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1.  Synergistic effects of NOD1 or NOD2 and TLR4 activation on mouse sickness behavior in relation to immune and brain activity markers☆ 
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity  2015;44:106-120.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and nuclear-binding domain (NOD)-like receptors (NLRs) are sensors of bacterial cell wall components to trigger an immune response. The TLR4 agonist lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a strong immune activator leading to sickness and depressed mood. NOD agonists are less active but can prime immune cells to augment LPS-induced cytokine production. Since the impact of NOD and TLR co-activation in vivo has been little studied, the effects of the NOD1 agonist FK565 and the NOD2 agonist muramyl dipeptide (MDP), alone and in combination with LPS, on immune activation, brain function and sickness behavior were investigated in male C57BL/6N mice.
Intraperitoneal injection of FK565 (0.001 or 0.003 mg/kg) or MDP (1 or 3 mg/kg) 4 h before LPS (0.1 or 0.83 mg/kg) significantly aggravated and prolonged the LPS-evoked sickness behavior as deduced from a decrease in locomotion, exploration, food intake and temperature. When given alone, FK565 and MDP had only minor effects. The exacerbation of sickness behavior induced by FK565 or MDP in combination with LPS was paralleled by enhanced plasma protein and cerebral mRNA levels of proinflammatory cytokines (IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α) as well as enhanced plasma levels of kynurenine. Immunohistochemical visualization of c-Fos in the brain revealed that NOD2 synergism with TLR4 resulted in increased activation of cerebral nuclei relevant to sickness.
These data show that NOD1 or NOD2 synergizes with TLR4 in exacerbating the immune, sickness and brain responses to peripheral immune stimulation.
Our findings demonstrate that the known interactions of NLRs and TLRs at the immune cell level extend to interactions affecting brain function and behavior.
doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2014.08.011
PMCID: PMC4295938  PMID: 25218901
Anxiety; c-Fos; Corticosterone; FK565; Food intake; Kynurenine; Lipopolysaccharide; Locomotion; Muramyl dipeptide; Proinflammatory cytokines
2.  A novel unbiased counting method for the quantification of synapses in the mouse brain 
Graphical abstract
Highlights
•We describe a novel method for synapse quantification using electron microscopy.•Nissl-stained vibratome sections allowed accurate brain region identification.•Automatic microscope stage shifts using custom-made software excluded observer bias.•The method showed altered synaptic features after environmental enrichment.
Background
The numerical density of synapses and their ultrastructural features are best assessed with electron microscopy. Counting is done within counting frames placed on a pair of sections (disector technique). But this requires that the thin sections are taken from comparable brain regions and the disectors are placed in a uniform random fashion. Small brain areas like the polymorph layer of the mouse dentate gyrus are difficult to encounter, and manually moving the microscope stage for placing the micrographs seems arbitrary.
New method
Here the polymorph layer was approximated with 20 μm thin, Nissl-stained vibratome sections. The subsequent vibratome section was processed for electron microscopy and serially thin sectioned. The microscope stage was moved using a random number generator, placing at least 20 disectors onto a pair of sections. The numerical synapse density, the numerical density of dense-core vesicles, and other ultrastructural features were compared between mice that had been kept in an enriched environment and mice kept under standard housing conditions.
Results
Environmental enrichment significantly decreased the numerical density of dense-core vesicles and synaptic cleft widths within the polymorph layer, associated with behavioral improvement in the Morris water maze, a hippocampus-dependent task of spatial learning and memory.
Comparison with existing methods
This procedure was easy to handle and enabled us to produce thin sections in small, defined brain areas. Furthermore, placing the disectors with random numbers excluded observer bias.
Conclusions
Our procedure provides an uncomplicated way of assessing numerical densities in small brain areas in an unbiased manner.
doi:10.1016/j.jneumeth.2014.10.020
PMCID: PMC4282307  PMID: 25445248
DCV, dense-core vesicles; DGgl, dentate gyrus, granular cell layer; DGpl, dentate gyrus, polymorph cell layer; EE, environmental enrichment; MWM, Morris water maze; NPY, neuropeptide Y; Disector; Mouse; Environmental enrichment; Electron microscopy; Dentate gyrus; Dense core vesicle
3.  Neuropeptide Y and peptide YY protect from weight loss caused by Bacille Calmette–Guérin in mice 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2013;170(5):1014-1026.
Background and Purpose
Immune challenge of mice with Bacille Calmette–Guérin (BCG) has been reported to cause transient weight loss and a behavioural sickness response. Although BCG-induced depression involves the kynurenine pathway, weight loss occurs independently of this factor. Because neuropeptide Y (NPY) and peptide YY (PYY) are involved in the regulation of food intake, we hypothesized that they play a role in the BCG-induced weight loss.
