for direct comparison of neurons expressing different functional proteins.
Here we describe a Cre-transgenic line that allows reproducible expression of transgenic proteins of choice in a small number of neurons of the adult cortex, hippocampus, striatum, olfactory bulb, subiculum, hypothalamus, superior colliculus and amygdala. We show that using these Cre-transgenic mice, multiple Cre-dependent transgenes can be expressed together in the same isolated neurons. We also describe a Cre-dependent transgenic line expressing a membrane associated EGFP (EGFP-F). Crossed with the Cre-transgenic line, EGFP-F expression starts in the adolescent forebrain, is present in dendrites, dendritic protrusions, axons and boutons and is strong enough for acute or chronic in vivo imaging.
This triple transgenic approach will aid the morphological and functional characterization of neurons in various Cre-dependent transgenic mice.
To determine whether optic nerve head (ONH) astrocytes, a key cellular component of glaucomatous neuropathy, exhibit differential gene expression in primary cultures of astrocytes from normal African American (AA) donors compared to astrocytes from normal Caucasian American (CA) donors.
We used oligonucleotide Affymetrix microarray (HG U133A & HG U133A 2.0 chips) to compare gene expression levels in cultured ONH astrocytes from twelve CA and twelve AA normal age matched donor eyes. Chips were normalized with Robust Microarray Analysis (RMA) in R using Bioconductor. Significant differential gene expression levels were detected using mixed effects modeling and Statistical Analysis of Microarray (SAM). Functional analysis and Gene Ontology were used to classify differentially expressed genes. Differential gene expression was validated by quantitative real time RT-PCR. Protein levels were detected by Western blots and ELISA. Cell adhesion and migration assays tested physiological responses. Glutathione (GSH) assay detected levels of intracellular GSH.
Multiple analyses selected 87 genes differentially expressed between normal AA and CA (P<0.01). The most relevant genes expressed in AA were categorized by function, including: signal transduction, response to stress, ECM genes, migration and cell adhesion.
These data show that normal astrocytes from AA and CA normal donors display distinct expression profiles that impact astrocyte functions in the ONH. Our data suggests that differences in gene expression in ONH astrocytes may be specific to the development and/or progression of glaucoma in AA.
Women are at great risk for mood and anxiety disorders during their childbearing years and may become pregnant while taking antidepressant drugs. In the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most frequently prescribed drugs, while it is largely unknown whether this medication affects the development of the central nervous system of the fetus. The possible effects are the product of placental transfer efficiency, time of administration and dose of the respective SSRI.
In order to attain this information we have setup a study in which these parameters were measured and the consequences in terms of physiology and behavior are mapped. The placental transfer of fluoxetine and fluvoxamine, two commonly used SSRIs, was similar between mouse and human, indicating that the fetal exposure of these SSRIs in mice is comparable with the human situation. Fluvoxamine displayed a relatively low placental transfer, while fluoxetine showed a relatively high placental transfer. Using clinical doses of fluoxetine the mortality of the offspring increased dramatically, whereas the mortality was unaffected after fluvoxamine exposure. The majority of the fluoxetine-exposed offspring died postnatally of severe heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy. Molecular analysis of fluoxetine-exposed offspring showed long-term alterations in serotonin transporter levels in the raphe nucleus. Furthermore, prenatal fluoxetine exposure resulted in depressive- and anxiety-related behavior in adult mice. In contrast, fluvoxamine-exposed mice did not show alterations in behavior and serotonin transporter levels. Decreasing the dose of fluoxetine resulted in higher survival rates and less dramatic effects on the long-term behavior in the offspring.
These results indicate that prenatal fluoxetine exposure affects fetal development, resulting in cardiomyopathy and a higher vulnerability to affective disorders in a dose-dependent manner.
Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment, yet the biological basis of maternal neglect is poorly understood and a rodent model is lacking.
