Center Researchers Explore Nuclear Receptors in Anxiety Disorders

Researchers at the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling (CNRCS) have found a novel receptor pathway which is involved in anxiety. The results appear in a new paper entitled “Anxiety in liver X receptor β knockout female mice with loss of glutamic acid decarboxylase in ventromedial prefrontal cortex.” The paper appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the official journal of the National Academy.

LXRβ is a member of the nuclear receptor supergene family of transcription factors which has essential functions in the brain and spinal cord. Transcription factors regulate the rate at which specific genes are transcribed. Tan, co-first author Yu-bing Dai and their colleagues discovered that loss of LXRβ affects the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. The prefrontal cortex regulates impulses, emotions, and behavior by exerting inhibitory control on the amygdala, the emotion-processing region of the brain.

“LXRβ plays a key role in neurological development and therefore is of great interest to our lab,” says Xin-jie Tan, research assistant professor. “These data expose a novel approach  for studying anxiety in human females.”

Looking ahead, the team hopes to see their research applied in clinical studies to better understand the cause of anxiety disorders, which are the most prevalent mental disorders in adolescents in the United States. These anxiety disorders affect female more than male adolescents and involve feelings of fear and worry that can lead to compulsive behaviors, depression and substance abuse.

Established in 1914, PNAS is among most-cited multidisciplinary scientific research journals and reports on the progressive research of the Academy. The circulation reaches over 3,000 institutions in more than 60 countries, including more than 2,200 Academy members and more than 400 foreign associates.

Established in 2009, CNRCS is the focal point of the UH health initiative. Led by Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson, a world-renowned expert in the field of nuclear receptors, CNRCS researchers are involved in many aspects of nuclear receptor research, all focused on understanding the roles of these receptors in health and disease. CNRCS researchers are working toward the goal of finding new treatments for an array of significant diseases including cancer, diabetes and metabolic syndrome and degenerative neurologic diseases. Working from the Center's world-class labs, CNRCS researchers combine interdisciplinary research and dynamic collaboration with the Texas Medical Center and industry partners.

To view the abstract or full text, visit