Voluntary wheel running modulates glutamate receptor subunit gene expression and stress hormone release in Lewis rats
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Lewis rats that are known to be addiction-prone, develop compulsive running if they have access to running wheels. The present experiments were aimed 1) to evaluate the activation of stress systems following chronic and acute voluntary wheel running in Lewis rats by measurement of hormone release and gene expression of neuropeptides related to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis activity and 2) to test the hypothesis that wheel running as a combined model of addictive behavior and stress exposure is associated with modulation of ionotropic glutamate receptor subunits in the ventral tegmental area. Voluntary running for three weeks but not for one night resulted in a rise in plasma corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels (p < 0.05) compared to those in control rats. Principal component analysis revealed the relation between POW gene expression in the intermediate pituitary and running rate. Acute exposure of animals to voluntary wheel running induced a significant decrease in alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionate (AMPA) receptor GluR1 subunit mRNA levels (p < 0.01), while repeated voluntary physical activity increased levels of GluR1 mRNA in the ventral tegmentum (P < 0.05). Neither acute nor chronic wheel running influenced N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit NR1 mRNA levels in the ventral tegmental area. Thus, the present study revealed changes in AMPA receptor subunit gene expression in a reward-related brain structure as well as an activation of HPA axis in response to compulsive wheel running in Lewis rats. It may be suggested that hormones of HPA axis and glutamate receptors belong to the factors that substantiate higher vulnerability to addictive behavior. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.