The bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) exerts a coordinated modulation of the psychoneuroendocrine responses to stress. However, how acute stress impacts on BNST in vivo plasticity is a crucial question that still remains unanswered. Here, neurons from the anterior portion of the BNST (aBNST) were recorded in vivo during and after stimulation of their medial prefrontal cortical (mPFC) afferents. In C57BL/6N mice, a 1 h restraint stress induced a switch from long-term depression (LTD) to long-term potentiation (LTP) in the aBNST after a 10 Hz mPFC stimulation. This switch was independent from glucocorticoid receptor stimulation. Because the endocannabinoid system regulates aBNST activity, we next examined the role of cannabinoid type-1 receptors (CB1-Rs) in these changes. Mutant mice lacking CB1-Rs (CB1(-/-) mice) displayed a marked deficit in the ability to develop plasticity under control and stress conditions, compared with their wild-type littermates (CB1(+/+) mice). This difference was not accounted for by genetic differences in stress sensitivity, as revealed by Fos immunohistochemistry analyses. Local blockade of CB1-Rs in the aBNST and the use of mutant mice bearing a selective deletion of CB1-Rs in cortical glutamatergic neurons indicated that stress-elicited LTP involved CB1-Rs located on aBNST excitatory terminals. These results show that acute stress reverts LTD into LTP in the aBNST and that the endocannabinoid system plays a key role therein.
Keywords: LTD; LTP; corticosterone; endocannabinoid; in vivo.