The onset of major depressive disorder is likely precipitated by a combination of heredity and life stress. The present study tested the hypothesis that rats selectivity bred on a trait related to emotional reactivity would show differential susceptibility or resilience to the development of depression-like signs in response to chronic mild variable intermittent stress (CMS).
Male Sprague-Dawley rats that were bred based on the trait of either high or low locomotor activity in response to a novel environment were exposed to four weeks of CMS or control conditions. Changes in hedonic behavior were assessed using weekly sucrose preference tests and anxiety-like behavior was evaluated using the novelty-suppressed feeding test.
During four weeks of CMS, bred low responder (bLR) rats became anhedonic at a faster rate and to a larger degree than bred high responder (bHR) rats, based on weekly sucrose preference tests. Measures of anxiety-like behavior in the novelty-suppressed feeding test were also significantly increased in the CMS-exposed bLR rats, though no differences were observed between CMS-exposed bHR rats and their unstressed controls.
These findings present further evidence that increased emotional reactivity is an important factor in stress susceptibility and the etiology of mood disorders, and that bHR and bLR rats provide a model of resistance or vulnerability to stress-induced depression. Furthermore, exposing bHR and bLR rats to CMS provides an excellent way to study the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in the development of depression-like behavior.
depression; chronic mild stress; high responder; low responder; selectively bred rat; vulnerability
Activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis occurs in response to the organism’s innate need for homeostasis. The glucocorticoids (GCs) that are released into the circulation upon acute activation of the HPA axis perform stress-adaptive functions and provide negative feedback to turn off the HPA axis, but can be detrimental when in excess. Long-term activation of the HPA axis (such as with chronic stress) enhances susceptibility to neuronal dysfunction and death, and increases vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, little is known how components of the HPA axis, upstream of GCs, impact vulnerability to AD. This study examined basal gene expression of stress-related molecules in brains of 3xTg-AD mice during early-stage pathology. Basal glucocorticoid levels and mRNA expression of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), and corticotropic releasing hormone (CRH) in several stress- and emotionality-related brain regions were measured in 3–4-month-old 3xTg-AD mice. Despite normal glucocorticoid levels, young 3xTg-AD mice exhibit an activated central HPA axis, with altered mRNA levels of MR and GR in the hippocampus, GR and CRH in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, GR and CRH in the central nucleus of the amygdala, and CRH in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. This HPA axis activation is present during early-stage neuropathology when 3xTg-AD mice show mild behavioral changes, suggesting an ongoing neuroendocrine regulation that precedes the onset of severe AD-like pathology and behavioral deficits.
HPA axis; stress; corticotropic releasing hormone; glucocorticoid receptor; mineralocorticoid receptor; Alzheimer’s disease
The G-protein linked signaling system (GPLS) comprises a large number of G-proteins, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), GPCR ligands, and downstream effector molecules. G-proteins interact with both GPCRs and downstream effectors such as cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), phosphatidylinositols, and ion channels. The GPLS is implicated in the pathophysiology and pharmacology of both major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BPD). This study evaluated whether GPLS is altered at the transcript level. The gene expression in the dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC) and anterior cingulate (ACC) were compared from MDD, BPD, and control subjects using Affymetrix Gene Chips and real time quantitative PCR. High quality brain tissue was used in the study to control for confounding effects of agonal events, tissue pH, RNA integrity, gender, and age. GPLS signaling transcripts were altered especially in the ACC of BPD and MDD subjects. Transcript levels of molecules which repress cAMP activity were increased in BPD and decreased in MDD. Two orphan GPCRs, GPRC5B and GPR37, showed significantly decreased expression levels in MDD, and significantly increased expression levels in BPD. Our results suggest opposite changes in BPD and MDD in the GPLS, “activated” cAMP signaling activity in BPD and “blunted” cAMP signaling activity in MDD. GPRC5B and GPR37 both appear to have behavioral effects, and are also candidate genes for neurodegenerative disorders. In the context of the opposite changes observed in BPD and MDD, these GPCRs warrant further study of their brain effects.
