Molecular Neurobiology

, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 4813–4819 | Cite as

Chronic Postnatal Stress Induces Depressive-like Behavior in Male Mice and Programs second-Hit Stress-Induced Gene Expression Patterns of OxtR and AvpR1a in Adulthood

  • Alexandra Lesse
  • Kathy Rether
  • Nicole Gröger
  • Katharina Braun
  • Jörg BockEmail author


Chronic stress (CS) during early life represents a major risk factor for the development of mental disorders, including depression. According to the Two/Multiple-Hit hypothesis, the etiology of neuropsychiatric disorders usually involves multiple stressors experienced subsequently during different phases of life. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms modulating neuronal and behavioral changes induced by multiple stress experiences are just poorly understood. Since the oxytocinergic and vasopressinergic systems are neuroendocrine modulators involved in environmentally driven adaptations of stress sensitivity we hypothesized that postnatal CS programs oxytocinergic and vasopressinergic receptor expression changes in response to a second stress exposure in young adulthood. First we investigated if postnatal CS (maternal separation + social isolation) induces depressive-like behavior and alters oxytocin receptor (OxtR) and arginine vasopressin receptor type 1a (AvpR1a) gene expression in the hippocampus (HC) of male mice and (2) if a second single stressor (forced swimming, FS) in young adulthood affects gene expression of OxtR and AvpR1a at adulthood dependent on CS pre-experience. We found that postnatal CS induced depressive-like behavior and enhanced AvpR1a expression in HC at young adulthood. Moreover, in line with our hypothesis, only combined stress exposure (CS + FS), but not CS or FS alone, resulted in increased gene expression of OxtR in HC at adulthood. In contrast, AvpR1a expression was decreased in both adult FS and CS + FS animals. Overall, our results provide evidence that CS programs neuroendocrine systems and thereby influences stress responses in later life periods.


Early-life stress Depression Limbic Two-hit Neuropeptide 



This study was supported by grants from the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF; Transgen 01KR1304B to KB and UBICA 01KR1207D to JB). The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra Lesse
    • 1
  • Kathy Rether
    • 1
  • Nicole Gröger
    • 1
  • Katharina Braun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jörg Bock
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Zoology and Developmental Neurobiology, Institute of BiologyOtto von Guericke UniversityMagdeburgGermany
  2. 2.Center for Behavioral Brain ScienceOtto von Guericke UniversityMagdeburgGermany
  3. 3.Research Group Epigenetics & Structural Plasticity, Institute of BiologyOtto von Guericke UniversityMagdeburgGermany

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