CAPON-nNOS coupling can serve as a target for developing new anxiolytics

Nat Med. 2014 Sep;20(9):1050-4. doi: 10.1038/nm.3644. Epub 2014 Aug 17.


Anxiety disorders are highly prevalent psychiatric diseases. There is need for a deeper understanding of anxiety control mechanisms in the mammalian brain and for development of new anxiolytic agents. Here we report that the coupling between neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) and its carboxy-terminal PDZ ligand (CAPON) can serve as a target for developing new anxiolytic agents. Augmenting nNOS-CAPON interaction in the hippocampus of mice by overexpressing full-length CAPON gave rise to anxiogenic-like behaviors, whereas dissociating CAPON from nNOS by overexpressing CAPON-125C or CAPON-20C (the C-terminal 125 or 20 amino acids of CAPON) or delivering Tat-CAPON-12C (a peptide comprising Tat and the 12 C-terminal amino acids of CAPON) in the hippocampus of mice produced anxiolytic-like effects. Mice subjected to chronic mild stress (CMS) displayed a substantial increase in nNOS-CAPON coupling in the hippocampus and a consequent anxiogenic-like phenotype. Disrupting nNOS-CAPON coupling reversed the CMS-induced anxiogenic-like behaviors. Moreover, small-molecule blockers of nNOS-CAPON binding rapidly produced anxiolytic-like effects. Dexamethasone-induced ras protein 1 (Dexras1)-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling was involved in the behavioral effects of nNOS-CAPON association. Thus, nNOS-CAPON association contributes to the modulation of anxiety-related behaviors via regulating Dexras1-ERK signaling and can serve as a target for developing potential anxiolytics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism*
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I / metabolism*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • NOS1AP protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type I