Clinical reports indicate a bidirectional relationship between mental illness and chronic systemic diseases. However, brain mechanisms linking chronic stress and development of mood disorders to accompanying peripheral organ dysfunction are still not well characterized in animal models. In the current study, we investigated whether activation of hippocampal mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1), a key factor in depression pathophysiology, also acts as a mediator of systemic effects of stress. First, we demonstrated that treatment with the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) agonist dexamethasone or acute restraint stress (ARS) significantly increased Mkp-1 mRNA levels within the rat hippocampus. Conversely, administration of the GR antagonist mifepristone 30 min before ARS produced a partial blockade of Mkp-1 upregulation, suggesting that stress activates MKP-1, at least in part, through upstream GR signaling. Chronic corticosterone (CORT) administration evoked comparable increases in hippocampal MKP-1 protein levels and produced a robust increase in behavioral emotionality. In addition to behavioral deficits, chronic CORT treatment also produced systemic pathophysiological effects. Elevated levels of renal inflammation protein markers (NGAL and IL18) were observed suggesting tissue damage and early kidney impairment. In a rescue experiment, the effects of CORT on development of depressive-like behaviors and increased NGAL and IL18 protein levels in the kidney were blocked by CRISPR-mediated knockdown of hippocampal Mkp-1 prior to CORT exposure. In sum, these findings further demonstrate that MKP-1 is necessary for development of enhanced behavioral emotionality, while also suggesting a role in stress mechanisms linking brain dysfunction and systemic illness such as kidney disease.
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