Anxiety and mood disorders affect both men and women. The majority of experimental models of stress, however, are completed using only male animals. For repeated social defeat (RSD), a rodent model, this is due to the inherent difficulty in eliciting male aggression toward female mice. To address this limitation, a recent study showed that a DREADD-based activation of the ventrolateral subdivision of the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMHvl) was effective in inducing aggressive behavior in male mice towards females in a social defeat paradigm. Therefore, the goal of this study was to determine if this modified version of RSD in females elicited behavioral, physiological, and immune responses similar to those reported in males. Here, we show that female mice subjected to RSD with the male DREADD aggressor developed anxiety-like behavior and social avoidance. These behavioral alterations coincided with enhanced neuronal and microglial activation in threat-appraisal regions of the brain. Moreover, stressed female mice had an enhanced peripheral immune response characterized by increased myelopoiesis, release of myeloid cells into circulation, and monocyte accumulation in the spleen and brain. These results are consistent with previously reported findings that male mice exposed to RSD exhibited increased fear and threat appraisal responses, enhanced myelopoiesis, myeloid cell release and trafficking, and anxiety-like behavior. These findings validate that RSD is a relevant model to study stress responses in female mice.
- Repeated social defeat
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience