Stress during puberty exerts sex-specific effects on depressive-like behavior and monoamine neurotransmitters in adolescence and adulthood
Harris, Erin P.
Melo, Thieza G.
O'Leary, Olivia F.
Psychiatric disorders including major depression are twice as prevalent in women compared to men. This sex difference in prevalence only emerges after the onset of puberty, suggesting that puberty may be a sensitive period during which sex-associated vulnerability to stress-related depression might become established. Thus, this study investigated whether stress occurring specifically during the pubertal window of adolescence may be responsible for this sex difference in depression vulnerability. Male and female rats were exposed to a three-day stress protocol during puberty (postnatal days 35–37 in females, 45–47 in males) and underwent behavioral tests in adolescence or adulthood measuring anhedonia, anxiety-like behavior, locomotor activity and antidepressant-like behavior. Brainstem and striatum tissue were collected from a separate cohort of behavioral test-naïve rats in adolescence or adulthood to quantify the effect of pubertal stress on monoamine neurotransmitters. Pubertal stress increased immobility behavior in the forced swim test in both sexes in adolescence and adulthood. In adolescence, pubertal stress altered escape-oriented behaviors in a sex-specific manner: decreasing climbing in males but not females and decreasing swimming in females but not males. Pubertal stress decreased adolescent brainstem noradrenaline specifically in females and had opposing effects in adolescent males and females on brainstem serotonin turnover. Pubertal stress induced anhedonia in the saccharin preference test in adult males but not females, an effect paralleled by a male-specific decrease in striatal dopamine turnover. Pubertal stress did not significantly impact anxiety-like behavior or locomotor activity in any sex at either age. Taken together, these data suggest that although pubertal stress did not preferentially increase female vulnerability to depressive-like behaviors compared to males, stress during puberty exerts sex-specific effects on depressive-like behavior and anhedonia, possibly through discrete neurotransmitter systems.
Puberty , Stress , Adolescence , Depression , Sex differences
Harris, E. P., Villalobos-Manriquez, F., Melo, T. G., Clarke, G. and O'Leary, O. F. (2022) 'Stress during puberty exerts sex-specific effects on depressive-like behavior and monoamine neurotransmitters in adolescence and adulthood', Neurobiology of Stress, 21, 100494 (15pp). doi: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2022.100494