The current study characterizes a population of mice (MaD1) which naturally exhibit maternal neglect (little or no care of offspring) at an average rate of 17% per generation. We identified a set of risk factors that can predict future neglect of offspring, including decreased self-grooming and elevated activity. At the time of neglect, neglectful mothers swam significantly more in a forced swim test relative to nurturing mothers. Cross-fostered offspring raised by neglectful mothers in turn exhibit increased expression of risk factors for maternal neglect and decreased maternal care as adults, suggestive of possible epigenetic contributions to neglect. Unexpectedly, offspring from neglectful mothers elicited maternal neglect from cross-fostered nurturing mothers, suggesting that factors regulating neglect are not solely within the mother. To identify a neurological pathway underlying maternal neglect, we examined brain activity in neglectful and nurturing mice. c-Fos expression was significantly elevated in neglectful relative to nurturing mothers in the CNS, particularly within dopamine associated areas, such as the zona incerta (ZI), ventral tegmental area (VTA), and nucleus accumbens. Phosphorylated tyrosine hydroxylase (a marker for dopamine production) was significantly elevated in ZI and higher in VTA (although not significantly) in neglectful mice. Tyrosine hydroxylase levels were unaltered, suggesting a dysregulation of dopamine activity rather than cell number. Phosphorylation of DARPP-32, a marker for dopamine D1-like receptor activation, was elevated within nucleus accumbens and caudate-putamen in neglectful versus nurturing dams.
These findings suggest that atypical dopamine activity within the maternal brain, especially within regions involved in reward, is involved in naturally occurring neglect and that MaD1 mice are a useful model for understanding the basis of naturally occurring neglect.
Recent studies have suggested that some neural computational mechanisms are based on the fine temporal structure of spiking activity. However, less effort has been devoted to investigating the evolutionary aspects of such mechanisms. In this paper we explore the issue of temporal neural computation from an evolutionary point of view, using a genetic simulation of the evolutionary development of neural systems. We evolve neural systems in an environment with selective pressure based on mate finding, and examine the temporal aspects of the evolved systems. In repeating evolutionary sessions, there was a significant increase during evolution in the mutual information between the evolved agent's temporal neural representation and the external environment. In ten different simulated evolutionary sessions, there was an increased effect of time -related neural ablations on the agents' fitness. These results suggest that in some fitness landscapes the emergence of temporal elements in neural computation is almost inevitable. Future research using similar evolutionary simulations may shed new light on various biological mechanisms.
Tobacco smoking is responsible for over 90% of lung cancer cases, and yet the precise molecular alterations induced by smoking in lung that develop into cancer and impact survival have remained obscure.
We performed gene expression analysis using HG-U133A Affymetrix chips on 135 fresh frozen tissue samples of adenocarcinoma and paired noninvolved lung tissue from current, former and never smokers, with biochemically validated smoking information. ANOVA analysis adjusted for potential confounders, multiple testing procedure, Gene Set Enrichment Analysis, and GO-functional classification were conducted for gene selection. Results were confirmed in independent adenocarcinoma and non-tumor tissues from two studies. We identified a gene expression signature characteristic of smoking that includes cell cycle genes, particularly those involved in the mitotic spindle formation (e.g., NEK2, TTK, PRC1). Expression of these genes strongly differentiated both smokers from non-smokers in lung tumors and early stage tumor tissue from non-tumor tissue (p<0.001 and fold-change >1.5, for each comparison), consistent with an important role for this pathway in lung carcinogenesis induced by smoking. These changes persisted many years after smoking cessation. NEK2 (p<0.001) and TTK (p = 0.002) expression in the noninvolved lung tissue was also associated with a 3-fold increased risk of mortality from lung adenocarcinoma in smokers.
Our work provides insight into the smoking-related mechanisms of lung neoplasia, and shows that the very mitotic genes known to be involved in cancer development are induced by smoking and affect survival. These genes are candidate targets for chemoprevention and treatment of lung cancer in smokers.
