[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Disturbances of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signalling have been implicated in the evolution of depression, which likely arises, in part, as a result of diminished synaptic plasticity. Predictably, given stressor involvement in depression, BDNF is affected by recent stressors as well as stressors such as neglect experienced in early life. The effects of early life maltreatment in altering BDNF signalling may be particularly apparent among those individuals with specific BDNF polymorphisms. We examined whether polymorphisms of the Val66Met genotype might be influential in moderating how early-life events play out with respect to later coping styles, cognitive flexibility and depressive features. Among male and female undergraduate students (N = 124), childhood neglect was highly related to subsequent depressive symptoms. This outcome was moderated by the BDNF polymorphism in the sense that depressive symptoms appeared higher in Met carriers who reported low levels of neglect than in those with the Val/Val allele. However, under conditions of high neglect depressive symptoms only increased in the Val/Val individuals. In effect, the Met polymorphism was associated with depressive features, but did not interact with early life neglect in predicting later depressive features. It was further observed that among the Val/Val individuals, the relationship between neglect and depression was mediated by emotion-focused styles and diminished perceived control, whereas this mediation was not apparent in Met carriers. In contrast to the more typical view regarding this polymorphism, the data are consistent with the perspective that in the presence of synaptic plasticity presumably associated with the Val/Val genotype, neglect allows for the emergence of specific appraisal and coping styles, which are tied to depression. In the case of the reduced degree of neuroplasticity expected in the Met carriers, early life adverse experiences are not tied to coping styles, and hence less likely to be translated into depressive states.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(6):e65547. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Several prosocial behaviors may be influenced by the hormone oxytocin. In line with this perspective, the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), rs53576, has been associated with a broad range of social behaviors. In this regard, the G allele of the OXTR SNP has been accompanied by beneficial attributes such as increased empathy, optimism, and trust. In the current study among university students (N = 288), it was shown that early-life maltreatment was associated with depressive symptoms, and that the OXTR genotype moderated this relationship, such that under high levels of childhood maltreatment, only individuals with GG/GA genotype demonstrated increased depressive symptomatology compared to those with the AA genotype. In addition, the role of distrust in mediating the relation between childhood maltreatment and depression seemed to be more important among G allele carriers compared to individuals with the AA genotype. Thus, a breach in trust (i.e., in the case of early-life abuse or neglect) may have a more deleterious effect among G carriers, who have been characterized as more prosocial and attuned to social cues. The data suggested that G carriers of the OXTR might favor social sensitivity and thus might have been more vulnerable to the effects of early-life adversity.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Molecular mechanisms behind the etiology and pathophysiology of major depressive disorder and suicide remain largely unknown. Recent molecular studies of expression of serotonin, GABA and CRH receptors in various brain regions have demonstrated that molecular factors may contribute to the development of depressive disorder and suicide behaviour. Here, we used microarray analysis to examine the expression of genes in brain tissue (frontopolar cortex) of individuals who had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and died by suicide, and those who had died suddenly without a history of depression. We analyzed the list of differentially expressed genes using pathway analysis, which is an assumption-free approach to analyze microarray data. Our analysis revealed that the differentially expressed genes formed functional networks that were implicated in cell to cell signaling related to synapse maturation, neuronal growth and neuronal complexity. We further validated these data by randomly choosing (100 times) similarly sized gene lists and subjecting these lists to the same analyses. Random gene lists did not provide highly connected gene networks like those generated by the differentially expressed list derived from our samples. We also found through correlational analysis that the gene expression of control participants was more highly coordinated than in the MDD/suicide group. These data suggest that among depressed individuals who died by suicide, wide ranging perturbations of gene expression exist that are critical for normal synaptic connectively, morphology and cell to cell communication.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(10):e47581. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Innate differences in human temperament strongly influence how individuals cope with stress and also predispose towards specific types of psychopathology. The present study examines the developing brain in an animal model of temperamental differences to examine how altered neurodevelopment may engender differences in emotional reactivity that are stable throughout the animal's life. We utilize selectively-bred High Responder (bHR) and Low Responder (bLR) rats that exhibit dramatic emotional behavior differences, with bHRs exhibiting exaggerated novelty-exploration, aggression, impulsivity and drug self-administration, and bLRs showing marked behavioral inhibition and exaggerated anxiety-like and depressive-like behavior. Using Affymetrix microarrays, we assessed bLR and bHR gene expression in the developing brain on postnatal days (P)7, 14 and 21, focusing on the hippocampus and nucleus accumbens, two regions related to emotionality and known to differ in adult bLR and bHR rats. We found dramatic gene expression differences between bLR and bHR in the P7 and P14 hippocampus, with minimal differences in the nucleus accumbens. Some of the most profound differences involved genes critical for neurodevelopment and synaptogenesis. Stereological studies evaluated hippocampal structure in developing bHR and bLR pups, revealing enhanced hippocampal volume and cell proliferation in bLR animals. Finally, behavioral studies showed that the characteristic bHR and bLR behavioral phenotypes emerge very early in life, with exploratory differences apparent at P16 and anxiety differences present by P25. Together these data point to specific brain regions and critical periods when the bHR and bLR phenotypes begin to diverge, which may eventually allow us to test possible therapeutic interventions to normalize extreme phenotypes (e.g. the anxiety-prone nature of bLRs or drug addiction proclivity of bHRs).
