Parvalbumin and neuropeptide Y expressing hippocampal GABA-ergic inhibitory interneuron numbers decline in a model of Gulf War illness.
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Cognitive dysfunction is amongst the most conspicuous symptoms in Gulf War illness (GWI). Combined exposure to the nerve gas antidote pyridostigmine bromide (PB), pesticides and stress during the Persian Gulf War-1 (PGW-1) are presumed to be among the major causes of GWI. Indeed, our recent studies in rat models have shown that exposure to GWI-related (GWIR) chemicals and mild stress for 4 weeks engenders cognitive impairments accompanied with several detrimental changes in the hippocampus. In this study, we tested whether reduced numbers of hippocampal gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA)-ergic interneurons are among the pathological changes induced by GWIR-chemicals and stress. Animals were exposed to low doses of GWIR-chemicals and mild stress for 4 weeks. Three months after this exposure, subpopulations of GABA-ergic interneurons expressing the calcium binding protein parvalbumin (PV), the neuropeptide Y (NPY) and somatostatin (SS) in the hippocampus were stereologically quantified. Animals exposed to GWIR-chemicals and stress for 4 weeks displayed reduced numbers of PV-expressing GABA-ergic interneurons in the dentate gyrus and NPY-expressing interneurons in the CA1 and CA3 subfields. However, no changes in SS+ interneuron population were observed in the hippocampus. Furthermore, GABA-ergic interneuron deficiency in these animals was associated with greatly diminished hippocampus neurogenesis. Because PV+ and NPY+ interneurons play roles in maintaining normal cognitive function and neurogenesis, and controlling the activity of excitatory neurons in the hippocampus, reduced numbers of these interneurons may be one of the major causes of cognitive dysfunction and reduced neurogenesis observed in GWI. Hence, strategies that improve inhibitory neurotransmission in the hippocampus may prove beneficial for reversing cognitive dysfunction in GWI.