Chronic glucocorticoids increase hippocampal vulnerability to neurotoxicity under conditions that produce CA3 dendritic retraction but fail to impair spatial recognition memory

Cheryl Conrad, Katie J. McLaughlin, James S. Harman, Cainan Foltz, Lindsay Wieczorek, Elizabeth Lightner, Ryan L. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations

Abstract

We previously found that chronic stress conditions producing CA3 dendritic retraction and spatial memory deficits make the hippocampus vulnerable to the neurotoxin ibotenic acid (IBO). The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to chronic corticosterone (CORT) under conditions that produce CA3 dendritic retraction would enhance CA3 susceptibility to IBO. Male Sprague Dawley rats were chronically treated for 21 d with CORT in drinking water (400 μg/ml), and half were given daily injections of phenytoin (40 mg/kg), an antiepileptic drug that prevents CA3 dendritic retraction. Three days after treatments stopped, IBO was infused into the CA3 region. Conditions producing CA3 dendritic retraction (CORT and vehicle) exacerbated IBO-induced CA3 damage compared with conditions in which CA3 dendritic retraction was not observed (vehicle and vehicle, vehicle and phenytoin, CORT and phenytoin). Additionally, spatial recognition memory was assessed using the Y-maze, revealing that conditions producing CA3 dendritic retraction failed to impair spatial recognition memory. Furthermore, CORT levels in response to a potentially mild stressor (injection and Y-maze exposure) stayed at basal levels and failed to differ among key groups (vehicle and vehicle, CORT and vehicle, CORT and phenytoin), supporting the interpretations that CORT levels were unlikely to have been elevated during IBO infusion and that the neuroprotective actions of phenytoin were not through CORT alterations. These data are the first to show that conditions with prolonged glucocorticoid elevations leading to structural changes in hippocampal dendritic arbors can make the hippocampus vulnerable to neurotoxic challenges. These findings have significance for many disorders with elevated glucocorticoids that include depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, and Cushing's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8278-8285
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume27
Issue number31
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2007

Keywords

  • Corticosterone
  • Dendritic arborization
  • Depression
  • Exploration
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Hippocampus
  • Ibotenic acid
  • Learning and memory
  • Neuronal death
  • Rat
  • Recognition memory
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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