Interaction of the Psychiatric Risk Gene Cacna1c With Post-weaning Social Isolation or Environmental Enrichment Does Not Affect Brain Mitochondrial Bioenergetics in Rats

The pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric disorders involves complex interactions between genetic and environmental risk factors. Confirmed by several genome-wide association studies, Cacna1c represents one of the most robustly replicated psychiatric risk genes. Besides genetic predispositions, environmental stress such as childhood maltreatment also contributes to enhanced disease vulnerability. Both, Cacna1c gene variants and stressful life events are associated with morphological alterations in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. Emerging evidence suggests impaired mitochondrial bioenergetics as a possible underlying mechanism of these regional brain abnormalities. In the present study, we simulated the interaction of psychiatric disease-relevant genetic and environmental factors in rodents to investigate their potential effect on brain mitochondrial function using a constitutive heterozygous Cacna1c rat model in combination with a four-week exposure to either post-weaning social isolation, standard housing, or social and physical environmental enrichment. Mitochondria were isolated from the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus to evaluate their bioenergetics, membrane potential, reactive oxygen species production, and respiratory chain complex protein levels. None of these parameters were considerably affected in this particular gene-environment setting. These negative results were very robust in all tested conditions demonstrating that Cacna1c depletion did not significantly translate into altered bioenergetic characteristics. Thus, further investigations are required to determine the disease-related effects on brain mitochondria.


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