Drug abuse is thought to induce long-term cellular and behavioral adaptations as a result of alterations in gene expression. Understanding the molecular consequences of addiction may contribute to the development of better treatment strategies. This study utilized highthroughput Affymetrix microarrays to identify gene expression changes in the post-mortem nucleus accumbens of chronic heroin abusers. These data were analyzed independently and in relation to our previously reported data involving human cocaine abusers, in order to determine which expression changes were drug specific and which may be common to the phenomenon of addiction. A significant decrease in the expression of numerous genes encoding proteins involved in presynaptic release of neurotransmitter was seen in heroin abusers, a finding not seen in the cocaine-abusing cohort. Conversely, the striking decrease in myelin-related genes observed in cocaine abusers was not evident in our cohort of heroin subjects. Overall, little overlap in gene expression profiles was seen between the two drug-abusing cohorts: out of the approximately 39 000 transcripts investigated, the abundance of only 25 was significantly changed in both cocaine and heroin abusers, with nearly one-half of these being altered in opposite directions. These data suggest that the profiles of nucleus accumbens gene expression associated with chronic heroin or cocaine abuse are largely unique, despite what are thought to be common effects of these drugs on dopamine neurotransmission in this brain region. A re-examination of our current assumptions about the commonality of molecular mechanisms associated with substance abuse seems warranted.
human; post-mortem; nucleus accumbens; heroin; microarray; cocaine
Chronic cocaine abuse induces long-term neural adaptations as a consequence of alterations in gene expression. This study was undertaken to identify those transcripts differentially regulated in the nucleus accumbens of human cocaine abusers. Affymetrix microarrays were used to measure transcript abundance in 10 cocaine abusers and 10 control subjects matched for age, race, sex, and brain pH. As expected, gene expression of cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) was increased in the nucleus accumbens of cocaine abusers. The most robust and consistent finding, however, was a decrease in the expression of a number of myelin-related genes, including myelin basic protein (MBP), proteolipid protein (PLP), and myelin-associated oligodendrocyte basic protein (MOBP). The differential expression seen by microarray for CART as well as MBP, MOBP, and PLP was verified by RT–PCR. In addition, immunohistochemical experiments revealed a decrease in the number of MBP-immunoreactive oligodendrocytes present in the nucleus accumbens and surrounding white matter of cocaine abusers. These findings suggest a dysregulation of myelin in human cocaine abusers.
cocaine; human; microarray; myelin basic protein; nucleus accumbens; post-mortem
Chronic cocaine abuse induces long-term neurochemical, structural and behavioural changes thought to result from altered gene expression within the nucleus accumbens and other brain regions playing a critical role in addiction. Recent methodological advances now allow the profiling of gene expression in human postmortem brain. In this article, we review studies in which we have used Affymetrix oligonucleotide microarrays to identify transcripts that are differentially expressed in the nucleus accumbens of cocaine abusers in comparison to well-matched control subjects. Of the approximately 39 000 gene transcripts interrogated, the expression of only a fraction of 1% is significantly modified in cocaine abusers. Found within this list are equivalent incidences of increased and decreased transcript abundance, including known gene transcripts clustered into several functional categories. A striking exception is a group of myelin-related genes, consisting of multiple transcripts representing myelin basic protein (MBP), proteolipid protein (PLP) and myelin-associated oligodendrocyte basic protein (MOBP), which as a group are substantially decreased in cocaine abusers compared to controls. These data, suggesting a possible dysregulation of myelin in cocaine abusers, are discussed in the context of myelin-related changes in other human brain disorders. Finally, the effects of cocaine abuse on the profile of gene expression in some other brain regions critical for addiction (the prefrontal cortex and ventral midbrain) are briefly reviewed.
