Our previous experiments demonstrated that systemic depletion of serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT), similar to levels reported in patients with emotional disorders, enhanced glutamateric activity in the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) and potentiated fear behaviors. However, the effects of isolated depletion of 5-HT in the LA, and the molecular mechanisms underlying enhanced glutamatergic activity are unknown. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that depletion of 5-HT in the LA induces increased fear behavior, and concomitantly enhances glutamate receptor (GluR) expression. Bilateral infusions of 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (4 μg per side) into the LA produced a regional reduction of serotonergic fibers, resulting in decreased 5-HT concentrations. The induction of low 5-HT in the LA elevated fear-potentiated startle, with a parallel increase in GluR1 mRNA and GluR1 protein expression. These findings suggest that low 5-HT concentrations in the LA may facilitate fear behavior through enhanced GluR-mediated mechanisms. Moreover, our data support a relationship between 5-HT and glutamate in psychopathologies.
anxiety; 5,7-DHT; emotions; fear; GluR1; 5-HT
There is abundant evidence that dysfunction of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic signaling system is implicated in the pathology of schizophrenia and mood disorders. Less is known about the alterations in protein expression of GABA receptor subunits in brains of subjects with schizophrenia and mood disorders. We have previously demonstrated reduced expression of GABAB receptor subunits 1 and 2 (GABBR1 and GABBR2) in the lateral cerebella of subjects with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. In the current study, we have expanded these studies to examine the mRNA and protein expression of 12 GABAA subunit proteins (α1, α2, α3, α5, α6, β1, β2, β3, δ, ɛ, γ2 and γ3) in the lateral cerebella from the same set of subjects with schizophrenia (N=9–15), bipolar disorder (N=10–15) and major depression (N=12–15) versus healthy controls (N=10–15). We found significant group effects for protein levels of the α2-, β1- and ɛ-subunits across treatment groups. We also found a significant group effect for mRNA levels of the α1-subunit across treatment groups. New avenues for treatment, such as the use of neurosteroids to promote GABA modulation, could potentially ameliorate GABAergic dysfunction in these disorders.
bipolar disorder; GABRα2; GABRβ1; GABRɛ; major depression; schizophrenia
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with social deficits and behavioral abnormalities. Recent evidence suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress may contribute to the etiology of autism. This is the first study to compare the activities of mitochondrial electron transport chain (ETC) complexes (I–V) and pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), as well as mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number in the frontal cortex tissues from autistic and age-matched control subjects. The activities of complexes I, V and PDH were most affected in autism (n=14) being significantly reduced by 31%, 36% and 35%, respectively. When 99% confidence interval (CI) of control group was taken as a reference range, impaired activities of complexes I, III and V were observed in 43%, 29% and 43% of autistic subjects, respectively. Reduced activities of all five ETC complexes were observed in 14% of autistic cases, and the activities of multiple complexes were decreased in 29% of autistic subjects. These results suggest that defects in complexes I and III (sites of mitochondrial free radical generation) and complex V (adenosine triphosphate synthase) are more prevalent in autism. PDH activity was also reduced in 57% of autistic subjects. The ratios of mtDNA of three mitochondrial genes ND1, ND4 and Cyt B (that encode for subunits of complexes I and III) to nuclear DNA were significantly increased in autism, suggesting a higher mtDNA copy number in autism. Compared with the 95% CI of the control group, 44% of autistic children showed higher copy numbers of all three mitochondrial genes examined. Furthermore, ND4 and Cyt B deletions were observed in 44% and 33% of autistic children, respectively. This study indicates that autism is associated with mitochondrial dysfunction in the brain.
autism; electron transport chain; mitochondrial DNA; mitochondrial dysfunction; oxidative stress; pyruvate dehydrogenase
Transcriptional differences in interleukin-11 (IL11) after antidepressant treatment have been found to correspond to clinical response in major depressive disorder (MDD) patients. Expression differences were partly mediated by a single-nucleotide polymorphism (rs1126757), identified as a predictor of antidepressant response as part of a genome-wide association study. Here we attempt to identify whether DNA methylation, another baseline factor known to affect transcription factor binding, might also predict antidepressant response, using samples collected from the Genome-based Therapeutic Drugs for Depression project (GENDEP). DNA samples from 113 MDD individuals from the GENDEP project, who were treated with either escitalopram (n=80) or nortriptyline (n=33) for 12 weeks, were randomly selected. Percentage change in Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale scores between baseline and week 12 were utilized as our measure of antidepressant response. The Sequenom EpiTYPER platform was used to assess DNA methylation across the only CpG island located in the IL11 gene. Regression analyses were then used to explore the relationship between CpG unit methylation and antidepressant response. We identified a CpG unit predictor of general antidepressant response, a drug by CpG unit interaction predictor of response, and a CpG unit by rs1126757 interaction predictor of antidepressant response. The current study is the first to investigate the potential utility of pharmaco-epigenetic biomarkers for the prediction of antidepressant response. Our results suggest that DNA methylation in IL11 might be useful in identifying those patients likely to respond to antidepressants, and if so, the best drug suited to each individual.
