The 5-HT1A autoreceptor mediates feedback inhibition of serotonin (5-HT) neurons, and is implicated in major depression. The human 5-HT1A gene (HTR1A) rs6295 risk allele prevents Deaf1 binding to HTR1A, resulting in increased 5-HT1A autoreceptor transcription. Since chronic stress alters HTR1A methylation and expression, we addressed whether recruitment of methyl-binding protein MeCP2 may alter Deaf1 regulation at the HTR1A locus. We show that MeCP2 enhances Deaf1 binding to its HTR1A site and co-immunoprecipitates with Deaf1 in cells and brain tissue. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assays showed Deaf1-dependent recruitment of MeCP2 to the mouse HTR1A promoter, and MeCP2 modulated human and mouse HTR1A gene transcription in a Deaf1-dependent fashion, enhancing Deaf1-induced repression at the Deaf1 site. To address the role of MeCP2 in HTR1A regulation in vivo, mice with conditional knockout of MeCP2 in adult 5-HT neurons (MeCP2 cKO) were generated. These mice exhibited increased 5-HT1A autoreceptor levels and function, consistent with MeCP2 enhancement of Deaf1 repression in 5-HT neurons. Interestingly, female MeCP2-cKO mice displayed reduced anxiety, while males showed increased anxiety and reduced depression-like behaviors. These data uncover a novel role for MeCP2 in 5-HT neurons to repress HTR1A expression and drive adult anxiety- and depression-like behaviors in a sex-specific manner.
Philippe, Tristan J; Vahid-Ansari, Faranak; Donaldson, Zoe R; Le François, Brice; Zahrai, Amin; Turcotte-Cardin, Valérie; Daigle, Mireille; James, Jonathan; Hen, René; Merali, Zul; and Albert, Paul R, "Loss of MeCP2 in adult 5-HT neurons induces 5-HT1A autoreceptors, with opposite sex-dependent anxiety and depression phenotypes." (2018). Psychology and Neuroscience Faculty Contributions. 28.