Paper in Neuroscience
  • Boucher, A.A. , Arnold, J.C., Hunt, G.E., Spiro, A., Spencer, J., Brown, C., McGregor, I.S., Bennett, M.R., Kassiou, M. (2011). Resilience and reduced c-Fos expression in P2X7 receptor knockout mice exposed to repeated forced swim test. Neuroscience, 189(25), 170-177.

    There is considerable evidence suggesting genetic factors play an important role in the pathophysiology of depression, possibly by increasing susceptibility to repeated environmental stressors. Recent linkage studies have associated a polymorphism of the gene coding for the P2X7 receptor (P2X7R) with both major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. Here we assessed whether P2X7 deletion affected the behavioural and neural response to repeated stress. P2X7R knockout (P2X7-/-) mice were subjected to the forced swim test for three consecutive days and neuronal activation in response to the third exposure was assessed using c-Fos immunohistochemistry. In addition, anxiety was evaluated in another group of P2X7-/- mice using the elevated plus maze (EPM) and light dark emergence (LDE) tests. Equivalent levels of immobility were observed in P2X7-/- mice and wild-type (WT) mice on the first exposure to forced swim, but much greater immobility was seen in WT mice on second and third exposures. This suggests that P2X7-/- mice exhibit an impaired adaptive coping response to repeated stress. Reinforcing this view, c-Fos expression in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus and in the basolateral amygdala was seen in WT mice but not P2X7-/- mice following repeated forced swim. In addition, decreased locomotor activity was detected in P2X7-/- mice without any specific effects on anxiety in the LDE test. However, P2X7-/- mice showed greater anxiety-like behaviour in the EPM. These data suggest that the P2X7R may be involved in the adaptive mechanisms elicited by exposure to repeated environmental stressors that leads to the development of depression-like behaviours. This suggests that P2X7R antagonists may be useful therapeutics for the treatment of major depression, possibly by increasing resilience in the face of repeated stress