Unpredictable chronic mild stress induces anxiety and depression-like behaviors and inactivates AMP-activated protein kinase in mice

Shenghua Zhu, Junhui Wang, Yanbo Zhang, Victor Li, Jiming Kong, Jue He, Xin-Min Li
Brain Research 2014 August 12, 1576: 81-90
The unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) model was developed based upon the stress-diathesis hypothesis of depression. Most effects of UCMS can be reversed by antidepressants, demonstrating a strong predictive validity of this model for depression. However, the mechanisms underlying the effects induced by UCMS remain incompletely understood. Increasing evidence has shown that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) regulates intracellular energy metabolism and is especially important for neurons because neurons are known to have small energy reserves. Abnormalities in the AMPK pathway disturb normal brain functions and synaptic integrity. In the present study, we first investigated the effects of UCMS on a battery of different tests measuring anxiety and depression-like behaviors in female C57BL/6N mice after 4 weeks of UCMS exposure. Stressed mice showed suppressed body weight gain, heightened anxiety, and increased immobility in the forced swim and tail suspension tests. These results are representative of some of the core symptoms of depression. Simultaneously, we observed decrease of synaptic proteins in the cortex of mice subjected to UCMS, which is associated with decreased levels of phosphorylated AMP-activated protein kinase α (AMPKα) and 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoA reductase). Our findings suggest that AMPKα inactivation might be a mechanism by which UCMS causes anxiety/depression-like behaviors in mice.

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