Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 May 2. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.88.
Chronic social defeat stress regulates the expression of Fosb in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) to promote the cell-type specific accumulation of ΔFosB in the two medium spiny neuron (MSN) subtypes in this region. ΔFosB is selectively induced in D1-MSNs in the NAc of resilient mice, and in D2-MSNs of susceptible mice. However, little is known about the consequences of such selective induction, particularly in D2-MSNs. This study examined how cell-type specific control of the endogenous Fosb gene in NAc regulates susceptibility to social defeat stress. Histone post-translational modifications (HPTMs) were targeted specifically to Fosb using engineered zinc-finger proteins (ZFPs). Fosb-ZFPs were fused to either the transcriptional repressor, G9a, which promotes histone methylation or the transcriptional activator, p65 which promotes histone acetylation. These ZFPs were expressed in D1- vs D2-MSNs using Cre-dependent viral expression in NAc of mice transgenic for Cre-recombinase in these MSN subtypes. We find that stress susceptibility is oppositely regulated by the specific cell type and HPTM targeted. We report that Fosb-targeted histone acetylation in D2-MSNs or histone methylation in D1-MSNs promotes a stress-susceptible, depressive-like phenotype, while histone methylation in D2-MSNs or histone acetylation in D1-MSNs increases resilience to social stress as quantified by social interaction behavior and sucrose preference. This work presents the first demonstration of cell- and gene-specific targeting of histone modifications which model naturally-occurring transcriptional phenomena that control social defeat stress behavior. This epigenetic editing approach, which recapitulates physiological changes in gene expression, reveals clear differences in the social defeat phenotype induced by Fosb gene manipulation in MSN subtypes.