Periadolescent stress exposure exerts long-term effects on adult stress responding and expression of prefrontal dopamine receptors in male and female rats

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008 Feb;33(2):130-42. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2007.10.009. Epub 2007 Dec 11.


Recent research has demonstrated that experiential/environmental factors in early life can program the adult stress response in rats, and this is manifest as altered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical activity and behavior in response to a stressor. Very little work has been devoted to investigating whether the environment during adolescence plays a similar role in modulating ongoing developmental processes and how this might affect adult stress responding. Periadolescent predator odor (PPO) exposure was used here as a naturalistic model of repeated psychological stress. Behavioral and endocrine responses to PPO changed across the exposure period, and behavioral alterations persisted into adulthood. While adolescent rats showed pronounced avoidance responses upon initial PPO exposure, hyperactivity increased across the exposure period, especially in females. Corticosterone (cort) responses to stressor exposure also changed in females, with higher physiological baseline levels observed at the end of the exposure period. In adulthood, relative to rats who had received a control manipulation during adolescence, PPO-exposed rats were more fearful in a novel open field and displayed altered responses to a predator odor stress test in adulthood. Moreover, lower levels of the D2 dopamine (DA) receptor were measured in prefrontal (infralimbic and dorsopeduncular) cortices of PPO-exposed rats. These findings suggest that the adolescent period may represent a sensitive period during which developmental programming of the stress response occurs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Corticosterone / blood*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fear / physiology
  • Fear / psychology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / metabolism*
  • Sex Factors
  • Smell / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology


  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Corticosterone