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The neuropeptide galanin has been implicated in stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders in humans and rodent models. While pharmacological treatments for these disorders are ineffective for many individuals, physical activity is beneficial for stress-related symptoms. Galanin is highly expressed in the noradrenergic system, particularly the locus coeruleus (LC), which is dysregulated in stress-related disorders and activated by exercise. Galanin expression is elevated in the LC by chronic exercise, and blockade of galanin transmission attenuates exercise-induced stress resilience. However, most research on this topic has been done in rats, so it is unclear whether the relationship between exercise and galanin is species specific. Moreover, use of intracerebroventricular (ICV) galanin receptor antagonists in prior studies precluded defining a causal role for LC-derived galanin specifically. Therefore, the goals of this study were twofold. First, we investigated whether physical activity (chronic wheel running) increases stress resilience and galanin expression in the LC of male and female mice. Next, we used transgenic mice that overexpress galanin in noradrenergic neurons (Gal OX) to determine how chronically elevated noradrenergic-derived galanin, alone, alters anxiogenic-like responses to stress. We found that three weeks of ad libitum access to a running wheel in their home cage increased galanin mRNA in the LC of mice, which was correlated with and conferred resilience to stress. The effects of exercise were phenocopied by galanin overexpression in noradrenergic neurons, and Gal OX mice were resistant to the anxiogenic effect of optogenetic LC activation. These findings support a role for chronically increased noradrenergic galanin in mediating resilience to stress.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying behavioral responses to stress is necessary to improve treatments for stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders. Increased physical activity is associated with stress resilience in humans, but the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this effect are not clear. Here, we investigate a potential causal mechanism of this effect driven by the neuropeptide galanin from the main noradrenergic nucleus, the locus coeruleus (LC). We show that chronic voluntary wheel running in mice increases stress resilience and increases galanin expression in the LC. Furthermore, we show that genetic overexpression of galanin in noradrenergic neurons causes resilience to a stressor and the anxiogenic effects of optogenetic LC activation. These findings support a role for chronically increased noradrenergic galanin in mediating resilience to stress. Copyright © 2020 the authors.


Rachel P Tillage, Genevieve E Wilson, L Cameron Liles, Philip V Holmes, David Weinshenker. Chronic Environmental or Genetic Elevation of Galanin in Noradrenergic Neurons Confers Stress Resilience in Mice. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2020 Sep 23;40(39):7464-7474

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PMID: 32868458

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