Anxiety-like behavior and other consequences of early life stress in mice with increased protein kinase A activity

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HighlightsLoss of one Prkar1a allele is associated with an anxiety-like phenotype in adult mice.Developmental differences in anxiety behavior were found for WT and Prkar1a+/− mice.Prkar1a+/− adolescent mice demonstrated higher exploratory and novelty seeking behavior.Loss of one Prkar1a allele is associated with vulnerability to stress in adolescence.Anxiety disorders are associated with abnormalities in fear-learning and bias to threat; early life experiences are influential to the development of an anxiety-like phenotype in adulthood. We recently reported that adult mice (Prkar1a+/-) with haploinsufficiency for the main regulatory subunit of the protein kinase A (PKA) exhibit an anxiety-like phenotype associated with increased PKA activity in the amygdala. PKA is the main effector of cyclic adenosine mono-phosphate signaling, a key pathway involved in the regulation of fear learning. Since anxiety has developmental and genetic components, we sought to examine the interaction of a genetic defect associated with anxiety phenotype and early life experiences. We investigated the effects of neonatal maternal separation or tactile stimulation on measures of behavior typical to adolescence as well as developmental changes in the behavioral phenotype between adolescent and adult wild-type (WT) and Prkar1a+/- mice. Our results showed developmental differences in assays of anxiety and novelty behavior for both genotypes. Adolescent mice showed increased exploratory and novelty seeking behavior compared to adult counterparts. However, early life experiences modulated behavior in adolescent WT differently than in adolescent Prkar1a+/- mice. Adolescent WT mice exposed to early life tactile stimulation showed attenuation of anxiety-like behavior, whereas an increase in exploratory behavior was found in Prkar1a+/- adolescent mice. The finding of behavioral differences that are apparent during adolescence in Prkar1a+/− mice suggests that long-term exposure of the brain to increased PKA activity during critical developmental periods contributes to the anxiety-like phenotype noted in the adult animals with increased PKA activity.

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