G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR); transcriptome; bipolar disorder; major depressive disorder; GPR37; GPRC5B; cyclic AMP; phosphatidylinositol
Gene expression profiles of postmortem brain tissue represent important resources for understanding neuropsychiatric illnesses. The impact(s) of quality covariables on the analysis and results of gene expression studies are important questions. This paper addressed critical variables which might affect gene expression in two brain regions. Four broad groups of quality indicators in gene expression profiling studies (clinical, tissue, RNA, and microarray quality) were identified. These quality control indicators were significantly correlated, however one quality variable did not account for the total variance in microarray gene expression. The data showed that agonal factors and low pH correlated with decreased integrity of extracted RNA in two brain regions. These three parameters also modulated the significance of alterations in mitochondrial-related genes. The average F-ratio summaries across all transcripts showed that RNA degradation from the AffyRNAdeg program accounted for higher variation than all other quality factors. Taken together, these findings confirmed prior studies, which indicated that quality parameters including RNA integrity, agonal factors, and pH are related to differences in gene expression profiles in postmortem brain. Individual candidate genes can be evaluated with these quality parameters in posthoc analysis to help strengthen the relevance to psychiatric disorders. We find that clinical, tissue, RNA, and microarray quality are all useful variables for collection and consideration in study design, analysis, and interpretation of gene expression results in human post-mortem studies.
Growth factors are critical in neurodevelopment and neuroplasticity, and recent studies point to their involvement in addiction. We previously reported increased levels of basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) in high novelty/drug-seeking rats (bred High Responders, bHR) compared to low novelty/drug-seeking rats (bred Low Responders, bLRs). The present study asked whether an early life manipulation of the FGF system (a single FGF2 injection on postnatal day 2) can impact cocaine sensitization and associated neurobiological markers in adult bHR/bLR animals. Neonatal FGF2- and vehicle-treated bHR/bLR rats were sensitized to cocaine (7 daily injections, 15 mg/kg/day, i.p.) in adulthood. Neonatal FGF2 markedly increased bLRs’ typically low psychomotor sensitization to cocaine (day 7 locomotor response to cocaine), but had little effect on bHRs’ cocaine sensitization. Gene expression studies examined dopaminergic molecules as well as FGF2 and the FGFR1 receptor in cocaine naïve animals, to investigate possible neurobiological alterations induced by neonatal FGF2 exposure that may influence behavioral response to cocaine. bLRs showed decreased tyrosine hydroxylase in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), decreased D1 and increased D2 receptor expression in the nucleus accumbens core, as well as decreased FGF2 in the VTA, substantia nigra, accumbens core, and caudate putamen compared to bHRs. Neonatal FGF2 selectively increased D1 receptor and FGF2 mRNA in the accumbens core of bLRs, which may contribute to their heightened cocaine sensitization. Our results suggest increased FGF2 in the mesodopaminergic circuit (as in baseline bHRs and neonatal FGF2-exposed bLRs vs. baseline bLRs) enhances an individual’s susceptibility to cocaine sensitization and may increase vulnerability to drug seeking and addiction.
bred High Responder; bred Low Responder; dopamine; FGF2; nucleus accumbens; cocaine
In this review we propose a broader view of the role of the fibroblast growth factor (FGF) family in modulating brain function. We suggest that some of the FGF ligands together with the FGF receptors are altered in individuals with affective disorder and modulate emotionality in animal models. Thus, we propose that members of the FGF family may be genetic predisposing factors for anxiety, depression or substance abuse; that they play a key organizing role during early development but continue to play a central role in neuroplasticity in adulthood; and that they work not only over extended time frames, but also via rapid signaling mechanisms, allowing them to exert an “on-line” influence on behavior. Therefore, the FGF family appears to be a prototype of “switch genes” that are endowed with organizational and modulatory properties across the lifespan, and that may represent molecular candidates as biomarkers and treatment targets for affective and addictive disorders.
hippocampus; drug abuse; stress; anxiety; depression
Rationale and objectives
The 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors have been shown to be differentially involved in modulating cocaine-induced behaviors. In this study we investigated the effects of the 5-HT2A antagonist MDL100907 (0.3 mg/kg, i.p.) and the 5-HT2C antagonist SB242084 (0.5 mg/kg, i.p.) on development, expression, and recall of cocaine-induced conditioned place preference (CPP) in (HR) high- and (LR) low-responder rats to novelty.
First, we examined the effects of MDL100907 and SB242084 on development of cocaine-induced CPP. Our results indicated that LR, but not HR, animals conditioned with SB242084+cocaine showed a significantly higher CPP response than controls. This effect was long-lasting, as it was still present 30 days after the last conditioning session. Second, we investigated the acute effects of MDL-100907 and SB242084 on CPP expression 24h after cocaine conditioning. Again, our data showed that SB242084 significantly enhanced the expression of cocaine CPP in LR, but not, HR animals. Finally, we studied the acute effects of MDL100907 and SB242084 on CPP recall 30 days after cocaine conditioning. Neither MDL100907 nor SB242084 significantly affected the CPP response regardless of the rats’ behavioral phenotype.
This is the first study investigating the contribution of 5-HT2A and 5-HT2C receptors on development, expression and recall of cocaine-induced CPP in the HR-LR model of individual vulnerability to drug abuse. Our results show that SB242084 differentially modulates development and expression of CPP in HR vs. LR rats, and suggest that 5-HT2C receptors play a key role in individual differences on cocaine reward-related learning/memory processes.
