mGluR5 Structural Plasticity in the Nucleus Accumbens: Characterization, Mechanism, and Sex Differences

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mGluR5 Structural Plasticity in the Nucleus Accumbens: Characterization, Mechanism, and Sex Differences

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The group I metabotropic glutamate receptors, mGluR1 and mGluR5, are important modulators of neuronal signaling and plasticity. One specific way that group I mGluRs appear to influence excitatory neurotransmission is through the remodeling of neuronal structure by inducing changes to dendritic spines. However, group I mGluR spine remodeling has only been studied in an extremely limited number of regions and cell types, leaving the contribution of this mechanism to plasticity in many systems unknown. Group I mGluRs, especially mGluR5, have been associated with the synaptic plasticity in the reward circuitry of the brain that is believed to underlie addiction. Structural changes in this circuitry, particularly in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) are strongly correlated with the development and maintenance of addiction. Yet a potential relationship between mGluR5 signaling and spine plasticity in the NAc has not been directly studied. Here, the effects of mGluR5 signaling on spine plasticity in medium spiny neurons of the NAc are characterized, with particular attention on the sex differences and hormonal regulation of these effects. Activation of mGluR5 signaling is found to decrease spine density in the NAc with sex differences in subregion specificity. Additionally, primary gonadal hormones are found to trigger mGluR5 signaling to produce structural modulation in the NAc, with previous evidence implicating mGluR5 in estradiol-induced spine changes in this region in females, and research here finding a similar, novel role for androgen signaling in males. The mechanisms of mGluR5-mediated spine plasticity are also explored. Endocannabinoid signaling was found to be required for mGluR5-induced spine decreases in the male NAc, and spine changes were found to be correlated with a change in NAc F-actin content. Collectively, these results indicate that mGluR5 signaling results in structural plasticity in a region that is critical to reward in a sex-dependent manner, suggesting that the activity of this receptor might contribute differently to both natural and pathological motivated behavior in males and females.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2017. Major: Neuroscience. Advisors: Paul G. Mermelstein, Robert L. Meisel. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 105 pages.

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Gross, Kellie S. (2017). mGluR5 Structural Plasticity in the Nucleus Accumbens: Characterization, Mechanism, and Sex Differences. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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