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Mediation of contextual conditioned fear by glucocorticoids and glutamatergic mechanisms in the medial prefrontal cortex.

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Fernando Midea Cuccovia Vasconcelos Reis
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: Ribeirão Preto.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto (PCARP/BC)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Marcus Lira Brandao; Leandro José Bertoglio; Norberto Cysne Coimbra; Tatiana Lima Ferreira; Mário Francisco Pereira Juruena
Advisor: Marcus Lira Brandao

Changes in the glutamatergic system and in the functioning of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) have been associated with different psychiatric disorders, including anxiety. It is also recognized that changes in circulating levels of glucocorticoids can induce changes in glutamatergic synapses and circuits and therefore alter the emotional reactivity of animals. Although is known that glucocorticoids can influence the release of glutamate in the mPFC, the interaction between mineralocorticoid receptors (MR) and glucocorticoid receptors (GR) activation and the glutamatergic activity on the expression of conditioned fear response is not yet elucidated. The aims of the present study were to investigate (i) the influence of glucocorticoids on the expression of contextual conditioned fear and its effects in the activity of the mPFC in rats, (ii) the role of MR and GR in the prelimbic cortex (PrL) on expression of conditioned freezing response and (iii) a possible interaction between the effects mediated by the glucocorticoids and the glutamatergic system, via NMDA receptors on the expression of this response. Male Wistar rats were treated with vehicle or metyrapone, a corticosterone synthesis blocker, and exposed to a context previously paired with footshock. The time of contextual fear (freezing behavior) and Fos protein expression in different regions of mPFC were evaluated. The results showed that exposure to the aversive context induced a significant increase in freezing and Fos protein expression in the PrL, in the anterior cingulate cortex, areas 1 and 2 (Cg1 and Cg2), but not in the infralimbic cortex. The administration of metyrapone induced a decrease on the expression of freezing and Fos in PrL, Cg1 and Cg2. Bilateral administration of spironolactone (a MR antagonist) in PrL before the test, decreased conditioned fear response and the pretreatment with RU38486 (a GR antagonist) abolished this effect. The results also showed that the decrease of freezing response induced by intra-PrL corticosterone injections was abolished by prior administration of RU38486, but not by spironolactone, indicating that corticosterone recruits preferentially GR to produce the observed effects. Prior administration of the NMDA receptor antagonist also prevented the effects induced by corticosterone treatment in the PrL, suggesting that part of rapid effects of glucocorticoids on the expression of conditioned fear occurs by an interaction with the glutamatergic system. Additionally, NMDA administration in the PrL prior to the test induced similar effects to corticosterone treatment in this region. Overall, the results suggest that the release of corticosterone during the presentation of a conditioned aversive stimulus influences the mPFC activity so that a change in the balance of the activities mediated by MR and GR through an increase in GR activity interacts with the glutamatergic system by increasing the activity of NMDA receptors influencing the expression of contextual fear conditioning response. It is suggested that the reduction in the expression of conditioned fear observed after local administration of corticosterone in the PrL is also due to changes in the balance between MR and GR towards an increase in the actions mediated by GR, as well as an increase in the release of glutamate and a greater NMDA receptor activity in this region. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 11/18001-8 - Interaction between glucocorticoids and the glutamatergic system in the medial prefrontal cortex on the expression of contextual conditioned fear
Grantee:Fernando Midea Cuccovia Vasconcelos Reis
Support type: Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate