Glucocorticoids are natural steroids secreted by the body during stress. A small amount of these hormones helps with normal brain function, but their excess is a precipitating factor for stress-related disorders.
Glucocorticoids exert their effects on mood by acting on receptors in the nucleus of emotion–regulating neurons, such as those producing the neurotransmitter serotonin. For years, researchers have searched for ways to prevent deleterious effects of stress by blocking glucocorticoids in neurons. However, this has proved difficult to do without simultaneously interfering with other functions of these hormones, such as the regulation of immune function and energy metabolism.
In a recent Journal of Neuroscience paper, the lab of Olivier Berton, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry, shows how a regulator of glucocorticoid receptors may provide a path towards resilience to stress by modulating glucocorticoid signaling in the brain. The protein HDAC6, which is particularly enriched in serotonin pathways, as well as in other mood-regulatory regions in both mice and humans, is ideally distributed in the brain to mediate the effect of glucocorticoids on mood and emotions. HDAC6 likely does this by controlling the interactions between glucocorticoid receptors and hormones in these serotonin circuits.
Experiments that first alerted Berton and colleagues to a peculiar role of HDAC6 in stress adaptation came from an approach that reproduces certain clinical features of traumatic stress and depression in mice. The animals are exposed to brief bouts of aggression from trained "bully" mice. In most aggression-exposed mice this experience leads to the development of a lasting form of social aversion that can be treated by chronic administration of antidepressants.
In contrast, a portion of mice exposed to chronic aggression consistently express spontaneous resilience to the stress and do not develop any symptoms. By comparing gene expression in the brains of spontaneously resilient and vulnerable mice, Berton and colleagues discovered that reducing HDAC6 expression is a hallmark of naturally resilient animals. While aggression also caused severe changes in the shape of serotonin neurons and their capacity to transmit electrical signals in vulnerable mice, stress-resilient mice, in contrast, escaped most of these neurobiological changes.
To better understand the link between HDAC6 and the development of stress resilience, Berton and colleagues devised a genetic approach to directly manipulate HDAC6 levels in neurons: Deletion of HDAC6 in serotonin neurons -- the densest HDAC6-expressing cell group in the mouse brain -- dramatically reduced social and anxiety symptoms in mice exposed to bullies and also fully prevented neurobiological changes due to stress, fully mimicking a resilient phenotype.
Using biochemical assays, Berton's team showed it is by promoting reversible chemical changes onto a heat shock chaperone protein, Hsp90, that HDAC6 deletion is able to literally switch off the effects of glucocorticoid hormones on social and anxiety behaviors.
Chaperones are proteins that help with the folding or unfolding and the assembly or disassembly of protein complexes. The way in which glucocorticoid receptor chaperoning and stress are linked is not well understood. Yet, genetic variations in certain components of the glucocorticoid receptor chaperone complex have been associated with the development of stress-related disorders and individual variability in therapeutic responses to antidepressants.
"We provide pharmacological and genetic evidence indicating that HDAC6 controls certain aspects of Hsp90 structure and function in the brain, and thereby modulates protein interactions, as well as hormone- and stress-induced glucocorticoid receptor signaling and behavior," explains Berton.
Together, these results identify HDAC6 as a possible stress vulnerability biomarker and point to pharmacological inhibition of HDAC6 as a potential new strategy for antidepressant interventions through regulation of Hsp90 in glucocorticoid signaling in serotonin neurons.
Co-first-authors are Julie Espallergues and Sarah L. Teegarden, along with Avin Veerakumar, Janette Boulden, Collin Challis, Jeanine Jochems, Michael Chan, Tess Petersen, Chang-Gyu Hahn, Irwin Lucki, and Sheryl G. Beck, all from Penn. Other authors are Evan Deneris, from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, and Patrick Matthias, Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research, Basel, Switzerland.
This work was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health grants MH087581 and MH0754047 and grants from the International Mental Health Research Organization and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.
Karen Kreeger | EurekAlert!
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences