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- Creators: Stout, Valerie
Environmental and genetic factors influence schizophrenia risk. Individuals who have direct family members with schizophrenia have a much higher incidence. Also, acute stress or life crisis may precede the onset of the disease. This study aims to understand the effects of environment on genes related to schizophrenia risk. It investigates the impact of sleep deprivation as an acute environmental stressor on the expression of Htr2a in mice, a gene that codes for the serotonin 2A receptor (5-HT2AR). HTR2A is associated with schizophrenia risk through genetic association studies and expression is decreased in post-mortem studies of patients with the disease. Furthermore, sleep deprivation as a stressor in human trials has been shown to increase the binding capacity of 5-HT2AR. We hypothesize that sleep deprivation will increase the number of cells expressing Htr2a in the mouse anterior prefrontal cortex when compared to controls. Sleep deprived that mice express EGFP under control of the Htr2a promoter displayed anteroposterior gradients of expression across sagittal sections, with concentrations seen most densely within the prefrontal cortex as well as the anterior pretectal nucleus, thalamic nucleus, as well as the cingulate gyrus. Htr2a-EGFP expression was most densely visualized in cortical layer V and VI pyramidal neurons within the lateral prefrontal cortex of coronal sections. Furthermore, the medial prefrontal cortex contained significantly cells expressing Htr2a¬-EGFP than the lateral prefrontal cortex. Ultimately, the hypothesis was not supported and sleep deprivation did not result in more ¬Htr2a-EGFP expressing cells compared to basal levels. However, expressing cells appeared visibly brighter in sleep-deprived animals when compared to controls, indicating that the amount of intracellular Htr2a-GFP expression may be higher. This study provides strong visual representations of expression gradients following sleep deprivation as an acute stressor and paves the way for future studies regarding 5H-T2AR’s role in schizophrenia.