Neuropeptide S (NPS) is a recently identified transmitter in the brain. NPS produces arousal and wakefulness and reduces behavioral signs of anxiety in rodents. Recent studies have also found that NPS stimulates drug-seeking behavior and enhances learning and memory. A naturally occurring mutation in the NPS receptor gene is associated with panic disorder, making the NPS system an interesting candidate for development of new drugs that could have therapeutic benefits in the treatment of anxiety disorders or psychiatric conditions involving improper processing of aversive memories, such as panic disorder, phobias or generalized anxiety disorder. However, it is currently unknown which other transmitters control the release of NPS in the brain and which transmitters are co-localized, and thus co-released, with NPS. To address these questions, we have generated transgenic mice that express a fluorescent marker protein (EGFP) in only those neurons that also synthesize NPS. These NPS/EGFP-transgenic mice have allowed us to collect single fluorescent neurons and determine their gene expression profile. Among all expressed genes, we are particularly interested in receptor genes as they indicate which incoming neurotransmitters may control activity of NPS-producing neurons. As a first result of these investigations, we have discovered functional receptors for the neuropeptide CRF, which is a key transmitter in mediating stress and anxiety behaviors. Furthermore, we have now a list of potentially co-localized other neurotransmitters that may be co-released whenever these neurons are activated. The first goal of the current proposal is to confirm the presence of these additional neurotransmitters in NPS-producing neurons by staining brain sections with suitable antibody probes. Secondly, we will study receptors located on NPS-producing cells that either activate or inhibit neuronal firing by recording their electrical activity in brain slices from NPS/EGFP-transgenic mice. As a proof of concept, we will focus on CRF receptors to establish the interaction of the NPS system with this major stress-regulating system. Finally, we will investigate if stress leads to activation of NPS neurons, and in particular neurons that express CRF receptors. This focused approach will allow us to understand functional responses and network interactions of the NPS system with the CRF system and could translate into novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of anxiety or stress-related disorders.

Public Health Relevance

The NPS system is an emerging target for the treatment of anxiety disorders and psychiatric conditions involving aberrant processing of aversive memory, such as panic disorder, phobias, or generalized anxiety disorder. It is currently unknown which transmitters control release of endogenous NPS and which transmitters are co-released together with NPS. Preliminary data suggest CRF-mediated activation of NPS neurons, thus linking the NPS system with the brain's major stress-modulatory system. The current proposal will study this interaction in detail in order to design novel therapeutic strategies to treat anxity or stress disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Molecular Neuropharmacology and Signaling Study Section (MNPS)
Program Officer
Nadler, Laurie S
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Irvine
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
Zip Code
Civelli, Olivier; Reinscheid, Rainer K; Zhang, Yan et al. (2013) G protein-coupled receptor deorphanizations. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol 53:127-46