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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2009 Dec;34(13):2699-709. doi: 10.1038/npp.2009.101. Epub 2009 Aug 12.

Repeated homotypic stress elevates 2-arachidonoylglycerol levels and enhances short-term endocannabinoid signaling at inhibitory synapses in basolateral amygdala.

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Department of Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37212, USA.


Psychosocial stress is a risk factor for development and exacerbation of neuropsychiatric illness. Repeated stress causes biochemical adaptations in endocannabinoid (eCB) signaling that contribute to stress-response habituation, however, the synaptic correlates of these adaptations have not been examined. Here, we show that the synthetic enzyme for the eCB 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), diacylglycerol (DAG) lipase alpha, is heterogeneously expressed in the amygdala, and that levels of 2-AG and precursor DAGs are increased in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) after 10 days, but not 1 day, of restraint stress. In contrast, arachidonic acid was decreased after both 1 and 10 days of restraint stress. To examine the synaptic correlates of these alterations in 2-AG metabolism, we used whole-cell electrophysiology to determine the effects of restraint stress on depolarization-induced suppression of inhibition (DSI) in the BLA. A single restraint stress exposure did not alter DSI compared with control mice. However, after 10 days of restraint stress, DSI duration, but not magnitude, was significantly prolonged. Inhibition of 2-AG degradation with MAFP also prolonged DSI duration; the effects of repeated restraint stress and MAFP were mutually occlusive. These data indicate that exposure to repeated, but not acute, stress produces neuroadaptations that confer BLA neurons with an enhanced capacity to elevate 2-AG content and engage in 2-AG-mediated short-term retrograde synaptic signaling. We suggest stress-induced enhancement of eCB-mediated suppression of inhibitory transmission in the BLA could contribute to affective dysregulation associated with chronic stress.

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