Intracranial administration of nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ) increases circulating concentrations of adrenocorticotrophic hormone and corticosterone in unstressed rats, and elevates the responsiveness of these hormones during mild stress. Furthermore, N/OFQ and its cognate receptor are both abundant in a variety of limbic nuclei, and stress exposure decreases neuronal N/OFQ content in forebrain neurons. In light of these and other findings, we examined the potential involvement of N/OFQ in regulation of anxiety-related behaviors in rats. In the open field, elevated plus maze, and dark-light neophobic tests, intracerebroventricular N/OFQ (1.0 pmole-1.0 nmole) increased the expression of anxiety-related behaviors. Specifically, N/OFQ increased the latency to enter, decreased the number of entries into, and decreased the time spent in the exposed or brightly lit environments of all three tests. N/OFQ also enhanced thigmotactic responses in the open field test. The effects of diazepam and of the benzodiazepine inverse agonist FG 7142 were also assessed in independent groups of rats. In all three tests, the behavioral effects of N/OFQ resembled the anxiogenic actions of FG 7142, and contrasted with the anxiolytic actions of diazepam. N/OFQ administration also increased circulating concentrations of corticosterone during anxiety testing, in comparison with the concentrations in vehicle-treated controls. We conclude that N/OFQ administration is anxiogenic, and elevates responsiveness of the hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis during neophobic tests of anxiety. This supports the possibility that N/OFQ neurotransmission participates in processing of emotionally-salient and stressful stimuli, and suggests that normal functioning of the N/OFQ system may be important in physiological and psychological well-being.
Down syndrome (DS) is the most prevalent form of intellectual disability caused by the triplication of approximately 230 genes on chromosome 21. Recent data in Ts65Dn mice, the foremost mouse model of DS, strongly suggest that cognitive impairment in individuals with DS is a consequence of reduced synaptic plasticity because of chronic over-inhibition. It remains unclear however whether changes in plasticity are tied to global molecular changes at synapses, or are due to regional changes in the functional properties of synaptic circuits. One interesting framework for evaluating the activity state of the DS brain comes from in vitro studies showing that chronic pharmacological silencing of neuronal excitability orchestrates stereotyped changes in the protein composition of synaptic junctions. In the present study, we use proteomic strategies to evaluate whether synapses from the Ts65Dn cerebrum carry signatures characteristic of inactive cortical neurons. Our data reveal that synaptic junctions do not exhibit overt alterations in protein composition. Only modest changes in the levels of synaptic proteins and in their phosphorylation are observed. This suggests that subtle changes in the functional properties of specific synaptic circuits rather than large-scale homeostatic shifts in the expression of synaptic molecules contribute to cognitive impairment in people with DS.
Ts65Dn mice, like individuals with Down syndrome (DS), demonstrate a functional dissociation between explicit and implicit forms of memory, showing selective impairment in explicit or declarative learning tasks. Here, we explored Ts65Dn explicit memory deficits further by evaluating the ability of these mice to assimilate the temporal and spatial contexts under which previously novel objects had been encountered. We found that Ts65Dn mice could in fact form contextual representations of objects over the course of a few hours, contrary to their inability to discriminate object novelty over a more prolonged period of 24h. These results suggest that Ts65Dn mice might have particular difficulties in declarative tasks requiring long-term memory, presenting an especially important putative therapeutic target for pre-clinical and clinical DS research.
Classic IRES sequences are notorious for exerting biased expression in favor of upstream coding regions when placed into polycistronic vectors. Here, we report the development of a bicistronic lentiviral system based on the 1D/2A sequence from the foot-and-mouth disease virus that is able to maintain tightly balanced control of upstream and downstream protein expression for several days at a stoichiometry very closely approaching 1.0. Our results suggest that the 1D/2A sequence can be optimized in an FUGW lentiviral setting to coordinate expression of multiple polypeptides, presenting a potentially valuable tool to signaling network researchers and to the gene therapy community.