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Neuroscience. 2018 Mar 1;373:7-19. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.01.020. Epub 2018 Jan 16.

Acute Stress Persistently Alters Locus Coeruleus Function and Anxiety-like Behavior in Adolescent Rats.

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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Rowan University, 42 East Laurel Road, Stratford, NJ 08084, USA.
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Rowan University, 42 East Laurel Road, Stratford, NJ 08084, USA; Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, 2 Medical Center Drive, Stratford, NJ 08084, USA. Electronic address:


Stress is a physiological state characterized by altered neuroendocrine signaling, behavioral arousal, and anxiety. Chronic or traumatic stress may predispose individuals for multiple somatic and psychiatric illnesses. The locus coeruleus (LC) is a major node in the stress response that integrates input from multiple stress responsive neural circuits and releases norepinephrine (NE) throughout the central nervous system (CNS) to promote vigilance and anxiety. Many mood disorders associated with prior stress are characterized by chronically altered noradrenergic signaling, yet the long-term impact of an acute stressor on LC function is not clear. To determine how acute stress could affect anxiety-like behavior as well as LC function at immediate and extended time points, rats underwent simultaneous exposure to physical restraint and predator odor. Rats underwent behavioral testing immediately or one week after stressor exposure and were then sacrificed for whole-cell patch-clamp recordings of LC neurons. Stress caused an immediate increase in anxiety-like behaviors in the elevated plus maze (EPM), as well decreased excitatory synaptic transmission and increased spontaneous discharge in LC neurons. These effects persisted for seven days after stress. Importantly, the excitability of LC neurons was increased one week post-stress, but not immediately after, suggesting a long-term adaptation by the system. Rats tested in the open field one week after stress also showed increased anxiety-like behaviors. These findings show that a single acute stressor is capable of precipitating long-lasting changes in the LC function that may be related to some of the behavioral effects of stress, potentially contributing to stress-induced disease pathogenesis.


anxiety; locus coeruleus; stress; whole-cell patch-clamp

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