Blunted Sensitivity to Sucrose in Autoimmune MRL-lpr Mice: A Curve-Shift Study
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Lupus-prone MRL-lpr mice show an autoimmunity-associated behavioral syndrome that has many features similar to the effects of chronic stress. The present study evaluated whether autoimmune MRL-lpr mice show reduced responsiveness to sucrose, as observed in normal animals exposed to chronic mild stress. Sixteen-week old MRL-lpr mice and their age-matched congenic MRL +/+ controls were given 0%, 0.5%, 1%, 2%, 4%, 8%, or 16% sucrose solution to drink every 48 h in a one-bottle test. The MRL-lpr mice drank less than controls at all concentrations, except at 16%. The amount of sucrose consumed vs. solution concentration followed a saturation curve. Estimates were obtained for the concentration yielding the half-maximum response (X50) and the response at saturating concentration of sucrose (Rmax). The X50 was significantly higher in MRL-lpr than in MRL +/+ mice, indicating a shift to the right of the concentration-intake curve. The Rmax did not differ significantly between substrains, suggesting that the autoimmune process did not affect performance capacity. Pretreatment with the immunosuppressant cyclophosphamide diminished the substrain difference in X50, suggesting that reduced sensitivity to sucrose is related to autoimmune/inflammatory factors. These results support the similarity between autoimmunity-associated behavioral syndrome and behavioral changes produced by chronic stress, and suggest common neuroendocrine mechanisms. Because reduced sensitivity to palatable stimulus may reflect blunted hedonic responsiveness ("anhedonia"), it is hypothesized that an autoimmune/inflammatory factor(s) produces the depression found in human lupus, and some cases of affective disorder.