antidepressants; biomarker; cytokines; epigenetics; pharmaco-epigenetics; pharmacogenetics
Wnt signaling, which encompasses multiple biochemical pathways that regulate neural development downstream of extracellular Wnt glycoprotein ligands, has been suggested to contribute to major psychiatric disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASD). We used next-generation sequencing and Sequenom genotyping technologies to resequence 10 Wnt signaling pathway genes in 198 ASD patients and 240 matched controls. Results for single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of interest were confirmed in a second set of 91 ASD and 144 control samples. We found a significantly increased burden of extremely rare missense variants predicted to be deleterious by PolyPhen-2, distributed across seven genes in the ASD sample (3.5% in ASD vs 0.8% in controls; Fisher's exact test, odds ratio (OR)=4.37, P=0.04). We also found a missense variant in WNT1 (S88R) that was overrepresented in the ASD sample (8 A/T in 267 ASD (minor allele frequency (MAF)=1.69%) vs 1 A/T in 377 controls (MAF=0.13%), OR=13.0, Fisher's exact test, P=0.0048; OR=8.2 and P=0.053 after correction for population stratification). Functional analysis revealed that WNT1-S88R is more active than wild-type WNT1 in assays for the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. Our findings of a higher burden in ASD of rare missense variants distributed across 7 of 10 Wnt signaling pathway genes tested, and of a functional variant at the WNT1 locus associated with ASD, support that dysfunction of this pathway contributes to ASD susceptibility. Given recent findings of common molecular mechanisms in ASD, schizophrenia and affective disorders, these loci merit scrutiny in other psychiatric conditions as well.
association study; functional analysis; mutation burden; psychiatric disorders; rare mutations
Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis (CTX) is a rare and severe, but treatable, inborn disorder of bile acid biosynthesis and sterol storage with autosomal recessive inheritance and variable clinical presentation. CTX treatment consists of chenodeoxycholic acid and must be started as early as possible to prevent permanent disability. Psychiatric manifestations are rare and non-specific, and often lead to significant diagnostic and treatment delay. Therefore, better recognition of the gamut of psychiatric manifestations in CTX can diminish the risk of misdiagnosis and irreversible neurological deterioration. We hereby describe the psychiatric features in CTX. A complete review of all published cases of CTX in the medical literature was undertaken and the case reports with psychiatric presentation were collected and analyzed. We also describe the psychiatric features in relation to the neurological semeiology in six patients with CTX diagnosed at the La Salpêtrière Hospital. We conclude that psychiatric manifestations in CTX follow a bimodal/bitemporal pattern, appearing early in the disease course in the form of a behavioral/personality disorder associated with learning difficulties or mental retardation, or manifesting in advanced disease in the setting of dementia as rich neuropsychiatric syndromes, such as frontal, orbitofrontal or frontotemporal syndromes of cortico-subcortical dementia encompassing behavioral/personality disturbance, affective/mood disorders or psychotic disorders. Behavioral/personality disturbance in childhood or adolescence, especially when accompanied by learning difficulties, should therefore lead to further investigation to exclude CTX, as early diagnosis and treatment is critical for prognosis.
