Publications by authors named "Sara Capoccia"

11 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Chronic Isolation Stress Affects Central Neuroendocrine Signaling Leading to a Metabolically Active Microenvironment in a Mouse Model of Breast Cancer.

Front Behav Neurosci 2021 9;15:660738. Epub 2021 Jul 9.

Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Social isolation is a powerful stressor capable of affecting brain plasticity and function. In the case of breast cancer, previous data indicate that stressful experiences may contribute to a worse prognosis, activating neuroendocrine and metabolism pathways, although the mechanisms underlying these effects are still poorly understood. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that chronic isolation stress (IS) may boost hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, leading to changes in the hypothalamic expression of genes modulating both mood and metabolism in an animal model of breast cancer. This centrally activated signaling cascade would, in turn, affect the mammary gland microenvironment specifically targeting fat metabolism, leading to accelerated tumor onset. MMTVNeuTg female mice (a model of breast cancer developing mammary hyperplasia at 5 months of age) were either group-housed (GH) or subjected to IS from weaning until 5 months of age. At this time, half of these subjects underwent acute restraint stress to assess corticosterone (CORT) levels, while the remaining subjects were characterized for their emotional profile in the forced swimming and saccharin preference tests. At the end of the procedures, all the mice were sacrificed to assess hypothalamic expression levels of Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (), Neuropeptide Y (), Agouti-Related Peptide (), and Serum/Glucocorticoid-Regulated Protein Kinase 1 (). Leptin and adiponectin expression levels, as well as the presence of brown adipose tissue (BAT), were assessed in mammary fat pads. The IS mice showed higher CORT levels following acute stress and decreased expression of , and , associated with greater behavioral despair in the forced swimming test. Furthermore, they were characterized by increased consumption of saccharin in a preference test, suggesting an enhanced hedonic profile. The IS mice also showed an earlier onset of breast lumps (assessed by palpation) accompanied by elevated levels of adipokines (leptin and adiponectin) and BAT in the mammary fat pads. Overall, these data point to IS as a pervasive stressor that is able to specifically target neuronal circuits, mastered by the hypothalamus, modulating mood, stress reactivity and energy homeostasis. The activation of such IS-driven machinery may hold main implications for the onset and maintenance of pro-tumorigenic environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2021.660738DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8298821PMC
July 2021

Long-Term Sex-Dependent Vulnerability to Metabolic challenges in Prenatally Stressed Rats.

Front Behav Neurosci 2017 29;11:113. Epub 2017 Jun 29.

Center for Behavioral Sciences and Mental Health, Istituto Superiore di SanitàRome, Italy.

Prenatal stress (PNS) might affect the developmental programming of adult chronic diseases such as metabolic and mood disorders. The molecular mechanisms underlying such regulations may rely upon long-term changes in stress-responsive effectors such as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that can affect neuronal plasticity underlying mood disorders and may also play a role in metabolic regulation. Based upon previous data, we hypothesized that PNS might lead to greater vulnerability to an obesogenic challenge experienced at adulthood. In order to investigate our hypothesis, pregnant Sprague-Dawley female rats underwent a chronic procedure of restraint stress during the last week of gestation. The adult offspring were then challenged with a high fat diet (HFD) over 8 weeks and tested for metabolic and emotional endpoints. Moreover, brain specific changes in expression levels were also assessed. Overall, HFD resulted in increased caloric intake, insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance and higher circulating levels of leptin, while PNS increased the leptin/adiponectin ratio, an index of metabolic risk in adult male subjects. Interestingly, HFD consumption increased anxiety-like behaviors in the Elevated Plus Maze, particularly in males, and this effect was buffered by PNS. Levels of were finely modulated by PNS and HFD in a region- and sex-dependent fashion: female offspring overall showed greater plasticity, possibly mediated through increased total mRNA expression both in the hippocampus and in the hypothalamus. In conclusion, while the experience of maternal stress during intrauterine life promotes metabolic dysfunction induced by a HFD at adulthood, the interaction between PNS and HFD is positive in male subjects, and in agreement with the match-mismatch hypothesis, resulting in a reduction of anxious behaviors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5489562PMC
June 2017

Autoantibodies specific to estrogen receptor alpha act as estrogen agonists and their levels correlate with breast cancer cell proliferation.

Oncoimmunology 2016 Feb 12;5(2):e1074375. Epub 2015 Aug 12.

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy; San Raffaele Pisana Institute, Rome, Italy.

