Stress dynamically regulates behavior and glutamatergic gene expression in hippocampus by opening a window of epigenetic plasticity

Carla Nascaa, Danielle Zelli, Benedetta Bigio, Sonia Piccinin, Sergio Scaccianoce, Robert Nisticò, Bruce S. McEwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Excitatory amino acids play a key role in both adaptive and deleterious effects of stressors on the brain, and dysregulated glutamate homeostasis has been associated with psychiatric and neurological disorders. Here, we elucidate mechanisms of epigenetic plasticity in the hippocampus in the interactions between a history of chronic stress and familiar and novel acute stressors that alter expression of anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors. We demonstrate that acute restraint and acute forced swim stressors induce differential effects on these behaviors in naive mice and in mice with a history of chronic-restraint stress (CRS). They reveal a key role for epigenetic up- and down-regulation of the putative presynaptic type 2 metabotropic glutamate (mGlu2) receptors and the postsynaptic NR1/NMDA receptors in the hippocampus and particularly in the dentate gyrus (DG), a region of active neurogenesis and a target of antidepressant treatment. We show changes in DG long-term potentiation (LTP) that parallel behavioral responses, with habituation to the same acute restraint stressor and sensitization to a novel forced-swim stressor. In WT mice after CRS and in unstressed mice with a BDNF loss-of-function allele (BDNF Val66Met), we show that the epigenetic activator of histone acetylation, P300, plays a pivotal role in the dynamic up- and down-regulation of mGlu2 in hippocampus via histone-3-lysine-27-acetylation (H3K27Ac) when acute stressors are applied. These hippocampal responses reveal a window of epigenetic plasticity that may be useful for treatment of disorders in which glutamatergic transmission is dysregulated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14960-14965
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2015


  • BDNF
  • H3K27
  • MGlu2
  • NMDA
  • Resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Stress dynamically regulates behavior and glutamatergic gene expression in hippocampus by opening a window of epigenetic plasticity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this