Social defeat stress induces hyperalgesia and increases truncated BDNF isoforms in the nucleus accumbens regardless of the depressive-like behavior induction in mice

Eur J Neurosci. 2018 Jun 9. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13994. Online ahead of print.


Epidemiological studies have shown a close association between pain and depression. There is evidence showing this association as patients with depression show a high chronic pain prevalence and vice versa. Considering that social stress is critical for the development of depression in humans, we used a social defeat stress (SDS) model which induces depressive-like behavior in mice. In this model, mice are exposed to an aggressor mouse for ten days, suffering brief periods of agonistic contact and long periods of sensory contact. Some mice display social avoidance, a depressive-like behavior, and are considered susceptible, while some mice do not, and are considered resilient. Thus, we investigated the nociceptive behavior of mice submitted to SDS and the neuroplastic changes in dopaminergic mesolimbic system. Our results showed that the stressed mice (resilient and susceptible) presented a higher sensitivity to pain than the control mice in chemical and mechanical tests. We also verified that susceptible mice have higher Bdnf mRNA in the VTA compared to the resilient and control mice. The stressed mice had less mature BDNF and more truncated BDNF protein in the NAc compared with control mice. Although social stress may trigger the development of depression and hyperalgesia, these two conditions may manifest independently as social stress induced hyperalgesia even in mice that did not display depressive-like behavior. Also, increased Bdnf in the VTA seems to be associated with depressive-like behavior, whereas high levels of truncated BDNF and low mature BDNF appear to be associated with hyperalgesia induced by social defeat stress.

Keywords: BDNF; depression; dopaminergic mesolimbic system; pain; stress.