The neuropeptide y (NPY)-ergic system is associated with behavioral resilience to stress exposure in an animal model of post-traumatic stress disorder

Hagit Cohen, Tianmin Liu, Nitsan Kozlovsky, Zeev Kaplan, Joseph Zohar, Aleksander A. Mathé

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    205 Scopus citations


    Converging evidence implicates the regulatory neuropeptide Y (NPY) in anxiety-and depression-related behaviors. The present study sought to assess whether there is an association between the magnitude of behavioral responses to stress and patterns of NPY in selected brain areas, and subsequently, whether pharmacological manipulations of NPY levels affect behavior in an animal model of PTSD. Animals were exposed to predator-scent stress for 15 min. Behaviors were assessed with the elevated plus maze and acoustic startle response tests 7 days later. Preset cutoff criteria classified exposed animals according to their individual behavioral responses. NPY protein levels were assessed in specific brain regions 8 days after the exposure. The behavioral effects of NPY agonist, NPY-Y1-receptor antagonist, or placebo administered centrally 1 h post-exposure were evaluated in the same manner. Immunohistochemical technique was used to detect the expression of the NPY, NPY-Y1 receptor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and GR 1 day after the behavioral tests. Animals whose behavior was extremely disrupted (EBR) selectively displayed significant downregulation of NPY in the hippocampus, periaqueductal gray, and amygdala, compared with animals whose behavior was minimally (MBR) or partially (PBR) disrupted, and with unexposed controls. One-hour post-exposure treatment with NPY significantly reduced prevalence rates of EBR and reduced trauma-cue freezing responses, compared with vehicle controls. The distinctive pattern of NPY downregulation that correlated with EBR as well as the resounding behavioral effects of pharmacological manipulation of NPY indicates an intimate association between NPY and behavioral responses to stress, and potentially between molecular and psychopathological processes, which underlie the observed changes in behavior. The protective qualities attributed to NPY are supported by the extreme reduction of its expression in animals severely affected by the stressor and imply a role in promoting resilience and/or recovery.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)350-363
    Number of pages14
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012


    • NPY-Y1 receptor
    • Neuropeptide Y (NPY)
    • animal model
    • brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
    • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pharmacology
    • Psychiatry and Mental health


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