PhD, Michigan State University, Neuroscience (2019)
B.S., University of California, Davis, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior (2013)
B.A., University of California, Davis, Psychology (2013)
Julie Kauer, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Circuit-specific hippocampal ΔFosB underlies resilience to stress-induced social avoidance.
2020; 11 (1): 4484
Chronic stress is a key risk factor for mood disorders like depression, but the stress-induced changes in brain circuit function and gene expression underlying depression symptoms are not completely understood, hindering development of novel treatments. Because of its projections to brain regions regulating reward and anxiety, the ventral hippocampus is uniquely poised to translate the experience of stress into altered brain function and pathological mood, though the cellular and molecular mechanisms of this process are not fully understood. Here, we use a novel method of circuit-specific gene editing to show that the transcription factor ΔFosB drives projection-specific activity of ventral hippocampus glutamatergic neurons causing behaviorally diverse responses to stress. We establish molecular, cellular, and circuit-level mechanisms for depression- and anxiety-like behavior in response to stress and use circuit-specific gene expression profiling to uncover novel downstream targets as potential sites of therapeutic intervention in depression.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-020-17825-x
View details for PubMedID 32901027
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7479591
Androgen-Dependent Excitability of Mouse Ventral Hippocampal Afferents to Nucleus Accumbens Underlies Sex-Specific Susceptibility to Stress.
Depression affects women nearly twice as often as men, but the neurobiological underpinnings of this discrepancy are unclear. Preclinical studies in male mice suggest that activity of ventral hippocampus (vHPC) neurons projecting to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) regulates mood-related behavioral responses to stress. We sought to characterize this circuit in both sexes and to investigate its role in potential sex differences in models of depression.We used male and female adult C57BL/6J mice in the subchronic variable stress model to precipitate female-specific reduction in sucrose preference and performed gonadectomies to test the contributions of gonadal hormones to this stress response. In addition, ex vivo slice electrophysiology of transgenic Cre-inducible Rosa-eGFP-L10a mice in combination with retrograde viral tracing to identify circuits was used to test contributions of gonadal hormones to sex differences in vHPC afferents. Finally, we used an intersecting viral DREADD (designer receptor exclusively activated by designer drugs) strategy to manipulate vHPC-NAc excitability directly in awake behaving mice.We show a testosterone-dependent lower excitability in male versus female vHPC-NAc neurons and corresponding testosterone-dependent male resilience to reduced sucrose preference after subchronic variable stress. Importantly, we show that long-term DREADD stimulation of vHPC-NAc neurons causes decreased sucrose preference in male mice after subchronic variable stress, whereas DREADD inhibition of this circuit prevents this effect in female mice.We demonstrate a circuit-specific sex difference in vHPC-NAc neurons that is dependent on testosterone and causes susceptibility to stress in female mice. These data provide a substantive mechanism linking gonadal hormones to cellular excitability and anhedonia-a key feature in depressive states.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsych.2019.08.006
View details for PubMedID 31601425
Epigenetic Regulation of Hippocampal Fosb Expression Controls Behavioral Responses to Cocaine
JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE
2019; 39 (42): 8305–14
Drug addiction results in part from maladaptive learning, including the formation of strong associations between the drug and the circumstances of consumption. However, drug-induced changes in gene expression underlying the saliency of these associations remain understudied. Consolidation of explicit memories occurs within the hippocampus, and we have shown that spatial learning induces expression of the transcription factor ΔFosB in hippocampus and that this induction is critical for learning. Drugs of abuse also upregulate ΔFosB in hippocampus, but the mechanism of its induction by cocaine and its role in hippocampus-dependent cocaine responses is unknown. We investigated differences in mouse dorsal and ventral hippocampal ΔFosB expression in response to chronic cocaine, because these regions appear to regulate distinct cocaine-related behaviors. We found that cocaine-mediated induction of ΔFosB was subregion-specific, and that ΔFosB transcriptional activity in both the dorsal and ventral hippocampus is necessary for cocaine conditioned place preference. Further, we characterize changes in histone modifications at the FosB promoter in hippocampus in response to chronic cocaine and found that locus-specific epigenetic modification is essential for FosB induction and multiple hippocampus-dependent behaviors, including cocaine place preference. Collectively, these findings suggest that exposure to cocaine induces histone modification at the hippocampal FosB gene promoter to cause ΔFosB induction critical for cocaine-related learning.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Although cocaine addiction is driven in part by the formation of indelible associations between the drug and the environment, paraphernalia, and circumstances of use, and although this type of associative learning is dependent upon changes in gene expression in a brain region called the hippocampus, the mechanisms by which cocaine alters hippocampal gene expression to drive formation of these associations is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that chronic cocaine engages locus-specific changes in the epigenetic profile of the FosB gene in the hippocampus, and that these alterations are required for cocaine-dependent gene expression and cocaine-environment associations. This work provides novel insight into addiction etiology and potential inroads for therapeutic intervention in cocaine addiction.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0800-19.2019
View details for Web of Science ID 000490521800014
View details for PubMedID 31477569
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6794929
Assessing Reality Testing in Mice Through Dopamine-Dependent Associatively Evoked Processing of Absent Gustatory Stimuli.
