Stress in adolescence can regulate vulnerability to traumatic stress in adulthood through region-specific epigenetic activity and catecholamine levels. We hypothesized that stress in adolescence would increase adult trauma vulnerability by impairing extinction-retention, a deficit in PTSD, by (1) altering class IIa histone deacetylases (HDACs), which integrate effects of stress on gene expression, and (2) enhancing norepinephrine in brain regions regulating cognitive effects of trauma. We investigated the effects of adolescent-stress on adult vulnerability to severe stress using the single-prolonged stress (SPS) model in male rats. Rats were exposed to either (1) adolescent-stress (33–35 postnatal days) then SPS (58–60 postnatal days; n = 14), or (2) no adolescent-stress and SPS (58–60 postnatal days; n = 14), or (3) unstressed conditions (n = 8). We then measured extinction-retention, norepinephrine, HDAC4, and HDAC5. As expected, SPS exposure induced an extinction–retention deficit. Adolescent-stress prior to SPS eliminated this deficit, suggesting adolescent-stress conferred resiliency to adult severe stress. Adolescent-stress also conferred region-specific resilience to norepinephrine changes. HDAC4 and HDAC5 were down-regulated following SPS, and these changes were also modulated by adolescent-stress. Regulation of HDAC levels was consistent with the pattern of cognitive effects of SPS; only animals exposed to SPS without adolescent-stress exhibited reduced HDAC4 and HDAC5 in the prelimbic cortex, hippocampus, and striatum. Thus, HDAC regulation caused by severe stress in adulthood interacts with stress history such that seemingly conflicting reports describing effects of adolescent stress on adult PTSD vulnerability may stem in part from dynamic HDAC changes following trauma that are shaped by adolescent stress history.
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