Genetic factors and early life adversity are critical in the etiology of mood disorders and substance abuse. Because of their role in the transduction of stress responses, glucocorticoid hormones and their receptors could serve as both genetic factors and mediators of environmental influences. We have shown that constitutive overexpression of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in forebrain results in increased emotional reactivity and “lability” in mice. Here we asked whether there was a critical period for the emergence of this phenotype.
We generated a mouse line with inducible GR overexpression specifically in forebrain (GRov). Anxiety-like behaviors and cocaine-induced sensitization were assessed in adult mice following GR overexpression during different periods in development. The molecular basis of the behavioral phenotype was examined using microarray analyses of dentate gyrus and nucleus accumbens.
Transient overexpression of GR during early life led to increased anxiety and cocaine sensitization, paralleling the phenotype of lifelong GR overexpression. This increased emotional reactivity was not observed when GR overexpression was induced after weaning. GR overexpression in early life is sufficient to alter gene expression patterns for the rest of the animal’s life, with dentate gyrus being more responsive than nucleus accumbens. The altered transcripts are implicated in GR and axonal guidance signaling in dentate gyrus and dopamine receptor signaling in nucleus accumbens.
Transient overexpression of GR early in life is both necessary and sufficient for inducing transcriptome-wide changes in the brain and producing a lifelong increase in vulnerability to anxiety and drugs of abuse.
Glucocorticoid receptor; early life; forebrain; anxiety; sensitization; cocaine
Cues associated with rewards acquire the ability to engage the same brain systems as rewards themselves. However, reward cues have multiple properties. For example, they not only act as predictors of reward capable of evoking conditional responses (CRs), but they may also acquire incentive motivational properties. As incentive stimuli they can evoke complex emotional and motivational states. Here we sought to determine whether the predictive value of a reward cue is sufficient to engage brain reward systems, or whether the cue must also be attributed with incentive salience. We took advantage of the fact that there are large individual differences in the extent to which reward cues are attributed with incentive salience. When a cue (conditional stimulus, CS) is paired with delivery of food (unconditional stimulus, US), the cue acquires the ability to evoke a CR in all rats; that is, it is equally predictive and supports learning the CS-US association in all. However, only in a subset of rats is the cue attributed with incentive salience, becoming an attractive and desirable incentive stimulus. We used in situ hybridization histochemistry to quantify the ability of a food cue to induce c-fos mRNA expression in rats that varied in the extent to which they attributed incentive salience to the cue. We found that a food cue induced c-fos mRNA in the orbitofrontal cortex, striatum (caudate and nucleus accumbens), thalamus (paraventricular, intermediodorsal and central medial nuclei) and lateral habenula, only in rats that attributed incentive salience to the cue. Furthermore, patterns of “connectivity” between these brain regions differed markedly between rats that did or did not attribute incentive salience to the food cue. These data suggest that the predictive value of a reward cue is not sufficient to engage brain reward systems - the cue must also be attributed with incentive salience.
sign-trackers; goal-trackers; incentive salience; c-fos; mesocorticolimbic; motive circuit
We have previously demonstrated that selectively-bred High (bHR) and Low (bLR) novelty-seeking rats exhibit agonistic differences, with bHRs acting in a highly aggressive manner when facing homecage intrusion. In order to discover the specific neuronal pathways responsible for bHRs’ high levels of aggression, the present study compared c-fos mRNA expression in several forebrain regions of bHR/bLR males following this experience. bHR/bLR males were housed with female rats for two weeks, and then the females were replaced with a male intruder for 10 min. bHR/bLR residents were subsequently sacrificed by rapid decapitation, and their brains were removed and processed for c-fos in situ hybridization. Intrusion elicited robust c-fos mRNA expression in both phenotypes throughout the forebrain, including the septum, amygdala, hippocampus, cingulate cortex, and the hypothalamus. However, bHRs and bLRs exhibited distinct activation patterns in select areas. Compared to bHR rats, bLRs expressed greater c-fos in the lateral septum and within multiple hypothalamic nuclei, while bHRs showed greater activation in the arcuate hypothalamic nucleus and in the hippocampus. No bHR/bLR differences in c-fos expression were detected in the amygdala, cortical regions, and striatum. We also found divergent 5-HT1A receptor mRNA expression within some of these same areas, with bLRs having greater 5-HT1A, but not 5-HT1B, receptor mRNA levels in the septum, hippocampus and cingulate cortex. These findings, together with our earlier work, suggest that bHRs exhibit altered serotonergic functioning within select circuits during an aggressive encounter.
