Social defeat: Vagal reduction and vulnerability to ventricular arrhythmias

Neurobiol Stress. 2020 Aug 3;13:100245. doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2020.100245. eCollection 2020 Nov.


Previously, a sub-population of defeated anesthetized rats (Dlow) was characterized by persistent low blood levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) at day 29 and autonomic alteration at day 30 after social challenge, while the other population (Dhigh) was similar to non-defeated (ND) animals. The aims of this study were to determine the time-course of autonomic dysfunction in awake animals, and whether Dhigh and/or Dlow were vulnerable to cardiac events. Defeated animals were exposed to four daily episodes of social defeats from day 1 to day 4. At day 30, anesthetized Dlow displayed decreased experimental and spontaneous reflex responses reflecting lower parasympathetic efficiency. In addition, Dlow but not Dhigh were characterized by left ventricular hypertrophy at day 30. Telemetric recordings revealed that Dlow had increased low frequency-to-high frequency ratio (LF/HF) and diastolic (DBP) and systolic (SBP) blood pressure, associated with decreased HF and spontaneous baroreflex responses (BRS) from day 3 to day 29. LF/HF, DBP and SBP recovered at day 5, and HF and BRS recovered at day 15 in Dhigh. Ventricular premature beats (VPBs) occurred in Dlow and Dhigh animals from day 5. Time course of VBP fluctuations in Dhigh mirrored that of HF and BRS, but not that of LF/HF, DBP and SBP. These results suggest that a psychosocial stress associated to low serum BDNF levels can lead to vulnerability to persistent autonomic dysfunction, cardiac hypertrophy and ventricular ectopic beats. The parasympathetic recovery seen in Dhigh may provide protection against cardiac events in this population.

Keywords: Brain-derived neurotrophic factor; Parasympathetic; Social defeat; Stress; Ventricular premature beats.