Hypertension and insulin resistant models have divergent propensities to learned helpless behavior in rodents

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Department of Physiology

Publication Date


Document Type



Animals; Behavior, Animal; Biological Markers; Blood Pressure; Comorbidity; Corticosterone; Depression; Female; *Helplessness, Learned; Hypertension; Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System; Insulin; Insulin Resistance; Male; Pituitary-Adrenal System; Rats; Rats, Inbred Dahl; Rats, Sprague-Dawley; Rats, Zucker; Renin




The induction of learned helpless (LH) behavior in rats is a widely used model of unipolar depression. Recent studies have linked depression with hypertension and insulin resistance as observed in obesity, but the propensity of these disorders to manifest depression has not been reported. In this study, the LH behavioral paradigm was exploited in a model of hypertension (Dahl rat) and of insulin resistance (Zucker rat) to determine the propensity of these models to develop depression and to examine the profile of markers for the propensity of the cardiovascular system (plasma renin activity) and of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (corticosterone) in the display of propensity to depression. Results show that Zucker rats displayed the lowest propensity to the development of LH behavior (12%), followed by the control Sprague-Dawley rats (27%), and then Dahl rats (66%). In contrast, congenital learned helpless (cLH) rats, a genetically bred strain for animal depression, had the highest propensity (>90%). A gender effect was observed in the Zucker and cLH rats, with females showing an increased propensity to develop LH behavior. Plasma renin activity in the Dahl and Sprague-Dawley rats after the LH stress paradigm was not significantly different from baseline. In contrast, Zucker rats, with the lowest propensity to LH behavior, demonstrated a threefold increase in plasma renin activity after stress. Congenital LH rats, with the highest propensity to LH behavior, exhibited a significantly lower increase (43%) in plasma renin activity after stress. Hyporesponsive hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning correlated with propensity of LH behavior. Stress-induced corticosterone levels increased under twofold in cLH rats, whereas they increased more than sevenfold in Zucker rats. Taken together, these studies suggest that whereas genetically prone hypertensive rats have a very high propensity to depression, insulin-resistant rats have a profound resistance to depression. Moreover, a hyporesponsive HPA axis may be a marker for disorders that are comorbid with depression, whereas a hyperresponsive renin-angiotensin system may be indicative of resilience.


Am J Hypertens. 2000 Jun;13(6 Pt 1):659-65.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

American journal of hypertension

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID