Differences in the association between behavior and neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin in male and female rats after coronary artery ligation

Physiol Behav. 2016 Sep 1:163:7-16. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.04.040. Epub 2016 Apr 24.


Heart failure is associated with an increased risk of developing depression and cognitive dysfunction, which negatively affects prognosis. Plasma levels of neutrophil gelatinase associated lipocalin (NGAL) are increased in heart failure and depression. Moreover, NGAL levels are associated with depression in heart failure patients. Since women are at a higher risk of developing comorbid depression with heart failure, the aim of this study was to examine sex differences in the link between NGAL and behavior in a rat model of heart failure. In young adult male and female Wistar rats, myocardial infarction (MI) was induced by means of coronary artery ligation, while control rats received sham surgery. We analyzed aspects of cognition and depression/anxiety using various behavioral tests starting three weeks after surgery. Hemodynamic measurements were performed and hearts and lungs were weighed. NGAL levels in plasma, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and brain tissue were analyzed. MI induced impairment in cardiac contractility and relaxation, and an increase in lung weight. NGAL correlated with signs of heart failure in male, but not female rats. Male MI rats displayed cognitive problems, but not depressive-like or anxiety-like behavior. No behavioral effects of MI were observed in female rats. Plasma NGAL levels were higher in male than female rats with higher concentrations in MI compared to sham. CSF NGAL was higher in MI rats compared to sham and higher in males compared to females. The number of NGAL positive cells in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) was only increased in male MI rats. In male, but not in female rats, NGAL levels correlated with depressive-like behavior and cognitive dysfunction. Data indicate that while MI increased NGAL levels in plasma, CSF and PVN, correlations of NGAL with behavior are sex-specific, but independent of whether sham or MI surgery was performed. This suggests that inflammatory processes related to thorax surgery and their potential effects on depressive-like behavior and cognition may be sex-specific.

Keywords: Behavior; Cognition; Depression; Heart failure; Neuroinflammation; Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin.

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure
  • Brain Infarction / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / blood*
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Heart Failure / pathology
  • Heart Rate
  • Lipocalin-2
  • Lipocalins / blood*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Motivation / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / blood*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Lcn2 protein, rat
  • Lipocalin-2
  • Lipocalins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins