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Anxiety, Stress, and Fear Response in Mice With Reduced Endocannabinoid Levels.

Biological psychiatry | May 15, 2016

BACKGROUND: Disruption of the endocannabinoid system through pharmacological or genetic invalidation of cannabinoid CB1 receptors has been linked to depression in humans and depression-like behaviors in mice. The two main endogenous cannabinoids, anandamide and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), are produced on demand from phospholipids. The pathways and enzymes involved in endocannabinoid biosynthesis thus play a major role in regulating the activity of this system. This study investigates the role of the main 2-AG producing enzyme diacylglycerol lipase α (DAGL-α). METHODS: We generated and used knockout mice lacking DAGL-α (Dagla(-/-)) to assess the behavioral consequences of reduced endocannabinoid levels in the brain. We performed different behavior tests to determine anxiety- and depression-related behavioral changes in Dagla(-/-) mice. We also analyzed expression of genes related to the endocannabinoid system via real-time polymerase chain reaction and used the mitotic marker 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine to analyze adult neurogenesis. RESULTS: Dagla(-/-) animals show an 80% reduction of brain 2-AG levels but also a reduction in cortical and amygdalar anandamide. The behavioral changes induced by Dagla deletion include a reduced exploration of the central area of the open field, a maternal neglect behavior, a fear extinction deficit, increased behavioral despair, increased anxiety-related behaviors in the light/dark box, and reduced hippocampal neurogenesis. Some of these behavioral changes resemble those observed in animals lacking the CB1 receptor. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate that the deletion of Dagla adversely affects the emotional state of animals and results in enhanced anxiety, stress, and fear responses.

Pubmed ID: 25981172 RIS Download

Mesh terms: Animals | Anxiety | Brain | Cohort Studies | Endocannabinoids | Exploratory Behavior | Extinction, Psychological | Fear | Female | Lipoprotein Lipase | Male | Maternal Behavior | Mice, Inbred C57BL | Mice, Knockout | Motor Activity | Neurogenesis | Social Behavior | Stress, Psychological