Background: Stress during the adolescent period influences postnatal maturation and behavioral patterns in adulthood. Adolescent stress-induced molecular and functional changes in neurons are the key clinical features of psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia.
Objective: In the present study, we exposed genetically vulnerable mice to isolation stress to examine the molecular changes in the glutamatergic system involving N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors via dopaminergic disturbance in the prefrontal cortex (PFc).
Results: We report that late adolescent stress in combination with Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) genetic risk elicited alterations in glutamatergic neurons in the PFc, such as increased expression of glutamate transporters, decreased extracellular levels of glutamate, decreased concentration of d-serine, and impaired activation of NMDA-Ca2+/calmodulin kinase II signaling. These changes resulted in behavioral deficits in locomotor activity, forced swim, social interaction, and novelty preference tests. The glutamatergic alterations in the PFc were prevented if the animals were treated with an atypical antipsychotic drug clozapine and a dopamine D1 agonist SKF81297, which suggests that the activation of dopaminergic neurons is involved in the regulation of the glutamatergic system.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that adolescent stress combined with dopaminergic abnormalities in the PFc of genetically vulnerable mice induces glutamatergic disturbances, which leads to behavioral deficits in the young adult stage.
Keywords: Adolescent stress; Dopaminergic neuron; Genetic vulnerability; Glutamatergic neuron; Prefrontal cortex.