7,8-Dihydroxyflavone, a TrkB Receptor Agonist, Blocks Long-Term Spatial Memory Impairment Caused by Immobilization Stress in Rats

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Abstract

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients show cognitive deficits, but it is unclear whether these are a consequence of the pathology or a pre-existing factor of vulnerability to PTSD. Animal models may help to demonstrate whether or not exposure to certain stressors can actually induce long-lasting (LL; days) impairment of hippocampus-dependent memory tasks and to characterize neurobiological mechanisms. Adult male rats were exposed to 2-h immobilization on boards (IMO), a severe stressor, and spatial learning in the Morris water maze (MWM) was studied days later. Exposure to IMO did not modify learning or short-term memory in the MWM when learning started 3 or 9 days after IMO, but stressed rats did show impaired long-term memory at both times, in accordance with the severity of the stressor. New treatments to prevent PTSD symptoms are needed. Thus, considering the potential protective role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) on hippocampal function, 7,8-dihydroxyflavone (7,8-DHF), a recently characterized agonist of the BDNF receptor TrkB, was given before or after IMO in additional experiments. Again, exposure to IMO resulted in LL deficit in long-term memory, and such impairment was prevented by the administration of 7,8-DHF either 2 h prior IMO or 8 h after the termination of IMO. The finding that IMO-induced impairment of spatial memory was prevented by pharmacological potentiation of TrkB pathway with 7,8-DHF even when the drug was given 8 h after IMO suggests that IMO-induced impairment is likely to be a LL process that is strongly dependent on the integrity of the BDNF-TrkB system and is susceptible to poststress therapeutic interventions. 7,8-DHF may represent a new therapeutic approach for early treatment of subjects who have suffered traumatic experiences.

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