Psychology Publications and Other Works

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Neurobiology of Stress

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Acute social defeat represents a naturalistic form of conditioned fear and is an excellent model in which to investigate the biological basis of stress resilience. While there is growing interest in identifying biomarkers of stress resilience, until recently, it has not been feasible to associate levels of large numbers of neurochemicals and metabolites to stress-related phenotypes. The objective of the present study was to use an untargeted metabolomics approach to identify known and unknown neurochemicals in select brain regions that distinguish susceptible and resistant individuals in two rodent models of acute social defeat. In the first experiment, male mice were first phenotyped as resistant or susceptible. Then, mice were subjected to acute social defeat, and tissues were immediately collected from the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), basolateral/central amygdala (BLA/CeA), nucleus accumbens (NAc), and dorsal hippocampus (dHPC). Ultra-high performance liquid chromatography coupled with high resolution mass spectrometry (UPLC-HRMS) was used for the detection of water-soluble neurochemicals. In the second experiment, male Syrian hamsters were paired in daily agonistic encounters for 2 weeks, during which they formed stable dominant-subordinate relationships. Then, 24 h after the last dominance encounter, animals were exposed to acute social defeat stress. Immediately after social defeat, tissue was collected from the vmPFC, BLA/CeA, NAc, and dHPC for analysis using UPLC-HRMS. Although no single biomarker characterized stress-related phenotypes in both species, commonalities were found. For instance, in both model systems, animals resistant to social defeat stress also show increased concentration of molecules to protect against oxidative stress in the NAc and vmPFC. Additionally, in both mice and hamsters, unidentified spectral features were preliminarily annotated as potential targets for future experiments. Overall, these findings suggest that a metabolomics approach can identify functional groups of neurochemicals that may serve as novel targets for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of stress-related mental illness.


This article was published openly thanks to the University of Tennessee Open Publishing Support Fund.

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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