Experimental Approach
Male wild-type, PYY knockout (PYY−/−), NPY knockout (NPY−/−) and NPY−/−;PYY−/− double knockout mice were injected with vehicle or BCG (approximately 108 colony-forming units per mouse), and their weight, locomotion, exploration and ingestion were recorded for 2 weeks post-treatment.
Key Results
Deletion of PYY and NPY aggravated the BCG-induced loss of body weight, which was most pronounced in NPY−/−;PYY−/− mice (maximum loss: 15%). The weight loss in NPY−/−;PYY−/− mice did not normalize during the 2 week observation period. BCG suppressed the circadian pattern of locomotion, exploration and food intake. However, these changes took a different time course than the prolonged weight loss caused by BCG in NPY−/−;PYY−/− mice. The effect of BCG to increase circulating IL-6 (measured 16 days post-treatment) remained unaltered by knockout of PYY, NPY or NPY plus PYY.
Conclusions and Implications
These data show that NPY and PYY are both required to protect from the action of BCG-evoked immune challenge to cause prolonged weight loss and disturb energy balance. The findings attest to an important role of NPY and PYY in orchestrating homeostatic reactions to infection and immune stimulation.
doi:10.1111/bph.12354
PMCID: PMC3949650  PMID: 23992467
Bacille Calmette–Guérin; corticosterone; exploration; food intake; immune stimulation; IL-6; locomotion; neuropeptide Y; peptide YY; sickness behaviour
4.  Environmental Enrichment and Gut Inflammation Modify Stress-Induced c-Fos Expression in the Mouse Corticolimbic System 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54811.
Environmental enrichment (EE) has a beneficial effect on rodent behaviour, neuronal plasticity and brain function. Although it may also improve stress coping, it is not known whether EE influences the brain response to an external (psychological) stressor such as water avoidance stress (WAS) or an internal (systemic) stressor such as gastrointestinal inflammation. This study hence explored whether EE modifies WAS-induced activation of the mouse corticolimbic system and whether this stress response is altered by gastritis or colitis. Male C67BL/6N mice were housed under standard or enriched environment for 9 weeks, after which they were subjected to a 1-week treatment with oral iodoacetamide to induce gastritis or oral dextran sulfate sodium to induce colitis. Following exposure to WAS the expression of c-Fos, a marker of neuronal activation, was measured by immunocytochemistry. EE aggravated experimentally induced colitis, but not gastritis, as shown by an increase in the disease activity score and the colonic myeloperoxidase content. In the brain, EE enhanced the WAS-induced activation of the dentate gyrus and unmasked an inhibitory effect of gastritis and colitis on WAS-evoked c-Fos expression within this part of the hippocampus. Conversely, EE inhibited the WAS-evoked activation of the central amygdala and prevented the inhibitory effect of gastritis and colitis on WAS-evoked c-Fos expression in this region. EE, in addition, blunted the WAS-induced activation of the infralimbic cortex and attenuated the inhibitory effect of gastritis and colitis on WAS-evoked c-Fos expression in this area. These data reveal that EE has a region-specific effect on stress-induced c-Fos expression in the corticolimbic system, which is likely to improve stress resilience. The response of the prefrontal cortex – amygdala – hippocampus circuitry to psychological stress is also modified by the systemic stress of gut inflammation, and this interaction between external and internal stressors is modulated by the housing environment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054811
PMCID: PMC3547954  PMID: 23349972
8.  Prolonged Depression-Like Behavior Caused by Immune Challenge: Influence of Mouse Strain and Social Environment 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(6):e20719.
Immune challenge by bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) causes short-term behavioral changes indicative of depression. The present study sought to explore whether LPS is able to induce long-term changes in depression-related behavior and whether such an effect depends on mouse strain and social context. LPS (0.83 mg/kg) or vehicle was administered intraperitoneally to female CD1 and C57BL/6 mice that were housed singly or in groups of 4. Depression-like behavior was assessed with the forced swim test (FST) 1 and 28 days post-treatment. Group-housed CD1 mice exhibited depression-like behavior 1 day post-LPS, an effect that leveled off during the subsequent 28 days, while the behavior of singly housed CD1 mice was little affected. In contrast, singly housed C57BL/6 mice responded to LPS with an increase in depression-like behavior that was maintained for 4 weeks post-treatment and confirmed by the sucrose preference test. Group-housed C57BL/6 mice likewise displayed an increased depression-like behavior 4 weeks post-treatment. The behavioral changes induced by LPS in C57BL/6 mice were associated with a particularly pronounced rise of interleukin-6 in blood plasma within 1 day post-treatment and with changes in the dynamics of the corticosterone response to the FST. The current data demonstrate that immune challenge with LPS is able to induce prolonged depression-like behavior, an effect that depends on genetic background (strain). The discovery of an experimental model of long-term depression-like behavior after acute immune challenge is of relevance to the analysis of the epigenetic and pathophysiologic mechanisms of immune system-related affective disorders.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020719
PMCID: PMC3108969  PMID: 21673960
11.  Differential effects of intragastric acid and capsaicin on gastric emptying and afferent input to the rat spinal cord and brainstem 
BMC Neuroscience  2005;6:60.