behavior/personality disorder; cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis; chenodeoxycholic acid; cholestanol; psychiatric manifestations; young-onset dementia
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia in the elderly. Although there are no drugs that modify the disease process, exposure to an enriched environment (EE) can slow the disease progression. Here, we characterize the effects of AD and EE on the post-transcriptional regulators, microRNAs (miRNAs), which may contribute to the detrimental and beneficial effects of AD and EE, respectively, on synaptic plasticity-related proteins and AD pathology. We found for the first time miRNAs that were inversely regulated in AD and EE, and may affect synaptic proteins and modulators, molecular factors associated with AD pathology, and survival and neuroprotective factors. MiRNAs that were upregulated only in 3xTgAD mice model of AD compared with their control mice were localized to synapses, predicted to downregulate essential synaptic proteins and are highly associated with regulating apoptosis, AD-associated processes and axon guidance. Studying the progressive change in miRNAs modulation during aging of 3xTgAD mice, we identified miRNAs that were regulated in earlier stages of AD, suggesting them as potential AD biomarkers. Last, we characterized AD- and EE-related effects in the mouse hippocampus on tomosyn protein levels, an inhibitor of the synaptic transmission machinery. While EE reduced tomosyn levels, tomosyn levels were increased in old 3xTgAD mice, suggesting a role for tomosyn in the impairment of synaptic transmission in AD. Interestingly, we found that miR-325 regulates the expression levels of tomosyn as demonstrated by a luciferase reporter assay, and that miR-325 was downregulated in AD and upregulated following EE. These findings improve our understanding of the molecular and cellular processes in AD pathology, following EE, and the interplay between the two processes, and open new avenues for the studies of understanding and controlling AD.
Alzheimer's disease; enriched environment; hippocampus; microRNA; synaptic plasticity; tomosyn
Stem cell technologies provide an exciting avenue to directly access the transcriptome of patients in neuronal-like cell types, which might have more direct relevance to brain research than other peripheral tissues (blood, fibroblasts). Enthusiasm should be tempered by concerns that artifacts and noise might be generated as part of the in vitro process of creating and maintaining these cell type. A solution may be to apply a Convergent Functional Genomics approach, where the data from stem cell-derived neuronal cells are integrated, cross-validated and prioritized using independent lines of evidence from other approaches and platforms (human genetic data, human postmortem brain data, animal model data). I provide a brief overview and an example in support of such an approach.
biomarkers; convergent functional genomics; gene expression; GWAS; stem cells
Exposure to maternal anxiety predicts offspring brain development. However, because children's brains are commonly assessed years after birth, the timing of such maternal influences in humans is unclear. This study aimed to examine the consequences of antenatal and postnatal exposure to maternal anxiety upon early infant development of the hippocampus, a key structure for stress regulation. A total of 175 neonates underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at birth and among them 35 had repeated scans at 6 months of age. Maternal anxiety was assessed using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) at week 26 of pregnancy and 3 months after delivery. Regression analyses showed that antenatal maternal anxiety did not influence bilateral hippocampal volume at birth. However, children of mothers reporting increased anxiety during pregnancy showed slower growth of both the left and right hippocampus over the first 6 months of life. This effect of antenatal maternal anxiety upon right hippocampal growth became statistically stronger when controlling for postnatal maternal anxiety. Furthermore, a strong positive association between postnatal maternal anxiety and right hippocampal growth was detected, whereas a strong negative association between postnatal maternal anxiety and the left hippocampal volume at 6 months of life was found. Hence, the postnatal growth of bilateral hippocampi shows distinct responses to postnatal maternal anxiety. The size of the left hippocampus during early development is likely to reflect the influence of the exposure to perinatal maternal anxiety, whereas right hippocampal growth is constrained by antenatal maternal anxiety, but enhanced in response to increased postnatal maternal anxiety.
antenatal anxiety; hippocampus; magnetic resonance imaging; neonatal brain; postnatal anxiety
A number of studies have suggested DNA sequence variability in the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) between European-American (EA) and African-American (AA) populations, which could be clinically important, given the central role SLC6A4 has in serotonin transmission. However, these studies have had relatively small samples, used self-reported measures of race, and have only tested the promoter-linked polymorphism 5-HTTLPR. Here we genotype 5-HTTLPR and rs25531, a neighboring functional polymorphism, in 954 AA and 2622EA subjects from a National Institute of Mental Health repository sample. Genotyping was performed using fragment analysis by capillary electrophoresis. AA, as compared with EA, groups had lower frequencies of the S allele (0.25 vs 0.43) and SS genotype (0.06 vs 0.19) at 5-HTTLPR, and higher rates of the G allele at rs25531 (0.21 vs 0.075). A rare xL variant at 5-HTTLPR was also more common among AAs (0.017 vs 0.008). When the polymorphisms were redefined into a high- and low-transcription haplotypes, the AA group showed significantly fewer low-transcription variants (χ2=4.8, P=0.03). No genotypes were associated with major depression, any anxiety disorder, or neuroticism in either EA or AA populations. This is the largest study to show SLC6A4 genotype differences between EA and AA populations, and the first to include rs25531. Lack of associations with clinical outcomes may reflect untested moderating environmental influences.
