Researchers find link between neuritin gene activity and stress induced depression

June 27, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Medical Xpress) -- Research teams from the US and Korea have together been studying depression and other mood disorders and have found that chronic stress can block a gene whose job it is to maintain healthy neuron connections in the brain, which in turn can lead to mental ailments. In lab experiments they have found that rats show lowered levels of neuritin gene activity when driven to depression, and that rats with depression tended to do better when given treatment that boosted neuritin activity, suggesting that another means of treating people with mood disorders might be on the horizon. The team has published a paper describing their experiments and results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Prior research has shown that people who suffer from tend to lose plasticity, or the ability to organize new information in their brains, specifically in the hippocampus, leading to a degree of atrophy, a condition that makes it difficult for such people to recover from their disorder even when given drugs to help treat the symptoms. Until now however, most drugs that are used to treat mood disorders work by blocking the re-absorption of the serotonin. In this new research, the team looked at the role of neuritin instead.

In lab experiments they first caused rats to become depressed by exposing them to a constantly , e.g. putting them alone in a sterile environment, limiting food and alternating their night/day cycle. After about three weeks the rats became lethargic and unresponsive to normal stimuli. Once that was done, they tested them for the degree of neuritin gene activity, and found that such levels had dropped in all of them. They then treated some of the rates with standard mood stabilizers which helped reduced symptoms as it has in previous research. But then, they treated some of the other rats by infecting them with a virus that causes an increase in neuritin gene activity and found doing so helped the rats just as much as standard therapies and also served to protect their brains from atrophy.

In another experiment the team forced lowered neuritin gene activity in a group of rats but didn’t subject them to stress and found the rats became just as depressed as had those in the first experiment.

The team notes that while their results look very promising on paper, assuming the same results would occur with people is premature as there are differences in biology. Their results do however support the notion that stress itself contributes to mood disorders, which is information people can use to help them live more mentally healthy lives right now.

Explore further: New discoveries on depression

More information: Neuritin produces antidepressant actions and blocks the neuronal and behavioral deficits caused by chronic stress, PNAS, Published online before print June 25, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201191109

Abstract
Decreased neuronal dendrite branching and plasticity of the hippocampus, a limbic structure implicated in mood disorders, is thought to contribute to the symptoms of depression. However, the mechanisms underlying this effect, as well as the actions of antidepressant treatment, remain poorly characterized. Here, we show that hippocampal expression of neuritin, an activity-dependent gene that regulates neuronal plasticity, is decreased by chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) and that antidepressant treatment reverses this effect. We also show that viral-mediated expression of neuritin in the hippocampus produces antidepressant actions and prevents the atrophy of dendrites and spines, as well as depressive and anxiety behaviors caused by CUS. Conversely, neuritin knockdown produces depressive-like behaviors, similar to CUS exposure. The ability of neuritin to increase neuroplasticity is confirmed in models of learning and memory. Our results reveal a unique action of neuritin in models of stress and depression, and demonstrate a role for neuroplasticity in antidepressant treatment response and related behaviors.

Related Stories

New discoveries on depression

February 28, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- During depression, the brain becomes less plastic and adaptable, and thus less able to perform certain tasks, like storing memories. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now traced the brain's lower ...

Failure in nerve-fiber navigation corrected in zebrafish model, suggests possibility of drug treatment

June 6, 2011
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is the leading genetic cause of death in children under 2, with no treatment other than supportive care. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Children's Hospital ...

Study offers clues as to why teens are more susceptible to addiction and mental illness

January 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Moghaddam Laboratory, led by biochemist Bita Moghaddam have found after studying rat brains that minor differences in activity levels in certain brain ...

Recommended for you

Research redefines proteins' role in the development of spinal sensory cells

September 19, 2017
A recent study led by Samantha Butler at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA has overturned a common belief about how a certain class of proteins in the spinal cord regulate ...

The brain at work: Spotting half-hidden objects

September 19, 2017
How does a driver's brain realize that a stop sign is behind a bush when only a red edge is showing? Or how can a monkey suspect that the yellow sliver in the leaves is a round piece of fruit?

Team discovers how to train damaging inflammatory cells to promote repair after stroke

September 19, 2017
White blood cells called neutrophils are like soldiers in your body that form in the bone marrow and at the first sign of microbial attack, head for the site of injury just as fast as they can to neutralize invading bacteria ...

Epileptic seizures show long-distance effects

September 19, 2017
The area in which an epileptic seizure starts in the brain, may be small but it reaches other parts of the brain at distances of over ten centimeters. That distant activity, in turn, influences the epileptic core, according ...

Study uncovers markers for severe form of multiple sclerosis

September 18, 2017
Scientists have uncovered two closely related cytokines—molecules involved in cell communication and movement—that may explain why some people develop progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), the most severe form of the disease. ...

Genetically altered mice bear some hallmarks of human bipolar behavior

September 18, 2017
Johns Hopkins researchers report they have genetically engineered mice that display many of the behavioral hallmarks of human bipolar disorder, and that the abnormal behaviors the rodents show can be reversed using well-established ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.