Gene-Targeted, CREB-Mediated Induction of ΔFosB Controls Distinct Downstream Transcriptional Patterns Within D1 and D2 Medium Spiny Neurons

Casey K. Lardner, Yentl van der Zee, Molly S. Estill, Hope G. Kronman, Marine Salery, Ashley M. Cunningham, Arthur Godino, Eric M. Parise, Jee Hyun Kim, Rachael L. Neve, Li Shen, Peter J. Hamilton, Eric J. Nestler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: The onset and persistence of addiction phenotypes are, in part, mediated by transcriptional mechanisms in the brain that affect gene expression and, subsequently, neural circuitry. ΔFosB is a transcription factor that accumulates in the nucleus accumbens (NAc)—a brain region responsible for coordinating reward and motivation—after exposure to virtually every known rewarding substance, including cocaine and opioids. ΔFosB has also been shown to directly control gene transcription and behavior downstream of both cocaine and opioid exposure, but with potentially different roles in D1 and D2 medium spiny neurons (MSNs) in NAc. Methods: To clarify MSN subtype-specific roles for ΔFosB and investigate how these coordinate the actions of distinct classes of addictive drugs in NAc, we developed a CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas9-based epigenome editing tool to induce endogenous ΔFosB expression in vivo in the absence of drug exposure. After inducing ΔFosB in D1- or D2-MSNs or both, we performed RNA sequencing on bulk male and female NAc tissue (n = 6–8/group). Results: We found that ΔFosB induction elicits distinct transcriptional profiles in NAc by MSN subtype and by sex, establishing for the first time that ΔFosB mediates different transcriptional effects in males versus females. We also demonstrated that changes in D1-MSNs, but not those in D2-MSNs or both, significantly recapitulate changes in gene expression induced by cocaine self-administration. Conclusions: Together, these findings demonstrate the efficacy of a novel molecular tool for studying cell type–specific transcriptional mechanisms and shed new light on the activity of ΔFosB, a critical transcriptional regulator of drug addiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-549
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2021


  • Cocaine
  • Gene editing
  • Nucleus accumbens
  • Opioids
  • Substance use disorder
  • ΔFosB


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