Chronic stress enhances risk for psychiatric disorders, and in animal models is known to evoke depression-like behavior accompanied by perturbed neurohormonal, metabolic, neuroarchitectural and transcriptional changes. Serotonergic neurotransmission, including serotonin2A (5-HT2A) receptors, have been implicated in mediating specific aspects of stress-induced responses. Here we investigated the influence of chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) on depression-like behavior, serum metabolic measures, and gene expression in stress-associated neurocircuitry of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and hippocampus in 5-HT2A receptor knockout (5-[Formula: see text]) and wild-type mice of both sexes. While 5-[Formula: see text] male and female mice exhibited a baseline reduced anxiety-like state, this did not alter the onset or severity of behavioral despair during and at the cessation of CUS, indicating that these mice can develop stress-evoked depressive behavior. Analysis of metabolic parameters in serum revealed a CUS-evoked dyslipidemia, which was abrogated in 5-[Formula: see text] female mice with a hyperlipidemic baseline phenotype. 5-[Formula: see text] male mice in contrast did not exhibit such a baseline shift in their serum lipid profile. Specific stress-responsive genes (Crh, Crhr1, Nr3c1, and Nr3c2), trophic factors (Bdnf, Igf1) and immediate early genes (IEGs) (Arc, Fos, Fosb, Egr1-4) in the PFC and hippocampus were altered in 5-[Formula: see text] mice both under baseline and CUS conditions. Our results support a role for the 5-HT2A receptor in specific metabolic and transcriptional, but not behavioral, consequences of CUS, and highlight that the contribution of the 5-HT2A receptor to stress-evoked changes is sexually dimorphic.
Keywords: 5-[Formula: see text] mice; Despair; Gene expression; Hippocampus; Prefrontal cortex; Sexual dimorphism.