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Keywords:

  • fast-scan cyclic voltammetry;
  • release;
  • social;
  • stress;
  • uptake

Abstract

Social isolation (SI) rearing, a model of early life stress, results in profound behavioral alterations, including increased anxiety-like behavior, impaired sensorimotor gating and increased self-administration of addictive substances. These changes are accompanied by alterations in mesolimbic dopamine function, such as increased dopamine and metabolite tissue content, increased dopamine responses to cues and psychostimulants, and increased dopamine neuron burst firing. Using voltammetric techniques, we examined the effects of SI rearing on dopamine transporter activity, vesicular release and dopamine D2-type autoreceptor activity in the nucleus accumbens core. Long–Evans rats were housed in group (GH; 4/cage) or SI (1/cage) conditions from weaning into early adulthood [postnatal day (PD) 28–77]. After this initial housing period, rats were assessed on the elevated plus-maze for an anxiety-like phenotype, and then slice voltammetry experiments were performed. To study the enduring effects of SI rearing on anxiety-like behavior and dopamine terminal function, another cohort of similarly reared rats was isolated for an additional 4 months (until PD 174) and then tested. Our findings demonstrate that SI rearing results in lasting increases in anxiety-like behavior, dopamine release and dopamine transporter activity, but not D2 activity. Interestingly, GH-reared rats that were isolated as adults did not develop the anxiety-like behavior or dopamine changes seen in SI-reared rats. Together, our data suggest that early life stress results in an anxiety-like phenotype, with lasting increases in dopamine terminal function.