Patients with anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exhibit exaggerated fear responses and noradrenergic dysregulation. Fear-related responses to α2-adrenergic challenge were therefore studied in DxH C3H/HeJ-like recombinant inbred (C3HLRI) mice, which are a DBA/2J-congenic strain selectively bred for a high fear-sensitized startle (H-FSS). C3HLRI mice showed an enhanced acoustic startle response and immobility in the forced swim test compared to DBA/2J controls. The α2-adrenoceptor antagonist yohimbine (Yoh; 5.0 mg/kg) induced an anxiogenic and the α2-adrenoceptor agonist clonidine (Clon; 0.1 mg/kg) an anxiolytic effect in the open field (OF) in C3HLRI but not DBA/2J mice. In auditory fear-conditioning, Yoh (5.0 mg/kg)-treated C3HLRI mice showed higher freezing during fear recall and extinction learning than DBA/2J mice, and a higher ceiling for the Yoh-induced deficit in fear extinction. No strain differences were observed in exploration-related anxiety/spatial learning or the Clon-induced (0.1 mg/kg) corticosterone surge. A global analysis of the behavioral profile of the two mouse strains based on observed and expected numbers of significant behavioral outcomes indicated that C3HLRI mice showed significantly more often fear- and stress-related PTSD-like behaviors than DBA/2J controls. The analysis of the robustness of significant outcomes based on false discovery rate (FDR) thresholds confirmed significant differences for the strain-Yoh-interactions in the OF center and periphery, the Yoh-induced general extinction deficit, strain differences in conditioned fear levels, and at the dose of 5.0 mg/kg for the Yoh-induced ceiling in freezing levels among others. The current findings are consistent with previous observations showing alterations in the central noradrenergic system of C3HLRI mice (Browne et al., 2014, Stress 17:471–83). Based on their behavioral profile and response to α2-adrenergic stimulation, C3HLRI mice are a valuable genetic model for studying adrenergic mechanisms of anxiety disorders and potentially also of PTSD.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biological Psychiatry
- Behavioral Neuroscience