BACKGROUND: Severe or prolonged stress can trigger psychiatric illnesses including mood and anxiety disorders. Recent work indicates that pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) plays an important role in regulating stress effects. In rodents, exogenous PACAP administration can produce persistent elevations in the acoustic startle response, which may reflect anxiety-like signs including hypervigilance. We investigated whether PACAP causes acute or persistent alterations in behaviors that reflect other core features of mood and anxiety disorders (motivation, social interaction, and attention).
METHODS: Using male Sprague Dawley rats, we examined if PACAP (.25-1.0 mu g, intracerebroventricular infusion) affects motivation as measured in the intracranial self-stimulation test. We also examined if PACAP alters interactions with a conspecific in the social interaction test. Finally, we examined if PACAP affects performance in the 5-choice serial reaction time task, which quantifies attention and error processing.
RESULTS: Dose-dependent disruptions in motivation, social interaction, and attention were produced by PACAP, as reflected by increases in reward thresholds, decreases in social behaviors, and decreases in correct responses and alterations in posterror accuracy. Behavior normalized quickly in the intracranial self-stimulation and 5-choice serial reaction time task tests but remained dysregulated in the social interaction test. Effects on attention were attenuated by the corticotropin-releasing factor receptor-1 antagonist antalarmin but not the. opioid receptor antagonist JDTic.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that PACAP affects numerous domains often dysregulated in mood and anxiety disorders, but that individual signs depend on brain substrates that are at least partially independent. This work may help to devise therapeutics that mitigate specific signs of these disorders.