African-American; 5-HTTLPR; major depression; rs25531; serotonin transporter
Cortical neurons of the superficial layers (II-IV) represent a pivotal neuronal population involved in the higher cognitive functions of the human and are particularly affected by psychiatric diseases with developmental manifestations such as schizophrenia and autism. Differentiation protocols of human pluripotent stem cells (PSC) into cortical neurons have been achieved, opening the way to in vitro modeling of neuropsychiatric diseases. However, these protocols commonly result in the asynchronous production of neurons typical for the different layers of the cortex within an extended period of culture, thus precluding the analysis of specific subtypes of neurons in a standardized manner. Addressing this issue, we have successfully captured a stable population of self-renewing late cortical progenitors (LCPs) that synchronously and massively differentiate into glutamatergic cortical neurons of the upper layers. The short time course of differentiation into neurons of these progenitors has made them amenable to high-throughput assays. This has allowed us to analyze the capability of LCPs at differentiating into post mitotic neurons as well as extending and branching neurites in response to a collection of selected bioactive molecules. LCPs and cortical neurons of the upper layers were successfully produced from patient-derived-induced PSC, indicating that this system enables functional studies of individual-specific cortical neurons ex vivo for disease modeling and therapeutic purposes.
cortical superficial layers; disease modeling; drug discovery; high-throughput screening; human pluripotent stem cells
Stress increases drug craving and relapse risk. The kappa opioid receptor gene (OPRK1) mediates stress responses. Here, we examined whether the OPRK1 rs6989250 C>G affects stress-induced cocaine craving and cortisol responses, subsequent cocaine relapse risk and the neural response to stress using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in cocaine dependence. Sixty-seven treatment-engaged, abstinent cocaine-dependent African-Americans were genotyped (CG: N=10; CC: N=57) and participated in a 3-day experiment in which they were exposed to personalized script-driven imagery of stress, drug cues and neutral scenarios, one condition per day, randomly assigned and counterbalanced across subjects. Repeated measures of craving and cortisol were obtained. The subjects were followed prospectively for 90 days to assess relapse risk. A follow-up preliminary fMRI experiment assessed neural responses to stress, drug cue and neutral conditions in matched CG (N=5) and CC (N=8) subgroups. We found greater stress-induced craving (P=0.019), higher cortisol during stress and cue relative to the neutral condition (P's<0.003), and increased cocaine relapse risk (P=0.0075) in the CG compared with the CC group. The CG relative to the CC group also showed greater activation of limbic and midbrain regions during stress and cues relative to the neutral condition with additional stress-induced activation in the right amygdala/hippocampus (P<0.05, whole-brain corrected). These results suggest that OPRK1 is associated with stress-induced craving and cortisol, hyperactive hypothalamus/thalamus–midbrain–cerebellum responses, and also associated with greater subsequent cocaine relapse risk. Future studies to replicate these findings in a larger sample size are warranted.
cocaine craving; limbic–midbrain hyperactivation; OPRK1; relapse; stress
Cigarette smoking is influenced both by genetic and environmental factors. Until this year, all large-scale gene identification studies on smoking were conducted in populations of European ancestry. Consequently, the genetic architecture of smoking is not well described in other populations. Further, despite a rich epidemiologic literature focused on the social determinants of smoking, few studies have examined the moderation of genetic influences (for example, gene–environment interactions) on smoking in African Americans. In the Detroit Neighborhood Health Study (DNHS), a sample of randomly selected majority African American residents of Detroit, we constructed a genetic risk score (GRS), in which we combined top (P-value <5 × 10−7) genetic variants from a recent meta-analysis conducted in a large sample of African Americans. Using regression (effective n=399), we first tested for association between the GRS and cigarettes per day, attempting to replicate the findings from the meta-analysis. Second, we examined interactions with three social contexts that may moderate the genetic association with smoking: traumatic events, neighborhood social cohesion and neighborhood physical disorder. Among individuals who had ever smoked cigarettes, the GRS significantly predicted the number of cigarettes smoked per day and accounted for ∼3% of the overall variance in the trait. Significant interactions were observed between the GRS and number of traumatic events experienced, as well as between the GRS and average neighborhood social cohesion; the association between genetic risk and smoking was greater among individuals who had experienced an increased number of traumatic events in their lifetimes, and diminished among individuals who lived in a neighborhood characterized by greater social cohesion. This study provides support for the utility of the GRS as an alternative approach to replication of common polygenic variation, and in gene–environment interaction, for smoking behaviors. In addition, this study indicates that environmental determinants have the potential to both exacerbate (traumatic events) and diminish (neighborhood social cohesion) genetic influences on smoking behaviors.