c-fos; bred High Responder (bHR); bred Low Responder (bLR); septum; hypothalamus; hippocampus; aggression; resident-intruder test; serotonin; 5-HT1A receptor; 5-HT1B receptor
Aggression frequently coincides with specific dimensions of emotionality, such as impulsivity, risk-taking, and drug abuse. Serotonergic (5-HTergic) neurotransmission contributes to the regulation of numerous neurobiological functions, and is thought to play a key role in modulating aggressive responses. The current study uses selectively-bred High (bHR) and Low (bLR) Responder rats that exhibit differences in emotionality and behavioral control, with bHRs exhibiting heightened novelty-induced exploration, impulsivity, and increased sensitivity to drugs of abuse, and with bLRs characterized by exaggerated depressive- and anxiety-like behaviors. Based on this behavioral profile we hypothesized that bHR rats exhibit increased aggression along with changes in testosterone and corticosterone secretion characteristic of aggression, and that these changes are accompanied by alterations in the expression of key genes that regulate 5-HTergic neurotransmission (Tph2 and Sert) as well as in the activation of 5-HTergic cell groups following aggressive encounter. Our data demonstrate that when compared to bLR rats, bHRs express increased baseline Tph2 and Sert in select brainstem nuclei, and when tested on the resident-intruder test they exhibited: 1) increased aggressive behavior; 2) potentiated corticosterone and testosterone secretion; and 3) diminished intrusion-induced c-fos expression in select 5-HTergic brainstem cell groups. The most prominent gene expression differences occurred in the B9 cell group, pontomesencephalic reticular formation, median raphe, and the gigantocellular nucleus pars α. These data are consistent with the notion that altered 5-HT neurotransmission contributes to bHRs’ heightened aggression. Furthermore, they indicate that a specific subset of brainstem 5-HTergic cell groups contributes to the regulation of intrusion-elicited behavioral responses.
emotionality; brainstem; TPH2; SERT; c-fos; resident-intruder test
The current study uses an extended access rat model of cocaine self-administration (5-h session per day, 14 days), which elicits several features manifested during the transition to human addiction, to study the neural adaptations associated with cocaine withdrawal. Given that the hippocampus is thought to have an important role in maintaining addictive behavior and appears to be especially relevant to mechanisms associated with withdrawal, this study attempted to understand how extended access to cocaine impacts the hippocampus at the cellular and molecular levels, and how these alterations change over the course of withdrawal (1, 14, and 28 days). Therefore, at the cellular level, we examined the effects of cocaine withdrawal on cell proliferation (Ki-67+ and NeuroD+ cells) in the DG. At the molecular level, we employed a ‘discovery' approach with gene expression profiling in the DG to uncover novel molecules possibly implicated in the neural adaptations that take place during cocaine withdrawal. Our results suggest that decreased hippocampal cell proliferation might participate in the adaptations associated with drug removal and identifies 14 days as a critical time-point of cocaine withdrawal. At the 14-day time-point, gene expression profiling of the DG revealed the dysregulation of several genes associated with cell fate regulation, highlighting two new neurobiological correlates (Ascl-1 and Dnmt3b) that accompany cessation of drug exposure. Moreover, the results point to Fas-Associated protein with Death Domain (FADD), a molecular marker previously associated with the propensity to substance abuse and cocaine sensitization, as a key cell fate regulator during cocaine withdrawal. Identifying molecules that may have a role in the restructuring of the hippocampus following substance abuse provides a better understanding of the adaptations associated with cocaine withdrawal and identifies novel targets for therapeutic intervention.
extended access cocaine self-administration; withdrawal; cell fate regulation; rat brain hippocampus; microarray analysis; addiction and substance abuse; animal models; psychostimulants; molecular and cellular neurobiology; extended access cocaine self-administration; withdrawal; cell fate regulation; rat brain hippocampus; microarray analysis
A missense polymorphism in the NRG1 gene, Val > Leu in exon 11, was reported to increase the risk of schizophrenia in selected families from the Central Valley region of Costa Rica (CVCR). The present study investigated the relationship between three NRG1 genetic variants, rs6994992, rs3924999, and Val > Leu missense polymorphism in exon 11, in cases and selected controls from an isolated population from the CVCR. Isolated populations can have less genetic heterogeneity and increase power to detect risk variants in candidate genes. Subjects with bipolar disorder (BD, n = 358), schizophrenia (SZ, n = 273), or unrelated controls (CO, n = 479) were genotyped for three NRG1 variants. The NRG1 promoter polymorphism (rs6994992) was related to altered expression of NRG1 Type IV in other studies. The expression of NRG1 type IV in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the effect of the rs6994992 genotype on expression were explored in a postmortem cohort of BD, SZ, major depressive disorder (MDD) cases, and controls. The missense polymorphism Val > Leu in exon 11 was not significantly associated with schizophrenia as previously reported in a family sample from this population, the minor allele frequency is 4%, thus our sample size is not large enough to detect an association. We observed however an association of rs6994992 with NRG1 type IV expression in DLPFC and a significantly decreased expression in MDD compared to controls. The present results while negative do not rule out a genetic association of these SNPs with BD and SZ in CVCR, perhaps due to small risk effects that we were unable to detect and potential intergenic epistasis. The previous genetic relationship between expression of a putative brain specific isoform of NRG1 type IV and SNP variation was replicated in postmortem samples in our preliminary study.
