Chronic stress-induced hippocampal dendritic retraction requires CA3 NMDA receptors

K. M. Christian, A. D. Miracle, C. L. Wellman, K. Nakazawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Chronic stress induces dendritic retraction in the hippocampal CA3 subregion, but the mechanisms responsible for this retraction and its impact on neural circuitry are not well understood. To determine the role of NMDA (N-methyl-d-aspartic acid) receptor (NMDAR)-mediated signaling in this process, we compared the effects of chronic immobilization stress (CIS) on hippocampal dendritic morphology, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation, and anxiety-related and hippocampus-dependent behaviors, in transgenic male mice in which the NMDAR had been selectively deleted in CA3 pyramidal cells and in non-mutant littermates. We found that CIS exposure for 10 consecutive days in non-mutant mice effectively induces HPA axis activation and dendritic retraction of CA3 short-shaft pyramidal neurons, but not CA3 long-shaft pyramidal neurons, suggesting a differential cellular stress response in this region. Dendritic reorganization of short-shaft neurons occurred throughout the longitudinal axis of the hippocampus and, in particular, in the ventral pole of this structure. We also observed a robust retraction of dendrites in dorsal CA1 pyramidal neurons in the non-mutant C57BL/6 mouse strain. Strikingly, chronic stress-induced dendritic retraction was not evident in any of the neurons in either CA3 or CA1 in the mutant mice that had a functional lack of NMDARs restricted to CA3 pyramidal neurons. Interestingly, the prevention of dendritic retraction in the mutant mice had a minimal effect on HPA axis activation and behavioral alterations that were induced by chronic stress. These data support a role for NMDAR-dependent glutamatergic signaling in CA3 in the cell-type specific induction of dendritic retraction in two hippocampal subregions following chronic stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
StatePublished - Feb 3 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • CA3
  • Chronic stress
  • Dendritic retraction
  • Golgi staining
  • HPA axis
  • NMDA receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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