African American; cigarette smoking; gene–environment interaction; genetic risk score; neighborhoods; nicotine; traumatic life events
The importance of reversing brain serotonin (5-HT) deficiency and promoting hippocampal neurogenesis in the mechanisms of action for antidepressants remain highly controversial. Here we examined the behavioral, neurochemical and neurogenic effects of chronic fluoxetine (FLX) in a mouse model of congenital 5-HT deficiency, the tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (R439H) knock-in (Tph2KI) mouse. Our results demonstrate that congenital 5-HT deficiency prevents a subset of the signature molecular, cellular and behavioral effects of FLX, despite the fact that FLX restores the 5-HT levels of Tph2KI mice to essentially the levels observed in wild-type mice at baseline. These results suggest that inducing supra-physiological levels of 5-HT, not merely reversing 5-HT deficiency, is required for many of the antidepressant-like effects of FLX. We also demonstrate that co-administration of the 5-HT precursor, 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), along with FLX rescues the novelty suppressed feeding (NSF) anxiolytic-like effect of FLX in Tph2KI mice, despite still failing to induce neurogenesis. Thus, our results indicate that brain 5-HT deficiency reduces the efficacy of FLX and that supplementation with 5-HTP can restore some antidepressant-like responses in the context of 5-HT deficiency. Our findings also suggest that feeding latency reductions in the NSF induced by chronic 5-HT elevation are not mediated by drug-induced increments in neurogenesis in 5-HT-deficient animals. Overall, these findings shed new light on the impact of 5-HT deficiency on responses to FLX and may have important implications for treatment selection in depression and anxiety disorders.
antidepressant; anxiety; depression; neurogenesis; serotonin; tryptophan hydroxylase 2
ABT-384 is a potent, selective inhibitor of 11-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (HSD-1). One milligram of ABT-384 daily fully inhibited hepatic HSD-1. Establishing the dose that fully inhibits central nervous system (CNS) HSD-1 would enable definitive clinical studies in potential CNS indications. [9,11,12,12-2H4] cortisol (D4 cortisol), a stable labeled tracer, was used to characterize HSD-1 inhibition by ABT-384. D4 cortisol and its products were measured in the plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of healthy male volunteers during D4 cortisol infusions, for up to 40 h after five daily doses of 1–50 mg ABT-384. Similar procedures were conducted in control subjects who received no ABT-384. Peripheral HSD-1 inhibition was calculated from plasma levels of D4 cortisol and its products. CNS HSD-1 inhibition was characterized from plasma and CSF levels of D4 cortisol and its products. ABT-384 regimens ⩾2 mg daily maintained peripheral HSD-1 inhibition ⩾88%. ABT-384 1 mg daily maintained peripheral HSD-1 inhibition ⩾81%. No CNS formation of D3 cortisol (the mass-labeled product of HSD-1) was detected following ABT-384 ⩾2 mg daily, indicating full CNS HSD-1 inhibition by these regimens. Partial CNS HSD-1 inhibition was associated with 1 mg ABT-384 daily. CNS HSD-1 inhibition was characterized by strong hysteresis and increased with maximum post-dose plasma concentration of ABT-384 and its active metabolites. ABT-384 has a wide potential therapeutic window for potential indications including Alzheimer's disease and major depressive disorder. Stable labeled substrates may be viable tools for measuring CNS effect during new drug development for other enzyme targets.
central nervous system; cerebrospinal fluid; deuterium label; enzyme inhibition; hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; target engagement
β-amyloid (Aβ) plaque accumulation is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD). It is believed to start many years prior to symptoms and is reflected by reduced cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of the peptide Aβ1–42 (Aβ42). Here we tested the hypothesis that baseline levels of CSF proteins involved in microglia activity, synaptic function and Aβ metabolism predict the development of Aβ plaques, assessed by longitudinal CSF Aβ42 decrease in cognitively healthy people. Forty-six healthy people with three to four serial CSF samples were included (mean follow-up 3 years, range 2–4 years). There was an overall reduction in Aβ42 from a mean concentration of 211–195 pg ml−1 after 4 years. Linear mixed-effects models using longitudinal Aβ42 as the response variable, and baseline proteins as explanatory variables (n=69 proteins potentially relevant for Aβ metabolism, microglia or synaptic/neuronal function), identified 10 proteins with significant effects on longitudinal Aβ42. The most significant proteins were angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE, P=0.009), Chromogranin A (CgA, P=0.009) and Axl receptor tyrosine kinase (AXL, P=0.009). Receiver-operating characteristic analysis identified 11 proteins with significant effects on longitudinal Aβ42 (largely overlapping with the proteins identified by linear mixed-effects models). Several proteins (including ACE, CgA and AXL) were associated with Aβ42 reduction only in subjects with normal baseline Aβ42, and not in subjects with reduced baseline Aβ42. We conclude that baseline CSF proteins related to Aβ metabolism, microglia activity or synapses predict longitudinal Aβ42 reduction in cognitively healthy elders. The finding that some proteins only predict Aβ42 reduction in subjects with normal baseline Aβ42 suggest that they predict future development of the brain Aβ pathology at the earliest stages of AD, prior to widespread development of Aβ plaques.
Alzheimer's disease; beta-amyloid; biomarker; cerebrospinal fluid; longitudinal; microglia
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism are highly comorbid in humans and have partially overlapping symptomatic profiles. The aim of these studies was to examine the effects of traumatic stress (and stress reactivity) on alcohol-related behaviors and neuronal activation patterns. Male Wistar rats were trained to respond for alcohol, were exposed to predator odor (bobcat urine) paired with context and were tested for short- and long-term avoidance of the predator odor-paired context, alcohol self-administration and compulsivity of alcohol responding. Rats were re-exposed to the odor-paired context for western blot analysis of ERK phosphorylation in subregions of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and the amygdala. Rats that avoided the predator-paired chamber (Avoiders) exhibited persistent avoidance up to 6 weeks post conditioning. Avoiders exhibited increases in operant alcohol responding over weeks, as well as more compulsive-like responding for alcohol adulterated with quinine. Following re-exposure to the predator odor-paired context, Avoiders and Non-Avoiders exhibited unique patterns of neuronal activation in subregions of the mPFC and the amygdala, which were correlated with changes in avoidance and alcohol drinking. Furthermore, activity of upstream regions was differentially predictive of downstream regional activity in the Avoiders versus Non-Avoiders. An animal model for assessing the effect of traumatic stress on alcohol drinking reveals individual differences in neuronal activation patterns associated with re-exposure to traumatic stress-related stimuli, and may provide insight into the neural mechanisms underlying excessive alcohol consumption in humans with PTSD.
alcohol abuse; avoidance; escalation; individual differences; PTSD
Mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder, are characterized by abnormal reward responsiveness. The Response Bias Probabilistic Reward Task (hereafter referred to as probabilistic reward task (PRT)) quantifies reward responsiveness in human subjects, and an equivalent animal assessment is needed to facilitate preclinical translational research. Thus, the goals of the present studies were to develop, validate and characterize a rat analog of the PRT. Adult male Wistar and Long–Evans rats were trained in operant testing chambers to discriminate between two tone stimuli that varied in duration (0.5 and 2 s). During a subsequent test session consisting of 100 trials, the two tones were made ambiguous (0.9 and 1.6 s) and correct identification of one tone was reinforced with a food pellet three times more frequently than the other tone. In subsequent experiments, Wistar rats were administered either a low dose of the dopamine D2/D3 receptor agonist pramipexole (0.1 mg kg−1, subcutaneous) or the psychostimulant amphetamine (0.5 mg kg−1, intraperitoneal) before the test session. Similar to human subjects, both rat strains developed a response bias toward the more frequently reinforced stimulus, reflecting robust reward responsiveness. Mirroring prior findings in humans, a low dose of pramipexole blunted response bias. Moreover, in rats, amphetamine potentiated response bias. These results indicate that in rats, reward responsiveness can be quantified and bidirectionally modulated by pharmacological manipulations that alter striatal dopamine transmission. Thus, this new procedure in rats, which is conceptually and procedurally analogous to the one used in humans, provides a reverse translational platform to investigate abnormal reward responsiveness across species.
