Author(s): Gangitano D, Salas R, Teng Y, Perez E, De Biasi M
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Abstract Smokers often report an anxiolytic effect of cigarettes. In addition, stress-related disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome and depression are often associated with chronic nicotine use. To study the role of the alpha5 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunit in anxiety-related responses, control and alpha5 subunit null mice (alpha5(-/-)) were subjected to the open field activity (OFA), light-dark box (LDB) and elevated plus maze (EPM) tests. In the OFA and LDB, alpha5(-/-) behaved like wild-type controls. In the EPM, female alpha5(-/-) mice displayed an anxiolytic-like phenotype, while male alpha5(-/-) mice were undistinguishable from littermate controls. We studied the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis by measuring plasma corticosterone and hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing factor. Consistent with an anxiolytic-like phenotype, female alpha5(-/-) mice displayed lower basal corticosterone levels. To test whether gonadal steroids regulate the expression of alpha5, we treated cultured NTera 2 cells with progesterone and found that alpha5 protein levels were upregulated. In addition, brain levels of alpha5 mRNA increased upon progesterone injection into ovariectomized wild-type females. Finally, we tested anxiety levels in the EPM during the estrous cycle. The estrus phase (when progesterone levels are low) is anxiolytic-like in wild-type mice, but no cycle-dependent fluctuations in anxiety levels were found in alpha5(-/-) females. Thus, alpha5-containing neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors may be mediators of anxiogenic responses, and progesterone-dependent modulation of alpha5 expression may contribute to fluctuations in anxiety levels during the ovarian cycle.
This article was published in Genes Brain Behav
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy