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Impaired threat responding and fear regulation is a hallmark of psychiatric conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Panic Disorder (PD). Most studies have focused on external psychogenic threats to study fear, however, accumulating evidence suggests a primary role of homeostatic perturbations and interoception in regulating emotional behaviors. Heightened reactivity to interoceptive threat carbon dioxide (CO2) inhalation associates with increased risk for developing PD and PTSD, however, contributory mechanisms and molecular targets are not well understood. Previous studies from our group suggested a potential role of interleukin 1 receptor (IL-1R1) signaling within BBB-devoid sensory circumventricular organ, the subfornical organ (SFO) in CO2-evoked fear. However, the necessity of SFO-IL-1R1 in regulating CO2-associated spontaneous fear as well as, long-term fear potentiation relevant to PD/PTSD has not been investigated. The current study tested male mice with SFO-targeted microinfusion of the IL-1R1 antagonist (IL-1RA) or vehicle in a recently developed CO2-startle-fear conditioning-extinction paradigm. Consistent with our hypothesis, SFO IL-1RA treatment elicited significant attenuation of freezing and increased rearing during CO2 inhalation suggesting SFO-IL1R1 regulation of spontaneous fear to CO2. Intriguingly, SFO IL-1RA treatment normalized CO2-associated potentiation of conditioned fear and impaired extinction a week later suggesting modulation of long-term fear by SFO-IL-1R1 signaling. Post behavior FosB mapping revealed recruitment of prefrontal cortex-amygdala-periaqueductal gray (PAG) areas in SFO-IL-1RA mediated effects. Additionally, we localized cellular IL-1R1 expression within the SFO to blood vessel endothelial cells and observed CO2-induced alterations in IL-1β/IL-1R1 expression in peripheral mononuclear cells and SFO. Lastly, CO2-evoked microglial activation was attenuated in SFO-IL-1RA treated mice. These observations suggest a peripheral monocyte-endothelial-microglia interplay in SFO-IL-1R1 modulation of CO2-associated spontaneous fear and delayed fear memory. Collectively, our data highlight a novel, "bottom-up" neuroimmune mechanism that integrates interoceptive and exteroceptive threat processing of relevance to fear-related pathologies. Published by Elsevier Inc.


Katherine M J McMurray, Andrew Winter, Rebecca Ahlbrand, Allison Wilson, Sachi Shukla, Renu Sah. Subfornical organ interleukin 1 receptor: A novel regulator of spontaneous and conditioned fear associated behaviors in mice. Brain, behavior, and immunity. 2022 Mar;101:304-317

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PMID: 35032573

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