Early life social isolation alters corticotropin-releasing factor responses in adult rats

Neuroscience. 2009 Jan 23;158(2):845-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.10.036. Epub 2008 Oct 30.


Stress induced by early life social isolation leads to long-lasting alterations in stress responses and serotonergic activity. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is a neurotransmitter that mediates stress responses and alters serotonergic activity. We tested the hypothesis that the stress of early life isolation enhances responses to CRF in adulthood by determining the effect of CRF infusions into the dorsal raphe nucleus (dRN) on 5-HT release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of adult rats using in vivo microdialysis. Juvenile male rats were either isolated or housed in groups of three for a 3-week period beginning on postnatal day 21 after which, all rats were group-reared for an additional 2 weeks. Following the isolation/re-socialization procedure, infusion of 100 ng CRF into the dRN decreased 5-HT release in the NAc of group-reared rats. This treatment did not significantly affect 5-HT release in the NAc of isolation-reared animals. In contrast, infusion of 500 ng CRF into the dRN transiently increased 5-HT release in the NAc of both group-reared and isolated animals with isolated animals showing a more prolonged serotonergic response. Western blot and immunofluorescent staining for CRF receptors in the dRN showed that CRF(2) receptor levels were increased in the dRN of isolation-reared animals when compared with group-reared rats. Taken together, the results suggest that isolation during the early part of development causes alterations in both CRF receptor levels and CRF-mediated serotonergic activity. These effects may underlie the increased sensitivity to stress observed in isolates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Archaeal / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Archaeal / physiology
  • Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Microdialysis
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects*
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Social Isolation / psychology*


  • Hormones
  • Receptors, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Serotonin
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone