Several lines of clinical evidence support the idea that fragile X syndrome (FXS) may involve a dysregulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function [Wisbeck et al. (2000) J Dev Behav Pediatr 21:278-282; Hessl et al. (2002) Psychoneuroendocrinology 27:855-872]. We had tested this idea in a mouse model of FXS (Fmr1 KO) and found that the hormonal response to acute stress was similar to that of wild-type (WT) mice [Qin and Smith (2008) Psychoneuroendocrinology 33:883-889]. We report here responses to chronic stress (CS) in Fmr1 KO mice. Following restraint for 120 min/d, 10 consecutive days, we assessed dendrite and spine morphology in basolateral amygdala (BLA). We also monitored behavior in an elevated plus maze (EPM) and the hormonal response to this novel spatial environment. After CS, mice of both genotypes underwent adrenal hypertrophy, but effects were greater in WT mice. Behavior in the EPM indicated that only WT mice had the expected increase in anxiety following CS. Serum corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels were both increased following the spatial novelty of EPM, and there were no differences between genotypes in the hormonal responses. BLA dendritic branching increased proximal to the soma in WT, but in Fmr1 KO mice branching was unaffected close to the soma and slightly decreased at one point distal to the soma. Similarly, spine density on apical and basal dendrites increased in WT but decreased in Fmr1 KO mice. Spine length on apical and basal dendrites increased in WT but was unaffected in Fmr1 KO mice. These differences in behavioral response and effects on neuron morphology in BLA suggest a diminished adaptive response of Fmr1 KO mice.
Published by Elsevier Ltd.