A midbrain-reticulotegmental circuit underlies exaggerated startle under fear emotions.

Exaggerated startle has been recognized as a core hyperarousal symptom of multiple fear-related anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder. However, the mechanisms driving this symptom are poorly understood. Here we reveal a neural projection from dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) to a startle-controlling center reticulotegmental nucleus (RtTg) that mediates enhanced startle response under fear condition. Within RtTg, we identify an inhibitory microcircuit comprising GABAergic neurons in pericentral RtTg (RtTgP) and glutamatergic neurons in central RtTg (RtTgC). Inhibition of this RtTgP-RtTgC microcircuit leads to elevated startle amplitudes. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the conditioned fear-activated DRN 5-HTergic neurons send inhibitory projections to RtTgP GABAergic neurons, which in turn upregulate neuronal activities of RtTgC glutamatergic neurons. Chemogenetic activation of the DRN-RtTgP projections mimics the increased startle response under fear emotions. Moreover, conditional deletion of 5-HT1B receptor from RtTgP GABAergic neurons largely reverses the exaggeration of startle during conditioned fear. Thus, our study establishes the disinhibitory DRN-RtTgP-RtTgC circuit as a critical mechanism underlying exaggerated startle under fear emotions, and provides 5-HT1B receptor as a potential therapeutic target for treating hyperarousal symptom in fear-associated psychiatric disorders.
AuthorsWeiwei Guo, Sijia Fan, Dan Xiao, Chen He, Mengyuan Guan, Wei Xiong
JournalMolecular psychiatry (Mol Psychiatry) Vol. 27 Issue 12 Pg. 4881-4892 (12 2022) ISSN: 1476-5578 [Electronic] England
PMID36117214 (Publication Type: Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't)
Copyright© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.
Chemical References
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1B
  • Dorsal Raphe Nucleus
  • Fear (physiology)
  • GABAergic Neurons (metabolism, physiology)
  • Mesencephalon (metabolism, physiology)
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT1B (genetics, metabolism)
  • Reflex, Startle (physiology)
  • Animals
  • Mice

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