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Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Receptor 1 Activation During Exposure to Novelty Stress Protects Against Alzheimer's Disease-Like Cognitive Decline in AβPP/PS1 Mice


A lifestyle rich in physical and mental activities protects against Alzheimer's disease (AD) but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We have proposed that this is mediated by a stress response and have shown that repeated exposure to novelty stress, which induces physical and exploratory activities, delays the progression of AD-like pathology in the TASTPM mouse model. Here, we aimed to establish the role played by corticotrophin-releasing factor receptor 1 (CRFR1), a major component of the stress axis, in TASTPM's behavioral and neuroendocrine responses to novelty and related protective effects. We show that the stress response of TASTPM mice is altered with reduced CRFR1-mediated neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to novelty and a distinct profile of behavioral responses. Repeated novelty-induced CRFR1 activation, however, mediated the improved contextual fear memory and extinction performance of TASTPM mice and increased hippocampal and fronto-cortical levels of synaptophysin, a marker of synaptic density, and fronto-cortical levels of the post-synaptic marker PSD95. The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) is the major receptor for synaptic plasticity underlying learning and memory. Although novelty-induced NMDAR activation contributed to enhancement of fear memory and synaptophysin levels, antagonism of CRFR1 and NMDAR prevented the novelty-induced increase in hippocampal synaptophysin levels but reversed the other effects of CRFR1 inactivation, i.e., the enhancement of contextual fear extinction and fronto-cortical synaptophysin and PSD95 levels. These findings suggest a novel mechanism whereby a stimulating environment can delay AD symptoms through CRFR1 activation, facilitating NMDAR-mediated synaptic plasticity and synaptogenesis in a region-dependent manner, either directly, or indirectly, by modulating PSD95.