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      The GABA A Receptor α2 Subunit Activates a Neuronal TLR4 Signal in the Ventral Tegmental Area that Regulates Alcohol and Nicotine Abuse

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          Alcoholism initiates with episodes of excessive alcohol drinking, known as binge drinking, which is one form of excessive drinking (NIAAA Newsletter, 2004) that is related to impulsivity and anxiety (Ducci et al., 2007; Edenberg et al., 2004) and is also predictive of smoking status. The predisposition of non-alcohol exposed subjects to initiate binge drinking is controlled by neuroimmune signaling that includes an innately activated neuronal Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signal. This signal also regulates cognitive impulsivity, a heritable trait that defines drug abuse initiation. However, the mechanism of signal activation, its function in dopaminergic (TH+) neurons within the reward circuitry implicated in drug-seeking behavior [viz. the ventral tegmental area (VTA)], and its contribution to nicotine co-abuse are still poorly understood. We report that the γ-aminobutyric acid A receptor (GABA AR) α2 subunit activates the TLR4 signal in neurons, culminating in the activation (phosphorylation/nuclear translocation) of cyclic AMP response element binding (CREB) but not NF-kB transcription factors and the upregulation of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). The signal is activated through α2/TLR4 interaction, as evidenced by co-immunoprecipitation, and it is present in the VTA from drug-untreated alcohol-preferring P rats. VTA infusion of neurotropic herpes simplex virus (HSV) vectors for α2 (pHSVsiLA2) or TLR4 (pHSVsiTLR4) but not scrambled (pHSVsiNC) siRNA inhibits signal activation and both binge alcohol drinking and nicotine sensitization, suggesting that the α2-activated TLR4 signal contributes to the regulation of both alcohol and nicotine abuse.

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          Most cited references 111

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          Transcriptional regulation by the phosphorylation-dependent factor CREB.

           M Montminy,  B Mayr (2001)
          The transcription factor CREB -- for 'cyclic AMP response element-binding protein' -- functions in glucose homeostasis, growth-factor-dependent cell survival, and has been implicated in learning and memory. CREB is phosphorylated in response to various signals, but how is specificity achieved in these signalling pathways?
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            CD36 ligands promote sterile inflammation through assembly of a Toll-like receptor 4 and 6 heterodimer

            In atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, deposition of the altered-self components oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and β-amyloid triggers a protracted sterile inflammatory response. Although chronic stimulation of the innate immune system is believed to underlie the pathology of these diseases, the molecular mechanisms of activation remain unclear. Here we show that oxidized LDL and β-amyloid trigger inflammatory signaling through a heterodimer of Toll-like receptors 4 and 6. Assembly of this novel heterodimer is regulated by signals from the scavenger receptor CD36, a common receptor for these disparate ligands. Our results identify CD36-TLR4-TLR6 activation as a common molecular mechanism by which atherogenic lipids and β-amyloid stimulate sterile inflammation and suggest a new model of TLR heterodimerization triggered by co-receptor signaling events.
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              The repertoire for pattern recognition of pathogens by the innate immune system is defined by cooperation between toll-like receptors.

              Toll-like receptors (TLRs) have been shown to participate in the recognition of pathogens by the innate immune system, but it is not clear how a restricted family of receptors has the capacity to recognize the wide spectrum of TLR stimuli known to exist. We report here that two members of the TLR family, TLR2 and TLR6, together coordinate macrophage activation by Gram-positive bacteria and the yeast cell-wall particle, zymosan. TLR6 and TLR2 both are recruited to the macrophage phagosome, where they recognize peptidoglycan, a Gram-positive pathogen component. By contrast, TLR2 recognizes another component, bacterial lipopeptide, without TLR6. The requirement for TLR cooperation is supported by the finding that TLR2 needs a partner to activate tumor necrosis factor-alpha production in macrophages. Dimerization of the cytoplasmic domain of TLR2 does not induce tumor necrosis factor-alpha production in macrophages, whereas similar dimerization of the TLR4 cytoplasmic domain does. We show that the cytoplasmic domain of TLR2 can form functional pairs with TLR6 or TLR1, and this interaction leads to cytokine induction. Thus, the cytoplasmic tails of TLRs are not functionally equivalent, with certain TLRs requiring assembly into heteromeric complexes, whereas others are active as homomeric complexes. Finally, we show that TLR6, TLR2, and TLR1 are recruited to macrophage phagosomes that contain IgG-coated erythrocytes that do not display microbial components. The data suggest that TLRs sample the contents of the phagosome independent of the nature of the contents, and can establish a combinatorial repertoire to discriminate among the large number of pathogen-associated molecular patterns found in nature.

                Author and article information

                Brain Sci
                Brain Sci
                Brain Sciences
                21 April 2018
                April 2018
                : 8
                : 4
                [1 ]Department of Pharmacology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA; ibalan@
                [2 ]Neuropsychopharmacology Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, DC 20059, USA; kaitlin.warnock@ (K.T.W.); mgondre-lewis@ (M.C.G.); harry.june@ (H.J.)
                [3 ]Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA; apuche@
                [4 ]Laboratory for Neurodevelopment, Department of Anatomy, Howard University College of Medicine, Washington, DC 20059, USA; mgondre-lewis@
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: LAurelian@ ; Tel.: +1-410-706-3895 or +1-410-706-5849
                © 2018 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



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