The gene Tob is well known for the role it plays in cancer. Previous research has also indicated that it has a hand in regulating the cell cycle and the body’s immune response.
In a study from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, scientists found the jumping gene Tob is strongly linked to depression, fear, and anxiety.
Tob is named for the Japanese verb “tobu,” which means to fly or to jump. This is because when the cell is exposed to a stimulus, its protein levels jump in activity.
The team’s conclusion that this gene is linked to anxiety, fear, and depression was drawn from several different experiments.
First, the researchers exposed mice to stress and, as expected, saw the Tob protein levels increase. They then used mice that had been born without a Tob gene and found an increase in depression, fear, and anxiety.
What’s more, the mice without the Tob gene didn’t seem to learn. The team explained that when mice have been put day after day in a place that evokes fear memory, they normally learn that it isn’t so bad and stop being as frightened.
But those without the Tob gene still showed increased levels of fear observed as freezing, even after several days.
Through an MRI, the team found that the connectivity between two key places regulating the brain’s stress resilience was altered when the Tob gene was removed—the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex.
From there, the researchers decided to look at the specific role that the gene plays within the hippocampus.
They took mice without the Tob gene and injected this gene into the hippocampus, while leaving it nonexistent in other parts of the body. The level of fear and depression returned to normal, but the mice still had increased anxiety.
The researchers then did the opposite—they created a mouse that had no Tob gene in the cells in the hippocampus but had it in the cells in the rest of the body.
In this case, they found that the mice had normal levels of anxiety but increased fear and depression.
The team concluded that the Tob gene within the hippocampus suppresses fear and depression. But the suppression of anxiety must be regulated by another part of the brain.
The team says uncovering this role of the Tob gene in fear, depression, and anxiety could have vast implications for developing therapeutics for psychiatric stress.
For more information about depression, please see recent studies about complementary treatments for depression, and results showing this daily habit is a powerful medicine for depression.
The study was conducted by Dr. Mohieldin Youssef et al and published in Translational Psychiatry.
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