Mechanism of nitric oxide and acid-sensing ion channel 1a modulation of panic-like behaviour in the dorsal periaqueductal grey of the mouse

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HIGHLIGHTSIncreased NO content in the dPAG increased calcium/CaMKII signalling and produced panic-like behaviours in mice confronted by a rat.Increased NO content in the dPAG increased ASIC1a expression levels.Inhibition of ASIC1a in the dPAG downregulated calcium/CaMKII signalling pathways, producing a panicolytic-like effect.Predators induce defensive responses and fear behaviours in prey. The rat exposure test (RET) is frequently used as an animal model of panic. Nitric oxide (NO) which has been reported to be activated by the NMDA receptor, in turn mediates calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) signalling pathways in defensive responses. ACCN2, the orthologous human gene of acid-sensing ion channel 1a (ASIC1a), is also associated with panic disorder; however, few studies have focused on the role of ASIC1a in the modulation of panic and calcium/CaMKII signalling by NO. In the present study, NG-nitro-L-arginine-methyl-ester (L-NAME; non-selective NOS inhibitor), S-nitroso-N-acetyl-D,L-penicillamine (SNAP; NO donor), and psalmotoxin (PcTx-1; selective ASIC1a blocker) were administered to the dorsal periaqueductal grey (dPAG) before the predator stimulus, and the roles of NO in the expression of ASIC1a, phosphorylation of CaMKIIα (p-CaMKIIα) and expression of calmodulin (CaM) were investigated. The effects of ASIC1a, p-CaMKIIα and CaM regulation were also examined. Our results showed that intra-dPAG infusion of L-NAME weakened panic-like behaviour and decreased ASIC1a, p-CaMKIIα and CaM expression levels, whereas intra-dPAG infusion of SNAP enhanced panic-like behaviour and increased ASIC1a, p-CaMKIIα and CaM levels. Intra-dPAG infusion of PcTx-1 also weakened panic-like behaviour and decreased p-CaMKIIα expression level. Taken together, these results indicate that NO and ASIC1a are involved in the modulation of RET-induced panic-like behaviour in the dPAG. NO regulates the calcium/CaMKII signalling pathways, and ASIC1a participates in this regulation.

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