neuregulin 1 isoform expression; schizophrenia; isolated population; Costa Rica; bipolar disorder; major depressive disorder; hippocampus; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
Relapse, even following an extended period of withdrawal, is a major challenge in substance abuse management. Delayed neurobiological effects of the drug during prolonged withdrawal likely contribute to sustained vulnerability to relapse. Stress is a major trigger of relapse, and the hippocampus regulates the magnitude and duration of stress responses. Recent work has implicated hippocampal plasticity in various aspects of substance abuse. We asked whether changes in stress regulatory mechanisms in the hippocampus may participate in the neuroadaptations that occur during prolonged withdrawal. We therefore examined changes in the rat stress system during the course of withdrawal from extended daily access (5-hours) of cocaine self-administration, an animal model of addiction. Tissue was collected at 1, 14 and 28 days of withdrawal. Plasma corticosterone levels were determined and corticosteroid receptors (GR, MR, MR/GR mRNA ratios) and expression of other stress-related molecules (HSP90AA1 and HSP90AB1 mRNA) were measured in hippocampal subfields using in situ hybridization. Results showed a delayed emergence of dysregulation of stress genes in the posterior hippocampus following 28 days of cocaine withdrawal. This included increased GR mRNA in DG and CA3, increased MR and HSP90AA1 mRNA in DG, and decreased MR/GR mRNA ratio in DG and CA1. Corticosterone levels progressively decreased during the course of withdrawal, were normalized following 28 days of withdrawal, and were correlated negatively with GR and positively with MR/GR mRNA ratio in DG. These results suggest a role for the posterior hippocampus in the neuroadaptations that occur during prolonged withdrawal, and point to a signaling partner of GR, HSP90AA1, as a novel dysregulated target during cocaine withdrawal. These delayed neurobiological effects of extended cocaine exposure likely contribute to sustained vulnerability to relapse.
Suicidal behaviors are frequent in mood disorders patients but only a subset of them ever complete suicide. Understanding predisposing factors for suicidal behaviors in high risk populations is of major importance for the prevention and treatment of suicidal behaviors. The objective of this project was to investigate gene expression changes associated with suicide in brains of mood disorder patients by microarrays (Affymetrix HG-U133 Plus2.0) in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC: 6 Non-suicides, 15 suicides), the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC: 6NS, 9S) and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc: 8NS, 13S). ANCOVA was used to control for age, gender, pH and RNA degradation, with P≤0.01 and fold change±1.25 as criteria for significance. Pathway analysis revealed serotonergic signaling alterations in the DLPFC and glucocorticoid signaling alterations in the ACC and NAcc. The gene with the lowest p-value in the DLPFC was the 5-HT2A gene, previously associated both with suicide and mood disorders. In the ACC 6 metallothionein genes were down-regulated in suicide (MT1E, MT1F, MT1G, MT1H, MT1X, MT2A) and three were down-regulated in the NAcc (MT1F, MT1G, MT1H). Differential expression of selected genes was confirmed by qPCR, we confirmed the 5-HT2A alterations and the global down-regulation of members of the metallothionein subfamilies MT 1 and 2 in suicide completers. MTs 1 and 2 are neuro-protective following stress and glucocorticoid stimulations, suggesting that in suicide victims neuroprotective response to stress and cortisol may be diminished. Our results thus suggest that suicide-specific expression changes in mood disorders involve both glucocorticoids regulated metallothioneins and serotonergic signaling in different regions of the brain.
