Recent studies have suggested that cortical astroglia play an important role in depressive-like behaviors. Potential astroglial contributions have been proposed based on their known neuroplastic functions, such as glutamate recycling and synaptic plasticity. However, the specific mechanisms by which astroglial cells may contribute or protect against a depressive phenotype remain unknown. To delineate astroglial changes that accompany depressive-like behavior, we used astroglial-specific bacTRAP mice exposed to chronic variable stress (CVS) and profiled the astroglial translatome using translating ribosome affinity purification (TRAP) in conjunction with RNAseq. As expected, CVS significantly increased anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors and corticosterone levels and decreased GFAP expression in astroglia, although this did not reflect a change in the total number of astroglial cells. TRAPseq results showed that CVS decreased genes associated with astroglial plasticity: RhoGTPases, growth factor signaling, and transcription regulation, and increased genes associated with the formation of extracellular matrices such as perineuronal nets (PNNs). PNNs inhibit neuroplasticity and astroglia contribute to the formation, organization, and maintenance of PNNs. To validate our TRAPseq findings, we showed an increase in PNNs following CVS. Degradation of PNNs in the prefrontal cortex of mice exposed to CVS reversed the CVS-induced behavioral phenotype in the forced swim test. These data lend further support to the neuroplasticity hypothesis of depressive behaviors and, in particular, extend this hypothesis beyond neuronal plasticity to include an overall decrease in genes associated with cortical astroglial plasticity following CVS. Further studies will be needed to assess the antidepressant potential of directly targeting astroglial cell function in models of depression.

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Journal Neuropsychopharmacology
Simard, S. (Stephanie), Coppola, G. (Gianfilippo), Rudyk, C.A. (Christopher A.), Hayley, S, McQuaid, R.J. (Robyn J.), & Salmaso, N. (2018). Profiling changes in cortical astroglial cells following chronic stress. Neuropsychopharmacology, 1–11. doi:10.1038/s41386-018-0105-x