Impaired social interaction is a key feature of several major psychiatric disorders including depression, autism, and schizophrenia. While, anatomically, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is known as a key regulator of social behavior, little is known about the cellular mechanisms that underlie impairments of social interaction. One etiological mechanism implicated in the pathophysiology of the aforementioned psychiatric disorders is cellular stress and consequent adaptive responses in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) that can result from a variety of environmental and physical factors. The ER is an organelle that serves essential roles in protein modification, folding, and maturation of proteins; however, the specific role of ER stress in altered social behavior is unknown. In this study, treatment with tunicamycin, an ER stress inducer, enhanced the phosphorylation level of inositol-requiring ER-to-nucleus signal kinase 1 (IRE1) and increased X-box-binding protein 1 (XBP1) mRNA splicing activity in the mouse PFC, whereas inhibition of IRE1/XBP1 pathway in PFC by a viral particle approach attenuated social behavioral deficits caused by tunicamycin treatment. Reduced estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) protein levels were found in the PFC of male mice following tunicamycin treatment. Pretreatment with an ERβ specific agonist, ERB-041 significantly attenuated tunicamycin-induced deficits in social behavior, and activation of IRE1/XBP1 pathway in mouse PFC. Moreover, ERB-041 inhibited tunicamycin-induced increases in functional connectivity between PFC and hippocampus in male mice. Together, these results show that ERβ agonist attenuates ER stress-induced deficits in social behavior through the IRE-1/XBP1 pathway.
- ER stress
- Social behavior
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience