A molecularly defined amygdalaindependent tetra-synaptic forebrain-tohindbrain pathway for odor-driven innate fear and anxiety

Fear-related disorders (for example, phobias and anxiety) cause a substantial public health problem. To date, studies of the neural basis of fear have mostly focused on the amygdala. Here we identify a molecularly defined amygdala-independent tetra-synaptic pathway for olfaction-evoked innate fear and anxiety in male mice. This pathway starts with inputs from the olfactory bulb mitral and tufted cells to pyramidal neurons in the dorsal peduncular cortex that in turn connect to cholecystokinin-expressing (Cck+) neurons in the superior part of lateral parabrachial nucleus, which project to tachykinin 1-expressing (Tac1+) neurons in the parasubthalamic nucleus. Notably, the identified pathway is specifically involved in odor-driven innate fear. Selective activation of this pathway induces innate fear, while its inhibition suppresses odor-driven innate fear. In addition, the pathway is both necessary and sufficient for stress induced anxiety-like behaviors. These findings reveal a forebrain-to-hindbrain neural substrate for sensory-triggered fear and anxiety that bypasses the amygdala.

Tet2 acts in the lateral habenula to regulate social preference in mice

The lateral habenula (LHb) has been considered a moderator of social behaviors. However, it remains unknown how LHb regulates social interaction. Here, we show that the hydroxymethylase Tet2 is highly expressed in the LHb. Tet2 conditional knockout (cKO) mice exhibit impaired social preference; however, replenishing Tet2 in the LHb rescues social preference impairment in Tet2 cKO mice. Tet2 cKO alters DNA hydroxymethylation (5hmC) modifications in genes that are related to neuronal functions, as is confirmed by miniature two-photon microscopy data. Further, Tet2 knockdown in the glutamatergic neurons of LHb causes impaired social behaviors, but the inhibition of glutamatergic excitability restores social preference. Mechanistically, we identify that Tet2 deficiency reduces 5hmC modifications on the Sh3rf2 promoter and Sh3rf2 mRNA expression. Interestingly, Sh3rf2 overexpression in the LHb rescues social preference in Tet2 cKO mice. Therefore, Tet2 in the LHb may be a potential therapeutic target for social behavior deficit-related disorders such as autism.

A neural circuit for regulating a behavioral switch in response to prolonged uncontrollability in mice

Persistence in the face of failure helps to overcome challenges. But the ability to adjust behavior or even give up when the task is uncontrollable has advantages. How the mammalian brain switches behavior when facing uncontrollability remains an open question. We generated two mouse models of behavioral transition from action to no-action during exposure to a prolonged experience with an uncontrollable outcome. The transition was not caused by pain desensitization or muscle fatigue and was not a depression-/learned-helplessness-like behavior. Noradrenergic neurons projecting to GABAergic neurons within the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) are key regulators of this behavior. Fiber photometry, microdialysis, mini-two-photon microscopy, and tetrode/optrode in vivo recording in freely behaving mice revealed that the reduction of norepinephrine and downregulation of alpha 1 receptor in the OFC reduced the number and activity of GABAergic neurons necessary for driving action behavior resulting in behavioral transition. These findings define a circuit governing behavioral switch in response to prolonged uncontrollability.

Aerobic glycolysis is the predominant means of glucose metabolism in neuronal somata, which protects against oxidative damage

It is generally thought that under basal conditions, neurons produce ATP mainly through mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), and glycolytic activity only predominates when neurons are activated and need to meet higher energy demands. However, it remains unknown whether there are differences in glucose metabolism between neuronal somata and axon terminals. Here, we demonstrated that neuronal somata perform higher levels of aerobic glycolysis and lower levels of OXPHOS than terminals, both during basal and activated states. We found that the glycolytic enzyme pyruvate kinase 2 (PKM2) is localized predominantly in the somata rather than in the terminals. Deletion of Pkm2 in mice results in a switch from aerobic glycolysis to OXPHOS in neuronal somata, leading to oxidative damage and progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons. Our findings update the conventional view that neurons uniformly use OXPHOS under basal conditions and highlight the important role of somatic aerobic glycolysis in maintaining antioxidant capacity.

Egocentric processing of items in spines, dendrites, and somas in the retrosplenial cortex

Egocentric representations of external items are essential for spatial navigation and memory. Here, we explored the neural mechanisms underlying egocentric processing in the retrosplenial cortex (RSC), a pivotal area for memory and navigation. Using one-photon and two-photon calcium imaging, we identified egocentric tuning for environment boundaries in dendrites, spines, and somas of RSC neurons (egocentric boundary cells) in the open-field task. Dendrites with egocentric tuning tended to have similarly tuned spines. We further identified egocentric neurons representing landmarks in a virtual navigation task or remembered cue location in a goal-oriented task, respectively. These neurons formed an independent population with egocentric boundary cells, suggesting that dedicated neurons with microscopic clustering of functional inputs shaped egocentric boundary processing in RSC and that RSC adopted a labeled line code with distinct classes of egocentric neurons responsible for representing different items in specific behavioral contexts, which could lead to efficient and flexible computation.

Imaging Microglia Surveillance during Sleep-wake Cycles in Freely Behaving Mice

Microglia surveillance manifests itself as dynamic changes in cell morphology and functional remodeling. Whether and how microglia surveillance is coupled to brain state switches during natural sleep-wake cycles remains unclear. To address this question, we used miniature two-photon microscopy (mTPM) to acquire time-lapse high-resolution microglia images of the somatosensory cortex, along with EEG/EMG recordings and behavioral video, in freely-behaving mice. We uncovered fast and robust brain state-dependent changes in microglia surveillance, occurring in parallel with sleep dynamics and early-onset phagocytic microglial contraction during sleep deprivation stress. We also detected local norepinephrine fluctuation occurring in a sleep state-dependent manner. We showed that the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system, which is crucial to sleep homeostasis, is required for both sleep state-dependent and stress-induced microglial responses and β2-adrenergic receptor signaling plays a significant role in this process. These results provide direct evidence that microglial surveillance is exquisitely tuned to signals and stressors that regulate sleep dynamics and homeostasis so as to adjust its varied roles to complement those of neurons in the brain. In vivo imaging with mTPM in freely behaving animals, as demonstrated here, opens a new avenue for future investigation of microglia dynamics and sleep biology in freely behaving animals.

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