Sigma-1 (σ1) receptor activity is necessary for physiological brain plasticity in mice


The sigma-1 receptor (S1R) is a membrane-associated protein expressed in neurons and glia at mitochondria-associated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes (MAMs). S1R interacts with different partners to regulate cellular responses, including ER stress, mitochondrial physiology and Ca2+ fluxes. S1R shapes cellular plasticity by directly modulating signaling pathways involved in inflammatory responses, cell survival and death. We here analyzed its impact on brain plasticity in vivo, in mice trained in a complex maze, the Hamlet test. The device, providing strong enriched environment (EE) conditions, mimics a small village. It has a central agora and streets expanding from it, leading to functionalized houses where animals can Drink, Eat, Hide, Run, or Interact. Animals were trained in groups, 4 h/day for two weeks, and their maze exploration and topographic memory could be analyzed. Several groups of mice were considered: non-trained vs. trained; repeatedly administered with saline vs. NE-100, a selective S1R antagonist; and wildtype vs. S1R KO mice. S1R inactivation altered maze exploration and prevented topographic learning. EE induced a strong plasticity measured through resilience to behavioral despair or to the amnesic effects of scopolamine, and increases in S1R expression and bdnf mRNA levels in the hippocampus; increases in neurogenesis (proliferation and maturation); and increases of histone acetylation in the hippocampus and cortex. S1R inactivation altered all these parameters significantly, showing that S1R activity plays a major role in physiological brain plasticity. As S1R is a major resident protein in MAMs, modulating ER responses and mitochondrial homeostasy, MAM physiology appeared impacted by enriched environment.


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