Diverse stress stimuli induce long-lasting cognitive deficits, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are still incompletely understood. Here, we report three different stress models demonstrating that stress-inducible increases in microRNA-132 (miR-132) and consequent decreases in its acetylcholinesterase (AChE) target are causally involved. In a mild model of predator scent-induced anxiety, we demonstrate long-lasting hippocampal elevation of miR-132, accompanied by and associated with reduced AChE activity. Using lentiviral-mediated suppression of "synaptic" AChE-S mRNA, we quantified footshock stress-inducible changes in miR-132 and AChE and its corresponding cognitive damages. Stressed mice showed long-lasting impairments in the Morris water maze. In contrast, pre-stress injected AChE-suppressing lentivirus, but not a control virus, reduced hippocampal levels of both miR-132 and AChE and maintained similar cognitive performance to that of naïve, non-stressed mice. To dissociate between miR-132 and synaptic AChE-S as potential causes for stress-inducible cognitive deficits, we further used engineered TgR mice with enforced over-expression of the soluble "readthrough" AChE-R variant without the 3′-untranslated region binding site for miR-132. TgR mice displayed excess AChE-R in hippocampal neurons, enhanced c-fos labeling and correspondingly intensified reaction to the cholinergic agonist pilocarpine. They further showed excessive hippocampal expression of miR-132, accompanied by reduced host AChE-S mRNA and the GTPase activator p250GAP target of miR-132. At the behavioral level, TgR mice showed abnormal nocturnal locomotion patterns and serial maze mal-performance in spite of their reduced AChE-S levels. Our findings attribute stress-inducible cognitive impairments to cholinergic-mediated induction of miR-132 and consequently suppressed ACHE-S, opening venues for intercepting these miR-132-mediated damages.
- Psychological stress