Michael Q. Steinman
, New York City

Neuroscience, Endocrinology, Physiology

Doctor of Philosophy


  • Gian D Greenberg · Michael Q Steinman · Ian E Doig · Rebecca Hao · Brian C Trainor ·
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    ABSTRACT: Dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) have important functions related to rewards but are also activated in aversive contexts. Electrophysiology studies suggest that the degree to which VTA dopamine neurons respond to noxious stimuli is topographically organized across the dorsal-ventral extent. We used c-fos immunohistochemistry to examine the responses of VTA dopamine neurons in contexts of social defeat and social approach. Studying monogamous California mice (Peromyscus californicus) allowed us to observe the effects of social defeat on both males and females. Females exposed to three episodes of defeat, but not a single episode, had more tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)/c-fos positive cells in ventral (but not dorsal) VTA compared to controls. This observation suggests that repeated exposure to aversive contexts is necessary to trigger activation of VTA dopamine neurons. Defeat did not affect TH/c-fos colocalizations in males. We also examined long term effects of defeat on c-fos expression in a social interaction test. As previously reported, defeat reduced social interaction in females but not males. Surprisingly, there were no effects of defeat stress on TH/c-fos colocalizations in any subregion of the VTA. However, females had more TH/c-fos positive cells than males across the entire VTA, and also had greater c-fos positive cell counts in posterior subregions of the nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell. Our results show that dopamine neurons in the VTA are more responsive to social contexts in females and that the ventral VTA in particular is sensitive to aversive contexts. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 10/2015; DOI:10.1111/ejn.13099 · 3.18 Impact Factor

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    ABSTRACT: Behavioral flexibility is a component of executive functioning that allows individuals to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Independent lines of research indicate that the mu opioid receptor (MOR) is an important mediator of behavioral flexibility and responses to psychosocial stress. The current study bridges these two lines of research and tests the extent to which social defeat and MOR affect behavioral flexibility and whether sex moderates these effects in California mice (Peromyscus californicus). Males and females assigned to social defeat or control conditions were tested in a Barnes maze. In males, defeat impaired behavioral flexibility but not acquisition. Female performance was unaffected by defeat. MOR binding in defeated and control mice in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), striatum and hippocampus was examined via autoradiography. Stressed males had reduced MOR binding in the OFC whereas females were unaffected. The MOR antagonist beta-funaltrexamine (1 mg/kg) impaired performance in males naïve to defeat during the reversal phase but had no effect on females. Finally, we examined the effects of the MOR agonist morphine (2.5 and 5 mg/kg) on stressed mice. As expected, morphine improved behavioral flexibility in stressed males. The stress-induced deficits in behavioral flexibility in males are consistent with a proactive coping strategy, including previous observations that stressed male California mice exhibit strong social approach and aggression. Our pharmacological data suggest that a down-regulation of MOR signaling in males may contribute to sex differences in behavioral flexibility following stress. This is discussed in the framework of coping strategies for individuals with mood disorders.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 01/2015; 41(4). DOI:10.1111/ejn.12824 · 3.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 09/2014; 51C:122-134. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.09.009 · 4.94 Impact Factor
  • Michael Q Steinman · Anthony E Valenzuela · Thomas D Siopes · James R Millam ·
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    ABSTRACT: Glia regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis in birds and mammals. This is accomplished mechanically by ensheathing gonadotrophin-releasing hormone I (GnRH) nerve terminals thereby blocking access to the pituitary blood supply, or chemically in a paracrine manner. Such regulation requires appropriate spatial associations between glia and nerve terminals. Female turkeys (Meleagris gallavapo) use day length as a primary breeding cue. Long days activate the HPG-axis until the hen enters a photorefractory state when previously stimulatory day lengths no longer support HPG-axis activity. Hens must then be exposed to short days before reactivation of the reproductive axis occurs. As adult hens have discrete inactive reproductive states in addition to a fertile state, they are useful for examining the glial contribution to reproductive function. We immunostained tuberal hypothalami from short and long-day photosensitive hens, plus long-day photorefractory hens to examine expression of two intermediate filaments that affect glial morphology: glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and vimentin. GFAP expression was drastically reduced in the central median eminence of long day photosensitive hens, especially within the internal zone. Vimentin expression was similar among groups. However, vimentin-immunoreactive fibers abutting the portal vasculature were significantly negatively correlated with GFAP expression in the median eminence, which is consistent with our hypothesis for a reciprocal relationship between GFAP and vimentin expression. It appears that up-regulation of GFAP expression in the central median eminence of turkey hens is associated with periods of reproductive quiescence and that photofractoriness is associated with the lack of a glial cytoskeletal response to long days.