North American monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) undergo a spectacular fall migration. In contrast to summer butterflies, migrants are juvenile hormone (JH) deficient, which leads to reproductive diapause and increased longevity. Migrants also utilize time-compensated sun compass orientation to help them navigate to their overwintering grounds. Here, we describe a brain expressed sequence tag (EST) resource to identify genes involved in migratory behaviors. A brain EST library was constructed from summer and migrating butterflies. Of 9,484 unique sequences, 6068 had positive hits with the non-redundant protein database; the EST database likely represents ∼52% of the gene-encoding potential of the monarch genome. The brain transcriptome was cataloged using Gene Ontology and compared to Drosophila. Monarch genes were well represented, including those implicated in behavior. Three genes involved in increased JH activity (allatotropin, juvenile hormone acid methyltransfersase, and takeout) were upregulated in summer butterflies, compared to migrants. The locomotion-relevant turtle gene was marginally upregulated in migrants, while the foraging and single-minded genes were not differentially regulated. Many of the genes important for the monarch circadian clock mechanism (involved in sun compass orientation) were in the EST resource, including the newly identified cryptochrome 2. The EST database also revealed a novel Na+/K+ ATPase allele predicted to be more resistant to the toxic effects of milkweed than that reported previously. Potential genetic markers were identified from 3,486 EST contigs and included 1599 double-hit single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and 98 microsatellite polymorphisms. These data provide a template of the brain transcriptome for the monarch butterfly. Our “snap-shot” analysis of the differential regulation of candidate genes between summer and migratory butterflies suggests that unbiased, comprehensive transcriptional profiling will inform the molecular basis of migration. The identified SNPs and microsatellite polymorphisms can be used as genetic markers to address questions of population and subspecies structure.
The ability to identify obese individuals who will successfully lose weight in response to dietary intervention will revolutionize disease management. Therefore, we asked whether it is possible to identify subjects who will lose weight during dietary intervention using only a single gene expression snapshot.
The present study involved 54 female subjects from the Nutrient-Gene Interactions in Human Obesity-Implications for Dietary Guidelines (NUGENOB) trial to determine whether subcutaneous adipose tissue gene expression could be used to predict weight loss prior to the 10-week consumption of a low-fat hypocaloric diet. Using several statistical tests revealed that the gene expression profiles of responders (8–12 kgs weight loss) could always be differentiated from non-responders (<4 kgs weight loss). We also assessed whether this differentiation was sufficient for prediction. Using a bottom-up (i.e. black-box) approach, standard class prediction algorithms were able to predict dietary responders with up to 61.1%±8.1% accuracy. Using a top-down approach (i.e. using differentially expressed genes to build a classifier) improved prediction accuracy to 80.9%±2.2%.
Adipose gene expression profiling prior to the consumption of a low-fat diet is able to differentiate responders from non-responders as well as serve as a weak predictor of subjects destined to lose weight. While the degree of prediction accuracy currently achieved with a gene expression snapshot is perhaps insufficient for clinical use, this work reveals that the comprehensive molecular signature of adipose tissue paves the way for the future of personalized nutrition.
The chronic effects of cocaine abuse on brain structure and function are blamed for the inability of most addicts to remain abstinent. Part of the difficulty in preventing relapse is the persisting memory of the intense euphoria or cocaine “rush”. Most abused drugs and alcohol induce neuroplastic changes in brain pathways subserving emotion and cognition. Such changes may account for the consolidation and structural reconfiguration of synaptic connections with exposure to cocaine. Adaptive hippocampal plasticity could be related to specific patterns of gene expression with chronic cocaine abuse. Here, we compare gene expression profiles in the human hippocampus from cocaine addicts and age-matched drug-free control subjects. Cocaine abusers had 151 gene transcripts upregulated, while 91 gene transcripts were downregulated. Topping the list of cocaine-regulated transcripts was RECK in the human hippocampus (FC = 2.0; p<0.05). RECK is a membrane-anchored MMP inhibitor that is implicated in the coordinated regulation of extracellular matrix integrity and angiogenesis. In keeping with elevated RECK expression, active MMP9 protein levels were decreased in the hippocampus from cocaine abusers. Pathway analysis identified other genes regulated by cocaine that code for proteins involved in the remodeling of the cytomatrix and synaptic connections and the inhibition of blood vessel proliferation (PCDH8, LAMB1, ITGB6, CTGF and EphB4). The observed microarray phenotype in the human hippocampus identified RECK and other region-specific genes that may promote long-lasting structural changes with repeated cocaine abuse. Extracellular matrix remodeling in the hippocampus may be a persisting effect of chronic abuse that contributes to the compulsive and relapsing nature of cocaine addiction.