Circadian dysfunction has long been implicated in the etiology of mood disorders. The gene Clock and related molecules (e.g. Per1, Per2) represent key regulators of circadian rhythmicity, and their targeted disruption in mutant mice produces potentiated reward drive, novelty-seeking, impulsivity, disrupted sleep, reduced depression and anxiety– a behavioral profile highly reminiscent of our selectively-bred High Responder (bHR) rats compared to bred Low Responders (bLRs). The current study evaluated potential diurnal bHR-bLR differences in behavior, gene expression, and neuroendocrinology. Relative to bHRs, bLRs showed diminished homecage locomotion during the dark (but not light) phase and a delayed corticosterone peak. In situ hybridizations in hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus at Zeitgeber Time (ZT)2 and ZT14 revealed distinct bHR-bLR day-night gene expression fluctuations. bHRs exhibited altered day-night patterns of corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vasopression (AVP) mRNA in the hypothalamus, and perturbed hippocampal MR:GR ratios relative to bLR rats. bHR-bLR rats showed disparate day-night Clock expression in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a master circadian oscillator, with bHRs showing higher levels at ZT14 versus ZT2 and bLRs showing the opposite pattern. Clock, Per1 and Per2 were assessed in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) since disruption of these genes induces “bHR-like” behavior in mutant mice. Clock and Per1 did not differ between strains, but there were robust Per2 differences, with bHRs having reduced Per2 in VTA and SNc. These findings resonate with earlier work demonstrating that perturbation of Clock and related molecules contributes to disturbances of emotional and addictive behaviors.
bred High Responder; bred Low Responder; circadian; Clock; Per1; Per2; AVP; CRH; glucocorticoid receptor; mineralocorticoid receptor; corticosterone
Innate differences in human temperament strongly influence how individuals cope with stress, and predispose towards specific types of psychopathology. The present study examines the developing brain in an animal model of temperamental differences to understand how altered neurodevelopment may engender differences in emotional reactivity that are stable throughout the animal’s life. We utilize selectively-bred High Responder (bHR) and Low Responder (bLR) rats that exhibit dramatic emotional behavior differences, with bHRs exhibiting exaggerated novelty-exploration, aggression, impulsivity and drug self-administration, and bLRs showing marked behavioral inhibition, exaggerated anxiety- and depressive-like behavior. Using Affymetrix microarrays, we assessed bLR/bHR gene expression in the developing brain on postnatal days (P)7, 14, and 21, focusing on the hippocampus and nucleus accumbens, two regions related to emotionality and known to differ in adult bLR/bHR rats. We found dramatic bLR/bHR gene expression differences in the P7 and P14 hippocampus, with minimal differences in the nucleus accumbens. Some of the most profound differences involved genes critical for neurodevelopment and synaptogenesis. Stereological studies evaluated hippocampal structure in developing bHR/bLR pups, revealing enhanced hippocampal volume and cell proliferation in bLR animals. Finally, behavioral studies showed that the characteristic bHR/bLR behavioral phenotypes emerge very early in life, with exploratory differences apparent at P16 and anxiety differences present by P25. Together these data point to specific brain regions and critical periods when the bHR/bLR phenotypes begin to diverge, which may eventually allow us to test possible therapeutic interventions to normalize extreme phenotypes (e.g. the anxiety-prone nature of bLRs or drug addiction proclivity of bHRs).
bred High Responder (bHR); bred Low Responder (bLR); anxiety; microarray; hippocampus
The fibroblast growth factor (FGF) system has been implicated in the pathophysiology of mood disorders in humans and in affective behavior in animal models. However, the studies have been either correlative or involved exogeneous administration of FGF2. None of them have directly linked endogenous FGF2 to changes in emotional responses. Therefore, we began a series of studies to knockdown FGF2 by RNA interference to examine the role of brain FGF2 in emotional responsiveness.
We assessed the efficacy of shRNA sequences targeted to FGF2 in COS7 cells transfected with a plasmid vector containing the full-length FGF2 sequence. We then sought to assess the effects of knocking down FGF2 gene expression in vivo on behavior. We microinjected a lentiviral vector containing either a short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) targeting FGF2 or a non-silencing sequence bilaterally into the dentate gyrus (DG) of the rat.
In a reporter assay system, three different shRNA sequences resulted in significant FGF2 knockdown in vitro. Five weeks following a single microinjection of one of those sequences in vivo, we observed a significant decrease in FGF2 gene expression by mRNA in situ hybridization in the hippocampus. FGF2 knockdown increased the time spent in the closed arms of the elevated-plus maze (EPM), a test of anxiety behavior.
