Differential effects of social defeat in rats with high and low locomotor response to novelty

Calvo N, Cecchi M, Kabbaj M, Watson SJ, Akil H
Neuroscience. 2011; 183:81-9.


We compared the response to repeated social defeat in rats selected as high (HR) and low (LR) responders to novelty. In experiment 1, we investigated the behavioral and neuroendocrine effects of repeated social defeat in HR-LR rats. By the last defeat session, HR rats exhibited less passive-submissive behaviors than LR rats, and exhibited higher corticosterone secretion when recovering from defeat. Furthermore, in the forced swim test, while HR defeated rats spent more time immobile than their undefeated controls, LR rats' immobility was unaffected by defeat. In experiment 2, we compared the effects of repeated social defeat on body, adrenal, thymus, and spleen weights in HR-LR rats; moreover, we compared the effects of repeated social defeat on stress related molecules gene expression in these two groups of rats. Our results show that HR rats exhibited a decrease in thymus weight after repeated social defeat that was not present in LRs. Analyses of in situ hybridization results found HR-LR differences in 5-HT(2a) mRNA levels in the parietal cortex and 5-HT(1a) mRNA levels in the dorsal raphe. Moreover, LR rats had higher glucocorticoid receptor (GR) mRNA expression than HR rats in the dentate gyrus, and repeated social defeat decreased this expression in LR rats to HR levels. Finally, hippocampal mineralcorticoid receptor (MR)/GR ratio was reduced in HR rats only. Taken together, our results show a differential response to social defeat in HR-LR rats, and support the HR-LR model as a useful tool to investigate inter-individual differences in response to social stressors.