BDNF overexpression in the ventral tegmental area prolongs social defeat stress-induced cross-sensitization to amphetamine and increases ΔfosB expression in mesocorticolimbic regions of rats

Junshi Wang, Sanya Fanous, Ernest F. Terwilliger, Caroline E. Bass, Ronald P. Hammer, Ella M. Nikulina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social defeat stress induces persistent cross-sensitization to psychostimulants, but the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of cross-sensitization remain unclear. One candidate is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The present research examined whether ventral tegmental area (VTA) BDNF overexpression would prolong the time course of cross-sensitization after a single social defeat stress, which normally produces transient cross-sensitization lasting <1 week. ΔFosB, a classic molecular marker of addiction, was also measured in mesocorticolimbic terminal regions. Separate groups of intact male Sprague-Dawley rats underwent a single episode of social defeat stress or control handling, followed by amphetamine (AMPH) challenge 3 or 14 days later. AMPH cross-sensitization was apparent 3, but not 14, days after stress. Intra-VTA infusion of adeno-associated viral (AAV-BDNF) vector resulted in a twofold increase of BDNF level in comparison to the group receiving the control virus (AAV-GFP), which lasted at least 45 days. Additionally, overexpression of BDNF in the VTA alone increased ΔFosB in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and prefrontal cortex. Fourteen days after viral infusions, a separate group of rats underwent a single social defeat stress or control handling and were challenged with AMPH 14 and 24 days after stress. AAV-BDNF rats exposed to stress showed prolonged cross-sensitization and facilitated sensitization to the second drug challenge. Immunohistochemistry showed that the combination of virally enhanced VTA BDNF, stress, and AMPH resulted in increased ΔFosB in the NAc shell compared with the other groups. Thus, elevation of VTA BDNF prolongs cross-sensitization, facilitates sensitization, and increases ΔFosB in mesocorticolimbic terminal regions. As such, elevated VTA BDNF may be a risk factor for drug sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2286-2296
Number of pages11
JournalNeuropsychopharmacology
Volume38
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013

Keywords

  • Amphetamine
  • BDNF
  • DFosB
  • Social defeat
  • VTA
  • cross-sensitization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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