Early life social isolation alters corticotropin-releasing factor responses in adult rats

J. L. Lukkes, C. H. Summers, J. L. Scholl, K. J. Renner, G. L. Forster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Stress induced by early life social isolation leads to long-lasting alterations in stress responses and serotonergic activity. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) is a neurotransmitter that mediates stress responses and alters serotonergic activity. We tested the hypothesis that the stress of early life isolation enhances responses to CRF in adulthood by determining the effect of CRF infusions into the dorsal raphe nucleus (dRN) on 5-HT release in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) of adult rats using in vivo microdialysis. Juvenile male rats were either isolated or housed in groups of three for a 3-week period beginning on postnatal day 21 after which, all rats were group-reared for an additional 2 weeks. Following the isolation/re-socialization procedure, infusion of 100 ng CRF into the dRN decreased 5-HT release in the NAc of group-reared rats. This treatment did not significantly affect 5-HT release in the NAc of isolation-reared animals. In contrast, infusion of 500 ng CRF into the dRN transiently increased 5-HT release in the NAc of both group-reared and isolated animals with isolated animals showing a more prolonged serotonergic response. Western blot and immunofluorescent staining for CRF receptors in the dRN showed that CRF2 receptor levels were increased in the dRN of isolation-reared animals when compared with group-reared rats. Taken together, the results suggest that isolation during the early part of development causes alterations in both CRF receptor levels and CRF-mediated serotonergic activity. These effects may underlie the increased sensitivity to stress observed in isolates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-855
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 23 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • 5-HT
  • dorsal raphe nucleus
  • microdialysis
  • nucleus accumbens
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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