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Stress-induced epigenetic regulation of transcription in neocortical excitatory neurons drives depression-like behavior

By Deborah Y. Kwon, Peng Hu, Ying-Tao Zhao, Jonathan A. Beagan, Jonathan H Nofziger, Yue Cui, Bing Xu, Daria Zaitseva, Jennifer E. Phillips-Cremins, Julie A. Blendy, Hao Wu, Zhaolan Zhou

Posted 06 Jul 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.07.06.190280

Prolonged stress exposure is a major risk factor for the development of depression and comorbid anxiety. Efforts to understand how recurrent stress induces behavioral maladaptation have largely concentrated on the neuronal synapse with limited understanding of the underlying epigenetic mechanisms. Here, we performed complementary bulk nuclei- and single-nucleus transcriptome profiling and mapped fine-scale chromatin architecture in mice subjected to chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) to identify the cell type-specific epigenetic alterations that drive complex behavior. We find that neocortical excitatory neurons are particularly vulnerable to chronic stress and acquire signatures of transcription and chromatin configuration that denote reduced neuronal activity and expression of Yin Yang 1 (YY1). Selective ablation of YY1 in excitatory neurons of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) enhances stress sensitivity in mice, inducing depressive- and anxiety-related behaviors and deregulating the expression of stress-associated genes following an abbreviated stress exposure. Notably, we find that loss of YY1 in PFC excitatory neurons provokes more maladaptive behaviors in stressed females than males. These findings demonstrate how chronic stress provokes maladaptive behavior by epigenetically shaping excitatory neurons in the PFC, identifying a novel molecular target for therapeutic treatment of stress-related mood and anxiety disorders.  ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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