Comparative Transcriptional Analyses in the Nucleus Accumbens Identifies RGS2 as a Key Mediator of Depression-Related Behavior

Alexia V. Williams, Catherine J. Peña, Stephanie Ramos-Maciel, Abigail Laman-Maharg, Evelyn Ordoñez-Sanchez, Monica Britton, Blythe Durbin-Johnson, Matt Settles, Rebecca Hao, Sae Yokoyama, Christine Xu, Pei X. Luo, Tjien Dwyer, Shanu Bhela, Alexis M. Black, Benoit Labonté, Randal Alex Serafini, Anne Ruiz, Rachael L. Neve, Venetia ZachariouEric J. Nestler, Brian C. Trainor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Major depressive disorder is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses worldwide, with a higher prevalence in women than in men. Although currently available pharmacological therapeutics help many individuals, they are not effective for most. Animal models have been important for the discovery of molecular alterations in stress and depression, but difficulties in adapting animal models of depression for females has impeded progress in developing novel therapeutic treatments that may be more efficacious for women. Methods: Using the California mouse social defeat model, we took a multidisciplinary approach to identify stress-sensitive molecular targets that have translational relevance for women. We determined the impact of stress on transcriptional profiles in male and female California mouse nucleus accumbens (NAc) and compared these results with data from postmortem samples of the NAc from men and women diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Results: Our cross-species computational analyses identified Rgs2 (regulator of G protein signaling 2) as a transcript downregulated by social defeat stress in female California mice and in women with major depressive disorder. RGS2 plays a key role in signal regulation of neuropeptide and neurotransmitter receptors. Viral vector–mediated overexpression of Rgs2 in the NAc restored social approach and sucrose preference in stressed female California mice. Conclusions: These studies show that Rgs2 acting in the NAc has functional properties that translate to changes in anxiety- and depression-related behavior. Future studies should investigate whether targeting Rgs2 represents a novel target for treatment-resistant depression in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)942-951
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biological Psychiatry


  • Depression
  • Major depression
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Peromyscus californicus
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Reward
  • Social defeat
  • Ventral tegmental area


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