Chronic Isolation Stress Affects Subsequent Crowding Stress-Induced Brain Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS) Isoforms and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis Responses.


Department of Physiology, Institute of Pharmacology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Smętna 12 Street, 31-343, Kraków, Poland. [Email]


The nitric oxide (NO) pathway in the brain is involved in response to psychosocial stressors. The aim of this study was to elucidate the role of nNOS and iNOS in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), hippocampus (HIP), and hypothalamus (HYPO) during social isolation stress (IS), social crowding stress (CS), and a combined IS + CS. In the PFC, 3 days of CS increased iNOS but not nNOS protein level. In the HIP and HYPO, the levels of nNOS and iNOS significantly increased after 3 days of CS. In the PFC, IS alone (11 days) enhanced iNOS protein level following 3 days of CS and increased nNOS level in the HIP and HYPO after 14 days of CS. By contrast, in the HIP, IS abolished the subsequent CS-induced increase in nNOS in the HIP and strongly elevated iNOS level after 7 days of CS. In the HYPO, prior IS inhibited nNOS protein level induced by subsequent CS for 3 days, but increased nNOS protein level after longer exposure times to CS. Isolation stress strongly upregulated plasma interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels while corticosterone (CORT) level declined. We show that the modulatory action of the NO pathway and ACTH/CORT adaptation to chronic social isolation stress is dependent on the brain structure and nature and duration of the stressor. Our results indicate that isolation is a robust natural stressor in social animals; it enhances the NO pathway in the PFC and abolishes subsequent social CS-induced NOS responses in the HIP and HYPO.


ACTH,Corticosterone,IL-1β,Isolation and crowding stress,iNOS,nNOS,