Estrogen receptors have recently been demonstrated at the cell surface. Unlike nuclear receptors, they are able to trigger rapid responses inside the cells. In this study, we evaluated the presence and the possible role of autoantibodies specific to estrogen receptor (anti-ER Abs) in the peripheral blood of breast cancer patients. Anti-ERα Abs were detectable in 22/48 (46%) patients' sera and their levels positively correlated with the percentage of Ki-67-positive breast cancer cells. Anti-ERα Abs purified from breast cancer patients' sera were able: (i) to recognize ERα epitopes expressed at the cell surface of ER-positive breast cancer cells, (ii) to trigger rapid extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, and (iii) to induce cell proliferation. Our results suggest that anti-ERα Abs can act as estrogen agonists playing a pathogenetic role as breast cancer-promoting factors. These autoantibodies could also be considered as possible peripheral blood biomarkers indicative of the breast cancer growth potential.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2162402X.2015.1074375DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4801453PMC
February 2016

Decreased Bdnf expression and reduced social behavior in periadolescent rats following prenatal stress.

Dev Psychobiol 2015 Apr 18;57(3):365-73. Epub 2015 Mar 18.

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Section of Behavioral Neuroscience, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, Rome, 00161, Italy.

Prenatal stress (PNS) is a risk factor for the development of neuropsychiatric disorders. This study was aimed at assessing, in a rodent model, changes in gene expression profiles and behavioral output as a result of PNS, during periadolescence, a critical developmental period for the onset of psychopathology. Social behavior was studied in a standardized social interaction paradigm and the expression of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (Bdnf), a marker of neuronal plasticity, and of inhibitory and excitatory mechanisms (Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) and K(+)-Cl(-) cotransporters ratio, NKCC1/KCC2) was analyzed. Results indicate that PNS reduced Bdnf transcripts while increasing the NKCC1/KCC2 ratio, primarily in the hippocampus. In the prefrontal cortex, changes in Bdnf were found to be gender-dependent. These effects were accompanied by reduced levels of affiliative and investigative social behaviors. Interestingly, interaction with non-stressed subjects was able to improve sociality in PNS rats suggesting that the social environment could be exploited for therapeutic intervention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dev.21297DOI Listing
April 2015

Behavioral characterization of mouse models of neuroferritinopathy.

PLoS One 2015 17;10(2):e0118990. Epub 2015 Feb 17.

Department of Cell Biology, Section of Behavioral Neuroscience, Istituto Superiore Di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Ferritin is the main intracellular protein of iron storage with a central role in the regulation of iron metabolism and detoxification. Nucleotide insertions in the last exon of the ferritin light chain cause a neurodegenerative disease known as Neuroferritinopathy, characterized by iron deposition in the brain, particularly in the cerebellum, basal ganglia and motor cortex. The disease progresses relentlessly, leading to dystonia, chorea, motor disability and neuropsychiatry features. The characterization of a good animal model is required to compare and contrast specific features with the human disease, in order to gain new insights on the consequences of chronic iron overload on brain function and behavior. To this aim we studied an animal model expressing the pathogenic human FTL mutant 498InsTC under the phosphoglycerate kinase (PGK) promoter. Transgenic (Tg) mice showed strong accumulation of the mutated protein in the brain, which increased with age, and this was accompanied by brain accumulation of ferritin/iron bodies, the main pathologic hallmark of human neuroferritinopathy. Tg-mice were tested throughout development and aging at 2-, 8- and 18-months for motor coordination and balance (Beam Walking and Footprint tests). The Tg-mice showed a significant decrease in motor coordination at 8 and 18 months of age, with a shorter latency to fall and abnormal gait. Furthermore, one group of aged naïve subjects was challenged with two herbicides (Paraquat and Maneb) known to cause oxidative damage. The treatment led to a paradoxical increase in behavioral activation in the transgenic mice, suggestive of altered functioning of the dopaminergic system. Overall, data indicate that mice carrying the pathogenic FTL498InsTC mutation show motor deficits with a developmental profile suggestive of a progressive pathology, as in the human disease. These mice could be a powerful tool to study the neurodegenerative mechanisms leading to the disease and help developing specific therapeutic targets.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118990PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4331086PMC
January 2016

A novel neuroferritinopathy mouse model (FTL 498InsTC) shows progressive brain iron dysregulation, morphological signs of early neurodegeneration and motor coordination deficits.

Neurobiol Dis 2015 Sep 4;81:119-33. Epub 2014 Nov 4.

San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Via Olgettina 60, 20132 Milano, Italy; Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Via Olgettina 58, 20132 Milano, Italy. Electronic address:

Neuroferritinopathy is a rare genetic disease with a dominant autosomal transmission caused by mutations of the ferritin light chain gene (FTL). It belongs to Neurodegeneration with Brain Iron Accumulation, a group of disorders where iron dysregulation is tightly associated with neurodegeneration. We studied the 498-499InsTC mutation which causes the substitution of the last 9 amino acids and an elongation of extra 16 amino acids at the C-terminus of L-ferritin peptide. An analysis with cyclic voltammetry on the purified protein showed that this structural modification severely reduces the ability of the protein to store iron. In order to analyze the impact of the mutation in vivo, we generated mouse models for the some pathogenic human FTL gene in FVB and C57BL/6J strains. Transgenic mice in the FVB background showed high accumulation of the mutated ferritin in brain where it correlated with increased iron deposition with age, as scored by magnetic resonance imaging. Notably, the accumulation of iron-ferritin bodies was accompanied by signs of oxidative damage. In the C57BL/6 background, both the expression of the mutant ferritin and the iron levels were lower than in the FVB strain. Nevertheless, also these mice showed oxidative alterations in the brain. Furthermore, post-natal hippocampal neurons obtained from these mice experienced a marked increased cell death in response to chronic iron overload and/or acute oxidative stress, in comparison to wild-type neurons. Ultrastructural analyses revealed an accumulation of lipofuscin granules associated with iron deposits, particularly enriched in the cerebellum and striatum of our transgenic mice. Finally, experimental subjects were tested throughout development and aging at 2-, 8- and 18-months for behavioral phenotype. Rotarod test revealed a progressive impaired motor coordination building up with age, FTL mutant old mice showing a shorter latency to fall from the apparatus, according to higher accumulation of iron aggregates in the striatum. Our data show that our 498-499InsTC mouse models recapitulate early pathological and clinical traits of the human neuroferritinopathy, thus providing a valuable model for the study of the disease. Finally, we propose a mechanistic model of lipofuscine formation that can account for the etiopathogenesis of human neuroferritinopathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nbd.2014.10.023DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4642750PMC
September 2015

Gender-dependent resiliency to stressful and metabolic challenges following prenatal exposure to high-fat diet in the p66(Shc-/-) mouse.

Front Behav Neurosci 2014 22;8:285. Epub 2014 Aug 22.

Section of Behavioral Neurosciences, Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità Rome, Italy.

Metabolic stressful challenges during susceptible time windows, such as fetal life, can have important implications for health throughout life. Deletion of the p66(Shc) gene in mice leads to reduced oxidative stress (OS), resulting in a healthy and lean phenotype characterized by increased metabolic rate, resistance to high-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity and reduced emotionality at adulthood. Here we hypothesize that p66(Shc-/-) (KO) adult offspring might be protected from the detrimental effects induced by maternal HFD administered before and during pregnancy. To test such hypothesis, we fed p66(Shc+/+) (WT) and KO females with HFD for 13 weeks starting on 5 weeks of age until delivery and tested adult male and female offspring for their metabolic, neuroendocrine, and emotional profile. Prenatal diet affected stress responses and metabolic features in a gender-dependent fashion. In particular, prenatal HFD increased plasma leptin levels and decreased anxiety-like behavior in females, while increasing body weight, particularly in KO subjects. KO mice were overall characterized by metabolic resiliency, showing a blunted change in glycemia levels in response to glucose or insulin challenges. However, in p66(Shc-/-) mice, prenatal HFD affected glucose tolerance response in an opposite manner in the two genders, overriding the resilience in males and exacerbating it in females. Finally, KO females were protected from the disrupting effect of prenatal HFD on neuroendocrine response. These findings indicate that prenatal HFD alters the emotional profile and metabolic functionality of the adult individual in a gender-dependent fashion and suggest that exposure to high-caloric food during fetal life is a stressful condition interfering with the developmental programming of the adult phenotype. Deletion of the p66(Shc) gene attenuates such effects, acting as a protective factor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00285DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4141279PMC
September 2014

Antidepressant treatment outcome depends on the quality of the living environment: a pre-clinical investigation in mice.

PLoS One 2013 30;8(4):e62226. Epub 2013 Apr 30.

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Antidepressants represent the standard treatment for major depression. However, their efficacy is variable and incomplete. A growing number of studies suggest that the environment plays a major role in determining the efficacy of these drugs, specifically of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). A recent hypothesis posits that the increase in serotonin levels induced by SSRI may not affect mood per se, but enhances neural plasticity and, consequently, renders the individual more susceptible to the influence of the environment. Thus, SSRI administration in a favorable environment would lead to a reduction of symptoms, while in a stressful environment might lead to a worse prognosis. To test this hypothesis, we treated C57BL/6 adult male mice with chronic fluoxetine while exposing them to either (i) an enriched environment, after exposure to a chronic stress period aimed at inducing a depression-like phenotype, or (ii) a stressful environment. Anhedonia, brain BDNF and circulating corticosterone levels, considered endophenotypes of depression, were investigated. Mice treated with fluoxetine in an enriched condition improved their depression-like phenotype compared to controls, displaying higher saccharin preference, higher brain BDNF levels and reduced corticosterone levels. By contrast, when chronic fluoxetine administration occurred in a stressful condition, mice showed a more distinct worsening of the depression-like profile, displaying a faster decrease of saccharin preference, lower brain BDNF levels and increased corticosterone levels. Our findings suggest that the effect of SSRI on depression-like phenotypes in mice is not determined by the drug per se but is induced by the drug and driven by the environment. These findings may be helpful to explain variable effects of SSRI found in clinical practice and to device strategies aimed at enhancing their efficacy by means of controlling environmental conditions.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062226PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3639948PMC
December 2013

Quality and timing of stressors differentially impact on brain plasticity and neuroendocrine-immune function in mice.

Neural Plast 2013 31;2013:971817. Epub 2013 Mar 31.

Section of Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, Rome, Italy.

A growing body of evidence suggests that psychological stress is a major risk factor for psychiatric disorders. The basic mechanisms are still under investigation but involve changes in neuroendocrine-immune interactions, ultimately affecting brain plasticity. In this study we characterized central and peripheral effects of different stressors, applied for different time lengths, in adult male C57BL/6J mice. We compared the effects of repeated (7 versus 21 days) restraint stress (RS) and chronic disruption of social hierarchy (SS) on neuroendocrine (corticosterone) and immune function (cytokines and splenic apoptosis) and on a marker of brain plasticity (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, BDNF ). Neuroendocrine activation did not differ between SS and control subjects; by contrast, the RS group showed a strong neuroendocrine response characterized by a specific time-dependent profile. Immune function and hippocampal BDNF levels were inversely related to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation. These data show a fine modulation of the crosstalk between central and peripheral pathways of adaptation and plasticity and suggest that the length of stress exposure is crucial to determine its final outcome on health or disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/971817DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3628501PMC
October 2013

Anti-ATP synthase autoantibodies induce neuronal death by apoptosis and impair cognitive performance in C57BL/6J mice.

J Alzheimers Dis 2013 ;33(2):317-21

Department of Cell Biology and Neurosciences, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.

Previous studies have suggested a pathogenetic role of autoantibodies (Abs) against ATP synthase (ATPs) in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD). Using a mouse model, we found that intracerebroventricular administration of anti-ATPs-Abs, purified from AD patients, leads to poor cognitive performance and pronounced cell damage in the hippocampus, a brain region specifically involved in learning and memory processes, which is severely affected in AD. Our results are suggestive of a role of anti-ATPs-Abs in the onset and progression of AD and also provide a fruitful model for the study of memory disturbances in neurodegenerative diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2012-121312DOI Listing
May 2013

Social deprivation stress is a triggering factor for the emergence of anxiety- and depression-like behaviours and leads to reduced brain BDNF levels in C57BL/6J mice.

Psychoneuroendocrinology 2012 Jun 4;37(6):762-72. Epub 2011 Oct 4.

Section of Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, I-00161 Rome, Italy.

Stress is a main risk factor that can trigger psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and major depression. Neurotrophins, such as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), have been identified as neuroendocrine effectors involved in the response to stress and in the neurobehavioural changes associated with depression. Aim of this paper was to study the relationship between neuroendocrine activation (circulating corticosterone and brain BDNF levels) and a wide array of depression- and anxiety-like behaviours (anhedonia, behavioural despair, generalised and social anxiety) resulting from exposure to chronic stress. To this end, 3-month-old C57BL/6J male mice were exposed to either chronic disruption of the social structure (SS), to a stable social structure (SG) or to social deprivation (SD), a condition lacking social stimuli. Results show that, despite not developing anhedonia (decreased preference for a sucrose solution), SD mice were characterised by increased emotionality and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity in addition to reduced BDNF levels. By contrast, SG and SS mice showed increased anhedonia accompanied by no alterations in the behavioural and neuroendocrine profile. The results here reported indicate that mice exposed to different social housing conditions use different behavioural strategies to cope with external challenges. In addition they suggest that social deprivation might represent a stressful condition triggering the emergence of both anxiety- and depression-like behaviours and clearly indicate BDNF as a main neurobiological variable mediating these responses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.09.007DOI Listing
June 2012
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