Noradrenergic facilitation of shock-probe defensive burying in lateral septum of rats, and modulation by chronic treatment with desipramine

Corina O. Bondi, Gabriel Barrera, M. Danet S. Lapiz, Tania Bedard, Amy Mahan, David A. Morilak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that acute stress-induced release of norepinephrine (NE) facilitates anxiety-like behavioral responses to stress, such as reduction in open-arm exploration on the elevated-plus maze and in social behavior on the social interaction test. Since these responses represent inhibition of ongoing behavior, it is important to also address whether NE facilitates a response that represents an activation of behavior. Correspondingly, it is unknown how a chronic elevation in tonic steady-state noradrenergic (NA) neurotransmission induced by NE reuptake blockade might alter this acute modulatory function, a regulatory process that may be pertinent to the anxiolytic effects of NE reuptake blockers such as desipramine (DMI). Therefore, in this study, we investigated noradrenergic modulation of the shock-probe defensive burying response in the lateral septum (LS). In experiment 1, shock-probe exposure induced an acute 3-fold increase in NE levels measured in LS of male Sprague-Dawley rats by microdialysis. Shock-probe exposure also induced a modest rise in plasma ACTH, taken as an indicator of perceived stress, that returned to baseline more rapidly in rats that were allowed to bury the probe compared to rats prevented from burying by providing them with minimal bedding, indicating that the active defensive burying behavior is an effective coping strategy that reduces the impact of acute shock probe-induced stress. In experiment 2, blockade of either α1- or β-adrenergic receptors in LS by local antagonist microinjection immediately before testing reduced defensive burying and increased immobility. In the next experiment, chronic DMI treatment increased basal extracellular NE levels in LS, and attenuated the acute shock probe-induced increase in NE release in LS relative to baseline. Chronic DMI treatment decreased shock-probe defensive burying behavior in a time-dependent manner, apparent only after 2 weeks or more of drug treatment. Moreover, rats treated chronically with DMI showed no significant rise of plasma ACTH in response to shock-probe exposure. Thus, acute stress-induced release of NE in LS facilitated defensive burying, an active, adaptive behavioral coping response. Chronic treatment with the NE reuptake blocker and antidepressant drug DMI attenuated acute noradrenergic facilitation of the active burying response, and also attenuated the level of perceived stress driving that response. These results suggest that long-term regulation of the acute modulatory function of NE by chronic treatment with reuptake blockers may contribute to the mechanisms by which such drugs exert their anxiolytic effects in the treatment of stress-related psychiatric conditions, including depression and anxiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-495
Number of pages14
JournalProgress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 30 2007


  • Antidepressant
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lateral septum
  • Norepinephrine
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Biological Psychiatry


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