When animals suffer from viral infections, they develop a set of symptoms known as the "sickness response." Recent studies suggest that psychological stress can modulate the sickness response. However, it remains uncertain whether acute and chronic psychosocial stresses have the same effect on viral infection-induced sickness responses. To address this question, we compared changes in polyI:C-induced sickness responses, such as fever, change of body weight and food intake, mechanical allodynia, and depressive-like behavior, in rats that had been pre-exposed to single and repeated social defeat stresses. Intraperitoneal injection of polyI:C induced a maximal fever of 38.0. °C 3. h after injection. Rats exposed to prior social defeat stress exhibited blunted febrile responses, which were more pronounced in the repeated stress group. Furthermore, only the repeated stress group showed late-onset and prolonged mechanical allodynia lasting until 8. days after injection in the von Frey test and prolonged immobility time in the forced swim test 9. days post-injection. To assess the role of glucocorticoids and microglia in the delayed and persistent development of these sickness responses in rats exposed to repeated stress, we investigated the effect of pretreatment with RU486, a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, and minocycline, an inhibitor of microglial activation, on polyI:C-induced allodynia and depressive-like behavior. Pretreatment with either drug inhibited both the delayed allodynia and depressive-like behavior. The present study demonstrates that repeated, but not single, social defeat stress followed by systemic polyI:C administration induced prolonged allodynia and depressive-like behavior in rats. Our results show that even though a single-event psychosocial stress does not have any effect by itself, animals may develop persistent allodynia and depressive-like behavior when they suffer from an infectious disease if they are pre-exposed to repeated or chronic psychosocial stress. Furthermore, this study suggests that stress-induced corticosterone and microglial activation play a pivotal role in this phenomenon.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Behavioral Neuroscience