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The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) is emerging as a critical region in multiple psychiatric disorders including anxiety, PTSD, and alcohol and substance use disorders. In conjunction with growing knowledge of the BNST, an increasing number of studies examine connections of the BNST and how those connections impact BNST function. The importance of this BNST network is highlighted by rodent studies demonstrating that projections from other brain regions regulate BNST activity and influence BNST-related behavior. While many animal and human studies replicate the components of the BNST network, to date, structural connections between the BNST and insula have only been described in rodents and have yet to be shown in humans. In this study, we used probabilistic tractography to examine BNST-insula structural connectivity in humans. We used two methods of dividing the insula: 1) anterior and posterior insula, to be consistent with much of the existing insula literature; and 2) eight subregions that represent informative cytoarchitectural divisions. We found evidence of a BNST-insula structural connection in humans, with the strongest BNST connectivity localized to the anteroventral insula, a region of agranular cortex. BNST-insula connectivity differed by hemisphere and was moderated by sex. These results translate rodent findings to humans and lay an important foundation for future studies examining the role of BNST-insula pathways in psychiatric disorders.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
BACKGROUND - Relapse is a critical barrier to effective long-term treatment of alcoholism, and stress is often cited as a key trigger to relapse. Numerous studies suggest that stress-induced reinstatement to drug-seeking behaviors is mediated by norepinephrine (NE) and corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) signaling interactions in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a brain region critical to many behavioral and physiologic responses to stressors. Here, we sought to directly examine the effects of NE on BNST CRF neuron activity and determine whether these effects may be modulated by chronic intermittent EtOH (CIE) exposure or a single restraint stress.
METHODS - Adult male CRF-tomato reporter mice were treatment-naïve, or either exposed to CIE for 2 weeks or to a single 1-hour restraint stress. Effects of application of exogenous NE on BNST CRF neuron activity were assessed via whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiological techniques.
RESULTS - We found that NE depolarized BNST CRF neurons in naïve mice in a β-adrenergic receptor (AR)-dependent mechanism. CRF neurons from CIE- or stress-exposed mice had significantly elevated basal resting membrane potential compared to naïve mice. Furthermore, CIE and stress individually disrupted the ability of NE to depolarize CRF neurons, suggesting that both stress and CIE utilize β-AR signaling to modulate BNST CRF neurons. Neither stress nor CIE altered the ability of exogenous NE to inhibit evoked glutamatergic transmission onto BNST CRF neurons as shown in naïve mice, a mechanism previously shown to be α-AR-dependent.
CONCLUSIONS - Altogether, these findings suggest that stress and CIE interact with β-AR signaling to modulate BNST CRF neuron activity, potentially disrupting the α/β-AR balance of BNST CRF neuronal excitability. Restoration of α/β-AR balance may lead to novel therapies for the alleviation of many stress-related disorders.
© 2019 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.
Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) coordinates behavioral responses to stress through a variety of presynaptic and postsynaptic receptors distributed across functionally diverse neuronal networks in the central nervous system. Efferent 5-HT projections from the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) to the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) are generally thought to enhance anxiety and aversive learning by activating 5-HT receptor (5-HTR) signaling in the BNST, although an opposing role for postsynaptic 5-HT receptors has recently been suggested. In the present study, we sought to delineate a role for postsynaptic 5-HT receptors in the BNST in aversive behaviors using a conditional knockdown of the 5-HT receptor. Both males and females were tested to dissect out sex-specific effects. We found that male mice have significantly reduced fear memory recall relative to female mice and inactivation of 5-HT receptor in the BNST increases contextual fear conditioning in male mice so that they resemble the females. This coincided with an increase in neuronal excitability in males, suggesting that 5-HT receptor deletion may enhance contextual fear recall by disinhibiting fear memory circuits in the BNST. Interestingly, 5-HT receptor knockdown did not significantly alter anxiety-like behavior in male or female mice, which is in agreement with previous findings that anxiety and fear are modulated by dissociable circuits in the BNST. Overall, these results suggest that BNST 5-HT receptors do not significantly alter behavior under basal conditions, but can act as a molecular brake that buffer against excessive activation of aversive circuits in more threatening contexts.
