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David Engblom, promoveringsporträtt LiU-2019 Photo credit David Einar

1. The role of microglial signaling and IL-6 in aversion and depression

We have recently made important contributions to the understanding of how systemic inflammation and inflammatory pain regulate mood and affective state. We found that peripheral inflammation triggers aversion by activation of intracerebral prostaglandin synthesis leading to negative modulation of dopaminergic cells, thus inhibiting reward circuits (Fritz et al. J Clin Invest, 2016). Continuing along this line of research, we now focus on the role of microglia in generating the inflammatory molecules that affect the circuits controlling mood and affective state.

Photo credit Anna Nilsen

2. Melanocortin receptor 4 as a key regulator of motivational valence

We have identified melanocortin 4 receptors (MC4Rs) in the ventral striatum as key regulators of motivational valence (Klawonn et al. J Clin Invest, 2018). Strikingly, mice lacking MC4Rs seem to like aversive stimuli such as inflammation and nausea. We now use optogenetic and chemogenetic techniques to investigate the circuits mediating the regulatory effect of the MC4Rs.

Photo credit Anna Nilsen

3. The interaction between inflammation and maternal care

We are interested in how inflammation in infants affects the behavior of their mothers. We study this in mice and have identified bidirectional inflammation-related signaling between pups and dams. We are currently investigating the molecular mechanisms behind this signaling.