    General and Comparative Endocrinology 08/2013; 193. DOI:10.1016/j.ygcen.2013.08.001 · 2.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In several vertebrate species, the effects of estrogens on male aggressive behavior can be modulated by environmental cues. In song sparrows and rodents, estrogens modulate aggression in the nonbreeding season or winter-like short days, respectively. The behavioral effects of estrogens are rapid, which generally is considered indicative of nongenomic processes. The current study further examined the hypothesis that estradiol acts nongenomically under short days by utilizing a protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide (CX). Mice were housed in either short or long day photoperiods, and treated with an aromatase inhibitor. One hour before resident-intruder testing mice were injected with either CX or saline vehicle, and 30minutes laterwere treated orally with either cyclodextrin conjugated estradiol or vehicle. Under short days, mice treated with estradiol showed a rapid decrease in aggressive behavior, independent of CX administration. CX alone had no effect on aggression. These results show that protein synthesis is not required for the rapid effects of estradiol on aggression, strongly suggesting that these effects are mediated by nongenomicprocesses. We also showed that estradiol suppressed c-fosimmunoreactivity in the caudal bed nucleus of the striaterminalis under short days. No effects of estradiol on behavior or c-fos expression were observed in mice housed under long days. Previously we had also demonstrated that cage beddinginfluenced the directional effects of estrogens on aggression. Here, we show that the phenomenon of rapid action of estradiol on aggression under short days is a robust result that generalizes to different bedding conditions.
    Hormones and Behavior 06/2013; 64(3). DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.06.002 · 4.63 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: One of the goals in neuroscience is to obtain tractable laboratory cultures that closely recapitulate in vivo systems while still providing ease of use in the lab. Because neurons can exist in the body over a lifetime, long-term culture systems are necessary so as to closely mimic the physiological conditions under laboratory culture conditions. Ideally, such a neuronal organoid culture would contain multiple cell types, be highly differentiated, and have a high density of interconnected cells. However, before these types of cultures can be created, certain problems associated with long-term neuronal culturing must be addressed. We sought to develop a new protocol which may further prolong the duration and integrity of E18 rat hippocampal cultures. We have developed a protocol that allows for culturing of E18 hippocampal neurons at high densities for more than 120 days. These cultured hippocampal neurons are (i) well differentiated with high numbers of synapses, (ii) anchored securely to their substrate, (iii) have high levels of functional connectivity, and (iv) form dense multi-layered cellular networks. We propose that our culture methodology is likely to be effective for multiple neuronal subtypes-particularly those that can be grown in Neurobasal/B27 media. This methodology presents new avenues for long-term functional studies in neurons.