anhedonia; animal model; depression; dopamine; rat; reward
Despite the relevance of changes in amygdala volume to psychiatric illnesses and its heritability in both health and disease, the influence of common genetic variation on amygdala morphology remains largely unexplored. In the present study, we investigated the influence of a number of novel genetic variants on amygdala volume in 139 neurologically healthy individuals of European descent. Amygdala volume was significantly associated with allelic variation in the stathmin (STMN1) and serotonin transporter (SLC6A4) genes, which have been linked to healthy and disordered affective processing. These results were replicated across both manual and automated methods of amygdala parcellation, although manual tracing showed stronger effects, providing a cautionary note to studies relying on automated parcellation methods. Future studies will need to determine whether amygdala volume mediates the impact of stathmin and serotonin transporter gene variants on normal and dysfunctional emotion processing.
amygdala; genetics; morphology; oxytocin; stathmin; serotonin
The use of novel brain biomarkers using nuclear magnetic resonance imaging holds potential of making central nervous system (CNS) drug development more efficient. By evaluating changes in brain function in the disease state or drug effects on brain function, the technology opens up the possibility of obtaining objective data on drug effects in the living awake brain. By providing objective data, imaging may improve the probability of success of identifying useful drugs to treat CNS diseases across all clinical phases (I–IV) of drug development. The evolution of functional imaging and the promise it holds to contribute to drug development will require the development of standards (including good imaging practice), but, if well integrated into drug development, functional imaging can define markers of CNS penetration, drug dosing and target engagement (even for drugs that are not amenable to positron emission tomography imaging) in phase I; differentiate objective measures of efficacy and side effects and responders vs non-responders in phase II, evaluate differences between placebo and drug in phase III trials and provide insights into disease modification in phase IV trials.
brain; drug development; drugs; functional imaging; networks
Antibodies directed against fetal brain proteins of 37 and 73 kDa molecular weight are found in approximately 12% of mothers who have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but not in mothers of typically developing children. This finding has raised the possibility that these immunoglobulin G (IgG) class antibodies cross the placenta during pregnancy and impact brain development, leading to one form of ASD. We evaluated the pathogenic potential of these antibodies by using a nonhuman primate model. IgG was isolated from mothers of children with ASD (IgG-ASD) and of typically developing children (IgG-CON). The purified IgG was administered to two groups of female rhesus monkeys (IgG-ASD; n=8 and IgG-CON; n=8) during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Another control group of pregnant monkeys (n=8) was untreated. Brain and behavioral development of the offspring were assessed for 2 years. Behavioral differences were first detected when the macaque mothers responded to their IgG-ASD offspring with heightened protectiveness during early development. As they matured, IgG-ASD offspring consistently deviated from species-typical social norms by more frequently approaching familiar peers. The increased approach was not reciprocated and did not lead to sustained social interactions. Even more striking, IgG-ASD offspring displayed inappropriate approach behavior to unfamiliar peers, clearly deviating from normal macaque social behavior. Longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging analyses revealed that male IgG-ASD offspring had enlarged brain volume compared with controls. White matter volume increases appeared to be driving the brain differences in the IgG-ASD offspring and these differences were most pronounced in the frontal lobes.
ASD; animal models; autoantibody; nonhuman primate
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are neurodevelopmental in origin, affecting an estimated 1 in 88 children in the United States. We previously described ASD-specific maternal autoantibodies that recognize fetal brain antigens. Herein, we demonstrate that lactate dehydrogenase A and B (LDH), cypin, stress-induced phosphoprotein 1 (STIP1), collapsin response mediator proteins 1 and 2 (CRMP1, CRMP2) and Y-box-binding protein to comprise the seven primary antigens of maternal autoantibody-related (MAR) autism. Exclusive reactivity to specific antigen combinations was noted in 23% of mothers of ASD children and only 1% of controls. ASD children from mothers with specific reactivity to LDH, STIP1 and CRMP1 and/or cypin (7% vs 0% in controls; P<0.0002; odds ratios of 24.2 (95% confidence interval: 1.45–405)) had elevated stereotypical behaviors compared with ASD children from mothers lacking these antibodies. We describe the first panel of clinically significant biomarkers with over 99% specificity for autism risk thereby advancing our understanding of the etiologic mechanisms and therapeutic possibilities for MAR autism.
