Contrary to intuition, most individuals are resilient to psychological trauma and only a minority is vulnerable. Men and women are known to respond differently to trauma exposure, however, mechanisms underlying the relationship between sex differences and trauma resilience and vulnerability are not yet fully understood. Taking advantage of the Behavioral Profiling approach, which enables differentiating between ‘affected’ and ‘unaffected’ individuals, we examined sex-associated differences in stress exposure effects on hippocampal expression of selected stress-related GABA-A receptor targeting miRNAs. Levels of the miRNA-144 and miRNA-33 were measured in male and female affected (vulnerable, e.g., higher freezing time) and unaffected (resilient) rats. In male rats, increased levels of miRNA-144 and miRNA-33 were observed in the dorsal dentate gyrus (dDG) and ventral dentate gyrus (vDG) respectively, of stress-exposed but unaffected animals. In females, we observed an increased expression of miRNA-144 and miRNA-33 in the ventral cornu ammonis 1 (vCA1) of affected animals. Accordingly, we inhibited miRNAs expression selectively in hippocampal subregions using oligonucleotides containing locked nucleic acid bases, to examine the miRNAs’ causal contribution to either vulnerability or resilience to stress in each sex. Inhibition of miRNA-144 in dDG and miRNA-33 in vDG in males resulted in an increased prevalence of vulnerable animals, while inhibition of miRNA-144 and miRNA-33 in vCA1 in females increased the proportion of resilient animals. The current findings reveal a critical sex-associated difference in the role of miRNAs in stress vulnerability and resilience. This novel understanding of sex-associated epigenetic involvement in the mechanism of stress-related psychopathologies may help improve gender-specific diagnosis and effective treatment.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by a United States - Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) (#2019261) to GRL and JR.
We would like to thank Dr. Maya Lebow from Prof. Chen laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science for her help with miRNA protocols, Dr. Amitai Mordechai from Ben-Gurion University for his help with miRNA analysis, and Dr. Silvia Mandel for her help in editing the MS. We would like to express our gratitude to the Israel Scholarship Education Foundation for partially funding this study.
© 2022, The Author(s).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry