Expression of anxiety-related genes, including the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding protein (CPEB), in the rat limbic system
Van Cleemput, Jamie Michelle
Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental disorders in the world. While “normal” anxiety serves as an important protective mechanism, “pathological” anxiety characteristic of an anxiety disorder is both maladaptive and disruptive. The majority of studies have focused on the neurotransmitter systems associated with the actions of known anxiety drugs. This focus may likely limit the exploration of mechanisms underlying anxiety disorders. This project aims to examine changes in gene expression that may underlie higher or lower levels of inherent anxiety. Using a well-established behavior test for anxiety, the elevated plus maze, we identified male Wistar rats exhibiting inherently high- or low-anxiety levels. Brain regions known to mediate anxiety, the amygdala, hippocampus and nucleus accumbens, were dissected and total mRNA isolated. The mRNA was converted to cDNA via reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Then, the cDNA was used in suppression subtractive hybridization, a technique used to compare two complete populations of cDNAs and identify cDNAs that are upregulated in one population in relation to the other. In this project suppression subtractive hybridization was used to compare high- and low-anxiety cDNA populations. The upregulated cDNAs were amplified in a PCR reaction that enables rare transcripts to be identified. The PCR products from the suppression subtractive hybridization were cloned and used to create two cDNA libraries for high- and low-anxiety related genes. These clones were sequenced to show over 1000 genes upregulated in high- and low-anxiety. The gene list was then subjected to bioinformatic analysis to identify one candidate to be studied in further detail. The prion protein was identified as a potential candidate. Examination of the literature sparked an interest in studying other prion-like proteins, more specifically the cytoplasmic polyadenylation element binding protein (CPEB). The CPEB protein is a potent regulator of mRNA translation in both mature oocytes and the adult brain. While unphosphorylated the CPEB protein keeps specific mRNAs dormant in the cytoplasm. In its phosphorylated form CPEB catalyzes polyadenylation of the mRNA, leading to protein synthesis. p*PCR was used to show the presence of CPEB mRNA transcripts in the rat hippocampus. CPEB protein expression was examined in the brain samples isolated from control, high- and low-anxiety rats. It was found that CPEB was significantly upregulated in high- and low-anxiety rats compared to control. The protein expression of an upstream kinase, Aurora A kinase, and a downstream target, Calcium/Calmodulin Dependent Kinase II (CaMKII), was also investigated. The results from Aurora A kinase were inconclusive. CaMKII, on the other hand, was significantly upregulated in high-anxiety over both control and low-anxiety. These results suggest that CPEB may catalyze increased translation of mRNAs in high-anxiety while acting as a repressor of those same mRNAs in low-anxiety. Recent studies have suggested that CPEB protein plays an important role in synaptic plasticity. The regulation of synaptic plasticity, and its impact on learning and memory, is believed to be a key mechanism behind the maintenance of anxiety disorders. Therefore the results of this study suggest a new molecular mechanism in the development of anxiety disorders.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeMousseau, Darrell D.; Li, Xin-Min
Copyright DateApril 2006
suppression subtractive hybridization
elevated plus maze