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Dr Steve Kassem


A novel, modernized Golgi-Cox stain optimized for CLARITY cleared tissue.

Kassem MS, Fok SYY, Smith KL, Kuligowski M, Balleine BW

This is the first application of a Golgi-Cox stain to cleared brain tissue, it is investigated and discussed in detail, describing different methodologies that may be used, a comparison between the different clearing techniques and lastly the novel interaction of these techniques with this ultra-rapid stain.

What does the gray matter decrease in the medial prefrontal cortex reflect in people with chronic pain?

Kang D, McAuley JH, Kassem MS, Gatt JM, Gustin SM

Alterations in the gray matter volume of several brain regions have been reported in people with chronic pain. The most consistent observation is a decrease of gray matter volume in the medial prefrontal cortex. These findings are important as the medial prefrontal cortex plays a critical role in emotional and cognitive processing in chronic pain. Although a logical cause of gray matter volume decrease may be neurodegeneration, this is not supported by the current evidence. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to evaluate the existing literature to unravel what the decrease in medial prefrontal cortex gray matter volume of people with chronic pain may represent on a biochemical and cellular level. Our model proposes new mechanisms in chronic pain pathophysiology responsible for mPFC gray matter loss as alternatives to neurodegeneration. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Neuregulin 1 Deficiency Modulates Adolescent Stress-Induced Dendritic Spine Loss in a Brain Region-Specific Manner and Increases Complement 4 Expression in the Hippocampus.

Clarke DJ, Chohan TW, Kassem MS, Smith KL, Chesworth R, Karl T, Kuligowski MP, Fok SY, Bennett MR, Arnold JC

One neuropathological feature of schizophrenia is a diminished number of dendritic spines in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. The neuregulin 1 (Nrg1) system is involved in the plasticity of dendritic spines, and chronic stress decreases dendritic spine densities in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Here, we aimed to assess whether Nrg1 deficiency confers vulnerability to the effects of adolescent stress on dendritic spine plasticity. We also assessed other schizophrenia-relevant neurobiological changes such as microglial cell activation, loss of parvalbumin (PV) interneurons, and induction of complement factor 4 (C4). Adolescent male wild-type (WT) and Nrg1 heterozygous mice were subjected to chronic restraint stress before their brains underwent Golgi impregnation or immunofluorescent staining of PV interneurons, microglial cells, and C4. Stress in WT mice promoted dendritic spine loss and microglial cell activation in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. However, Nrg1 deficiency rendered mice resilient to stress-induced dendritic spine loss in the infralimbic cortex and the CA3 region of the hippocampus without affecting stress-induced microglial cell activation in these brain regions. Nrg1 deficiency and adolescent stress combined to trigger increased dendritic spine densities in the prelimbic cortex. In the hippocampal CA1 region, Nrg1 deficiency accentuated stress-induced dendritic spine loss. Nrg1 deficiency increased C4 protein and decreased C4 mRNA expression in the hippocampus, and the number of PV interneurons in the basolateral amygdala. This study demonstrates that Nrg1 modulates the impact of stress on the adolescent brain in a region-specific manner. It also provides first evidence of a link between Nrg1 and C4 systems in the hippocampus.

Stress-induced grey matter loss determined by MRI is primarily due to loss of dendrites and their synapses.

Kassem MS, Lagopoulos J, Stait-Gardner T, Price WS, Chohan TW, Arnold JC, Hatton SN, Bennett MR

Stress, unaccompanied by signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, is known to decrease grey matter volume (GMV) in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and hippocampus but not the amygdala in humans. We sought to determine if this was the case in stressed mice using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and to identify the cellular constituents of the grey matter that quantitatively give rise to such changes. Stressed mice showed grey matter losses of 10 and 15 % in the ACC and hippocampus, respectively but not in the amygdala or the retrosplenial granular area (RSG). Concurrently, no changes in the number or volumes of the somas of neurons, astrocytes or oligodendrocytes were detected. A loss of synaptic spine density of up to 60 % occurred on different-order dendrites in the ACC and hippocampus (CA1) but not in the amygdala or RSG. The loss of spines was accompanied by decreases in cumulative dendritic length of neurons of over 40 % in the ACC and hippocampus (CA1) giving rise to decreases in volume of dendrites of 2.6 mm(3) for the former and 0.6 mm(3) for the latter, with no change in the amygdala or RSG. These values are similar to the MRI-determined loss of GMV following stress of 3.0 and 0.8 mm(3) in ACC and hippocampus, respectively, with no changes in the amygdala or RSG. This quantitative study is the first to relate GMV changes in the cortex measured with MRI to volume changes in cellular constituents of the grey matter.

Partial genetic deletion of neuregulin 1 modulates the effects of stress on sensorimotor gating, dendritic morphology, and HPA axis activity in adolescent mice.

Chohan TW, Boucher AA, Spencer JR, Kassem MS, Hamdi AA, Karl T, Fok SY, Bennett MR, Arnold JC

Stress has been linked to the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Genetic variation in neuregulin 1 (NRG1) increases the risk of developing schizophrenia and may help predict which high-risk individuals will transition to psychosis. NRG1 also modulates sensorimotor gating, a schizophrenia endophenotype. We used an animal model to demonstrate that partial genetic deletion of Nrg1 interacts with stress to promote neurobehavioral deficits of relevance to schizophrenia. Nrg1 heterozygous (HET) mice displayed greater acute stress-induced anxiety-related behavior than wild-type (WT) mice. Repeated stress in adolescence disrupted the normal development of higher prepulse inhibition of startle selectively in Nrg1 HET mice but not in WT mice. Further, repeated stress increased dendritic spine density in pyramidal neurons of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) selectively in Nrg1 HET mice. Partial genetic deletion of Nrg1 also modulated the adaptive response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to repeated stress, with Nrg1 HET displaying a reduced repeated stress-induced level of plasma corticosterone than WT mice. Our results demonstrate that Nrg1 confers vulnerability to repeated stress-induced sensorimotor gating deficits, dendritic spine growth in the mPFC, and an abberant endocrine response in adolescence.