Esr1+ hypothalamic-habenula neurons shape aversive states

Nat Neurosci. 2023 Jul;26(7):1245-1255. doi: 10.1038/s41593-023-01367-8. Epub 2023 Jun 22.


Excitatory projections from the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) to the lateral habenula (LHb) drive aversive responses. We used patch-sequencing (Patch-seq) guided multimodal classification to define the structural and functional heterogeneity of the LHA-LHb pathway. Our classification identified six glutamatergic neuron types with unique electrophysiological properties, molecular profiles and projection patterns. We found that genetically defined LHA-LHb neurons signal distinct aspects of emotional or naturalistic behaviors, such as estrogen receptor 1-expressing (Esr1+) LHA-LHb neurons induce aversion, whereas neuropeptide Y-expressing (Npy+) LHA-LHb neurons control rearing behavior. Repeated optogenetic drive of Esr1+ LHA-LHb neurons induces a behaviorally persistent aversive state, and large-scale recordings showed a region-specific neural representation of the aversive signals in the prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex. We further found that exposure to unpredictable mild shocks induced a sex-specific sensitivity to develop a stress state in female mice, which was associated with a specific shift in the intrinsic properties of bursting-type Esr1+ LHA-LHb neurons. In summary, we describe the diversity of LHA-LHb neuron types and provide evidence for the role of Esr1+ neurons in aversion and sexually dimorphic stress sensitivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Habenula* / physiology
  • Hypothalamic Area, Lateral
  • Hypothalamus / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology