Sex differences in effects of mild chronic stress on seizure risk and GABAA receptors in rats

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2004 Jul;78(3):495-504. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2004.03.022.


Social stress is a common occurrence in our society that can negatively impact health. Therefore, we wanted to study the effects of a mild stressor designed to model social stress on seizure susceptibility and GABAA receptors in male and female rats. The mild chronic stress of individual housing consistently decreased bicuculline (but not pentylenetetrazol, PTZ) seizure thresholds by 10-15% in both sexes. Housing conditions did not alter the anticonvulsant activity of diazepam or ethanol, although the anticonvulsant effect of ethanol was significantly greater against PTZ-induced seizures. Experiments testing the addition of an acute restraint stress unmasked sex differences in seizure induction. The acute stress also selectively decreased the potency of GABA to modulate GABAA receptor-mediated chloride uptake in group-housed females. There were additional sex differences by housing condition for GABAA receptor-gated chloride uptake but no differences in [3H]flunitrazepam binding. We also found significant effects of sex and housing on ethanol-induced increases in corticosterone (CORT) levels. In summary, there were complex and sex-selective effects of mild chronic stress on seizure induction and GABAA receptors. Gaining a better understanding of mechanisms underlying interactions between sex and stress has important implications for addressing health concerns about stress in men and women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorides / metabolism
  • Chronic Disease
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Diazepam / pharmacology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology*
  • Risk
  • Seizures / etiology*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*


  • Chlorides
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Ethanol
  • Diazepam
  • Corticosterone