Dysfunctions in memory recall lead to pathological fear; a hallmark of trauma-related disorders, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Heightened recall of an association between a cue and trauma, as well as impoverished recall that a previously trauma-related cue is no longer a threat both result in a debilitating fear toward the cue. Glucocorticoid-mediated action via the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) influences memory recall. This literature has primarily focused on GRs expressed in neurons or ignored cell-type specific contributions. To ask how GR action in non-neuronal cells influences memory recall, we combined auditory fear conditioning in mice and the knockout of GRs in astrocytes in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a brain region implicated in memory recall. We found that GRs in astrocytes in the PFC calibrate recall in female but not male mice. Specifically, we found that knocking out GRs in astrocytes in the PFC of female mice (AstroGRKO) after fear conditioning resulted in higher recall of fear to the CS+ tone when compared to controls (AstroGRintact). While we did not find any differences in extinction of fear toward the CS+ between these groups, AstroGRKO female mice showed impaired recall of extinction training. We did not observe any significant results in male mice. These results suggest a sex-specific calibration of memory recall by GRs in astrocytes in the PFC. These data demonstrate the need to examine GR action in cortical astrocytes to elucidate the basic neurobiology underlying memory recall and potential mechanisms that underlie female-specific biases in the incidence of PTSD.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience