Enlargement of Axo-Somatic Contacts Formed by GAD-Immunoreactive Axon Terminals onto Layer V Pyramidal Neurons in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex of Adolescent Female Mice Is Associated with Suppression of Food Restriction-Evoked Hyperactivity and Resilience to Activity-Based Anorexia

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Abstract

Many, but not all, adolescent female mice that are exposed to a running wheel while food restricted (FR) become excessive wheel runners, choosing to run even during the hours of food availability, to the point of death. This phenomenon is called activity-based anorexia (ABA). We used electron microscopic immunocytochemistry to ask whether individual differences in ABA resilience may correlate with the lengths of axo-somatic contacts made by GABAergic axon terminals onto layer 5 pyramidal neurons (L5P) in the prefrontal cortex. Contact lengths were, on average, 40% greater for the ABA-induced mice, relative to controls. Correspondingly, the proportion of L5P perikaryal plasma membrane contacted by GABAergic terminals was 45% greater for the ABA mice. Contact lengths in the anterior cingulate cortex correlated negatively and strongly with the overall wheel activity after FR (R = −0.87, P < 0.01), whereas those in the prelimbic cortex correlated negatively with wheel running specifically during the hours of food availability of the FR days (R = −0.84, P < 0.05). These negative correlations support the idea that increases in the glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) terminal contact lengths onto L5P contribute toward ABA resilience through suppression of wheel running, a behavior that is intrinsically rewarding and helpful for foraging but maladaptive within a cage.

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