Rationale 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptor agonists effectively reduce aggressive behavior in males that has been escalated by social instigation. Important sites of action for these drugs are the receptors in dorsal raphé nuclei (DRN) and the ventral–orbital prefrontal cortex (VO PFC). DRN and VO PFC areas are particularly relevant in the inhibitory control of escalated aggressive and impulsive behavior. Objectives The objectives of this study are to assess the anti-aggressive effects of 5-HT1A (8-OH-DPAT) and 5-HT1B (CP-93,129) receptor agonists microinjected into DRN and VO PFC, respectively, and to study the aggressive behavior in postpartum female Wistar rats using the social instigation protocol to increase aggression. Methods and Results 8-OH-DPAT (0.56 µg) in the DRN increased aggressive behavior in postpartum female rats. By contrast, CP-93,129 (1.0 µg) microinjected into VO PFC decreased the number of attack bites and lateral threats. 5-HT1A and 5-HT1B receptor agonists differed in their effects on non-aggressive activities, the former decreasing rearing and grooming and the latter increasing these acts. When 8-OH-DPAT was microinjected into DRN and CP-93,129 was microinjected into VO PFC in female rats at the same time, maternal aggression decreased. Specific participation of 5-HT1B receptors was verified by reversal of the anti-aggressive effects using the selective antagonist SB-224,289 (1.0 µg). Conclusions The decrease in maternal aggressive behavior after microinjections of 5-HT1B receptor agonists into the VO PFC and DRN of female postpartum rats that were instigated socially supports the hypothesis that activation of these receptors modulates high levels of aggression in a behaviorally specific manner, due to activation of 5-HT1B receptors at the soma and terminals.
Serotonin (5-HT 1B ) receptors play an essential role in the inhibition of aggressive behavior in rodents. CP-94,253, a 5-HT 1B receptor agonist, can reduce aggression in male mice when administered directly into the ventro-orbitofrontal (VO) prefrontal cortex (PFC). The objective of the current study was to assess the effects of two selective 5-HT 1B receptor agonists 129), microinjected into the VO PFC, on maternal aggressive behavior after social instigation in rats. CP-94,253 (0.56 µg/0.2 µL, N = 8, and 1.0 µg/0.2 µL, N = 8) or CP-93,129 (1.0 µg/0.2 µL, N = 9) was microinjected into the VO PFC of Wistar rats on the 9th day postpartum and 15 min thereafter the aggressive behavior by the resident female against a male intruder was recorded for 10 min. The frequency and duration of aggressive and non-aggressive behaviors were analyzed using ANOVA and post hoc tests. CP-93,129 significantly decreased maternal aggression. The frequency of lateral attacks, bites and pinnings was reduced compared to control, while the non-aggressive behaviors and maternal care were largely unaffected by this treatment. CP-94,253 had no significant effects on aggressive or non-aggressive behaviors when microinjected into the same area of female rats. CP-93,129, a specific 5-HT 1B receptor agonist, administered into the VO PFC reduced maternal aggressive behavior, while the CP-94,253 agonist did not significantly affect this behavior after social instigation in female rats. We conclude that only the 5-HT 1B receptor agonist CP-93,129 administered into the VO PFC decreased aggression in female rats postpartum after social instigation. Correspondence
Among rodents, maternal aggression in the postpartum period represents a species-typical adaptation, but when aggressive behavior increases beyond this adaptive level, it can represent a model of excessive aggression. This study assessed the neuroendocrine response of lactating rats and socially instigated male rats. The aim of the present study was to assess neuroendocrine responses and the behavioral pattern of lactating rats and males that were subjected to an emotional stressor using the social instigation protocol. We measured plasma corticosterone levels as the key hormonal parameter of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and oxytocin, prolactin, and progesterone, which are released in response to several types of stressors. Our results showed that lactating rats that were subjected to only social instigation or aggressive confrontation in the presence of their pups had lower plasma corticosterone levels, and this response was similar to oxytocin, prolactin, and progesterone levels. By contrast, male rats showed increased corticosterone levels after being subjected only to social instigation. Male rats also engaged in aggressive behavior compared with the control group. In conclusion, this study demonstrated that lactating rats subjected to social instigation exhibited an attenuation of the HPA axis response, which is considered to be crucial to the dam's welfare so that it can care for its offspring. Thus, we can infer that lactation is a relevant factor in neuroendocrine responses to stress because of the increased levels of corticosterone in males.
Females are often less aggressive than males, but they exhibit high levels of agonistic behavior against an intruder in the area of the nest during lactation. This behavior is referred to as maternal aggression. In rats, maternal aggressive behavior occurs more often from postpartum day 3 (PPD 3) to PPD 12. Social instigation is an experimental protocol used to increase the levels of aggression that are typical of the species. In the present study we used social instigation to analyze the expression of a marker of neuronal activity, c-fos. Lactating rats on PPD 5, in the presence of their pups, were divided into four groups: (1) no social instigation and no aggressive behavior, (2) social instigation and no aggressive behavior, (3) no social instigation and aggressive behavior, and (4) social instigation and aggressive behavior. Sixty minutes after the aggression test we used immunohistochemistry to detect Fos in two brain regions, the ventral-orbital region of the prefrontal cortex (VO PFC) and dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN). Our results showed that rats with aggressive behavior that were provoked exhibited an increase in Fos expression in the VO PFC compared with the control group (i.e., no social instigation and no aggressive behavior). No change in Fos expression was found in the DRN. These results complement previous findings with microinjection of serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine-1B receptor agonists into the same region, demonstrating that the VO PFC is an important region in the modulation of maternal aggressive behavior.
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