Stress contributes to numerous psychiatric disorders. Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) signaling and CRF neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) drive negative affective behaviors, thus agents that decrease activity of these cells may be of therapeutic interest. Here, we show that acute restraint stress increases cFos expression in CRF neurons in the mouse dorsal BNST, consistent with a role for these neurons in stress-related behaviors. We find that activation of α-adrenergic receptors (ARs) by the agonist guanfacine reduced cFos expression in these neurons both in stressed and unstressed conditions. Further, we find that α- and β-ARs differentially regulate excitatory drive onto these neurons. Pharmacological and channelrhodopsin-assisted mapping experiments suggest that α-ARs specifically reduce excitatory drive from parabrachial nucleus (PBN) afferents onto CRF neurons. Given that the α-AR is a G-linked GPCR, we assessed the impact of activating the G-coupled DREADD hM4Di in the PBN on restraint stress regulation of BNST CRF neurons. CNO activation of PBN hM4Di reduced stress-induced in BNST neurons. Further, using as an additional marker of BNST neuronal identity, we uncovered a female-specific upregulation of the coexpression of in BNST neurons following stress, which was prevented by ovariectomy. These findings show that stress activates BNST CRF neurons, and that α-AR activation suppresses the activity of these cells, at least in part by suppressing excitatory drive from PBN inputs onto CRF neurons. Stress is a major variable contributing to mood disorders. Here, we show that stress increases activation of BNST CRF neurons that drive negative affective behavior. We find that the clinically well tolerated α-AR agonist guanfacine reduces activity of these cells , and reduces excitatory PBN inputs onto these cells Additionally, we uncover a novel sex-dependent coexpression of with in female BNST neurons after stress, an effect abolished by ovariectomy. These results demonstrate input-specific interactions between norepinephrine and CRF, and point to an action by which guanfacine may reduce negative affective responses.
Copyright © 2019 the authors 0270-6474/19/390472-13$15.00/0.
Negative affect is a core symptom domain associated with an array of neurological and psychiatric disorders and is only partially targeted by current therapies, highlighting the need for better, more targeted treatment options. This study focuses on negative affective symptoms associated with prolonged alcohol abstinence, one of the leading causes of relapse. Using a mouse model of chronic alcohol consumption followed by forced abstinence (CDFA), prolonged alcohol abstinence increased c-fos expression and spontaneous glutamatergic neurotransmission in the dorsal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (dBNST), a region heavily implicated in negative affect in both humans and rodents. Further, pharmacologically enhancing endogenous cannabinoids (eCB) with JZL184 prevents abstinence-induced increases in dBNST neuronal activity, underscoring the therapeutic potential of drugs targeting the brain's eCB system. Next, we used a channelrhodopsin-assisted mapping strategy to identify excitatory inputs to the dBNST that could contribute to CDFA-induced negative affect. We identified the insular cortex (insula), a region involved in regulating interoception, as a dense, functional, eCB-sensitive input to the dBNST. Using a chemogenetic strategy to locally mimic eCB signaling, we demonstrate that the insula strongly influences the CDFA behavioral phenotype and dBNST neuronal activity. Lastly, we used an anterograde strategy for transynaptic targeting of Cre expression in combination with a G-DREADD to selectively recruit dBNST neurons receiving insula projections. Chemogenetic recruitment of these neurons mimicked behavioral and c-fos responses observed in CDFA. Collectively, this study supports a role for the insula-BNST neural circuit in negative affective disturbances and highlights the therapeutic potential of the eCB system for treating negative affective disorders.
Stress is a precipitating agent in neuropsychiatric disease and initiates relapse to drug-seeking behavior in addicted patients. Targeting the stress system in protracted abstinence from drugs of abuse with anxiolytics may be an effective treatment modality for substance use disorders. α-adrenergic receptors (α-ARs) in extended amygdala structures play key roles in dampening stress responses. Contrary to early thinking, α-ARs are expressed at non-noradrenergic sites in the brain. These non-noradrenergic α-ARs play important roles in stress responses, but their cellular mechanisms of action are unclear. In humans, the α-AR agonist guanfacine reduces overall craving and uncouples craving from stress, yet minimally affects relapse, potentially due to competing actions in the brain. Here, we show that heteroceptor α-ARs postsynaptically enhance dorsal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (dBNST) neuronal activity in mice of both sexes. This effect is mediated by hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated cation channels because inhibition of these channels is necessary and sufficient for excitatory actions. Finally, this excitatory action is mimicked by clozapine--oxide activation of the G-coupled DREADD hM4Di in dBNST neurons and its activation elicits anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze. Together, these data provide a framework for elucidating cell-specific actions of GPCR signaling and provide a potential mechanism whereby competing anxiogenic and anxiolytic actions of guanfacine may affect its clinical utility in the treatment of addiction. Stress affects the development of neuropsychiatric disorders including anxiety and addiction. Guanfacine is an α2A-adrenergic receptor (α2A-AR) agonist with actions in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) that produces antidepressant actions and uncouples stress from reward-related behaviors. Here, we show that guanfacine increases dorsal BNST neuronal activity through actions at postsynaptic α2A-ARs via a mechanism that involves hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide gated cation channels. This action is mimicked by activation of the designer receptor hM4Di expressed in the BNST, which also induces anxiety-like behaviors. Together, these data suggest that postsynaptic α2A-ARs in BNST have excitatory actions on BNST neurons and that these actions can be phenocopied by the so-called "inhibitory" DREADDs, suggesting that care must be taken regarding interpretation of data obtained with these tools.
