Background: Social experiences influence susceptibility to substance use disorder. The adolescent period is associated with the development of social reward and is exceptionally sensitive to disruptions to reward-associated behaviors by social experiences. Social isolation (SI) during adolescence alters anxiety- and reward-related behaviors in adult males, but little is known about females. The medial amygdala (meA) is a likely candidate for the modulation of social influence on drug reward because it regulates social reward, develops during adolescence, and is sensitive to social stress. However, little is known regarding how the meA responds to drugs of abuse. Methods: We used adolescent SI coupled with RNA sequencing to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying meA regulation of social influence on reward. Results: We show that SI in adolescence, a well-established preclinical model for addiction susceptibility, enhances preference for cocaine in male but not in female mice and alters cocaine-induced protein and transcriptional profiles within the adult meA particularly in males. To determine whether transcriptional mechanisms within the meA are important for these behavioral effects, we manipulated Crym expression, a sex-specific key driver gene identified through differential gene expression and coexpression network analyses, specifically in meA neurons. Overexpression of Crym, but not another key driver that did not meet our sex-specific criteria, recapitulated the behavioral and transcriptional effects of adolescent SI. Conclusions: These results show that the meA is essential for modulating the sex-specific effects of social experience on drug reward and establish Crym as a critical mediator of sex-specific behavioral and transcriptional plasticity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biological Psychiatry
- Adolescent social isolation
- Gene coexpression network analysis
- Gene expression
- RNA sequencing