Impairments in reality testing are core features of numerous neuropsychiatric conditions. However, relatively few animal models have been developed to assess this critical facet of neuropsychiatric illness, thus impeding our understanding of the underlying central systems and circuits. Using mice in which dominant-negative Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia-1 is expressed throughout central nervous system circuitry (DN-DISC1-PrP), the capacity for an auditory conditioned stimulus (CS) to evoke perceptual processing of an absent sucrose solution was examined. At test, during CS presentations, DN-DISC1-PrP mice consumed more water and displayed a licking profile that is more typically revealed while ingesting a sweet-tasting solution. DN-DISC1-PrP mice also displayed greater c-fos expression in the insular (gustatory) cortex when consuming water in the presence of the CS. This capacity for the CS to more readily substitute for the taste features of the absent sucrose solution in DN-DISC1-PrP mice was attenuated following systemic treatment with the antipsychotic haloperidol. Conversely, social isolation during adolescence promoted the manifestation of these effects. These results provide strong validation for using associative learning procedures to examine dopamine-mediated reality testing associated with insular cortex activation.
View details for DOI 10.1093/schbul/sbz043
View details for PubMedID 31150554
Hippocampal Subgranular Zone FosB Expression Is Critical for Neurogenesis and Learning
2019; 406: 225–33
Neural proliferation in the dentate gyrus (DG) is closely linked with learning and memory, but the transcriptional programming that drives adult proliferation remains incompletely understood. Our lab previously elucidated the critical role of the transcription factor ΔFosB in the dorsal hippocampus (dHPC) in learning and memory, and the FosB gene has been suggested to play a role in neuronal proliferation. However, the subregion-specific and potentially cell-autonomous role of dHPC ΔFosB in neurogenesis-dependent learning has not been studied. Here, we crossed neurotensin receptor-2 (NtsR2) Cre mice, which express Cre within the subgranular zone (SGZ) of dHPC DG, with floxed FosB mice to show that knockout of ΔFosB in hippocampal SGZ neurons reduces antidepressant-induced neurogenesis and impedes hippocampus-dependent learning in the novel object recognition task. Taken together, these data indicate that FosB gene expression in SGZ is necessary for both hippocampal neurogenesis and memory formation.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2019.03.022
View details for Web of Science ID 000467388000019
View details for PubMedID 30902680
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6511491
Sex-Specific Effects of Stress on Oxytocin Neurons Correspond With Responses to Intranasal Oxytocin
2016; 80 (5): 406–14
Oxytocin (OT) is considered to be a stress-buffering hormone, dampening the physiologic effects of stress. However, OT can also be anxiogenic. We examined acute and long-lasting effects of social defeat on OT neurons in male and female California mice.We used immunohistochemistry for OT and c-fos cells to examine OT neuron activity immediately after defeat (n = 6-9) and 2 weeks (n = 6-9) and 10 weeks (n = 4-5) later. We quantified Oxt messenger RNA with quantitative polymerase chain reaction (n = 5-9). Intranasal OT was administered to naïve and stressed mice tested in social interaction and resident-intruder tests (n = 8-14).Acute exposure to a third episode of defeat increased OT/c-fos colocalizations in the paraventricular nucleus of both sexes. In the medioventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, defeat increased Oxt messenger RNA, total OT neurons, and OT/c-fos colocalizations in female mice but not male mice. Intranasal OT failed to reverse stress-induced social withdrawal in female mice and reduced social interaction behavior in female mice naïve to defeat. In contrast, intranasal OT increased social interaction in stressed male mice and reduced freezing in the resident-intruder test.Social defeat induces long-lasting increases in OT production and OT/c-fos cells in the medioventral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis of female mice but not male mice. Intranasal OT largely reversed the effects of stress on behavior in male mice, but effects were mixed in female mice. These results suggest that changes in OT-sensitive networks contribute to sex differences in behavioral responses to stress.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.10.007
View details for Web of Science ID 000380840500013
View details for PubMedID 26620251
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4837091
Hypothalamic vasopressin systems are more sensitive to the long term effects of social defeat in males versus females.
2015; 51: 122-34
Vasopressin signaling has important effects on the regulation of social behaviors and stress responses, and is considered a promising pathway to target for new therapeutics of stress-induced psychiatric disorders. Although there is evidence for sex differences in the behavioral effects of arginine vasopressin (AVP), few data have directly compared the effects of stress on endogenous AVP signaling in males and females. We used California mice (Peromyscus californicus) to study the short and long term effects of social defeat stress on AVP immunoreactive cells in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and the posteromedial bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNSTmp). Acute exposure to defeat increased AVP/c-fos cells in the PVN and SON of both males and females. In contrast, there were sex differences in the long term effects of defeat. Males but not females exposed to defeat had less avp mRNA in the PVN, and in two experiments defeat reduced the number of AVP positive cells in the caudal PVN of males but not females. Interestingly, during relatively benign social encounters with a target mouse, there was a rapid decrease in AVP percent staining (including cell bodies and fibers) in the PVN of males but not females. Defeat reduced AVP percent staining in males, but did not block the socially induced decrease in percent staining. When mice were tested in resident-intruder tests, males exposed to defeat were no less aggressive than control males whereas aggression was abolished in females. However, bouts of aggression were positively correlated with the number of AVP neurons in the BNSTmp of control males but not stressed males, suggesting that different mechanisms mediate aggression in control and stressed males. These data show that while acute AVP responses to defeat are similar in males and females, the long term effects of defeat on AVP are stronger in males.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.09.009
View details for PubMedID 25306217
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4268083