Chronic restraint stress induces changes in synapse morphology in stratum lacunosum-moleculare CA1 rat hippocampus: a stereological and three-dimensional ultrastructural study

Chronic restraint stress is known to affect the morphology and synaptic organization of the hippocampus, predominantly within CA3 but also in CA1 and dentate gyrus. In this study, we provide the first evidence for specific ultrastructural alterations affecting asymmetric axo-spinous synapses in CA1 stratum lacunosum-moleculare following chronic restraint stress (6 h/day, 21 days) in the rat. The structure of asymmetric axo-spinous post-synaptic densities was investigated using serial section three-dimensional reconstruction procedures in control (n=4) and chronic restraint stress (n=3) animals. Dendritic spine profiles (spine head+neck) associated with the sampled synaptic contacts (30 per animal) were also reconstructed in three-dimensions. Morphometric analyses revealed a significant increase in post-synaptic density surface area (+36%; P=0.03) and a highly significant increase in post-synaptic density volume (+79%; P=0.003) in the chronic restraint stress group. These changes were directly associated with 'non-macular' (perforated, complex and segmented) post-synaptic densities. A highly significant overall increase in the 'post-synaptic density surface area/spine surface area' ratio was also detected in the chronic restraint stress group (+27%; P=0.002). In contrast, no quantitative changes in spine parameters were found between groups. The Cavalieri method was used to assess the effects of chronic restraint stress exposure upon CA1 hippocampal volume. The mean volume of total dorsal anterior CA1 hippocampus was significantly lower in the chronic restraint stress group (-16%; P=0.036). However, when corrected for volume changes, no significant alteration in a relative estimate of the mean number of asymmetric axo-spinous synapses was detected in CA1 stratum lacunosum-moleculare between control and chronic restraint stress groups. The data indicate a structural remodeling of excitatory axo-spinous synaptic connectivity in rat CA1 stratum lacunosum-moleculare as a result of chronic restraint stress.

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Neuroscience, 140, 2, 597-606
Author address: Department of Biological Sciences, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK.

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 Record created 2007-01-18, last modified 2018-03-17

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