Reduced phosphorylation of the mTOR signaling pathway components in the amygdala of rats exposed to chronic stress.

Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry

PubMedID: 22889863

Chandran A, Iyo AH, Jernigan CS, Legutko B, Austin MC, Karolewicz B. Reduced phosphorylation of the mTOR signaling pathway components in the amygdala of rats exposed to chronic stress. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2013;40240-5.
The activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), an ubiquitously expressed serine/threonine kinase, is central to the regulation of translation initiation and, consequently protein synthesis required for long-term potentiation and new synaptic connections. Recent studies show that activation of the mTOR signaling pathway is required for the rapid antidepressant actions of glutamate N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists such as ketamine. Our prior work documented the first evidence of robust deficits in the mTOR signaling pathway in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) from subjects diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD). The goal of this study was to determine whether alterations in mTOR signaling can be observed in rats exposed to the chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) model of depression. In the present study, we examined the effect of CUS on the expression of phosphorylated mTOR and its downstream signaling components in the frontal cortex, hippocampus, amygdala, and dorsal raphe. We also examined the effect of CUS on the expression of kinases that phosphorylate mTOR such as extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) and protein kinase B/Akt (Akt1). In addition, we examined the effect of stress on the phosphorylation of GluR1 an, a-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor subunit. We found that eight-weeks of CUS exposure significantly decreased the phosphorylation levels of mTOR and its downstream signaling components in the amygdala. Reduced level of phospho-mTOR in the amygdala was accompanied by decreased phosphorylation of ERK-1/2, Akt-1, and GluR1. No significant changes were seen in the frontal cortex, hippocampus, or dorsal raphe. Our study demonstrates that long-term stress exposure results in brain region-specific abnormalities in signaling pathways previously linked to novel mechanisms for rapid antidepressant effects. These observations are in line with evidence showing that mTOR and its upstream and downstream signaling partners could be important targets for the development of novel antidepressants.