Inhibition of mTOR signaling by genetic removal of p70 S6 kinase 1 increases anxiety-like behavior in mice
Transl Psychiatry. 2021-03-15; 11(1):
The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a ubiquitously expressed kinase that acts through two complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, to regulate protein homeostasis, as well as long lasting forms of synaptic and behavioral plasticity. Alteration of the mTOR pathway is classically involved in neurodegenerative disorders, and it has been linked to dysregulation of cognitive functions and affective states. However, information concerning the specific involvement of the p70 S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), a downstream target of the mTORC1 pathway, in learning and memory processes and in the regulation of affective states remains scant. To fill this gap, we exposed adult male mice lacking S6K1 to a battery of behavioral tests aimed at measuring their learning and memory capabilities by evaluating reference memory and flexibility with the Morris water maze, and associative memory using the contextual fear conditioning task. We also studied their anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors by, respectively, performing elevated plus maze, open field, light-dark emergence tests, and sucrose preference and forced swim tests. We found that deleting S6K1 leads to a robust anxious phenotype concomitant with associative learning deficits; these symptoms are associated with a reduction of adult neurogenesis and neuronal atrophy in the hippocampus. Collectively, these results provide grounds for the understanding of anxiety reports after treatments with mTOR inhibitors and will be critical for developing novel compounds targeting anxiety.