A role for BET proteins in regulating basal, dopamine-induced and cAMP/PKA-dependent transcription in rat striatal neurons
The activity of striatal medium-spiny projection neurons is regulated by D1 and D2 dopamine receptors. The D1 receptor (D1R) is a Gαs/olf-coupled GPCR which activates a cAMP/PKA/DARPP-32 signalling cascade that increases excitability and facilitates plasticity, partly through the regulation of transcription. Upon activation via D1R, PKA can translocate to the nucleus to regulate transcription through the phosphorylation of various targets. One candidate effector of PKA-dependent transcriptional regulation is the BET protein Brd4. It is known that when Brd4 is activated by phosphorylation, it binds more readily to acetylated histones at promoters and enhancers; moreover, in non-neuronal cells, PKA signalling has been shown to increase recruitment of Brd4 to chromatin. However, it is unknown whether BET proteins, or Brd4 specifically, are involved in transcriptional activation by cAMP/PKA in neurons. Here, we demonstrate that in adult rats, inhibition of BET proteins with the bromodomain inhibitor JQ1 suppressed the expression of ~25% of D1R-upregulated genes, while also increasing the expression of a subset of immediate-early genes. We further found that cAMP/PKA signalling promotes Brd4 recruitment to dopamine-induced genes in striatal neurons, and that knockdown of Brd4 attenuates D1R-induced gene expression. Finally, we report that JQ1 treatment downregulated expression of many GPCRs and also impaired ERK1/2 signalling in striatal neurons. Our findings identify the BET protein family, and Brd4 in particular, as novel regulators of basal and D1R-dependent transcription in rat striatal neurons, and delineate complex bi-directional effects of bromodomain inhibitors on neuronal transcription.