Animals exhibit dramatic immediate behavioral plasticity in response to social interactions, and brief social interactions can shape the future social landscape. However, the molecular mechanisms contributing to behavioral plasticity are unclear. Here, we show that the genome dynamically responds to social interactions with multiple waves of transcription associated with distinct molecular functions in the brain of male threespined sticklebacks, a species famous for its behavioral repertoire and evolution. Some biological functions (e.g., hormone activity) peaked soon after a brief territorial challenge and then declined, while others (e.g., immune response) peaked hours afterwards. We identify transcription factors that are predicted to coordinate waves of transcription associated with different components of behavioral plasticity. Next, using H3K27Ac as a marker of chromatin accessibility, we show that a brief territorial intrusion was sufficient to cause rapid and dramatic changes in the epigenome. Finally, we integrate the time course brain gene expression data with a transcriptional regulatory network, and link gene expression to changes in chromatin accessibility. This study reveals rapid and dramatic epigenomic plasticity in response to a brief, highly consequential social interaction.
Michael Saul*, Christopher H Seward*, Joseph M Troy, Huimin Zhang, Laura G Sloofman, Xiaochen Lu, Patricia A Weisner, Derek Caetano-Anolles, Hao Sun, Sihai D Zhao, Sriram Chandrasekaran, Saurabh Sinha and Lisa Stubbs
Agonistic encounters are powerful effectors of future behavior, and the ability to learn from this type of social challenge is an essential adaptive trait. We recently identified a conserved transcriptional program defining the response to social challenge across animal species, highly enriched in transcription factor (TF), energy metabolism, and developmental signaling genes. To understand the trajectory of this program and to uncover the most important regulatory influences controlling this response, we integrated gene expression data with the chromatin landscape in hypothalamus, frontal cortex, and amygdala of socially challenged mice over time. The expression data revealed a complex spatiotemporal patterning of events starting with neural signaling molecules in the frontal cortex and ending in the modulation of developmental factors in the amygdala and hypothalamus, underpinned by a systems-wide shift in expression of energy metabolism-related genes. The transcriptional signals were correlated with significant shifts in chromatin accessibility and a network of challenge-associated TFs. Among these, the conserved metabolic and developmental regulator ESRRA was highlighted for an especially early and important regulatory role. Cell-type deconvolution analysis attributed the differential metabolic and developmental signals in this social context primarily to oligodendrocytes and neurons respectively, and we show that ESRRA is expressed in both cell types. Localizing ESRRA binding sites in cortical chromatin, we show that this nuclear receptor binds both differentially expressed energy-related and neurodevelopmental TF genes. These data link metabolic and neurodevelopmental signaling to social challenge, and identify key regulatory drivers of this process with unprecedented tissue and temporal resolution.
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Understanding how social experiences are represented in the brain and shape future responses is a major challenge in the study of behavior. We addressed this problem by studying behavioral, transcriptomic and epigenetic responses to intrusion in honey bees. Previous research showed that initial exposure to an intruder provokes an immediate attack; we now show that this also leads to longer-term changes in behavior in the response to a second intruder, with increases in the probability of responding aggressively and the intensity of aggression lasting 2 and 1 h, respectively. Previous research also documented the whole-brain transcriptomic response; we now show that in the mushroom bodies (MBs) there are 2 waves of gene expression, the first highlighted by genes related to cytoskeleton remodeling, and the second highlighted by genes related to hormones, stress response and transcription factors (TFs). Overall, 16 of 37 (43%) of the TFs whose cis-motifs were enriched in the promoters of the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were also predicted from transcriptional regulatory network analysis to regulate the MB transcriptional response, highlighting the strong role played by a relatively small subset of TFs in the MB’s transcriptomic response to social challenge. Whole brain histone profiling showed few changes in chromatin accessibility in response to social challenge; most DEGs were ‘ready’ to be activated. These results show how biological embedding of a social challenge involves temporally dynamic changes in the neurogenomic state of a prominent region of the insect brain that are likely to influence future behavior.
Read More: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gbb.12379
Rittschof CC, Bukhari SA, Sloofman LG, Troy JM, Caetano-Anollés D, Cash-Ahmed A, Kent M, Lu X, Sanogo YO, Weisner PA, Zhang H, Bell AM, Ma J, Sinha S, Robinson GE, Stubbs L. Neuromolecular responses to social challenge: Common mechanisms across mouse, stickleback fish, and honey bee. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Dec 1. pii: 201420369. PubMed PMID: 25453090. @PubMed