Inflammation and oxidative stress are elevated in the brain, blood, and adrenal glands during the progression of post-traumatic stress disorder in a predator exposure animal model

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This study sought to analyze specific pathophysiological mechanisms involved in the progression of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by utilizing an animal model. To examine PTSD pathophysiology, we measured damaging reactive oxygen species and inflammatory cytokines to determine if oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, adrenal glands, and systemic circulation were upregulated in response to constant stress. Pre-clinical PTSD was induced in naïve, male Sprague-Dawley rats via a predator exposure/psychosocial stress regimen. PTSD group rats were secured in Plexiglas cylinders and placed in a cage with a cat for one hour on days 1 and 11 of a 31-day stress regimen. In addition, PTSD group rats were subjected to psychosocial stress whereby their cage cohort was changed daily. This model has been shown to cause heightened anxiety, exaggerated startle response, impaired cognition, and increased cardiovascular reactivity, all of which are common symptoms seen in humans with PTSD. At the conclusion of the predator exposure/psychosocial stress regimen, the rats were euthanized and their brains were dissected to remove the hippocampus, amygdala, and pre-frontal cortex (PFC), the three areas commonly associated with PTSD development. The adrenal glands and whole blood were also collected to assess systemic oxidative stress. Analysis of the whole blood, adrenal glands, and brain regions revealed oxidative stress increased during PTSD progression. In addition, examination of pro-inflammatory cytokine (PIC) mRNA and protein demonstrated neurological inflammatory molecules were significantly upregulated in the PTSD group vs. controls. These results indicate oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, adrenal glands, and systemic circulation may play a critical role in the development and further exacerbation of PTSD. Thus, PTSD may not be solely a neurological pathology but may progress as a systemic condition involving multiple organ systems.

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PloS one

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