    PLoS ONE 04/2013; 8(4):e58996. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0058996 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There is compelling evidence for important sex differences in behavioral and hormonal responses to psychosocial stress. Here we examined the effects of gonadal hormones on behavioral responses to social defeat stress in monogamous California mice (Peromyscus californicus). Three episodes of social defeat induced social withdrawal in intact females but not males. Gonadectomy blocked corticosterone responses to defeat in females and sensitized male corticosterone responses. However, gonadectomy had no effects on social interaction behavior, suggesting that social withdrawal is not dependent on gonadal hormones in the adult California mouse. In contrast, defeat reduced exploratory behavior in the open field test for intact but not castrated males. We also examined the effects of social defeat on social interaction behavior when California mice were raised on corncob bedding, which has estrogenic properties. In this dataset of over 300 mice, we observed that social defeat did not induce social withdrawal when females were raised on corncob bedding. This finding suggests that the use of corncob in rodent studies could mask important sex differences in the effects of stress on brain and behavior. Although gonadal hormones do not affect social withdrawal behavior in adults, our data suggest that hormones may act earlier in development to induce a more resilient social phenotype.
    Hormones and Behavior 02/2013; 63(3). DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2013.01.011 · 4.63 Impact Factor
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    Michael Q Steinman · Jennifer A Knight · Brian C Trainor ·
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    ABSTRACT: Many temperate-zone animals use changes in photoperiod to time breeding. Shorter term cues, like food availability, are integrated with photoperiod to adjust reproductive timing under unexpected conditions. Many mice of the genus Peromyscus breed in the summer. California mice (Peromyscus californicus), however, can breed year round, but tend to begin breeding in the winter. Glial cells may be involved in transduction of environmental signals that regulate gonadotrophin releasing hormone I (GnRH) activity. We examined the effects of diet and photoperiod on reproduction in female California mice. Mice placed on either short days (8L:16D) or long days (16L:8D) were food restricted (80% of normal intake) or fed ad libitum. Short day-food restricted mice showed significant regression of the reproductive system. GnRH-immunoreactivity was increased in the tuberal hypothalamus of long day-food restricted mice. This may be associated with the sparing effect long days have when mice are food restricted. The number of GFAP-immunoreactive fibers in proximity to GnRH nerve terminals correlated negatively with uterine size in ad libitum but not food restricted mice, suggesting diet may alter glial regulation of the reproductive axis. There was a trend towards food restriction increasing uterine expression of c-fos mRNA, an estrogen dependent gene. Similar to other seasonally breeding rodents, short days render the reproductive system of female California mice more susceptible to effects of food restriction. This may be vestigial, or it may have evolved to mitigate consequences of unexpectedly poor winter food supplies.
    General and Comparative Endocrinology 01/2012; 176(3):391-9. DOI:10.1016/j.ygcen.2011.12.035 · 2.47 Impact Factor
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    Michael Q Steinman · Katie K Crean · Brian C Trainor ·
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    ABSTRACT: Food restriction has been reported to have positive effects on cognition. This study examines how another environmental factor, daylength, can alter the impact of food restriction on the brain and behavior. Female California mice (Peromyscus californicus), housed on either long days (16 h of light and 8 h of darkness) or short days (8 h of light and 16 h of darkness), were restricted to 80% of their normal baseline food intake or provided with food ad libitum. Testing in a Barnes maze revealed that the effects of food restriction depended on photoperiod, and that these effects differed for acquisition vs. reversal learning. During acquisition testing, food restriction increased latency to finding the target hole in short-day mice but not in long-day mice. In reversal testing, food restriction decreased latency to finding the target hole in long-day mice but not in short-day mice. Latency to finding the hole was positively and independently correlated with both errors and time spent freezing, suggesting that changes in both spatial learning and anxiety-like behavior contributed to performance. Short days increased hippocampal expression of the synaptic protein, synapsin I, which was reversed by food restriction. Short days also reduced plasma corticosterone levels, but diet had no effect. There was no effect of diet or photoperiod on hippocampal expression of the glial marker, glial fibrillary acidic protein. The present findings suggest that, in female California mice, the differential effects of food restriction on acquisition and reversal learning are photoperiod-dependent. These results justify further testing of the relationship between food restriction and hippocampal synapsin I in the context of spatial learning.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 01/2011; 33(2):361-70. DOI:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2010.07528.x · 3.18 Impact Factor
