Early life stress and later peer distress on depressive behavior in adolescent female rats: Effects of a novel intervention on GABA and D2 receptors

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Early life adversity (ELA) increases the risk of depression during adolescence that may result from a decline in parvalbumin (PVB) secondary to increased neuroinflammation. In this study, we investigated depressive-like behavior following exposure to two different types of stressors that are relevant for their developmental period: 1) chronic ELA (maternal separation; MS) and 2) an acute emotional stressor during adolescence (witnessing their peers receive multiple shocks; WIT), and their interaction. We also determined whether reducing inflammation by cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibition would prevent the onset of depressive-like behavior. Female Sprague-Dawley rat pups underwent MS for four-hours/day or received typical care (CON) between postnatal days (P) 2 and P20. A COX-2 inhibitor (COX-2I) or vehicle was administered every other day between P30 and P38. Subjects were tested for learned helplessness to assess depressive-like behavior at P40 (adolescence). MS females demonstrated increased escape latency and decreased PVB in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and dorsal raphe that were attenuated by COX-2I intervention. Helplessness was also associated with an increase in D2 receptors in the accumbens. In contrast, WIT elevated escape latency in CON, but reduced latency in MS females. Furthermore, COX-2I intervention decreased escape latency in both CON and MS after WIT. WIT reduced PVB levels in the basolateral amygdala and increased PFC levels to CON levels. Our data suggest that decreased PVB in the PFC is important for the expression of depressive-like behavior and suggest that COX-2I intervention may provide a novel prevention for depression.

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