A dendritic organization of lateral amygdala neurons in fear susceptible and resistant mice
Castro-Gomes, V and Bergstrom, HC and McGuire, JL and Parker, CC and Coyner, J and Landeira-Fernandez, J and Ursano, RJ and Palmer, AA and Johnson, LR, A dendritic organization of lateral amygdala neurons in fear susceptible and resistant mice, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 127 pp. 64-71. ISSN 1074-7427 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Subtle differences in neuronal microanatomy may be coded in individuals with genetic susceptibility for neuropsychiatric disorders. Genetic susceptibility is a significant risk factor in the development of anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Pavlovian fear conditioning has been proposed to model key aspects of PTSD. According to this theory, PTSD begins with the formation of a traumatic memory which connects relevant environmental stimuli to significant threats to life. The lateral amygdala (LA) is considered to be a key network hub for the establishment of Pavlovian fear conditioning. Substantial research has also linked the LA to PTSD. Here we used a genetic mouse model of fear susceptibility (F-S) and resistance (F-R) to investigate the dendritic and spine structure of principal neurons located in the LA. F-S and F-R lines were bi-directionally selected based on divergent levels of contextual and cued conditioned freezing in response to fear-evoking footshocks. We examined LA principal neuron dendritic and spine morphology in the offspring of experimentally naive F-S and F-R mice. We found differences in the spatial distribution of dendritic branch points across the length of the dendrite tree, with a significant increase in branch points at more distal locations in the F-S compared with F-R line. These results suggest a genetic predisposition toward differences in fear memory strength associated with a dendritic branch point organization of principal neurons in the LA. These micro-anatomical differences in neuron structure in a genetic mouse model of fear susceptibility and resistance provide important insights into the cellular mechanisms of pathophysiology underlying genetic predispositions to anxiety and PTSD.