Evidence of decreased gap junction coupling between astrocytes and oligodendrocytes in the anterior cingulate cortex of depressed suicides

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 Nov;44(12):2099-2111. doi: 10.1038/s41386-019-0471-z. Epub 2019 Aug 2.


Glial dysfunction is a major pathophysiological feature of mood disorders. While altered astrocyte (AS) and oligodendrocyte-lineage (OL) functions have been associated with depression, the crosstalk between these glial cell types has never been assessed in that context. AS are potent regulators of myelination, in part through gap junction (GJ) channels formed by the heterotypic coupling of AS-specific (Cx30 and Cx43) and OL-specific (Cx32 and Cx47) connexins. This study therefore aimed at addressing the integrity of AS/OL coupling in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of depressed suicides. Using immunofluorescence and confocal imaging, we characterized the distribution of Cx30 and mapped its expression onto OL somas, myelinated axons, and brain vasculature in postmortem brain samples from depressed suicides (N = 48) and matched controls (N = 23). Differential gene expression of key components of the GJ nexus was also screened through RNA-sequencing previously generated by our group, and validated by quantitative real-time PCR. We show that Cx30 expression localized onto OL cells and myelinated fibers is decreased in deep cortical layers of the ACC in male-depressed suicides. This effect was associated with decreased expression of OL-specific connexins, as well as the downregulation of major connexin-interacting proteins essential for the scaffolding, trafficking, and function of GJs. These results provide a first evidence of impaired AS/OL GJ-mediated communication in the ACC of individuals with mood disorders. These changes in glial coupling are likely to have significant impact on brain function, and may contribute to the altered OL function previously reported in this brain region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Connexin 30 / metabolism*
  • Connexins / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism*
  • Gyrus Cinguli / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / metabolism
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism*
  • Suicide, Completed* / psychology


  • Connexin 30
  • Connexins
  • GJB6 protein, human
  • connexin 47