Postmortem studies of human brains have correlated reduced glial cell density with major depression and other psychiatric disorders. Animal studies have not only confirmed the loss of glial cells in animal models of depression but have also suggested that glial cell loss in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus may in fact cause the depressive symptoms. To date, however, there have been no studies that directly demonstrate roles for specific glial cell types in mediating behavioral deficits, nor have the mechanisms that underlie glial cell loss in depression been identified. NG2+ cells were first shown to be important as progenitors of oligodendrocytes. However, NG2+ cells are abundant in the healthy adult brain where myelination is no longer required. Recent work has suggested that NG2+ cells also function in normal brain physiology and homeostasis, forming functional synaptic contacts with neurons and possibly releasing neuroactive factors. Three key preliminary findings form the basis for this proposal. First, we have found that exposing mice to extended behavioral stress dramatically reduces NG2+ cells in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Second, we have found that NG2+ cell density is significantly reduced in the PFC of patients diagnosed with depression. Third, using a genetic tool to ablate NG2+ cells in the brain, we have observed that NG2+ cell loss creates cellular, molecular and functional changes similar to those observed in depression, including depressive-like symptoms. Taken together, our findings suggest strong links between external stress and NG2+ viability, and between NG2+ cell function and the maintenance of normal brain physiology and behavior. We hypothesize that NG2+ cells sense the neuronal 'state of health'at neuron-glial synapses and that their loss or atrophy disturbs brain homeostasis and creates depressive disorders. Understanding how NG2+ cells regulate brain homeostasis has the potential to aid development of more effective intervention and prevention strategies for depressive disorders. Using our NG2+ depletion strategy, social defeat stress paradigm (SDSP), and analysis of NG2+ cells in tissue brain samples of subjects with depression, we propose to systematically elucidate the functions performed by NG2+ cells above and beyond their role as oligodendrocyte progenitors and explore their role in the development of depressive-like symptoms.

Public Health Relevance

The goals of this proposal are to elucidate the role of NG2+ glial cells in normal brain physiology and homeostasis and the mechanisms by which NG2+ cell loss leads to depressive-like behaviors. It is envisioned that these fundamental studies could lead to new hypotheses regarding depression in humans. NG2+ cells were first shown to be important as progenitors of oligodendrocytes. On the other hand, NG2+ cells are abundant in the healthy adult brain where myelination is no longer required. Recent work has suggested that NG2+ cells also function in normal brain physiology and homeostasis. We plan to accomplish these goals by employing three approaches: i) the chronic social defeat stress paradigm, a mouse model of depression, ii) a mouse model to selectively deplete NG2+ cells in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, and iii) analysis of NG2+ cells in postmortem human tissue. Using these tools, we have found in preliminary data that NG2+ cell density and proliferation are dramatically affected in areas including the PFC and hippocampus that play critical roles in the chronic social defeat stress paradigm and patients with depression. Furthermore, after depleting NG2+ cells in the adult PFC and hippocampus, cellular, molecular and functional changes similar to ones seen in mouse models of stress are observed in those brain regions, and the mice display anxiety-like behavior. Thus, these findings point to a role for NG2+ cells in normal adult brain function and homeostasis. The central hypothesis of this proposal is that NG2+ cells undertake roles to maintain brain homeostasis and normal neuronal functioning in addition to their role as oligodendrocyte progenitors.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
1R01MH099384-01A1
Application #
8581072
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-MDCN-P (57))
Program Officer
Desmond, Nancy L
Project Start
2013-07-01
Project End
2018-05-31
Budget Start
2013-07-01
Budget End
2014-05-31
Support Year
1
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$391,342
Indirect Cost
$141,342
Name
State University New York Stony Brook
Department
Pharmacology
Type
Schools of Medicine
DUNS #
804878247
City
Stony Brook
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
11794