Authors: Chevallier N, Keller E, Maurice T.
Abstract: The sigma-1 (σ₁) protein regulates calcium homeostasis and acts as an endoplasmic reticulum chaperone. It can be activated by ligands which impact memory, depression, anxiety or addiction processes. We here characterized the behavioural phenotype of knockout (KO) mice for the σ₁ protein. Two-month old male σ₁⁻/⁻ mice showed signs of anxiety in the open-field, passive avoidance or elevated plus-maze test, but other activity or memory responses were unchanged. Female σ₁⁻/⁻ mice showed deficits in spontaneous alternation or water-maze learning. Twelve-month old σ₁⁺/⁻ female mice showed deficits in alternation and σ₁⁻/⁻ mice in avoidance escape latency. Two- and 14-month old female σ₁⁻/⁻ mice showed decreased plasma 17β-estradiol levels. Treatment with 17β-estradiol (0.1, 0.2 mg/kg i.p.) reversed the spatial memory deficits in young and aged mice. Male σ₁ KO mice showed enhanced response in the forced swimming test. Igmesine, a σ₁ agonist, failed to decrease immobility in σ₁ KO mice. Fluoxetine and sertraline were more efficient in σ₁ KO mice, an effect likely related to their σ₁ antagonist activity. Imipramine, desipramine and amitriptyline were equally active. σ₁ protein invalidation therefore affected stress or anxiety response but not memory in males. Changes in steroid tonus in female animals led, however, to memory impairments that increased with age.