Chronic treatment with the mineralocorticoid hormone aldosterone results in increased anxiety-like behavior

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Abstract

Aldosterone is the last component of the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system inducing its peripheral effects via mineralocorticoid receptors (MR). Brain MR bind preferentially glucocorticoids. So far, the role of MR in behavioral functions has been investigated almost exclusively in relation to glucocorticoids. Recently, aldosterone itself has been linked to affective disorders. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that chronic elevation of circulating levels of aldosterone leads to increased anxiety. We have investigated the effects of chronic aldosterone treatment on (1) anxiety-like behavior, and (2) basal and stress-induced levels of selected hormones. Forty male Wistar rats were subcutaneously implanted with osmotic minipumps and treated with aldosterone (2 μg/100 g/day) or vehicle for two weeks. Aldosterone concentrations in plasma showed a mild (approximately four-fold) increase at the end of two-week aldosterone treatment. This mild hyperaldosteronism resulted in a significant enhancement of anxiety as demonstrated by alterations in all indicators of anxiety-like behavior measured in the open field and elevated plus-maze tests, without significant changes in measures of general locomotor activity. Aldosterone treatment affected not only the spatiotemporal measures of anxiety, but also the ethological parameters related to exploration and risk assessment. Chronic treatment with aldosterone was associated with increased water intake and decreased plasma renin activity, but failed to modify basal or stress-induced activity of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical axis. The results provide evidence on anxiogenic action of prolonged increase in circulating aldosterone concentrations. Thus, aldosterone may represent an important target for future antidepressant and anxiolytic drug development.

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