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Gatekeeper of brain steroid signals boosts emotional resilience to stress
Date:4/23/2012

"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.'/>"/>

Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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