Activation of a novel α2AAR-spinophilin-cofilin axis determines the effect of α2 adrenergic drugs on fear memory reconsolidation

Shalini Saggu, Yunjia Chen, Christopher Cottingham, Hasibur Rehman, Hongxia Wang, Sixue Zhang, Corinne Augelli-Szafran, Sumin Lu, Nevin Lambert, Kai Jiao, Xin Yun Lu, Qin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the pandemic has emerged as a major neuropsychiatric component of post-acute COVID-19 syndrome, yet the current pharmacotherapy for PTSD is limited. The use of adrenergic drugs to treat PTSD has been suggested; however, it is hindered by conflicting clinical results and a lack of mechanistic understanding of drug actions. Our studies, using both genetically modified mice and human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons, reveal a novel α2A adrenergic receptor (α2AAR)-spinophilin-cofilin axis in the hippocampus that is critical for regulation of contextual fear memory reconsolidation. In addition, we have found that two α2 ligands, clonidine and guanfacine, exhibit differential abilities in activating this signaling axis to disrupt fear memory reconsolidation. Stimulation of α2AAR with clonidine, but not guanfacine, promotes the interaction of the actin binding protein cofilin with the receptor and with the dendritic spine scaffolding protein spinophilin to induce cofilin activation at the synapse. Spinophilin-dependent regulation of cofilin is required for clonidine-induced disruption of contextual fear memory reconsolidation. Our results inform the interpretation of differential clinical observations of these two drugs on PTSD and suggest that clonidine could provide immediate treatment for PTSD symptoms related to the current pandemic. Furthermore, our study indicates that modulation of dendritic spine morphology may represent an effective strategy for the development of new pharmacotherapies for PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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