Learning to cope with stress modulates anterior cingulate cortex stargazin expression in monkeys and mice

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Abstract

Intermittent mildly stressful situations provide opportunities to learn, practice, and improve coping with gains in subsequent emotion regulation. Here we investigate the effects of learning to cope with stress on anterior cingulate cortex gene expression in monkeys and mice. Anterior cingulate cortex is involved in learning, memory, cognitive control, and emotion regulation. Monkeys and mice were randomized to either stress coping or no-stress treatment conditions. Profiles of gene expression were acquired with HumanHT-12v4.0 Expression BeadChip arrays adapted for monkeys. Three genes identified in monkeys by arrays were then assessed in mice by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Expression of a key gene (PEMT) involved in acetylcholine biosynthesis was increased in monkeys by coping but this result was not verified in mice. Another gene (SPRY2) that encodes a negative regulator of neurotrophic factor signaling was decreased in monkeys by coping but this result was only partly verified in mice. The CACNG2 gene that encodes stargazin (also called TARP gamma-2) was increased by coping in monkeys as well as mice randomized to coping with or without subsequent behavioral tests of emotionality. As evidence of coping effects distinct from repeated stress exposures per se, increased stargazin expression induced by coping correlated with diminished emotionality in mice. Stargazin modulates glutamate receptor signaling and plays a role in synaptic plasticity. Molecular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity that mediate learning and memory in the context of coping with stress may provide novel targets for new treatments of disorders in human mental health.

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