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Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Feb;19(3):659-66.

Identification of genes regulated by chronic psychosocial stress and antidepressant treatment in the hippocampus.

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IIB-INTECH-CONICET-UNSAM, Avenida Gral Paz 5445, INTI, edificio 24 (1650) San Martin, Argentina.


Analysis of differentially expressed genes in the brain is a promising tool for elucidating pathological mechanisms that lead to central nervous disorders. Stress is known to be involved in the development of psychopathologies such as depression. In the present study, we searched for differentially expressed genes in the hippocampal formation after chronic psychosocial stress and after treatment with the antidepressant clomipramine. Experiments were conducted in male tree shrews, a valid psychosocial stress model in which antidepressant drugs prevent diverse effects of stress. Because many effects of stress have been attributed to the stress-induced elevation in glucocorticoids, we screened two subtractive hippocampal cDNA libraries generated from RNA of chronic cortisol-treated animals. Using real-time PCR to measure mRNA amounts, we identified five sequences whose expression levels differed between stressed animals and controls. Transcript levels of four of them, nerve growth factor (NGF), membrane glycoprotein 6a (M6a), CDC-like kinase 1 (CLK-1) and G-protein alpha q (GNAQ) were reduced by chronic psychosocial stress. Reduced amounts of these genes, which are all related to processes of cell differentiation, is in agreement with previous findings showing a retraction of dendrites and an impairment of neurogenesis in the hippocampal formation after chronic stress. An additional expressed sequence that was also regulated by stress could not be assigned to any known gene. Treatment with the antidepressant clomipramine prevented stress effects on expression of M6a, CLK-1, GNAQ and the novel sequence, but showed no effect on NGF stress-induced down-regulation. These findings support the concept that depressive disorders are accompanied by processes of neuronal dedifferentiation, at least in the hippocampal formation, and that antidepressants prevent these processes.

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