European Journal of Neuroscience 08/2011; 34(6):994-1005. · 3.75 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Stressful events have been implicated in the precipitation of depression and anxiety. These disorders may evolve owing to one or more of an array of neuronal changes that occur in several brain regions. It seems likely that these stressor-provoked neurochemical alterations are moderated by genetic determinants, as well as by a constellation of experiential and environmental factors. Indeed, animal studies have shown that vulnerability to depressive-like behaviors involve mechanisms similar to those associated with human depression (e.g., altered serotonin, corticotropin releasing hormone and their receptors, growth factors), and that the effects of stressors are influenced by previous stressor experiences, particularly those encountered early in life. These stressor effects might reflect sensitization of neuronal functioning, phenotypic changes of processes that lead to neurochemical release or receptor sensitivity, or epigenetic processes that modify expression of specific genes associated with stressor reactivity. It is suggested that depression is a life-long disorder, which even after effective treatment, has a high rate of re-occurrence owing to sensitized processes or epigenetic factors that promote persistent alterations of gene expression.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The human and rat hippocampus is highly susceptible to iron deficiency (ID) during the late fetal, early neonatal time period which is a peak time of regulated brain iron uptake and utilization. ID during this period alters cognitive development and is characterized by distinctive, long-term changes in hippocampal cellular growth and function. The fundamental processes underlying these changes are not entirely understood. In this study, ID-induced changes in expression of 25 genes implicated in iron metabolism, including cell growth and energy metabolism, dendrite morphogenesis, and synaptic connectivity were assessed from postnatal day (P) 7 to P65 in hippocampus. All 25 genes showed altered expression during the period of ID (P7, 15, and 30); 10 had changes on P65 after iron repletion. ID caused long-term diminished protein levels of four factors critical for hippocampal neuron differentiation and plasticity, including CamKII alpha, Fkbp1a (Fkbp12), Dlgh4 (PSD-95), and Vamp1 (Synaptobrevin-1). ID altered gene expression in the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and in a gene network implicated in Alzheimer disease etiology. ID during late fetal and early postnatal life alters the levels and timing of expression of critical genes involved in hippocampal development and function. The study provides targets for future studies in elucidating molecular mechanisms underpinning iron's role in cognitive development and function.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Outbred Sprague-Dawley rats can be classified as high responders (HR) or low responders (LR) based on their levels of exploratory locomotion in a novel environment. While this novelty-seeking dimension was originally related to differential vulnerability to substance abuse, behavioral, neuroendocrine and gene expression studies suggest a fundamental difference in emotional reactivity between these animals. Here, we report the first study to selectively breed rats based on this novelty-seeking dimension. Response to novelty was clearly heritable, with a > 2-fold difference in behavior seen after eight generations of selection. Three tests of anxiety-like behavior consistently showed significantly greater anxiety in LR-bred rats compared to HR-bred animals, and this difference was diminished in the open field test by administration of the anxiolytic benzodiazepine drug, chlordiazepoxide. Cross-fostering revealed that responses to novelty were largely unaffected by maternal interactions, though there was an effect on anxiety-like behavior. These selected lines will enable future research on the interplay of genetic, environmental and developmental variables in controlling drug seeking behavior, stress and emotional reactivity.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Neural development involves the expression of ensembles of regulatory genes that control the coordinate and region-specific expression of a host of other genes, resulting in the unique structure, connectivity, and function of each brain region. Although the role of some specific genes in neural development has been studied in detail, we have no global view of the orchestration of spatial and temporal aspects of gene expression across multiple regions of the developing brain. To this end, we used transcriptional profiling to examine expression levels of 9955 genes in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and frontal cortex across seven stages of postnatal development and up to four stages of prenatal development in individual male rats (six per group). The results reveal dramatic changes across development in >97% of the neurally expressed genes. They also uncover a surprising degree of regional differentiation occurring after birth and through the first 2 weeks of life. Cluster analysis identifies 20 clusters of transcripts enriched in genes related to particular functions, such as DNA metabolism, nuclear function, synaptic vesicle transport, myelination, and neuropeptide hormone activity. Thus, groups of genes with related functions change in the brain at specific times, possibly marking critical periods for each function. These findings can broadly serve as a backdrop for studying the role of individual genes in neural development. They also underscore the importance of early postnatal life in the rat, which corresponds to late gestation in the human, as a critical late phase of neural organization and differentiation, even in subcortical regions.
Journal of Neuroscience 01/2006; 26(1):345-53. · 6.91 Impact Factor