autism; autoantibodies; fetal brain; neurodevelopment
Dysfunctional glutamatergic neurotransmission has been implicated in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, relatively few studies have directly measured brain glutamate in ASD adults, or related variation in glutamate to clinical phenotype. We therefore set out to investigate brain glutamate levels in adults with an ASD, comparing these to healthy controls and also comparing results between individuals at different points on the spectrum of symptom severity. We recruited 28 adults with ASD and 14 matched healthy controls. Of those with ASD, 15 fulfilled the ‘narrowly' defined criteria for typical autism, whereas 13 met the ‘broader phenotype'. We measured the concentration of the combined glutamate and glutamine signal (Glx), and other important metabolites, using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in two brain regions implicated in ASD—the basal ganglia (including the head of caudate and the anterior putamen) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex—as well as in a parietal cortex ‘control' region. Individuals with ASD had a significant decrease (P<0.001) in concentration of Glx in the basal ganglia, and this was true in both the ‘narrow' and ‘broader' phenotype. Also, within the ASD sample, reduced basal ganglia Glx was significantly correlated with increased impairment in social communication (P=0.013). In addition, there was a significant reduction in the concentration of other metabolites such as choline, creatine (Cr) and N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in the basal ganglia. In the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Cr and NAA were reduced (P<0.05), although Glx was not. There were no detectable differences in Glx, or any other metabolite, in the parietal lobe control region. There were no significant between-group differences in age, gender, IQ, voxel composition or data quality. In conclusion, individuals across the spectrum of ASD have regionally specific abnormalities in subcortical glutamatergic neurotransmission that are associated with variation in social development.
autism spectrum disorders; autism; glutamate; glutamine; [1H]MRS
An imbalanced immune system has long been known to influence a variety of mood disorders including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and depression. In this study, we sought to model the impact of an immunocompromised state on these emotional behaviors using RAG-1−/− mice, which lack T and B cells. We also investigated the relative contribution of CD4+ or CD8+ T cells to these manifestations using RAG-1−/−/OT-II and RAG-1−/−/OT-I transgenic mice, respectively. Our results show that RAG-1−/− mice present a significant increase in digging and marble-burying activities compared with wild-type mice. Surprisingly, these anxiety-like behaviors were significantly reverted in RAG-1−/−/OT-II but not RAG-1−/−/OT-I transgenic mice. Immunodepletion experiments with anti-CD4 or anti-CD8 in C57/BL6 mice or repopulation studies in RAG-1−/− mice did not reproduce these findings. Microarray analysis of the brain of RAG-1−/− and RAG-1−/−/OT-II mice revealed a significantly different gene fingerprint, with the latter being more similar to wild-type mice than the former. Further analysis revealed nine main signaling pathways as being significantly modulated in RAG-1−/− compared with wild-type mice. Taken together, these results suggest that life-long rather than transient immunodeficient conditions influence the emotional behaviors in mice. Most interestingly, these effects seem to correlate with a specific absence of CD4+ rather than CD8+ T cells. Validation of these findings in man might provide new clues on the mechanism by which early life immune modulation might impact mood response in adults and provide a further link between immune and emotional well-being.
CD4 T cells; CD8 T cells; immunodeficient mice; OT-I and OT-II transgenic mice; RAG knockout mice
Alcohol consumption is one of the world's major risk factors for disease development. But underlying mechanisms by which moderate-to-heavy alcohol intake causes damage are poorly understood and biomarkers are sub-optimal. Here, we investigated metabolite concentration differences in relation to alcohol intake in 2090 individuals of the KORA F4 and replicated results in 261 KORA F3 and up to 629 females of the TwinsUK adult bioresource. Using logistic regression analysis adjusted for age, body mass index, smoking, high-density lipoproteins and triglycerides, we identified 40/18 significant metabolites in males/females with P-values <3.8E−04 (Bonferroni corrected) that differed in concentrations between moderate-to-heavy drinkers (MHD) and light drinkers (LD) in the KORA F4 study. We further identified specific profiles of the 10/5 metabolites in males/females that clearly separated LD from MHD in the KORA F4 cohort. For those metabolites, the respective area under the receiver operating characteristic curves were 0.812/0.679, respectively, thus providing moderate-to-high sensitivity and specificity for the discrimination of LD to MHD. A number of alcohol-related metabolites could be replicated in the KORA F3 and TwinsUK studies. Our data suggests that metabolomic profiles based on diacylphosphatidylcholines, lysophosphatidylcholines, ether lipids and sphingolipids form a new class of biomarkers for excess alcohol intake and have potential for future epidemiological and clinical studies.
alcohol; alcoholism; biomarkers; gender; lipids; metabolomics