October 24, 2020

Chronic stress induces coordinated cortical microcircuit cell type transcriptomic changes consistent with altered information processing

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with altered GABAergic and glutamatergic signalling, suggesting altered excitation-inhibition balance (EIB) in cortical mood- and cognition-regulating brain regions. Information processing in cortical microcircuits involves regulation of pyramidal (PYR) cells by Somatostatin- (SST), Parvalbumin- (PV), and Vasoactive intestinal peptide- (VIP) expressing interneurons. Human and rodent studies suggest that impaired PYR-cell dendritic morphology and decreased SST-cell function may mediate altered EIB in MDD. However, knowledge of co-ordinated changes across microcircuit cell types is virtually absent. We thus investigated the co-ordinated transcriptomic effects of UCMS on microcircuit cell types in the medial prefrontal cortex. C57Bl/6 mice, exposed to unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) or control housing for five weeks were assessed for anxiety- and depressive-like behaviours. Microcircuit cell types were laser-microdissected and processed for RNA-sequencing. UCMS-exposed mice displayed predicted elevated behavioural emotionality. Each microcircuit cell type showed a unique transcriptional signature after UCMS. Pre-synaptic functions, oxidative stress response, metabolism, and translational regulation were differentially dysregulated across cell types, whereas nearly all cell types showed down-regulated post-synaptic gene signatures. At the microcircuit level, we observed a shift from distributed transcriptomic co-ordination across cell types in controls towards UCMS-induced increased co-ordination between PYR-, SST- and PV-cells, and a hub-like role for PYR-cells. Lastly, we identified a microcircuit-wide co-expression network enriched in synaptic, bioenergetic, and oxidative stress response genes that correlated with UCMS-induced behaviours. Together, these findings suggest cell-specific deficits, microcircuit-wide synaptic reorganization, and a shift in cortical EIB mediated by increased co-ordinated regulation of PYR-cells by SST- and PV-cells.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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