Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Exact and Biological Sciences, Federal University of Ouro Preto, Ouro Preto, MG, Brazil; Graduate Program in Biological Sciences CBIOL/NUPEB, Federal University of Ouro Preto, Ouro Preto, Brazil. Electronic address: [Email]
Severe food restriction (FR), as observed in disorders like anorexia nervosa, has been associated to the reduction of estrogen levels, which in turn could lead to anxiety development. Estrogen receptors, mainly ERβ type, are commonly found in the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) neurons, an important nucleus related to anxiety modulation and the primary source of serotonin (5-HT) in the brain. Taking together, these findings suggest an involvement of estrogen in anxiety modulation during food restriction, possibly mediated by ERβ activation in serotonergic DRN neurons. Thus, the present study investigated the relationship between food restriction and anxiety-like behavior, and the involvement of DRN and ERβ on the modulation of anxiety-like behaviors in animals subjected to FR. For that, female Fischer rats were grouped in control group, with free access to food, or a FR group, which received 40% of control intake during 14 days. Animals were randomly treated with 17β-estradiol (E2), DPN (ERβ selective agonist), or their respective vehicles, PBS and DMSO. Behavioral tests were performed on Elevated T-Maze (ETM) and Open Field (OF). Our results suggest that FR probably reduced the estrogen levels, since the remained in the non-ovulatory cycle phases, and their uterine weight was lower when compared to control group. The FR rats showed increased inhibitory avoidance latency in theETM indicating that FR is associated with the development of an anxiety-like state. The injections of both E2 and DPN into DRN of FR animals had an anxiolytic effect. Those data suggest thatanxiety-like behavior induced by FR could be mediated by a reduction of ERβ activation in the DRN neurons, probably due to decreased estrogen levels.