Exercise promotes resilience to stress and increases galanin in the locus coeruleus (LC), but the question of whether changes in galanin signaling mediate the stress-buffering effects of exercise has never been addressed. To test the contributions of galanin to stress resilience, male Sprague Dawley rats received intracerebroventricular (ICV) cannulation for drug delivery and frontocortical cannulation for microdialysis, and were housed with or without a running wheel for 21d. Rats were acutely injected with vehicle or the galanin receptor antagonist M40 and exposed to a single session of either footshock or no stress. Other groups received galanin, the galanin receptor antagonist M40, or vehicle chronically for 21d prior to the stress session. Microdialysis sampling occurred during stress exposure and anxiety-related behavior was measured on the following day in the elevated plus maze. Dendritic spines were visualized by Golgi impregnation in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) pyramidal neurons and quantified. Exercise increased galanin levels in the LC. Under non-stressed conditions, anxiety-related behavior and dopamine levels were comparable between exercised and sedentary rats. In contrast, exposure to stress reduced open arm exploration in sedentary rats but not in exercise rats or those treated chronically with ICV galanin, indicating improved resilience. Both exercise and chronic, ICV galanin prevented the increased dopamine overflow and loss of dendritic spines observed after stress in sedentary rats. Chronic, but not acute M40 administration blocked the resilience-promoting effects of exercise. The results indicate that increased galanin levels promote features of resilience at both behavioral and neural levels.
Keywords: Dopamine; Frontal cortex; Galanin; Locus coeruleus; Plasticity; Stress resilience.
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