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Chronic Variable Stress Effects on Anxiety and Expression of Organic Cation Transporter 3

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Monoamine neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) are powerful modulators of mood and cognitive function in health and disease. We have been investigating the modulation of monoamine clearance in select

Monoamine neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) are powerful modulators of mood and cognitive function in health and disease. We have been investigating the modulation of monoamine clearance in select brain regions via organic cation transporters (OCTs), a family of nonselective monoamine transporters. OCTs are thought to complement the actions of selective monoamine transporters in the brain by helping to clear monoamines from the extracellular space; thus, assisting to terminate the monoamine signal. Of particular interest, stress hormones (corticosterone; CORT) inhibit OCT3-mediated transport of monoamine, to putatively lead to prolonged monoamine signaling. It has been demonstrated that stress levels of CORT block OCT3 transport in the rat hypothalamus, an effect that likely underlies the rapid, stress-induced increase in local monoamines. We examined the effect of chronic variable stress (CVS) on the development of mood disorders and OCT3 expression in limbic and hypothalamic regions of the rat brain. Animals subjected to CVS (14-days with random stressor exposure two times/day) showed reduced body weight gain, indicating that CVS was perceived as stressful. However, behavioral tests of anxiety and depressive-like behaviors in rats showed no group differences. Although there were no behavioral effects of stress, molecular analysis revealed that there were stress-related changes in OCT3 protein expression. In situ hybridization data confirmed that OCT3 mRNA is expressed in the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus. Analysis of Western blot data by two-way ANOVA revealed a significant treatment effect on OCT3 protein levels, with a significant decrease in OCT3 protein in the amygdala and hippocampus in CVS rats, compared to controls. These data suggest an important role for CORT sensitive OCT3 in the reduction of monoamine clearance during stress.

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  • 2016-05

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Integrating spatial constraints and biotic interactions to assess the costs of thermoregulation by lizards

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Many animals thermoregulate to maximize performance. However, interactions with other animals, such as competitors or predators, limit access to preferred microclimates. For instance, an animal may thermoregulate poorly when fighting

Many animals thermoregulate to maximize performance. However, interactions with other animals, such as competitors or predators, limit access to preferred microclimates. For instance, an animal may thermoregulate poorly when fighting rivals or avoiding predators. However, the distribution of thermal resources should influence how animals perceive and respond to risk. When thermal resources are concentrated in space, individuals compete for access, which presumably reduces the thermoregulatory performance while making their location more predictable to predators. Conversely, when thermal resources are dispersed, several individuals can thermoregulate effectively without occupying the same area. Nevertheless, interactions with competitors or predators impose a potent stress, often resulting in both behavioral and physiological changes that influence thermoregulation. To assess the costs of intraspecific competition and predation risk during thermoregulation, I measured thermoregulation, movement, and hormones of male lizards (Sceloporus jarrovi) in experiment landscapes, with clumped to patchy distributions of microclimates. I found lizards aggressively competed for access to microclimates, with larger males gaining priority access when thermal resources were aggregated. Competition reduced thermoregulatory performance, increased movements, and elevated plasma corticosterone in large and small males. However, the magnitude of these responses decreased as the patchiness of the thermal environment increased. Similarly, under simulated predation risk, lizards reduced thermoregulatory performance, decreased movements, and elevated plasma corticosterone. Again, with the magnitude of these responses decreased with increasing thermal patchiness. Interestingly, even without competitors or predators, lizards in clumped arenas moved greater distances and circulated more corticosterone than did lizards in patchy arenas, indicating the thermal quality of the thermal landscape affected the energetic demands on lizards. Thus, biologists should consider species interactions and spatial structure when modeling impacts of climate change on thermoregulation.

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Date Created
  • 2017

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The role of corticosterone in stress-induced suppression of innate immunity in the male house sparrow

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In wild birds, the stress response can inhibit the activity of the innate immune system, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens. By elucidating the mechanisms which

In wild birds, the stress response can inhibit the activity of the innate immune system, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens. By elucidating the mechanisms which regulate the interaction between stress and innate immunity, researchers may be able to predict when birds experience increased susceptibility to infections and can target specific mediators to mitigate stress-induced suppression of innate immune activity. Such elucidation is especially important for urban birds, such as the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), because these birds experience higher pathogen prevalence and transmission when compared to birds in rural regions. I investigated the role of corticosterone (CORT) in stress-induced suppression of two measures of innate immune activity (complement- and natural antibody-mediated activity) in male House Sparrows. Corticosterone, the primary avian glucocorticoid, is elevated during the stress response and high levels of this hormone induce effects through the activation of cytosolic and membrane-bound glucocorticoid receptors (GR). My results demonstrate that CORT is necessary and sufficient for stress-induced suppression of complement-mediated activity, and that this relationship is consistent between years. Corticosterone, however, does not inhibit complement-mediated activity through cytosolic GR, and additional research is needed to confirm the involvement of membrane-bound GR. The role of CORT in stress-induced inhibition of natural antibody-mediated activity, however, remains puzzling. Stress-induced elevation of CORT can suppress natural antibody-mediated activity through the activation of cytosolic GR, but the necessity of this mechanism varies inter-annually. In other words, both CORT-dependent and CORT-independent mechanisms may inhibit natural antibody-mediated activity during stress in certain years, but the causes of this inter-annual variation are not known. Previous studies have indicated that changes in the pathogen environment or food availability can alter regulation of innate immunity, but further research is needed to test these hypotheses. Overall, my dissertation demonstrates that stress inhibits innate immunity through several mechanisms, but environmental pressures may influence this inhibitory relationship.

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  • 2017

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Clarifying the dehydration cascade: the relationship between water, stress, and immune function in squamates

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There is considerable recent interest in the dynamic nature of immune function in the context of an animal’s internal and external environment. An important focus within this field of ecoimmunology

There is considerable recent interest in the dynamic nature of immune function in the context of an animal’s internal and external environment. An important focus within this field of ecoimmunology is on how availability of resources such as energy can alter immune function. Water is an additional resource that drives animal development, physiology, and behavior, yet the influence hydration has on immunity has received limited attention. In particular, hydration state may have the greatest potential to drive fluctuations in immunity and other physiological functions in species that live in water-limited environments where they may experience periods of dehydration. To shed light on the sensitivity of immune function to hydration state, I first tested the effect of hydration states (hydrated, dehydrated, and rehydrated) and digestive states on innate immunity in the Gila monster, a desert-dwelling lizard. Though dehydration is often thought to be stressful and, if experienced chronically, likely to decrease immune function, dehydration elicited an increase in immune response in this species, while digestive state had no effect. Next, I tested whether dehydration was indeed stressful, and tested a broader range of immune measures. My findings validated the enhanced innate immunity across additional measures and revealed that Gila monsters lacked a significant stress hormone response during dehydration (though results were suggestive). I next sought to test if life history (in terms of environmental stability) drives these differences in dehydration responses using a comparative approach. I compared four confamilial pairs of squamate species that varied in habitat type within each pair—four species that are adapted to xeric environments and four that are adapted to more mesic environments. No effect of life history was detected between groups, but hydration was a driver of some measures of innate immunity and of stress hormone concentrations in multiple species. Additionally, species that exhibited a stress response to dehydration did not have decreased innate immunity, suggesting these physiological responses may often be decoupled. My dissertation work provides new insight into the relationship between hydration, stress, and immunity, and it may inform future work exploring disease transmission or organismal responses to climate change.

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Date Created
  • 2016