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Transl Psychiatry. 2011 Sep 20;1:e42. doi: 10.1038/tp.2011.40.

Resilient emotionality and molecular compensation in mice lacking the oligodendrocyte-specific gene Cnp1.

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Department of Psychiatry, Translational Neuroscience Program and Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Altered oligodendrocyte structure and function is implicated in major psychiatric illnesses, including low cell number and reduced oligodendrocyte-specific gene expression in major depressive disorder (MDD). These features are also observed in the unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) rodent model of the illness, suggesting that they are consequential to environmental precipitants; however, whether oligodendrocyte changes contribute causally to low emotionality is unknown. Focusing on 2'-3'-cyclic nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase (Cnp1), a crucial component of axoglial communication dysregulated in the amygdala of MDD subjects and UCMS-exposed mice, we show that altered oligodendrocyte integrity can have an unexpected functional role in affect regulation. Mice lacking Cnp1 (knockout, KO) displayed decreased anxiety- and depressive-like symptoms (i.e., low emotionality) compared with wild-type animals, a phenotypic difference that increased with age (3-9 months). This phenotype was accompanied by increased motor activity, but was evident before neurodegenerative-associated motor coordination deficits (≤ 9-12 months). Notably, Cnp1(KO) mice were less vulnerable to developing a depressive-like syndrome after either UCMS or chronic corticosterone exposure. Cnp1(KO) mice also displayed reduced fear expression during extinction, despite normal amygdala c-Fos induction after acute stress, together implicating dysfunction of an amygdala-related neural network, and consistent with proposed mechanisms for stress resiliency. However, the Cnp1(KO) behavioral phenotype was also accompanied by massive upregulation of oligodendrocyte- and immune-related genes in the basolateral amygdala, suggesting an attempt at functional compensation. Together, we demonstrate that the lack of oligodendrocyte-specific Cnp1 leads to resilient emotionality. However, combined with substantial molecular changes and late-onset neurodegeneration, these results suggest the low Cnp1 seen in MDD may cause unsustainable and maladaptive molecular compensations contributing to the disease pathophysiology.

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