Stressful life events are a major factor in the etiology of several diseases, such as cardiovascular, inflammatory and psychiatric disorders (i.e., depression and anxiety), with the two sexes greatly differing in vulnerability. In humans and other animals, physiological and behavioral responses to stress are strongly dependent on gender, and conditions that are stressful for males are not necessarily stressful for females. Hence the need of an animal model of social chronic stress specifically designed for females. In the present study we aimed to compare the effects of two different chronic stress procedures in female mice, by investigating the impact of 4weeks of nonsocial unpredictable, physical stress by the Chronic Mild Stress paradigm (CMS; Exp.1) or of Social Instability Stress (SIS; Exp.2) on physiological, endocrine and behavioral parameters in adult female mice. CMS had a pronounced effect on females' response to novelty (i.e., either novel environment or novel social stimulus), body weight growth and hormonal profile. Conversely, 4weeks of social instability did not alter females' response to novelty nor hormonal levels but induced anhedonia. Our findings thus showed that female mice were more sensitive to nonsocial stress due to unpredictable physical environment than to social instability stressors. Neither of these stress paradigms, however, induced a consistent behavioral and physiological stress response in female mice comparable to that induced by chronic stress procedures in male mice, thus confirming the difficulties of developing a robust and validated model of chronic psychosocial stress in female mice.
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