Post-weaning social isolation of female rats, anxiety-related behavior, and serotonergic systems Academic Article uri icon


  • Our previous studies have shown that post-weaning social isolation of male rats leads to sensitization of serotonergic systems and increases in anxiety-like behavior in adulthood. Although studies in humans suggest that females have an increased sensitivity to stress and risk for the development of neuropsychiatric illnesses, most studies involving laboratory rats have focused on males while females have been insufficiently studied. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of post-weaning social isolation on subsequent responses of an anxiety-related dorsal raphe nucleus (DR)-basolateral amygdala system to pharmacological challenge with the anxiogenic drug, N-methyl-beta-carboline-3-carboxamide (FG-7142; a partial inverse agonist at the benzodiazepine allosteric site on the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)(A) receptor). Juvenile female rats were reared in isolation or in groups of three for a 3-week period from weaning to mid-adolescence, after which all rats were group-reared for an additional 2 weeks. We then used dual immunohistochemical staining for c-Fos and tryptophan hydroxylase in the DR or single immunohistochemical staining for c-Fos in the basolateral amygdala. Isolation-reared rats, but not group-reared rats, injected with FG-7142 had increased c-Fos expression within the basolateral amygdala and in serotonergic neurons in the dorsal, ventrolateral, caudal and interfascicular parts of the DR relative to appropriate vehicle-injected control groups. These data suggest that post-weaning social isolation of female rats sensitizes a DR-basolateral amygdala system to stress-related stimuli, which may lead to an increased sensitivity to stress- and anxiety-related responses in adulthood.


  • Lukkes, Jodi L
  • Engelman, Glenn H
  • Zelin, Naomi S
  • Hale, Matthew W
  • Lowry, Christopher A

publication date

  • March 2012