Astrocyte dysfunction is implicated in clinical depression. There is a paucity of animal models to assess the role of astrocytes in depression pathogenesis. Refinement of an existing model is described here. Administration of the astrocytic toxin L-alpha aminoadipic acid (L-AAA) to the pre-limbic cortex (PLC) was assessed in rats and mice in tests of anxiety and depression related behaviours. Delivery of L-AAA to the PLC of Wistar rats produced an increase in immobility in the forced swimming test (FST) and reduced exploration in the open field. Delivery to the CA3 subfield of the hippocampus produced a deficit in the novel object relocation task. Delivery of single or two successive doses of L-AAA to the PLC of C57Bl6/J mice was sufficient to induce an increase in immobility in the mouse tail suspension (TST) and FST independently of administration of anaesthetic agent or the surgical procedure. In both mice and rats, L-AAA produced a reduction in immunoreactivity of the astrocytic marker glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) for up to 72 h. L-AAA provoked an increase in the density of apical and basal dendritic spines in mice exposed to the FST when compared to non-FST controls. In summary, L-AAA provokes a region-dependent change in behaviour, a reduction in GFAP immunoreactivity and FST-provoked increased in dendritic spine density in the PLC. This model may be further employed to assess the impact of astroglial integrity on the structural plasticity of neurons and the effect of antidepressant agents on L-AAA-related changes.
Keywords: Astrocytes; Dendritic spine density; Forced swimming test; L-alpha-aminoadipic acid; Pre-limbic cortex; Stress.
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