Sex-specific differences in corticosterone secretion, behavioral phenotypes and expression of TrkB.T1 and TrkB.FL receptor isoforms: Impact of systemic TrkB inhibition and combinatory stress exposure in adolescence

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Abstract

Stress exposure has been implicated in the development of mood disorders, although little is known about the lasting effects of repeated stress during the adolescent period on sex-specific differences in endocrine and plasticity-signaling responses in adulthood. Using a 10-day combinatory stress paradigm (postnatal day (PND) 26 to 35), we examined sex-specific impact of adolescent stress and inhibition of tyrosine-related kinase B (TrkB) receptor (ANA-12; 0.5 mg/kg, i.p.) on 1) adolescent blood corticosterone levels, 2) adult locomotion and anxiety-like behavior, and 3) region-specific differences in endogenous TrkB full-length (TrkB.FL) and truncated (TrkB.T1) receptor isoforms. Blood collected on days 1, 5 and 10 revealed elevated basal and stress-induced CORT secretion in females compared to males, while ANA-12 attenuated CORT elevations post stress in both sexes. As adults, all females exhibited higher locomotor and exploratory activity than males in the open field test and elevated plus maze, and differences were comparable in the forced swim within stress-naïve and stress groups. Biochemically, vehicle-treated males showed elevated TrkB.T1 and TrkB.FL compared to vehicle-treated females in the PFC, hippocampus and NAc, and levels were consistently attenuated by ANA-12 treatment in non-stress males. With regards to stress exposure, expression of both isoforms was strongly down-regulated in the NAc of males only and was associated with increased TrkB.T1 in the PFC. ANA-12 enhanced expression in females, independent of stress exposure, compared to vehicle-treated counterparts, expression being increased for TrkB.T1 versus TrkB.FL and magnitude of the changes being region-specific. In contrast, ANA-12 effects in stressed males were restricted to inhibition of both isoforms in the hippocampus. Together, our findings support that TrkB activation, contingent on stress exposure, differentially affects TrkB isoform regulation during adulthood. Sex-specific biochemical responses at delayed intervals following adolescent stress exposure further support the need to include the sex variable in animal models.

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