Increased depressive behaviour in females and heightened corticosterone release in males to swim stress after adolescent social stress in rats

Mathews IZ, Wilton A, Styles A, McCormick CM

Behav. Brain Res. 2008 Jun;190(1):33-40

PMID: 18342957


We previously reported that males undergoing chronic social stress (SS) (daily 1h isolation and new cage partner on days 30-45 of age) in adolescence habituated (decreased corticosterone release) to the homotypic stressor, but females did not. Here, we report that adolescent males exposed to chronic social stress had potentiated corticosterone release to a heterotypic stressor (15 min of swim stress) compared to acutely stressed and control males. The three groups of males did not differ in depressive-like behaviour (time spent immobile) during the swim stress. Corticosterone release in socially stressed females was elevated 45 min after the swim stress compared to acutely stressed and control females, and socially stressed females exhibited more depressive behaviour (longer durations of immobility and shorter durations of climbing) than the other females during the swim stress. Separate groups of rats were tested as adults several weeks after the social stress, and there were no group differences in corticosterone release after the swim stress. The only group difference in behaviour among the adults was more time spent climbing in socially stressed males than in controls. Thus, there are sex-specific effects of social stress in adolescence on endocrine responses and depressive behaviour to a heterotypic stressor, but, unlike for anxiety, substantial recovery is evident in adulthood in the absence of intervening stress exposures.