Chronic social isolation causes severe psychological effects in humans, but their neural bases remain poorly understood. 2 weeks (but not 24 hr) of social isolation stress (SIS) caused multiple behavioral changes in mice and induced brain-wide upregulation of the neuropeptide tachykinin 2 (Tac2)/neurokinin B (NkB). Systemic administration of an Nk3R antagonist prevented virtually all of the behavioral effects of chronic SIS. Conversely, enhancing NkB expression and release phenocopied SIS in group-housed mice, promoting aggression and converting stimulus-locked defensive behaviors to persistent responses. Multiplexed analysis of Tac2/NkB function in multiple brain areas revealed dissociable, region-specific requirements for both the peptide and its receptor in different SIS-induced behavioral changes. Thus, Tac2 coordinates a pleiotropic brain state caused by SIS via a distributed mode of action. These data reveal the profound effects of prolonged social isolation on brain chemistry and function and suggest potential new therapeutic applications for Nk3R antagonists.
Keywords: BNST; DMH; Nk3R; NkB; Tac2; aggression; amygdala; fear; neuropeptides; social isolation; stress.
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