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Complement C3 and C3aR mediate different aspects of emotional behaviours; relevance to risk for psychiatric disorder

By Laura Jayne Westacott, Trevor Humby, Niels Naan, Sophie A. Brain, Emma-Louise Bush, Margarita Toneva, Andreea-Ingrid Baloc, Anna Louise Moon, Jack Reddaway, Michael J Owen, Jeremy Hall, Timothy R. Hughes, B. Paul Morgan, William P. Gray, Lawrence Wilkinson

Posted 27 Jun 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/685537

Complement is a key component of the immune system with roles in inflammation and host-defence. Here we reveal novel functions of complement pathways impacting on emotional reactivity of potential relevance to the emerging links between complement and risk for psychiatric disorder. We used mouse models to assess the effects of manipulating components of the complement system on emotionality. Mice lacking the complement C3a Receptor (C3aR-/-) demonstrated a selective increase in unconditioned (innate) anxiety whilst mice deficient in the central complement component C3 (C3-/-) showed a selective increase in conditioned (learned) fear. The dissociable behavioural phenotypes were linked to different signalling mechanisms. Effects on innate anxiety were independent of C3a, the canonical ligand for C3aR, consistent with the existence of an alternative ligand mediating innate anxiety, whereas effects on learned fear were due to loss of iC3b/CR3 signalling. Our findings show that specific elements of the complement system and associated signalling pathways contribute differentially to heightened states of anxiety and fear commonly seen in psychopathology.

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