Substance P in the Medial Amygdala: Emotional Stress-Sensitive Release and Modulation of Anxiety-Related Behavior in Rats

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Mar 23;101(12):4280-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0400794101. Epub 2004 Mar 15.


Increasing evidence implicates the substance P (SP)/neurokinin-1 receptor system in anxiety and depression. However, it is not known whether emotional stimulation alters endogenous extracellular SP levels in brain areas important for processing of anxiety and mood, a prerequisite for a contribution of this neuropeptide system in modulating these behaviors. Therefore, we examined in rats whether the release of SP is sensitive to emotional stressors in distinct subregions of the amygdala, a key area in processing of emotions. By using in vivo micropush-pull superfusion and microdialysis techniques, we found a pronounced and long-lasting increase (150%) in SP release in the medial nucleus of the amygdala (MeA), but not in the central nucleus of the amygdala, in response to immobilization stress. SP release in the MeA was transiently enhanced (40%) in response to elevated platform exposure, which is regarded as a mild emotional stressor. Immobilization enhanced the anxiety-related behavior evaluated in the subsequently performed elevated plus-maze test. Bilateral microinjections of the neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist [2-cyclopropoxy-5-(5-(trifluoromethyl)tetrazol-1-yl)benzyl]-(2-phenylpiperidin-3-yl)amine into the MeA blocked the stress-induced anxiogenic-like effect, supporting a functional significance of enhanced SP release. In unstressed rats, the neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist displayed no significant anxiolytic effect but reversed the anxiogenic effect of SP microinjected into the MeA. Our findings identify the MeA as a critical brain area for the involvement of SP transmission in anxiety responses and as a putative site of action for the recently discovered therapeutic effects of SP antagonists in the treatment of stress-related disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / metabolism*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism*
  • Substance P / administration & dosage
  • Substance P / pharmacology*


  • Substance P