The impact of psychological stressors on the progression of motor and non-motor disturbances observed in Parkinson's disease (PD) has received little attention. Given that PD likely results from many different environmental “hits”, we were interested in whether a chronic unpredictable stressor regimen would act additively or possibly even synergistically to augment the impact of the toxicant, paraquat, which has previously been linked to PD. Our findings support the contention that paraquat itself acted as a systemic stressor, with the pesticide increasing plasma corticosterone, as well as altering glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression in the hippocampus. Furthermore, stressed mice that also received paraquat displayed synergistic motor coordination impairment on a rotarod test and augmented signs of anhedonia (sucrose preference test). The individual stressor and paraquat treatments also caused a range of non-motor (e.g. open field, Y and plus mazes) deficits, but there were no signs of an interaction (neither additive nor synergistic) between the insults. Similarly, paraquat caused the expected loss of substantia nigra dopamine neurons and microglial activation, but this effect was not further influenced by the chronic stressor. Taken together, these results indicate that paraquat has many effects comparable to that of a more traditional stressor and that at least some behavioral measures (i.e. sucrose preference and rotarod) are augmented by the combined pesticide and stress treatments. Thus, although psychological stressors might not necessarily increase the neurodegenerative effects of the toxicant exposure, they may promote co-morbid behaviors pathology.

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Neurobiology of Stress
Department of Neuroscience

Rudyk, C. (Chris), Dwyer, Z. (Zach), McNeill, J. (Jessica), Salmaso, N, Farmer, K. (Kyle), Prowse, N. (Natalie), & Hayley, S. (2019). Chronic unpredictable stress influenced the behavioral but not the neurodegenerative impact of paraquat. Neurobiology of Stress, 11. doi:10.1016/j.ynstr.2019.100179