Reduction of acute mild stress corticosterone response and changes in stress-responsive gene expression in male Balb/c mice after repeated administration of a Rhodiola rosea L. root extract
Rhodiola rosea L. (R. rosea) is an adaptogenic plant increasing body resistance to stress. Its efficacy has been evidenced mainly in chronic stress models, data concerning its effect in acute stress and underlying mechanisms being scarce. The objective was to investigate the effect of repeated doses of a R. rosea hydroethanolic root extract (HRE) on hypothalamic pituitary adrenal response in a murine model of acute mild stress and also the mechanisms involved. Stress response was measured in Balb/c mice having received by gavage HRE (5 g/kg) or vehicle daily for 2 weeks before being submitted to an acute mild stress protocol (open-field test then elevated plus maze). Corticosterone was measured in plasma from mandibular vein blood drawn before and 30, 60, and 90 min after initiation of the stress protocol. Mice were sacrificed at 90 min, and the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and amygdala were excised for high-frequency RT-PCR gene expression analysis. At 30 min after acute mild stress induction, corticosterone level in mice having received the HRE was lower than in control mice and comparable to that in nonstressed mice in the HRE group. HRE administration induced brain structure-dependent changes in expression of several stress-responsive genes implicated in neuronal structure, HPA axis activation, and circadian rhythm. In the acute mild stress model used, R. rosea HRE decreased corticosterone level and increased expression of stress-responsive genes, especially in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest that R. rosea HRE could be of value for modulating reactivity to acute mild stress.