Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a well-known inhibitory neurotransmitter implicated in numerous physiological and pathological behaviors including social interest. Dysregulation of the median raphe region (MRR), a main serotoninergic nucleus, is also characterized by increased social problems. As the majority of MRR cells are GABAergic, we aimed to reveal the social role of these cells. Chemogenetic techniques were used in vesicular GABA transporter Cre mice and with the help of adeno-associated virus vectors artificial receptors (DREADDs, stimulatory, inhibitory or control, containing only a fluorophore) were expressed in MRR GABAergic cells confirmed by immunohistochemistry. Four weeks after viral injection a behavioral test battery (sociability; social interaction; resident-intruder) was conducted. The artificial ligand (clozapine-N-oxide, 1 mg/10 ml/kg) was administrated 30 min before the tests. As possible confounding factors, locomotion (open field/OF), anxiety-like behavior (elevated plus maze/EPM), and short-term memory (Y-maze) were also evaluated. Stimulation of the GABAergic cells in MRR had no effect on locomotion or working and social memory; however, it increased social interest during sociability and social interaction but not in resident-intruder tests. Accordingly, c-Fos elevation in MRR-GABAergic cells was detected after sociability, but not resident-intruder tests. In the EPM test, the inhibitory group entered into the open arms later, suggesting an anxiogenic-like tendency. We confirmed the role of MRR-GABAergic cells in promoting social interest. However, different subpopulations (e.g. long vs short projecting, various neuropeptide containing) might have divergent roles, which might remain hidden and requires further studies.
Keywords: Anxiety; DREADD; GABA; Median raphe region; Social behavior; Working memory.
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