Sex-specific parenting and depression evoked by preoptic inhibitory neurons

iScience. 2021 Sep 4;24(10):103090. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.103090. eCollection 2021 Oct 22.


The role of preoptic GABAergic inhibitory neurons was addressed in parenting, anxiety and depression. Pup exposure and forced swimming resulted in similar c-Fos activation pattern in neurons expressing vesicular GABA transporter in the preoptic area with generally stronger labeling and different distributional pattern in females than in males. Chemogenetic stimulation of preoptic GABAergic cells resulted in elevated maternal motivation and caring behavior in females and mothers but aggression toward pups in males. Behavioral effects were the opposite following inhibition of preoptic GABAergic neurons suggesting their physiological relevance. In addition, increased anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors were found following chemogenetic stimulation of the same neurons in females, whereas previous pup exposure increased only anxiety-like behavior suggesting that not the pups, but overstimulation of the cells can lead to depression-like behavior. A sexually dimorphic projection pattern of preoptic GABAergic neurons was also identified, which could mediate sex-dependent parenting and associated emotional behaviors.

Keywords: Behavioral neuroscience; Biology of gender; Molecular neuroscience.