Chronic exposure to stress in the form of major life events such as bereavement, prolonged conflict or low socioeconomic status is associated with increased incidence of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome. However, some individuals are resilient to the effects of stress while others are more vulnerable. Identifying the substrates underlying resilience and/or vulnerability could lead to novel individualized treatments for enhancing resilience or mitigating vulnerability. Our preliminary work has identified a model of repeated social defeat in adult male rats in which two distinct subpopulations emerge with different coping strategies, one that is resilient and one that is vulnerable to the behavioral and neuroendocrine consequences of repeated social defeat. Our preliminary data also show that these two subpopulations differ in the expression of orexins, peptides that are key for arousal, wakefulness and vigilance. The resilient population exhibits lower orexin expression. These and other data lead to the central hypothesis that dampened orexin system function is associated with resilience to the effects of repeated defeat.
Two Specific Aims are proposed to test the central hypothesis.
In Specific Aim 1, we will determine the effects of inhibition or stimulation of orexin release on behavioral and neuroendocrine outcomes produced by social defeat in the vulnerable and resilient populations. We hypothesize that inhibition of orexin release during defeat will decrease anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors and alter neuroendocrine function shifting the vulnerable subpopulation towards a resilient phenotype.
Specific Aim 2 will determine the potential sites of actions of orexins using combination of functional neuroanatomical and whole cell electrophysiological approaches. To modulate orexin release, an emerging technology, DREADDs (designer receptors exclusively activated or inhibited by designer drugs) will be used. DREADDs is a directed pharmacological approach that allows minimally invasive chronic inhibition of stimulation of endogenous orexin release, preliminary data demonstrate the feasibility of this approach in our lab. Together, the results from the proposed experiments will provide novel insights into the specific involvement of orexins in resilience or vulnerability to the effects of repeated stress potentially highlighting teir key role in mediating resilience to the effects of stress.

Public Health Relevance

Repeated stress contributes to the development of affective and anxiety disorders and can precipitate relapse of symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The proposed experiments will examine the novel hypothesis that orexins are substrates for resilience to the effects of repeated stress.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Neuroendocrinology, Neuroimmunology, Rhythms and Sleep Study Section (NNRS)
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Desmond, Nancy L
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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
United States
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Grafe, Laura A; Eacret, Darrell; Dobkin, Jane et al. (2018) Reduced Orexin System Function Contributes to Resilience to Repeated Social Stress. eNeuro 5: