Margarita Arango-Lievano, Freddy Jeanneteau and colleagues found that the gene NR4A1 is involved in regulating mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse, of PFC neurons in response to stress. This may help conserve the cells' energy in the context of immediate stress when demand is high.
‘Altering the expression of NR4A1 after the exposure to chronic stressors protects cells in the prefrontal cortex from synaptic loss.’
However, excessive activity of this gene during chronic stress may interfere with the normal functioning of circuits between the PFC and the rest of the brain through its impact on the connectivity of individual cells.
The researchers show that altering the expression of NR4A1 in animals exposed to chronic stressors protects PFC cells from synaptic loss. This gene may, therefore, represent a target to explore in future studies of stress-related disorders.