Glucocorticoid receptor blockade inhibits brain cell addition and aggressive signaling in electric fish, Apteronotus leptorhynchus. Hormones and Behavior

Dunlap KD, D. Jashari and K.M. Pappas

Department of Biology, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 06106, USA.

When animals are under stress, glucocorticoids commonly inhibit adult neurogenesis by acting through glucocorticoid receptors (GRs). However, in some cases, conditions that elevate glucocorticoids promote adult neurogenesis, and the role of glucocorticoid receptors in these circumstances is not well understood. We examined the involvement of GRs in social enhancement of brain cell addition and aggressive signaling in electric fish, Apteronotus leptorhynchus. In this species, long-term social interaction simultaneously elevates plasma cortisol, enhances brain cell addition and increases production of aggressive electrocommunication signals (“chirps”). We implanted isolated and paired fish with capsules containing nothing (controls) or the GR antagonist, RU486, recorded chirp production and locomotion for 7d, and measured the density of newborn cells in the periventricular zone. Compared to isolated controls, paired controls showed elevated chirping in two phases: much higher chirp rates in the first 5 h and moderately higher nocturnal rates thereafter. Treating paired fish with RU486 reduced chirp rates in both phases to those of isolated fish, demonstrating that GR activation is crucial for socially induced chirping. Neither RU486 nor social interaction affected locomotion. RU486 treatment to paired fish had a partial effect on cell addition: paired RU486 fish had less cell addition than paired control fish but more than isolated fish. This suggests that cortisol activation of GRs contributes to social enhancement of cell addition but works in parallel with another GR-independent mechanism.  RU486 also reduced cell addition in isolated fish, indicating that GRs participate in the regulation of cell addition even when cortisol levels are low.