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Mol Psychiatry. 2016 Jan;21(1):80-8. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.14. Epub 2015 Mar 10.

The impact of chronic stress on the rat brain lipidome.

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Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS), School of Health Sciences, University of Minho, Campus Gualtar, Braga, Portugal.
ICVS/3B's - PT Government Associate Laboratory, Braga/Guimarães, Portugal.
Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.
Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.


Chronic stress is a major risk factor for several human disorders that affect modern societies. The brain is a key target of chronic stress. In fact, there is growing evidence indicating that exposure to stress affects learning and memory, decision making and emotional responses, and may even predispose for pathological processes, such as Alzheimer's disease and depression. Lipids are a major constituent of the brain and specifically signaling lipids have been shown to regulate brain function. Here, we used a mass spectrometry-based lipidomic approach to evaluate the impact of a chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) paradigm on the rat brain in a region-specific manner. We found that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) was the area with the highest degree of changes induced by chronic stress. Although the hippocampus presented relevant lipidomic changes, the amygdala and, to a greater extent, the cerebellum presented few lipid changes upon chronic stress exposure. The sphingolipid and phospholipid metabolism were profoundly affected, showing an increase in ceramide (Cer) and a decrease in sphingomyelin (SM) and dihydrosphingomyelin (dhSM) levels, and a decrease in phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and ether phosphatidylcholine (PCe) and increase in lysophosphatidylethanolamine (LPE) levels, respectively. Furthermore, the fatty-acyl profile of phospholipids and diacylglycerol revealed that chronic stressed rats had higher 38 carbon(38C)-lipid levels in the hippocampus and reduced 36C-lipid levels in the PFC. Finally, lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) levels in the PFC were found to be correlated with blood corticosterone (CORT) levels. In summary, lipidomic profiling of the effect of chronic stress allowed the identification of dysregulated lipid pathways, revealing putative targets for pharmacological intervention that may potentially be used to modulate stress-induced deficits.

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