Sustained corticosterone rise in the prefrontal cortex is a key factor for chronic stress-induced working memory deficits in mice

Gaelle Dominguez, Nadia Henkous, Thomas Prevot, Vincent David, Jean-Louis Guillou, Catherine Belzung, Nicole Mons, Daniel Béracochéa
Neurobiology of Stress. 2019-02-01; 10: 100161
DOI: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2019.100161

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Dominguez G(1)(2), Henkous N(1), Prevot T(1), David V(1), Guillou JL(1), Belzung C(2), Mons N(1), Béracochéa D(1).

Author information:
(1)Université de Bordeaux, CNRS UMR 5287, 33615, Pessac, France.
(2)Université François Rabelais, Inserm U930, Parc Grandmont, 37200, Tours, France.

Exposure to prolonged, unpredictable stress leads to glucocorticoids-mediated long-lasting neuroendocrine abnormalities associated with emotional and cognitive impairments. Excessive levels of serum glucocorticoids (cortisol in humans, corticosterone in rodents) contribute notably to deficits in working memory (WM), a task which heavily relies on functional interactions between the medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the dorsal hippocampus (dHPC). However, it is unknown whether stress-induced increases in plasma corticosterone mirror corticosterone levels in specific brain regions critical for WM. After a 6 week-UCMS exposure,
C57BL/6 J male mice exhibited increased anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors when measured one week later and displayed WM impairments timely associated with increased plasma corticosterone response. In chronically stressed mice, basal phosphorylated/activated CREB (pCREB) was markedly increased in the PFC and the CA1 area of the dHPC and WM testing did not elicit any further increase in pCREB in the two regions. Using microdialysis samples from freely-moving mice, we found that WM testing co-occurred with a rapid and sustained increase in corticosterone response in the PFC while there was a late, non-significant rise of corticosterone in the dHPC. The results also show that non-stressed mice injected with corticosterone (2 mg/kg i.p.) before WM testing displayed behavioral and molecular alterations similar to those observed in stressed animals while a pre-WM testing metyrapone injection (35 mg/kg i.p.), a corticosterone synthesis inhibitor, prevented the effects of UCMS exposure. Overall, the abnormal regional increase of corticosterone concentrations mainly in the PFC emerges as a key factor of enduring WM dysfunctions in UCMS-treated animals.


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