Journal article

Vulnerability of conditional NCAM-deficient mice to develop stress-induced behavioral alterations

Previous studies in rodents showed that chronic stress induces structural and functional alterations in several brain regions, including shrinkage of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which are accompanied by cognitive and emotional disturbances. Reduced expression of the neural cell adhesion molecule (NCAM) following chronic stress has been proposed to be crucially involved in neuronal retraction and behavioral alterations. Since NCAM gene polymorphisms and altered expression of alternatively spliced NCAM isoforms have been associated with bipolar depression and schizophrenia in humans, we hypothesized that reduced expression of NCAM renders individuals more vulnerable to the deleterious effects of stress on behavior. Here, we specifically questioned whether mice in which the NCAM gene is inactivated in the forebrain by cre-recombinase under the control of the calcium-calmodulin-dependent kinase II promoter (conditional NCAM-deficient mice), display increased vulnerability to stress. We assessed the evolving of depressive-like behaviors and spatial learning and memory impairments following a subchronic stress protocol (2 weeks) that does not result in behavioral dysfunction, nor in altered NCAM expression, in wild-type mice. Indeed, while no behavioral alterations were detected in wild-type littermates after subchronic stress, conditional NCAM-deficient mice showed increased immobility in the tail suspension test and deficits in reversal spatial learning in the water maze. These findings indicate that diminished NCAM expression might be a critical vulnerability factor for the development of behavioral alterations by stress and further support a functional involvement of NCAM in stress-induced cognitive and emotional disturbances.


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