Anti-Apoptotic proteins are suggested to be important for the normal health of neurons and synapses as well as for resilience to stress. In order to determine whether stressful events may influence the expression of anti-Apoptotic protein Bcl-xL in the midbrain and specifically in the midbrain serotonergic (5-HT) neurons involved in neurobehavioral responses to adverse stimuli, adult male rats were subjected to short-Term or chronic forced swim stress. A short-Term stress rapidly increased the midbrain bcl-xl mRNA levels and significantly elevated Bcl-xL immunoreactivity in the midbrain 5-HT cells. Stress-induced increase in glucocorticoid secretion was implicated in the observed effect. The levels of bcl-xl mRNA were decreased after stress when glucocorticoid elevation was inhibited by metyrapone (MET, 150 mg/kg), and this decrease was attenuated by glucocorticoid replacement with dexamethasone (DEX; 0.2 mg/kg). Both short-Term stress and acute DEX administration, in parallel with Bcl-xL, caused a significant increase in tph2 mRNA levels and slightly enhanced tryptophan hydroxylase immunoreactivity in the midbrain. The increasing effect on the bclxl expression was specific to the short-Term stress. Forced swim repeated daily for 2 weeks led to a decrease in bcl-xl mRNA in the midbrain without any effects on the Bcl-xL protein expression in the 5-HT neurons. In chronically stressed animals, an increase in tph2 gene expression was not associated with any changes in tryptophan hydroxylase protein levels. Our findings are the first to demonstrate that both short-Term stress and acute glucocorticoid exposures induce Bcl-xL protein expression in the midbrain 5-HT neurons concomitantly with the activation of the 5-HT synthesis pathway in these neurons.
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