Original Article

Exp Neurobiol 2016; 25(6): 307-317

Published online December 31, 2016

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Functional Connectivity of Basolateral Amygdala Neurons Carrying Orexin Receptors and Melanin-concentrating Hormone Receptors in Regulating Sociability and Mood-related Behaviors

Tae-Kyung Kim1 and Pyung-Lim Han1,2*

1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 2Chemistry and Nano Science, Ewha Womans University, Seoul 03760, Korea

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
TEL: 82-2-3277-4130, FAX: 82-2-3277-3419

Received: August 31, 2016; Revised: November 11, 2016; Accepted: November 14, 2016


Chronic stress induces changes in neuronal functions in specific brain regions regulating sociability and mood-related behaviors. Recently we reported that stress-induced persistent upregulation of the neuropeptides orexin and melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and the resulting activation of orexin receptors or MCH receptors within the BLA produced deficits in sociability and mood-related behaviors. In the present study, we investigated the neural targets that were innervated by BLA neurons containing orexin receptors or MCH receptors. The viral vector system AAV2-CaMKII-ChR2-eYFP was injected into the BLA to trace the axonal tracts of BLA neurons. This axon labeling analysis led us to identify the prelimbic and infralimbic cortices, nucleus accumbens (NAc), dorsal striatum, paraventricular nucleus (PVN), interstitial nucleus of the posterior limb of the anterior commissure, habenula, CA3 pyramidal neurons, central amygdala, and ventral hippocampus as the neuroanatomical sites receiving synaptic inputs of BLA neurons. Focusing on these regions, we then carried out stimulus-dependent c-Fos induction analysis after activating orexin receptors or MCH receptors of BLA neurons. Stereotaxic injection of an orexin receptor agonist or an MCH receptor agonist in the BLA induced c-Fos expression in the NAc, PVN, central amygdala, ventral hippocampus, lateral habenula and lateral hypothalamus, which are all potentially important for depression-related behaviors. Among these neural correlates, the NAc, PVN and central amygdala were strongly activated by stimulation of orexin receptors or MCH receptors in the BLA, whereas other BLA targets were differentially and weakly activated. These results identify a functional connectivity of BLA neurons regulated by orexin and MCH receptor systems in sociability and mood-related behaviors.

Keywords: BLA, Depression, Orexin, MCH, c-Fos