Transcriptional Regulation of Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase in the Male Mouse Amygdala by Dietary Phyto-Oestrogens

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Phyto-oestrogens are biologically active components of many human and laboratory animal diets. In the present study, we investigated, in adult male mice with C57BL/6 genetic background, the effects of a reduced phyto-oestrogens intake on anxiety-related behaviour and associated gene expression in the amygdala. After 6 weeks on a low-phyto-oestrogen diet (< 20 μg/g cumulative phyto-oestrogen content), animals showed reduced centre exploration in an open-field task compared to their littermates on a soybean-based standard diet (300 μg/g). Freezing behaviour in an auditory fear memory task, in contrast, was not affected. We hypothesised that this mildly increased anxiety may involve changes in the function of GABAergic local circuit neurones in the amygdala. Using GAD67+/GFP mice, we could demonstrate reduced transcription of the GAD67 gene in the lateral and basolateral amygdala under the low-phyto-oestrogen diet. Analysis of mRNA levels in microdissected samples confirmed this regulation and demonstrated concomitant changes in expression of the second glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) isoform, GAD65, as well as the anxiolytic neuropeptide Y. These molecular and behavioural alterations occurred without apparent changes in circulating oestrogens or testosterone levels. Our data suggest that expression regulation of interneurone-specific gene products in the amygdala may provide a mechanism for the control of anxiety-related behaviour through dietary phyto-oestrogens.

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