FGF2 knockdown in the hippocampus resulted in an anxiogenic effect. Together with our findings of an inverse correlation between anxiety and FGF2 expression levels, these results implicate FGF2 in the genesis and expression of anxiety disorders.
fibroblast growth factor; dentate gyrus; elevated plus-maze; mRNA; lentiviral; gene
Understanding the brain requires a broad range of approaches and methods from the domains of biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The fundamental challenge is to decipher the “neural choreography” associated with complex behaviors and functions, including thoughts, memories, actions, and emotions. This demands the acquisition and integration of vast amounts of data of many types, at multiple scales in time and in space. Here, we discuss the need for neuroinformatics approaches to accelerate progress, using several illustrative examples. The nascent field of ‘connectomics’ aims to comprehensively describe neuronal connectivity at either a macroscopic level (long-distance pathways for the entire brain) or a microscopic level (axons, dendrites, synapses in a small brain region). The Neuroscience Information Framework encompasses all of neuroscience and facilitates integration of existing knowledge and databases of many types. These examples illustrate the opportunities and challenges of data mining across multiple tiers of neuroscience information and underscore the need for cultural and infrastructure changes if neuroinformatics is to fulfill its potential to advance our understanding of the brain.
Metabolic function is integrally related to an individual's susceptibility to, and progression of, disease. Selective breeding for intrinsic treadmill running in rats has produced distinct lines of high- or low-capacity runners (HCR and LCR, respectively) that exhibit numerous physiological differences. To date, the role of intrinsic aerobic capacity on behavior and stress response in these rats has not been addressed and was the focus of these studies. HCR and LCR rats did not differ in their locomotor response to novelty or behavior in the light/dark box. In contrast, immobility in the forced swim test was higher in LCR rats compared with HCR rats, regardless of desipramine treatment. Although both HCR and LCR rats responded to cat odor with decreased exploration and increased risk assessment, HCR rats showed greater contextual conditioning to cat odor. HCR rats exhibited higher expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone in the central nucleus of the amygdala, as well as heavier adrenal and thymus weight. Corticosterone was comparable among HCR and LCR rats at light/dark transitions, and in response to unavoidable cat odor. HCR rats, however, exhibited a greater corticosterone response following the light/dark box. These experiments show that the LCR phenotype associates with decreased risk assessment in response to salient danger signals and passive coping. In contrast, HCR rats show a more naturalistic strategy in that they employ active coping and a more vigilant and cautious response to environmental novelty and salient danger signals. Within this context, we propose that intrinsic aerobic capacity is a central feature mechanistically linking complex metabolic disease and behavior.
risk assessment; coping; stress; CRH; corticosterone; desipramine; animal models; behavioral science; eating/metabolic disorders; neuroendocrinology; risk assessment; coping; stress; CRH; corticoserone; aerobic capacity
Extensive evidence implicates dysfunction in serotonin (5-HT) signaling in the etiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). Dorsal raphe nucleus (DR) is a major source of serotonin in the brain, and previous studies have reported within it alterations in 5-HT-related gene expression, protein levels, receptor binding, and morphological organization in mood disorders. In the present study, we utilized in situ hybridization-guided laser capture microdissection to harvest tissue samples from the middle-caudal subregion of the human DR post-mortem from MDD patients and from psychiatrically normal comparison subjects. Extracted RNA was prepared for gene expression profiling, and subsequent confirmation of select targets with quantitative real-time PCR. Our data indicate expression changes in functional gene families that regulate: (1) cellular stress and energy balance, (2) intracellular signaling and transcriptional regulation, and (3) cell proliferation and connectivity. The greatest changes in expression were observed among transcriptional regulators, including downregulation in the expression of TOB1, EGR1, and NR4A2 and their downstream targets. Previous studies have implicated these gene products in the regulation of functional domains impacted by MDD, including cognitive function, affective regulation, and emotional memory formation. These observations indicate altered function of several transcriptional regulators and their downstream targets, which may lead to the dysregulation of multiple cellular functions that contribute to the pathophysiology of MDD. Future studies will require single cell analyses in the DR to determine potential impact of these changes on its cellular functions and related circuits.
serotonin; postmortem; gene expression; microarray; real-time PCR; laser capture microdissection; depression
Several studies have proposed that brain glutamate signaling abnormalities and glial pathology play a role in the etiology of major depressive disorder (MDD). These conclusions were primarily drawn from postmortem studies in which forebrain brain regions were examined. The locus coeruleus is the primary source of extensive noradrenergic innervation of the forebrain and as such exerts a powerful regulatory role over cognitive and affective functions, which are dysregulated in MDD. Furthermore, altered noradrenergic neurotransmission is associated with depressive symptoms and is thought to play a role in the pathophysiology of MDD. In the present study we used laser-capture microdissection to selectively harvest locus coeruleus (LC) tissue from postmortem brains of MDD patients, patients with bipolar disorder (BPD), and from psychiatrically-normal subjects. Using microarray technology we examined global patterns of gene expression. Differential mRNA expression of select candidate genes was then interrogated using quantitative real-time PCR and in situ hybridization. Our findings reveal multiple signaling pathway alterations in the LC of MDD, but not BPD subjects. These include glutamate signaling genes SLC1A2, SLC1A3, GLUL, growth factor genes FGFR3 and TrkB, and several genes exclusively expressed in astroglia. Our data extend previous findings of altered glutamate, astroglial and growth factor functions in MDD for the first time to the brainstem. These findings indicate that such alterations: 1) are unique to MDD and distinguishable from BPD, and 2) affect multiple brain regions, suggesting a whole-brain dysregulation of such functions.
