Sex differences in depressive, anxious behaviors and hippocampal transcript levels in a genetic rat model

N. S. Mehta, L. Wang, E. E. Redei*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common, debilitating illness with high prevalence of comorbid anxiety. The incidence of depression and of comorbid anxiety is much higher in women than in men. These gender biases appear after puberty and their etiology is mostly unknown. Selective breeding of the Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rat strain, an accepted model of adult and adolescent depression, resulted in two fully inbred substrains. Adult WKY more immobile (WMI) rats of both sexes consistently show increased depression-like behavior in the forced swim test when compared with the control WKY less immobile (WLI) strain. In contrast, here we show that while adult female WMIs and WLIs both display high anxiety-like behaviors, only WLI males, but not WMI males, show this behavior. Moreover, the behavioral profile of WMI males is consistent from early adolescence to adulthood, but the high depression- and anxiety-like behaviors of the female WMIs appear only in adulthood. These sex-specific behavioral patterns are paralleled by marked sex differences in hippocampal gene expression differences established by genome-wide transcriptional analyses of 13th generation WMIs and WLIs. Moreover, sex- and age-specific differences in transcript levels of selected genes are present in the hippocampus of the current, fully inbred WMIs and WLIs. Thus, the contribution of specific genes and/or the influence of the gonadal hormonal environment to depression- and anxiety-like behaviors may differ between male and female WMIs, resulting in their distinct behavioral and transcriptomic profiles despite shared sequences of the somatic chromosomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-704
Number of pages10
JournalGenes, Brain and Behavior
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Anxiety behavior
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression animal models
  • Early adolescence
  • FST
  • Gene expression
  • Hippocampus
  • OFT
  • RT-qPCR
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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