Background: Lasting changes in gene expression in brain reward regions, including nucleus accumbens (NAc), contribute to persistent functional changes in the addicted brain. We and others have demonstrated that altered expression of several candidate transcription factors in NAc regulates drug responses. A recent large-scale genome-wide study from our group predicted transcription factor E2F3 (E2F3) as a prominent upstream regulator of cocaine-induced changes in gene expression and alternative splicing.
Methods: We studied expression of two E2F3 isoforms-E2F3a and E2F3b-in mouse NAc after repeated cocaine administration and assayed the effects of overexpression or depletion of E2f3 isoforms in NAc on cocaine behavioral responses. We then performed RNA sequencing to investigate the effect of E2f3a overexpression in this region on gene expression and alternative splicing and performed quantitative chromatin immunoprecipitation at downstream targets in NAc following E2f3a overexpression or repeated cocaine exposure. Sample sizes varied between experiments and are noted in the text.
Results: We showed that E2f3a, but not E2f3b, overexpression or knockdown in mouse NAc regulates cocaine-induced locomotor and place conditioning behavior. Furthermore, we demonstrated that E2f3a overexpression substantially recapitulates genome-wide transcriptional profiles and alternative splicing induced by cocaine. We further validated direct binding of E2F3a at key target genes following cocaine exposure.
Conclusions: This study establishes E2F3a as a novel transcriptional regulator of cocaine action in NAc. The findings reveal a crucial role for E2F3a in the regulation of cocaine-elicited behavioral states. Moreover, the importance of this role is bolstered by the extensive recapitulation of cocaine's transcriptional effects in NAc by overexpression of E2f3a.
Keywords: Addiction; ChIP; E2F; Gene expression; RNA sequencing; Splicing.
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