Elevation of hilar mossy cell activity suppresses hippocampal excitability and avoidance behavior

Kai-Yi Wang, Jei-Wei Wu, Jen-Kun Cheng, Chun-Chung Chen, Wai-Yi Wong, Robert G. Averkin, Gábor Tamás, Kazu Nakazawa, Cheng-Chang Lien
Cell Reports 36, no. 11 (2021) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109702

Modulation of hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) excitability regulates anxiety. In the DG, glutamatergic mossy cells (MCs) receive the excitatory drive from principal granule cells (GCs) and mediate the feedback excitation and inhibition of GCs. However, the circuit mechanism by which MCs regulate anxiety-related information routing through hippocampal circuits remains unclear. Moreover, the correlation between MC activity and anxiety states is unclear. In this study, we first demonstrate, by means of calcium fiber photometry, that MC activity in the ventral hippocampus (vHPC) of mice increases while they explore anxiogenic environments. Next, juxtacellular recordings reveal that optogenetic activation of MCs preferentially recruits GABAergic neurons, thereby suppressing GCs and ventral CA1 neurons. Finally, chemogenetic excitation of MCs in the vHPC reduces avoidance behaviors in both healthy and anxious mice. These results not only indicate an anxiolytic role of MCs but also suggest that MCs may be a potential therapeutic target for anxiety disorders.

Cover story. Image by Yu-Ling Tsai and Yu-Huan Tsai.

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