Re-establishment of anxiety in stress-sensitized mice is caused by monocyte trafficking from the spleen to the brain

Eric S. Wohleb, Daniel B. McKim, Daniel T. Shea, Nicole D. Powell, Andrew J. Tarr, John F. Sheridan, Jonathan P. Godbout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Persistent anxiety-like symptoms may have an inflammatory-related pathophysiology. Our previous work using repeated social defeat (RSD) in mice showed that recruitment of peripheral myeloid cells to the brain is required for the development of anxiety. Here, we aimed to determine if 1) RSD promotes prolonged anxiety through redistribution of myeloid cells and 2) prior exposure to RSD sensitizes the neuroimmune axis to secondary subthreshold stress. Methods Mice were subjected to RSD and several immune and behavioral parameters were determined.5, 8, or 24 days later. In follow-up studies, control and RSD mice were subjected to subthreshold stress at 24 days. Results Repeated social defeat-induced macrophage recruitment to the brain corresponded with development and maintenance of anxiety-like behavior 8 days after RSD, but neither remained at 24 days. Nonetheless, social avoidance and an elevated neuroinflammatory profile were maintained at 24 days. Subthreshold social defeat in RSD-sensitized mice increased peripheral macrophage trafficking to the brain that promoted re-establishment of anxiety. Moreover, subthreshold social defeat increased social avoidance in RSD-sensitized mice compared with naïve mice. Stress-induced monocyte trafficking was linked to redistribution of myeloid progenitor cells in the spleen. Splenectomy before subthreshold stress attenuated macrophage recruitment to the brain and prevented anxiety-like behavior in RSD-sensitized mice. Conclusions These data indicate that monocyte trafficking from the spleen to the brain contributes re-establishment of anxiety in stress-sensitized mice. These findings show that neuroinflammatory mechanisms promote mood disturbances following stress-sensitization and outline novel neuroimmune interactions that underlie recurring anxiety disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)970-981
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • microglia
  • monocytes
  • neuroinflammation
  • stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry


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