Copyright © 2018 the authors 0270-6474/18/388923-21$15.00/0.
Forced abstinence from chronic two bottle-choice ethanol drinking produces the development of negative affective states in female C57BL/6J mice. We previously reported that this disrupted behavior is acutely reversed by administration of ketamine 30 min-prior to testing. Here we assessed whether ketamine can be used as an inoculant against the development of abstinence- dependent affective disturbances. In parallel, we examined the impact of ketamine administration on long-term potentiation (LTP) in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), a region implicated in affective disturbances. We administered ketamine (3 mg/kg i.p.) to female C57BL/6J mice with a history of chronic ethanol drinking at either the onset, two, or 6 days- post-abstinence and observed its impact on affective behavior in the elevated plus maze (EPM), the Novelty Suppressed Feeding Test (NSFT), and the Forced Swim Test (FST). In addition, we assessed BNST synaptic plasticity with field potential electrophysiology two to 3 weeks into abstinence. We found that early abstinence was associated with disrupted behavior on the EPM. Ketamine administered at the onset of forced abstinence prevented both the deficit in early EPM behavior, and the delayed deficits in NSFT and FST. However, ketamine administered either two or 6 days post-abstinence failed to prevent the abstinence-induced affective disturbances. To begin to explore potential alterations in neural circuit activity that accompanies these actions of ketamine, we assessed the impact of ketamine administration at the onset of forced abstinence and measured LTP induction in the BNST. We find that early ketamine administration persistently increased the capacity for LTP within the BNST. These findings suggest a critical period at the onset of forced abstinence in which ketamine inoculation can prevent the development of affective disturbances, in part by enhancing plasticity within the BNST.
The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis was first described nearly a century ago and has since emerged as a region central to motivated behavior and affective states. The last several decades have firmly established a role for the BNST in drug-associated behavior and implicated this region in addiction-related processes. Whereas past approaches used to characterize the BNST have focused on a more general role of this region and its subnuclei in behavior, more recent work has begun to reveal its elaborate circuitry and cellular components. Such recent developments are largely owed to methodological advances, which have made possible efforts previously deemed intractable, such as tracing of long-range cell-type specific projections and identifying functional efferent and afferent connections. In this review, we integrate earlier foundational work with more recent and advanced studies to construct a broad overview of the molecular neurocircuitry of the BNST in drug-associated behavior and affect. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled "Alcoholism".
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST)-a small gray matter region located in the basal forebrain-has been implicated in both anxiety and addiction based on compelling evidence from rodent and non-human primate studies. However, the BNST's small size and proximity to other gray matter regions has hindered non-invasive study in human subjects using standard neuroimaging methods. While initial studies have benefitted from a BNST mask created from a single human subject using a 7T scanner, individual variability is likely-especially in patient populations-thus a manual segmentation protocol is needed. Here we report on the development of a reliable manual segmentation protocol performed on 3T MRI images using a scanning sequence that provides high gray matter/white matter/cerebrospinal fluid contrast. Inter- and intra-rater reliabilities, measured in 10 healthy individuals, demonstrate that the protocol can be reliably implemented (intra-rater Dice similarity coefficient≥0.85, inter-rater≥0.77). This BNST tracing protocol provides the necessary foundation for future 3T MRI studies of the BNST in healthy controls and patient populations.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Agonism of the glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor (GLP-1R) has been effective at treating aspects of addictive behavior for a number of abused substances, including cocaine. However, the molecular mechanisms and brain circuits underlying the therapeutic effects of GLP-1R signaling on cocaine actions remain elusive. Recent evidence has revealed that endogenous signaling at the GLP-1R within the forebrain lateral septum (LS) acts to reduce cocaine-induced locomotion and cocaine conditioned place preference, both considered dopamine (DA)-associated behaviors. DA terminals project from the ventral tegmental area to the LS and express the DA transporter (DAT). Cocaine acts by altering DA bioavailability by targeting the DAT. Therefore, GLP-1R signaling might exert effects on DAT to account for its regulation of cocaine-induced behaviors. We show that the GLP-1R is highly expressed within the LS. GLP-1, in LS slices, significantly enhances DAT surface expression and DAT function. Exenatide (Ex-4), a long-lasting synthetic analog of GLP-1 abolished cocaine-induced elevation of DA. Interestingly, acute administration of Ex-4 reduces septal expression of the retrograde messenger 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG), as well as a product of its presynaptic degradation, arachidonic acid (AA). Notably, AA reduces septal DAT function pointing to AA as a novel regulator of central DA homeostasis. We further show that AA oxidation product γ-ketoaldehyde (γ-KA) forms adducts with the DAT and reduces DAT plasma membrane expression and function. These results support a mechanism in which postsynaptic septal GLP-1R activation regulates 2-AG levels to alter presynaptic DA homeostasis and cocaine actions through AA.