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Stress. 2009 Jan;12(1):58-69. doi: 10.1080/10253890802042082.

Effect of chronic psychosocial stress-induced by subordinate colony (CSC) housing on brain neuronal activity patterns in mice.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Center for Molecular Biosciences Innsbruck (CMBI), University of Innsbruck, Austria.


Chronic subordinate colony (CSC) housing has been recently validated as a murine model of chronic psychosocial stress which induces alterations of stress-related parameters including decreased body-weight gain and an increased level of anxiety in comparison with single housed control (SHC) mice. By using immunohistochemical immediate early gene (IEG) mapping we investigated whether CSC housing causes alterations in neuronal activation patterns in limbic areas including the amygdala, hippocampus, septum and the periaqueductal gray (PAG) and hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN). While CSC housing increased basal Zif-268 expression in the nucleus accumbens shell compared to SHC, IEG responses to subsequent open arm (OA) exposure were attenuated in the ventral and intermediate sub-regions of the lateral septum, parvocellular PVN and the dorsal CA3 region of the hippocampus of CSC compared with SHC mice. In contrast, a potentiated c-Fos response in CSC mice was observed in the dorsomedial PAG after OA exposure. Confirming previous findings obtained on the elevated plus-maze, an enhanced anxiety-related behavior in CSC compared with SHC mice was also observed during OA exposure. In order to investigate the appropriate control conditions for CSC housing, group housed control (GHC) mice were additionally included in the behavioral testing. Interestingly, GHC as well as CSC mice showed significantly less risk assessment/exploratory behavior during OA exposure compared with SHC mice indicating that group housing itself is stressful for mice and not an adequate control for the CSC paradigm. Overall, CSC housing is an ethologically relevant chronic psychosocial stressor which results in an elevated sensitivity to a subsequent novel, aversive challenge. However, the CSC-induced increase in anxiety-related behavior was accompanied by differences in neuronal activation, compared with SHC, in defined sub-regions of brain areas known to be involved in the processing of emotionality and stress responses.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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