  • T D Siopes · J R Millam · M Q Steinman ·
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    ABSTRACT: The role of thyroid hormones in the expression of photosensitivity-photorefractoriness in female turkeys was investigated through the use of an antithyroidal agent, 6-n-propyl-2-thiouracil (PTU). In experiment 1, females held continuously from hatch on long day lengths (16L:8D; LD) and fed 0.1% PTU from 0 to 16 wk, began laying eggs at 26 wk of age, peaking at 75% hen-day egg production by 29 wk, whereas controls initiated lay 3 wk earlier but only achieved less than 50% hen-day egg production. In experiment 2, PTU treatment from 10 to 18 wk severely suppressed plasma triiodothyronine and thyroxine, as confirmed by RIA. Egg production of PTU and control hens held on LD from hatch began by 23 wk, with PTU hens reaching a substantially greater rate of lay than controls. Eggs were smaller initially in both treatments but exceeded 75 g by 28 wk. In experiment 3, recycled hens on short day lengths (8L:16D) received PTU for 2 wk before LD and 12 wk thereafter; a subset of these hens was killed after 48 h of LD for immunohistochemical analysis of fos-related antigen (FRA) expression in the tuberal hypothalamus as a marker of photoinduced neuronal activity. The PTU treatment completely forestalled egg production until its withdrawal; egg production then rose sharply to control levels before resuming, along with controls, a typical seasonal decline. The PTU treatment did not impair photoinduced FRA expression. Together, these results demonstrate the following: 1) that a period of pharmacological suppression of triiodothyronine and thyroxine can substitute for short day exposure in conferring photosensitivity on juvenile-aged turkeys (and is actually superior to short day exposure), 2) that reproductive development does not limit egg production of turkey hens photostimulated as young as approximately 20 wk of age, and 3) that effects of thyroid suppression on photostimulation lie downstream of photoinduced FRA expression. Taken together, these results suggest that there is ample physiological potential to substantially advance the age of photoinduced egg production in commercial flocks.
    Poultry Science 10/2010; 89(10):2265-72. DOI:10.3382/ps.2010-00642 · 1.67 Impact Factor
  • M Q Steinman · S C Dinius · T D Siopes · J R Millam ·
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    ABSTRACT: For many temperate-zone avian species, termination of breeding occurs when individuals no longer respond to previously stimulatory day lengths, a condition called photorefractoriness. Long day lengths induce significantly greater expression of c-fos and fos-related antigens (FRAs) in the tuberal hypothalamus of the photosensitive hen than that of the photorefractory hen. The tuber is also a site of photoinducible glial expression of type 2 iodothyronine deiodinase (Dio2), which converts thyroxine into its active form, triiodothyronine (T3). T3 induces withdrawal of glial processes from gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) I nerve terminals, which is believed to permit the efficient release of GnRH I into the associated portal vasculature. Using a riboprobe, we tested whether long days induce Dio2 mRNA expression in the turkey tuber and, if so, whether this expression is reduced in photorefractory hens. Long days significantly induced rostral and caudal tuberal hypothalamic Dio2 expression in photosensitive hens. Photorefractory hens had reduced expression of Dio2 with most subjects expressing no detectable mRNA in the rostral tuber and variably attenuated amounts throughout the medial and caudal tuber. We also performed double-label immunohistochemistry to identify co-localisation between FRAs and glial fibrillary acidic protein, a glial marker. FRAs were present in the nuclei of a few astrocytes in the median eminence and infundibular nucleus of the tuber. The temporal and spatial coincidence between FRA and Dio2 expression, their mutual association with glia, and the attenuation of their response during photorefractoriness suggests that the two events are linked and that photorefractoriness involves a reduced capacity for photo-inducible gene expression within glia of the tuberal hypothalamus.
    Journal of Neuroendocrinology 09/2008; 20(11):1260-9. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2826.2008.01781.x · 3.14 Impact Factor

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