Peripheral inflammation is strongly linked to elevated zero maze behavior in repeated social defeat stress

Safwan K. Elkhatib, Cassandra M. Moshfegh, Gabrielle F. Watson, Adam J. Case

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric illness that results in an increased risk for a variety of inflammatory diseases. The exact etiology of this increased risk is unknown, and thus several animal models have been developed to investigate the neuroimmune interactions of PTSD. Repeated social defeat stress (RSDS) is an established preclinical model of psychological trauma that recapitulates certain behavioral and inflammatory aspects of human PTSD. Furthermore, RSDS has been utilized to subgroup animals into susceptible and resilient populations based on one specific behavioral phenotype (i.e., social interaction). Herein, we conducted an extensive investigation of circulating inflammatory proteins after RSDS and found significant elevations in various cytokines and chemokines after exposure to RSDS. When categorizing animals into either susceptible or resilient populations based on social interaction, we found no inflammatory or other behavioral differences between these subgroups. Furthermore, correlative analyses found no significant correlation between social interaction parameters and inflammation. In contrast, parameters from the elevated zero maze (EZM) demonstrated significant associations and clustering to five circulating cytokines. When animals were subdivided into susceptible and resilient populations solely based upon combined EZM performance, significant inflammatory differences were evident between these groups. Strikingly, these circulating inflammatory proteins displayed a stronger predictive ability of EZM performance compared to social interaction test performance. These findings provide new insights into inflammatory markers associated with RSDS, and the utility of EZM to effectively group RSDS-exposed mice into populations with differential levels of peripheral inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-285
Number of pages7
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Anxiety
  • Cytokine
  • Immune
  • Model
  • PTSD
  • Plasma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Resilient
  • Social interaction
  • Susceptible

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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