Social defeat stress induces depression-like behavior and alters spine morphology in the hippocampus of adolescent male C57BL/6 mice

Neurobiol Stress. 2016 Aug 21:5:54-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2016.07.001. eCollection 2016 Dec.


Social stress, including bullying during adolescence, is a risk factor for common psychopathologies such as depression. To investigate the neural mechanisms associated with juvenile social stress-induced mood-related endophenotypes, we examined the behavioral, morphological, and biochemical effects of the social defeat stress model of depression on hippocampal dendritic spines within the CA1 stratum radiatum. Adolescent (postnatal day 35) male C57BL/6 mice were subjected to defeat episodes for 10 consecutive days. Twenty-four h later, separate groups of mice were tested on the social interaction and tail suspension tests. Hippocampi were then dissected and Western blots were conducted to quantify protein levels for various markers important for synaptic plasticity including protein kinase M zeta (PKMζ), protein kinase C zeta (PKCζ), the dopamine-1 (D1) receptor, tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), and the dopamine transporter (DAT). Furthermore, we examined the presence of the α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA)-receptor subunit GluA2 as well as colocalization with the post-synaptic density 95 (PSD95) protein, within different spine subtypes (filopodia, stubby, long-thin, mushroom) using an immunohistochemistry and Golgi-Cox staining technique. The results revealed that social defeat induced a depression-like behavioral profile, as inferred from decreased social interaction levels, increased immobility on the tail suspension test, and decreases in body weight. Whole hippocampal immunoblots revealed decreases in GluA2, with a concomitant increase in DAT and TH levels in the stressed group. Spine morphology analyses further showed that defeated mice displayed a significant decrease in stubby spines, and an increase in long-thin spines within the CA1 stratum radiatum. Further evaluation of GluA2/PSD95 containing-spines demonstrated a decrease of these markers within long-thin and mushroom spine types. Together, these results indicate that juvenile social stress induces GluA2- and dopamine-associated dysregulation in the hippocampus - a neurobiological mechanism potentially underlying the development of mood-related syndromes as a consequence of adolescent bullying.

Keywords: Bullying; CA1; Depression; Dopamine; GluA2; Juvenile; Tail suspension test.