Repeated forced swimming impairs prepulse inhibition and alters brain-derived neurotrophic factor and astroglial parameters in rats

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Glutamate perturbations and altered neurotrophin levels have been strongly associated with the neurobiology of neuropsychiatric disorders. Environmental stress is a risk factor for mood disorders, disrupting glutamatergic activity in astrocytes in addition to cognitive behaviours. Despite the negative impact of stress-induced neuropsychiatric disorders on public health, the molecular mechanisms underlying the response of the brain to stress has yet to be fully elucidated. Exposure to repeated swimming has proven useful for evaluating the loss of cognitive function after pharmacological and behavioural interventions, but its effect on glutamate function has yet to be fully explored. In the present study, rats previously exposed to repeated forced swimming were evaluated using the novel object recognition test, object location test and prepulse inhibition (PPI) test. In addition, quantification of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA expression and protein levels, glutamate uptake, glutathione, S100B, GluN1 subunit of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor and calmodulin were evaluated in the frontal cortex and hippocampus after various swimming time points. We found that swimming stress selectively impaired PPI but did not affect memory recognition. Swimming stress altered the frontal cortical and hippocampal BDNF expression and the activity of hippocampal astrocytes by reducing hippocampal glutamate uptake and enhancing glutathione content in a time-dependent manner. In conclusion, these data support the assumption that astrocytes may regulate the activity of brain structures related to cognition in a manner that alters complex behaviours. Moreover, they provide new insight regarding the dynamics immediately after an aversive experience, such as after behavioural despair induction, and suggest that forced swimming can be employed to study altered glutamatergic activity and PPI disruption in rodents.

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