laser-capture microdissection; human; monoamine; norepinephrine; postmortem; microarray
The hypothalamus regulates numerous [W2]autonomic responses and behaviors. The neuroactive substances corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), arginine-vasopressin (AVP), histidine decarboxylase (HDC), melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH), and orexin/hypocretins (ORX) produced in the hypothalamus mediate a subset of these processes. Although the expression patterns of these genes have been well studied in rodents, less is known about them in humans. We combined classical histological techniques with in situ hybridization histochemistry to produce both 2 and 3-dimensional images and to visually align and quantify expression of the genes for these substances in nuclei of the human hypothalamus. The hypothalamus was arbitrarily divided into rostral, intermediate and caudal regions. The rostral region, containing the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), was defined by discrete localization of CRF and AVP expressing neurons, whereas distinct relationships between HDC, MCH, and ORX mRNA expressing neurons delineated specific levels within the intermediate and caudal regions. Quantitative mRNA signal intensity measurements revealed no significant differences in overall CRF or AVP expression at any rostro-caudal level of the PVN. HDC mRNA expression was highest at the level of the premammillary areawhich included the dorsomedial and tuberomammillary nuclei as well as the dorsolateral hypothalamic area. In addition, the overall intensity of hybridization signal exhibited by both MCH and ORX mRNA expressing neurons peaked in distinct intermediate and caudal hypothalamic regions. These results suggest that human hypothalamic neurons involved in the regulation of the HPA axis display distinct neurochemical patterns that may encompass multiple local nuclei.
stress; depression; avp; crf; histamine; orexin
Reactivity to environmental stressors influences vulnerability to neurological and psychiatric illnesses, but little is known about molecular mechanisms that control this reactivity. Since mice with forebrain-specific glucocorticoid receptor overexpression (GRov mice) display anxiety-like behaviors in novel environments and have difficulty adjusting to change in memory tasks, we hypothesized that these may be facets of a broader phenotype of altered reactivity to environmental demands. Male GRov and wild-type mice were tested in a multiple-trial object interaction test comprising environmental and object habituation and spatial and object novelty trials. Half the mice received restraint stress before testing. GRov mice exhibited more locomotor activity and, without stress, more object interaction than wild-type mice. Following acute stress, GRov mice no longer showed increased object exploration. While stress dampened responses to object novelty in both groups, GRov mice were particularly impaired in discrimination of spatial novelty post-stress. These data demonstrate that GRov leads to increased environmental reactivity, responsiveness to salience, and vulnerability to stress-induced cognitive deficits. They implicate forebrain GR in fine-tuning interactions with the environment and the interplay of emotional salience, coping abilities, and cognitive function.
object interaction; restraint stress; spatial and object novelty; transgenic mice
Though obesity is common, some people remain resistant to weight gain even in an obesogenic environment. The propensity to remain lean may be partly associated with high endurance capacity along with high spontaneous physical activity and the energy expenditure of activity, called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Previous studies have shown that high-capacity running rats (HCR) are lean compared to low-capacity runners (LCR), which are susceptible to cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Here, we examine the effect of diet on spontaneous activity and NEAT, as well as potential mechanisms underlying these traits, in rats selectively bred for high or low intrinsic aerobic endurance capacity. Compared to LCR, HCR were resistant to the sizeable increases in body mass and fat mass induced by a high-fat diet; HCR also had lower levels of circulating leptin. HCR were consistently more active than LCR, and had lower fuel economy of activity, regardless of diet. Nonetheless, both HCR and LCR showed a similar decrease in daily activity levels after high-fat feeding, as well as decreases in hypothalamic orexin-A content. The HCR were more sensitive to the NEAT-activating effects of intra-paraventricular orexin-A compared to LCR, especially after high-fat feeding. Lastly, levels of cytosolic phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK-C) in the skeletal muscle of HCR were consistently higher than LCR, and the high-fat diet decreased skeletal muscle PEPCK-C in both groups of rats. Differences in muscle PEPCK were not secondary to the differing amount of activity. This suggests the possibility that intrinsic differences in physical activity levels may originate at the level of the skeletal muscle, which could alter brain responsiveness to neuropeptides and other factors that regulate spontaneous daily activity and NEAT.
non-exercise activity thermogenesis; NEAT; economy; orexin; brain; food intake; PEPCK-C; skeletal muscle