Chronic stress is known to affect serotonin (5HT) neurotransmission in the brain and to alter body temperature. The body temperature is controlled in part, by the medial preoptic area (mPOA) of the hypothalamus. To investigate the effect of chronic stress on 5HT and how it affects body temperature regulation, we examined whether exposure to a chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) paradigm produces long-term alterations in thermoregulatory function of the mPOA through decreased 5HT neurotransmission. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats underwent 21 d of CUS. Four days after the last stress exposure, basal body temperature in the home cage and body temperature in a cold room maintained at 10 °C were recorded. The CUS rats had significantly higher subcutaneous basal body temperature at 13:00 h compared to unstressed (NoStress) rats. Whereas the NoStress rats were able to significantly elevate body temperature from basal levels at 30 and 60 min of exposure to the cold room, the CUS rats showed a hypothermic response to the cold. Treatment during CUS with metyrapone, a corticosterone synthesis inhibitor, blocked stress-induced decrease in body temperature in response to the cold challenge. CUS also decreased 5HT transporter protein immunoreactivity in the mPOA and 5HT2A/C agonist injection into the mPOA after CUS exposure caused stressed rats to exhibit a sensitized hyperthermic response to cold. These results indicate that the CUS induced changes to the 5HTergic system alter mPOA function in thermoregulation. These findings help us to explain the mechanisms underlying chronic stress-induced disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome wherein long lasting thermoregulatory deficits are observed.
- Chronic unpredictable stress
- medial preoptic area
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Behavioral Neuroscience