Archival Report| Volume 73, ISSUE 11, P1087-1094, June 01, 2013

Cellular Adaptations of Dorsal Raphe Serotonin Neurons Associated with the Development of Active Coping in Response to Social Stress


      Social stress is a risk factor for affective disorders for certain vulnerable individuals. Stress and depression are linked in part through regulation of the dorsal raphe (DR)-serotonin (5-HT) system by the stress-related neuropeptide, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). We used a rat social stress model that shows individual differences in coping strategies to determine whether differences in CRF-5-HT interactions underlie individual differences in the vulnerability to social stress.


      Rats were exposed to the resident-intruder model of social stress for 5 days. In vivo single-unit recordings assessed DR-5-HT neuronal responses to CRF and immunoelectron microscopy assessed CRF1 and CRF2 cellular localization 24 hours after the last stress.


      Rats responded to social stress passively, assuming defeat with short latencies (48%), or actively, with proactive behaviors and longer defeat latencies (LL, 52%). Whereas CRF (30 ng, intra-DR) inhibited 5-HT neuronal activity of control and SL rats, it activated 5-HT neurons of LL rats, an effect that was CRF2-mediated. Consistent with this, social stress promoted CRF1 internalization together with CRF2 recruitment to the plasma membrane of DR neurons selectively in LL rats.


      These data suggest that a proactive coping strategy toward social stress is associated with a redistribution of CRF1 and CRF2 in DR-5-HT neurons that primes the system to be activated by subsequent stress. The lack of this adaptation in passive coping rats may contribute to their depressive-like phenotype. These studies provide a cellular mechanism for individual differences in stress responses and consequences.

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