Every day there’s so much to stress about: Will your next big experiment be a success? Can you get your grant application in on time? How can Lady Gaga possibly outdo her last awards show outfit? Apparently, mice have stressful lives, too, and a recent study suggests that a particular miRNA, miR-34, might help them cope with that stress.
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel used lentiviruses to inactivate the Dicer gene in a specific region of the adult mouse brain known to be involved in the stress response, the central amygdala. Dicer knockdown didn’t affect neuron survival or morphology during the study. However, when the researchers subjected the mice to standard stress tests, mice lacking Dicer in their amygdala showed sharp increases in anxiety-like behavior. Further experiments revealed the following:
- Stressful situations induced changes in the miRNA expression profile of the amygdala in normal mice.
- One miRNA, miR-34c, was strongly upregulated by stress.
- Overexpression of miR34c in the central amygdala reduced symptoms of anxiety in normal mice.
- miR-34c targets an evolutionarily conserved region in the 3’UTR of the stress-related corticotrophin releasing factor receptor type 1 (CFR1) mRNA.
The researchers hypothesize that miR-34c helps mice recover from stressful situations by downregulating stress-related proteins like CFR1, and may suggest new targets for the treatment of stress-related disorders.
Now take a deep breath, and go read this paper at The Journal of Neuroscience, October 2011.