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Stress. 2014 Jan;17(1):108-16. doi: 10.3109/10253890.2013.872619.

Altered emotionality, hippocampus-dependent performance and expression of NMDA receptor subunit mRNAs in chronically stressed mice.

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Department of Neuroscience, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience, Maastricht University , Maastricht , the Netherlands .


N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-mediated neurotransmission in the hippocampus is implicated in cognitive and emotional disturbances during stress-related disorders. Here, using quantitative RT-PCR, we investigated the hippocampal expression of NR2A, NR2B and NR1 subunit mRNAs in a mouse stress paradigm that mimics clinically relevant conditions of simultaneously affected emotionality and hippocampus-dependent functions. A 2-week stress procedure, which comprised ethologically valid stressors, exposure to a rat and social defeat, was applied to male C57BL/6J mice. For predation stress, mice were introduced into transparent containers that were placed in a rat home cage during the night; social defeat was applied during the daytime using aggressive CD1 mice. This treatment impaired hippocampus-dependent performance during contextual fear conditioning. A correlation between this behavior and food displacement performance was demonstrated, suggesting that burrowing behavior is affected by the stress procedure and is hippocampus-dependent. Stressed mice (n = 22) showed behavioral invigoration and anomalous anxiolytic-like profiles in the O-maze and brightly illuminated open field, unaltered short-term memory in the step-down avoidance task and enhanced aggressive traits, as compared to non-stressed mice (n = 10). Stressed mice showed increased basal serum corticosterone concentrations, hippocampal mRNA expression for the NR2A subunit of the NMDAR and in the NR2A/NR2B ratio; mRNA expression of NR2B and NR1 was unchanged. Thus, stress-induced aberrations in both hippocampal-dependent performance and emotional abnormalities are associated with alterations in hippocampal mRNA NR2A levels and the NR2A/NR2B ratio and not with mRNA expression of NR2B or NR1.

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