Journal of proteomics

Maternal alterations in the proteome of the medial prefrontal cortex in rat.

PMID 27233742


Proteomic differences between rat dams and control mothers deprived of their pups immediately after delivery were investigated in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). A 2-D DIGE minimal dye technique combined with LC-MS/MS identified 32 different proteins that showed significant changes in expression in the mPFC, of which, 25 were upregulated and 7 were downregulated in dams. The identity of one significantly increased protein, the small heat-shock protein alpha-crystallin B chain (Cryab), was confirmed via Western blot analysis. Alpha-crystallin B chain was distributed in scattered cells in the mPFC, as demonstrated by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, it was found to be localized in parvalbumin-containing neurons using double labeling. The elevation of its mRNA level in rat dams was also demonstrated via RT-PCR. The functional classification of the altered proteins was conducted using the UniProt and Gene Ontology protein databases. The identified proteins predominantly participate in synaptic transport and plasticity, neuron development, oxidative stress and apoptosis, and cytoskeleton organization. A common regulator and target analysis of these proteins determined using the Elsevier Pathway Studio Platform suggests that protein level changes associated with pup nursing are driven by growth factors and cytokines, while the MAP kinase pathway was identified as a common target. A high proportion of the proteins that were found to be altered in the mPFC are associated with depression. The behavior and emotional state of females change robustly when they become mothers. The brain, which governs these changes, may also undergo molecular alterations in mothers. As no proteomics approaches have been applied regarding maternal changes in the brain, we addressed this issue in the mPFC as this brain area is the uppermost cortical center of maternal control and the associated mood changes. The high number of protein-level alterations found between mothers taking care of their litter and those without pups indicates that pup nursing is associated with cortical protein-level changes. Alterations in proteins participating in synaptic transport, plasticity and neuron development suggest neuroplastic changes in the maternal brain. In turn, the relatively high number of altered proteins in the mPFC associated with depression suggests that the physiological effects of the protein-level alterations in the maternal mPFC could promote the incidence of postpartum depression. Cryab, a protein confirmed to be increased during maternal behaviors, was selectively found in parvalbumin cells, which, as fast-spiking interneurons, are associated with depression. The function of Cryab should be further investigated to establish whether it can be used to identify drug targets for future drug development.

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