The dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus is important for cognitive and affective behaviors. However, the circuits underlying these behaviors are unclear. DG mossy cells (MCs) have been a focus of attention because of their excitatory synapses on the primary DG cell type, granule cells (GCs). However, MCs also activate DG GABAergic neurons which inhibit GCs. We took advantage of specific methods and a gain- and loss-of function strategy with Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs) to study MCs in diverse behaviors. Using this approach, manipulations of MCs could bidirectionally regulate behavior. The results suggest that inhibiting MCs can reduce anxiety-like behavior and improve cognitive performance. However, not all cognitive or anxiety-related behaviors were influenced, suggesting specific roles of MCs in some but not all types of cognition and anxiety. Notably, several behaviors showed sex-specific effects, with females often showing more pronounced effects than the males. We also used the immediate early gene c-Fos to address whether DREADDs bidirectionally regulated MC or GC activity. We confirmed excitatory DREADDs increased MC c-Fos. However, there was no change in GC c-Fos, consistent with MC activation leading to GABAergic inhibition of GCs. In contrast, inhibitory DREADDs led to a large increase in GC c-Fos, consistent with a reduction in MC excitation of GABAergic neurons, and reduced inhibition of GCs. Taken together, these results suggest that MCs regulate anxiety and cognition in specific ways. We also raise the possibility that cognitive performance may be improved by reducing anxiety.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience