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Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is involved in stress related disorders such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorders, as well as in the mechanism of antidepressant effects. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in these associations remain to be fully explored. In this study, unpredictable chronic mild stress in mice resulted in a deficit in neuronal dendritic tree development and neuroblast migration in the hippocampal neurogenic niche. To investigate molecular pathways underlying neurogenesis alteration, genome-wide gene expression changes were assessed in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and the hypothalamus alongside neurogenesis changes. Cluster analysis showed that the transcriptomic signature of chronic stress is much more prominent in the prefrontal cortex compared to the hippocampus and the hypothalamus. Pathway analyses suggested huntingtin, leptin, myelin regulatory factor, methyl-CpG binding protein and brain derived neurotrophic factor as the top predicted upstream regulators of transcriptomic changes in the prefrontal cortex. Involvement of the satiety regulating pathways (leptin) was corroborated by behavioural data showing increased food reward motivation in stressed mice. Behavioural and gene expression data also suggested circadian rhythm disruption and activation of circadian clock genes such as Period 2. Interestingly, most of these pathways have been previously shown to be involved in the regulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis. It is possible that activation of these pathways in the prefrontal cortex by chronic stress indirectly affects neuronal differentiation and migration in the hippocampal neurogenic niche via reciprocal connections between the two brain areas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain Communications
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 29 Jul 2020


  • chronic stress
  • gene expression
  • adult hippocampal neurogenesis
  • prefrontal cortex


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