Background
Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is a potential threat to the integrity of the gastric mucosa and is known to contribute to upper abdominal pain. We have previously found that gastric mucosal challenge with excess HCl is signalled to the rat brainstem, but not spinal cord, as visualized by expression of c-fos messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), a surrogate marker of neuronal excitation. This study examined whether gastric mucosal exposure to capsaicin, a stimulant of nociceptive afferents that does not damage the gastric mucosa, is signalled to both brainstem and spinal cord and whether differences in the afferent signalling of gastric HCl and capsaicin challenge are related to different effects on gastric emptying.
Results
Rats were treated intragastrically with vehicle, HCl or capsaicin, activation of neurons in the brainstem and spinal cord was visualized by in situ hybridization autoradiography for c-fos mRNA, and gastric emptying deduced from the retention of intragastrically administered fluid. Relative to vehicle, HCl (0.5 M) and capsaicin (3.2 mM) increased c-fos transcription in the nucleus tractus solitarii by factors of 7.0 and 2.1, respectively. Capsaicin also caused a 5.2-fold rise of c-fos mRNA expression in lamina I of the caudal thoracic spinal cord, although the number of c-fos mRNA-positive cells in this lamina was very small. Thus, on average only 0.13 and 0.68 c-fos mRNA-positive cells were counted in 0.01 mm sections of the unilateral lamina I following intragastric administration of vehicle and capsaicin, respectively. In contrast, intragastric HCl failed to induce c-fos mRNA in the spinal cord. Measurement of gastric fluid retention revealed that HCl suppressed gastric emptying while capsaicin did not.
Conclusion
The findings of this study show that gastric mucosal exposure to HCl and capsaicin is differentially transmitted to the brainstem and spinal cord. Since only HCl blocks gastric emptying, it is hypothesized that the two stimuli are transduced by different afferent pathways. We infer that HCl is exclusively signalled by gastric vagal afferents whereas capsaicin is processed both by gastric vagal and intestinal spinal afferents.
doi:10.1186/1471-2202-6-60
PMCID: PMC1239919  PMID: 16162281
12.  Neuropeptide Y and peptide YY protect from weight loss caused by Bacille Calmette–Guérin in mice 
British Journal of Pharmacology  2013;170(5):1014-1026.
Background and Purpose
Immune challenge of mice with Bacille Calmette–Guérin (BCG) has been reported to cause transient weight loss and a behavioural sickness response. Although BCG-induced depression involves the kynurenine pathway, weight loss occurs independently of this factor. Because neuropeptide Y (NPY) and peptide YY (PYY) are involved in the regulation of food intake, we hypothesized that they play a role in the BCG-induced weight loss.
Experimental Approach
Male wild-type, PYY knockout (PYY−/−), NPY knockout (NPY−/−) and NPY−/−;PYY−/− double knockout mice were injected with vehicle or BCG (approximately 108 colony-forming units per mouse), and their weight, locomotion, exploration and ingestion were recorded for 2 weeks post-treatment.
Key Results
Deletion of PYY and NPY aggravated the BCG-induced loss of body weight, which was most pronounced in NPY−/−;PYY−/− mice (maximum loss: 15%). The weight loss in NPY−/−;PYY−/− mice did not normalize during the 2 week observation period. BCG suppressed the circadian pattern of locomotion, exploration and food intake. However, these changes took a different time course than the prolonged weight loss caused by BCG in NPY−/−;PYY−/− mice. The effect of BCG to increase circulating IL-6 (measured 16 days post-treatment) remained unaltered by knockout of PYY, NPY or NPY plus PYY.
Conclusions and Implications
These data show that NPY and PYY are both required to protect from the action of BCG-evoked immune challenge to cause prolonged weight loss and disturb energy balance. The findings attest to an important role of NPY and PYY in orchestrating homeostatic reactions to infection and immune stimulation.
doi:10.1111/bph.12354
PMCID: PMC3949650  PMID: 23992467
Bacille Calmette–Guérin; corticosterone; exploration; food intake; immune stimulation; IL-6; locomotion; neuropeptide Y; peptide YY; sickness behaviour

Results 1-12 (12)