Nature and nurture: Environmental influences on a genetic rat model of depression

N. S. Mehta-Raghavan, S. L. Wert, C. Morley, E. N. Graf, E. E. Redei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In this study, we sought to learn whether adverse events such as chronic restraint stress (CRS), or ‘nurture’ in the form of environmental enrichment (EE), could modify depression-like behavior and blood biomarker transcript levels in a genetic rat model of depression. The Wistar Kyoto More Immobile (WMI) is a genetic model of depression that aided in the identification of blood transcriptomic markers, which successfully distinguished adolescent and adult subjects with major depressive disorders from their matched no-disorder controls. Here, we followed the effects of CRS and EE in adult male WMIs and their genetically similar control strain, the Wistar Kyoto Less Immobile (WLI), that does not show depression-like behavior, by measuring the levels of these transcripts in the blood and hippocampus. In WLIs, increased depression-like behavior and transcriptomic changes were present in response to CRS, but in WMIs no behavioral or additive transcriptomic changes occurred. Environmental enrichment decreased both the inherent depression-like behavior in the WMIs and the behavioral difference between WMIs and WLIs, but did not reverse basal transcript level differences between the strains. The inverse behavioral change induced by CRS and EE in the WLIs did not result in parallel inverse expression changes of the transcriptomic markers, suggesting that these behavioral responses to the environment work via separate molecular pathways. In contrast, ‘trait’ transcriptomic markers with expression differences inherent and unchanging between the strains regardless of the environment suggest that in our model, environmental and genetic etiologies of depression work through independent molecular mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere770
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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