The single-prolonged stress paradigm alters both the morphology and stress response of magnocellular vasopressin neurons

Neuroscience. 2008 Oct 15;156(3):466-74. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.07.049. Epub 2008 Aug 3.


Vasopressin (AVP) plays an important role in anxiety-related and social behaviors. Single-prolonged stress (SPS) has been established as an animal acute severe stress model and has been shown to induce a lower adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) response upon cortisol challenge. Here, we show results from immunoassays for AVP, ACTH, and corticosterone (CORT), and in situ hybridizations for AVP mRNA performed 7 days after SPS exposure. Immunofluorescence for AVP was also performed during the 7-day period following SPS exposure and after an additional forced swimming stress paradigm. We observed that the plasma concentrations of AVP, ACTH, and CORT were not altered by SPS; ACTH content in the pituitary and AVP mRNA expression in the supraoptic nucleus (SON) were significantly reduced by SPS. During the 7-day period following SPS, the intensity of immunoreactivity, the size of the soma, and the immunoreactive optical density of the dendrites of AVP neurons in the SON all increased. An apparent reduction in the intensity of AVP immunoreactivity was observed in the SON at 4 h after additional stress. Additional forced swimming led to a rapid increase in the dendritic AVP content only in the controls and not in the SPS-treated rats. These findings suggest that AVP is a potential biomarker for past exposure to severe stress and that alterations in AVP may affect the development of pathogenesis in stress-related disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Corticosterone / metabolism
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Male
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / pathology*
  • Supraoptic Nucleus / pathology*
  • Swimming
  • Time Factors
  • Vasopressins / genetics
  • Vasopressins / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Vasopressins
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticosterone