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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Jul;42(8):1670-1678. doi: 10.1038/npp.2017.11. Epub 2017 Jan 17.

Adolescent Chronic Unpredictable Stress Exposure Is a Sensitive Window for Long-Term Changes in Adult Behavior in Mice.

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Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Adolescence is a time period in development when the brain undergoes substantial remodeling in response to the environment. To determine whether a stressful experience during adolescence affects adult behavior, we exposed adolescent male and female C57BL/6J mice to chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) for 12 days starting at postnatal day 28 (PND28). We also exposed adult male and female mice to CUS for 12 days beginning at PND70 to determine whether adolescence is a sensitive time period when stress can have long-lasting effects on behavior. Regardless of when mice were exposed to stress, they were all tested exactly 30 days later in the marble burying task, elevated zero maze, acoustic startle response, and forced swim test. Adolescent stress exposure increased anxiety-like behaviors in adult male and female mice and decreased acoustic startle response in a sex-dependent manner. However, adult stress exposure did not change anxiety or response to an acoustic tone in adult male or female mice as compared with nonstressed animals. Of interest, increased depression-like behavior in the forced swim test was observed in all mice, regardless of when the stress occurred. Gene expression analysis showed significant upregulation of corticotropin releasing factor receptor 2 (CrfR2) in the amygdala of males subjected to CUS during adolescence, but not in males that experienced CUS during adulthood. In contrast, females, regardless of when they were exposed to CUS, were not affected. These data support clinical evidence suggesting that early-life stress may predispose individuals to increased anxiety and depression later in life.

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