Chronic stress induces coordinated cortical microcircuit cell type transcriptomic changes consistent with altered information processing
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is associated with altered GABAergic and glutamatergic signalling, suggesting altered excitation-inhibition balance (EIB) in cortical mood- and cognition-regulating brain regions. Information processing in cortical microcircuits involves regulation of pyramidal (PYR) cells by Somatostatin- (SST), Parvalbumin- (PV), and Vasoactive intestinal peptide- (VIP) expressing interneurons. Human and rodent studies suggest that impaired PYR-cell dendritic morphology and decreased SST-cell function may mediate altered EIB in MDD. However, knowledge of co-ordinated changes across microcircuit cell types is virtually absent. We thus investigated the co-ordinated transcriptomic effects of UCMS on microcircuit cell types in the medial prefrontal cortex. C57Bl/6 mice, exposed to unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) or control housing for five weeks were assessed for anxiety- and depressive-like behaviours. Microcircuit cell types were laser-microdissected and processed for RNA-sequencing. UCMS-exposed mice displayed predicted elevated behavioural emotionality. Each microcircuit cell type showed a unique transcriptional signature after UCMS. Pre-synaptic functions, oxidative stress response, metabolism, and translational regulation were differentially dysregulated across cell types, whereas nearly all cell types showed down-regulated post-synaptic gene signatures. At the microcircuit level, we observed a shift from distributed transcriptomic co-ordination across cell types in controls towards UCMS-induced increased co-ordination between PYR-, SST- and PV-cells, and a hub-like role for PYR-cells. Lastly, we identified a microcircuit-wide co-expression network enriched in synaptic, bioenergetic, and oxidative stress response genes that correlated with UCMS-induced behaviours. Together, these findings suggest cell-specific deficits, microcircuit-wide synaptic reorganization, and a shift in cortical EIB mediated by increased co-ordinated regulation of PYR-cells by SST- and PV-cells. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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